The atmosphere was hushed in the sunlit living room of Moishe House Northern Virginia, as a half-dozen people in their 20s and 30s silently studied textbooks or worked on their computers. Nearby, coffee, tea, water and a breakfast spread with muffins and cereal was available to anyone in need of a break.
This month, the Moishe House, located in Clarendon, began offering co-working space in a pilot program to determine if young adults will be drawn together to do their work. The 139 Moishe Houses around the world serve as a home and community to local young Jews. Open every Friday, the co-working space will run through September.
The goal is to bring young Jewish professionals together after months of isolation due to COVID-19, said Nomi Small, a resident of Moishe House NoVa. She added that some offices are still working remotely, even though many young people are vaccinated and socializing again.
The co-working space is also being tested in Moishe Houses in Los Angeles, Chicago and Rome.
“There’s a lot of interest right now,” Small said. “Most of the people who are coming are a lot of our [Moishe House] community regulars, but we’re really hoping that we can expand and have more people.”
One of the co-workers at Moishe House NoVa was Stacy Miller, director of the young professional program EntryPointDC at Edlavitch DCJCC. She said the co-working space is a great place to make connections and share experiences with people.
“Last time I was here, there were all different types of folks. There was someone that was visiting, that wasn’t Jewish and there was some really interesting discussion, where people were sharing more about Judaism and their identity,” said Miller.
Daniel Begemann, 25, and his fiancé, Annabelle Orlando, 25, are an interfaith couple.
“I’ve always just personally felt really welcome, like part of the [Moishe House] community,” said Orlando, who is Catholic. “Everyone’s super welcoming. You never really feel out of the loop or anything like that.”
Begemann said the co-working space gave him an opportunity to get out of the house after months of working from home.
“It’s just a nice way to be with your friends, but be productive at the same time,” he said. “It’s like having a library. When you’re in college, you go to the library and work with your friends so it’s kind of similar to that.”
Begemann said he thinks a co-working space is “a viable option for the future of working.”
Orlando said this is a good transition for people who have been working from home over the past year and have only socialized over Zoom.
“I think this is a really good idea to slowly get back to hanging out with people and socializing, but also, if you do have the opportunity to work from home, to do that as well,” she added.
The activity, and volume, in the house increased as Small and Moishe House resident Abby Newburger prepared lunch for the gathering.
Moishe House residents receive funds with which they can provide free food and drinks at events like the co-working space, Small said.
Gabe Contino, 22, a new resident at the house, said the co-working space allows him to socialize while doing his work as an associate data analyst for ICF, a local consulting firm.
“Being around people can be good for my motivation,” he said. “I definitely think it’s important to be around people when I work and that’s something that I’m really looking forward to when I get back to the office. So I think this is a perfect alternative.”
The smell of pasta and garlic bread wafted through the kitchen as the group gathered to share lunch.
“This is a unique opportunity,” said Small. “We’re really excited to be able to provide this opportunity to our community and to DMV Jewish young professionals as a whole.”