Closing down the House?

Closing down the House?

Hoboken Moishe House participants need additional funding to keep the program operating.

“Emerging adulthood” is how Jen Kraus Rosen refers to the young adults who have graduated college but not yet married and settled down with families.

It’s a population that is the focus of Rosen’s work as chief operating officer of Moishe House – an organization that seeks to foster Jewish community among that demographic by getting young adults to run Jewish programs for their peers in exchange for rent subsidies. Residents in the Moishe Houses commit to running a certain number of Jewish programs each month – from Shabbat dinners to movie nights to yoga classes – in exchange for their rent subsidy.

In theory, Moishe House would be a great fit for Hoboken, which is home to a large but transient population of young professionals who are priced out of New York City and not yet ready for a mortgage.

In fact, one of the first eight Moishe Houses – there are now 54, on five continents – was in Hoboken. But now, Jewish Hoboken’s own betwixt and between status is catching up with it. The Hudson County city is not in the catchment area of either the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which primarily serves Bergen and Passaic counties, or the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. (Its Jewish communal infrastructure consists of one Conservative synagogue, the United Synagogue of Hoboken, and a Chabad center.)

And as the Moishe House organization asks local Jewish communities to pay the bulk of its outposts’ expenses, the Hoboken Moishe House needs to find someone to help pick up the tab next month. If it doesn’t, the five-year experiment in Jewish community will come to an end this summer.

“It’s been an amazing and wonderful experiment and ride in Jewish community building that I want to see continue,” said Joshua Einstein, 30, one of the Moishe House residents.

Einstein, who grew up in Teaneck, plans on moving out from the apartment. (Moishe House rents apartments; it does not own them.) He hopes, though, that a last-minute appeal for community support will enable Moishe House Hoboken to continue without him.

Friday night Shabbat dinners hosted by the three Moishe House residents bring in about 20 people twice a month, he said; as many as a third may come from outside Hoboken, from places like Montclair.

Einstein said, “The Jewish community needs to be supporting young adult stuff. After college, they’re going to wait 10 years until they have children and then they’ll join a synagogue? You’re just biding your time, waiting to lose more people.

The Hoboken Moishe House has and continues to receive grants from the MetroWest federation. However, while the fundraising responsibility placed on the Moishe House has doubled, the federation grant has not.

All told, the Hoboken Moishe House has to raise about $15,000 by the end of May to reach a total fundraising goal of around $25,000. That may seem like a lot of money. But Rosen said that the Moishe House model of subsidizing young people is more cost effective than, say, hiring a half-time professional to run Jewish programming in town.

“When you have a group of excited young adults, their ability to run programs and engage their peers is often more than even a full-time professional can provide,” said Rosen. “It’s a cost-effective way to increase the breadth and depth in the local community.

“It’s much less threatening for a young adult to participate in a Shabbat dinner when invited by a friend of friend to go to a friend’s house, than to show up for an institutional event,” she said.

Rosen said the Jewish community also benefits from the investment in the Moishe House residents.

“We’re providing these young adults with the resources to be community builders. We’ve seen many of our residents host a Passover seder for the first time, build a sukkah – and then go on to get involved in other Jewish organizations and institutions because they’re turned on to a leadership role as a result of their activity in Moishe House,” she said.

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