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.

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