Friday, August 31, 2012
I can't believe it! Its been 2 years since I have moved into the Moishe House Chicago - RSJ. People tend to look back and say 'it feels like it was yesterday'. Not the case at all with me. So much has happened in the last 2 years... Between all the events, the drama, the fun, roommate changes, relationships, and overall experiences, it feels like I was an entirely different person then. We actually got around to celebrate our House's 3rd birthday at the beginning of July and I thought a lot about how I found myself here. It was a completely random series of events that led me to meet my roommate, Ross. It's incredible how one quick dialogue with someone could spark such a change in your life. By joining the Russian Moishe House, I have changed my career, met people I would have never met otherwise and have had experiences that I will never forget. I am grateful for the Russian Moishe House for all these changes as well as some lessons that I have learned. Now that we are 3 years in, 2 for me, I believe that by next year, we will need a little change. I think its time to move on to events we haven't done before and bringing in people who have never been. The 4 of us have gotten older and our next big project is to find young blood to begin filling our shoes so that we can pass the torch down. I would love to know that 10 years from now, Chicago RSJ is still throwing events that brings together a Russian Jewish community in Chicago. Its great to know that you have created and passed down a legacy. To the next 10 years!
Community Last week, Moishe House Chicago hosted a zero-waste Shabbat. Together as a community, we made blessings, broke tree-shaped challah, and caught up on each others’ lives. We also inaugurated our new compost machine, disposing of organic scraps and spinning them around in its tumbler. We chose to do a zero-waste Shabbat because of the value of environmental stewardship in Judaism. In Hebrew, the word for the first man (אדמ) derives from the word for soil, or earth (אדמה). Moishe House Chicago focuses on programming that pursues social justice, but much of our mission resonates strongly with me when I think of the values underlying environmental stewardship. We tend to the earth in order to both cultivate the fruits of our labor and foster a healthy, sustainable environment for our global community and our posterity. This is what MHC seeks to accomplish when we minimize waste, but also when we advocate for more equitable mortgage practices, better public services, and political agency for marginalized groups in Chicago. The Jewish value of צדק (Justice) is a predominant theme in MHC programming. In a way, environmental stewardship ties directly into all of our צדק programs. Even if we are not directly working to improve the earth in the sense of אדמה, every program we do works to create cultivate a healthier, more sustainable life for our community. Sometimes the community we try to foster is global in scope. Other times it extends across the city of Chicago or even just the people in our living room on a given night. While אדמה and םעול are two different concepts, in the end they both mean the same thing: earth. Their interrelatedness demonstrates how social justice and environmental justice are intertwined. I’ve realized that lessons we can learn from a zero-waste Shabbat can be directly applied to addressing the social issues facing our community. At the end of this month, I will be leaving Moishe House after one year as a resident. This last zero-waste Shabbat has given me much to think about as I prepare to leave this space. As we tend to the earth, so too does the earth nurture us and teach us important values. Moishe House residents foster vibrant Jewish communities wherever they live, but we also become more enriched through the people that embody our community. I am incredibly appreciative of the people in Chicago who regularly attend our events, shape our program content, and provide valuable spiritual and intellectual insights. I’ve made valuable friendships with Moishe House community members, and I’ve grown and matured in unexpected ways through knowing these people. It’s been a pleasure living inside of the Moishe House walls, but this experience would have been only a fraction as valuable if we didn’t have the incredible people who make up our community. They are a crucial part of making Moishe House what it truly is. Though I’m leaving the actual “house” of Moishe, I look forward to continuing to attend programs and take part of this special Moishe House community.
Wow! What a great first month! It has only been one month since Elissa, Karli and I aka the Moho angels began our journey to become leaders in our community and provide meaningful Jewish experiences to Dallas' young adults. Only one month prior to signing our lease, Karli, Elissa and I met for lunch to discuss the Moho program, and instantly felt a connection with each other, and this bond has only grown stronger. Our fist official event was a collaboration with the Intown Chabad, to celebrate Tu B' av - the festival of love. Co-sponsoring this event was a first for Moho Dallas, and provided us with the opportunity for our first collaboration. Although we all come to the table with different experiences, opinions, and perspectives, when like minds with similar goals come together, great things can happen. With over 250 attendees at the the event, it was the perfect collaboration and way to kickoff and introduce ourself to the community. Our first official home event also exceeded our expectations. We anticipated a showing of 20 for our welcome brunch, yet ended up welcoming over 40 young Jewish adults into our new home. The energy in Dallas is amazing!! We are all so impressed by the community, and excited to plan unique, fun, and engaging activities. From our late night planning sessions, to creating the first Moho mailer, to meetings with Jewish community agencies and leaders who are eager to work with us, we all feel very honored to be chosen for the role of Moho resident, and the fun has only just begun for the three of us!
Moving into the Johannesburg Moishe House this year has truly been an incredible experience. Living amongst friends and having constant Jewish social interaction has been amazing fun and has allowed for real personal growth.
On a personal and social level, I feel I have gained so much from the experience. I have taken part in every Moishe House event this year. From a Tu B’Av event and crazy Girls nights, to sessions on the occupation and National Women’s day, the year has been filled with fun, laughter and a lot of learning.
I have been able to keep in touch with my Judaism on a very real level and engage with topics that are relevant in South Africa, Israel and internationally. Thank you to everyone who makes it possible!
Thursday, August 23, 2012
I think our greatest success has been in helping people who just moved to the city make friends and network with people of a similar background. Having moved from Chicago without knowing almost anyone 3 years ago, I know how challenging it can be.
I'm very proud of our house and we've made big steps from having to call every single person we knew to have a successful event, to the mentality: "if you plan it, they will come". Popularity and reputation is something that naturally spreads on it's own. Once you establish a presence and provide a positive experience, that experience will broadcast automatically and seamlessly without even your knowledge.
Friday, August 17, 2012
I discovered the Moishe house London purely by chance shortly after I returned to London after living in Israel for many years. I thought my return to North West London would be very hard, but I was pleasantly surprised to find this delightful, open, fun, cross denominational community with like minded people.
Some months later I was lucky enough to get a place in the house as a resident and since then life in London for me has exploded in an amazing way.
The house always has flow, creativity, good people and high energy. Whether it is open mic night at the house jamming good quality music or just some of my housemates hula hooping and doing poi, I am constantly inspired to be more and to be creative and active.
My housemates have become like family and they each bring something unique. Because of this I feel as a house we offer a diverse range of awesome programmes from Jewish Learning, fun big Shabbat dinners, Zumba, cooking for the homeless and a pop up cafe to name a few.
As a community organiser in Social Justice in my profession I am able to take the skills I have leant through my work and apply them to building the community around us.
My mission in the house and the community is to bring more people in who do not know about us and share the love and wealth of our golden community. I hope non residents also feel some sort of ownership over this community by bringing in their skills and running events at the house themselves.
I am working on inspiring our community to becoming more socially active and responsible.
I do this through exposing the community to amazing local and national charities and initiatives and encourage people to find their niche and get involved.
In time I am also working on setting up a regular moishe house London Social Action project where we can and will effect positive change within our local area.
Thank you Moishe house and my fellow housemates for changing my life. I am truly blessed and hope to live life in the future in some sort of communal way.
Nikki Levitan :) x
Thursday, August 2, 2012
I love Moishe House! What an incredible experience this has been for me since we started our house in West LA last December. Moishe House empowers its residents to run with their ideas and share their enthusiasms in an inspirational way with the community. I’ve also been lucky to meet so many awesome people in the last 8 months and build strong, lasting friendships. My passion has always been Jewish self-defense and empowerment. Both sides of my family have suffered and been uprooted because of anti-Semitism. My mother’s father had many members of his family killed in the Holocaust and survived 5 years in the Plaszow concentration camp and Mauthausen death camp. My father’s father had his clothing store in Casablanca set on fire twice because it was Jewish owned. Jews around the world have been easy targets of anti-Semitic fueled aggression. I have made it my life mission to practice situational awareness, understand self-defense, and to prepare for a wide array of potential threats. Now, thanks to Moishe House, I am able to share my knowledge with other young Jews in my community. Moishe House West LA runs a monthly self-defense program which focuses on Krav Maga (Israeli close quarters combat). We started our trainings with simple techniques, but as our classes grew and members kept coming back, we needed to expand. I applied for a special grant from Moishe House which helped us purchase some of the necessary equipment we needed to expand our training. We now have punching pads to practice our strikes and rubber knives and guns to practice weapon disarming techniques. At Moishe House West LA we have a core group that looks forward to the monthly training and is dedicated to actualizing a life of Jewish self-defense. Moishe House has given me such a tremendous opportunity to share my passions with my peers and to build strong connections and friendships. I love being a part of the Moishe House community!
The date is 4 Sivan, 5772 / May 26, 2012, the hour 6 PM. I have two cheesecakes in the oven and I am thinking about quantum mechanics. The venture capitalist, the yoga teacher, the art curator, and the financial-analyst-turned-software-engineer are confirmed, but nobody has heard from the documentary filmmaker. I am beginning to worry, but of course I always worry and things always turn out great when the Moishe House of Palo Alto hosts something this ambitious. Allow me to explain. The event is entitled TEDmh (after the TED talks of internet fame) and it's our way of celebrating Shavuot with a Silicon Valley twist. The holiday commemorates the giving of the Torah to Israel at Sinai, and is traditionally marked with an all-night extravaganza of Jewish learning fueled (for reasons never satisfactorily explained to me) by dairy foods. We decided we liked the dairy foods (hence the cheesecakes) and we liked the late night learning, but that our community could go to almost a dozen places in the area to learn 100% Torah, and that revelations from the arts, sciences, and humanities also deserved a place in this joyous celebration. So we assembled an engaging program of speakers from our community. Some we solicited, others saw the facebook event and stuck their neck out. The diversity of interests and backgrounds was invigorating. As the event took form the guest list grew, as did expectations. Doubts began to form: Will people really sit quietly and listen, or will it just collapse into the usual schmoozing? What if it's too quiet, and just ends up lame? What if my talk on one of history's most elegant experiments runs too long and bores people? WHAT IF MY CHEESECAKE CRUST STICKS TO THE EDGE OF THE PAN?! Fast forward: 6 Sivan 5772 / May 28 2012, 2 AM. The cheesecakes are now little more than stray crumbs of oreo and almond crust (in case you were worrying, they turned out perfectly—not that it would've mattered). All the speakers made it, plus a surprise visit from an astrophysicist who showed that minds near stupefied by fatigue and cheesy goodness could still be blown. To call the event a success would be an understatement. It was fun, meaningful, and just Jewish enough to feel the community spirit in the air. The lesson I've learned from helping plan events like this is that, even when logistics are tricky and things don't go as expected, there is really no such thing as failure. In the two years since the Palo Alto Moishe House got started, a real community has formed. Gather together a bunch of Jews who all want to be there and the results will never disappoint.
"As a teenager in a suburb of DC, B'nai Brith Youth Organization(BBYO) was a social scene that my high school could not fulfill. It was the first opportunity in my life that i really felt connected to a community of my peers. The stimulation i experienced in BBYO created the foundation for my interest and loyalty to leadership in the Jewish Community. Somehow i am still surprised when i meet a Jew in San Francisco or on my travels and we immediately play Jewography and clearly know someone in common. That kid that showed up to shabbats in college, his brother's girlfriend... yea we went on birthright tommorrow, oh yea, of course, Rachel Cohen?! The infinite community that Judaism provides is so attractive to me. It was only natural that i stumbled upon Moishe House after living in San Francisco for 6 months. The house was exactly what i needed in my life, a positive community to fall into. Moving to a city where you know so few people is daunting, but Moishe House made it so smooth. I feel excited, grateful and honored to be a resident at the San Francisco Moishe House. It is literally a dream come true. I look forward to hosting so many more shabbats, art classes, yoga practies and general opportunities for people to meet and connect. I live for that, Moishe House is the avenue to my success in creating and participating in human relations."
Every spring Moishe Kavod House hosts our community retreat, when 40 people come together for a weekend of relaxation and community processing. This retreat is also when we elect our new board, a finance chair, a president, a membership chair and a development chair. Each year, finding a board is challenging. The amount of work done by our leaders is daunting and other leaders in the community are more than hesitant to commit to the amount of work they see being done by their predecessors. This year, we were having a particularly difficult time finding a finance chair, ironic since it is the easiest position. It is also the least interesting position however so we found ourselves unable to fill it. We set about trying to find a candidate, creating a list of folks who we thought would be good candidates, and I sent out an email to our current board list asking them to keep an eye out. As I started calling our two top candidates I was surprised to find a reply to the list from one of the current board members, Rachel, volunteering to run for the position. This put me in a tricky position. The board member had been planning on leaving the board after having had a very difficult time in her position. Sensitive to criticism, in constant fear of judgment, and struggling to meet deadlines she was often unreliable and constantly struggling to lead her team. Her fear of judgment often hindered meetings, leading her to go off on defensive tangents or unable to take even minimal feedback, sometimes becoming rude and isolating others when she felt judged by them. As soon as the board member's offer to run went out the the list, I almost instantly had emails from three other board members expressing horror at the idea of her continued board role, and some board members who has planned on resigning offering to fill the seat instead of her. I didn't know what to do. I couldn't tell Rachel, “Sorry, we're going to have one of the other board members take it even though you offered first.” I replied all and thanked her for her offer, explained that had already reached out to a couple of candidates and wanted to follow through with that process rather than rescind all the encouragement we had given folks. Still, Rachel persisted and said she had thought about it and really wanted the position. I was torn between being honest with Rachel and just working incredibly hard to make sure someone else got elected. I decided that though I had reservations about Rachel's running, I didn't think it was worth the tension it would cause to ask her not to run, but other board members persisted in pushing other people to run and pushing me to follow through on my contacts. However, they were unwilling to tell Rachel how they felt, and I was unwilling to get in the middle of it. Unsurprisingly, however, especially given her insecure disposition, Rachel detected the reservations board members had about her candidacy and confronted one of the board members who had been recruiting other candidates. The board member responded by trying to explain to Rachel the concerns that various board members had about her, which of course only made Rachel more upset. In the end, I, and our Board President, ended up having to do what we should have done in the first place, having an honest conversation with Rachel about what she had done well in the past year, what had been hard for her, how that had been hard for us, and openly asking if she really felt continuing would be a good idea. We should have stressed the things we felt she did well, and been creating about articulating roles she might take in the community that would fit her better, make her happier, and be more helpful for the rest of the community. It was a testament to our community and our skills as organizers that we were able to do that in the end, and Rachel was not upset when she was finally defeated in the election. But we shoud have trusted Rachel, ourselves, and our community to have that conversation in the first place. It reminded me that a little bit of honest tension is better than a whole lot of hidden drama, as hidden drama will always explode.