moishe_pose_1.jpgWhen I was active in the Labor Zionist youth movement world, our leaders inhabited a place called a “bayit” where they planned programs and events. They hosted parties and other activities there from time to time. I didn’t know it then, but I was witnessing the end of the Bayit Era. When I was a youth group leader I ended up living in one of these bayits in Jerusalem and knew that I was merely part of the chevra kadisha (burial society) burying this thing. The bayit was dead and the year was 1990.

Projects for social change on a grassroots level need multiple points of contact with the groups they hope to affect. With American assimilation and Jewish disenfranchisement soaring (even with an explosion of new organizations), a new project/movement has been born that hopes to have a huge impact, and it seems they have a good chance of success.

Within the last six months a network of independent communal homes has cropped up with the help of the Forest Foundation, and it hopes to do for the Latte Generation today what batim did 20-40 years ago—spark an explosion of Jewish community. The Moishe House revolution is against apathy and estrangement, and for involvement, creativity and community. There is no ideology. Each house needs to live together in and create their vision of an ideal Jewish communal space. Its catching on, with a Moishe House in Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and soon in New Orleans, and Montevideo, Uruguay.

So all you need is a group of young eager Jews a house, and viola, you can get a Moishe house? If you are interested in having a communal house where they host a Shtetl Fabulous Party, a smokin BBQ, Shabbat dinner, movie nights, even mah jong and dim sum, you are candidates for the project and they wait for your application. See huge amounts of photos from Moishe Houses here.

We emailed recently with Isaac Zones, Moishe House Director for the Forest Foundation, to get more of the scoop, and he explains:

We feel strongly that in the process we will learn much about effective, meaningful and interesting ways to bring Jewish young adults together. In just over 6 months Moishe House as a collective unit has hosted over 140 events in 5 different cities with over 1,500 people in attendance.

And how many Moishe houses can we expect?

Moishe House is a young program but is quickly growing and expanding to a new city roughly every two months. The Forest Foundation has the funding to sponsor ten or so such houses and we are talking to other foundations about sponsoring more.

Is there a game plan or are we planning it by ear?

As with all of its programs the Forest Foundation is committed to thinking continuously and innovatively about this project and there’s no doubt that Moishe House will look incredibly different in 6 months just as it now looks completely different than it did 6 months ago.

What are your current plans?

Currently we are focused on building our own website, getting applications into more peoples hands and beefing up our support to future and existing houses. In September we will bring the residents from all houses together for the first time for an exciting weekend of learning and sharing.

Tip of the Yarmulke to Aaron Small, also of the Forest Foundation.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah

15 Comments

  • Communal homes? But this is great. An urban moshav. This could keep the Jews in the cities! How Jewlicious. The middle class doesn’t have to flee! It can STAY within walking distance of itself.

    How wonderful.

    Naturally there may be other occurrences of a familial kind. Do you have a roof play area? I have another use for it. A simcha. Under the stars. Cheap.

  • I’ve been wanting to do this for the past year–and have started dreaming up with a few people (one of them is a friggin’ contributor to this site) about how to do it in New York…Forest Foundation, if you’re reading this, we wanna start a New York House!

  • Is there a connection between the fiddler and the viola mysteriously mentioned in the original post? 😉 (sorry,couldn’t resist)

  • why the strike through? out here in santa barbara i built my office right into our giant avocado tree. i hold conference calls and pick dozens off the branches. god bless the mute button. god bless the speakerphone. god bless avocados.

    avocado is a type of fruit, for all the new yorkers out there, who’ve never seen trees before…every moishe house comes equipped with fruit and vegetable gardens.

  • Fiddler on the roof wedding? Sure, with a few Klezmer musicians – typically a clarinet and a fiddle, at the minimum. They make the whole atmosphere. You could charge people who didn’t live in the Moishe House a little something for the use of your star-lit roof, with its on-location kosher kitchen. They could bring in their own caterer. The revenue could help float the building. If that did not interfere with your non-profit status.

    There just has to be a way to continue to be an urban Jew of ordinary means.

    Single or married. With kids, or without kids. In the middle of town, in walking distance of religious life.

    There has to continue to be such a thing as: a Jew who does not have a car, but who does have children, and is not necessarily Hassidic.

    Moishe House sounds good. I had never heard of it.

  • A guy and his wife should save up to get a car. A guy and his car should not save up to get a wife.

    It is not so simple to be a simple Jew these days, what with real estate and school costs.

    But there seem to be some new ideas in play. The state of the shtetl. Cool.

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