On Master of None, Privilege, and Thanksgiving

Photos from and

Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series, Master of None, was released on November 6, just a few weeks before Thanksgiving. And even though most of us finished the entire season by November 7, the timing helps highlight the connection between an overarching theme of the show and the upcoming holiday.

A lot of attention has been given to the show’s focus on identity, specifically its attempt to inconspicuously incorporate diversity while explicitly confronting the assumptions, stereotypes, and discrimination that often inhibit that diversity.

At times the show can feel overly self-righteous, and I’m disappointed that it deals with just about every identity bubble (age, race, sexuality, gender, socio-economic status, weight) except religion. I know, it’s only 10 episodes. But instead of simply reflecting the zeitgeist, it would have been nice if the show led the way by initiating this difficult, complicated, yet much-needed conversation.

Nevertheless, Master of None succeeds in raising awareness of many of the privileges that each one of us, in different ways, enjoys. It is almost the thesis of season one, explored through a different lens in each episode: we benefit from advantages that we often don’t acknowledge.

This theme is most prevalent in episode two, when the main character Dev and his friend Brian realize how much their immigrant parents sacrificed to get them to where they are today. While often not at the forefront of conversations around privilege, simply being American is an incredible privilege with rights awarded to us, at least in theory, that many others across the world do not have.

As Jews, we don’t have to look too far back into our collective history to appreciate the unprecedented freedom of religion bestowed to us by America. And as grandchildren or great-grandchildren of immigrants, most of us can look back within our own family’s history to appreciate how much easier our lives are today. Our very name, yehudi, “Jew,” is etymologically connected to the Hebrew words for thanksgiving (toda) and acknowledge (l’hodot). To be Jewish is to be thankful by acknowledging the kindness we’ve received, and Thanksgiving is a great opportunity for us to embody that defining characteristic.

In other episodes, Master of None touches on specific privileges of being white (being able to try out for more than one role in an audition), of being a man (being able to take a short-cut through a park at night without fear of being sexually assaulted), of being young (being able to go out to a restaurant without a chaperone), and more. The loud yet unspoken message of the show is that we often aren’t even conscious of our own privileges.

This is also the message of Thanksgiving. Being grateful is not only about feeling good – it’s supposed to challenge us. When we acknowledge the ways we’ve benefitted from others or factors out of our control, the false assumption that we have achieved everything on our own begins to disintegrate. Gratitude is the guard against the very human temptation outlined in the Torah: “Beware, lest your heart grow haughty… and you say to yourselves ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have won this success for me.’” (Deuteronomy 8:14, 17). Expressing our appreciation is only the first step – the hope is that this process compels us to give back and help create a just society that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of those less fortunate. This might not be the central theme of Master of None, but it is certainly a central theme of Judaism, and hopefully this season.



Top Five Reasons to be Thankful in Dating

As Thanksgiving is upon us, it’s time to put aside our pride and simply be thankful for the blessings we have in life: our health, our family… and JSwipe?

In this day and age, we can do just about anything with technology: read a book without flipping a single page, have groceries delivered with the click of a button, see our friends on the other side of the world on our screens, look at all of our ex’s Facebook pictures (wait a minute… don’t do that!), and even find a date.

As Aziz Ansari noted in his recent book “Modern Romance,” a 1932 study showed that one-third of married couples had previously lived within just a five-block radius of each other. Case in point: My parents were next-door neighbors, and they celebrated their 35th anniversary this year.

Let’s compare that to my own dating experiences.  I sign up for a dating site like OkCupid.  I email a number of people. Some respond, some don’t. I line up dates with those who do. The end. Quite a different story, huh?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, in addition to being thankful for my wonderful friends and family, my health, and the success of my business and my clients’ relationships, I’d also like to share five reasons we should be thankful this year, as it relates to dating:

  1. Online dating exists.

Do you think the Pilgrims had a way to meet people across the Mayflower, let alone across the world?  Their best place to flirt was likely over the ear of corn they were growing, not on their couch in their pajamas using some new-fangled technology we like to call the Interwebs. Now it’s easy as pumpkin pie.

  1. We have options.

We live in a time when, for most of us, the choice of the person we date and/or marry is ours and ours alone.  Of course, parents have some influence in this decision, as do friends, but you ultimately get to choose the person who makes you the happiest.  Arranged marriages were the norm worldwide until the 18th century.  I feel lucky to live in this day and age.

  1. Interracial, interfaith, and same-sex couples are more widely accepted.

study published in November of 2013 by Kevin Lewis, a UC San Diego sociologist, suggests that racial barriers to romance are not as insurmountable as we might suppose.  He did his research by analyzing the patterns of 126,134 OKCupid users in a two-and-a-half month period.  He found that, while people often still mainly reach out to others of their own racial background, they are, however, more likely to return a cross-race email than previous research would have led to us to expect.  And, once they have replied to a suitor from a different race, people are then themselves more likely to cross racial lines and initiate interracial contact in the future. OkCupid also now has so many additional choices for sexual orientation, ranging from sapiosexual (someone who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature… guilty as charged) to homoflexible. We’ve come such a long way… the rest is just gravy at this point.

  1. There is more gender equality, especially with online dating.

While I am still a proponent of chivalry when it comes to opening doors and paying on a first date, I also strongly encourage women to reach out first online with a short and sweet message if someone strikes their fancy.

  1. Dating can be fun!

I know it’s sometimes exhausting after a long day of work to motivate yourself to meet someone new, especially when you just want to be a couch (mashed?) potato. But, it’s also exciting to think that someone you meet—maybe the next date—could alter the rest of your life in some way. Maybe you’ll get butterflies, maybe you’ll learn a new recipe, or maybe you’ll simply hone your conversation skills. Regardless of the outcome, take advantage of the fact that you get to meet new and interesting people.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Happy dating!



Gratitude For Those Who Came Before

One of the founders of Gather the Jews Aaron Wolff with Gather's current Director Rachel Gildiner

One of the founders of Gather the Jews Aaron Wolff with Gather’s current Director Rachel Gildiner

My Meeting with one of Gather’s Founders, Aaron Wolff

Part I:

There is importance in Judaism to acknowledging and expressing gratitude to those who came before us. Coming to the helm of this incredible Gather the Jews movement just over a year ago, I have been constantly filled with this overwhelming sense of gratitude – for the funders who support this work and believe it is changing the Jewish landscape, for the incredible adults in this community whose energy and passion drives the Jewish vibrancy of DC, and specifically for the group of committed entrepreneurs who launched and created Gather the Jews from the ground up six years ago this winter.

These folks truly created a movement, a tribe. They identified a gap, mobilized their friends (and thousands of random strangers, too!), and built an organization that serves Jewish 20s & 30s trying to find their Jewish fit. They created a language, a culture, excitement around being Jewish and finding other Jews to connect with. While working full time jobs and having their own social obligations, Gather the Jews was their baby. And then, as they moved on and out of the city, it was time for their baby to find a new home.

I was given the opportunity to express my immense gratitude directly this week, when the one, the only, Aaron Wolff, a primary founder of Gather the Jews, found himself in DC for the Jewish Federation’s National General Assembly at the Hilton next to our We Work space.

Meeting Aaron you can quickly understand the charisma, passion, and authenticity that he brought to launching Gather. He shared his story, I shared mine. We both still have so many questions about the Jewish future and even our own Jewish lives. And while we may differ in some ways – leadership styles, they used slap bracelets and we use tote bags, they were GTJ and we’re Gather – we still share a mutual vision: That every Jew matters, regardless of how you connect, how you practice (or not), or what drives you Jewishly. There is a place for you in Jewish DC. And if there’s not, let’s create it together. Its radical inclusion, radical hospitality. In a city that can sometimes feel insider and nebulous at the same time, Gather the Jews was created and continues to be a movement to help each Jew find their people, their place, their connection.

I’m grateful to Aaron Wolff, Joshua Kaller, Stephen Richer, and the many many others who are hopefully reading this now, for their vision, dedication and fortitude to build what they did. For their bravery of handing their baby over to a process in which they weren’t sure it would survive. At its early stages, Gather the Jews had massive support from volunteers and members including: Jodi, Jon, Maya, Mike, Noa, Rachel, Sara and Steve. Today Gather the Jews is a full time staff of three, with supporters, Fellows, and office space, and we could not be here without your blood sweat and tears and so much more. So, THANK YOU! Here’s also Aaron’s thanks to his Gather community when he left.

Part II:

Lots of articles written these days, in the secular and Jewish spheres, decry what one group is doing wrong and how their group has found the solutions and is doing things the “right” way. We don’t pay homage to process, evolution, what came before. We often shame it at worst, or brush it under the carpet through omission at best. I am just as guilty as the next person.

It’s all about us, our own accomplishments, and the belief that the louder we scream it and show it to the world, the more validated we are in our accomplishments. There’s too much “thought leadership” out there and not enough LISTENING, EXPRESSING GRATITUDE, CONNECTING COMMONALITIES. Of course, differing ideas is how we advance, tension helps us grow, we shouldn’t agree on everything or progress would halt. And yet, where is this Jewish practice of hakarat ha’tov – expressing gratitude – in all of this thought leadership?

I’ve been feeling this sentiment for a while – quite honestly, every time I read another beautifully written chest-thumping article about the person or organization who’s got it right. And now that I’m directing an organization that I do feel has a lot of “right” ways we do things, I am also hyper-aware that no one organization or “way” is the solution for the whole Jewish world. Together, with each of our different approaches, convictions, and desire to serve the Jews, we can all have right solutions. We can be open to learning from one another, championing one another, and not demonizing an approach that is different from the one we believe. Where is the room for vulnerability and for thanking others?

What if we were cheerleaders for one another instead of only proponents for our own organizations and ourselves? What could the Jewish world gain?

Ultimately, if each of us took a step back from the chest-thumping and took time to appreciate where we’ve come from, who came before us, who else is doing great work, who else we could be learning from, that we would find more openness for honest discussion, questioning and learning from and with one another, instead of the expectation that we each possess all of the answers ourselves. Could such a space, a group, a network of folks exist in the Jewish world?

I’m grateful for the cheerleaders who have championed me, I hope I do the same for others, and thank you to Aaron for being a cheerleader for those who came after him. I’m certainly one of his!


Hanukkah Guide 2015


The festival of lights is almost upon us and you know what that means…plenty of events to celebrate with the community! Gather has compiled a list of all the events going during Hanukkah. We hope to run into you at some of them! We will be updating the list as more events are sent to us so make sure to check back in.

Did we leave anything out? Submit your event here.

Sunday December 6th

Monday December 7th

Tuesday December 8th

Wednesday December 9th

Thursday December 10th

Sunday December 13th

Hanukkah Recipes:

FN_noodle-kugel-011_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape’s Noodle Kugel

An easy donut recepie for Hanukkah!

An easy donut recepie for Hanukkah!

For those who are a little more ambitious: Martha Stewart's recipe

For those who are a little more ambitious: Martha Stewart’s recipe







And you couldn’t get out of this with out a recipe for Potato Latkes!










Jewish Linguist of the Week – Alex


This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Alex, a Austin native who now lives in DC running his own business which he co-founded with his brother. Learn more about him in our interview:

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Alex: I moved from Austin, TX to DC in 2011 to intern at the House Committee on Homeland Security. A few internships later I finally landed a job at a startup in Virginia where I had the opportunity to work under some experienced entrepreneurs who helped get my creative juices flowing.

Jackie: You are the co-founder and CEO of the DC-based language learning website Foreigncy. Can you tell us a little bit more about your company?

Alex: Sure. Foreigncy is a critical language training website for professional and aspiring linguists. We help prepare people to use their skills professionally while raising awareness of major events around the world.

Jackie: Where did the idea for your company come from?

Alex and his brother and co-founder Josh

Alex and his brother and co-founder Josh

Alex: Foreigncy was born out of necessity. I found that once I graduated there was no effective service to help me maintain and improve my language skills. Eventually, my brother and I came up with the idea for Foreigncy and launched our original site, creating daily Arabic and Hebrew language training sets. Slowly but surely we built a really great userbase of language students and professionals who were also looking for a tool to fill the gap in the language learning market and we decided to take Foreigncy to the next level with a completely revamped site in January 2015 and additional languages such as Persian and Russian.

Jackie: Where did your love of languages and the Middle East come from?

Alex: My love for Arabic and Hebrew and the region is in my blood. My mom’s side of the family are Syrian Jews, and as a strong Sephardic woman she made sure that Syrian culture and food completely overshadowed my dad’s Ashkenaz roots. Eventually I took an interest in Israel and Middle Eastern history, including graduate school in Jerusalem, and learning the region’s languages was a natural outcome of that. What attracted me most about language learning is that you can achieve a level of mastery that you never thought possible if you approach it as a life long trade rather than a casual hobby, which encapsulates Foreigncy’s method.

image2 (1)Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Alex: Shia LeBeouf. Just kidding. I think it’s a well-known fact that Eric Bana’s role in Munich granted him honorary Jew status, so it would have to be him.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Alex: My favorite way to spend Shabbat is a potluck dinner with friends. It’s a great chance to connect with those closest to you, get in touch with your roots, and then go out on the town and break all of the Shabbat laws.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…

Alex: Hummus




Meet Nicole – the Jewish Professional of the Week!

Nicole AngelJackie: Tell us about your new role with Federation, what are you most excited about!

Nicole: My new role as the Young Leadership Associate and Social Innovation Coordinator will consist of engaging with members of the community who are in their 20’s and 30’s and building relationships with them to help them connect with the Jewish Federation. I want to help young professionals find an outlet within the Federation through community involvement, leadership development and philanthropy. I am very excited that I will have the opportunity to coordinate the ConnectGens Fellowship here which empowers social innovators with training, tools and connections to transform their big ideas into ventures that will enhance our community. I will also be working on the Nexus series this spring, which is a six-session young leadership course for young professionals who are interested in connecting to the Federation and the work we do.

Jackie: What is the ConnectGens Fellowship, who should apply?

IMG_3653Nicole: The ConnectGens Fellowship empowers social innovators with training, tools and connections to transform their BIG IDEAS into ventures that will mobilize our Jewish community. Fellows connect with talented mentors, motivated peers and inspiring coaches to invigorate social change and turn their innovative ideas into reality. The Fellowship is open to individuals of all ages and anyone living in DC, MD or VA with an idea to enhance community life

Jackie: Can you tell us about some past ConnectGens Fellows and what they are now doing?

Nicole: Elizabeth Weingarten a 2013 Fellow started Tribelle which is a multi-style jewelry collection with a mission to cultivate female entrepreneurship in Israel by supporting businesswomen and the organizations that incubate their ventures. Elizabeth believes that women’s businesses are the key to economic revival across communities and countries, and to healthier, better educated kids around the world. As a Jewish woman, she started TRIBELLE to support women’s enterprises in her broader community: Israel. You can check out Tribelle and the amazing work they are doing by visiting
IMG_3647Max Levitt, a 2013 Fellow created a venture called Leveling the Playing Field which today has become a viable non-profit, where they donate lightly used sporting equipment to underprivileged kids. Their mission is to give underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of athletic involvement. In just two years of operation they have donated over $500,000 worth of sporting equipment to over 40 programs. To find out more about the incredible strides that Max is making through Leveling the Playing Field please visit

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jewish role model?

Nicole: When I was living in Israel for the past two years, I had the pleasure of meeting a very special soul, Rabbi Shu Eliovson, who truly changed my life and taught me a whole new perspective on Judaism. Rabbi Shu sees the beauty of everything in life and is able to connect the spirituality of Judaism to all of his teachings. If you find yourself near Kfar Maimon in Israel go pay a visit to Rabbi Shu at the Golden Shore, I promise you won’t be sorry!

IMG_3651Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Nicole: That’s a hard one; I’m going to have to go with my top two, brisket and chicken matzah ball soup. These are my two specialties that I like to cook!

Jackie: Where are most likely to run into you on a Sunday afternoon?

Nicole: Trumpeldor Beach in Tel Aviv J

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Nicole: There will be excitement, disputes, ruach and an excess of delicious food!





JDate’s Not the Only Site on the Playground

Most of us have heard of And Tinder. And OkCupid. But have you heard of HowAboutWe and What about Delightful, the Steve Harvey-promoted online dating site, and People Media? Or for the 50+ crowd? And then, of course, there’s Plenty of Fish.

Believe it or not, the same company—InterActiveCorp (IAC)—owns all of them… and then some. IAC also owns other companies having nothing to do with dating, or “personals” as they call it, so in 2014, IAC organized its businesses into five segments, one of them being The Match Group.

For a bit of a history lesson—I’m a former economist after all— was founded over two decades ago, in 1993, and went live in 1995 in its “beta” form. (Can you imagine what it was like getting a free lifetime membership back then? That’s like buying forever stamps when they were still 18 cents a pop the year I was born!) In 1999, was purchased by IAC, its current parent company, and over the years, IAC went on an acquisition spree, if you will.

The Match Group, now a behemoth in the online dating world with only a few competitors—namely eHarmony, Spark Networks (the owner of JDate), and Zoosk—has decided that it plans to raise over $500 million in an IPO. What does this mean? The company plans to sell more than 33 million shares at $12 and $14 apiece and trade under “MTCH” on the NASDAQ. (Not to be confused with LUV, Southwest Airlines’ ticker. Both companies happen to be based in Dallas as well, though Southwest’s is a reference to Love Field.)

Match Group reported a net income (which isn’t the case for all online dating companies… or even many) of $85 million for the first three quarters of this year. Match also has some 59 million active monthly users, 4.7 million of them paid users, in over 190 countries. (I recently worked with a client in Mauritius, so I can attest to that!)

This IPO comes on the tails of another big one earlier this week… that thing you use to take credit card payments… Square. Square similarly offered over 30 million shares for about $13 apiece. It’s been a big week for investors, indeed.

What does this mean for you, the average user, or me, a professional in the industry? Nada. Everything will function the same, at least for now. Given that 68% of new registrations to Match Group’s dating sites came from a mobile device in the first half of this year alone, do expect that the company will ramp up its mobile dating app technology. Will it continue to buy up its competitors, like Bumble, which was founded by one of the Tinder co-founders? I’m not a betting woman, so I wouldn’t put money on it, but I’d guess that would be the first one to be snapped up post-IPO. Only time will tell. (JDate recently bought its competitor, JSwipe, for reference, after actually suing it over the letter “J” in its name.) If Match Group wants to buy out my company, though, for even a fraction of what it paid for POF, then I’m all ears!




This is Big: The Reform Movement and Trans* Rights

Last week, the Reform Jewish movement passed the widest resolution on transgender rights of any major religious organization crafted by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism of the Union for Reform Judaism. This is Judaism’s first official anti-discrimination policy on transgender issues.  In 1977, both the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed resolutions affirming “the rights of homosexuals,” and took an official stance to oppose laws that fail to uphold principles of equality for all people of all sexual orientations. The “Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People” which was voted upon last Thursday at the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial conference held in Orlando, Florida, state that, “North American culture and society have, in general, become increasingly accepting of people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual, yet too often transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are forced to live as second-class citizens.”

The Reform movement has demonstrated full inclusion of transgender people in accordance with Jewish tradition. In 1990 Reform responsum (CCAR 5750.8) affirmed that simply being transgender is not enough to to deny someone conversion to Judaism. A responsum in 1978 indicated that a rabbi may officiate at the wedding of two Jews if one partner has transitioned to a gender with which they identify, as opposed to one they were assigned at birth (“Marriage After a Sex-change Operation” in American Reform ResponsaVol. LXXXVIII, 1978, pp. 52-54).

 The Resolution goes on to further list that the Union for Reform Judaism explicitly resolves that:

  1. Affirms its commitment to the full equality, inclusion and acceptance of people of all gender identities and gender expressions;
  2. Affirms the right of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to be referred to by their name, gender, and pronoun of preference in our congregations, camps, schools, and other Reform affiliated organizations;
  3. Encourages Reform congregations, congregants, clergy, camps, institutions and affiliates, including NFTY, to continue to advocate for the rights of people of all gender identities and gender expressions;
  4. Urges the adoption and implementation of legislation and policies that prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression, and that require individuals to be treated equally under the law as the gender by which they identify. This includes establishing the right to change without undue burden their identification documents to reflect their gender and name and ensuring equal access to medical and social services;
  5. Calls on the U.S. and Canadian governments at all levels to review and revise all laws and policies to ensure full equality and protections for people of all gender identities and expressions;
  6. Urges Reform Movement institutions to begin or continue to work with local and national Jewish transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual organizations to create inclusive and welcoming communities for people of all gender identities and expressions and to spread awareness and increase knowledge of issues related to gender identity and expression. These activities may include cultural competency trainings for religious school staff, the new congregational resource guide on transgender inclusion being created by the Religious Action Center, education programs on gender identity and expression, and sermons on the topic of gender identity and gender expression;
  7. Recommends URJ congregations and Reform Movement institutions, facilities and events ensure, to the extent feasible, the availability of gender-neutral restrooms and other physical site needs that ensure dignity and safety for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals;
  8. Urges Reform Movement institutions to review their use of language in prayers, forms and policies in an effort to ensure people of all gender identities and gender expressions are welcomed, included, accepted and respected. This includes developing statements of inclusion and/or non-discrimination policies pertaining to gender identity and gender expression, the use when feasible of gender-neutral language, and offering more than two gender options or eliminating the need to select a gender on forms; and
  9. Will work in collaboration with other Reform Movement institutions to create ritual, programmatic and educational materials that will empower such institutions to be more inclusive and welcoming of people of all gender identities and expressions.

Three cheers for the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism! We all could use some good news on the LGBT* front after the disaster in Texas last Tuesday.


Jewish Artist of the Week – Emily!

IMG_5281 copyJackie: I hear that you run an awesome Etsy store. Could you tell us about what you sell and why you decided to start an Etsy store?

Emily: I actually have two Etsy stores. Both of them started as fun hobbies. My larger store is small animal focused, thanks to my geriatric pet rabbit! I make healthy snacks for pet rabbits, which are my top selling items, and also some little toys for animals. I also have rabbit and small animal themed accessories for humans, including bow ties and baby bibs. I’ve even started to design and print my own fabrics! In my second shop I sell Polaroid transfer images, a fun technique I learned almost 20 years ago while studying traditional photography. Until recently I would show my work at art shows and craft fairs as a member of the DC Craft Mafia. Now I sell my original prints, magnets, and greeting cards on Etsy. (I have Chanukah themed cards too! Hint hint!)


Out and about in my neighborhood at the Iwo Jima memorial

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Emily: I came down here for college and never left! I wound up getting both my undergraduate degree and my Master of Public Administration from The George Washington University. Now I live in Arlington. I worked with county governments for almost a decade before starting my own consulting business. Now I am a freelance writer and consultant.

Jackie: It seems you do a little bit of everything – cook, craft, and photography. In your opinion, what is the best spot in DC to photograph?

Emily: It’s really hard to narrow down one spot in DC! Because of the nature of my Polaroid art, finished photographs come out looking a little different that regular photos, kind of etherial and delicate. I like to photograph subjects from odd angles or really close up to show texture. I have some neat photos of the Iwo Jima Memorial through the filter of an American flag.

Emily Jewish Food Experience
Jewish Food Experience event at Common Good City Farm.

Jackie: You also write for the Jewish Food Experience. Can you tell us a little about what JFE is? 

Emily: Yes! I write about mostly about cocktails and sprits for the Jewish Food Experience. I found myself working for a local distillery for a few years and I got into the growing cocktail scene here in DC. JFE asked me to contribute when they started in 2013, and since then I’ve written lots of articles and have come up with lots of holiday themed drinks.

JFE is a really cool program started by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. It is centered around DC people, so it’s really local. They publish articles, recipes, host events and food demos about every aspect of Jewish food. That’s defined as food that Jews cook, food that Jews eat for holidays, food traditions Jews share, anything that’s related to Jews and food! It has been so successful here that it will be spreading to three other cities in the US within the next few months.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Right now I’m going to say really good challah is my favorite Jewish food. I love baking bread, and I’ve been making my own challah for the last year or so. It’s such a simple food that has had a place on every Jew’s table for nearly every holiday for our entire history. My friends and I get together for fun potluck Shabbat dinners pretty often, and I have been bringing my homemade challahs.


My rainbow challah from a few weeks ago. (On the Shabbat we read parashat Noah, we are supposed to eat rainbow themed foods!)

Jackie: You also have a bit of a green thumb, can you tell me about your garden?

Emily: I have a great little container garden on my roof deck at home. I use my blog,, as something of a journal to remember what has and hasn’t worked in years past. I was in the food world for a few years, and it reminded me how much I used to enjoy vegetable gardening growing up. My “experiment five floors up,” as I like to call it, consists of two giant tanks, several smaller pots for herbs and tomatoes, and two compost buckets. Right now I am experimenting with cool weather veggies, including kale, radishes, and carrots, but I’ve also had squash, beans, cucumbers, onions, and even ginger. My neighbors love to show off the garden to their friends, too!

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…

Emily: Food!



Memories from Rabin Square

Picture 1

As we mark 20 years since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, leading members of the Jewish community reflect upon their memories of the fateful day which changed the course of history. Rabin’s assassination shook the core of the Israeli public and Jews around the world; the following testimonies portray the emotional perspectives of a former member of Rabin’s staff, an Israeli diplomat, an Israeli news reporter, and a young Israeli teen.


Member of Knesset Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin worked as an assistant to Rabin prior to and during his time as prime minister. She is the Director of ‘Shalom Haver,’ an NGO established in Rabin’s memory, and works to carry out Rabin’s legacy by teaching about Israeli democracy and Rabin’s vision for peace. Nahmias-Verbin is currently serving in the Knesset as a member of the Zionist Union party, and will be in Washington, D.C. from November 5-9th as a part of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s third annual Scholar in Residence Program. Come hear her speak.

“It was 4 months after I left the Prime Minister’s office and went on to do my internship in a private law firm. I was in the square, and I was contemplating whether or not I was going to go up and say hi [to Rabin]; I saw him just a couple weeks before that, and unfortunately I decided not to go up. I was on such a high, we felt like everybody in the world wanted peace and was voting with their legs against violence and for the Israeli democracy.

There were so many parties going on around the square after the peace rally, and I went to one of those. Then I got a phone call that said there were shots in the square. I called [friends who worked for Rabin] and got all sorts of mixed answers, and decided to leave the party. I went to my parents’ house, and I remember the phone call that I got just before the news came out. I remember I fell on the ground and I just couldn’t believe it; I knew at that point he was very badly hurt. Then they called up and said ‘it’s over.’ Those were the exact words, ‘it’s over.’

A lot more was over, not just his life, not just his doings for Israel and society here. He was the Prime Minister to sign for the hope for the people of Israel. We miss that hope so much, and we know that situation is growing more complex. Still to this day I keep thinking what would he [Rabin] be doing had he been here. I ask myself that unfortunately on a daily basis.” (Taken from an interview with Noa Meir, Director of the Israel Action Center)

Picture 2Ambassador Gideon Meir served 45 years as a diplomat at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, beginning here in the Greater Washington area at his first posting in the Israeli Embassy, onto his subsequent positions as Deputy Director General for Media and Public Affairs, Ambassador to Italy and Director General for Public Diplomacy.

On the night of November 4th my wife, Amira, and I attended the wedding of a friend in Tel Aviv. As we got into our little Ford Fiesta we heard the breaking news that Prime Minister Rabin was shot. In the first few minutes the news was very confusing, but as time elapsed it became clearer that something terrible had happened. There was still little hope in our hearts but then, suddenly, we heard our friend, Eitan Haber, announcing the very bad and tragic news that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot to death tonight in Tel Aviv. During the entire drive back to our home in the French Hill in Jerusalem, along route 443, we saw the signs calling Rabin “a traitor”, “death to Rabin”, depicting him as a Nazi. Suddenly we realized the implications and effect of the appalling incitement that preceded his assassination. Needless to say that on that night and the following days we hardly slept, and along with our fellow Israelis we were crying and mourning the unbelievable death of our great leader.

Picture 3Ori Nir is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now. Prior to his work at APN, Ori worked for Haaretz Daily, Israel’s leading newspaper, where he covered Palestinian affairs and Israel’s Arab minority. He also served as Haaretz’s Washington Bureau Chief and later as its U.S. West Coast correspondent. Mr. Nir was also the Washington Bureau Chief for the Forward, America’s largest and most influential independent national Jewish weekly newspaper.

On the night of November 4, 1995, I received a call from the news desk editor at Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been shot, he told me, we need reactions from Palestinian officials. I was Haaretz’s Palestinian affairs correspondent at the time. I was on the phone with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat when I heard on Israel Radio that Rabin’s spokesman was about to make a statement. As Eitan Haber hushed the crowed, I started translating for Erekat: “The government of Israel announces in dismay, in great sadness, and in deep sorrow, the death of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin, tonight in Tel Aviv.”

I was crying, and I heard Saeb’s voice cracking as well. I had known him for many years, since he was the editorial writer of al-Quds, the popular Palestinian daily, and used to brief Israeli reporters on Palestinian politics while smoking on the steps of al-Quds’ East Jerusalem office. Over the years, we laughed a lot together. I never imagined us crying together.

We cried because of the shock, but also because we realized that this was a seminal moment, that the bullets that killed Rabin were aimed at peace, and that they may very well kill prospects for peace. Crying together was an expression of the bond, the partnership, between pro-peace Israelis and Palestinians.

At that moment and during the days that followed, there was a strong sense of alliance, a sense of a common cause, between moderate Israelis and moderate Palestinians, a conviction that together we must fight the enemies of peace, the zealots on both sides. That conviction has obviously eroded in the past two decades, but I still strongly believe that together, Israelis and Palestinians can overcome the extremists in their midst and work jointly for a future that will allow them to live side by side in their own sovereign states, in security, prosperity and peace.

Picture 4Tali Herskowitz is currently the Washington Region Development and Program Officer at the New Israel Fund, and was only 16 years old at the time of Rabin’s assassination.

November 4th, 1995 was a day of elation, solidarity and hope. The night of November 4th, 1995 was that of grief, loss, confusion and despair. It began as one of the biggest rallies in the history of Israel – 250,000 people crowded what was then called ‘Kings of Israel’ square. I was there too. At 16 years old I spent almost every Saturday night on a bus from Beer Sheva to Tel Aviv to take part in some rally for peace. None of them, however, were quite like that one – both in magnitude and in spirit. The joy in the air, the exhilaration; the feeling that we are not only rallying for peace but that we are winning – it was right around the corner. We will be the generation to enjoy peace and not suffer from war – just as our parents envisioned and hoped for us.

All of that changed in a split second. I was on the bus going back home when we heard about the shooting. At that point, no one knew exactly what was going on (and there were no smartphones and social media to keep us informed). I rushed home and spent the entire night in my room, glued to a 10” black and white TV that at that point kept running loops of the announcement made by Eitan Haber – the one that makes my heart drop to this day.

I woke up to a day of mourning. It was very clear that our country, our reality, was no longer the same. It was as if Rabin carried the majority of the weight of the hope for peace on his shoulders, and without him there was no real sense of how we move our vision forward. And we – we were transformed from the ‘youth of peace’ to the ‘youth of candles’.


30 in the City – November Events

At the beginning of each month, 30 in the City will highlight local “mix and mingle” events that offer opportunities to learn new skills, expand one’s knowledge, or just meet some new people!

Gather the Jews does not promote any events over the other. These events are highlighted at the contributors discretion. 

Friend Request – Sixth & I’s Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood Series

When: Thursday, November 12 at 7:00 PM

Where: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

What the organizers have to say about the event:

We all get by with a little help from our girlfriends, so expand your social circle at Sixth & I’s 7th annual “speed-friending” event. Meet others who sway to the tune of sisterhood during a night of socializing, real-life FaceTime, and she-connecting that actually works, we promise.

What makes this event cool?

Come solo or bring a friend for the opportunity to connect with other local women in their 20s and 30s, and leave with new friendship prospects.

Who should go?

Women in their 20s and 30s.

Cost: $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Register: here


Laugh at the Bible with OMGWTFBIBLE and EntryPointDC

When: Monday, November 16 at 7:30 PM

Where: Science Club (1136 19th St NW 20036)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

For thousands of years, we’ve been under the impression the Bible was meant to be taken seriously. Finally, OMGWTFBIBLE is here to change all that with a brand-new English translation of the Hebrew Bible from the story of creation all the way to end.

What makes this event cool? 

Each month David Tuchman records a live reading and discussion of his translation with a special guest. This time the recording is taking place in DC!!! In this DC premiere, and first episode of Leviticus!, Tuchman will be joined by local culinary writer and historian, independent scholar, and historical interpreter Michael Twitty. It’s going to be a blast- lots of laughs, deep discussion, and happy hour specials. This will be the first time OMGWTFBIBLE records in DC, you’re making history.

Who should go?

Anyone who struggles with Torah, wants to think a bit about how we approach being Jewish, or just loves a good laugh. Deep knowledge of the Bible not necessary, but a sense of humor is!

Cost: $10 in advance, $15 day of and at the door.

Register: here

Catch up on previous episodes:


European-Israeli Relations in a Volatile Time Panel Discussion with ACCESS DC and German Marshall Fund

When: Tuesday, November 17 at 6:00 PM

Where: The German Marshall Fund (1744 R Street NW 20006)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

The ACCESS & GMF Program will focus on European-Israeli relations today. Europe and Israel have been in relations since the inception of the state in 1948. The relations between Europe and Israel are of upmost importance on a financial, technological, democratic, defense, etc. level. Understanding the shifts in both countries and their ever evolving relations is necessary in understanding the climate of both Europe and Israel.

What makes this event cool?

The event will be comprised of members from GMF young professional division and AJC ACCESS DC; there will also be additional invited guests. Great opportunity to network and learn at the same time.

Who should go?

Anyone who is interested in hearing from some of the greatest experts on the topics of Israel, Europe, or both. This is a great opportunity to view the tribulations, triumphs, and interdependence from a number of angles.

Cost: This is a sponsored event, there is no cost.

Register: here


Men’s Spa Day – Sixth and I’s Men’s Room Series

When: Sunday, November 22 at 2:00 PM

Where: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Spend your Sunday getting fit with fellow Sixth & I men at Men’s Spa Day. We’ll start the day at Off Road DC working with expert trainers, and then we’ll move onto the sauna and steam room at U Street VIDA.

What makes this event cool?

Enjoy tailored personal training and a shvitz (sauna)

Who should go?

Men in their 20s and 30s.

Cost: $22

Register: here


JWI Young Women’s Leadership Conference

When: Sunday, December 6, 12:00-5:00 PM

Where: Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC

What the organizers have to say about the event:

This half-day conference will bring together some of the most dynamic Jewish women leaders in the country to discuss major issues important to women today and teach professional and leadership development skills. Meet dynamic women through multiple skills-building workshops, a speed mentoring activity, and a reception.

What makes this event cool?

Participants get to spend time with women like Ellen Stone, (Executive Vice President of Marketing, Bravo Media & Oxygen Media at NBCUniversal), Caryl Stern, (President & CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF), and Linda Lipsen (CEO of American Association for Justice).

Who should go?

Women who are looking for what is next in their career, who want to connect with likeminded and engaged women, and can’t say no to a strong female speaker!

Cost: $36

Register: here


Have a cool event coming up next month? Want us 30-year-old professionals to make an appearance? Send us an e-mail and you may just make the cut!


Monthly Mussar: Summoning Self-Compassion in an Unrelenting World


I cringed a little bit when the rabbi asked us to talk with our study partner about what teshuvah (repentance) meant to us. I was at the Alternative Second Day Rosh Hashanah Experience at Sixth & I, and having completed the yoga part of our morning, which was lovely, it was time to move on to our text study, and also, to dig deep and share our thoughts with our study partners whom we’d just met.

Now I should mention that I chose to participate in this event for such an opportunity. But as I found myself face-to-face with my study partner, I was lacking. Usually, I take the time before and during the High Holidays very seriously to take stock of my actions over the past year and my relationships that might be struggling, to think about showing compassion for others that may have wronged me, and also to ask others to show compassion to me.

And indeed, this past month, I did focus on compassion, as part of my Mussar journey. Over time, I’ve come to find that compassion is key to our relationships with others. And as I’ve considered patience and gratitude so far on this endeavor, I’ve also seen that compassion is an important input into working towards cultivating those traits as well. For example, while channeling patience during my bike commutes when encountering wayward drivers, I found it helpful to think of the person driving the car and how they might not know how to be a better or more considerate driver, or how they might be having a bad day. While showing more compassion may not solve the aggressive or unaware driving problem, it does help me to keep my blood pressure lower, stay safer, and see the world as a better place.


Yet, despite my focus on compassion this past month, I did not find myself prepared for the High Holidays in the way I like to be. For me, this year, the months leading up to the High Holidays were a time of being overwhelmed in many ways: of being so focused on work, and career progress, and exercise, and maintaining certain relationships. By the time I got to the High Holidays, I felt deficient in my preparation and also that I had no energy left to make the situation any better. And so, as I sat and talked about teshuvah, and thought about the relationships I had that could use some repairing, the thought of one more area of my life that needed attention became too much for me.

I made it through the exercise alright, but by the next day, I could only think about everything I was already juggling, and then my guilt for my lack of teshuvah added to the mix. Between all of these pressures, both self-imposed and otherwise, I found my body rebelling: the next day, as I bent over to prepare my bike for my morning commute, I was brought down by a shooting pain in my back. It lasted for the next several days, and I figured out by then that my body was telling me I was taking on too much.

It was then that I recognized that while I might not be able to channel compassion in my relationships in the ways I thought I should, I needed to show some compassion to myself. I had thought I had mastered self-compassion in terms of feelings – not getting upset at myself for feeling sad or anxious – as well as actions – not feeling overwhelming regret about something I did or didn’t do. But I realized then that self-compassion could also mean not being so disciplined that I wear myself ragged.

Despite this newfound awareness, I didn’t actually change my actions. And by Yom Kippur, I found myself so completely overwhelmed that I knew that going to services to think about the ways I failed this year and make commitments to do better was taking on more than I could really handle. And so I made an executive decision: I needed to show myself some compassion. And so, instead of making my way to services, like I usually do, and like I had planned, I spent the day in my own introspection in the park. I thought about the last year, the things I was struggling with at the moment, and how things could be different in the year ahead. And by the end of the day, I actually felt a bit better.


There is a time and place for compassion, and without it, we risk pushing ourselves and others too hard. On the other hand, if we cannot show discipline, also to ourselves and others, we may not be able to reach our full potential, either personally or in our relationships. It can be hard to know which is appropriate. The best we can do is let our intuition guide us. For me, this month, after too much discipline, self-compassion was what I needed.

This next month, I am focusing on equanimity – mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper. It’s something that I find myself continually having to work on, so I am glad to get a month to think about it. Were you ever in a difficult where you showed equanimity? Or wished you showed equanimity? Share below in the comments.




Introducing the YBJ Mini-Fellowship


Are you a seeker? Are you interested in understanding your relationship with Judaism? Are you looking for a space to explore big questions about Jewish identity with thoughtful peers?

Introducing a brand new initiative – the YBJ Mini-Fellowship – that will bring together about 20 diverse Jews for just three IMG_8746sessions in December to discuss what, if anything, is meaningful about being Jewish today. It will be a very open and inviting space – all backgrounds and viewpoints are welcome!

Details: The three sessions will be led by Rabbi Aaron and held from 6:30 – 8:00 pm on Thursdays, December 3, 10 and 17, at the WeWork office – Dupont location. Must commit to attending all three sessions.

Cost: Free

Application: Applications have closed! But check back for future Gatherings.


What does YBJ stand for?

“Why Be Jewish?” Kind of.

Is this fellowship going to be awesome?

That depends on you. Are you awesome?

Why are you answering my question with another question?

That’s what Jews do.

How do you already have FAQs if this is a new initiative?



Want more information? Email Reb Aaron





Mini Gatherings


Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? Looking to get involved in the Jewish community? Like drinking? Afraid of commitment?

Introducing a brand new initiative – Mini Gatherings – that will bring together about 20 diverse Jews over the course of 3 weeks in December to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions, and laughed at least twice. Guaranteed or your money back!

Cost: FREE

What: The three gatherings will be held from 6:30 – 8:00 pm on Tuesdays, December 1, 8 and 15, at the WeWork office – Dupont location. Each session will involve some schmoozing, drinking, and an open conversation facilitated by Rabbi Aaron about topics like making decisions with our heads vs. our hearts and responsibility to self vs. other. No background or knowledge necessary – everyone is welcome. In addition, Rabbi Aaron will host a Shabbat meal on Friday, December 4 at his apartment in Dupont. Must commit to attending all three sessions and the dinner.

Who: Anyone who does not feel connected to a Jewish community in the DC area and is looking to meet other Jews in a smaller, more personal way.

Application:Applications have closed! But check back for future Gatherings.

Want more information? Email Reb Aaron




Interview with Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin Knesset Member

scholarThe 3rd Annual Scholar in Residence program features Member of Knesset Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, former assistant to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. MK Nahmias-Verbin will join the greater-DC community to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination with events in DC, Maryland, and Virginia from November 5-9. A few weeks ahead of her visit, MK Nahmias-Verbin sat down with Noa Meir, Director of the JCRC’s Israel Action Center, to discuss her experiences working for former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, her memories of Rabin’s assassination, and her motivations in carrying out Rabin’s legacy.


Meir: Thank you for joining us for this interview. Please tell us about the connection you had with late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Nahmias- Verbin: At 20 years old, I was very active with the student body at Hebrew University. One Friday afternoon, Shimon Sheves, who later became the Director of the Prime Minister’s office, called and offered me to join Rabin’s campaign just before the primaries with Shimon Peres. I was a part of the campaign when Rabin was elected prime minister in 1992. I joined the Prime Minister’s office and held several positions there.

Unfortunately, after he [Rabin] was assassinated, I took on the task, after the family asked me, to head Shalom Haver, the association for Rabin’s commemoration. This later on became part of the Rabin Center for Israel Studies. Since the assassination, I have gone to schools to speak about democracy and Israeli democracy and how it was shocked on November 4, 1995.

Meir: What about Rabin inspired you to carry out his legacy still 20 years after his assassination?

Nahmias-Verbin: I think he had a unique kind of leadership. On the one hand he was an individualist, but he also had the very unique ability to bring people close to him. He was very sincere, but he really knew how to get things done.

He [Rabin] understood that for the future of Israel, he needed to take very difficult resolutions, including signing the Oslo Accords. I think that what is very unique to him is that he had the ability to change his mind and act differently… he had very strong political leadership.

Meir: Where were you on the evening of November 4, 1995?

Nahmias-Verbin: I was in the square [where the peace rally was held], and I was contemplating whether or not I was going to go up and say hi [to Rabin]; I saw him just a couple weeks before that, and unfortunately I decided not to go up. I was on such a high, we felt like everybody in the world wanted peace and was voting against violence and for Israeli democracy. There were so many parties going on around the square after the peace rally, and I went to one of those. Then I got a phone call that said there were shots in the square. I just couldn’t believe it; I knew at that point he was very badly hurt. Later, a friend who worked for Rabin called up and said “it’s over.” Those were the exact words, “it’s over.”

A lot more was over, not just his life, not just his doings for Israel and society here. He was the Prime Minister to sign for the hope for the people of Israel.

Meir: What is your advice to young Jews who will hear you speak in America, why should they be interested in your work as an Israeli?

Nahmias-Verbin: I feel morally obligated to the Jewish people as a whole. My forefathers came to this land… I feel we have to continue their work. They were pioneers that had to build everything here. We are different pioneers. We have to build a society.

I feel obligated to do my best and take the baby steps that I can to create a better society here for the people of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. Israel is a very complex place… Israel is so much more than just the conflict and the terrible things that have been taking place here. It’s a miracle what has been going on here considering where we live, in the times we are living; it’s quite mesmerizing to think of everything that has been building.







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