HomeMarch 2012Saving the Moishe House

Saving the Moishe House

Moishe House is an international organization that caters to young Jews in their twenties.  Three years ago, Moishe House International partnered with local Orange County Jews to launch Moishe House Laguna Beach.  Since its launch in OC, Moishe House has developed a relationship with well over 400 local participants and relocated to Costa Mesa.  In three years, Moishe House OC has created a safe space for young Jews of all persuasions, including people of religious and secular backgrounds, those with physical disabilities and those who are just darn socially quirky.
Moishe House’s survival in Orange County has been greatly challenged by its lack of funding.  It takes $53,400 a year to maintain the house and its programs.  Prior to this year, Moishe House was funded by national foundations.  In 2012, Moishe House OC is required to fundraise by seeking local donors.  The money will be matched by The Rubin Family Foundation Challenge Grant at a 2:1 ratio for the first year and a 1:2 ratio for the second year.  According to Moishe House, as of February 9, 2012, OC still needs $10,172 by May of 2012 to continue for another year, or the doors will shut.
The quandary is that Moishe House’s model for funding and long term sustainability is not conventional.  The financial planning model was to support the house for three years with full funding, and by that point, local funding was to have been secured.  Previously, Moishe House International has been funded in part by grants from the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and partnered with the Righteous Persons Foundation and Avi Chai.  After the three-year period, the Moishe House model requires local donors to contribute 25 to33 percent of the funding.
So what is the challenge with raising the 25 percent of local funding needed to perpetuate Moishe House OC?  Since its OC launch, attendance at events has consistently increased.  Moishe House OC has documented that a collective group has entered its doors 1,999 times in 2011.  Approximately 400 Jews in their twenties partake in weekly events and religious activities that enrich their Jewish communal lives.  Moishe House participants do not have large sums of money to donate.  Participants have been collecting money and have created online campaigns to find funding from local donors.  Local community members have expressed concern and have offered to help Moishe House OC through yard sales, food donations and other resourceful ideas.  While greatly appreciated, the bottom line is that Moishe House needs financial resources beyond what these attempts have generated.  Although all donation amounts are vital and make an impact, this demographic cannot generate the $10,172 Moishe House requires on its own.
Moishe House OC is continually trying to find local donors.  It has held open houses to familiarize community leaders with the programs.  Participants have started a grassroots online campaign and are seeking support from tzaddiks (people who give to good causes) in the Jewish community.
Moishe House OC did receive a grant from Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS) in 2011 to jointly run programs with Federation’s Young Leadership Division.  In addition, Temple Bat Yahm of Newport Beach has been giving $1,200 a year for the past two years and has been providing Moishe House with a local rabbi for programs.
This year, Moishe House submitted a grant proposal to JFFS for $7,500 to aid in keeping the doors open.  (Subsequent to the grant being declined, Moishe House OC has received numerous donations, bringing in more than $6,000, and more local donors are in the process of contributing.)
Moishe House’s need for funding adds to the demand already placed upon JFFS. When JFFS considers grant proposals, it must take into account the needs of the greater community first. JFFS provides core grants to the majority of Jewish organizations in Orange County.  Federations are created to help sustain Jewish communal life as well as provide for individuals who are in need of assistance.  The good that JFFS does in our community is important, and as a community we feel its impact.  JFFS helps keep people in their homes, feeds hungry mouths, provides physical and mental health assistance and cares for our elderly.  Moishe House OC residents Parker Weinthal, Jeremy Guzik and Claudia Carter have demonstrated leadership and shown the importance of a vibrant Jewish community to their peers.  They devote countless hours to preparing meals, setting up, cleaning, creating significant programs and providing meaningful Jewish content.  There are seven to ten programs a month.  Moishe House is responsible for a significant amount of programming for this audience.
The cost-effective nature of this model is brilliant!  Three people reside in the Orange County house and put on meaningful programming at the cost of $53,400 a year.  This model is cost efficient and is less than paying one full-time professional and they have a built in venue for all of their programs.
Moishe House participants are the link between a vibrant Jewish community and its legacy. The more young Jews become active in organizations, the more likely their involvement will continue with other Jewish organizations.
Miriam Falk is an example of how organizations can benefit from one another.  Falk came to Moishe House events.  The residents, as well as other participants, encouraged Falk to become more involved in the greater Jewish community.  This push led Falk to the Young Leadership Division (YLD) of JFFS where she now co-leads YLD Cares (a social action committee).  According to a Moishe House national survey, after attending events, 41 percent of Moishe House participants consider themselves a leader in their Jewish community.  Falk is a local example of that statistic.
If Orange County allows Moishe House to fold, these innovative and intelligent Jews will move to a community that offers them more.  It is vital that Orange County has organizations that cater to the needs of this demographic.  This is the time when young professionals meet one another for business, start families, develop roots and ideally become active members of the wider Jewish community.
Is the Orange County Jewish community being equitable to the twenties demographic?  Without this house, the programming in Orange County for Jews in this age demographic will deplete by approximately 40 percent.  The threat of Moishe House closing its doors should concern Orange County.
The challenge of finding local donors has raised a level of anxiety for its participants, but has not seemed to alarm some of the prominent leadership in the community.  Young professionals are placing their roots in OC.  They are becoming permanent fixtures in our community and are clearly taking an active role by participating in Jewish communal organizations.  The bottom line is that some of these OC young professionals were not active in Jewish life in college nor were they involved with other organizations prior to Moishe House.  Moishe House provides another opportunity for Jewish engagement.
The hazard of having one less milieu to engage new leadership in OC is not just a loss for people in their twenties, but a void for the greater community.  We as a community continually set our goals high; we want to build, and we want to see the continuation of our work in the Jewish community.  Allowing meaningful Jewish organizations to close halts growth, stunts new leadership development and makes the word “legacy” a concept and not a reality.
To donate, visit www.moishehouse.org and specify that you want your donation to go to the Orange County Moishe House.


  1. Clearly Moishe House needs to be more aggressive about charging for its events. If they have 400 Jews participate per week, even a $5 cover would raise $2k per week. My friends and I started a new organization for young Jewish adults in DC called GatherTheJews.com. Just a few weeks ago, we had a happy hour with a $5 cover that raised over $1000 from the 250 people that showed up. Finding funding isn’t easy but you have to be willing to ask your constituents for money.

    • MoHo does NOT have 400 people per week. They average about 40 people per week. DC also has a VERY different demographic than Orange County. That really is comparing apples to oranges. Pun intended!

  2. Another thing: How is it that the Anti-Defamation League can have a $90 million budget, but one of the most low-cost and effective Jewish organizations can’t scrape together less than $60k? (While I realize that Moishe House nationally is much larger than one house, the funding still pales in comparison to an organization like the ADL, with its 29 offices.)


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