Can We Now Take Marriage for Granted?

There is an old joke that all of our parents have told at some point about how when they were young, they had to walk to school, in the snow, uphill both ways. Though, I never believed it was exactly true, I do remember always being amazed at the types of things my parents really didn’t have that I always took for granted. Color TV, seat belts in cars, and microwave ovens are all things that I have taken for granted my entire life.


In a roundabout way, I was reminded of this last Friday, when the Supreme Court announced its decision to guarantee marriage as a right for all citizens. I have a one year old son, and it occurred to me, that along with things like smart phones, electric cars and social media my son will never know a world without marriage equality in the United States. As many have been saying already, for him there will be no Gay-Marriage because there will just simply be marriage for everyone.

As my Facebook feed turned to rainbows last Friday, I also found more challenging posts reminding me that there is still more work to be done for GLBT equality and many other minorities as well. Really, I thought, can’t we just celebrate this moment and take the week off from beating the drums for social justice?


After thinking about it more over the weekend, as a father, an American and of course a Jew, the answer must be yes and no. In fact, in the same moment that thousands of celebrations erupted all over the country after the announcement on the steps of the Supreme Court, thousands of people were in mourning as Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was being eulogized in South Carolina. Neither action was any less wrong or appropriate, given the context.

Judaism has a special blessing that is said for the types of celebrations that don’t happen every day. Most Jewish Holidays include this prayer and I have also heard it said at weddings and bar mitzvahs. It is called the Shehecheyanu and in English the prayer translates to mean:

Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.

image-29-06-15-10-02-3When we lit our Shabbat candles last Friday, next to a rainbow flag we that we waved at Pride Parade, we added the Shehecheyanu to mark the occasion of marriage equality.

There is also a quote in Judaism from one of the ancient Rabbis that says:

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.

While there are many things that my son will take for granted, there are many injustices in the world things that have yet to be resolved. Working through organizations like Jews United for Justice and American Jewish World Service, to name a couple, I will continue to work on them. I hope he follows that example and works to bring about change for the causes for which he cares most. I also hope he gets to celebrate many moments of Shehecheyanu along the way.

Andy Kirschner is a life coach at 100 Reasons to Win, helping professionals take action in order to achieve their health and/or career goals. He’s been in the DC area for 4 years. When he isn’t coaching individuals or facilitating groups, he can be found running long distances through Rock Creek Park, volunteering for social justice minded organizations or spending time with his wife and one year old son. 


The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a Shakespeare buff. I vaguely remember reading Romeo & Juliet in school, but that’s really the extent of my knowledge. (However, I did used to think it was interesting that female parts were played by men for a period of time.) At any rate, there is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that I seem to use over and over again when it comes to dating: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” As our good friend Wikipedia shares, this phrase is often used as a figure of speech, to indicate that a person’s overly frequent or vehement attempts to convince others of something have ironically helped to convince others that the opposite is true, by making the person look insincere and defensive. For example, if your friend who keeps kosher says over and over again at dinner, “Of course I don’t care if you want to order the bacon-wrapped scallops,” then the number of times he says that often directly correlates to how much he actually does care.

Why the lesson in 17th century literature, you might ask? Well, as it relates to dating, people are often very quick to say something about themselves as a defense mechanism, when the reality of it is that without that defense, no one would make the very assumption that this person is denying.

images-1I was perusing recently, looking for women of interest for a client of mine in North Carolina (always fun for me to look at women’s profiles), and I came across this profile:

 “I am a busy person who thinks she is easygoing. I like to do things like clean and organize but I’m not OCD. I’m happiest when I’ve tackled a project and then can sit back when I’m done and en
joy the accomplishment.”

Not only is it perhaps one of the most boring profiles on the site, but it also says, “I like to do things like clean and organize but I’m not OCD.” Hmm… The first thing I immediately think is, “This woman is OCD, but she’s trying to hide it… very poorly.” If you’re not, then don’t call attention to it. And if you are, own it. Either choice is better than the one she made. Saying, “I love coming home to a clean, organized house,” gets the same point across without any judgment, either from the reader or the profile writer herself.

Let’s take a look at another excerpt from a profile (copied verbatim):

images“No, I’m not full of myself as I know where I came from and ‘I’m not a player’ and I should say I don’t have time for games or flakes as I have a lot o offer the right woman. I’m a miner, I’m also a bit of a bad man in a ‘good way’ with a wild side I guess I’m like a M and M a tough hard exterior on the outside soft and sweet on the inside once you get to know me.”

Besides being a very poor writer, this gentleman starts out by making two claims: “I’m not full of myself” and “I’m not a player.” Most women will read this as, “I’m a player, and I’m full of myself.”

In court, you’re innocent until proven guilty. It’s the same thing with online dating. There’s no need to compensate for something that should be considered the baseline, or the innocence, if you will. Unless told otherwise, the baseline is that you’re honest and nice and everything else good in the world. You’re starting at 100%. It’s when you start to refute things that should be the baseline that people will start to question you.

So speak the truth, don’t cover things up, and if you’re tempted to say something in a defensive manner to dispel someone’s thoughts that you’re a certain way, it’s time to think again. The reader most likely won’t notice until it’s pointed out.


Local Scene: Near Northeast Plays Capital Fringe

Near NortheastThe first time I heard Near Northeast play was in a crowded house show here in D.C. So crowded that I wiggled through the bodies to get to the stairs so that I could see and hear the four-piece band above the sweating throb of Columbia Heightians.

Run on through the grass with me

We’ll be such a sight to see

Oh the questions they will ask

When our bones are under glass


With Avy Mallik on guitar, Austin Blanton on bass, Alex Pio on cajón and drum kit, and Kelly Servick on vocals, violin, and ukulele, Near Northeast is a powerhouse of fresh indie spirit built on a backbone of Americana folk with world music influences.

Their lyrics are utterly sing-along-able, yet dark. Kelly’s voice one of the sweetest that I have ever heard, and when she sings, your smile, I wanna paint it on a sign, bad weather’s gonna break your teeth in time, it’s like a pretty little bruise blooming against soft percussion and deep strings.

Their songs pin down the emotions that you thought you left back in middle school, while telling very adult stories of existential crises. Kelly’s ethereal voice and the band’s quivering strings pierce right through your ego, and speak straight to your id. Near Northeast doesn’t seek to make sense of the world with their music, but to undo it.

I had hit my stride

had a heart for a guide

and so I leaned over the side

just to see, just to try.

Would someone let me off the ride

now it’s gone too high

(Rogue and Vagabond)

While I am initially inclined to describe Near Northeast in softer tones, they live in the the same unique indie-folk-rock space as bands such as Hop Along and Saintseneca. While they are definitely folky, and often quieter, certain tracks on ‘Curios’ open up into a brilliant cacophony of percussion and amped-up guitar riffs.

Overall, this album blends beautifully from track to track, from inky poetry-heavy lyrics, to plucky strings, to the kind of edgy composition that bored young listeners have come to expect from anything worth their time. ‘Curios’ is the kind of music that you want to listen to at the end of a party when you’re too tired to dance, but not too tired to sway and still want to feel all the feels. It’s good. It’s really, really good.

Near Northeast is playing an album release show THIS FRIDAY (event details here!) at Capital Fringe (Logan Fringe Arts Space 1358-1360 Florida Ave NE) with Andrew Grossman from The North Country, Takunda, and Lenclair.


You can snag a preorder of Curios here.


New location, same fun!


Meet Our New Intern, Laura!

Jackie: This is your first summer interning in DC, but you are from the area, what are you most excited about spending time in DC?

Laura: I am from the suburbs, so I am most excited about being in a city environment and trying out some of the restaurants in the area. I am also on a mission to try out as many food trucks as I can!

Jackie: What do you study?

Laura: I am transferring to the University of Virginia in the fall, where I plan on majoring in Media Studies with a concentration in film production.

Jackie: What are you most excited for with you summer with Gather the Jews? 

Laura: I am really excited about helping redesign the Gather the Jews website and planning happy hours for them. I am also looking forward to meeting new people and other interns working in D.C.!gather1

Jackie: Any fun facts about yourself?

Laura: I am a vegetarian! I also work an organic food store in the area and have a passion for healthy food and sustainability! Also, I just returned from my fifth trip to Israel.

Jackie: What is your favorite place in Israel?

Laura: Tel Aviv, because of its beachy-city feel. The food, the people, and the vibes are amazing in Tel Aviv!

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Laura: I love a good falafel sandwich with hummus and Israeli salad.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Laura: Adam Sandler. “Don’t Mess With The Zohan” had me laughing so hard at all the Israel references and random Hebrew mixed in.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Laura: It’s a party!



Help: My Swiping Thumb is Cramping Up!

As a dating coach, I get this question a lot: How much time should I devote to online dating? This is obviously a broad question, given that people are on traditional sites like JDate and, in addition to apps like JSwipe, Tinder, and one I recently learned is quite fun, Bumble.

Just like I could never tell anyone how much time to spend at the gym, in the shower, or in bed before throwing the alarm clock *ahem* iPhone across the room, I could also never predict the “right” amount of time for anyone to devote to online dating per week. The one thing I can tell you, though, is that you have to devote some amount of time greater than zero.

Let’s say it’s January 1st and you sign up for the gym, as so many people do. Yes, you’re paying for it every month. And yes, you went to Lululemon and bought the $98 pair of yoga pants that you had to have. But are you losing any weight? Not if you don’t set foot in the gym other than to work your finger muscles at the water fountain. In this case, it’s unreasonable to say, “The gym doesn’t work.” The gym does work, but you just didn’t use it properly. The gym is simply a tool to help you reach your goals.

Why, then, do so many people think that online dating works any differently from the gym? No, the goal here is not to fit into a size 2 by Rosh Hashanah. The goal is even greater—to find a partner… for one night, one month, or more often, for the rest of your life.

The evening might go like this:

  • Friends having a glass of wine together.
  • Friend #1 encourages Friend #2 to create an OkCupid profile.
  • Friend #2 has had just enough wine to oblige.
  • The friends then craft a very generic profile consisting of one of the 10 phrases you should delete from your JDate profile.
  • A week later, Friend #2 proclaims, “Online dating doesn’t work!!!!!”

When pressed, we find out that not only hasn’t she fixed up her profile a bit, but she used her most recent Facebook photos which are less than flattering, and she didn’t reach out to a single person in that week. Not to mention that a week is no time at all! You wouldn’t expect to achieve your fitness goal in a week, so why should you find a potential life partner in that short timeframe?

Again, while I can’t tell you exactly how many hours to spend on an online dating site per week or how many emails to send, here are my recommendations as a start:

On the traditional sites:

Do 15 minutes a day, at night when you’re relaxed. On one night, find the people you’d like to email, and on the next, email them.  It’s much smoother and less stressful that way if you’re not both searching and writing at the same time. In terms of how many emails to send, as a baseline, my Package 2 clients send five a week.  I would recommend five to 10… or more, of course. Online dating is a numbers game.

On the apps:

It’s almost too easy. Swipe in bed, swipe in the bathroom (and “wipe,” I guess?), swipe when you look like you’re engaged in note taking at a meeting, swipe, swipe, swipe. But what’s the point of all that swiping if you’re not actually engaging. Yes, it’s fun to play the game, but the real point is making a connection. If you get too swipe-happy, I recommend limiting yourself to a certain number of matches per day, say three. When you’ve matched with three people, stop swiping and start making some plans. As someone who is obsessed with keeping her inbox small and using Gmail labels like it’s my job (second career in organizing, perhaps?), I can assure you that this method works.

Just as some people prefer to work out in the morning and some prefer the evening (I’ve been known to do a midnight workout on occasion), everyone has their own method of making time for the things that are important to them. My recommendations are just a starting point. The real takeaway is that in order to get the results, you have to consider online dating a tool, and then put in the necessary time.


Nice Jewish Girl in The City- Coffee Talk

11422702_10205186343593125_1813888299_nAs a nice Jewish girl with a caffeine habit, from Turkish coffee (known as botz), to Greek coffee, to my Uncle’s cuban coffee, as well as my love of the caffeine obsessed Gilmore Girls, I was looking at the “6th in the City: For 20s & 30s” events for something to do this past weekend. When I learned about “Coffee Talk,” I naturally wanted to attend the caffeine stimulated 6th and I Historic Synagogue event, consisting of an extensive coffee buffet from  different DC brewers like Qualia Coffee, La Colombe Coffee and Compass Coffee. The brewers and baristas participated in a panel discussion about the virtues of cold brew coffee and trends within the hip counterculture of coffee of nitro tap brewing. Max Zuckerman, who is somewhat of a coffee connoisseur, moderated the panel.

coffee_map[1]The question is: What’s the connection between Jews and coffee? The answer is: Jews have actually played a part in the history of coffee. Although Ethiopians essentially discovered coffee, it was actually a Jew who began exporting coffee to Europe, opening the first coffee house in Italy in 1632. By 1650, a Lebanese man known as “Jacob the Jew” founded the first English coffeehouse in Oxford. Sephardic Jews, many of whom also became coffee traders, soon joined with Armenian and Greek merchants to bring the coffeehouse to the Netherlands and France.

“But the going wasn’t always smooth. Observant Jews and Muslims, drank coffee  to stay alert for nightly devotions,” said Israeli Professor of History Elliott Horowitz in his article entitled, Coffee, Coffeehouses, and the Nocturnal Rituals of Early Modern Jewry. Horowitz continued,  “Coffee extended the range of possibilities for making use of the night hours, whether for purposes pious or profane.”

11419759_10205186343553124_142625293_n“Coffee Talk” was the ideal event for 20 and 30 something Jews with a caffeine habit. Thanks to Bethesda Bagel, a wonderful brunch of fruit salads and an array of veggie and olive cream cheeses were also provided for the “stimulating” event. Coffee, olive infused gourmet cream cheese and kibbitzing…What an ideal way to spend a Sunday! So, according to this nice Jewish girl in the city, 6th and I in the City definitely stayed on their grind with “Coffee Talk!” and I’m not just talking about grinding coffee beans.


Glitter, Glitter, Everywhere: A Note on Pride

I am not exactly the poster child for the queer community, and while I have always been a strong ally to the LGBTQ world, I only came out officially last week. I struggle with a sense that I exist on the fringes of the queer world. In high school, I was in the gay-straight alliance, but it was easier to be an ally, because it was either pretend to be straight, or risk not being “gay enough.” One is certainly scarier than the other. As a bi-sexual person, I don’t fit into a box, even any of the boxes created by those who reinvented the boxes.

My brother is in the midst of a much, much more difficult and intense journey than mine, and in high school, he was my sister. He was my sister and he came out as a lesbian while I was silently bi. As silly as it is, when my younger sibling came out as a lesbian – which was enormously brave of him as a sixteen-year-old – it solidified my silence. When he came out as trans two years later, that cemented it. I thought, at the time, while he is going through such an incredible journey – one that actually puts his life at risk – who am I to complain when I can, and often do, live a happily heteronormative life?


Recently, I changed my mind. I’m in my late 20s. I’ve dated. Okay, maybe not a lot, but I’ve dated. And it’s about time for me to be open with myself, and those around me in order to continue to grow as a healthy, introspective individual. So, this year I stopped saying that I’m straight and came out with the truth, on a small scale. If it came up in conversation, I treated the topic as if it was something that had always been out in the open. Those who met me recently may not know that I hid this from all but a few close friends until recently. And then, last week in honor of Pride, I came out… on Facebook… because that’s what we do.

I started writing this article before Pride.

My first Pride.

I knew that this would be a glorious, emotional, and stunning experience. I knew I would feel both out of place and affirmed. I did not know that there would be 150,000 people in the streets cheering and screaming and jumping up and down, celebrating with me and the beautiful souls around me. I did not know that I would break down, that the tears would come: glitter, makeup, joy, and a lifetime of relief streaming down my face. I did not know that now, trying to find words for this, I would find myself crying again. I cannot, will never, and do not expect to be able to do justice to the ultimate glory of thousands of people reaching over thresholds trying to hold our hands, yelling “Shabbat shalom” and “mazal tov.”


This article isn’t really about me, and there’s no such thing as not being “queer enough” (although if you have experiences regarding this, please comment!); it’s about the power of support; the influence of love.

Even if I hadn’t come out, even if I didn’t participate in Pride as the sister of a transman, and as a bisexual woman, simply as a human being, I am beyond proud of our city for this incredible show of love.

Crap. I’m crying again.


Vision, Twitter Victories, and V’Ahavta

Vision, Twitter Victories, and V’ahavta:
This month, we’re smack in the middle of two Jewish holidays; Shavuot was last month, where we celebrated receiving the Torah, and Tisha B’av is next month, where we commemorate the destruction of the first and second Temples, and more modernly the expulsion of Jews from Spain.  At the median of these two holidays, one that celebrates Mitzvot and one that condemns hatred and destruction, is the most appropriate time for Gather the Jews to examine the acceptance of all Jews.  Perfect that this weekend happens to be Capital Pride as well.


Wordle featuring most prominent words used during Twitter chat

If you followed along with our Twitter chat today, you may have seen Jewish LGBTQ advocacy organizations cite places in the Torah and in our tradition that encourage inclusion.  Whatever your views on sexuality and gender identity, the lessons in Judaism about communal responsibility, about loving your neighbor as yourself, and about how we are all created in the same image teach us we owe it to each other to be kind, accepting, and welcoming.  The destruction of the Temples and the expulsion of Jews from many communities around the world reinforces the ever-trite golden rule: treat others the way you’d like to be treated.  As a people that has been excommunicated and shunned, Jews should have more of an understanding of what isolation feels like.  By excluding LGBTQ members from our Jewish communities, we perpetuate the type of behavior we ourselves will disdain this Tisha B’av.
Gather the Jews touts that we are “hyperlocal,” but LGBTQ inclusion should also be universal.  We hope that by moderating a Twitter chat with three Jewish, LGBTQ organizations just in D.C. we demonstrated the power of local engagement and how inclusion starts at the individual level.  It gave me chills to see the D.C. Jewish community so dedicated to inclusion and to making Jews of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel welcome and confident in Judaism.

More highly-used terms during our Twitter chat. We reached over 50,00 Twitter users during this conversation!

More highly-used terms during our Twitter chat. We reached over 50,00 Twitter users during this conversation!

In case you were busy during 1:00 and 2:00 today and couldn’t follow along with our Twitter chat, you can simply search Twitter for the hashtag #GatherChat to see what GLOEKeshet, and Bet Mishpachah are doing to promote the inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ Jews in D.C.

Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish

11350358_10204644506688358_2040870761_nYesterday I attended an event hosted by the Religious Action Center that was for Jewish interns staying in D.C. this summer.  The event, primarily for the students in the Machon-Kaplan Summer Internship Program, was a great opportunity to connect with Jewish students from colleges around the country, and to hear what interns are most excited about to live in D.C.

It’s easy to take for granted my own Washingtonian experience and the vibrant Jewish community I’ve found here.  As a student and young adult, I have abundant resources and support systems whether through GW Hillel and Meor, Shabbat dinners with my friends, or now through Gather the Jews.  Coming from a home where Judaism was always both a priority and a safe-haven, I naturally took advantage of the Jewish opportunities on my campus and in the D.C. community.  The fact that RAC offers that service to students who are here short-term provides these interns with more than just a hub for Jewish life; it gives students a community, and allows them to make D.C. their home.

11125617_10204644506808361_1233173538_nJewish organizations are natural home bases for local Jews, especially college students.  For those who identify with the religious and spiritual elements of Judaism, synagogues and study groups provide students with a place to continue enriching their spiritual connections and meet others who may be on the same path.  For students who identify exclusively as culturally Jewish, or who are still navigating what religion means to them, Jewish groups still serve as an epicenter of community and connection, inviting all Jewish young adults to create their own experiences.  For all college students, being in a new city with new people can be a tough transition–part of which requires students to find where they fit in.  Jewish organizations show all Jewish students that they fit in some
where, that wherever they go, there’s a place for them in Judaism.

11419992_10204644506768360_922725793_nAs a kid, I went to Friday night services with my mom every Shabbat, and sometimes during sermons I’d lose interest and peruse through the Siddurs and song books tucked into the pockets of the chairs in front of me.  To this day, there’s a song that still stands out: Wherever You Go, by Rabbi Larry Milder.  It has a catchy tune and silly lyrics about Jews still being Jews, whether they wear sombreros or live in pagodas, but it’s true: wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish.  The RAC has the right idea–bring the Jewish interns together, and they’ll always remember Jews are never alone.

Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish
You’re never alone when
you say you’re a Jew
So, when you’re not home and you’re somewhere kind of newish
The odds are don’t look far, cause they’re Jewish too.




Happy Hour June 24th!


Jews and Tattoos

I still remember when my mom first told me that she, “kind of liked” the umbrella tattoo I have on my chest, just above my heart. We were in the lobby of the Theatre J waiting for the doors to open to the dragapella group we were going to see called The Kinsey Sicks.

1073804_10101274587458566_505675968_oMy parents have always been very supportive of my brother and I. That support extends well beyond the superficial to the deeply meaningful and truly powerful. My younger brother is trans, and my parents have been allies every step of the way. Despite their completely open views, something about tattoos strikes a chord. They will always tell me that my body is mine and I can do with it as I please, but at the same time, I think they would have prefered to see my skin remain unadulterated. Why?

According to a 2006 survey conducted by Pew Research, 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 26 and 40 have at least one tattoo; 36 percent of those aged 18-25 report having a tattoo. Those numbers most likely have gone up in the past nine years.

The source of the prohibition against tattoos is Vayikra 19:28: “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for a dead person; you shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves: I am the Lord.”

The Torah uses the term ketovet ka’aka when referring to what we call a tattoo; ketovet is derived from the root letters kaf, tav, vet, which means to write, but the second word, ka’aka is harder to translate as this is the only time it appears in the Torah. It is translated as both incisions or writing/drawing. There are some schools of thoughts that say that the only kinds of tattoos that are prohibited are by the process of incising the skin and then filling it with ink, not with the modern process of using a needle to inject ink below the surface of the skin. Other schools of thought interpret any form of permanent writing to be prohibited.

Rabbi Shimon, indicates that the only the prohibition is against a tattoo that includes the name of an idol (you shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves: I am the Lord), while the Minchat Chinuch 253:1 prohibits permanent marking of the skin even if no ink is applied, and Tosafot says that there is a rabbinic prohibition against even temporary writing that looks like a tattoo, while both Rambam and Shulchan Aruch indicate that in order to violate the prohibition you need both pierce the skin and need to apply color, not just ink.[1]

Another idea surrounding the ban on tattoos and why it may not be applicable in a modern world, with a modern interpretation of halacha is that in biblical times, ink was something very different than what it is now. The ink itself may not have been kosher, or even verifiably safe to put into one’s body. Additionally, any kind of incision put a person at risk of infection. In that light, a tattoo is certainly not worth the risk. However, today, the circumstances are quite different.

One thing that is clear amongst the debate, is that having tattoos does not prevent a person from having a Jewish burial in a Jewish cemetery. Just as those who ate treif, choose not to keep Shabbat, or took interest on loans can be buried in a Jewish cemetery, so can those who did not obey the prohibition against tattooing. “You can’t be buried with your family if you get that butterfly on your ankle, now eat more chicken soup, you’re too skinny…” is just an urban legend made up my our collective grandmothers.

But, old myths die hard, and many tattooed Jews in their 20’s and 30’s say they are criticized by other Jews, both relatives and strangers, or even by non-Jews. For a long, long time I felt weird, bashful, even ashamed of showing my tattoos in shul. Any other place, any day of the week except Shabbat, I would not think twice about letting (all five) of them show, but in shul I kept them covered. I am not sure if it was out of respect, just as I would never eat traif in shul, or if it was because I was afraid of being judged.

IMG_9864We violate halacha on a daily basis. Many Jews choose not to keep kosher, or shomer shabbos, or shomer negiah. Why are tattoos so divisive? Is it because they are a permanent, visual reminder of a choice to disregard a prohibition from the Torah? Is it because they are a reminder of the Holocaust?

Especially for Jews of an older generation, tattoos do represent the Holocaust, not self-expression or art. “Tattooing during the Holocaust was an enormous instrument of degradation,” says Michael Berenbaum, a rabbi and Holocaust scholar who played a key role in the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Survivors were always told that you no longer have a name, your name is now your number. And they found tattoos to be one of the indelible marks of depersonalization.” [2] However, this is not the story for those of us who are at least two generations removed from the Holocaust experience. For many of us, the fact that we are embracing tattoos, often using their design as a direct expression of our Jewish identity is the perfect response to the weaponization of tattoos against our grandparents’ generation. We are turning a bad thing into something positive.

These days I let my tattoos show when they will, even if that’s in shul. I have found that I am far from the only one there with tattoos, and in fact am sometimes not the one with the most body art. I love what I have chosen to put on my skin, else it wouldn’t be there – my body art is truly an expression of me.

American Jews are very idiosyncratic when it comes to our acceptance of a la cart halachic practice. A little more knowledge about the situation helps (don’t get all of your information about where you can be buried from The Nanny), and an open mind goes further. If this conversation is about the biblical interpretation of the prohibition against tattoos, it surely isn’t over. However I think it is about learning to accept that our generation is more fluid in its understanding of Judaism, which might make us look like inked-up rebels on the surface, but also leads us to develop a real connection with the why of it all underneath. We are a unique generation of Jews who do it “our way” but that’s much better than not doing it at all.




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 and email her at


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Is Doing Your Due Diligence the New Normal?




In some ways, three years seems like no time, and in other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. Three years ago this week, I wrote an article called To Google or Not to Google? That is the Question. The article discussed how much “research” to do before meeting someone from an online dating site in person. At the time, I said this:

When it comes down to it, it’s hard to resist the urge to Google or Facebook your date once you have his or her full name staring you in the face, yelling, “Search me!  Search me!”  I’m not going to tell you that you can’t look (who wouldn’t?).  But no matter what you find, try your hardest not to create a firm impression of this person in your mind before you meet.  Unless you find out that he or she is a criminal (which actually happened to one of my clients who discovered that her date was wanted for securities fraud!), just go on the date, have fun, and try to put it all in the back of your mind.

I stand by this statement. In three years, nothing has changed. I then went on to say this:

If you decide to look up your date, feel free not to mention you did so unless you’re sure he or she won’t put you in the “creep” category because of it.  (And for those under 25, it’s probably assumed that you looked!)  Stalking = okay.  Talking about stalking = creepy.  Know the difference.

Here’s where a lot has changed in three years. I can’t remember the last time I showed up to meet a new person, date or otherwise, and the person didn’t already know something about me. Maybe it was the fact that I own a business, maybe that I have a dog, or maybe that I play in a weekly mahjong game… you can find anything online! Three years ago, I may have been offended if someone asked me a question about how I enjoyed going to business school at night before I mentioned that I did that for three years (that timeframe strikes again). Today, I kind of expect it.

People, understandably, see your online footprint as a way to verify that you’re real. Unfortunately, they don’t just stop there, which is where things get hairy. It’s one thing to check my LinkedIn account to make sure I am, in fact, a business owner. It’s another to look at all of my Facebook pictures and comment on my trip to Prague last year.

I can’t tell anyone not to do their due diligence—though I do give the advice not to exchange last names over an online dating site if you don’t want to. I can tell you, though, just as I did in the article that feels like it was written just yesterday, to draw your own conclusions about someone separate and apart from what you find online. Degrees, photos, and jobs you can find online. Character, values, and essence, you can only discover for yourself in person.


Meet our new intern, Mollie!

Jackie: What brought you to D.C.?

Mollie: I came to D.C. for school; I’m a rising senior at the George Washington University.  Most of my friends stayed close to home–in Georgia–for college, but there seemed to be so much exciting opportunity here in Washington and even though I didn’t know a soul, I decided to push the limits of my comfort zone and come to this amazing city.

Jackie: What do you study?

10689721_10205821537160253_7944580767640445103_nMollie: One of the main reasons I love D.C. and GW so much is because of what I get to study and where I get to do it.  I’m currently enrolled in a combined degree program to get my B.A. in Political Communication and my M.A. in Media and Strategic Communication.  It’s so exciting to study for these degrees in the peak of the digital information age, and also in the city where the national news is the local news–in the city that actually sets the news agenda.

Jackie: What are you most excited about for your summer with Gather the Jews?

Mollie: I’m most looking forward to meeting new people!  It’s going to be fun to combine my love of Judaism with my affinity for engagement and outreach, and I hope to meet tons of Jewish interns and young professionals and help enhance their own D.C. Jewish experiences!

Jackie: What are you most excited about for your first summer in D.C.?

Mollie: I’ve only ever been here as a student, and my semesters have been so busy.  I’m really excited about having some extra time to play tourist and to check out some new neighborhoods in D.C. that I don’t usually get to spend time in.  I went pedal boating at the Tidal Basin (total tourist move) last week and to a filming of The Kalb Report at the National Press Club last night–the perfect way to kick off my summer!


Jackie: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Mollie: Before I started with Gather I interned at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.  It was amazing to see the Executive Office of the President working towards helping citizens, and I loved being a part of that team!  It was a very “only in D.C.” experience for me.

Jackie:What is your favorite Jewish food?

Mollie: Oh man…I have a soft spot for a good reuben…really hits the spot.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Mollie: This superlative definitely goes to my mom.  Without her love and sacrifices, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.  When I was gr11329937_10205431934411364_5917882496229342657_nowing up, she always made sure being Jewish was fun, ensuring that I’d realize the importance of Judaism in my own life.  We had Shabbat dinner every Friday night with ten or fifteen of my family members over, and because of it I still always crave spirituality and family time every Shabbat.  She made being Jewish special and enjoyable, so I grew up to love my Jewish identity.

Jackie: How do you like to spend Shabbat?

Mollie: I think fundamental Shabbat is beautiful–the idea of taking one day of your week and devoting it entirely to rejuvenation and reflection can change your life.  I spent some time in Israel last year, and we observed every Shabbat on my trip.  It was amazing that everyone could prioritize their Saturdays to self-improvement and spirituality.  While it’s challenging to incorporate that lifestyle into my college routine, I try to maintain the separation of Shabbat at least a little bit–whether that’s lighting the candles before I go out, not checking my email for the day, or making goals for the next week before Shabbat ends, it’s important to me to maintain some semblance of Shabbat in my secular and incredibly busy life.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: when Jews Gather…

Mollie: amazing things can happen.

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