In December 2018, a meeting was held at the United Synagogue of Hoboken (USH) of seven 20/30-somethings sharing a desire to create fun, innovative, and empowering Jewish community programs for the 20/30 something set in Hudson County. The name of the group, Tribe: Jersey City and Hoboken.
The unpretentious de facto chairs of the meeting were a dynamic duo of two in their early 30’s women, Lauren and Melissa. Both had been social entrepreneurs in the Jewish community working together to create Jewish community programs such as Wine and Sushi in the Sukkah (a hut type structure used during a holiday in which the Jews commemorate their time as homeless nomads after the slavery of Egypt but before entering the land of Israel) as well as many a Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) Friday night dinner. Now they had called for an open meeting with likeminded individuals. It was there a Tribe was born. Events for the year were mapped out and a methodology for building Jewish community and empowering others was developed.
I sat down with these two social entrepreneurs and asked them some questions. Below is their take on their social pioneering, the Jewish community, and Hudson County.
Why the name Tribe?
Both: The name Tribe is awesome! It’s warm and inviting, removing the stuffiness of words like professional or leadership. It conveys everything we need it to. We are a group of young adults, united by the fact that we are Jewish and living in the same community. This is all peer led. No one is being paid to organize events, we are volunteers, which I think makes this all even more meaningful. Anyone can join our events and we welcome others to plan them along with us.
How long have you been involved in the Jewish community?
Melissa: I’ve been involved in the Jewish community my entire life, if you mean the Hoboken area Jewish community, since 2014.
Lauren: I was raised in a conservative Jewish household and I became more involved in Jewish community building when I moved to Jersey City in 2013.
What niche do you see Tribe filling?
Both: It’s all about connection and providing opportunities for our peers in the area to come together for networking and other fun activities. United Synagogue of Hoboken is a very warm and welcoming community, we seek to create that same feeling with our Tribe events.
How long have you been in Hudson County?
Melissa: Since 2012.
Lauren: Since 2013
What sort of Jewish programming have you been involved in in the past?
Melissa: My entire life is Jewish programming. I work in the Jewish non-profit world. I also serve on the Board of Trustees for USCJ (United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism).
Lauren: Since coming to the United Synagogue of Hoboken, I’ve been involved in a variety of Jewish programming, including our Tribe events and have led fundraising campaigns as Chair of the Board’s Development Committee. Since joining the Board where I now serve as the Executive Vice President, my Jewish involvement has continued to expand.
What programs have you facilitated in the past, Jewish and non-Jewish, if applicable?
Melissa: I work in fund development for a Jewish non-profit, so there are too many programs to list them all. I guess you could say I am a professional Jew.
Lauren: Aside from facilitating our past and current events calendar for Tribe, I was an Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA) Fellow, organizing networking and speaker events for emerging creative professionals.
What has been your favorite program? Why?
Melissa: Sushi in the Sukkah, because I love alliteration. This night always has a wonderful turnout and the vibe in the Sukkah is always really special. People love being outside and it’s always a great evening to mingle.
Lauren: I have many, such as our Vodka & Latke (potato pancake) event, which has really fun pairings of food and people. The best may be yet to come with our stellar calendar of events for 2019, led by our amazing committee of volunteers.
How did you get involved in the Jewish community?
Melissa: It’s not a question of “how” I see my involvement as a moral imperative, something that comes from my soul. It is not something I really ponder too much or question, it’s just something I do. If not me who? If not now, when?
Lauren: I echo the feelings of an innate sense of duty. A duty to everyone before us and to the future of a dynamic Jewish diaspora. Tribe is part of the glue that keeps us all connected.
What attracts you to Jewish events? Community?
Melissa: I love meeting new people. I am attracted to Jewish events, because we all have a shared destiny here. It is important that the Hoboken-Jersey City community remains a vibrant and awesome place to live a Jewish life. We need to provide opportunities for people to come together whether someone walks in the door for social or spiritual reasons, it does not matter. The point is just to be a part of building community together.
Lauren: I see Jewish culture as an important and unique tile in the mosaic of peoples in this country. I love Jewish culture and enjoy not only experiencing it, but also helping shape it as a Jewish adult. Attending Jewish events and immersing myself in the Jewish community both enriches my own life and gives me the opportunity to do my part in strengthening the Jewish community, which I’m so proud is a community that in turn makes wonderful contributions to all other communities.
What is your favorite non-Jewish community type event in Hudson County?
Melissa: I love the community at Bar Method in Hoboken. It’s the friendliest place to exercise.
Lauren: My husband and I love powerlifting events. We both train in powerlifting and my husband competes. We particularly love how powerlifting is not only about raw strength but also health, community, and reasoned modes of thinking — values that are all deeply embedded in Judaism. You’re all invited to lift with us, any time.
What is your fav restaurant in Hudson County?
Melissa: Illuzion Sushi.
Lauren: Any of the mom and pop delis in Hoboken, like Fiores that serve fresh mozzarella. It will change your life.
Hobbies, what do you do for fun when not at work or creating Jewish community?
Melissa: I read a lot, mostly fiction. I spend time with friends and family.
Lauren: I love discovering and collecting street/pop art, and I have a long-time passion for all types of dance. In the Fall, I started the Executive MPA program at Baruch College.
As a former founding member of Moishe House Hoboken and the Hudson County Regional Jewish Council, this writer has been intimately involved in the Jewish community in Hudson County, and yet could not be more impressed with organizations that this dynamic duo is building. From organizations with their own institutional agendas to religiously based places of worship, many Hudson County Jewish adults in their 20’s and 30’s do not have a place where they can plug into and engage in creating Jewish community themselves. There are many groups in Hudson County doing programming at people, Melissa and Lauren on the other hand, know that being part of a Tribe means taking ownership and empowering others to do so on their terms. They are truly adding an amazing value to the Jewish and larger community with their social entrepreneurialism. Here’s to Tribe!
About the Contributor
Joshua Sotomayor Einstein is a conservative Republican, 11 year Hoboken resident, and essayist who has been published in 14 or more websites and newspapers. He enjoys long philosophical conversations over political differences and reading science fiction. Einstein is involved in the Jewish community in Hudson County, the Republican Party, and a bi-partisan political dialogue group based in Jersey City. He enjoys long walks and poking fun at intoxicated people. Being JC adjacent, he is envious of the open mic scene because it features a ton of spoken word.