Swiping right on Moishe House

 
“Samantha never really felt a connection at the Western Wall until we stood there together. It was amazing for me to know my presence and love for her helped her connect to our holiest place on Earth.”

“Samantha never really felt a connection at the Western Wall until we stood there together. It was amazing for me to know my presence and love for her helped her connect to our holiest place on Earth.”

The story of Samantha Hamlin and Andrew Wieberdink is a typical J-Swipe love story: Nice Jewish Boy opens the J-Swipe app, and swipes right on a photo of a beautiful…house?

Samantha had, in fact, posted a photo of a house on J-Swipe. But she had a good reason: Moishe House, a Jewish nonprofit operating in cities around the world, had recently opened in the Twin Cities(thanks in part to Minneapolis Jewish Federation support.) Moishe House serves as a residence for Jewish young adults, as well as a hub for young Jewish life. As Moishe House Twin Cities’ founding residents Sam and her two roommates, Lauren Dahar and Jacqueline Soria, were busy hosting events, growing their network, and looking for outside-the-box strategies for promoting the new organization.

So, they put a profile for their house on J-Swipe. And the profile piqued the interest of Andrew Wieberdink.

“I thought of my grandmother, Lisa Heilicher, when I saw the Moishe House profile .Lisa was  beyond generous and passionate about the Jewish community. She taught me to find an organization to focus my impact on,” says Andrew.  “I was excited about the program, so I sent Moishe House a private message asking if I could sponsor a happy hour.”

“ [My grandmother, Lisa Heilicher,] taught me that being born into our family gave us two choices, to stand up, lead by example, and give back, or not. The amount of love she had for the Minneapolis Jewish community rivaled that of her family. She knew togetherness in our community mattered. I miss her every day, but hope I can honor her memory simply by stepping up and choosing option one.“

“ [My grandmother, Lisa Heilicher,] taught me that being born into our family gave us two choices, to stand up, lead by example, and give back, or not. The amount of love she had for the Minneapolis Jewish community rivaled that of her family. She knew togetherness in our community mattered. I miss her every day, but hope I can honor her memory simply by stepping up and choosing option one.“

Sam was skeptical. “Andrew kept messaging us and saying, ‘I’d love to come by and see the house,’ and we were like, “why don’t you come when there’s an event, not…you know...alone?”

That’s how Andrew came to attend a Shabbat dinner at Moishe House in the fall of 2016. The roommates were scrambling to put the finishing touches on dinner—Andrew remembers someone frantically trying to microwave green beans—and then Sam walked down the stairs.

“After that,” says Sam “he came to every event for the next three months.”

Finding Sam wasn’t Moishe House’s only draw for Andrew—he says it helped him see the Minneapolis Jewish community in a new light.

“We can be clique-y,” he admits. “We need to be better at welcoming newcomers.” Moishe House, Andrew was learning, embraced newcomers organically.

So he invited his friends, who invited their friends. Soon, his circle of Twin Cities natives was mingling with transplants and forming new connections. “I made a ton of new friends through Moishe House, and I would recommend anyone go and meet new people.”

And all the while, Sam and Andrew were growing closer.

In the summer of 2018, the couple  joined a small group of young adults on a Federation Global Experience to Budapest and Israel. In Budapest, the group visited the city’s Moishe House.

“Jewish life in Budapest was such an interesting contrast to American Judaism,” says Sam. Moishe House is truly the center of Jewish life in Budapest, facilitating everything from Shabbat dinners to Taglit Birthright Israel applications. Many of the participants only recently discovered their Jewish heritage, having been raised by parents who were forced to suppress their religion as children.

“The way someone becomes Jewish in Budapest is through racing to catch up, and vowing this won’t happen to the next generation,” says Andrew.

 “It was really eye-opening,” adds Sam.

This Global Experience wasn’t Andrew’s first. Inspired by his family’s longtime commitment to the Jewish community, he has become familiar with Federation’s work around the world. But this trip was special, says Andrew. It was a chance to share a cause close to his heart with Sam—a natural next step for a couple who met through a cause they felt strongly about.

“One of the most passionate topics in my life is Israel,” says Andrew. “Having lived [there] for extended periods of time shaped me into the person I am today. Being able to share that truly helped bring Samantha and I closer.”

In fact, Andrew proposed to Sam a week after they returned from their trip.

Despite Andrew’s numerous trips to Israel and other overseas areas supported by Federation, becoming involved with Moishe House—just a few miles from his home—taught Andrew more than he anticipated.

“Moishe House helped me begin to see the way Federation makes a difference here,” he says. “It made clear the need for Federation locally.”

And, of course, it helped him find Sam—the couple is planning a wedding this year.