Cross-pollinating Burning Man and Moishe House


By Joel Stanley, Director of International Programming for Moishe House. Thanks to an ROI Micro Grant, Joel was able to participate in the 2013 Shifting Thought Shifting Action ROIConnection Point in Berlin. 

The (slightly longer than) 18-minute ‘Chai talk’ that I gave at the latest ROI Connection Point – Shifting Thought Shifting Action, in Berlin – felt like a unique opportunity for me. Anneli and Anja, the organizers of the gathering, brought 50 of the most inspiring Jewish change-makers and leaders from across Europe, and asked me to speak to them about ‘Cross-pollinating Burning Man and Moishe House’. For the first time in my professional career, I was being invited to connect these two communities so close to my heart, which have changed my life in ways I could never imagine.
Moishe House is the organization I work for, training and supporting groups of 3-5 Jewish young adults to live together and create their ideal Jewish communities in their own home. Burning Man is a week-long gathering in the Nevada desert, an enormous celebration of self-expression, art and community, which I first attended in 2002 and have been back to seven more times since then.
The links between the two may not be obvious but it was through Burning Man that I was inspired to create the kind of Jewish community I wanted to experience and start Moishe House London with four of my friends, in 2007. In my Chai talk, I told the room how I believe self-expression and gift-giving are at the center of both communities. If we can ask ourselves what gift we want to give to the world, what we would like to express of ourselves, others will gather round that vision and, in turn, be inspired to create their own vision. And through sharing in each others’ creations we serve something bigger than each individual project or community.
I was honored to take part in Shifting Thought Shifting Action, a fantastic example of the kind of self-expression and forward thinking I spoke about in my talk. On the final day of the gathering I gave a skills session inspired by my 5Rhythms practice, a kind of ‘moving meditation’ in which dancers experience themselves in community with other dancers. It was another unique opportunity to bring something unusual and exciting to my wider Jewish community. It’s got me dreaming about the kind of experiences I’d like to create for others in the future and the kind of communities I’d like to be a part of. Watch this space.