Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

The House: Inspiring Jewish Minds, Transforming our Jewish Future

The Jewish organization has launched a bold 10th anniversary campaign which promotes education and growth, in a non judgmental environment

By: Rafi Lipner

Published: May 28th, 2014 in News » World

Ten short years ago, without any funding or infrastructure, I engaged a handful of young Jews from different backgrounds with the vision of creating a movement that would make Judaism relevant to the next generation. Today, The House has grown into an impressive organization that inspires thousands throughout Toronto to see their lives, choices, and values through a Jewish lens.

The House – a beneficiary agency of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto – targets what is the most overlooked, yet most vulnerable cohort. Significant resources are dedicated to school aged and university students, through youth groups, camps, Hillel and other programming, but there is virtually nothing available once they outgrow those stages that is equipped to nourish their Jewish identity. This is potentially devastating because young adulthood is when the most important decisions will be made that will define the rest of their lives. Until this stage, everything is theoretical. However, starting in their early twenties people are confronted with having to make decisions, such as who to marry; whether to have community involvement; what role traditions and holidays will play in their lives; will Jewish day school be worth the financial sacrifice; and a myriad of other decisions. This is when Jewish continuity either becomes reality or fades into irrelevance.

Now, The House is positioned to launch a bold 10th anniversary campaign: “Inspiring Jewish Minds: Transforming our Jewish Future.”

What is exciting about this campaign is that it is one of unprecedented optimism. Despite the dismal PEW report findings and rising levels of assimilation in the next generation, The House sees great reason to be hopeful.

The reality is that assimilation and apathy are not PROBLEMS that we face in this generation; they are merely SYMPTOMS of a deeper issue, and it is the underlying issue which can and must be dealt with. This generation is not willing to accept Judaism just because they have to. They demand to be shown the value, depth, and wisdom inherent in it, and why shouldn’t they want that? We should all want that! After all, if we don’t believe that it exists, it will be challenging to pass it on to the next generation.

The House has been successfully meeting that need, as greater number of young adults from all denominations keep coming to learn about Judaism, Jewish relationships, traditions, philosophy and holidays. What is our secret? We respect the next generation for their intelligence, maturity, and honesty.

“I respect The House because they are honest and clear about their goals, and they deliver”, explains Kyle Lichtman, a dedicated participant. “Before every event they challenge us with their goal of having us ‘walk out our doors more than you were before you walked in.’ And, if you look on their website, their core values of education and growth, in a non judgmental, nurturing environment are front and center.”

While Jewish parties and charity events do serve an important role in our community, they don’t offer people the desire or the tools to live a Jewish life and raise a Jewish family.

The House offers diverse programs such as JEDx, based on the Ted talks model, inspiring over 300 young adults to see how Jewish values can and should go hand in hand in every person’s life and choices they make (this year it featured talks by Isadore Sharp, Gilbert Palter, and Dana Florence); learning events before Jewish holidays exploring their relevant life messages; widely attended Shabbat dinners; a relationship series for dating couples; and unique volunteer opportunities. The common denominator of all programs is their purpose – to inspire the next Jewish generation, Jewishly!

Beth Singer, a board member and committed supporter of The House, shares, “The House plays a critical role in enabling the next generation, our children, to continue building the long term strength of our great Jewish community. I am so proud to see the young leaders The House inspires, and it is these leaders that will enable our Jewish community to thrive. The challenge I often hear about is how the next generation is simply not committed in the way that our generation and our parents’ generation were. The House is the solution to this problem, and it does it from a place that respects our entire community.”

Inspiring Jewish Minds: Transforming our Jewish Future” is about investing in the tremendous potential of the next generation, turning them into our leaders of change for a stronger Jewish future. It has already started to happen – and that is why our next horizon is not simply to grow from 1000 people to 5000 people engaged annually over the next 10 years. We are looking beyond numbers with a vision to transform the entire pulse of Jewish continuity. We don’t want to just be satisfied with slowing down the increasing numbers of assimilation, but we want to actually reverse the trend so the arrows start to point upwards! Looking at the remarkable achievements of The House in its early years, no doubt this will be achieved!

For our 10th year campaign, The House is excited to launch many exciting initiatives, including cross generational learning events; an “inspiration” community booklet; launching Israel leadership trips and much more.

To learn more about The House, how you can support this exciting campaign and special projects, or get involved, email Rabbi Rafi at rafi@thehousetoronto.com

Rafi Lipner is the Founder and Director of The House and the Senior Rabbi of Shaarei Tefillah

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