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DC Live! A Special Evening of Comedy

live bannerSeven organizations within the Jewish Community: Friendship CircleJewish Foundation for Group HomesJewish Social Service AgencyMatanRespectAbilitySulam, and Sunflower Bakery will all join together again on Thursday, August 7th, 2014 at Sixth & I to host DC Live! A Special Evening of Comedy.  This event was first held in Montgomery County in May, and the feedback was so positive that we decided to bring it to the District!  Proceeds from the event will benefit each organization, who all share a common passion for providing a quality of life to individuals with disabilities. Together these organizations provide services to kids, young adults, and seniors with special needs. If you’re looking to become more involved in the community; have a friend or loved one that could benefit from our programs; or would just like a fun night out, DC Live! is perfect for you!!

Below are more event details.  There will be an open bar reception with beer and wine and heavy hors d’oeuvres followed by an entertaining comedian line-up! Group Tickets and Sponsorship Opportunities are available! Visit the website to learn more! dclivecomedy.blogspot.com

Event: DC Live! A Special Evening of Comedy
Date/Time: Thursday, August 7th 2014
Reception: 6:30pm-7:30pm
Comedians take the stage at 7:30pm
Location: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (600 I St., NW, Washington, DC 20001)
Presented By and Supporting: The Friendship Circle, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, Jewish Social Service Agency, Matan, RespectAbility, Sulam, and Sunflower Bakery
Buy Ticketshttp://dclivecomedy.blogspot.com/p/event-registration.html

For any questions, contact Tie Smith, JFGH Events Coordinator, at TSmith@JFGH.org or 240-283-6053.

We hope to see you there!

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Let’s Go Shopping… For a Date? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 92)

shopping heartI mentioned once that I felt a bit like Carrie Bradshaw when I sat down to write my first ever dating column many years ago.  Just as Carrie would have shopped for clothes on Sex and the City, I want to talk about how online dating is a bit like clothes shopping.  (I know the analogy is slightly cringe-worthy, but bear with me for a minute.)

When most of us go shopping, we fall in love with an article of clothing, say some black pin-striped pants that look like they’d sit perfectly on our waist, and then we look for our size.  Sadly, it’s not there—what a disappointment.  But that’s not how I shop.  I’m very petite and on the shorter side (a whopping 5’1… good things come in small packages, as they say), so I have to do the reverse; I blindly shop for my size and then decide if I like what I find.  And sometimes I’ll even learn to love something in my size (I can think of a red dress offhand) because it fits so well, even though it’s not initially what I set out to buy.

Online dating is surprisingly similar.  People have a tendency to look through the whole universe of people online for that perfect-looking garment, or person, who on the outside looks like a match made in heaven.  But as you dig deeper, you learn that the fit just isn’t right for one reason or another—he wants children and you don’t, she is not yet divorced, he doesn’t feel the same way you do about higher education, etc.  But you want to make it work so badly.  I can’t tell you the number of times I loved a pair of pants at Banana Republic, and I tried on a “regular” (rather than “petite”—aka “short”), somehow hoping that the sizing would miraculously be a bit off and they would fit that day.  Pants we can hem, but people we can’t.

Think about this for a moment.  Search instead for people who fit the objective things you’re looking for (your size requirements, or your non-negotiables), then send an email to a wide range of people who fit those criteria.  Try to keep the non-negotiable list short, perhaps to a handful of things you either can’t live with or can’t live without.  Beyond that, cast a wide net.  You never know until you try on the pants, or the person, whether it’ll be a good fit, so you might as well search through everything in your size and try some things on.  Maybe the person who didn’t seem to be your type turns into the red dress.  It’s a match you weren’t even expecting.  This method is much better than looking through people’s exterior qualities and then finding that nothing is your size.  You’re more likely to get a better fit in the end.

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

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Learn more about the Jeremiah Fellowship!

The 2012-2013 Fellows

The 2012-2013 Fellows

Join the next cohort of Jewish social justice change-makers in DC! Jews United for Justice’s Jeremiah Fellowship trains a select group of young adults (~ ages 25-35) to become the next generation of Jewish social justice activists.

Over the course of eight months, beginning in October, Jeremiah Fellows meet 2-3 times a month and go on two weekend retreats as they learn directly from DC’s leading activists and Jewish teachers about the history of the region and its current struggles for economic, racial and social justice.

Jeremiah Fellows are:

- Dynamic and engaged young Jews (approximately ages 25-35)
- Already volunteer leaders or have leadership potential
- Passionate about making our community better by learning about and acting on local justice issues
- Actively interested in building community
- Committed to using skills gained through the Fellowship

Past Jeremiah Fellows call the experience “transformative” and “life-changing,” saying it connects them to the DC region in a totally new way and helps them understand hot-button issues at a level far deeper than what we hear in the news. It’s also a space for participants to explore their relationship to Judaism and their desire to make the world more just…and see how the two connect. Participants leave the Fellowship with good friends, substantial leadership and activist skills, and an expanding network of likeminded changemakers.

Learn more about the Jeremiah Fellowship and download the application.
here. Applications are being accepted through July 23.

Have questions? Contact Rabbi Elizabeth Richman at rabbi@jufj.org

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À Demain

a-demain-460x258À Demain is a powerful and incredibly personal journey through the depths of life, death, depression and forgiveness. “À  Demain” is a French expression which translates as “until tomorrow.” It is most commonly used as a means of saying goodbye, but as many of us know all too well, tomorrow is a gift, not a guarantee.

Inspired by an event that took the lives of three bright, promising and compassionate individuals, the play follows a young man who must find a way to continue living. He does not wish to move on, to accept that his best friend, Johnny, is not coming back. Lead actor and playwright, Brendan O’Connell, shares, “What made Johnny so special was that he cared more about his friends than himself. While we’ve all tried so hard the past few years to emulate his joy and love of life, we’ve been filled with such anger, searching for answers as to how something so tragic could happen to someone so young.”

Struggling with his own guilt and grief, and blind to the reality that many around him feel the same way, our protagonist is afraid to face the uncertainty of Tomorrow.

My brother Brendan has poured his heart and soul into this play. It is truly a tall order for the rest of us to match his passion for this piece and to put in every bit of ourselves as he has. But as actress Naomi Cohen puts it, À Demain is a story that needs to be told, not just for those who know it, but for those who don’t. Actor Max Schneiderman adds, “This play is an emotional roller coaster, but a fun one at that, thanks to the whole cast and crew involved. We believe it is well put together and conveys a strong message today’s youth can benefit from.”

À Demain teaches us that we must be happy for the moments we have together. We must smile big and often and without reservation, as Johnny did. Brendan says, “In our darkest moments, he has given us the strength to keep driving toward the light. He has saved me from myself time and again. I truly believe he lives on through my smile and in that sense, we never really lose the people we love. They will always be a part of who we are.”

I am proud to be a part of this production, and invite you all to join us for Á Demain this July. As actor Javier del Pilar notes, “We all know what it is like to grieve, struggling to find the light in the all-consuming darkness.”À Demain provides an outlet for our grief. Johnny remains an inspiration to us all, for a pain so deep comes only from a love even deeper. These words, from a poem Johnny wrote, will hold a place in my heart forever:

“Say hello and smile before you say goodbye…”
PERFORMANCES
 Redrum at Fort Fringe-612 L Street NW, in Washington, DC 20001
Nearest Metro: Mt. Vernon Square or Gallery Place-Chinatown
Thursday, July 10th at 9:15 pm
Sunday, July 13th at 12:30 pm
Thursday, July 17th at 6:15 pm
Friday, July 18th at 10 pm
Sunday, July 20th at 8:30 pm
Friday, July 25th at 6 pm
PURCHASE TICKETS HERE, OR CALL (866) 811-4111.
À Demain is part of the 9th annual Capital Fringe Festival (July 10th – 27, 2014).
Featuring: Natalie Piegari (Director), Brendan O’Connell, Max Schneiderman, Ryan O’Connell, Kate Edwards, Naomi Cohen, Javier del Pilar, and Matt Dyer.
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Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day: The Throwback – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 91)

<3Believe it or not, I have been writing for GTJ for three years this week.  As a fun three-year throwback, I wanted to re-post my first ever article below (with a few minor tweaks).  I’d love for you to write in the comments section which articles over the past three years (archives here) have moved you, irked you, tickled you, or generally made you think.

—–

As I sit here writing this first blog post for Gather the Jews, I feel strangely like Carrie Bradshaw, although I don’t own a pair of Manolo Blahniks (I do have a ridiculous collection of shoes, though) and I’m not writing on a cute MacBook.

To introduce myself, my name is Erika Ettin, and I am the new relationship/dating blogger for Gather the Jews.  You might be thinking, “How did she get this gig?”  And even more likely, if you know me already, “Isn’t she the girl who smiles all the time, sings with Rick Recht, and used to work in finance?”  While that is true, I left the world of corporate America in March to start my own business – A Little Nudge – where I help people find success in online dating.  But in the days of Sex and the City, online dating wasn’t yet discussed.  I wonder what they would have thought of NYC’s most eligible bachelors all being lined up side-by-side on Match.com or JDate.  Something tells me they could have made a few more seasons.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the process of finding the love of your life.  Many people go online (let’s use JDate as an example) or go to a speed dating event (or to one of the many events at 6th and I) and expect to find their “one and only” simply by signing up or logging in.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, and it will take some time.  But don’t worry – all of the effort isn’t for naught.

I was on and off JDate for years, yielding several relationships, some longer and some shorter.  Throughout the process of online dating, as I did, you learn what you like and what you don’t like.  For example, one short JDate relationship years ago taught me that even if a guy says he’s romantic, it doesn’t mean he necessarily is.  (Unless you call romantic being in bed at 10 every night without even making an exception for a casual game of scrabble – my favorite.)  I was just so eager to be in a relationship that I overlooked it for a while.  And JDate gave me my fair share of awkward, yet laughable experiences, like that time I went on a date with a guy, and as we sit down, he says to me, “So, I think we went on a date six years ago.”  Oy – I didn’t like him the first time, and I certainly didn’t like him the second!

For the people I give “A Little Nudge” to, I don’t let them quit after one month online.  It’s not giving yourself a fair chance.  Believe it or not, some people are still warming up to the whole concept of online dating, so maybe they just need time to get acclimated to the scene and respond to you.

As Carrie once said, “People go to casinos for the same reason they go on blind dates – hoping to hit the jackpot.  But mostly, you just wind up broke or alone in a bar.”  Love is out there, but it just takes some good ol’ time to find it.  Might as well have fun with the process!

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

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The July 9th Symposium with Ambassador Dermer and Irwin Cotler

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Is “Manning Up” the Answer? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 90)

dudesThere was a very popular post written the other day by a blogger named Matt Walsh called, Dear Single Dudes: It’s Time to Man Up.  The gist of his article is that men are often commitment-phobic, and they need to get themselves into gear to stop messing around and to have a serious relationship.  I read the post in its entirety, which I would advise you to do as well, and then I made the following comment:

I have to agree with everything you said in the article, both as a woman and as a dating coach.  But I have to wonder… had I written the exact same thing but coming from a woman’s point of view, would I be tarred and feathered for looking like I’m bitter, or worse, asking for something that shouldn’t be asked? Just a thought… I totally agree with all of your sentiments, though, and these are ones I preach to my clients all the time.

This brings us to the question: Whose responsibility is it to “(wo)man up?”  I dare to say the responsibility lies in both camps.  It’s true—almost every woman I know, whether a client or a friend, whether 25 years old or 65 years old, wants much of what the article says.  In particular, she wants a partner who is decisive, proactive, commitment-minded, future-oriented, and ready to discuss hard topics.  Very few women want the man-boy who calls it “hanging out” or “talking” rather than “dating.”  The best advice I could give to any man is to be clear about what your intentions are up front.  If you’re looking for a serious relationship, then say so.  And if you’re not, then make that clear as well… half of the people on Tinder do!  I know we live in a “hook-up” society, in part due to technology and the ease with which we now plan our rendezvous, but the best thing you can do is to be honest and let her have the choice as to whether to stick around or not.

Now, for the ladies…

I hear complaints like this all the time:

“He won’t pick up the phone to call me.  I am so sick of texting!”

“He only contacts me once a week.  What’s up with that?”

“Why can’t he ask me before Friday if I’m free this weekend?”

All of these are, of course, valid questions and concerns.  But what’s not valid is not saying anything about them to the person you’re dating!  As much as we want them to be, people are not mind readers.  Even if we think we’re being as clear as a freshly washed glass door (I use this as an example because I walked into one recently—oops), we often dance around things that bother us until the other person figures them out… which rarely happens.  This leads to the demise of many a relationship, when often simply talking it through would resolve the problem.

Let’s take the example of texting.  In this day and age, the default is to text.  Running late?  Send a text.  Curious to know what someone’s up to later?  Send a text.  Ask someone out on a second date?  You guessed it.  I pose this question: If this overuse of texting bothers you, what do you do about it?  Too often, the answer is nothing.  If you allow the texting to go on by answering all the time and not mentioning that you would prefer a phone call, then your date/partner assumes that it’s okay.  In fact, very recently, a 54-year-old female client called me to ask what to do about a guy from Match.com who has been texting her since asking for her phone number.  She said, “He must be lazy!  Should I just ignore him?”  My response was, “Write him back saying, ‘Why don’t you give me a ring, and we’ll schedule a time to meet.’”

In life, many people end up being passive-aggressive or unclear when trying to get a message across.  The act of having a real, honest conversation about something that’s bothering you is a lost art, but it’s the foundation of a good relationship.  Rather than having little things, like the frustration with texting, add up until you can’t take it anymore, instead, you can ask yourself, “Have I mentioned that I would prefer a call sometimes?”  If the answer is no, then before you break up (likely via text, given the circumstances), have a conversation about your different communication styles, and try to find a middle ground.

Now, let’s get back to the bigger issue at hand.  Let’s say someone new in your life is not “manning up,” as Matt’s article suggests.  Try this on for size: Ask what he’s looking for.  If the answer is not to your liking, then it’s time to cut the ties before you get too invested.  Remember that you get what you allow, so by allowing the “problem” to go on, you’re sending the message that it’s not a problem at all.  It would be nice if, as women, we never had to pine for more, but as we know, that rarely happens.  If he’s not “manning up,” it’s time to speak up!  And if you then find out that he’s not ready for the serious relationship that you are, and your nudge doesn’t push him in that direction, then it’s time to take stock of what you want and go out there to find it.

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

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A Letter to the DC Community – Bring Back Our Boys, June 19 @ The White House

Dear members of the DC community,

Join the Washington, DC Community at 7:30PM on Thursday June, 19 at the White House.

As most of you have heard by now, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists this past Thursday and Israeli security forces are in the process of searching for them.  One of these teenagers, Naftali Frenkel, is an American citizen who has extended family living here in the DC area.  At this time of great distress for our brothers and sisters in the land of Israel, it is imperative that members of the DC community gather together to express our deepest sympathies for the families of the kidnapped children and to voice our collective hope that the boys return home safely.

As residents of the nation’s capital, we are in the unique position of living in such close proximity to the headquarters of the US government and we therefore have the unique ability to assemble outside the White House and to reach out to the Obama administration in a way that other communities throughout America cannot.  Time and time again, the US government has demonstrated its unshakable support for the state of Israel and its unyielding opposition to the types of terrorist acts that resulted in the kidnapping of these boys.  Through our vigil this Thursday at 7:30 p.m., we hope to send a message to President Obama that the kidnapping incident touches and concerns many of us here in America and that all efforts should be exerted to ensure these children safely reunite with their families.

Please spread the word to your friends and family in the DC area and we look forward to seeing many of you outside the White House this Thursday evening.

Sign up for the event here on Facebook.

Sincerely,

Manny Halberstam and Aaron Wolff

bbob

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DC Vigils for the Three Kidnapped Israeli Boys

BringBackOurBoysThis past Sunday, three Israeli teens went missing in the West Bank. This week, two vigils will be held for them in DC:

  • Vigil for #EyalGiladNaftali - Join The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, JCRC of Greater Washington and Israel Forever Foundation this Wednesday across the street from the Embassy of Israel.
  • Bring Back Our Boys - Join as we gather outside the White House asking President Obama to help us bring back the three kidnapped boys.

Even if you can’t attend, please help spread the word about the vigils- every voice can make a difference!

 

 

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No Risk, No Reward – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 89)

you can see my heartIn life, when we want something, we often have to take a risk.  Want a new job?  Better put together that resume and send it into the ether for your potential new employers to see.  Want to be a success in business?  Perhaps quit a job (as I did) or invest in something (or someone) you’re not 100% sure about.  Want to meet the right partner?  Join an online dating site, go to a speed-dating event, or even just tell friends you’re single and you’re willing to be set up.  Rarely do the things we want in life the most come to us neatly wrapped with a bow on top.  Even the most successful people know this.

When dating, it’s important to put yourself out there to get what you want.  Why do many of us think happiness will simply find us when we least expect it?  A client recently emailed me about a guy who, unfortunately, didn’t work out in the relationship department.  She wrote, “I just wanted the easy route, which was a guy who liked me to show up and be perfect, but I guess that has kind of a fairy tale ring to it.  Oh well.”  Sadly, as she’s starting to realize, that’s just not how it works.  In online dating, and dating in general, good things don’t often come to those who wait.  Rather, good things come to the proactive.

Many people go online or go to a speed-dating event and expect to find their “one and only” simply by signing up or logging in.  It takes a bit more energy than that.  But don’t worry—all of the effort isn’t for naught. Let’s look at a few steps in the process:

  • Signing up for an online dating site or app for the first time

Remember, finding the love of your life takes time and work.  Even on the apps like Tinder and Hinge, you have to text your matches to set up the date.  Simply swiping right is not enough.

  • Going on a first date

While you always hope that each one may be your last first date, just go in looking for great conversation and some things in common.  And if you know in the first few minutes that this person isn’t the right fit, remember that you can still have a positive experience.  Many people shut down when they “know” their date isn’t what they’re looking for.  I encourage you to learn from this person, share stories, and still try to have an open mind.

  • Going to a social event

It’s okay if your future spouse doesn’t sweep you off your feet at the event.  Just go to have a good time and meet some new people.

  • Going to a wedding

I know they say weddings are a great place to meet people, and one of my close friends actually moved across the country to be with a wonderful man she met at a wedding, but it’s rare that the circumstance works out as well as it did for them.  If you’re going to a wedding solo, just enjoy the event, stuff your face with hors d’oeuvres, and partake heavily in the open bar if you so choose (but remember that too much may scare away that cutie or stud staring at you from across the dance floor).

It will likely take some effort to find the right person (and you may have to kiss a lot of frogs), but throughout the process, you learn what you like and what you don’t like.  As Carrie once said on Sex and the City, “People go to casinos for the same reason they go on blind dates—hoping to hit the jackpot. But mostly, you just wind up broke or alone in a bar.”  Love is out there, but, just as the other important things you may want in life, it may take some grit and some risks to find it.

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

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Asking for and Receiving Help: Strength or Weakness?

strengthOne of the most counter-intuitive truths to human existence is that asking for help is a sign of strength.  Why would someone strong need help?  Isn’t asking for help admitting to vulnerability, to lapses in judgment, to weakness?

The thing is, strength is not achieved or maintained independently, it is a product of living in community and relying on others.  Our modern world constantly sends us mixed messages and figuring out the layered meanings is an exhausting task.  For this and other reasons, we blithely accept the indoctrination of the American myth of independence and self-reliance, the Horatio Alger survive-and-overcome-the-odds-to-achieve-greatness stories.

The truth is far more complex, as it usually is.  The most successful among us will readily admit they didn’t do it alone; that they had help along the way.  Why then, is it so HARD to seek help when we need it, and accept it when offered?

This also, is rooted in our collective (somewhat askew) psyche.  We are notoriously bad at self-care and self-love.  The act of asking for and receiving assistance requires a level of self-awareness that can see that beyond the apparent admission of weakness there lies the strength gained of sharing both burdens and joys among friends, family, and community.

As will surprise no one (at least no one familiar with Jewish wisdom), Judaism tackled this issue eons ago and in a way we can learn from today.  Maimonides, a twelfth century Jewish scholar, proposed eight levels of charitable giving.  The lowest level is giving grudgingly, but the highest level is helping to “sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.”

A careful reading of this highest level of charity does not show the recipient asking for help.  Yet, how would the donor know that someone needed sustaining?  The answer is almost too obvious, we are tasked with offering help before it is needed in dire circumstances.  Our task, to live well in community is to seek out individuals and situations that could use help, not to find fault and denigrate, but to find opportunities to help.

But, what about the other side?  The recipient?  Our sages have wisdom for us here as well.  They teach, “if one cannot subsist unless he does receive tzedakah (charity), he should not hesitate to accept it.  If he be proud and refuses tzedakah, he is compared to one who takes his own life, and who to his sorrow adds a transgression.”  Have the guts to accept what is given, to use it and then when you are able to, to return the largesse to the community that has bolstered you.

And so, I urge you to be strong.  Be strong and ask for help when you need it.  Be strong and receive help with grace and kindness, and be strong for others and help them help themselves.

Rabbi Deborah Reichmann JD, MPH
Executive Director
Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington
www.hebrewfreeloandc.org

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Masa Israel Featured Internship: Marketing Internship, Hebrew Today

As an intern at Hebrew today you will be responsible for marketing via social media outlets and other internet sources. Daily tasks involve contacting various distributions internationally along with assisting Hebrew today staff in administrative matters.

Hebrew Today is a publication house specializing in the highly professional and unique fusion of linguistics and journalism. Their products are developed and written by professionals in the fields of education, linguistics and the Hebrew language. From their experience and knowledge, these professionals create easy newspapers in Hebrew, along with the highest quality of tools for Hebrew learning.

Hebrew Today Publication House is based in Jerusalem and ships their easy Hebrew newspapers to private and organizational subscribers internationally. Their publications are recognized by the Israeli Ministry of Education and recommended by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

http://www.interninisrael.org/marketing-internship-hebrew-today/

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Jewish Girl of the Year – Susan’s Acceptance Speech

imageShalom Gather the Jews Community,

It is an honor to be chosen as your Jewish Girl of the Year!  I am excited and feel quite humbled to be a part of DC’s bizarre although humorous tradition.  My parents mention it to everyone…I mean everyone.  So thank you for helping me rack up points on the home-front. 

In all seriousness, I often find myself using the GTJ website to determine which Shabbat service I want to attend, perusing various holiday offerings, and at times searching for roommates when needed.  When non-DC friends ask what the Jewish Community here is like…I always say it’s AMAZING!  Then I tell them to check out the Jewish events on…you probably guessed it…Gather the Jews!

This annual competition has been a fun and interesting opportunity to connect to the Jewish folks of DC.  A huge THANK YOU to former GTJ Guy of the Week, Jason, for making my video possible and actually creating a comical campaign.  To everyone who voted for me, thank you for giving my parents something to “kvell” about. 

GTJ plays a pivotal role on behalf of the DC Jewish community.  It allows us to find out where we can volunteer, socialize, pray, and learn.  So thank YOU to GTJ for supporting our Jewish community and giving us a place to gather. 

Until the next gathering,
L’hitraot,
Susan
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Jewish Guy of the Year – Kevin’s Acceptance Speech

kevinHi community,

Thanks.  I’m really honored to be the Jewish Guy of the Year.

hank you to the friends whose enthusiasm kept this contest fun, and a shout out to the passionate community leaders who make being a Jewish young adult in DC great.  If you are reading this and are new to the area yourself, welcome!  I look forward to meeting you.

Gather the Jews does an awesome job acting as a hub for DC’s young adult Jewish community, and I’m looking forward to building together an even more meaningful and welcoming community in the upcoming year.

See you soon,
Kevin
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A Beginner’s Guide to Lag BaOmer

burningI’ll be the first to admit—I know nothing about Lag BaOmer. I’ve worked at a synagogue for two-and-a-half years, and I still couldn’t tell you what the “Omer” are exactly, except that “OMer” was the name of the raccoon logo for Odyssey of the Mind, a creative thinking program that I participated in religiously from fifth through eleventh grade. (So maybe that counts as some kind of observance of the Omer?)

It wasn’t until Sixth & I and 2239 got together to host Burning Mensch: A Lag BaOmer Celebration (on Sunday, May 18 at 5:30 pm—hint, hint) that I actually decided to investigate this mysterious holiday.

If you’re like me, you never learned about Lag BaOmer in Hebrew School. Our semester usually ended sometime in May, before the holiday usually occurs, and even if it did happen while we were still in session, our teachers were way too jaded by our apathy to try and teach us anything new. And so, I spent 24 years of my life still wondering what the what Lag BaOmer is.

I decided to ask the resident rabbis at Sixth & I, and here is what I learned (with a little help from My Jewish Learning):

1. No one really knows why Lag Bomer was started, sort of. To quote Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire.” Lag BaOmer is celebrated with bonfires and outdoor grilling, so it’s sort of like a Jewish Memorial Day (but not in the sense of memorializing fallen soldiers; there’s another day for that. It’s more in the sense that Lag BaOmer is traditionally celebrated with bonfires and barbecue, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the reason for the holiday).

burn2. Omer is the period between Passover and Shavuot, and Lag BaOmer means “the 33rd day of the Omer.” The Omer are the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. These days are a period of semi-mourning for Jews (probably because lamenting is a favorite pastime of ours). Because of this, you’re not supposed to get married or hold other celebrations during the Omer. To physically express this grief, observant Jews won’t cut their hair, which brings us to the next thing I learned.

3. Lag BaOmer is kind of the most hipster of Jewish holidays. Men are supposed to grow beards, and as most of us know, the only people who grow long beards in the summer, are hipsters. It’s also custom to roast various meats over a bonfire. Folks, the dream of the 1890s is alive in Lag BaOmer.

4. The Omer is a period of mourning because there was a plague, which ended miraculously on Lag BaOmer. This part was actually a little unclear (as most Jewish teachings are, I guess, like, can there ever just be one reason for anything?). Here’s what My Jewish Learning has to say:

The most often cited explanation for the Jewish practice comes from the Talmud, which tells us that during this season a plague killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students because they did not treat one another respectfully. The mourning behavior is presumably in memory of those students and their severe punishment.

According to a medieval tradition, the plague ceased on Lag BaOmer, the thirty-third day of the Omer…As a result, Lag BaOmer became a happy day, interrupting the sad­ness of the Omer period for twenty-four hours.

5. You’re not supposed to get married during the counting of the Omer, but you are allowed to get married on Lag BaOmer. It’s one day of celebration in a sea of mourning, after all. Better do it big.

6. It’s actually not really that different from Burning Man. As you may have picked up, we at Sixth & I love a good pun, whether it’s our Purim event Thrilla in Megillah to Chanu-Comedy: A Festival of Laughs, but more often than not, our puns are more for laugh than meaning. For Burning Mensch, though, it’s actually not that far off from the way Israelis commemorate Lag BaOmer. Israelis traditionally celebrate this somewhat mystical holiday with huge bonfires in the middle of the streets. So, to recap, both have fuzzy origins, and both have huge bonfires.

7. You should actually come to Burning Mensch: A Lag BaOmer Celebration (and not just because I’ll be there Lag BaOmering it up). For anyone who spends too much time in the District, you often forget how great it is to get outside of the city—even for a day. And if you don’t really know that much about Lag BaOmer, maybe you can learn something, too. Either way, there will be barbecue, outdoor sports, s’mores, and, yes, fire.

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