Four young professionals are living together in a trendy part of town, pursuing exciting careers by day and living their best lives in the evening and at the weekend.
It may sound like something out of Friends, except this isn’t Manhattan, but up-and-coming London Fields, where this group of twentysomethings are at the heart of a growing young Jewish community.
While just down the road from Strictly Orthodox Stamford Hill, Moishe House Hackney is a place where Jewish tradition intersects with and contemporary lifestyles.
Sam Finkelstein, one of the residents and a session musician, is a key player in shaping this vibrant peer-led community.
Recently, Sam and their father, Lord Daniel Finkelstein, who, last year, brought out his memoir, Hitler, Stalin, Mum & Dad, delved into the family history and explored the impact it has had on Sam's involvement with Moishe House.
“Dad really likes that I live in a Jewish community in Hackney,” Sam tells the JC. "Living in Hackney comes from the tradition of my British family practising Judaism in the East End."
Living in Moishe House means actively incorporating Jewish practices into daily life, Sam explains. “We try to keep Shabbat each week, host Jewish events and plan activities around the holidays. We're surrounded by lovely young Jews. It's the young Jewish hub of the East End."
Moishe House was established in the US in 2006 as a community for young professionals to create meaningful home-based Jewish experiences for themselves and their peers. In exchange, their rent is subsidised.
With a London presence from 2007, there are now Moishe Houses in Clapham, Kilburn and Camden, as well as Hackney, which opened in 2020. There is also a London pod for Jewish Russian-speaking young people.
The group invests time in creating a special community programme, which includes secular events like gardening, football, arts and crafts and brunch.
Sam notes: “The great thing about the community we’re creating is that we’ll host people with different levels of observance. There’s something special about inviting people for a Shabbat dinner, or a cup of tea and them instantly becoming part of a Jewish community. It’s an informal Jewish space, distinct from any other place.”
For many members of Moishe House’s wider community, Sam says the events “are their only Jewish experiences; we’re their Jewish home.”
While not all Moishe House residents know one another before deciding to live together, Sam knew their housemates from their time in the youth movement LJY-Netzer.
The social element is key to the Moishe House experience and the hip Hackney vibe offers an ideal backdrop for Sam to run an album club and take part in post-Shabbat jam sessions.
A soup kitchen for the impoverished East End Jewish community in the 19th and early 20th century (Photo: Eating Europe)
In the wake of October 7, Moishe House has also been a source of comfort and support. “Some of the community members are from Israel, and we have others with family members there; everyone has been impacted,” says Sam.
Rather than political discussions, the housemates host events to help bring the community together. "Having the community has been really comforting.”
The residents give a flavour of London’s Jewish life to all who visit. Like travellers who go to Chabad Houses, there is a network of young people who travel between Moishe Houses. Sam was hosting a visitor from Vienna this Shabbat, and American tourists are frequent guests at the table.
There’s a sofa bed in case anyone needs to crash, but Moishe House is more than just a few beds in East London; it's a hub that proves home really is where the heart of the community is.
As for Sam, the plan is to stick around for as long as possible. “I think the Moishe House limit is three years. I have no intention of leaving before then.”