No pulpits

Moishe House expands rabbi-led offerings in four cities

Organization says its Base program is a way to address growing desire for connections to rabbis and Judaism by young adults who are wary of synagogues

Moishe House is expanding its network of rabbi-led centers, opening four new homes in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago for young adults in those cities as part of its Base program, the organization said this week.

Base, which Moishe House acquired from Hillel International in 2021, looks to provide Jewish spaces for younger adults under the guidance of “rabbinical couples,” where either one or both of the partners received ordination from some rabbinical program.

“Young adults crave thick community, inspiring learning, and rituals that have spiritual depth, ongoing relevance, and integrity,” Rabbi Jesse Paikin, executive director of Base, said in a statement. 

The new Base homes bring the program’s total number to 14, with centers also in the Bay Area, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia and Ann Arbor, Mich., in addition to those in the cities that are now getting additional centers.

“While each Base reflects the personality of the local rabbinic couple and their vision for a vibrant Jewish community, all Bases are committed to a pluralistic Judaism premised on hospitality, learning, and service,” the organization said. The rabbinic couples offer “immersive and experiential learning, meals, holiday rituals, pastoral counseling and life cycle support, and acts of community engagement.”

Base attributed its expansion to a growing desire by young American Jewish to have experiences with rabbis, which it said could be seen in a report commissioned by Atra: Center for Rabbinic Innovation earlier this year.

The study found that 64% of American Jews ages 18-44 said having a relationship with a rabbi is important to them, and 91% said that relationship with a rabbi made them feel more positively about being Jewish. Nearly half, 48%, said they were interested in a connection to a Jewish community. Yet 40% said it was hard to develop a relationship with a rabbi, with many citing synagogues as a barrier, either due to their high membership fees or discomfort in visiting a synagogue.

“Rabbis should be leaning in to what makes our work unique: we can play integral roles in people’s lives with a distinctly and vibrantly Jewish vision of forming deep connections through powerful learning and gathering. We are excited to open more Base homes because the demand exists for these Jewish communities,” Paikin said.

The four new Base houses — in Los Angeles’ Picfair Village, New York’s Upper West Side, Cambridge, Mass., nearBoston, and Chicago’s Logan Square — are supported by a number of different foundations and funds, including large organizations like Crown Family Philanthropies, UJA-Federation of New York, Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, as well as smaller family foundations.