Episode 19: Moishe House - David Cygielman

David Cygielman, founder and CEO of Moishe House, joins Dan and Lex for the second episode in a four-episode series entitled "New Platforms for Jewish Life." Moishe House's mission is to provide vibrant Jewish community for young adults by supporting leaders in their 20s as they create meaningful home-based Jewish experiences for themselves and their peers.

Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7DoyyU_tqg

Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7DoyyU_tqg

(0:01 - 10:26): Cygielman begins by explaining how Moishe House began, along with how its model works. [1] He also illustrates the funding challenges faced by new Jewish ideas by telling the story of how Moishe House -- now one of the biggest success stories in the Jewish world of the last decade -- almost closed down only a few years after it got started.

(10:27 - 22:00): We explore what it is about Moishe House that helps it succeed in mid-size and smaller cities, [2] something that many national Jewish organizations struggle to do. Cygielman goes on to describe the relatively new Moishe House Without Walls[3] He also explains the role that learning retreats, also a relatively new Moishe House initiative, play in their model and considers a variety of reasons that Moishe House has resonated with its demographic (22-30 year-old Jews).

Image Credit: http://slingshotfund.org/directory/moishe-house/

Image Credit: http://slingshotfund.org/directory/moishe-house/

(22:01 - 33:36): We discuss the extent to which Moishe House residents (and other participants in its programming) become involved in the broader landscape of organized Jewish life. We also consider whether Moishe House is part of a larger shift in 21st Century American Jewish life, in which the home is becoming an important center of Jewish life, not only for families, but also for extended networks of friends and other interested people -- potentially taking on at least part of the role played in the 20th Century by synagogues and other "official" Jewish gatheriing spaces. [4] Cygielman introduces a dichotomy he refers to as "large tent" vs. "lots of tents," explaining how Moishe House's model is based on lots of tents.

(33:37 - 44:21): We ask Cygielman to reflect on what characteristics are most necessary for individuals and groups looking to build new and successful Jewish organizations. As we close, Cygielman articulates the fundamental importance of financial transparency and authenticity with one's staff and constituents, arguing that both are necessary in engaging rising generations. [5]

[1] Visit Moishe House's website to learn more about the organization.

[2] To find out if there's a Moishe House near you, or just to get a sense of where Moishe Houses are currently located, check out the full list of houses here.

[3] Moishe House Without Walls funds programming that does not take place in Moishe Houses; among other things, it is a way to support programming in cities without a critical mass of people to open a Moishe House to implement similar programming on a smaller scale. Learn more about it here.

[4] To learn more about some of the other Jewish organizations referenced which are, similar to Moishe House, focusing their programming efforts on the home, visit the websites of One TableKevah, and Hello Mazel.

[5] Moishe House demonstrates its transparency by including its Evaluation Findings publicly on its website. You can access them here.