WHEN SHELBY JIRIKILS read in her Hillel newsletter that Moishe House was looking to reopen in Orange County, she was excited to see programming for her demographic – college grads and young professionals who sought Jewish programming though not necessarily ready for synagogue life. That’s what Moishe House is all about.
Moishe House Orange County was started in 2009 by a group of young adults who wanted to bring home-based Jewish community to the OC. Throughout the years, Moishe House OC has hosted more than 11,000 participants at more than 600 programs. As residents transition in and out of the house, there is an occasional hiatus between groups. That was the case at the end of February 2016 when Moishe house closed, but reopened a year later on March 1, 2017.
Jirkilis and friend Taylor Rainbow had attended UCI together. They then met Jordan Pelavin when they moved into their apartment; the three of them starting jobs in Irvine. When Jirikils read the notice about Moishe House Pelavin said, “We’re three Jewish women, in an apartment, with Jewish programming experience. Why don’t we become the Moishe House?”
The three women were approved to open the Moishe House in March at their current location, an apartment in Irvine with the condition that they would find a house and a fourth roommate in July when their lease would be up.
“My vision for Moishe house is to create an open, pluralistic community,” says Jirikils.
Rainbow hopes “to create a fun and comfortable environment. I see people coming over for Shabbat dinners and cooking together, having movie nights, and going out and exploring the great things that Orange County has to offer.”
“ I want to help create a place where people can walk in the door and already feel at home, ”said Pelavin
They have been very busy orgainizing events and programs. On June 4th they had a “Bagels and Baking” event where Shelby shared her grandmother’s rugelach recipe. “We will be teaming up with Hillel at UCI for their Graduation Shabbat Dinner to talk about life after college on June 9th. On the 17th we will be celebrating Havdallah with a bonfire in Newport Beach. On the 25th we have a pool party and BBQ at our apartment complex, and on the 30th we’re going to play laser tag,” Jirikils added.
The three young women will, of course, utilize social media to spread the word about what’s happening at Moishe House. “Taylor, Jordan and I are message people, either through Facebook messenger or texting. All of our events are listed on Facebook weeks before they happen. We post them in our Facebook Group: The MoHoOc,” says Jirikils.
One’s level of observance is not an issue. The three women have varied levels of observance and so do their community members. “We’re trying to make programming that is accessible to both people with lots of religious knowledge and no religious knowledge and anywhere inbetween,” Jirikils added.
“I love the the chance to meet more people in the Jewish community of Orange County with similar interests,” says Rainbow.
“It gives us a chance to be a part of programming that we are interested in,” adds Pelavin.
And Jirikils is excited to “cultivate a community and build a network of other young Jewish professionals that are establishing themselves in the OC.”
Moishe House is for people aged 21-32 and the three women are working hard to create an intentional community that is welcoming to anyone regardless of gender, orientation, race or observance level. They want the warmth and comfort of a Jewish Home to be the hallmark of their Moishe House.
Rabbi Florence L. Dann has been a contributing writer to Jlife since 2004.