The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Jewish Observer

After October 7th Moishe House Provides Connection and Comfort

Nashville’s local Moishe House has become a fixture among young Jewish adults since its inception about four years ago. There have been some changes to the regular residents, but the mission remains the same: to provide meaningful connection and programming for adults in their 20s. Since October 7th, Moishe House is providing more than just programming and social connection. Jackson Gruber, for instance, turned to Moishe House for comfort during a very difficult time. “I felt like everyone I knew didn’t understand what I was going through. I felt very alone,” he says. 

Gruber moved to Nashville three years ago to attend Middle Tennessee State University. And while he was raised in a very involved Jewish home just outside of Chicago, his main focus when he arrived in town was his education. “I had a beautiful Jewish childhood and loved being part of the Jewish community, but when I moved here, I wasn’t really looking for that,” he says. 

After October 7th, Gruber says it was his parents, who had relocated to Nashville as well, who suggested he do some research to find Jewish companionship. “I found Moishe House and the week after October 7th, Ruthie sent me a message about a Shabbat dinner.” Gruber said his mother was nervous about his safety and asked him not to go. “In hindsight I wish I’d gone, but a couple of weeks later, they had a Friendsgiving Shabbat and I went. I met two people who are now good friends. It just felt like we always knew each other, it was very special.” 

Ruthie Perlman is one of Moishe House’s new residents, having recently returned to Nashville after graduating from Vanderbilt and spending a year in Denver. She is no stranger to the connections that can be made there. “Actually, the first person I met when I went to Hillel’s move-in open house weekend was Rose Capin.” Capin was one of Moishe House Nashville’s first residents. Perlman says, “We did a lot of Moishe House programming together. She just brought me in, and I was a very enthusiastic and committed attendee at first.” 

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Jackon Gruber pictured with his girlfriend and Moishe House participant, Nicole Malofsky.

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Pictured l. to r. are current Moishe House residents Shea Northfield, Ruthie Perlman, Ellie Shafron

The other new resident is Ellie Shafron. She moved into the house during a period of transition when there were only two of the previous residents living there, both of whom were among the original group. It was also a time of transition among the participants, something that Shafron says also changes with the times and the residents. Being new to town presented some challenges, so she can also relate to Gruber’s feelings of disconnect. “Moving in not knowing anybody in Nashville, making outreach a goal of mine was difficult. But as we’ve had more and more events and more young people have moved to Nashville and discovered Moishe House in whatever way they have, it’s been really cool to do more personalized outreach for various events.” 

That personalized approach, including personal texts and messages rather than broad social media posting, is part of what drew Gruber to Moishe House, and what keeps him coming back. “I love the casualness. It feels like walking into someone’s home. It’s people with common Jewish experience coming together,” he says. Perlman says that feeling is very intentional. “There is a lot of overlap with NowGen and NowGen is doing a lot of those larger events. Moishe House is where people go when they want to be in a home in a community that feels very organic.” 

Shafron says being on the organizing side of Moishe House is particularly rewarding for her, as well. “It really does feel like having a big group of friends over and just hosting the Jewish community. It’s so heartwarming to have a room full of people singing the Shabbat blessings.”  

The programming at Moishe House is not always centered around Shabbat and holidays. With summer just around the corner Perlman has plans to create a garden in the backyard that can be enjoyed by the community. “We’re planning to prep our beds to create a quasi-community garden back there,” she says. “I want to have a garden where people come for a program and leave with a bundle of kale.” And in true Moishe House fashion, they are looking to some of their community members to show them the ropes of gardening. “We have a lot to learn,” says Perlman. 

Shafron, who is currently a graduate student at Vanderbilt, is looking forward to focusing more on Moishe House programming this summer while she is on break. In fact, she passed on a job at her lifelong summer camp and opted to stay in town. “It’s been a hard balance this year and I’m excited to be able to give a little more this summer.” Perlman chimes in, “We’re going to make Moishe House feel as much like summer camp as we can make it.” 

This diversity of programming is something Gruber says keeps things interesting. And for him, provided an added benefit. “The second event I went to they brought in a hibachi chef. It was on the porch and my two friends were there. I also met a girl, Nicole Malofsky, who is a PhD student at Vanderbilt. She messaged me the next day and we went on a few dates and we’re still dating. Without Moishe House I wouldn’t have met her.” 

Of course, always in the background, for Gruber, is the October 7th tragedy. He is grateful he found Moishe House just when he needed it. “I finally feel like I’ve moved in,” he says, “Moishe House has done so much for me, I don’t know how to repay them. They opened up my life.” 


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