Growth and Leadership: A Q&A with Moishe House CEO David Cygielman

Image taken from Moishe House Website

David Cygielman conceived Moishe House over Shabbat with friends when they realized that there was a lack of cultural and personal engagement between young Jews navigating adulthood. What began as one Shabbat dinner in a home in Oakland, CA in 2006 became a network of homes around the world that provides over 60,000 Jews with chances to engage in their communities through programs, education and fun every year.

Moishe House continues to thrive and their decision to move their headquarters to The Hive in 2013 has inspired our co-working community, added vibrancy to local Jewish life for young adults, and attracted hundreds of Jews in their 20s and 30s to North San Diego County for leadership retreats. While visiting HQ a couple weeks ago, David gave us the opportunity to catch up with him about Moishe House’s growth, his vision for the future and his recent  article in eJewish Philanthropy.

Has Moishe House grown in the way you envisioned?

Originally the vision for Moishe House was just the houses. I thought that we could, at our best, grow to 50 houses. I thought that we’d probably need to raise a certain amount of funds to support that number each year and I thought that was a long ways away. But we quickly grew to 35 houses, then 40 houses, and I realized that there could be a lot more. There were so many cities that we didn’t think could have more than one house, or one at all, and then they did successfully. Then the concept expanded internationally and all these programs beyond Moishe House grew – Moishe House without Walls, Camp Nai Nai Nai and our Jewish Learning Retreats. You turn around and there’s 108 houses in 26 countries. It’s far surpassed what the initial vision was.

What was the moment that you realized Moishe House was going to be more than what you thought it could be?

The moment we started getting applications from other countries showed us that word was spreading fast and demand outweighed our current supply. We quickly realized, “If we could say ‘Yes’ to these people then we could grow very fast.”

Your article in eJewishPhilanthropy talks about “investing in leaders.” How does Moishe House invest in leaders?

It’s beyond theory, it’s practice. We let the hosts and residents lead. They are in charge of building, operating and running their Jewish community. Through initiatives like The Open Dor Project, we also provide financial resources and consulting. But the best way to grow a leader is to give them the chance to lead and then support them and their success. By turning over the reins to hosts and residents, we enable them to learn all the aspects of leadership by practicing it.

What does the future of Jewish leadership look like to you?

I like the question, but what I think about more is what Jewish followership looks like. There are lots of Jewish leaders, but they aren’t leading in the Jewish community. Will the generation of Jewish leaders who have funded, built and led current institutions be willing and able to follow younger leaders? If they are, I think .

We need to figure out how to build strong followers who won’t pull their participation because a Jewish institution took a risk and it didn’t work out. We need followers who will stay on board to support young leaders that they believe will be successful.

In your article and the talk you gave to Hive members, you mentioned the idea of “stretch projects,” and how providing them invests in leadership. Would you mind elaborating what that looks like?

It’s giving someone the tools to run with and own a project outside the walls of your job. For example, if you worked at Moishe House and asked me what I thought about opening an LGBTQ or Jew of Color-specific Moishe House, I’d rather say back to you, “How do you feel about it?” If you feel like we need one then giving you a stretch project would mean saying, “Okay! Let’s see if we can make that happen,” and letting you explore and start the project. It’s about following you taking on this project and supporting you however we can.

What do you want to see next in Moishe House?

I want to see us have over 200 houses! I want us to have a big R&D department to innovate new ideas. I would like to see a laboratory more than an organization. There are a lot of young adults out there that aren’t engaged in classical ways but could be in others, and there’s so much more we can do with Moishe House.

Sunset & Havdalah

Please join us for a sunset picnic and Havdalah at the most beautiful lookout point on Leichtag commons. There will be song, drink, dessert, and discussion to help wrap up Shabbat and glide into the new week. The event will be hosted and facilitated by the returning Jewish Food Justice Fellows, a group of passionate food and environmental professionals, who spent a year and a half in the early days of the Leichtag Commons working on developing programming and building community.

6:30 Bring your own favorite meal to close out Shabbat

7:30 Havdalah Service

8:00 Wine, dessert and fireside singing

Building Strong Relationships for Donor Retention

Where does your organization focus most of its fundraising energy? Chances are, the answer is getting more donors. But what about keeping your current donors?

Research shows that nearly three out of every four new nonprofit donors leave an organization and never come back. This has led many in the field to focus less on acquiring new supporters and more on nurturing the relationships that they already have.

Join us for this 90-minute, interactive workshop where we will explore:

  • Why organizations lose donors and money
    · How keeping donors increases fundraising success
    · Opportunities to build donor relationships
    · Elements of a successful donor retention plan

Light breakfast will be served.

Sharyn Goodson is Leichtag Foundation’s Director of Philanthropic Strategy and currently serves on the board of San Diego Grantmakers. Sharyn’s professional experience includes managing the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego’s philanthropy programs, both serving as the lead contact for major family funds and foundations and as Vice President of Philanthropy. Previously, Sharyn served as Director of Grants of Jewish Family Service of San Diego as well as Program Director of the Aspen Community Foundation in Aspen, CO.

**The contents of the workshop and associated materials are intended to provide helpful and useful material on the subjects addressed in the workshop. By participating in this workshop, participants agree that Leichtag Foundation and its subsidiaries will be held harmless by the participants and its sponsoring organizations.

The Hive Presents theatre dybbuk’s “lost tribes”

DESCRIPTION

Inspired by the stories of the lost tribes of Israel, theatre dybbuk presents a full-length theatrical work, rich in movement, original music, and lyrical language that relates ancient mythological and tribal narratives to contemporary questions of integration, appropriation, and belonging.

THE SHOW

In the early eighth century BCE, the Neo-Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, from whence it has been said that ten of the twelve ancient tribes of Israel were deported and assimilated. These tribes are now lost to history, with a variety of folktales, legends, and theories about their fates having come about since that time. Some are told from the point of view of those who regard themselves as members of a lost tribe, while others are told from an outside perspective in order to make a case for self-serving outcomes.

Framed in the context of a gallery exhibition, “lost tribes” weaves together stories from the Assyrian conquest to the present day, tracing a world history of assimilation and dominance; of cultural conquest, annihilation, and survival. The performance incorporates choreography by Kai Hazelwood, production design by Leslie K. Gray, and a live percussion score composed by Michael Skloff, created in collaboration with Emilia Moscoso Borja and Alex Shaw. The production is written and directed by theatre dybbuk’s artistic director, Aaron Henne, and developed with the ensemble.

The Hive Presents theatre dybbuk’s “lost tribes”

DESCRIPTION

Inspired by the stories of the lost tribes of Israel, theatre dybbuk presents a full-length theatrical work, rich in movement, original music, and lyrical language that relates ancient mythological and tribal narratives to contemporary questions of integration, appropriation, and belonging.

THE SHOW

In the early eighth century BCE, the Neo-Assyrian Empire conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, from whence it has been said that ten of the twelve ancient tribes of Israel were deported and assimilated. These tribes are now lost to history, with a variety of folktales, legends, and theories about their fates having come about since that time. Some are told from the point of view of those who regard themselves as members of a lost tribe, while others are told from an outside perspective in order to make a case for self-serving outcomes.

Framed in the context of a gallery exhibition, “lost tribes” weaves together stories from the Assyrian conquest to the present day, tracing a world history of assimilation and dominance; of cultural conquest, annihilation, and survival. The performance incorporates choreography by Kai Hazelwood, production design by Leslie K. Gray, and a live percussion score composed by Michael Skloff, created in collaboration with Emilia Moscoso Borja and Alex Shaw. The production is written and directed by theatre dybbuk’s artistic director, Aaron Henne, and developed with the ensemble.

Cocktails and Conversations: A Dialogue for Nonprofit Professionals

DESCRIPTION

You are invited to join The Hive, Fitz Nonprofit Consulting, and North County Philanthropy Council for an afternoon of connection and socializing. The afternoon will begin with farm to patio appetizers and cocktails, followed by a conversation facilitated by Fitz Nonprofit Consulting around pain points within nonprofit work and brainstorming of solutions.

Uncovering the Meaning of “lost tribes” with Director Aaron Henne!

The Leichtag Foundation believes that art can be a form of action and catalyze change among those it inspires. In particular, theatre can cover topics that its audiences don’t always engage with in day-to-day life. That’s why The Hive at Leichtag Commons is excited to present theatre dybbuk’s new play, “lost tribes” on April 14 and 15.

To help break down what “lost tribes” means, we caught up with theatre dybbuk’s Artistic Director Aaron Henne, who wrote and directed the performance.

What inspired you to write “lost tribes”?

Henne: I was thinking a lot about questions of identity; who gets to tell whose story, power dynamics, subjugation and domination. I feel like we’re in a moment where on one the hand we need to stake our claim in what we believe in, but on the other we need to embrace complexity in order to take a stand that is principled and honoring of the variety of voices in our society.

What is “lost tribes” about?

Henne: There was a Northern Kingdom of Israel and a Southern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom was where, supposedly, 10 of the 12 tribes lived. The Southern Kingdom was where two of them lived. When the Northern Kingdom was invaded and conquered by the Assyrian conquest, those 10 tribes were “lost to history.”

There have been a lot of theories about what happened to those tribes. The one which I tend to subscribe to is that they were conquered and assimilated, either by the Assyrians or by their own tribal brethren when they came as refugees to the southern kingdom. So the piece asks, “what is the desire to reclaim that which is lost?” Perhaps it is a desire to reconnect with a lost part of ourselves that can help us to be empathetic with the struggle of others.

How did you prepare to create a performance?

Henne: Our team came together about two years before the premiere. We start meeting 18 months before the show and I bring them a four-page document that holds basic information related to the show’s themes, plus any additional research I’ve done, notes from meeting with scholars, etc…Over the course of the next year, we hold monthly meetings where I bring in new script pages with more research and the cast responds with their thoughts and questions.

We also have physical development workshops that explore  how we move together because there’s a heavily choreographed element to the work. In addition, I do one-on-one studies with scholars to help contextualize the information I’m seeing. I also have individual meetings with our choreographers, composer and designers that allow us to explore the piece’s elements in a manner that is cohesive and progressive.

What are the differences between this show and the original draft?

Henne: In an early draft we thought we’d have a lot of shadow puppetry, but we discovered that it wouldn’t be the proper medium to tell the story. We did, however, incorporate much of the learning that we did in our shadow explorations into the overall staging.

The narrator’s role in the piece has greatly evolved since the original draft, especially his relationship to what he’s presenting. We really had to come to understand what his relationship is to that which he is guiding us through.

How does the message of ‘lost tribes” engage the audience, from those who watch for the themes to those who watch for entertainment?

Henne: There’s stylized and choreographed movement, there’s percussion and there’s singing so I think one way the audience will relate is because there is a lot to take in and enjoy. It allows you multiple entry points because you have the history, the music and the message that allow you a way in.

Also, because it is dealing with so many perspectives throughout history, even if you’re not from the Jewish tradition, you will find something that relates to your heritage or your understanding of witnessing people come together and forming something. Even if it’s not your heritage, you’ll know that story because we all know what it is to feel separate and to find ourselves belonging.

The piece brings us on a trajectory to the modern day. It directly engages with some things in American history…So when we land here, one will relate because of the nature of the play being a direct experience of what one is living or what one knows what’s happened in this land, for better or for worse.

———

In hosting this performance in its cultural program calendar, The Hive at Leichtag Commons is currently the only venue presenting “lost tribes” outside of Los Angeles County.

The production may build on layers of themes and stories, but anyone will relate to and understand its connection to contemporary themes through its engaging entertainment value and language.

“lost tribes” premieres for two nights only in The Hive at Leichtag Commons on April 14 and 15. You can find more information on Facebook or purchase your tickets on Eventbrite for $18.

We hope you’ll treat yourself to experience the story of the “lost tribes” with us!

Shabbat San Diego

What do you do?

Shabbat San Diego is an independent grassroots level community-wide, inclusive and egalitarian organization of volunteers dedicated to encouraging the entire San Diego Jewish community to participate in a unique, international Jewish identity event that inspires all Jews to experience Shabbat together. The International Unity Shabbat will take place in more than 1200 cities and 90 countries around the globe.

Who will be in The Hive?

Simone Abelsohn, Program Coordinator, Simone@ShabbatSD.org 

Collaborations:

We are all about collaboration!

Visit their website here.

Freeing Your Inner Pharaoh: A Jewish Meditation Workshop for Passover

DESCRIPTION

Passover is the perfect time to reflect on what constraints our freedom (the Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, literally translates to “narrow space”), what we can learn from the most famous narrative of the Jewish tradition, and how we can apply the story and themes of enslavement and freedom to our own lives and communities. Let’s get deep with these themes through guided meditation, put pen to paper for a writing meditation, and share in some delicious K4P snacks with neighbors, friends, and community.

What is Social Enterprise and is it the Right Choice for Your Organization?

Social Enterprise is a method for diversifying revenue streams and helping nonprofits simultaneously “do good and do well”. Social enterprise models are becoming increasingly popular in the social sector. In this interactive learning session, participants will gain insight to:

  • The concept of social enterprise
  • Best practices and ways in which social enterprise can complement their organization’s mission and scale its impact
  • Considerations that should be made when assessing the implementation of a social enterprise model into an existing nonprofit business model