My New Job in Cincinnati

Since moving to Cincinnati this summer, I have taken on a new, fascinating, innovative, and unique job. While I described it on my first day on the job, I wanted to describe it a bit further here.

With a job title of Director of Community Engagement and Development, I am the sole employee of MOve2CINCY, a new initiative to grow the Modern Orthodox community in Cincinnati. While part of my job is oriented towards community retention, the big focus of serving as MOve2CINCY’s Director of Community Engagement and Development is recruiting Modern Orthodox families to Cincinnati.

The primary geographic focus of my targeted Modern Orthodox young families will be those living in such high-density population areas such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, since Cincinnati offers key lifestyle advantages over such big city-living, yet while retaining big city amenities.

Most Modern Orthodox families in America have multiple children (Nishma 2017 survey)

The key advantages are short commutes, family-friendly community warmth, and housing affordability (especially since, as the Nishma survey of last year found that most Modern Orthodox families have three or more children, with 81% of families having two or more children). Cincinnati has major sports teams, great arts & culture around town, and many jobs available with a major corporations headquartered here, so it still retains a feel of a sizeable city.

A secondary geographic focus is in the opposite direction: recruiting Modern Orthodox families from smaller-sized Jewish communities, attracting them with our Jewish infrastructure and amenities. With a few Orthodox shuls in town, a Kollel, a mikveh, and a handful of kosher restaurants, not to mention a JCC, Jewish Federation, and much more, Cincinnati offers a healthy and meaningful Jewish lifestyle for young Modern Orthodox families, especially those coming from smaller communities.

While the position did not require someone with my rabbinic background, it certainly helps in understanding the Jewish world, organizations, and, of course, Jewish knowledge. It also, of course, helps me in tapping into rabbinic networks, which is an advantageous aspect of having hired a rabbi to fill the position. I would say that this position primarily consists of three broad areas: relationship-building, marketing, and community-building. While the marketing aspect may not have come from my rabbinic background, the other two aspects do. The job largely plays to my strengths, which I enjoy deploying in the service of this worthy effort in community growth.

One of the aspects that contributes to its uniqueness is that it is the only professional position fully dedicated to encouraging Modern Orthodox Jews to move to a particular American city. There has been a trend in recent years for Modern Orthodox Jews, largely living in the American northeast, but in other major cities, as well, looking to leave such metropolitan areas in search of more affordable housing and a kinder lifestyle for families. As such, there is a need on the behalf of families to want to leave such cities, and the Modern Orthodox community of Cincinnati wants to be on the radar of those searching and help them find what they’re looking for. Cincinnati’s Modern Orthodox community is already sizeable and is seeking to develop into a more robust such community.

And my job is to help them get there.

Starting New Job in Cincinnati Today

Today began a new chapter in my professional career, as I begin work at a new job in Ohio. My new job, in a nutshell, is to help develop the Modern Orthodox community in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hired by a group of committed community members, the big picture for my job is to recruit young Modern Orthodox families to Cincinnati in order to reach a critical mass of families so that there could be a high school. As it currently stands, the lack of a high school option for Modern Orthodox families directly impedes growth here in Cincinnati, whether families leave when their children reach high school age or they simply stay away from moving to Cincinnati, altogether.

While there are some Modern Orthodox families who either send their children to local private schools or to Modern Orthodox schools in other cities, the lack of a Jewish high school that meets the needs of Modern Orthodox families has inhibited the community.

That’s where my work comes in – and there will be a lot of it – but I am excited to help build the Modern Orthodox community here in Cincinnati!

Scotch-Tasting Completes 2014-2015 Texts & Tasting Series

People at Islay Scotch-tastingOn Sunday, I held the fourth and final “Texts and Tasting” event of the 2014-2015 year. “Scotches & Second” featured Islay Scotches alongside learning about the second commandment.

Scotches set out with some of the snacksThe Islay Scotches – Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, Kilchoman, Lagavulin 16, and Laphroaig 18 – were graciously sponsored by Rachel Tichauer at New York Life.

The participants definitely enjoyed being exposed to Islay Scotches, especially their quite peatey character!  As to the Second Commandment, it was fascinating to explore it.

Discussion on the Ten Commandments in Anaheim

Noble Ale Works - April 2015The other night, I led a discussion on the Ten Commandments for young adults in Orange County. As part of my monthly “Beer, Bible, & Brewery” series with young adults (20s-30s), this event focussed on the Ten Commandments and their place within Judaism. The event took place at Noble Ale Works in Anaheim and was the third such event in the series this spring.

Initial Meeting of Hillel International’s Circles of Educational Excellence [Throwback Thursday]
At the opening gathering of Hillel International's Circles of Educational Excellence
At the opening gathering of Hillel International’s Circles of Educational Excellence

In December, immediately prior to Hillel International’s General Assembly, I took part in the first meetings of the first cohort of Hillel International’s Circles of Educational Excellence. Beginning on Sunday night with some introductory activities, the group got going in earnest on Monday morning, continuing on through mid-afternoon.

Consisting of the executive directors and rabbis/Jewish educators of nine Hillels in addition to some other staff leading the group, my wife and I representing Beach Hillel were the only Hillel from the western half of the US. The other eight were comprised of five Hillels from the Midwest and three from the northeast.

A historical discussion about the Senior Jewish Educator program
A historical discussion about the Senior Jewish Educator program

While it was not a frontal presentation, it relied heavily on leveraging the shared experience and brainpower of the group to help generate ideas and share what we do.

An interesting treat was to hear from some people who had been involved with the Senior Jewish Educator project, both from Hillel SIC, individual Hillels, and the Jim Joseph Foundation. It was quite informative to hear about its history and about different models of its deployment.

Eric Fingerhut addressing the group
Eric Fingerhut addressing the group

We also got to be visited by Eric Fingerhut and have him speak to our group, which was nice to have him express his interest in this initiative.

We then split up into three different groups according to how roughly similar our campuses were, which was interesting. After that, we mapped out our campuses and our assets, and then we moved to developing an educational experiment with measurable outcomes.

Unfortunately, due to time, we were unable to come back together to share what our educational experiments were with the other groups to bounce our ideas off of each other, to strengthen them. It would definitely have been great if we had had the time even to just get back into the sub-groups to share our ideas and to see how they would be and be sharpened.

We then bid each other adieu and off to Hillel International’s first-ever General Assembly.

Visiting Chapman, CSULB, & UCI Students During Passover
With Chapman, CSULB, and UCI students during Passover
With Chapman, CSULB, and UCI students during Passover

Last week during Passover, I visited a few different campuses to hang with students during lunchtime to enjoy some matzah with them.  On Monday, I went to California State University, Long Beach to join up with Beach Hillel for their matzah gathering; on Tuesday, I went to Chapman University to join up with their Hillel; and, on Thursday, I went to University of California, Irvine to join up with their Hillel.  It was a nice opportunity to get various students together and to schmooze with them over some matzah, while celebrating Passover.

A Visit to the Moishe House of Orange County
Visiting OC Moishe House - April 2015
With young adults last night at the Moishe House of Orange County

Last night, I went to the Moishe House of Orange County to lead a discussion on “Is there More to Being Jewish than Just Holidays?” Although I have spoken at Moishe House of Orange County multiple times, this was my second time speaking at their new location (their third such location), the previous time being this past fall.

One thing I have noticed amongst young adults is that they are interested in discussing Jewish holidays, which is great, although it tends to stop there, so I wanted to push them to think about their Jewish identity and practices beyond holidays. We got to discussing some possible future discussion topics, which sounds encouraging. It was also nice to be there with a group that is enthusiastic to learn and grapple with various Jewish matters.  I’m looking forward to future visits 🙂

Seder-Aid Event Prepares Young Adults for Passover Seder
Seder-Aid 2015
Seder-Aid 2015

Last week, I led a conversation for young adults to go over the Passover Seder(s) in order to mentally prepare for it. Taking place in Long Beach on the Sunday prior to the holiday, I led a relaxed conversation (over beer – something we would not be enjoying during the holiday), going over the elements of the Passover Seder(s) and to get people ready for what would be taking place.

“Beer, Bible & Brewery” Return Visit to The Bruery Features a Tour

The Bruery - March 2015Last night, as part of the monthly “Bible, Beer, and Brew” series, we visited The Bruery in Placentia.  Having visited in the fall, this time, we had the opportunity to talk with The Bruery’s chief financial officer, Carl Katz, who led us on a tour of The Bruery.

Katz led us on a tour of The Bruery and discussed how they produce about 100 different beers every year, some of which are exclusive to their three membership clubs.  He also let us know that they plan on opening up a new tasting room later this year, featuring sour ales.

Carl Katz leading a tour at The Bruery
Carl Katz leading a tour at The Bruery

Everyone who attended greatly enjoyed it and this was definitely a special experience as part of the monthly series.  It was also the first time in the series that we have met at a brewery with someone who works at that brewery to tell us about their products.  Also, it was a special treat not only to hear from someone so high up in the brewery, but also to have a free round of incredible beers on The Bruery. Everybody came away enjoying the experience and, of course, being enamored with The Bruery’s special beer offerings.

Torah on Tap Discussion on Kosher Food with Beach Hillel
Leading a discussion for Beach Hillel on Thursday on kosher food in the Torah
Leading a discussion for Beach Hillel on Thursday on kosher food in the Torah

By student request, I led a discussion on kosher food for Beach Hillel on Thursday. Taking place at The Nugget on the campus of California State University, Long Beach, I led a discussion on the fundamentals of kosher food as found in the Torah (a/k/a the Five Books of Moses), with a primary focus on Leviticus, chapter 11.

With CSULB students at a discussion for Beach Hillel on Thursday on kosher food in the Torah
With CSULB students at a discussion for Beach Hillel on Thursday on kosher food in the Torah

This Torah on Tap event was the second of three monthly such events taking place for Beach Hillel this semester, just as we had done in the fall semester. Last month, with St. Valentine’s Day being in the popular consciousness, we discussed sex and consensuality in the Talmud.