This article is up at Jewschool.com
A group of young, Jewish, Toronto-based leaders who are active in building dynamic Jewish programming for young adults expected to get support from Moishe House for the work they do, but were surprised instead when they were turned down to be Toronto’s first Moishe House.
The Toronto folks are looking to inspire more people to speak out and convince Moishe House to help them organize for the Toronto community, which was home to nearly 200,000 Jews as of 2011.
Here’s their letter:
I spoke to David Cygielman, Founder and CEO of Moishe House, over the phone today. He told me that they are “planning on opening a Moishe House in Toronto and we have had both multiple groups and individuals, but no one’s been approved.” Cygielman explained that when the organization moves into a new big city they start with a “group that doesn’t exist yet, without an existing program structure.” He added that there is “no secret thing or something they did that was wrong.”
Cygielman also said, “I can 100% understand how that can be challenging to hear, because they are doing great.”
Indeed, everyone I speak to has a different opinion on this. Some say it makes sense. After all, the idea is to encourage more people to get on board with organizing for Jewish young adults and bringing a fresh group together can make for a broader network. Others say it is, in effect, punishing those who pour their hearts into the work of actualizing Jewish communal life for having taken the initiative. They say that these groups are the experts, ready to hit the ground running with already broad networks established.
As well, Cygielman mentioned that he thinks the Moishe House Without Walls program, which supports organizers on a program by program basis, is an option for them.
Moishe House, which hosts 63 houses in 14 countries, seems to be an important framework and the Toronto house is serious about pushing the issue.
Isaac Kates Rose, a member of the Toronto group wrote, “[I]f you know me, you know that I really believe in grassroots Jewish community-building, if you know the people I know, you know that we have been working all year to create a new kind of Jewish space in Toronto’s downtown. If you believe in us, please consider taking a look at this and signing it (with or without a comment), especially if you’ve spent any time by us for holidays, Shabbatot, screenings, learnings, nothings, everythings.”
Moishe house has, in the past, made abrupt and questionable choices. Last summer, Moishe House shut down a set of parlour meetings that were set to take place at a few Moishe Houses about Israel and Palestine, focused on the Occupation.
Here’s that petition link once again: www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/moishe-house-reconsider-making-342-howland-toronto-s-first-moishe-house