Moishe House DC Makes It Easy to Come Home Again
There are two rules that I should have learned from my long and storied personal history of being a total procrastinator:
- The easiest-seeming tasks are often the hardest to do
- I never remember rule #1. Particularly, when it comes to writing
When I first found out about Moishe House DC last spring, I was immediately inspired to write about it. The large Adams Morgan house is beautiful, and it hosts a raft of activities for young people in the area to get together and engage with one another. The roommates in charge of activities are creative and the community they are working to grow, convivial. It was, and remains, fertile ground for a feature article. Moishe House is fun, interesting, and striving to make DC a better place to live. In short, it’s everything I look for in an organization to cover.
But, as I should know by now, even though I may think to myself that “this article will write itself!” – it never actually does. And unfortunately in this case, I didn’t manage to write it either.
Throughout the summer I kept attending Moishe House DC events, and they kept proving themselves coverage-worthy. The four roommates (each community leaders in their own right) host seven free events a month, all meant to explore compelling subjects relevant to their community. I was impressed by the wide-array of topics they were able to cover. Through Moishe House DC, I attended: a gardening event; an intimate Feastly dinner lesson on eating more contentiously; a town hall-style meeting on Syria that featured a panel of experts discussing the country’s current socio-political turbulence (complete with an exhibit by photographers Jacks and Jason Hamcher); and two separate Topics on Tap Speaker Series events that provided me an opportunity to listen to peer-aged experts talk about their passions - hemp legalization and the history of metal music, respectively. Political and a-political, sometimes serious, always a blast - the events at Moishe House never failed to be dynamic, educational, interesting, and perhaps most importantly, wonderfully welcoming.
But whenever I sat down to pen something concrete about the organization, no sentence seemed to stick and no angle felt true. Moishe House DC’s roommates were planting the seeds of a new community in the District, but I couldn’t express the importance of what they were striving to grow. Couldn’t, that is, until this fall when I moved - 1000 miles and half a country away from everyone I cared about. For the first time in my life I was far-removed from my support network, and without the comfort of my community, the real value of Moishe House DC began to stare me in the face.
I moved for the same reasons millions of people do: new career, new scene, and new climate. To see what it feels like to make a decision about the direction of my life (easy) and then act on it (not). To see if uprooting myself would be a good decision (the jury’s still out), and whether I could hack it (ditto).
So far, I can report that moving feels mostly like braving an inner storm. A near-constant battle to quiet a clamorous internal monologue that questions where I will live, and what I will eat, if I am safe, and which streets I should take. Figuring out the day-to-day details of my new life has turned out to take an obnoxiously long time, but the more intense, bigger-picture questions can feel never-ending. Will I create the kind of community here that had felt so easy to maintain in DC? I find myself wondering more often than not.
When, and how, does a recent transplant begin to grow some new roots?
Those large questions about comfort and community are exactly what Moishe House is meant to address. The international Jewish organization began in 2006 after its founder, David Cygielman, hosted a Shabbat Dinner that drew 70 people hankering for a seat at his table. Since then, each of the 46 national and international Moishe Houses operate as epicenters for young Jewish urban dwellers with few casual opportunities to meet and greet one another. The organization acts as an umbrella, providing every Moishe House with event funding, a resource network, and leadership opportunities for the people that live there. Beyond that, the organization makes a point to allow each Moishe House to be as grassroots-oriented as possible. Each Moishe House activity is devised and directed by the people that live there, and all initiatives are meant to reflect the unique nature of the roommates and the city in which they live.
Although Moishe House operates in order to promote religious involvement and leadership among Jewish young adults, the organization isn’t interested in creating Jewish community in a vacuum. Some Moishe House DC’s activities are overtly religious, some not, but all are open to anyone who wants to participate. As a non-Jewish person, I attended events at the Adams Morgan house for the chance to engage in a social environment radically different from more formal event spaces in DC. For Jewish twenty-somethings, I imagine that Moishe House provides that service and much more. By maintaining a stable, religiously-affiliated community and gathering place, Moishe House DC provides a much-needed and otherwise hard-to-find home base for those at an age marked by the throes of change.
No matter how close you live to your hometown, young adulthood is rife with transitions. It may have taken a trip across country for me to become better attuned to my own anxieties, but those big-picture questions didn’t crop up because I left DC. Everyone in their twenties is concerned with security, comfort and community involvement when they are moving – literally, like I did, or more figuratively from newly-minted human to fully-fledged adult. Which is why I can now finally appreciate (enough to write about) how incredible it is to have a place like Moishe House DC. A place where one can feel welcomed, can connect with a community, and can more fully develop his or her identity. A place to feel safe, comfortable, and exposed to new ideas. A home base that quiets that internal anxiety-storm. A shelter…for those of us still growing our roots.
Photo credit: Moishe House DC
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