For college graduates, there is often a gripping “what now” moment the minute the ink on their diploma is dry. The endless possibilities lying ahead can be dizzying but also fraught with endless questions regarding careers, networking and housing. For Jewish graduates, there can be additional soul-searching thoughts to ponder: “How do I keep my connection to Jewish life and learning? How do I make new Jewish friends who share my values?”
Many graduates find themselves gravitating to a dynamic organization that targets young professionals poised to take the first leap into the professional world – Moishe House. This nonprofit international organization has a unique model dedicated to enriching the lives of post-college Jewish youth. Launched in June 2013, MH puts a strong emphasis on both fun and religious life; its four overarching themes are social, cultural, religious and repairing the world (tikkun olam). The Moishe House in North Scottsdale is one of 61 houses worldwide that provides subsidized housing for residents and a programming budget based on the number of young-adult events planned each month. Scottsdale MH leaders Avi Wolf, Blaine Light, Jonny Basha and Adam Dobrusin collaborate with an eight-member board to create 10 “across the spectrum” events each month.
“I am so amazed at how eclectic our members are,” says Avi. “They have such diverse backgrounds religiously, geographically and spiritually. By hosting such a unique group, we are all able to grow and learn from one another. I am honored and proud we are able to host such a special crowd and build this strong young Jewish professional community together. A unique feature of our organization is that we charge no dues, and members can come to as … many events as they want.”
Events that build camaraderie and illuminate Jewish values and traditions include Shabbat dinners, social gatherings, ski trips, learning retreats, holiday and religious events, Talmudic study, wine tasting, sporting events, religious forums and women’s empowerment events. News spreads through the young Jewish community via the MH Facebook page, word of mouth, newsletter and website. The house itself is the hub of activities. Replete with a swimming pool, basketball courts, playground, games and ping pong tables, it’s the perfect place to forge long- lasting friendships while playing hard and working hard.
“Moishe House fills a gap between college and family life,” says Adam. “There is a real need for an organization like ours.” While in high school young people typically have a myriad of opportunities in organizations such as the JCC, BBYO, USY (United Synagogue Youth) and other teen groups. Colleges have Hillel and Jewish Student Unions, and many students take free Birthright trips to Israel (available until age 26), notes Adam. “But a lot of graduates ‘fall off a cliff ’ afterward. We bring them back on track and give opportunities and introductions – things that strengthen the community,” he adds.
Started on a whim, the first Moishe House became a “eureka flash” practically overnight in 2006. CEO and founder David Cygielman relates how a suggestion became the catalyst for the original MH concept. “I had some Jewish friends who were college graduates and lived together in a house. One day I asked them what it would look like if their home was something more than for just eating and sleeping. They decided to have a Shabbat dinner and invite some friends – 73 people showed up. It was really eye opening to see the demand. From there, the concept totally caught fire. Moishe House is now the largest organization in the world serving young Jewish adults after college, with tens of thousands of participants each year.”
The Scottsdale MH emulates the successful track record of the original house and others that have blossomed all around the country. Members and the board point with pride to the fact they won the “Moishe House of the Month” award last November. MH leaders and board members are also eager to tout the 1,800-square-foot sukkah they built last year, which housed a dinner party for more than 100 people. According to the leaders, it was the largest sukkah in Arizona, fully decorated with a wide variety of colorful objects found in nature.
The Sukkot dinner is just one of the many enticing and friendship-building events held at MH. Member Taryn Lachter shared her reasons for involvement with the organization. “I love being a part of MH because of the feeling of family as soon as I walk in the door. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from or who you know, you’re welcome in the Moishe House. We’re creating a true Jewish community here, and it’s a beautiful thing,” she says.