Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Moishe House Great Neck - Oren Kashi

What a great year MHGN has been having so far. We initially started off the year with much trepidation due to some fundraising problems but thankfully we have managed to raise the needed funds to keep us operating (thanks goes to the Ron Rubin Foundation, Iranian American Jewish Federation, Moskowitz Family Trust, and lastly but DEFINITELY not least, the donations from MANY of our regular participants)  Since then,we have been able to claim to be the single cause of three couples getting together, one married (a founder of MHGN), one engaged, and one has been dating seriously.  We have revamped the house with some interior decorating with furniture that was donated to us by one of our regulars and made our space more homey and spacious to all that come.  We hosted Italian cooking nights, house parties, our infamous shabbat dinners (Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Persian, Moroccan themed), International movie nights, bikur cholim!, holocaust speakers, adventures from modern iran events, and I can just go on.  We have participants from all walk of Jewish life and countries.  Some of the countries our participants originate from are: Iran, Syria, Israel, Panama, South Korea (yes..you read that right), Cuba, Columbia, Canada, Argentina, Russia, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, France, Brazil.... We might as well start our own UN! 

Though there are difficulties with all this greatness...(no pun intended on Great Neck..) and that is CLEAN UP!  Even though we host 80 ppl for a shabbat dinner, the clean up is quite taxing.  Sometimes it can take days to recover especially from cleaning up spilled Rogan Josh from the floor.  Either way though, its all worth it.

Overall, I get to live with the best guys I could live with and it gives me immense pride to be part of this organization to engineer change and interaction in our Great Neck Community!

Moishe House Baltimore - Eta Flamholz

I recently locked myself on the roof of Moishe House Baltimore alone and cell-phone-less. You might
well ask how this happened, but that story is for another time, another blog. Suffice it to say, I had
several panicky moments in which to lament my inability to repel down a wall and then several more in
which to wonder if the gathering storm clouds were about to let loose.

But the panic subsided surprisingly quickly. I’d like to think this occurred because I’m an amazingly
logical and calm human being. The truth is, the panic dispersed because of a minor epiphany, an “aha”
moment, that put both the roof and my current position as a House resident into perspective.

As I sat on the rooftop deck wondering if I’d ever see my family again, I looked up and caught sight of
the downtown Baltimore skyline. Despite the aforementioned storm clouds, the day was warm and the
sun was setting in an array of colors behind red brick houses, colorful storefronts, and leafy greenery. It
was gorgeous. That’s when I realized how blessed I was. I was sitting on an envy-inducing rooftop deck
in the city I love, having just seen some of my closest friends over a delicious MH brunch.

I have only lived in the Baltimore House for 2 months, but in that time I have met literally dozens of new
people, met friends for happy hours, volunteering, and learning, and had a wonderful, fun-filled life. And
all of these things were afforded me by Moishe House, from the House itself (along with the persnickety
roof) to the ability to hold events like brunch for friends old and new.

Eventually, my neighbor saw me on the roof and came to the rescue. It was probably for the best too,
since my epiphany would only have lasted as long as the good weather did. But I’m glad I got locked
out, glad I had a moment to reflect on the first months of my residency and the wonders that 3 girls in a
house can do when they have a little (or a lot) of help.

Hope everyone has a sweet new year filled with interesting people and different experiences!


Roxy - MH Cape Town

Having lived and experienced being a part of Moishe House for two and a half years now, I can honestly say that it has been a life-changing and amazing experience. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many different people, live in the centre of the Cape Town and Johannesburg youth communities and at the same time, been able to explore my Jewish identity.

When first being offered to live in Moishe House, I was slightly hesitant, as it appeared nothing more than a religious organisation, but after just a few weeks, I came to understand it to be very different. Moishe House offers one a comfortable, safe and resourceful space in which to engage with one’s own version of Judaism and inevitably, to strengthen that connection, whether it be through religion, spirituality or culture.

For me, it has without a doubt been the latter and by living in a space that was not only constantly social, but also educational, I have been able to strengthen my Jewish identity in the way that I want to- creating something that is unique to me, within my community.

I have questioned, engaged with, argued, fought, laughed, cried, made new friends, forged connections with individuals and organisations and above all else, learnt a lot about myself, my community and the Jewish religion.

Some of my experiences with Moishe House have included the following; monthly dinners where we re-connect with old friends and make new ones, girls only evening where we learn about female empowerment, epic table tennis tournaments, magical Shabbat dinners and seminars, the annual Limmud conference, dozens of guest speakers from all over the world, working with South African NGOs such as Equal Education and the Social Justice Coalition and finally, working with Habonim Dror.

By the end of my Moishe House experience, it would have been four years since I first embarked on this journey and I look forward to connecting with international Moishe Houses in my future travels and experiences.

Roxy Joseph - Moishe House Cape Town 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Abe Sorock - MH Beijing

I know it’s just a blog post and I can write whatever, but where am I supposed to begin?  It’s been an eventful year.

Should I write about how valuable having a Moishe House in Beijing is to young people who have moved across the world to work or study in a city which offers precious few community resources to enrich our time here with thoughtful programs tailored to our goals and needs, or to facilitate connections with people from similar backgrounds facing similar challenges outside of the bar and club context?

About how Beijing is the most self-selecting and transient community that Moishe House serves, attracting smart, ambitious, adventurous young people at exactly the time we build post-college identities and develop a sense of how the world actually works, and how those dynamics inform our approach as residents?  

Or about my own journey as somebody with one Jewish parent, who never would have heard about or sought out a Moishe House until my roommate Jon thought I might make a passable resident and encouraged me to engage and explore my roots for the first time at 24, and how I’ve since come into an unorthodox perspective on Jewishness that I am comfortable with and proud of and opens up a new dimension of depth in the way I experience my life? 

I could write about the Birthright trip I just got back from a week ago, by far one of the coolest and most personally meaningful things I’ve ever done.  I recommend URJ Kesher without reservation, and try to get on a trip that Eitan is leading.  Everything about the trip was amazing, the people and the places and the learning and the love – and the hiking and the rafting and the beach and the food – but I will focus on two related observations that struck me in the context of the Moishe House project.

The sense of living history that I found in Israel made it easy to see things in terms of a long tapestry rather than independent actions or accidents.  We find ourselves where we are because our predecessors made certain decisions, and at least some of them were here.  I don’t take my upbringing, my values or the opportunities I have had in life for granted, and this trip was a great chance to pay homage to the people who made those possible for me and to the forces that shaped their lives and mine. 

That leads into our roles in this emergent world-project.  It’s our turn now, and we are all carrying on someone’s work, but what we do is new at the same time (Beijing, anyone?) and it’s a process and anything can happen.  I felt that Israeli culture keeps these realities close to the surface, including in how dynamic the country is and how its identity is constantly evolving, both internally and as regards relations with the diaspora.  I was told that it’s always a pivotal time for the Jewish people, but especially now.  So what are we doing to shape our identity – consciously or not?  

I wouldn’t have thought to go on Birthright – much less have got as much out of the trip as I did – without this year at Moishe House and I am really glad that I went and return as a resident.  I feel very fortunate to have this community to come back to that includes a number of Israelis and other Birthright alumni, and I’ve already learned a lot from just this first week of comparing notes.  And of course, what I’ve taken away from my trip to Israel will inform, and, I hope, enrich the next few months of our programming.  Hope you can make it out and come see us.  We would love to meet you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moishe House Murray Hill - Ariel Bucher

As I celebrate the new Jewish year of 5773, I can't help but reflect on all of the changes that came during 5772, "the post-college year" for me. I finished my first two semesters of law school, had a rewarding summer legal internship at the American Jewish Committee, met some really interesting new people at school and in New York, hit the one year anniversary mark with my boyfriend, and, oh yea - launched a new Moishe House in the Murray Hill neighborhood of New York City with two of my friends from freshman year of college. Talk about a busy year! Rosh Hashana reminds me of how lucky I am to have such amazing people and opportunities in my life, with my Moishe House experience being one of them. 

I can honestly say that the true power of Moishe House didn't hit me until a few months in as a resident, when for the first time, a participant remarked to me that he would not be involved with anything Jewish in his life had it not been for Moishe House. He continues to be an active participant many months later, even volunteering to speak to UJA-Federation donors at our apartment. It is these little moments that define for me what a privilege it is to facilitate Jewish life for the people in my community, and how honored I feel to be providing community-based opportunities for connecting with Judaism. Although I will be moving on to new opportunities in 5773, my time as a Moishe House resident was a hugely important part of 5772 that I will never forget. 

Ariel Bucher 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Taking Moishe House mobile - Benji from MH DUMBO

If you're a North American Moishe House resident, chances are you've hosted me on your couch at some point in the last few months. I've managed to visit precisely 19 Moishe House across North America this year, about two thirds of them, so it is safe to say that I have a pretty decent grasp of this organization and the work it's doing, at least in this part of the world. Why have I visited so many houses? 3 words: Moishe House Mobile. I arrived in the US in January as a founding member of Moishe House DUMBO. Not wanting to dive straight into the work force, I came to Moishe House with a proposal -- to travel around North America by Greyhound bus to film and photograph and write about Moishe Houses all over the land. They not only agreed, but actively supported me in my effort to document this veritable movement that is taking the post-college Jewish demographic by storm. You can read all about my adventures at www.moishehousemobile.org, but in this blog post I'm going to attempt to summarize my discoveries, as well as some travel stories.

1. Moishe House residents are from all walks of life
There were big ones, small ones, tall ones, short ones, silly ones, serious ones, left-wing ones, right-wing ones, religious ones, and secular ones. There really is a lot of diversity in this organization. I’m surprised we can all get along when we get together each year for the national conference, but I suppose we all have at least one thing in common—we’re all passionate about Jewish community.

2. Moishe Houses bring people together
All the Moishe Houses I came across were vibrant centers where people met. This might seem like an obvious point, but I could really feel it tangibly when I was in those spaces. When I attended Moishe House events across the country, I could see the excitement of people meeting each other for the first time. And I could also see how it provided a springboard for a lot of deep connections outside of Moishe House. Not only is it a great place for Jewish singles, but it’s also a great place for Jewish entrepreneurs and people looking to establish creative connections with others. As one Moishe House resident put it, Moishe House is an incubator where the next models of Jewish community (and perhaps the next generation of Jewish babies) will be created.

3. Moishe Houses are fun and silly
It can be tough as a young adult trying to start a career in this economy. Yet Moishe House provides a counter-culture to the competitiveness of modern city life. People come as they are, let their guards down, and enter the space as equals, checking their competitiveness at the door and reveal their softer, more playful sides. As a result, Moishe House offers an outlet for us to be really fun and silly, which we so often forget to prioritize.

4. Greyhound is a terrible way to travel, until you master Zen philosophy
I was well aware of the notoriety of Greyhound before I started this adventure, but this was made very clear to me personally very early on. On the first leg of my journey, from New York down to Texas, one person I sat next to kept muttering beneath his breath how he wanted to kill people. Later, in the same journey, we stopped outside a prison in Northern Texas and picked up about 20 just-released prisoners. The road was long, monotonous, and at times, scary, but by cultivating the right mental attitude, you can eventually let the world slip by like a breeze. After 275 hours on Greyhound buses in 3 months, I became close to becoming a Zen master.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rachael Freedman - Moishe House MoCo

Our evolution as a group has been pleasantly surprising and amusing to experience. In addition to its entertainment and insight value, this process has enriched my own leadership, and I've watched the effects of this permeate other programming roles I hold and professional relationships in which I am involved. It has been interesting to realize that my e-mail communication style in quasi-professional situations has been influenced -- molded, even -- by my Moishe House e-mail involvement -- and, yes, "involvement" is an appropriate expression of the exponential number of e-mails exchanged within the house. (It's a good thing we aren't charged for those by the kb. ['There goes our month's MH budget....']) One of my favorite Moishe House leadership development gleanings is courtesy of our housemate Leana: our tradition of "Around the Rooms", wherein we take turns at the end of each meeting to share fun and positive (usually), though sometimes mundane or even troubling, "current events" in our lives. I love what this brings to our relationship: a chance to connect on a personal level, to be friends, to know each other as people the way friends and acquaintances get to know each of us: through a more causal lens of who we are, and less of how we operate. It's a perfect way to unwind after an hour-plus of programming discussions, teasing out house-related matters, and evaluating longer-term goals, and this other-side perspective strengthens us as a team. From a macro-MH perspective: the regional, national, and newly-introduced learning conferences have been absolutely invaluable. Thanks to the very first MH Pesach learning retreat held this past Spring, I acquired tools in a warm and friendly, casually observant, Jewishly enriched, fully experiential learning format I'd never yet experienced in all my Jewish leadership and educational training and involvement...tools that bolstered my understanding of, connection to, and passion for Pesach and our family's seders...tools that instilled in me and polished my confidence, knowledge base, and improvisation skills enough to enable me to lead a seder for my extended family that incorporated family tradition, elements I pocketed from non-family seder experiences, and gems from this retreat that brought new joy and inspiration to our family seder and, without my asking for it, crowned me the new seder leader for our four-generation clan -- a role I accept with honor, and with deep gratitude to Moishe House.

Aaron Gunning - Moishe Kavod House Boston

Transformative Sex Ed in Action: The Ethical Sexuality Retreat The Sex Ed Team at the Moishe Kavod House in Brookline, MA had our first ever (first annual?) team retreat ten days ago. We wanted to spend a whole day talking together about sex, sexuality, and relationships in our lives and in our communities so that we could create a safe space in which to really dive into the trickier, stickier, more complex questions that came up during our workshops this past year. We had 18 people in attendance, including people who had been integrally involved in the team for the past year or more as well as people for whom the retreat was their first team event. Many people wanted to join us but couldn’t make it, so I thought I’d provide here a little taste of the questions we asked each other: *How does your Judaism [religion, spirituality] impact your sexuality? How does your sexuality impact your Judaism [religion, spirituality]? *What happens when I don’t fit into the question you’re asking? *What are the two most salient pieces of your identity? How do these identities make you feel powerful, powerless, or both at different times throughout your life? *Do your sexual ethics change in different relationships? *What personal needs does sex ed meet for you? What personal needs could sex ed meet for you in the future? *How can we broaden and deepen our impact on the world through sex ed? We also had three small groups break out for an hour in the afternoon. Their discussions focused on three different themes: jealousy, asexuality, and body image. By the end of the day, I could feel that the people in the room were very excited and ready to take on leadership of the team in the coming year and get some great work done. We want to do a thorough revision of our six-part curriculum, paying special attention to issues of power, privilege, and identity in framing the activities and informing the discussions, as well as working to integrate Judaism and Jewish learning in a variety of ways. We will also continue to make space for structured and unstructured conversations in our community about relevant topics related to sex, sexuality, and relationships. In addition, we will explore the process of building power so that we can engage in outreach work, take action, and have an impact on the world at large.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This Too Shall Pass - Vancouver

Today is Thursday – I move out on Friday. This is clearly a bitter sweet moment for me. I am leaving Vancouver for a year – my partner and I will be living in Terrace, BC. As far as I can tell, there are zero Jews in Terrace. Look at it on the map. It’s in the middle of nowhere. I am so excited to be living in a place where nature is an everyday occurrence, not just something you do on the weekend. It will truly be an adventure. But what will life be like without a Jewish Community? I have come to rely on my community in Vancouver, much of which revolves around Moishe House. Last Friday we had a spiritual and magical Kabbalat Shabbat Service. To me it felt the like culmination of years of community building. I am involved in a Jewish Community that is meaningful to me. And to be a leader in this community is such a gift. Not only am I involved in a meaningful local Jewish Community – I am part of the Moishe House Community. I didn’t really ‘get’ Moishe House until the annual retreat in Austin, TX. Here I realized how innovative and revolutionary the Moishe House model is. And here I made some great friends. Little did I know that one of these people would help me get through the toughest experience of my life. Recently – Emly and I spent three days rock climbing in Squamish, BC. The first day we climbed together and then the last two days – Rama, Jade, and Baruch (Moishe House community members) – joined us. It was an awesome time. On the second day we climbed from about 10am until 9pm. On Friday – Emly and I got up early to do a climb called Star Chek. I will spare you all the climbing lingo. But basically, it’s about a 300 foot climb that you break into three sections. At the top of each section you create an anchor and attach yourself to that. It was a beautiful day and the climb was picturesque. I was about halfway up the final section – climbing was a bit tricky here – as I pulled on a hold with my right hand, my shoulder dislocated, and I fell. I knew immediately what had happened. Between my screams, I told Emly that I had dislocated my shoulder. She was able to lower me back to the anchor and I clipped in. I was in the worst pain of my life – and was stuck on the wall with a dislocated shoulder. Thank God I brought my cell phone and we were able to call for help. After about 4 hours of waiting – we were rescued by Squamish Search and Rescue. When I got to the ambulance – I saw Rama and Baruch. And it was so good to see them. Emly and I felt so isolated on the wall – and to see my two good friends was amazing. They all then followed me to the hospital – where I ate the best Subway sandwich of my life. To be in the hospital with my good friends, was actually kind of fun. I was released from the hospital and made it back to Vancouver just in time for Shabbos. To be safe and sound with good friends on Shabbat was such an amazing moment. This too shall pass…

MHLA - Jon Shoer

Recently, for the first time, I had the pleasure of spending a Shabbat at a different Moishe House, one that is not even in my country. I am approaching my one year anniversary of living in the Los Angeles Moishe House on September 1, 2012 and I have been thinking about how far my community has come in that time, and where I would like to see it go in the year ahead. Being able to spend a Shabbat at the Moishe House in Vancouver B.C. was a great way for me to take a step back from my house and asses my time... as well as experience one of the most amazing Shabbats in my life! It was significant for me to be there while approaching my 1 year anniversary, but it was also significant as this was one of the last Friday night Shabbat dinners the original residents of this house were having together. I have to give a huge shout out to Moishe House Vancouver; Kiki, Baruch, Jacob, and Rotem - It was a beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service in their garden with guitars, bongos, and violins followed by a huge pot luck dinner followed by more sing-a-longs and dancing. A truly amazing night. While our cities and communities may vary, our general role as community leaders is universal. I always ask the same question to new comers at our events and that is, "How did you hear about us?" and I always get interesting stories about how a friend, of a camp friend's sister, met her fiance at a Moishe House event somewhere and they have been meaning to come for a long time. I live in a city where there are a lot of Jews... A LOT... and three different Moishe Houses all within 30 minutes of each other. When asking this question in Vancouver, people spoke to me about how there is a big Jewish community, not as large as LA but still pretty big, and Moishe House is the only place for them to gather in such a fun and organic way. Many thought it was the only house of its kind and were shocked when I told them that I live in one too and there are over 40 houses, in 14 different countries. It really put things into perspective for me and reminded me of the responsibility we have as Moishe House residents and as Jewish community leaders. When you get those guests who drove 45 minutes, or an hour, just to be at your event to share time with Jewish peers, that is when we are doing our best work. I found Moishe House by having a resident (who is now my roommate) spill my drink in a bar on accident. I was brand new to the city and Moishe House soon became the center of my world. I now take it on myself to not only provide a venue and events for Jews to gather, but to get the word out there and make people aware of what we do. I love being apart of the Moishe House family and I truly believe that we are a family in a big worldwide Moishe House! Much Love, Jon Shoer MoHoLA