Wednesday, February 29, 2012
As a person brought up in Poland and used to research done by Polish scientists I was really curious to learn about the opinions of foreign researchers. It is fascinating how the Holocaust is taught in Israel and the tremendous role it plays in the consciousness of Israeli society. Sessions on the roles of Jewish leaders were fascinating and inspiring. I think that as a young Jewish leaders living in a safe world we often do not realize the full scope of responsibility that is entrusted to us, and how great of an honor it is.
However, what is most valuable in my opinion is the ability to continue this wonderful program in the organizations which we have represented, as well as in our own communities. We are currently thinking about creating a Polish-Jewish network of young leaders involved in educating students about the Holocaust.
Two years ago, there was a talk held at the University of British Columbia between an American Jew living in Israel and a Palestinian living in the West Bank, both of whom were highly involved in peace initiatives in Israel. During the Q & A, a young Palestinian man heatedly challenged the Palestinian speaker for sharing the stage with a Jewish person and speaking as though each had an equal role in the conflict. His argument was that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one side was clearly the oppressor and the other the oppressed, and that fact had to be acknowledged. After the talk, I approached this young man and said, “Hi. I’m Jewish and I don’t often get the chance to have conversations about this topic with Muslim people. Can we get together and talk?” He was more than willing to do so, and a week later we went for coffee and had an incredibly rich and eye-opening conversation.
But this conversation was in isolation, and it only involved two people. If barriers are to be broken, there needs to be more than two people involved in breaking them down. When the five of us began living in the Moishe House last year, I realized that we were in an opportune position to connect the local Jewish community with the local Muslim community. Through a Vancouver Rabbi we knew who was involved in dialogue efforts between Muslims and Jews, we got connected to an already existing project called Muslim-Jewish Feed the Hungry. This project brings together Jews and Muslims on a monthly basis at First United Church in the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver’s poorest neighborhood, to prepare and serve a meal to many hungry Vancouverites. While making food, these groups have the opportunity to get to know each other. The goal of the project is two-fold: feed people who are hungry and at the same time provide Muslims and Jews an environment to get to know each other and talk about politically- and religiously-charged issues. I really love this idea: connect people of different backgrounds—specifically, two groups who have historically been in conflict—in a setting that enables them to transcend their differences and judgments to work to tackle a greater, universal issue (like poverty or hunger).
In November of 2011, Jacob (another Moishe House resident) and I attended the project’s steering committee meeting to learn more about the project and to understand how we could best fit our young, Jewish community into it. The meeting was held at the home of a Pakistani couple who cooked a delicious, traditional Pakistani breakfast. Around the table sat Jews and Muslims of diverse ages, countries of origin, educational background, occupations, and native languages. While they discussed logistical difficulties in planning the following month’s event, I sat there observing the ease with which people communicated with each other, and the respect everyone shared for each other. This breakfast meeting showed me that there was in fact a space in Vancouver where Muslims and Jews had been building friendships and working collaboratively, peacefully, and productively. And they welcomed us into the project with open arms.
Our Moishe House community has now participated in the past three Muslim-Jewish Feed the Hungry events, and it has been a wonderful learning experience for me. I’m happy that we’ve made this event one of our monthly Moishe House events, as I think it provides a very meaningful and thought-provoking experience for anyone who attends. The most important thing I’ve realized thus far is that although I eventually want to be able to have those conversations about Muslim-Jewish relations and the long-standing tensions, I first want to simply get to know the Muslim participants better. I want to build genuine friendships with them because, as we all know, it’s a lot easier to talk about anything with friends than it is with strangers.
It’s Friday 2 hours before Shabbat… Sitting relaxed on my seat in the kitchen, with Elazar my friend, who's playing guitar…
Thinking back on the times we've spent at Moishe House Vienna, I can tell: yes there are things we can proudly present.
It is not even a question that we have had and still have a great life at Moishe House.
As one of the residents of MH Vienna I have met great people from all around the world. It was not only meeting those people, but also creating an amazing atmosphere and coordinating great events.
For me it is a lifetime experience, because it was always a big but pleasant challenge to invite people from all around the world and to entertain them.
Through the events I gained a lot of experience. I developed further my communication skills, simply through speaking, having small talks and explaining to the newcomers what the idea of MH is.
Furthermore the MH events helped me getting closer to my Jewish roots, I learned a lot about Judaism from my mates Elazar, Daniel and David. Once a month we usually have a Shabbat dinner/lunch at our house, where I have experienced how amazing a Shabbat can be, by singing songs, having nice conversations, enjoying our self made food with a cup of wine.
MH helped me a lot to build up new friendships and taught me what responsibility means. It’s not only organizing an event, and inviting guests, it’s about making sure the guest are having a great time at our MH in Vienna.
I am looking forward to hosting you at the Moishe House Vienna. Thanks to all the people who made this great idea come to life.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Herman Tkach, MH Chicago RSJ
Friday, February 24, 2012
I had just been laid off of work 72 hrs prior, driving up from Los Angeles CA. A packed 2 Door, 94' Rav4, my Fender Deluxe in the back seat, and my 2 yr. old pup in the front to keep me company.
I have been to almost all 50 states and yet to (at least remember) visit Portland (or Florida).
Moving in the end of the summer time, which from what I understand started very late, was very exciting to be able to see Portland in all its full glory.
The deep forest greens, the bright blues skys, all the fruit and flowers, everywhere. . . wild herbs and berries and nuts, growing around practically every little neighborhood. I highly recommend, if you are deciding to move to Portland, choose the summer time to do it (and I do highly recommend everyone to move out to this wonderful slice of paradise).
I have never lived in a Moishe House before, I was coming from living with my younger brother and our roommate. We all were working, paying bills, playing music and being with family..you know, living life.
(I actually found out about Moishe House about two years prior, when it was out in Mar Vista, CA. I had visited once, which my sister-in-laws sister brought me to. It was great but everyone was about 10 yrs older and just at different stages of their lives)
When I had started to get more into Moishe House, my really good friend told me about an open mic and the new located Moishe House in LA, pretty close to where we were living at the time. We decided to go check it out and brought a couple of guitars. It was great, we met Moishe House members our own age and made some great music that night. Thats where I met my now roommate, Jonathan Morgan and Julie Auerbach (which in meeting people, you can tend to get a feeling like you have known them forever or from a previous time, thats what I have been getting with all of my roommates now, actually. I had been in acquaintance out in LA with my third roommate, Emly Oren, but it was only until I got to Portland that we had a conversation and got to know each other, also, feeling like we've have known each other since forever).
Now, I have only been to a hand full of actual Moishe House events out in LA but in meeting Jon, we kept in touch and really, got to know each other better with going to live music (specifically open blues jam nights - in particular - Maui Sugar Mill Saloon in Tarzana - Every Mon night, awesome music! just Awesome!).
One night, I had came late to an event, people were slowly leaving, and I was talking with Jon in the backyard. It was talking about how I do not want to be in Los Angeles anymore, dealing with the hustle/bustle, the smog, the traffic. . .blehh
He tells me about how he might be transferring to a Moishe House in ...Portland OR.
He tells me that he might be keeping a couple of people in mind if they would be interested in moving out and helping with a house out there.
I tell him to keep me in mind but that my life is pretty hectic with work and family.
I have to thank him for staying on top of getting back to me and with his reminders. . . excellent! Thank you my friend.
I remember when he actually made the move and would send me pictures of PDX and info on the city, telling me how wonderful it is and how it is something else, something completely not LA.
I felt as if, every time my life was getting more and more hectic, I would receive an email, text, and/or phone call reminding me about this..almost mystical place, Portland OR. !
Again, I had never lived in a Moishe House before but I feel as if life has prepared me to be able to be in the position I am currently in, a Moishe House member.
Growing up, we would have so many people in and out, all the time!
From borders to couch surfers, to children from broken homes to people who just felt lost and needed a place to sleep, I remember my parents accepting anyone and everyone that was looking for a place to be able to feel at home, even for a night.
I feel as if Moishe House is a wonderfully beautiful conduit in which to be able to help grow, teach and inspire the young Jewish community, anywhere and everywhere. In hosting events, I believe it is a way to get people attracted and involved, what we are really doing though is something so much more than that. Besides building community, I believe that each Jew we each come in contact with, in all of our Moishe House experiences (and I am talking about each house member, their own particular experiences and people they come in contact with), is one of the biggest gifts we can be given, we are able to connect and help to create that ignition of spark, that jewish spark within each of us. To be able to excite that spark and bring more light into the world is part of what Judaism is all about! I believe we are preparing the world for the Messiah! We are in these days!
So when life had calmed down a bit, and work had allowed me to move up to Portland, giving me the green light to work from home. I was definitely taken aback when the Thursday before I was leaving I get a letter of termination due to cut backs.
It was a very difficult and frustrating experience in dealing with work for the next couple of months. In short, I am now on unemployment, working side jobs to pay the rent and bills. I look at it as probably the best opportunity I have been given, I have been praying to be able to have more time to work on Music, I play the guitar and it is my first love. To be abe to have more time in the day to dedicate to writing and composing is something that is dear to my heart and I thank GOD for. Currently, I have been able to be given opportunities such as being a man nanny for two Jewish families in the community here in Portland, helping with hebrew school substituting every now and then, and with the local kosher catering company every so often. I believe though, that each step that has gotten me to where I am now has been and will keep coming from GOD. (Thank You!)
As for Portland, It is a place where I do keep falling in love with each day, there is something new and exciting. Meeting the wonderful people out here and being able to help with the young Jewish community is something that I find extremely enjoyable, to be able to be in a magical city, just makes it that much more enjoyable!
I look forward to blogging with you in the future and sharing stories of Divine Providence and non-coincidental occurrences, out here from the Great Pacific NW.
If you are every in Portland, please feel free to contact us and come see our house and participate in an events!
All the best, GOD Bless and be well.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
A wealthy man decided that he wanted to climb Mount Everest. Having reached the pinnacle of success in business, a trek to the summit of Everest seemed a natural capstone for his adventures.
The man called to book a trip to Everest, but was denied.
"Mount Everest is the roughest place on Earth," the agent explained. "You need to be a highly skilled climber with years of training before you can even attempt Everest. Many men have died on their way to the top".
The man trained for seven years before he attempted to summit Everest. As the agent had originally suggested, it was the toughest battle of his life, but he made it to the top. He was exhausted, covered in North Face gear, and gasping for breath in his Oxygen tank, but he experienced a euphoria he had never known as he looked back at what he had achieved.
Suddenly, he noticed a bunch of children running around Everest. They were wearing plain clothes, throwing around a ball and laughing. The man thought he was delusional from the altitude, but the children didn't disappear.
"Why are you running around here?" the man asked the children. "Don't you know where you are? This is the top of Everest: the highest point in the world! Do you know how few people get to experience this?"
"What are you talking about?" answered the children. "We were born here."
As you well have noticed, this was not actually a story about Everest, but rather a parable about the modern-day experience of the Jewish people.
My generation was born on Mount Everest. The existence of the State of Israel has been a fact for my entire life. Most diaspora Jews live in countries where anti-Semitism is not an official government policy. Indeed, many Jews have reached high places of business, government, the arts, and nearly every other field.
The generation raised under this paradigm often has the mentality that all is well for the Jewish people -- or even that all is too well. As a result, we devote our talents and energies to (sometimes self-destructive) "Flavor-of-the-Month" activist causes.
Ironically, having been reared in the greatest modern time of prosperity for Jews has left us with poor historical perspective. We live in a world where it is not easy, and never has been, to be Jewish. We forget that 1948 was a moment nearly 2000 years in the making. We forget for how long and how many people have given their lives to make sure that we reached this moment. More specifically, the familial history of many families only goes back a few generations; we are not taught how Jews have spent the last 1000 years enduring pillagings, pogroms, torture, slavery, dhimmitude, and other unimaginable evils.
If we look a little bit farther afield we will see that indeed, we are standing atop Mount Everest. This is the moment that we have been waiting for, and now, more than ever, we need to be proud of who we are and step up our efforts to lead and support the Jewish people.
Evan R. - MH Palo Alto
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I have been living in the Detroit Moishe House for about seven months now, but I have been entrenched in the organized Jewish community’s struggle with engaging individuals in their 20s and 30s for a few years. For some reason they (the organized community) just do not understand that being Jewish means fundamentally different things for my generation. Israel is not relevant, traditional synagogues do not interest this demographic, and like it or not, there are more and more mixed religion and intra-cultural marriages. Further, the US Census estimates that by 2050, the majority of Americans will be minorities. We have one choice as American Jews, we can continue to resist these large macro trends that are out of our control and continue to push the next generation away, or we learn how to embrace these differences and give young people as many entry points to discover their Jewish identity on their own terms.
Moishe House allows for this to happen on so many different levels. Be Jewish however you want to be Jewish. What a novel idea? The idea is simple, the execution is relatively simple, but I am convinced David C. and the Moishe House in 30 years will be looked at as a major reason why the organized Jewish community will be successful in the long run. Friendships are made, relationships are started, and movements of young creative people are developed.
Beyond the philosophical aspect of Moishe House, when you look at inputs and outputs (inputs being financial resources put forth, outputs being the results and touchpoints of the inputs), nothing on the national (and even international) scale compares. I am honored to be a part of this innovative program and I hope the Moishe House organization and staff stays true to their roots to let us Moishe House residents create with limited oversight and structure. This is how the magic happens.
Jordan Wolfe, Motor City Moishe House
Monday, February 13, 2012
In this kind of community, it feels just as important to build relationships and form partnerships as it does to create our own events. We strive to be a gathering place for and connector to other Jewish individuals, groups and organizations. Rather than hungrily steering young folks away from other programs and toward our house, we exist and operate as part of a wider community. My roommates and I work to strike a balance between creating and hosting our own programming – cooking nights, creative writing workshops, text studies, film screenings– and partnering with other people and groups. This balance is what makes us such a strong and special space.
In the past couple months, Moishe House New Orleans co-led, with three other groups, a powerful Healing Shabbat. We partnered with a local synagogue on a musical Tu B'Shevat seder. We hosted a "Mini Taste of Limmud" event to generate interest in and excitement about LimmudFest New Orleans. (Guests chose between two compelling learning sessions: The Sociology of Contemporary American Jewish Life in D Minor and The Road is Long: LGBTQ Rights in Israel). These programs drew in new participants and deepened our relationship with the wider Jewish community. They were fun and engaging, meaningful and moving. My roommates and I will continue to design our own creative programming - and we'll continue to pursue rich community partnerships.
*The size of the New Orleans Jewish community depends on your frame of reference. When I moved here from rural Vermont, I was astounded by the size. My friends from bigger, more bustling cities were not.
Mallory Falk, MH NOLA
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Next week Jews around the world, and here at the Moishe House in Washington, DC, will be celebrating Tu B'Shevat - the Jewish Arbor Day, if you will. Since I was young, I always looked forward to my community’s tradition of planting trees on this day, one in a park in the city, and another in Israel. I was always told that the intention was to imbue a sense of stewardship for our environment (weren’t biblical Jews environmentally progressive?), but recently discovered it has more to do with ancient tithing systems than a notion that we needed to protect and enhance the natural world.
Let me explain: Tu B’Shevat actually marks the “new year” for trees. For the first three years after a tree is planted, its fruit cannot be eaten. In the fourth year the fruit belongs to God (meaning it was tithed to the high priests in Jerusalem). In the fifth year you can go ahead and enjoy those apples.
However, Judaism has a strong tradition of environmental awareness and protection that we have connected to Tu B’Shevat, found within and outside of the Torah and Mishnah. Deuteronomy 20:19 famously reminds us that “man is a tree of the field” Since the early 20th century, Jews have used the day to plant trees and promote environmental awareness (as well as an excuse to enjoy olives, pomegranates, dates, and other fruits associated with the holiday) .
The tradition of environmental protection and awareness is one that we in the DC Moishe House are continuing. We are beginning to compost our food waste, trying to become more aware of how our choices as consumers have a real impact on the world, and ensuring that our environmental beliefs exist alongside our compassion for our fellow man, as we develop programming that addresses issues in the environment and our communities.