When you’re in college, it can be easy to find a connection to a Jewish community. Once you get out of college, finding that same connection to a Jewish community can be more of a challenge. David Cygielman understood that plight 10 years ago.
Thanks to the urging of his then-boss Morris Bear Squire, Cygielman and his friends threw a Shabbat dinner that drew 75 people. The next week they did it again, and the turnout was strong again. This marked the start of Moishe House, which Cygielman is now the CEO of.
Moishe House welcomed its first three residents to its Minneapolis house this week when Samantha Hamlin, Jacqueline Soria and Lauren Dahar, moving into the house. The first event is a housewarming brunch on Sunday, Aug. 7 from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at 3044 Emerson Ave. S. in Minneapolis.
“The real goal is to make sure everyone feels welcome in our home and make sure they understand what Moishe House is about,” Dahar said.
Hamlin and Dahar were the first two in the house, and Soria moved in this past Wednesday.
“We all applied and were accepted to Moishe House, which at the time was an abstract thing,” Soria said. “We all like each other and want to build community. We all came with that idea.”
Hamlin is from Minnesota, while Dahar is from Cleveland and went to the University of Michigan, and Soria is a New Jersey native who went to Northwestern University. The latter two were each active in their respective Hillels, and heard about Moishe House from there.
“The (Moishe House) model has been growing and growing,” said Adam Dobrusin, the director of expansion for Moishe House, which now has 87 houses in 21 countries. “It’s the largest organization for Jews in their 20s. It’s all a peer-to-peer model: Find a cool group to live together and task them with building community.”
The two big goals for the house are to get the community involved with planning programs and partner with other organizations in town.
“It’s a very open, welcoming space for people who haven’t connected or done anything in a long time,” Dobrusin said.
Moishe House is open to applicants between 22 and 30 years old. Dobrusin said they look for a group of friends who want to live together, are outgoing and love having people over and are welcoming, and are interested in exploring Judaism while helping others connect.
The model has been successful so far. According to its last annual report, Jewish young adults connect with each other and build community through Moishe House. After participating in Moishe House, residents report large increases in belonging to a larger movement (72 percent) and connection to the global Jewish community (64 percent). Moishe House is seen as a hub of Jewish life for Jewish young adults by a large majority of program participants (79 percent) and residents (89 percent). Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of residents have adopted new Jewish practices since getting involved with Moishe House.
The house is open thanks to funding from Minneapolis Jewish Federation and Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies. Dobrusin said each house has a goal of being locally funded and supported, with a goal of 75 percent of funding to come locally. The funding opportunity had been available, Dobrusin said, but finding the right residents was the challenge.
“We hadn’t found the right group but I’m confident we did now,” he said. “These are three young women who are so talented and excited to take this on. This group is stellar. I build teams all over North America, and I can tell you this team will build something great.”