Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Moishe House Hoboken - Samantha Vinokor

For over twenty years, from the time that I was born, until the day that I graduated from college, I found that I had a spot carved for me within the Jewish community. Many of the various positions that I found myself in were handed to me, as well as many others: student, bat mitzvah. Others I created for myself, many of these being leadership positions that I worked for: youth group president, Hillel leader, Israel
advocate. Still, all of the roles that I had up until the time that I graduated from college existed within a pre-established environment, one that had a structure, a leadership, and a clearly defined place in the greater Jewish community.

Upon graduation, I was thrust into the role of young professional, an arena of the Jewish community that has not yet been fully defined. My involvement in the Jewish community at this stage of my life has been twofold, as I have chosen to pursue a career as a Jewish professional, and continue to participate in the Jewish community on a personal level as well. Given these dual roles, I have had to figure out how to create a Jewish identity that includes my personal and professional pursuits, and allows me to find fulfillment in both arenas. Key to this goal has been my search for a community that I can relate to and share my Jewish experiences with.

Becoming a part of the Moishe House community in Hoboken, and particularly becoming a resident of the house, has provided me with the opportunity to be a key member of the development of a Jewish community that provides a place of comfort and familiarity for people to explore their Judaism and connect with it in a positive way. My involvement with Moishe House has given me the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people, each of whom comes from a different background, and for who Judaism and the Jewish people has a different meaning and significance. Moishe House gives all of us the opportunity to come together in a pluralistic, open way, as Jews, for the shared goal of creating a community in which we can all be comfortable to explore ourselves, our beliefs, and our bonds to Judaism.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jews Contributing to Music NOW, From Moishe House Philly's Mira Treatman

Jews Contributing to Music NOW and in a BIG way, From Moishe House Philly's Mira Treatman  

As a show promoter and booker in Philadelphia, I am constantly hunting for artists to work with. Along the way, I've come across musicians who also happen to be Jewish. The following are my picks for Moishe House residents and community members to support potentially because they are not only creating cutting edge recordings and performances, but also stand for more than just entertainment value. Across the board, they're single-handedly defining contemporary Judaism for themselves as they see fit. They may not all be particularly Jewish artists in their work, however they're certainly not hiding this part of their identity per se. For one, I do not personally know any of these artists and yet I can confirm that they're all at least Jewish-identifying in some way. Many of the people on this list manifest their Jewish backgrounds in very subtle, almost sexy ways, for example Amy Klein has casually written a song called "Jacob's Ladder" just because she can. This list represents DIY Judaism at its finest.

Judd Greenstein, one of the three co-directors of New Amsterdam Records, is an award-winning, self-described indie-classical composer based in Brooklyn. Not only the creator of contemporary, relevant composed music, Greenstein also promotes his comrades such as Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Annie Clark (St. Vincent), and Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards), among others. He is curator of the Ecstatic Music Festival, an annual event which brings together seemingly disparate artists to create incredible, moving collaborations. Most Jewish in his list of accomplishments is Greenstein's Six Points Fellowship where he spent a year composing the full-length work, Solomon, which was performed by a group he assembled called Yehudim. To learn more about this fellowship, check out

Amy Klein, also known as Amy Rebecca Klein, also known as the front woman of Leda and Hilly Eye, also known as the unofficial founder of Permanent Wave, also known as the former guitarist of Titus Andronicus, is a goddess in Jewish feminism today. Educated, brilliant, talented, literary, and loud, Amy has accomplished so much in her twenty-seven years, including the unofficial founding of Permanent Wave. This non-wave feminist arts collective seeks to "challenge gender inequality as it manifests itself in art, politics, and personal lives." It was inspired in part by violence against women in Amy's immediate environment, in addition to the inequality between men and women in the music industry. Since its founding in late 2010, Permanent Wave has spread from New York to the San Francisco Bay, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, and even Omaha, Nebraska. A hallmark of Permanent Wave is the organization of music shows featuring all female-identifying, queer, people of color, and youth performers.

Mirah, born Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn in Philadelphia, is a singer-songwriter known for writing classic works on K Records in the Pacific Northwest during the golden age of lady rock. While at Evergreen State, Mirah began a fruitful collaboration with Phil Elvrum of Mt. Eerie/The Microphones releasing early solo albums with songs such as "The Garden", "Nobody Has to Stay", "Jerusalem", and "Don't Die in Me". More recently, Mirah has released an incredible collaborative music effort with Thao Nguyen of the insanely popular WNYC Radiolab national tour. An icon in the making known for rocking short Betty Page bangs and kimono tops, Mirah will certainly be remembered for being a cult musical diva as well as the Leonard Cohen of her generation. She was definitely born with the Jewish, eloquent literati gene. 

 Alicia Jo Rabins is a musician, poet, Torah scholar, mother, and slightly obscure folk-rock star based in Brooklyn and Portland. I first heard of her music in the form of her masters thesis (in Jewish Womens Studies at JTS no less) turned band Girls in Trouble. That same year her all-Jewish record label, JDub, unsurprisingly went under. This record label really had no chance at succeeding unfortunately, but at least their artists are still chugging along and releasing work. As a poet, Rabins has been published in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, 6x6, Court Green, anthologies from NYU Press and Knopf, and Artscape Press. Like Judd Greenstein, Alicia Jo is also a recent Six Points Fellow who created "an experimental rock opera about the spiritual implications of the current financial crisis, examining the figure of Bernard Madoff (and the system he represents) through the lens of rabbinic Jewish texts about financial ethics, the meaning of wealth, and the inevitability of cycles." 

              Schmekel is now not only Yiddish for "tiny penis", but also is the name of the first queer Jewcore band ever. Based in Brooklyn, Nogga Schwartz, Ricky Riot, Lucian Kahn, and Simcha Halpert-Hanson are a quartet of transgendered Jews who pen songs about their experiences in a very borscht belt, bathroom humor sort of way. Their songs celebrate their bar mitzvahs, which has been a major marketing tool in their journey (you can buy a t-shirt that says "I survived Schmekel's Bar Mitzvah"), which I find hilarious and really poignant. When the musicians in Schmekel were thirteen, they had Bat Mitzvot, which was not the correct prefix for any of their Mitzvot, then or now. The reason this band is on this list is because of the grace with which Schmekel unapologetically owns their trans and Jewish identities with a strong sense of humor. Schmekel shows are never a pity party or an angst-ridden fest, they always capture the authentic, loud, jubilant personalities of the band mates. 

Are you an amazing Jewish contributor to music today too? Are you not on this very short list? Please holler at me, or challah at me if that's easier, and I'll gladly book you in Philly! In a perfect world, my Moishe House would, can, and has definitely doubled as a welcoming yet cutting edge house show venue.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Moishe House Pittsburgh - Naomi Fireman

Moving to Pittsburgh has been a new experience, starting graduate school has been a new experience, and starting a new experience with Moishe House Pittsburgh has been the experience that has granted me with the most comfort, warmth and amity.

Everyone knows that being a newbie is as tiring as it is exhilarating, but in the Moishe House I have only felt feelings of kinship and companionability. The Moishe House of Pittsburgh has an interesting mélange of a community that includes determined graduate, medical, business and law students, passionate young Jewish professionals, and brilliant professionals in all fields. Our home has become a space for all young Jews to come, hang out, step out of their everyday routine and meet like-minded individuals.

‘Shabbrunch’, Shabbat Brunch, has become a regular event in Moishe House Pittsburgh that is my personal favorite and offers a micro view of what community the Moishe House of Pittsburgh is creating. The preparation of Shabbrunch, bustling around the kitchen with my housemates, baking, cooking and preparing the bagels and lox is a huge portion of the Shabbrunch enjoyment. There is a uniqueness in putting in the planning and logistics for an event that brings the house together. However the uniqueness of Moishe House can be seen during Shabbrunch. We gather for Kiddush, acknowledging Shabbat, and then begin our lazy Shabbrunch. The den will most likely have a football game playing, the dining room full of schmoozing, the kitchen supplying more nourishment and the conversations in constant flow. This is in many ways my ideal Shabbat – relaxing and conversing with new friends. I am thankful to Moishe House for granting me this opportunity, and grateful that we have the opportunity to open up the House to the community and welcome people in for Shabbrunch!

MHP - Cody Greenes - Community

Moishe House residency is awesome. I love it. We, as a house, create our ideal Jewish community.  And that means it's fluid. It's the residents' own personalities that feed each house.

Residency isn't easy, no. But where else can four very different (or, very similar, for that matter- depends on the house) young people collaborate on, create and support their ideal anything? If there's a job like that, please, let me know. For now, I'll take my career with a side of Moishe.

As I started my third year here in MHP, I thought I was fairly settled in. I've been able to create, plan and host events that were meaningful to me (tikkun olam, rec league sports, sukkah-building), and supported our more 'mainstream' events- holiday meals, shabbat potlucks, Torah study and game or movie nights. But we started Fall 2012 a little different. 3 new roomies, and each pretty new to the Philly Jewish community.

I made the mistake- from which I have taken valuable lessons- to push on and assume it was Moishe-as-usual. Oops. What'd I say earlier? Fluid. Why weren't we working together as well? Why did some feel lost or disconnected with the mission and, really, where was that family feeling I'd grown to love? I won't drag this out, especially because it's probably obvious. You can't fit people into pre-existing models. Moishe House residents can share their individual passions with the community, but it really should start with each other. Then you get that big a-ha moment. Plus, honestly, that warm fuzzy feeling moment, too. I love watching a fellow resident introduce an evening's event, share their interest and glow as the event comes together.

We hosted an arts salon a few months ago. It took awhile to explain the idea to me, because I had no idea what that was. And honestly, I was hesitant- yes, excitedly curious, too- until the artists came a couple hours prior to the start of the event. I knew immediately that these were my type of people. Sure, uninvolved in the Jewish community, but friendly, giving, full of love and ready to share their passions with others. And that's an awesome part of our community- willingness and desire to share one's passion with others.