MILWAUKEE – For some young Jews who graduate college and enter the working world, Jewish connections can evaporate.
Hillel, sororities, Chabad, clubs and other college connections are suddenly gone. Leah Biller, 24, said her Jewish involvement “definitely died after college.”
A 15-year-old nonprofit, Moishe House, with outposts in Chicago and around the world, opened its first Moishe Pod in Milwaukee in June. The Milwaukee Moishe Pod is co-sponsored by the international Moishe House organization and Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
A Moishe House is a home where several Jews in their 20s live and host or plan events for others in their age group. A Moishe Pod is a smaller version, with two residents.
The brilliance of a Moishe House and the smaller Moishe Pods may be in their informality. There’s no corporate culture here. Biller and Nicole Gorelik, 24, are just young Jews who want to hang out and have fun with other Jews, really. They’re good friends and laughed their way through an interview, noting that their fellow residents of the East Side Moishe Pod are Romie the dog, Moomoo the rabbit, and a snake named Mr. Houdini (because he hides in his sealed lair, not randomly in the house, the Chronicle has confirmed).
On June 8, Biller and Gorelik hosted a Moishe House Mixer in their backyard as a kind of launch event. It attracted dozens of young adults. This month’s events include a Shabbat dinner at the house and a brewery crawl. Yes, a brewery crawl. The Moishe House organization gives residents leeway in how they reach their peers, with limits.
“Somebody might not go to Shabbat dinner, but you invite them over to watch a movie,” said Larry Gast, Moishe House vice president of advancement. He said that next time, they might come for the Shabbat dinner.
If you attend events and have dietary restrictions, be sure to let Biller and Gorelik know. The Pod house is their actual rented home – they moved in in June – and their level of observance may not match yours, but said they want to be accommodating.
“We want people to feel safe and invited and like this is somewhere they can express themselves and meet new people,” Biller said. “We want engagement. We want to see new faces,”
Biller and Gorelik are recent University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduates who met at a Hillel Milwaukee Shabbat dinner, both with planning experience from Hillel Milwaukee. “We’ve been talking already to local young professional groups, and we’ve been sharing dates, so we don’t overlap,” Biller said.
“I think that they are just the exact right people to be part of this venture in Milwaukee,” said Director of NextGen Milwaukee Jeff Tiell, who was instrumental in bringing Moishe Pod to Milwaukee.
Biller is a registered nurse at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital. Gorelik works for the Maccabee Task Force, a nonprofit that fights antisemitism on college campuses. In the fall, Gorelik will start a master’s degree program in public service at Marquette University.
The pair said they love meeting Jews, and they also understand that a Jewish community includes non-Jews.
Worldwide, there are 122 Moishe Houses and 22 Pods, with about two-thirds of them in North America, Gast said. “Young adults know what other young adults want. We want to say, ‘yes’ to young adults as much as possible and see where that takes us,” he added.
Tiell said the presence of a Moishe Pod in Milwaukee opens an international network to local young adults. In addition to the Houses and Pods, the international Moishe House organization hosts retreats, educational opportunities and activities. “People come from all over the world to be part of their retreats,” Tiell said.
Moishe Houses and Pods tend to attract people in their 20s or thereabouts. For more information, search “moishepodmke” on Facebook or email MoishePodMke@Gmail.com.
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Moishe Pod on Milwaukee’s East Side will host the following upcoming events for people in their 20s or thereabouts:
- July 16 (Shabbat)
- July 18 (tie dye event)
- July 24 (brewery crawl)
For more information, visit @moishepodmke on Facebook or contact MoishePodMke@Gmail.com.