What do you get when you take two Jewish guys and a Jewish gal and you put them in a three-story apartment with a great rooftop deck in Federal Hill? You get Moishe House. It’s MTV’s “Real World” meets Jewish Baltimore. It’s a really cool concept.
“Cool” was a consistent word in the vocabularies of Baltimore’s newest – and probably youngest - Jewish outreach workers, Andrea Waghelstein, Mickey Rubin and Max Pollak. The three live in Moishe House Baltimore, a franchise of the international Moishe House program, aimed at providing meaningful Jewish experiences to young adults in their 20s.
The innovative model trains, supports and sponsors young Jewish leaders as they create vibrant home-based communities for their peers. The local Moishe House, funded by the Grandchildren of Harvey M. and Lyn P. Meyerhoff Philanthropic Fund, a donor-advised fund of THE ASSOCIATED, opened August 1.
“Our job is to build community,” said Waghelstein, who explained that while there are many successful engagement programs for Jewish teens and college students, and while there are appropriate venues for young Jewish families, nothing really exists for Jewish singles in their 20s. “We want to give them an option.”
Waghelstein, described by her roomies as the Martha Stewart of the bunch, is originally from the Rockville area. She went to Jewish day school and was active in Hillel at the University of Maryland. She said she found ways throughout her youth to engage passionately in Jewish opportunities. She moved to Baltimore one year ago to take a job with Pepsi Co. and said she recently realized that while “all was fine,” she needed more of a community. Then the opportunity to pioneer Moishe House became available.“I hadn’t found my passion in Baltimore yet. I think this is going to be it!” she said.
Rubin, who spends his free time strumming the guitar, hitting the baseball and working out, is from Annapolis. He attended the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. In college at Towson University, he aimed to merge the social with the Jewish through innovative and creative programming. His latest idea for Moishe House is a screening of the provocative thriller “Flatliners” (1990) on September 14 to trigger discussion about repentance just before Yom Kippur.
Pollak, who described himself as outgoing, friendly and fun, was Rubin’s roommate at Towson. He said Moishe House is a natural fit for him, having been raised “to embrace the ‘community’ in ‘Jewish community.’”
“People are what make up a community,” Pollak said.
Pollak described Friday nights when friends filled his family’s porch to chat and sing late into the night. He said his friends hung out at his home even when he wasn’t there and he envisions a similar environment at Moishe House.
“We are building community and that means building a place where people can come and have fun, a place where it’s not about going to Hebrew school or youth group, it’s not about going because Mom said to do a Jewish thing. It’s about a place you go because you enjoy the people and the atmosphere,” he said.
Moishe House held its first program two weeks ago, a roof-top barbeque that brought in 50 people. Most of them were friends of the trio, but they said everyone had a great time and they are confident that their guests will return and will bring friends with them. Their next in-house event is a Shabbat dinner in honor of Rubin’s birthday on August 27.
How are they getting the word out? Social networking, of course! You can become a fan of Moishe House on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MoisheHouseBaltimore.
You can also learn more about them on the web, www.moishehouse.org.
They also plan to hang flyers in area graduate schools and spread the word through the JCCs and other young adult groups.
Where do they see taking the house by the end of the year? Said Waghelstein: “There is no preconceived notions on our end of what this will fully become. Whatever Baltimore Jewish young adults want, we are the place to help them make that happen.”