January 14th, 2012 was a milestone for me. On this day, I was presented with a full set of shiny keys, kept busy hauling a seemingly endless number of boxes to our fourth floor apartment, feverishly unpacked belongings, and frantically arranged, and then rearranged and rearranged again, all our eclectic furniture. And so it was that Moishe House DUMBO was founded. The culmination of over a year of dreaming and planning was consumated in the New York way: 2 pies of pizza on paper plates. In the week that followed we held our inaugural Shabbat dinner. As the familiar kiddush faded into the background, I gazed upon the 25 guests sourrounding my shabbat table, some of whom were strangers, some of whom were dear friends. I took a sip of my first glass of wine in my new home and asked myself this question. What is this Moishe House project anyway?
Amidst the hussle and bussle that is New York City, I often seek refuge in Brooklyn Bridge Park, conveniently located around the corner from our Moishe House. The park is nestled on the banks of a windy stretch of the East River, hemmed in by the colossal shadows of two New York iconic bridges, the sturdy Brooklyn, and her less-heralded, but equally striking Manhattan. I come out to the jagged rocks and frozen grass to clear my head and think. In a strange way that perhaps only a cosmopolitan city dweller can understand, I find something soothing in the combined elements present in this park—the temperamental currents of the East River relentlessly engaging in battle with each other, the ebb and flow of meandering park strollers and tourists, the defeaning roar of the subways racing overhead. There is something static in the indefatigable dynamisms of the movement—water, wind, passersby, scurrying trains—that lends itself to an inner calm.
In this setting I contemplate; the to-do list of the day and coming weeks, insights gleened from a text sitting unfinished on my night-stand, strange occurences on the subway, and of course, the goals behind this Moishe House project to which I dedicate many waking hours. One day, as the cool breeze kissed my cheek and the water lapped up against the rocks, I had an epiphany. A response to this last curiosity was literally staring me in the face, right in front of my eyes.
Moishe House DUMBO is about building bridges. We sit together at a shabbat table, conduct a tu b’shevat seder, participate in the DUMBO gallery walk, listen to a lecture about Dewey’s pragmatist “Great Community,” because we yearn to foster connections. We seek dialogue between our secular selves and our Jewish identity. We want to join together in our love for art and modern culture, exploring the ways these forces speak to where we are from and who we are becoming. We encourage all colors and flavors of Jews to visit us and we even wish to reach out to people of different faiths. We welcome the the artsy and creative along side the suited and well-primmed. We hope to integrate the right-brained among us with our left-brained counterparts. We want to bring Manhattan to Brooklyn, and Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Of course Moishe House DUMBO will never boast an imposing shadow like those of the edifices that loom over my head. But if the vision is clear, the leadership strong, and the community willing, I believe the sum of all the little connections fostered here will weave a mighty bridge, albeit an invisible one.