A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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New Moishe House South City fosters inclusive haven for queer and trans Jews

Inside the new Moishe House South City.

The St. Louis Jewish community has recently welcomed a new addition to its cultural landscape: Moishe House South City.

The new house, or pod as the houses are commonly known, is in the Tower Grove South neighborhood in St. Louis. This unique residence is not just a home, it’s a sanctuary crafted by Avi Mazzeo and Mo Stein, two impassioned individuals committed to nurturing a safe haven for queer and trans Jews in the area, irrespective of their observance level.

Mazzeo a native of Santa Clara, Calif., and Stein from Boston, Mass., bring diverse perspectives and experiences to their mission. While Stein grew up in the Reform movement, Mazzeo embarked on a journey of rediscovery, reconnecting with their Italian Sephardi heritage and community as an adult. Together their distinct backgrounds and shared dedication are fostering a space where individuals can embrace their identities without fear or reservation.

Finding Moishe House

Originating from a simple Shabbat dinner, Moishe House is now a pioneering organization empowering young Jewish adults to take active roles in their communities by hosting peer-led Jewish programming in shared living spaces. Their goal is to provide a platform for personal connections and community building among young Jews worldwide.

For Mazzeo and Stein, their arrival at Moishe House South City was a result of outreach by the organization.  Rabbi Karen Bogard at Central Reform Congregation recommended Mazzeo, who quickly recruited Stein. Both had relocated to St. Louis in recent years.

“I moved here to live closer to my parents after I had a medical thing less than a year after I graduated college. They helped me recover, and I’ve been here ever since because I quite like it here,” said Stein.

“I moved here after I graduated from college in 2017 to study further, and because it was close to my parents, only about an hour and a half drive,” said Mazzeo.

Moishe House South City

Moishe House South City opened in January.

“It’s just the two us and a lot of houseplants. A frankly ridiculous number of houseplants. And a snake named Oolong,” said Mazzeo.

The two are committed to living and running the house for at least a year, but say they’ll go longer if people keep coming to events. Meanwhile, their primary goal for the pod is to create a safe environment for queer and trans Jews in the St. Louis area.

(L) Grey Saunders, (R) Mo Stein.

“It’s important to have a community of shared experiences where you can exist as you are without censoring yourself. Celebrating the diversity within the Jewish community creates spaces where people can be themselves without worrying about judgment,” said Stein. “In the Reform movement, synagogues may be accepting, but finding a community of people who ‘get it’ without explanation is invaluable.”

Added Mazzeo: “In many queer and trans spaces, there’s pressure to suppress my religious identity, yet my Jewishness is intrinsic to who I am. Conversely, in some Jewish spaces, embracing my queer and trans identity can feel challenging. It’s vital for me to seek or establish spaces where I can authentically embrace both aspects of my identity without compromise.”

Since its opening, the house has done a few different programs including a monthly Shabbat dinner, mezuzah painting, board game night and even a Leonard Nimoy night.

“It was Nimoy’s yahrzeit in February, so we had a movie night and watched ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,’ watched an interview with Nimoy conducted by the Yiddish Book Center and then said Kaddish,” said Stein. “It was a really amazing blend of Jewish pop culture, Jewish education and ritual observance that’s something we’re striving for at our Moishe pod.”

In the future, the two plan to continue the monthly Shabbat dinner and plan to collaborate with many local Jewish organizations.

Later this month, they are planning a seder with blended traditions to honor Stein’s Polish Ashkenazi family and Mazzeo’s Italian Sephardi family.

“It’s going to be a really fun night with tons of food, communal singing and plenty of Manischewitz,” said Stein.

For more information about the Moishe House South City or to join their mail list, contact both Mazzeo and Stein at [email protected].

| RELATED: Moishe House announces new award named for St. Louisan Ron Rubin

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About the Contributor
Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer
Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.