Tucson gets a Moishe House — without walls

Moishe House Without Walls held a pre-Rosh Hashanah event at Brush N Bottle on Sunday, Sept. 13. Back row: Oren Riback, Alexa Ravit, Eric Natter, Taylor Pfeifer, Allie Healy, Eric Vornholt; front row: Jamie Oko, Emily McDonell, Alyssa Silva, Aimee Katz, Jami O’Rourke, Brandon Hellman (Photo courtesy Alyssa Silva)

A painting and wine class served as more than just a fun night out with friends in the Jewish community this past week. An organization called “Moishe House Without Walls” has been established in Tucson and post-grads from the University of Arizona and beyond are relishing its opportunities.

“Every month there are multiple events, and if you’re new to Tucson or you just found out about us, you can just jump in,” says Alyssa Silva, who serves as the concierge for Tucson’s 50 active members.

Along with a monthly Shabbat and social action event, post-grads ages 22 to 28 can plan their own events and Without Walls will help with the funding, says Silva. Without Walls is a project of Moishe House, an international organization that provides programming budgets for groups of young Jewish adults who live together and use their residence as a hub for Jewish activities. In the Without Walls program, members can hold events almost anywhere.

“Without Walls gives people more opportunity to get involved and meet others,” says Matt Landau, director of leadership development and public relations for the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

Landau, who recently graduated from the University of Arizona, believes the success of the UA Hillel Foundation encouraged the creation of a Without Walls program in Tucson. Silva reaches out to Hillel for the names and email addresses of Jewish graduate, law and medical students at the university.

“We provide staff support, but Without Walls is independent from us,” says Michelle Blumenberg, executive director of Hillel. “When grad students contact us, we direct them to Without Walls.”

Blumenberg and Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of the Tucson Jewish Community Center, organized a group of young Jewish adults who were potentially Without Walls staff members last year. Silva says she was hooked after attending one of the retreats they held.

“It was a bunch of Jewish adults, your age, doing Jewish learning and having fun, too,” says Silva. She volunteered to be the concierge for Tucson, reasoning that since she wanted that type of community in Tucson, others would want it, too.

“After you graduate, you either lose a lot of community or you have to create your own. [Without Walls] might keep people more connected to the Jewish community post college,” says Landau. Without Walls stands out from other programs such as Young Jewish Tucson because it “attracts the post-grad scene” whereas YJT hold events with older attendees up to 45 years old, he says.

This year, Silva and the other Without Walls members hope to increase participation and help the program find its own demographic.

“I think the cool thing about it is anyone can plan an event,” says Landau of the Without Walls program.

To get involved with the Without Walls program, email Silva at alyssajennifer2005@yahoo.com.