TORONTO — The House, an organization founded 11 years ago to reach out to young Jewish professionals through informal, inspiring Jewish programming, moved earlier this month from its midtown Toronto space on Eglinton Avenue to the Lipa Green Centre on Bathurst Street.
The founder and executive director of The House, Rabbi Rafi Lipner, said the decision to move was mostly because the organization had outgrown the space.
“An amazing problem to have,” Rabbi Lipner wrote in a mass email to the 1,200 people on his email list.
Speaking to The CJN, Rabbi Lipner explained that as their events grew to attract more people, The House couldn’t accommodate all those who wanted to participate.
“The House’s capacity was 40 on a good day. A lot of our events, we had been taking to venues and homes and different destinations, because we were getting 60 to 80 people,” he said. “It was just silly to hold onto [the space on Eglinton] as a glorified office space,” he said.
After exploring a number of options, Rabbi Lipner said that after speaking with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto staff, they determined that having The House at Lipa Green would be mutually beneficial to both organizations.
He said the move was not based on a financial crisis, but was simply a logistical move, since The House used other venues throughout the city for its events.
But with the money they are saving on rent, The House has hired two new staff members; a communications manager, and a director of experiential Jewish education and engagement.
Rabbi Lipner said he’s not worried how the move to Lipa Green will affect how The House – which was originally founded in 2004 for Jewish young professionals who weren’t responding to formal, institutional Judaism – will be perceived by the community.
“I think now The House has established its brand and feel, which resonates in all the events we do, and it’s really not contingent on the four walls of The House,” he said.
Over the years, even when The House was advertised as more of an informal place to hang out, it still managed to attract high profile speakers, including Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, Kosher Sex author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and U.S. radio talk show host Dennis Prager.
Rabbi Lipner also boasted that more than 100 Jewish couples met and married after meeting at an event, and he has officiated at the weddings of about half of those couples.
Daniel Held, executive director of UJA’s Julia and Henry Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education, said having The House at Lipa Green is a win for everyone.
“The House is doing an amazing job educating the next generation about their Jewish heritage and they have much to offer our entire community. Having offices in the Lipa Green Centre will give them ready access to colleagues and help position them to further spread their message and impact,” Held said.
Lorne Goldstein, chairman of The House’s board of directors, said the feeling is mutual.
“The House is thrilled to be situated within the organizational hub of Toronto’s Jewish community, enabling us to work with UJA and help the implementation of identity programming for the under 40s throughout the community. Our goal has always been to connect Jewish young adults with Jewish life. Now the House, in its new home, is leading the way by example.”