Let’s talk about “disruptive” innovations

Between Us

It’s been said that only 3% of the population likes classical music. But in a TED talk entitled, “The Transformative Power of Classical Music,”  conductor Ben Zandler notes, “Everybody loves classical music — they just haven’t found out about it yet.”

Yoni, one of four residents at the recently relocated Moishe House Bethesda (formerly Moishe House Montgomery County), related this story last week. He compared our Greater Washington community to Zandler’s TED talk, saying that Jewish young adults all love being part of an energizing and engaging Jewish community — they just haven’t found Moishe House yet.

I was invited to the Open House and hanukat habayit (affixing of the mezuzah) at Moishe House Bethesda, one of four in the Greater Washington community (the others are in Arlington, Capitol Hill and Columbia Heights). Moishe House was founded in 2006 in Oakland, CA by CEO David Cygielman and initially funded by philanthropist Morris Squire. Today, it is an international organization with 82 houses in 18 countries, with a mission “to provide meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults around the world by supporting leaders in their 20s as they create vibrant home-based Jewish communities.” The concept is simple: three to five young adults turn their home into a Moishe House with financial assistance, guidance and support of the organization’s diverse staff. In exchange for a modest rent subsidy and monthly programming budget, the residents host 5-7 programs per month,such as Shabbat and holiday celebrations, community service projects and social programs to engage between 1,200-1,500 young adults in total attendance annually.

Yoni and his housemates, Aaron, David and Jess, all spoke eloquently about their Jewish journeys, the community they are creating and their excitement about their programming for young Jewish adults. When asked about their definitions of success, their responses showed the depth of their passion for building community and meaningful Jewish connections: “welcome one participant at a time.” Through the first nine months of the year, the four local Moishe Houses have seen over 3,800 young adults in total attendance (1,600 unique individuals) through 246 diverse programs.

Others in attendance that night included representatives of local Foundations and individuals who generously support Moishe Houses in Greater Washington and nationally..

Mosihe House has become one of the most “disruptive” innovations in contemporary Jewish life – offering an alternative way to engage post-college/pre-family young adults in the Jewish community. They join a plethora of  local opportunities for young adults, including Gather the Jews, Sixth & I, the DCJCC’s EntryPointDC and GLOE, Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239, Metro Minyan, and of course, Young Leadership at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. All of these organizations and their outstanding professional leaders were featured at last month’s Federation board meeting.

This week’s parasha is Noach, which ends with the listing of the ten generations between Noah and Abram (later, Abraham), who ran from his tent in order to greet the strangers who approached him. By going outside our institutions and into the community – as Moishe House does so well – we can more effectively welcome and engage more members of our community.

Shabbat Shalom.

For more information about Moishe House, visit www.moishehouse.org or contact Lander Gold at [email protected] or (202) 779-9190.


Ways to Make it Yours

  • Apply for the highly selective 2016 ConnectGens Fellowship to transform your BIG IDEA into a venture that will reinvigorate our Jewish community.
  • Check out this DCist article about Jewish Food Experience®’s two-year celebration and how JFE is whipping up innovation across our Jewish community.
  • Join Federation for an inspiring, communal conversation on the future of disability inclusion in our community this Sunday, October 18.
  • Explore what makes Israel the ‘Start-Up Nation’ and how it is invigorating the US marketplace with a special panel discussion and lunch on Wednesday, November 4.
  • Celebrate Veteran’s Day at a special volunteer opportunity with the National Museum of American Jewish Military History on Wednesday, November 11. Be inspired by the stories of local veterans and create care packages to help Jewish veterans in need.