Moishe House Expands to the Former Soviet Union

Moishe House, an international network of vibrant home-based communities for young adults, recently opened a house in Moscow, the fourth in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). The Moscow House is joined by one in Kiev and one in Gomel, all of which opened this fall, and a house in Chisinau, which opened in October of 2009. The Moishe Houses in the FSU serve as an unprecedented chance for young Jewish adults to act as leaders of their communities, and engage in their Jewish identity on their own terms – an opportunity unique to their generation.

FSU Moishe Houses were opened in cities that have both a rich Jewish history as well as a growing community of young adults who have demonstrated a desire to build their own Jewish lives. The houses, which received support from the Genesis Philanthropy Group as well as other generous funders, provide Jewish young adults with an alternative to organizational Jewish life. For example, the houses have hosted literature nights where they read poetry by candlelight, Rosh Hashanah parties, and informal text studies where many of the participants read traditional Jewish texts for the first time in their lives.

Because the residents of the houses plan all the programming themselves, they are able to create events that appeal to the community they serve. So far, the house in Chisinau has hosted 81 programs with a total of 1,364 participant visits, and the house in Kiev, in its first few months, has hosted five programs with hundreds of attendees.

“When I first heard of this concept, it sounded revolutionary,” said Elena Kushnir, a resident of the Kiev house. “I can’t complain about the lack of Jewish organizations here in Kiev, but I felt that they lacked vibrancy, fresh ideas. I knew that the Moishe House that it would be a great chance to create a community and Jewish space by ourselves, in an informal way. Our aim is to get youth more involved in Jewish life and to make them think about what it means to be Jewish nowadays on their own terms.”

Moishe House is currently working on developing an educational framework through which the Russian-speaking houses in the US and FSU can exchange ideas and plan events. They will also be opening two more Russian-speaking Moishe Houses in North America in early 2011.

about: Moishe House is an international organization dedicated to providing meaningful Jewish experiences to young adults in their twenties. Their innovative model trains, supports and sponsors young Jewish leaders as they create vibrant home-based communities for their peers. Their scalable approach has enabled the existing 33 houses worldwide to engage more than 40,000 attendees a year. From Shabbat dinners to book clubs to sporting events, residents find ways to connect their peers with the community wherever they are.