Adam Rossano, International Director of Advancement at Moishe House, reflects on the launch of its latest London home in Hackney - and why the future is bright.
Being together, whether in the home, in synagogue or at times of joy and sorrow, has always been central to Jewish life. The on-going coronavirus pandemic has struck at the heart of this, making physical community impossible in a way few could have predicted or imagined.
Like so many other community organisations, our team at Moishe House has needed to radically re-think operations during lockdown. The Moishe House movement started with one Shabbat dinner 14 years ago and since then, has entirely focused on developing vibrant physical communities that bring young Jewish adults together. Now, over 110 Moishe House communities worldwide have stopped in-person events for the foreseeable future and we have been left with a simple question – “What now?”Fortunately, it has not fallen to any one group of leaders or committee to answer this.
Each Moishe House is set up on the premise that the residents should be the architects of their own community, creating Jewish experiences that are relevant and meaningful to the people they serve. There is no mould or formula. That’s why each Moishe House community is responding differently to the current crisis, ensuring no one feels alone or cut off from Jewish life. In the UK alone, our four Moishe Houses have used Zoom Seders, virtual art classes, online book clubs and take-away Shabbat meals to support people through these tough times. This means that, despite closing their physical doors, London’s Moishe House communities are carrying on and if anything, growing stronger. Not only are they running virtual programs every week, but they are also continually checking in on everyone in their communities and offering moral support to anyone who needs it. Each resilient and creative response reaffirms just how much young adults today care about building Jewish community. Even in the current climate, we are seeing a growing number of young adults positioning themselves as active leaders in their Jewish community. This is borne out by the growth of the Moishe House movement in the UK and should be a source of hope and inspiration for the wider community.
We opened our first House in NW London in 2007, and now through the generous support of all our partners, including Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Pears Foundation and several other local foundations and individuals, have four thriving Moishe Houses in London.
In addition to our two established communities in Belsize Park and Kilburn, we have been supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group to open two new houses in Clapham and Hackney within the space of a year. The newest House in Hackney is barely one month old yet is already laying the groundwork for a post-lockdown physical community by starting to develop its own digital community.
All of this activity shows the huge potential of the small but mighty Jewish young adult population across the UK. In 2019 alone, the Kilburn, Belsize Park, and Clapham Houses reached over 1,000 unique young adults through nearly 200 programs. We hope that through the Moishe House network, the number of young people living active Jewish lives, however they personally define that, will increase.
We are already looking to find more places in the UK where there are young adults ready to take on the mantle of creating their own Jewish communities. We’re seeing potential in cities like Sheffield where we have individual leaders who have attended immersive Jewish learning experiences through Moishe House and are now hosting Jewish programming for their friends as Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) hosts.
We believe that anyone who is interested in living a meaningful Jewish life should be able to do so. And of course, we are not the only ones who feel that way. Moishe House, along with so many other organisations, has the tools to support young adults to be the driving force behind their own Jewish communities. If, even now, we can harness the energy and creativity of young Jewish leaders, then the future of Jewish community in the UK and worldwide will be bright indeed.
Adam Rossano is International Director of Advancement at Moishe House
Moishe House in the UK is generously supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group, Anonymous, Pears Foundation, The J.E. Joseph Charitable Trust, Jewish Joint Burial Society, Shoresh Charitable Trust, Kantor Foundation, European Jewish Fund, The Bridging Trust, Sir Trevor Chinn, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Moishe House International Fund and young adult community builders giving back through our alumni Ambassador Circle and annual resident-driven WE ARE Campaign.