Moishe House Reflection: Light Ignited in Latvia

  • Team Schusterman

May 28, 2014

This story comes to us from Moishe House, an organization that trains, supports and sponsors young Jewish leaders as they create vibrant home-based communities for themselves and their peers. Maryna Bezdenezhnykh was a resident of Moishe House Kiev from July 2011 - February 2013. Below is her reflection from the recent Moishe House Shabbat Retreat held in Riga, Latvia.

When my friend connected me with the Moishe House Kiev community, it was a love at first sight. For me, Moishe House carried the most desirable thing that all leaders dream of – the leeway to actually run a community, without looking back at authorities, except for inspiration. As a Hillel alumnus, yet not a Hesed client, this was ideal.

As soon as us four rather ambitious Jewish girls settled down in our new double-floor apartment in downtown Kiev, we never stopped generating ideas. And what’s more – we never missed an opportunity to turn our dreams into reality. Moishe House has this idea of a pluralistic, idea-sharing hub for aspiring young adults, with love of Judaism and Jewish traditions. That is where we all agreed.

But did we have a defined methodology? Deep thinking? Strategy? No way. All we knew is that we wanted strictly community feedback and a real Kiev crowd. And off we went… We pulled together the first Jewish Art Saloon in Kiev, Jewish trivia, won Moishe House of the Month, led stunning Passover Seders, organized a global charity event, held New Year's parties and hosted the first Moishe House retreat for Russian speaking houses. You name it, we’ve done it! Did the Moishe House experience meet my personal expectations? Yes! Best friends, best talks, best actions, best songs and best games. I had no idea how massive and life-changing this project would become for me and I would not have chosen to take any other route but this one. Funny, my biggest challenge upon leaving Moishe House laid in reconnecting to the community and redefining my place within it.

In May 2014, Moishe House Global gathered Moishe House alumni, current and future residents, and affiliated students for a European retreat in Riga, Latvia. 40 young Jewish adults shared and dared their dreams of an ideal Shabbat day. There was a kaleidoscope of experiences and emotional reflections about Jewish communities in our countries. The retreat allowed us to gaze into every person’s story.

My favorite piece from our time together was the Beit Midrash session with Jeremy Borovitz, a Jewish educator studying at the Padres Institute of Jerusalem (because I like to pretend I am brainy) and Havdalah (because I love light ignited). Most important, this light was re-ignited within me in the form of my aspiration to join Moishe House Without Walls. This project was carefully designed as a bridge for those who do not currently reside in a Moishe House, but have planted Moishe House in their souls, whether as alumni or participants in past programs or retreats and who feel a profound desire to share the joy of Jewish tradition and history with other young adults in their community.

For me, the shortest of weekends ended up having the longest of memories and my journey happily continues forward. Tell me, what’s your Moishe House story? Read more about the Riga Shabbat Retreat here!

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.