Moishe House Pays Your Rent? Oy, Vey!

How would you like a generous benefactor to pay a portion of your rent?

Fortunate groups of 20-something Jews across the country enjoy just that, in a Real World-styled living arrangement. The New York Times reported today on Moishe House, an innovative idea started in 2006 to support young Jews - a model that other religious, ethnic, or social groups might consider duplicating.

In exchange for the rent subsidy, members of a Moishe House chapter must organize social events for other 20-something Jews. No free lunch, folks!

But, what a sweet arrangement for the three or four - dare say it - chosen ones. Given the proclivity of 20-somethings of every stripe to enjoy socializing - not to mention rent payments, and in the case of Moishe House Philadelphia, ready cash for such events - it is easy see why the Moishe House model has spread by word-of-mouth to 29 cities, from Beijing, to Cape Town, to Warsaw.

So how does it work, and could your community benefit from developing something similar?

Moishe House residents share a single apartment. Residents must apply to live there, and, commit to hosting community-building events. Residents span diverse backgrounds in Judiasm, from from Orthodox to Reform. As The Times piece explains, the residents are "too old for college organizations but in most cases don't yet belong to synagogues."

Activities are planned to reach out to the larger local community. Events range from unique takes on traditional religious observance to secular events such as pumpkin carving, hiking trips, or dinner parties. The purpose of the Moishe Houses, and the reasoning for the rent subsidy, is that each house works to strengthen community bonds in a particular city.

The brilliance of Moishe House is the flexibility given to the members of each house to organize social events. Houses are not told how to perform community outreach. Yet, when events happen these and other news updates are sent back to the home office - the Moishe House website - so that benefactors can see exactly how their financial subsidy has been used.

Moishe House is a non-profit community-building organization supported by a collection of individual benefactors. Other groups who would like to support young people and strengthen community in particular geographic areas would do well to study the Moishe House model.
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