Moishe House turns 10 on Friday, Sept. 23.
An international phenomenon that began in 2006 when four young Jewish adults in Oakland, Calif., began hosting Shabbat dinners for their friends, Moishe House now has 91 houses in 21 countries. Recent additions include Montevideo, Uruguay; Be’er Sheva, Israel; St. Louis; Mannheim, Germany; and a third site in Boston.
Houses in the works include Cincinnati; South Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Fla.; and White Plains, N.Y.
Lander Gold, the senior director of advancement and philanthropic partnerships, said at least 95 houses are expected by year’s end.
Demand for houses is particularly strong in countries that have experienced massive persecution, such as the former Soviet Union and Hungary, where the young population is experiencing a Jewish renewal, Gold said.
In many cases young Jews are learning about their faith for the first time and have a strong thirst for that knowledge. In Paris and Brussels, they are experiencing anti-Semitism but do not want to leave. Community growth and a desire for connection are taking hold in areas such as Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, and Shanghai and Beijing, China.
In an age when the organized Jewish community is grasping for ways to engage young adults, Moishe House brings them together organically on their own terms.
Each house is home to three to five young Jewish adults ages 22 to 30 who have outreach and networking skills. Creativity, social conscience and a high level of community activism are also desirable qualities for residents.
Locations for houses are vetted as carefully as the residents. A home environment with ample gathering space, easy accessibility and individual living space for each resident is required.
In exchange for subsidized living in a desirable location with a highly social atmosphere, residents conceive, plan, publicize and host monthly religious, social, educational, cultural and community service programs for their friends, peers and greater social networks.
Events range from Havdalah dessert gatherings and Passover seders to speakers, resident birthday parties and community service days. The residents bring together their Jewish friends and those on the periphery of Jewish life.
House residents become more engaged in the Jewish community while learning leadership skills on top of the day-to-day responsibilities of their jobs, lives and families.
Atlanta’s first Moishe House opened in Toco Hills three years ago. It was followed by an Inman Park location, and plans are moving ahead for a third house by year’s end.
Local engagement has been high. Moishe House events across both houses drew a total attendance of 2,889 and 1,166 unique participants for 168 programs in 2015, and 1,221 people attended 76 programs in the first half of 2016.
Each house holds five to seven programs per month. The Toco location was just recognized as the international Moishe House of the month for its programming and participation.
Support for a new Moishe House is determined in one of two ways, Gold said.
The first: An area with a significant young Jewish population is identified and contacted to investigate feasibility and gauge interest. Gold said Moishe House usually seeks a community with 1,000 to 1,500 Jewish adults ages 22 to 30.
The organization then partners with local individual supporters and funding partners such as the Jewish Federation, local foundations and donor-advised funds.
“It is usually pretty clear if a community can support and sustain one or more Moishe Houses,” Gold said, adding that Atlanta probably can sustain four.
The second method for opening a Moishe House is through the efforts of potential participants. “We are usually approached for a new location. We are very much demand-driven by the young adult Jewish population,” Gold said. “We have an open application on the Moishe House website for a new house to be considered in a community. We can have a handful, up to 30 applications per week. The applications are always from young adults. Once the desire for a house is established, we then work to secure the funds and move forward.”
For the general community, Moishe House International is piloting a League of Champions in Atlanta, New York, San Diego and Chicago to garner support for houses. Two to four area leaders are identified, each pledging a minimum of $1,000, and they then engage other supporters and community activists.
A minimum of $20,000 must be secured the first year to move ahead with a location. The goal is to cover 75 percent of house expenses ($90,000) through such champions.
Moishe House provides a bridge from college life and Hillel or Chabad to the established adult Jewish community. So far in 2016, Moishe House has held more than 30 peer-led and national Jewish learning and leadership retreats for present and former participants.
“We want to complement a community’s young Jewish population,” Gold said, noting the effectiveness of engagement through personal invitations and peer-to-peer contact. He said, “It is a low barrier entry to the community, and Moishe House is providing that entry point.”
Shabbat Marks Decade of Moishe
Atlanta’s two Moishe House locations will join the other 89 houses around the world in a global Shabbat celebration of the organization’s 10th anniversary Friday night, Sept. 23.
Each Moishe House is a place for young Jewish adults to come together for educational, religious, social and community action programs each month. Since the first house opened in California in 2006, Moishe House has spread to 21 countries.
The Inman Park and Toco Hills locations will hold a combined commemoration at 8 p.m. at the new Toco Hills Moishe House on Biltmore Drive.
During the celebration, the Moishe House story will be told, and participants around the world will join in. The entire Atlanta Jewish community is welcome to attend.
To get more details or to RSVP, contact Lander Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-779-9190.