Hoboken’s Moishe House Helps Young Jewish Adults Keep Connected to their Faith


April  26, 2012, Jersey Journal

Rev. Alexander Santora

When I see the name "Moishe," I think of the movers with the big red vans that are warehoused in Downtown Jersey City near the Hoboken border.

Then I learned Hoboken has its own version of Moishe, a variation of the name Moses, and it's sort of in the moving business.

Moishe House is an international movement that reaches out to young Jews, a variation on the theme "If you build it, they will come." So, the three residents of a Grand Street apartment offer several programs a month that attract many young Jews.

I learned of Moishe House when I met Joshua Einstein at the Hoboken Arts & Music Festival last year as he staffed its booth and handed out materials. His outreach has paid off, since the group's twice-monthly Friday night dinners often pack the large but confined living room mimic the Shabbat service in ritual if not actual liturgy. They usually schedule the dinner after sundown and adhere to Kosher dietary menus.

"It inspires young adults to observe Jewish things," said Einstein, 29, who was raised in Teaneck and has lived in Hoboken's Moishe House since 2006.

Einstein comes from a family that didn't attend synagogue too often, he said, but they observed Jewish practices in their daily lives. He doesn't often feel the need to go to synagogue, though on occasion he attends Mt. Sinai, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in the Heights section of Jersey City.

Most of the young Jews who come to Moishe House are not strongly affiliated with any particular synagogue.

"For me, the synagogue was something we did as a family," 24-year-old Allegra Levy, a Verizon data consultant who has lived in Hoboken for three years, said.

She comes from a San Diego family that attended Conservative synagogue pretty regularly, but she's single and is now focused on her career. She looks to Moishe House, she said, to "be part of doing something Jewish on Friday nights."

Not all programs are on Friday nights.

A Saturday lunch with board games and a Giants Super Bowl party where they cheered on fellow Hoboken resident Eli Manning were recently held. On occasion, they will hold a musical event and fund-raiser at the legendary music venue Maxwell's.

Moishe House also does service and helps out once in a while at the Hoboken Shelter.

Programming is the key to Moishe's existence.

After applying to live in a Moishe-sponsored apartment, residents promise to provide programming that will determine how much rent Moishe international will subsidize the housing costs of the tenants. The organization will also provide some modest expense money.

David Rosen, who lives in the Hoboken apartment along with Einstein and Shira Huberman, has been involved in Jewish movements throughout his young adult life and is now studying for his master's degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. He travels around campuses in the metropolitan area to offer pro-Israel, grassroots programs.

"There is freedom," he said of life at Moishe House, "and the resources to learn about Judaism without any restrictions," which is kind of how the movement started.

Moishe House was founded in Oakland, Calif., in 2006 by David Cygielman, Moishe House CEO, and American philanthropist Morris B. Squire. Squire's Hebrew first name is Moshe and he was often called Moishe, a Yiddish name hence the movement's name.

Today, there are 46 houses in 14 countries with more than 50,000 attendees.

New houses are opening soon in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island, Einstein said.

Hoboken is known for nightlife and young adults and Moishe House has both and more a Jewish ambiance.


New Jersey On-Line LLC, 2012