Is it Better to Try and Solve Existing Problems or Create New Possibilities?

by David Cygielman

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the good fortune of spending time with two of our board members thinking about the direction of Moishe House as well as meeting with several of our major funding partners.

I noticed after the first day that a lot of the conversation revolved around how Moishe House is solving “problems” in the Jewish community, which is not the first time I have engaged in this type of conversation. For example, what are we doing to solve the “problems” of Synagogue membership, Federation involvement, Jewish families and lack of Jewish knowledge and/or leadership for young adults in their 20’s? I have to admit that, through these conversations, I get caught thinking in these terms … what are we doing to solve the problems that the Jewish community and funders see as critical?

This line of problem solving-based thinking is unhealthy because it limits creativity and places young adults as unknowing subjects in an experiment they never signed up for. My firm belief is that when young adults feel a deep connection to their Jewish peers and are given opportunities to create meaningful Jewish experiences, these perceived “problems” actually solve themselves.

From my perspective, the root issue around a perceived lack of engagement from young adults is the small number of substantive and welcoming opportunities that are created by and run by their own peers. If we are able to look at an open canvas and paint what is possible, so much more can happen without the limitations of a misleading framework.

My hope is that together we can imagine a blank canvas, to embrace what is possible, and to push the envelope in a way that allows for connections to Jewish life that no one has even fathomed. In order to accomplish this, funders must be willing to look at ideas and programs without the lens of whether “problems” will be solved, and instead ask if their investments will lead to greater number of young Jewish adults feeling connected and committed to their own personal and community-based Judaism.

David Cygielman is CEO of Moishe House.