Moishe House Toronto’s first residents at the opening housewarming party on Jan. 17. Left to right are Aaron Savatti, Abigail Engelsman, Jillian Windman and Amanda Snow. (photo by Aliza Markovitch)
Earlier this month, Moishe House opened its doors for the first time in Toronto, providing Jewish 20-somethings there a home from which to connect to each other locally, as well as to one of the largest Jewish networks in North America.
Located in the Annex neighborhood, a cultural centre near the University of Toronto, Moishe House Toronto becomes the second Moishe House in Canada after Vancouver, which opened in 2011. Moishe House Toronto, which officially opened the night of Jan. 17 with more than 150 guests attending its first program, will be home to four residents. The young professionals will dedicate a portion of their free time to hosting seven-plus programs a month, ultimately reaching more than 1,000 young adults in total attendance over the course of the first year.
“Toronto is an amazing city and a real hub for young adults. We are thrilled to partner with the local community to bring Moishe House to the Toronto area,” said David Cygielman, founder and chief executive officer of Moishe House. “We are looking forward to our four new residents turning their home into a vibrant Jewish gathering place for their peers in Canada’s largest city!”
The four Moishe House Toronto residents are between the ages of 24-26 and bring their own unique story to the Toronto Jewish community. For example, Aaron Savatti’s grandfather started the Moroccan Jewish community in Toronto and his mother followed in his footsteps. Amanda Snow was born and raised in Thornhill, Ont., and currently works as a fund development coordinator at the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. Abigail Engelman was born in London, England, and moved to Toronto in 2012 to work as a digital advertising executive. And Jillian Windman, whose grandparents emigrated from Poland after the Second World War, was born and raised in Toronto; she has led four organized trips to Israel as a mentor for the 2014-2015 Birthright training program.
In addition to the ongoing programs held one to two times per week, residents and participants will also be able to participate in Moishe House-sponsored Learning and Leadership Retreats and network with all North American Moishe House residents at the annual Resident Leadership Conference this summer. Beyond the organization’s own offerings, Moishe Houses serve as an entry point into Jewish life in general, opening the eyes of participants to other opportunities to engage in the Jewish community by partnering with various local organizations.
The opening of Moishe House Toronto is part of a major Moishe House International growth strategy aiming to double the number of Jewish, young-adult, peer-led communities worldwide by 2017. Currently, there are 74 Moishe Houses in 17 countries that engage more than 5,200 young Jews in programs year-round, and reach more than 88,000 in total attendance annually. The latest Moishe House is being launched through a group of Jewish communal leaders and annual philanthropists.
Founded in 2006, Moishe House uses a peer-to-peer and home-based model to engage Jewish young adults in their twenties in a non-denominational setting that builds community. The Moishe House model empowers young adults to become facilitators and leaders of their own Jewish community. Typical Moishe House programs include Shabbat dinners, Jewish holiday celebrations, sporting events, book clubs, social events and community service opportunities. To find out more, visit moishehouse.org.