A year into its development, a plan for a co-working space for young Jewish adults in Northern Virginia has made progress, but has been slowed by the pandemic.
Similar to shared workspace companies like WeWork, Kibitz is looking to rent space in Arlington in the fall of 2021, said Cantor Rachel Rhodes, the project’s organizer. She is also a cantor at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church.
Rhodes said that project organizers are waiting a year, reasoning it would be too difficult to safely utilize the space due to the pandemic. Arlington was selected as a result of a feasibility study conducted by RCLCO Real Estate Advisors in winter 2020.
Rhodes said the target audience for Kibitz (the name is Yiddish for “chatter”) is young Jews who telecommute and want a space in which to work with other Jews. In addition, Kibitz will coordinate with other Jewish organizations to provide Jewish-themed programing on site, a kind of Moishe House for Jewish workers.
“The goal is to simply engage young Jews in some kind of Jewish life,” said Rhodes.
Programs might include Friday night happy hours with candle lightings; shofar blasts during the month of Elul, leading to Rosh Hashanah; Torah study during lunch led by local clergy; and Jewish speed dating on the weekends.
Rhodes developed the project with Nathan Smuckler, engagement associate at Temple Rodef Shalom. She said the name Kibitz, is a placeholder, so people shouldn’t get stuck on it.
Kibitz is not a Temple Rodef Shalom project, Rhodes said. It is funded through grants from The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. In 2019, The Federation awarded the project a $100,000 innovation grant to kick start its development. This year, Kibitz received a $35,000 grant, the drop due to budget constraints at The Federation as a result of the pandemic. Rhodes hopes that by next year the pandemic will be over, the economy will have bounced back and The Federation will be able to increase its grant.
Rhodes said that a number of factors made Arlington a good location: There is access to public transportation as well as parking and amenities like gyms, daycare centers and coffee shops. The 2017 Greater Washington Jewish Community Demographic Study put the number of Jews in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church at about 54,400, the largest concentration of Jews in Northern Virginia, with 18 percent of the total Jewish population of Greater Washington.
“It just seems like the Jewish neighborhood, in many ways, is becoming Arlington. So we wanted to be centrally located there,” Rhodes said. “We’re trying so hard to jumpstart this community in Northern Virginia and we want it to be in a place where people feel excited to go and to hang out with each other.”
By winter, Rhodes plans to launch Kibitz’s online community, featuring a website and virtual programming. Members will pay a fee that will support a liaison service between other members for networking purposes, professional development courses, wellness courses and potentially monthly gift boxes containing Shabbat candles and challah. Rhodes is also interested in hosting Shabbat gatherings on Zoom.
Kibitz is working with the District-based co-working space company Cove to advise on selecting a space and how to properly outfit it. Rhodes said the partnership will give the project access to Cove’s experience management service, which can help coordinate programs like meditation seminars. Cove CEO and founder Adam Segal said he was intrigued by Kibitz’s concept and looks forward to helping make it a reality.
“We thought it was really interesting and exciting. And so we talked and are lending ourselves on a consultation basis,” Segal said. “Being Jewish today and having an environment where you gather with other professionals that’s outside of a more traditional [space] like a synagogue or JCC, it just opens it up to a new audience.”
The project is seeking out potential users in order to garner feedback and input on potential Kibitz services. Those interested are encouraged to reach out to Rhodes at [email protected] Rhodes said she believes interest in Kibitz has increased in recent months as a result of people working from home due to the pandemic.
“We’re finding a lot of buzz is building up and people are getting excited about the prospect, especially now people are craving community and connection and they want something more than, like, going to work and sitting on Zoom and then sitting in their home,” Rhodes said. “They’re looking to being engaged in kind of a deeper way. So this could be an answer to that.”