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From Crust Punk to Community Lay-Leader

I have something to admit.

I never went to sleepaway camp.

I was a sheltered child and spent my summers with my little brother in our rec room reading books and painting watercolor pictures of what I imagined other children were allowed to do outside. When I first campheard the song Camp Granada, I became obsessed. This must be what it is like to have community, I thought. Getting ptomaine poisoning with fellow campers is how I thought the leaders of our future were shaped.

As an adult, I found myself in a constant search for a space and a group of people who I could call mine. First there was art school, and I found friends, but we were all lone soldiers. It is difficult to make a true community with a gaggle of unique snowflakes who would just as quickly sell you to a gallery owner if it meant a solo show.

Next, I found the crust punk train riding musicians. Again, I made some brilliant friends, dreaded my hair and dyed it pink, spent a lot of nights along the James River watching the moon, but this community was not mine. I could not play the banjo or the ukulele (although I still own one), and while I learned quite a bit about living sustainably, love, and rode a few trains too, I was a fringe member of their circles and when I faded away, was most likely not terribly missed.

art schoolEventually, after a short stint spending frummy Shabbats with a wonderful chabad chapter in Tysons Corner, and then some long, lonely years in New York, I found myself in D.C. with no idea where to go to make new friends. I was lucky that I had a number of good, old friends in the area, but I wanted some new faces, and I wanted a place to go for Shabbat.

An old friend brought me to an event at Moishe House Adams Morgan (now Moishe House Columbia Heights) and I instantly fell in love. This was a mash-up reminiscent of both my progressive crust punk days spent in old victorian-era houses and of chabad. I was intrigued.

As the months went on, I spent more time in the D.C. area Moishe Houses, and at Sixth in the City, Adas Israel Return Again Shabbat, Gather the Jews happy hours, 2239 events and Metro Minyon. At each of those events, I met more people and started forming a loose circle of friends out of the Jew-soup that seemed to flow through D.C. But at many of these events, I found that people tended to congregate around those who they already knew. Since I knew no one, I made it my mission to bounce around and weave people together. People began to ask me if I lived in Moishe House MoCo whenever I was there. I was always washing dishes, or cooking, or (probably too loudly) suggesting a new event idea to the actual residents.

In September, I was at a Shabbat dinner, and I was talking with some people who I knew, and some new ones about the state of Shabbos dinner in D.C. We are never want for a place to go, however a common theme of the conversation was a desire for more intimate Shabbats. There is something truly magical about going to synagogue with 300 other 20-35 year-olds, but it also feels very Hillel 2.0. We wanted a place where we could invite our friends, and they could invite their friends – and then we all could have a real conversation. We wanted our circles of actual, human interaction to repeat themselves over time and develop into sustainable friendships. We were getting sick of I know I have seen him before… Oh goodness was it at Yom Kippur, or was it at a happy hour? I think we actually talked to each other. Crap! I can’t remember his name. We wanted opportunities to make new friends and keep them.

breadSo I created a Shabbat havurah.

Shabbat Schmooze now has almost 100 people in it, but we have found that our dinners still usually stay between 7-15 people per Shabbat. We organize through Facebook and rotate whose house dinner is at. Anyone can host, and whoever hosts chooses how they want to hold Shabbat. We have had musical Shabbats, full services, Shabbats with a lot of non-Jews, too, porch parties, cook-outs, potlucks with babies… We have a dinner between twice a month and weekly. Different people show up to each dinner, but no matter who is there, you can connect directly for an evening, and more than likely you will see them over again.

I have also become involved in Moishe House Without Walls, which is intrinsically connected to this idea of creating an accessible community. Moishe House Without Walls is similar to “regular” Moishe House, in that it is a global network of community organizers who seek to create Jewish programming that makes Judaism meaningful in a modern world. We are a pluralistic, non-affiliated group whose events encompass fun, thought-provoking, and spiritual aspects alike. However, each host is independent, and does not live in a group Moishe House.

While MHWOW has been around for some time, there was recently an influx of new hosts (I was one of them), and we have taken on a new initiative. We started a Facebook page (Join here for event updates!). We are working to make individual MHWOW hosts’ events more known to the community, as well as collaborating once a month to bring something unique as a group to the D.C. community. Last month we had a house-hopping Shabbat dinner as our launch event. Keep a look out in June for an all-day Limmud-style learning event, and hopefully a huge camping trip in July.

11194494_10153321182253688_3259972291127348496_o11165256_10153321182263688_2564195049942185091_nA really big idea that we are working on in MHWOW is how to create events that help people find out who lives in their neighborhood. If you have ideas for this, I would love if you left a comment below this article! Something that I have found really valuable is realizing that I have a number of (fairly new!) friends who live within a couple blocks of me who I can call on Friday and see what they are doing for Shabbat.

On Shavuot, a couple of us from the neighborhood gathered for some ad-hoc late-night learning. We chose to analyze some of the Pirkei Avot – Ethics of the Fathers, in which this line, “Hillel said: Do not separate yourself from the community” stood out to us. We got to talking about what community means to us here in D.C. and I asked the group what they wanted, on a higher level, from the Jewish community here. It turns out that we have community on a large scale, and want communal support on a microscale. Joe Brophy said something great, “I want a community that embraces the struggle, and also the action of not knowing where I will be from week to week.” We want a community that understands that sometimes we are going to go to services on Shabbat and it will be wonderful. And sometimes, we will stay home and eat Laotian takeout with our significant other, or roommates, or dog, and that will be just as amazing. We want a community that gets us as an individual.

If you have ideas about ways to make our community better, are looking for support for events, or just someone to bounce ideas off of, or are interested in connecting our Jewish community with our local community (outreach / activism!), please feel free to email me, or leave a comment below.

Next week: Jews and tattoos. I have tattoos. You might have them, too. Is your mom as angry as mine is?

Michele is the founder of Chopping Block Copy, where she is a full-service copywriter / editor / designer. She gets overexcited about bio-luminescence, corduroy, the roller derby, sustainability, people who can compose a proper sentence, and Grumbacher titanium white oil paint and drinks her whiskey neat, because that’s the only way.

Michele is the community leader for Moishe House Without Walls, D.C. which is a global network of community organizers who seek to create pluralistic Jewish programming that makes Judaism meaningful in a modern world. Find them on Facebook!

Check out more of her writing at writteninthemargins.com and email her at writteninthemargins@gmail.com.

 

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“An Honorary Member of the Tribe” – President Barack Obama at Adas Israel

IMG_4673I haven’t even lived a full year in the District and I already passed one of DC’s most notable steps of initiation (along with a happy hour at Founding Farmers and paddling along the Potomac): seeing President Barack Obama speak. Not only was I in the same room as the President, but the event was held at Adas Israel Congregation, an exciting and historic place to hold the event since only three other sitting presidents have ever spoken at a U.S. synagogue.

President Obama was welcomed wholeheartedly by Rabbi Gil Steinlauf and with a long standing ovation by the audience. Once everyone was reseated, Obama opened with lighthearted banter about his faith and a humorous anecdote, in which he was dubbed “The first Jewish President” and, my personal favorite, “An Honorary Member of the Tribe.” After a few more mentions of his involvement with Jewish culture – seven White House Passover Seders and two Jewish chiefs of staff – the President was clearly connecting with the audience before getting into the nitty gritty of his message.

Obama sought to reassure American Jews that he fully supports the state of Israel, reiterating the need for a two-state solution, all while reaffirming support for Jews amid rising anti-Semitism. With all the turmoil and conflict over the Iran nuclear deal, it was uplifting to hear Obama say directly to the Jewish people that no matter what happens, “The people of Israel must always know that America has its back.” While he revealed no definitive plan or any new information on the subject, a glimpse of hope is nothing to denounce.

The speech fell on the culmination of Jewish American Heritage Month and on the night before Shavuot, great timing in my opinion. At a time when the politics of U.S. support for Israel have become increasingly polarized – with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking out to Congress against Obama’s Iran policy in March, followed by Obama’s criticism of Netanyahu’s reelection campaign tactics – Adas Israel stood out that Friday morning as a place of unity among the Jewish community.

Obama’s presence at Adas was an attempt to repair his image to the Jewish people and reaffirm his staunch support for the state of Israel. But in addition, he really wanted to forge an emotional connection with the Jewish people, and I think he succeeded.

Watch the Presidents full remarks here.

Read about the Presidents chavruta with Rabbi Gil Steinlauf

Washington Jewish Weeks Coverage of the Event: Obama speaks of love for Israel while continuing criticism

Time’s coverage of the Event

 

Gather the Jews highlight the multiple voices of our community therefore does not endorse any of the held opinions of our writers. 

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Rediscovering and Reinventing Judaism

kelleyWhen I began my time as an Open Doors Fellow, I was drawn in two directions. I wanted to create space in DC’s Jewish community where Jewish people could do any of the various things they loved together. My dream was for there to be a Jewish community engaging in the incredible diversity of activities and learning opportunities that DC has to offer. Whether or not their engagement explicitly centered itself in Judaism was irrelevant to me. I wanted a Jewish community where Jews were able to engage other elements of their identity, but do so together. I also wanted to allow for the possibility of in depth Jewish learning for those who had not had access to it in their earlier Jewish life, or who did not feel at home in learning spaces that exist now. Early on in my Fellowship, I discovered Minyan of Thinkers, which allowed me to explore more deeply why these things matter to me and how they’re connected. Minyan of Thinkers provided a spark of hope for my Judaism when I didn’t know where to turn to rejuvenate it.

The Minyan of Thinkers is a dialogue-based group that creates an intellectually open and safe space that allows us, the ten members, to come up with new approaches to challenges facing the Jewish community. Just as traditional Judaism uses a quorum of ten for public prayer, we build on the collective spiritual and intellectual energy of our members to create positive social change. We meet monthly to grapple with scholarly articles on a major Jewish topic and develop new ideas that we share with the larger community via written reflection pieces and public events. This year, Minyan of Thinkers has been discussing the Pew Study, Jewish identity, and the future of the Jewish Community. In that conversation, I have been given the opportunity to explore why I think it matters that Jews be able to connect about the multi-faceted elements of their identity and also deeply engage their Judaism so that it is as fulfilling and meaningful as they want it to be.


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We have spent a good deal of time considering what it actually means for the Jewish community that intermarriage is on the rise while birth rates decline, and affiliation with Jews and Jewish organization become less numerically prevalent. We discussed the fact that this must be viewed in the larger context of American religious affiliation in general, as well as American “melting pot” culture. We also acknowledged that our anecdotal evidence, while anecdotal, leads us to believe that the PEW study data at best overstates the problem, and at worst fails to grasp the complexity of modern Jewish identity. This led us towards discussion of what does constitute a modern and American Jewish identity. Perhaps, we posited, one element of the problem is that the metrics used by the PEW study are the structures in Jewish life that are no longer practical or resonant, so to measure them will show us that what we have lost is what we know is no longer working. How, then, do we construct metrics that measure for the quiet, internal, less institutional and traditional elements of Jewish identity–the personal but deeply important ways that people view their lives through a Jewish lens? And, perhaps more important than measuring, how do we create Jewish life that speaks to those pieces in new ways?

There exist structures–camp, day school, Hillel–that get it right, but how do we create those opportunities for people who are older and still in search of their Jewish identity? How do we continue to excite people in the way that those institutions do? How do we transform what does exist to meet these new needs, and expand the lens of Judaism’s meaning outward into the modern, complex, busy lives of the modern day Jew? How do we allow Jews to connect to one another in a way that includes both meaningful Judaism and also allows for the importance of other pieces of who we are?

Minyan of Thinkers has allowed me to really dig into these questions, and Open Doors has allowed us to act on them. On May 31, Minyan of Thinkers and Open Doors Fellow David Miller will present a public opportunity to explore Jewish Identity in a new way. Inspired by what it feels like to exist on the margins of Judaism in any way, this event invites participants to explore the edges of Judaism and discover and engage more deeply with the ways they do connect. Senior Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel will be an educator and facilitator in our discussion.
Later, on June 20, Open Doors Fellow Kelley Kidd will partner with Minyan of Thinkers and Next Dor present an opportunity for people to specifically delve into their relationship to Shabbat, and build a deeper, more personal one. It is thrilling to see the way that partnership, growth, and learning can emerge when we gather together to discover what we’re all looking for.

The Minyan of Thinkers is a sustained Jewish learning group that meets monthly to grapple with scholarly articles on a major Jewish topic. Contact them to learn more or get involved.

To learn more about the Open Doors Fellows and their projects email Gather the Jews.

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It’s Time to Move Back Home When You Want to Kill The Tourists

MicheleHi there.

I’m Michele.

I have an irrational fear of balloons, am a violently competitive Scrabble-er, and relocated (back home) to D.C. from Brooklyn about two years ago.

Living in New York City is like having Stockholm Syndrome. I inexplicably miss the smell of The City, which is certifiably insane, as the signature scent of NYC is human urine. I miss the metal glint of the warehouses in the Williamsburg skyline (pre-2010 condo revolution), and I miss the way Bushwick makes me feel in the summer when I can hear Puerto Rican dance music for miles and I’d give my right shoe for central A/C.

I regularly yearn for all those things, but New York drove me slowly mad. It took me in its mouth, c
hewed up my soul, and spat me out, a shadow of my former self. When you live in New York City, you nearly forget that the rest of the world exists.

A dear friend shared an essay with me by Joan Didion called, “Goodbye to All That,” which is a perfectly written account of how one comes to New York, falls in, and has to leave to stay whole. The intensity, the beauty, the revelry of The City is so real and so immediate that those first months, and even those first years are glorious. Even if you are poor, and broken, and someone gets shot on your doorstep in Bed-Stuy (true story), even then, The City retains its magic.

unnamed (2)But one day, that magic stops. Perhaps it happens slowly, but you realize it suddenly. One day, the intensity of The City stops being a gift and becomes a curse. That realization hits you with the force of a thousand disappointments:

The rats don’t even bother me anymore.

There are just too many hipsters/scenesters/post-punks/tweens/tourists/people.

Restaurants, restaurants, everywhere, yet I can’t afford to eat?

Didion writes, “I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street. But most particularly I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.”

And it’s true.

I moved to NYC at 22. And for me, I began to understand that sentiment when it all became very bad at about 25. Every overheard conversation, every bit of glowing dialogue between friends – I felt I had heard before. The words, “Let’s take the L to that warehouse party.” made me so angry I could kill kittens. I avoided art shows, restaurants, the grocery store. I wouldn’t go to Central Park, or Alphabet City, or different train lines at certain times of day, because I was staunchly opposed to the different kinds of awful people there. Those people were my friends. I was becoming a monster.

girl-good-morning-lonely-morning-new-york-favim-com-191682Perhaps I lashed out, maybe I acted a bit burned-out, but what I craved was real community. I didn’t want to live in a shell surrounded by 10 million other single-serve people on their way to whatever-the-heck anymore. I was so tired of everyone’s displays of culture that lacked a framework of human connection. The City was too big for its britches, and I wasn’t enthralled by all the pretty, shiny stuff that it had to offer anymore, either.

Eventually, I decided to leave. That was about two years ago, and I still have fever dreams where I wake up and think I’m on the subway in deep Brooklyn. I have deep, unearlthy cravings for real bagels, and I walk faster than the crosstown bus. Any time someone finds out that I spent a number of years in New York, and asks me if (s)he should move there, my first reaction is to try to save them. Instead, I tell them to make sure that they have all their vaccinations, and to hold on for the ride of their lives.

I am sure that if I had the energy, I could have found a way to start building community in NYC, but I have come to terms with the fact that that city ate me up. I want a city with a little more heart, and a lot more soul. Granted, I’ll miss the street corn and the attitude of NYC, but I definitely traded up for the front porches and friendly neighbors of D.C.

Next Week: Building Community in D.C.

Michele Grossman

Michele is the founder of Chopping Block Copy, where she is a full-service copywriter / editor / designer. She gets overexcited about bio-luminescence, corduroy, the roller derby, sustainability, people who can compose a proper sentence, and Grumbacher titanium white oil paint and drinks her whiskey neat, because that’s the only way.

Michele is the community leader for Moishe House Without Walls, D.C. which is a global network of community organizers who seek to create pluralistic Jewish programming that makes Judaism meaningful in a modern world. Find them on Facebook!
Check out more of her writing at writteninthemargins.com.
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Shavuot Guide 2015/5775

shavuos-banner2Shavuot is the second of three Biblical pilgrimage and agricultural holidays (the others being Passover and Sukkot) but the lesser known of the three. So what exactly is Shavout? It is the Festival of Weeks, the holiday’s date is determined by counting seven weeks after the end of Passover. Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is customary to stay up all night and study Torah and to eat dairy foods (especially cheesecake!)

There will be several opportunities to participate in Shavuot celebrations all over DC and we will update the list as the events are announced! Did we miss anything? Submit Events Here.

Tuesday May 19th

Wednesday May 20th

Saturday May 23rd

Recipes for Shavuot:ChocolateCheesecake-230x150Try this Chocolate Cheesecake & Challah Recipe from Aish.com

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Cooking these Cheese Blintzes, recipe from Chabad.org, will make your roommates love you!

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These Spinach Tidbits from About.com make a great appetizer, or whole meal if you have no portion control!

Other Shavuot Resources:

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Giving You a Nudge NOT to Fudge

456900443A new study came out this week discussing what happens when people enhance (aka fudge) their profile pictures on popular online dating sites and apps. The most interesting part of the findings was that they differed between men and women.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have revealed that when men viewed enhanced photos of women, they perceived the women to be more attractive but less trustworthy.  (This seems to make sense.) Women, however, found enhanced photos of men both increased attractiveness and increased trustworthiness.  This one, I’m not so sure about…

They go on to say, “Our research also found that males found the beautified profile as more attractive and had a higher desire to date the person in the picture despite the lower degree of trustworthiness they reported,” the authors noted.  “In our sample, attraction seems to be more important than trust.”

So, basically, men like hot women. That’s not news.

Here’s how the research went down:
This team of researchers performed a study that followed more than 300 heterosexual men and women aged 17 to 36 from different online dating sites. Men were asked several questions regarding different profiles of women and were then asked to rate the profiles under categories like attractiveness and trust. The images had been previously chosen so as to feature two distinct image types. One had been edited (including lighting, make-up, hair) while the other represented a “non-beautified” image. Then the women were questioned regarding male profiles that had undergone the same type of phf9f8a20eba603fda0be0e604637409f2oto alterations.

Before I discuss the study’s implications, it’s important to take the results with a grain of salt for the following reasons:

  1. It’s not statistically significant.
  2. The age range is not representative of the average age of all online daters. (OkCupid’s reported median age last year was 29.)
  3. Those studied may have known—or figured out—what kind of study this was, thereby impacting the results.

What does this study actually mean? I read the results as a sign that when men see an exceptionally attractive picture, while they may see the woman in it as being less trustworthy, her superior looks overshadow that lack of trust. On the other hand, women see the better-looking picture of a man and actually think he’s more trustworthy. It is true that men just want looks, and women are able to rationalize things when they find someone attractive? Like, if he’s that good-looking, he must be smart and trustworthy and successful, too.

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I know that since catfishing abounds, such information can be useful. But the best advice I can give is to use a real, unenhanced photo. When you show up on the date, you want to look just like your photos so 1) you can be recognized and 2) you can be truthful. Enhancing your photos—or otherwise lying in your profile—shows a lack of confidence, and you’re wasting your date’s time by making him or her agree to meet you only to realize it’s not the real you.

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10 Things You Should Know about Natasha Lyonne

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On Wednesday, May 20 at 7:00 pm, celebrate Shavuot at The TEN, Sixth & I’s innovative take on the holiday traditionally observed by studying Torah and enjoying the first fruits of the harvest. The TEN refers to the ten commandments since Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah/ten commandments to the Jewish people.

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This high-energy, entertainment-rich, thought-provoking evening features actress Natasha Lyonne in conversation with Rabbi Scott Perlo. They’ll discuss storytelling from an artistic and human perspective; Jewish culture and identity; and the intersection between culture/spirituality and the creative life.

Since it is The TEN, we thought it’d be perfect to share 10 things to know about Natasha Lyonne:

  1. When she was just six years old, Natasha got her first “big break” when she was cast as “Opal” on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
  2. She attended The Ramaz School, a Yeshiva in Manhattan, where she performed in the school production of The Magic Garden.
  3. Along with Goldie Hawn, Drew Barrymore, Natalie Portman, Edward Norton, Alan Alda, and Julia Roberts, Natasha starred in Woody Allen’s only musical movie, Everybody Says I Love You.
  4. Between 1996 and 2006, Natasha appeared in over 30 films—including Slums of Beverly HillsAmerican Pie, and the cult-classic But I’m a Cheerleader.
  5. She has guest-starred on both New Girl and Girls.
  6. The Rufus Wainwright song, “Natasha,” is written about her.

  1. Her maternal grandparents, both originally from Hungary, were Holocaust survivors.
  2. She has a dog named Root Beer.
  3. She received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Nicky Nichols on Orange Is the New Black. 
  4. You can see Natasha back in action as Nicky Nichols when Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black premieres on June 12.

Want to learn more? Register today for the The TEN: An Alternative Shavuot Experience.

Hang out after the conversation for cheesecake cupcakes from Grassroots Gourmet, Vietnamese iced coffee spiked with Kahlúa, DIY crafts, and to continue the discussion with Rabbi Scott.

Made possible by the generosity of The Reva and David Logan Foundation

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Finalist for Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year Videos

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We asked our five amazing finalists to make videos explaining why they should be crowned the Jewish Guy or Girl of the Year. Throughout the week we will be rolling out one video a day. Watch and see who deserves your vote and join us Wednesday May 20th at Lost Society for the in person voting to crown your Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year!

Gabe:

Hillah:

 

Marc:

 

Nathaniel:

Sasha:

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TONIGHT May 20th – Crown the Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year!

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Gameshow Dynamos

2daddb79efd6a0ac6f813c088da5ebaa (1)My mom has a habit. She can’t stop making documentary films.

For most of my life, she’s relied on her day job as a family physician in Seattle to bankroll her endeavors shooting, editing and producing heartfelt films that she makes in the basement of my childhood home. Patricia (that’s her name) has squeezed in time in front of the camera in between seeing patients and, of course, raising me and my brother. Her latest film, which took around 15 years to complete, is super fun. And, it’s actually my favorite film that she’s done.

It’s called Gameshow Dynamos and is about a couple who gets their family out of poverty by being on TV gameshows. The couple is my grandparents.

My grandpa Bernard and grandma Claire won enough money on TV game shows to escape debt and follow their dreams. From Tic-Tac-Dough in 1956, to Jeopardy in 1967, to Trivial Pursuit in 1993, they competed on national television 28 times — probably the longest-running record of individual TV game show appearances by husband and wife in the world.

You’d like the film because:

1) How the heck does anyone win on game shows, anyways? Not to mention so many times, winning close to $100,000.

2) Bernard is a old-school New York Jew whose parents migrated from Poland and Austria to achieve the American dream (which Bernard does achieve… through game shows).

3) Not only are they smart, but Bernard and Claire are very funny (I mean, who walks around dressed like they’re on the Starship Enterprise when they’re at home?)

4) It will encourage you to live your dreams.

Now my mom is doing a Kickstarter-like campaign to screen the film across the country.

In D.C. 98 people have bought tickets, but we need 9 more people to buy tickets in the next two days or the screening won’t happen. The company she’s using to screen the films, Tugg, is like Kickstarter in that you have to sell every ticket before they’ll do a screening.

The screening is May 21 at the Landmark E Street Theater  at 7:30 p.m. and only costs $12.

Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings endorses the film this way:

“An endlessly charming look at one of the only purely American art forms–the humble game show–and a uniquely American family that spent the better part of forty years winning on them. Even if you’re not a game show junkie like I am, this documentary has lovely gifts for you.”

I’m very proud of my mom and can’t wait to see it succeed.

See you all at the screening!

Note from Gather: For all of our Jeopardy buffs out there you should check out previous Jewish Guy of the Week David who was a winner Thanksgiving 2014!

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10 Cliché Phrases to Avoid in Online Dating Profiles

casual_looking_businessmanIf you’re on any of the online dating sites (and if you’re reading this, I assume you are), then you know that in reading profile after profile, sometimes you wonder if every person is simply a clone of the last. Somehow, everyone seems to be hiking in Peru, running marathons, or simply “curling up on the couch with a movie and a glass of wine.” Considering that I don’t think any of us are made up of the exact same DNA (except for you identical twins out there), why is it that every profile seems to be a replica of the last one? Let’s take a look at 10 Cliché Phrases to Avoid in Online Dating Profiles:

  1. I like to laugh and have fun.

I hope you like to laugh and have fun! Enough said.

  1. I’m just as comfortable in a little black dress (tux) as I am in jeans and a t-shirt.

This line is an attempt to show that you’re versatile. We get it. Most of us can pull off different types of outfits. Instead, talk about the things you like to do. Saying you love to go to the Kennedy Center versus a Nats game tells us a lot more about you.

  1. I’m just as happy going out on the town as I am staying in with a glass of wine and a movie.

Same comment for this one as #2, with this added advice: Stop trying to appeal to everyone. While it may seem counterintuitive, I’m going to give you permission to turn people off in your profile.  Let that sink in for a second. It’s more important to be the real you, not the version you think people want to see, and certainly not the version that attempts to appeal to every single person on the site.  Just be yourself.  This way, you know that when someone shows interest, it’s because he or she likes the actual things you said, not just the fact that you were being inclusive.

  1. I love to travel.

bad-dating-adviceAgain, I don’t know many people who don’t. Do you like to go to the beach every weekend, or do prefer to climb glaciers in Iceland? These details say a lot more about you than a generic statement about travel.

  1. Family and friends are important to me.

I sure hope so! No need to say it because the assumption is that these people are important to you.

  1. I’m looking for a partner in crime.

Unless your name is Bonnie or Clyde, there’s no reason to write this overused cliché.

  1. My friends say I’m… (insert a list of adjectives).

Of course your friends say all of these fantastic things about you—they’re your friends! Also, this is a way of trying to appear humble, which can backfire in two ways: 1) it can make you appear less confident (do you not think these things about yourself?) or 2) it still sounds “braggy braggy,” as I like to say.

This also leads me to the “empty adjective” conversation, which you may remember from a couple years ago. An empty adjective is a word that you use (or your friends allegedly use, as the case may be) to describe yourself that can’t be proven until someone gets to know you. For example, I might say that I’m funny, but how would you know if that’s the truth? Maybe I’m funny to some people (the ones who love puns) but not to others.

  1. I’m down-to-earth.

I almost want to see a profile that instead says, “I’m kind of an airhead… but a sweet one.” Being “down-to-earth” is very subjective, again making it an empty adjective.

  1. I can’t believe I’m doing this.

This is a negative commentary on online dating. It reads to others, “I can’t believe I’ve stooped this low and am looking for a date online. Only losers are on here, so I guess I’m a loser now, too.” Online dating is a wonderful thing. Either embrace it, or hold off on joining an online dating site until you can embrace it.

  1. I love life

Just like #1, I hope you love life! Omitting the line “I love life” does not imply the opposite. It simply gives you more space to share those things that make your life so darn grand.

Now it’s time: Take a moment to review your profile (yes—even your Tinder and JSwipe ones!), and if you’ve used of these overused, cliché lines, it’s time to hit the backspace button and set yourself apart from the crowd.

Lastly, if you’re curious to know the most used word in online dating profiles in DC, it’s “international,” which isn’t surprising. Virginia’s is “military” (remember, the whole state isn’t made up of young people in Arlington), and Maryland’s is “gospel.” Feel free to check out the rest of the country here.

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New Music Monday: Win tickets to see Zusha!

Marko+Dashev

Are they brand new? Not exactly. Zusha‘s self-titled album came out October of 2014, but they have been on repeat in the Gather the Jews office recently so we decided to feature this up-and-coming trio as a band to watch.

What is especially cool about these “neo-hassidic hipsters” is that Gather has two tickets to see them at the Washington Jewish Music Festival May 10th and we are raffling them off at our April Happy Hour on Wednesday the 29th!

The three man band includes percussionist Elisha Mendl Mlotek, guitarist Zachariah “Juke” Goldshmiedt  and Shlomo Ari Gaisin as the vocalist. Together they create the wordless melodies that make Zusha so intriguing. Though they don’t love the term “neo-hasidic” they have come to embrace it. The band shies away from being labeled a Jewish band but also seeks to get back to the roots of Hassidism with their music that strives for simplicity, authenticity and joy.

Often called Folk/World music their songs draw on folk, ska,reggae, gypsy swing, jazz and traditional Jewish Soul. But don’t take our word for it, listen yourself!

Zusha recently auditioned to be a part of NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series and although they were not the chosen finalists, we got a great video to jam to!

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Celebrating Culinary Diplomacy: The Art of Breaking Bread and Building Bridges

ACCESS_CulinaryDiplomacy_Invite_TwitterThe spotlight of the American Jewish Committee’s ACCESS DC 15th Annual Young Diplomat’s Reception “Celebrating Culinary Diplomacy: The Art of Breaking Bread and Building Bridges,” on Thursday, May 7th is on how we as Jews can increase understanding and create meaningful relationships through food: by literally breaking bread together.

Specifically, this year’s 15th annual Young Diplomat’s Reception will focus on culinary diplomacy and how food builds bridges between young leaders in the Jewish Community and young diplomats. On May 7th we will have representatives from more than 50 countries on assignment to Washington, one of the most high profile postings in their foreign service. These diplomats and the Jewish leaders they will meet are going places and are worth knowing.  More importantly, this event will be an opportunity to create meaningful relationships that help safeguard the Jewish people within their countries, and enhance the relationship between the countries they represent and our own.

Are you interested in care building ties between the Jewish people and diplomatic representatives from around the world? Do you like great food? We will have both at a historic location: the Arts Club of Washington, the residence of our fifth president, James Monroe.

You may be wondering, “What is culinary diplomacy?” In Sam Chapple-Sokol’s interview with The Splendid Table, he defines culinary diplomacy as “the use of food in cuisine as an instrument to create cross-cultural understanding in the hopes of improving interactions in cooperation. That’s an academic way of saying using food to get along with people, to talk with people and to get to know them better.”

The highlight of the event is the diplomacy that will take place and a focus on learning about what the United States is doing to promote our food culture globally, and how we’re using culinary diplomacy to build international relationships. The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership of the U.S. State Department is a great example of this diplomacy. Through this program, American chefs travel abroad and plan programs with the local population. For instance, Pastry Chef, Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, traveled to Algeria where he hosted a pastry chef challenge.

The AJC ACCESS Young Diplomat’s reception will feature top flight preparations of cuisine paired with appropriate wines and beers from four different regions of the world: Latin America, the Eastern Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. The event is vegetarian, with kosher options available.

Speakers will include Lauren Bernstein, the Director of the Department of State’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership and other special guests, including one or more top chefs who are part of the Partnership and are involved in high-level international diplomacy.

If all this sounds interesting, join us on May 7th for ACCESS DC’s 15th Annual Young Diplomats Reception!  For more information, contact Cassie Chesley at Chesleyc.Fellow@ajc.org, or call 202-776-5441 or go to www.ajcwashington.org/youngdips2015 to sign up today! 

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No matter what you geek out about we’ll test your knowledge of all things nerdy!

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Are you a Birthright Alum trying to get back to Israel?!

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