Jewish Activist of the Week – Jill!

-3Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Jill: I went to UVA for undergrad, and DC is the closest big city, so I took a bus here after graduation just because it seemed like the thing to do.  I didn’t really have a plan beyond applying to jobs with feminist organizations.  It’s turned out to be exactly the right place for me, where I’ve found my chosen family, meaningful work, and a surprising enthusiasm for our sweaty summers.  I’ve lived here for 9 years now and I don’t plan to ever leave.


Jackie: What work were you doing with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network?

Jill: This was my first grown-up job after college.  I was hired as a fundraising assistant, but when the Grassroots Organizer left a few weeks later I applied for her job, and this national organization fighting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” trusted 22-year-old me with running the organizing program by myself.  It was a huge job that demanded a lot of me, and I absolutely loved it.  I got to build SLDN’s digital program from the ground up, train hundreds of people to lobby Congress, and emcee a rally on the National Mall.  One of my favorite projects was Pride in a Box, where we recruited activists from our email list to represent SLDN at their local Pride festivals, enabling our small organization to be present at hundreds of Pride festivals all over the country, give activists a big job to sink their teeth into, and get the word out about our legal services and lobbying work to hundreds of thousands of people who may not otherwise have gotten that chance.  This was back in 2007 when this kind of distributed online-based campaigning was still pretty new, and I’m proud of how quickly my non-techy colleagues agreed to give it a try and how many people were excited to be a part of it.

Jackie: You started the organization Practice Makes Progress. What is your mission with this organization?

Jill: Practice Makes Progress teaches digital strategy infused with radical inclusion to organizers and political operatives across the progressive movement.  Digital strategy means organizing on the Internet.  We teach it all — developing campaign strategies, aspirational messaging, finding and building activist audiences, and the technical skills that make it all happen.  Radical inclusion is the idea that every human being deserves a voice in the political process, including in professional advocacy careers, and that we have to work systematically to end institutional racism, sexism, ableism, cissexism, and other structures that block so many of us from meaningful careers advancing the justice we need.  I’m proud of my work training thousands of organizers in the strategic instincts and technical know-how that’s required to run great online campaigns.  And I’m especially proud of Practice Makes Progress’s newest program, training progressive organizers in cultural competency around gender identity.



Jackie: What made you want to start your own business?

Jill: I saw a need arise for a new approach to professional development for progressive organizers, and I had the skills, so I took the leap.  Entrepreneurship is hard work on a level I couldn’t have imagined before I started doing it, but I believe so strongly in my idea that we can and must provide excellent training in strategic and technical skills at the same time as we help organizers develop more inclusive ways of treating each other in progressive workplaces.

Jackie: How do Jewish values inform your work?

Jill: I’m a pretty observant Reform Jew, and that’s really important to me and also a really private part of my life.  Tikkun olam sums up so beautifully why I’ve devoted my professional life to activism.  At the same time, I believe very strongly that our religious reasons for political advocacy have no place in the public square.  If I want to convince others to share my beliefs about public policy, Jews and non-Jews alike, I need secular arguments and secular evidence — what my God or my tradition says about abortion, or climate change, or Israel for that matter, is simply not relevant in a pluralistic society.  The United States was the first modern nation to grant equal rights to Jews, way back in 1776, and our separation of religion and government is fundamental to the promise of this country that I love so much and protest so often.

Jackie: I hear you throw a pretty epic Passover seder, how do you feed that many people!?!

Jill: Hosting seder is one of my favorite things to do all year!  It’s also a ton of work.  The planning starts about 3 months in advance, setting the date and explaining what my seder is all about to friends who are new to it.  I wrote my own Haggadah, which I update every year.  The cooking itself is a time crunch in the few days leading up to seder, and I have several vegetarian and vegan friends, and a few who need to avoid gluten or nuts, so I’ve settled on an all-vegetarian menu that meets everyone’s needs and I just serve the same thing every year.  Last year I cooked for 20 people!  I ask that my guests bring lots of wine and a willingness to be earnest for one night.  Organized religion has done a lot of harm to many queer people, and I’ve had more than one friend over the 6 years I’ve been doing this say that my seder was the first religious observance they’ve ever been to that made them feel safe.  I’m still blown away by that.



Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Jill: I had to think about this question for a while!  There are so many people who I think are awesome, who are Jewish, like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is one of my favorite humans.  Specifically in terms of people who are my favorite for Jewish things that they do, after some reflection, I’ve come to a tie between Rachel Adler and Michelle Citrin.  Rachel Adler wrote a phenomenal book of Jewish feminist theology called Engendering Judaism that contains a lot of important ideas, including a new approach to Jewish wedding ritual based on an ancient ritual Jews used to solemnize contracts — a deeply Jewish ritual to solemnize a marriage without any of the gender bias that’s inherent in kinyan.  And Michelle Citrin is a very talented musician who got Internet famous for her 20 Things to Do With Matzah song — she’s been serving as cantor for Temple Micah’s Next Dor High Holidays services for the past several years, making me cry every Yom Kippur.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Jill: We bang on the table when we sing, and that feels like home to me.


Eerie, Sexy, or Funny… Your Costume Says A Lot About You

People often ask me what to wear on a first date. I give a few pieces of advice on this topic:

– Wear clothes to match the venue.

– Make sure everything is neatly ironed and tucked in, as appropriate.

– Shoe choice matters.

While the first date outfit is obviously important, there are other times when you also have to ask yourself the question, “What do I wear??”

We all know what holiday is coming up this Saturday (where does the time go?), and the costume you wear can tell a lot about you, believe it or not.

I used to wear this ridiculous (lame?) homemade “costume” made from a box of Honey Bunches of Oats (my fave) and an aluminum foil “knife” pierced through it. Can you guess what I was supposed to be? A cereal killer. In other years, I gave into the peer pressure to become the sexy version of a costume, so I was a “sexy bee.” (I actually wore this costume three years in a row since I was spending Halloween with different people. I knew it was time to retire it when a guy walked into the party wearing the exact same one!) Through both of those costumes, you’d get a very different impression of who I am, so I want to talk about what your Halloween costume might say about you?
bacon1. The pun 

Like my ridiculous cereal costume, a punny costume shows that you probably enjoy wordplay. I personally like these types of costumes because, just like in an online dating username that takes a clever take on a word, a clever costume is a fairly decent proxy for intelligence. Some ideas: Sand-witch (that’s mine this year!), a deviled egg, Kevin Bacon.

pun2. The “In” joke

Like the pun costume, this person is in the know with the news. If the whole “dress” fiasco had occurred on Halloween, you better believe we would have seen a lot of white/gold and blue/black action going on. Now, on the other hand, if someone shows up in an outdated news story costume (bird flu, anyone?), he or she is likely to get a few eye rolls for being so far removed from the present day. I personally can’t wait to see all of the bad toupees this year that are supposed to look like Donald Trump. Just go around saying, “You’re fired,” and you’re golden.the sexy

  1. The “sexy” _______

Just about any costume anything can be turned into the sexy version of itself. Sexy doctor, sexy librarian, sexy basketball player… it really doesn’t matter. By dressing as the sexy version of something, it says that you either want to show off when it’s deemed socially acceptable or, more likely, that you’re looking for attention. If you leave nothing to the imagination, people are going to look at you, for better or for worse.

4. The last-minute makeshift costume

last min


You throw on a pair of sunglasses and say you’re Bono. You decide to wear a red hat and say you’re a fire fighter. You put a “Hello my name is Posh” nametag on and say you’re one of the Spice Girls. We can all see through these costumes (not literally like in #3, thank goodness), and the only thing most people think is, “Lazy!”


5. The mask or gory number

I hate these costumes. Most come with a mask so you can’t even see the person’s face. This screams (no pun intended) that this person doesn’t really want to engage with people. The mask creates a barrier so that it’s really easy to be anti-social.

the box6. The box

We’ve all seen those costumes where someone is wearing a big cardboard box—a Martian, a dinosaur, a phone booth. I don’t care what it is—you’re in my way. Wearing a huge box is the kiss of death. You can’t get close to people, and you get in everyone’s way, especially at a crowded party. . 

So there you have it. What are you going as for Halloween this year? Feel free to leave a comment or Tweet your costume to @ALittleNudge.




Thirty in the City – Flying Solo

bridesmaidsI have assembled a few notes on how to go solo to a wedding and have a blast. If there are tips I left out, leave a comment below!

Over the last few years, I have noticed an increase in friends getting married. What has spurred this on, I will not guess. One thing is for sure, however – since I have entered my thirties, it has becomes an avalanche of weddings. Just this year I received seven invitations. So, JDate, JSwipe, OKCupid, and all those other apps and matchmaking friends, you are doing something right. The knots are being tied.

With the rise of weddings comes the rise of wedding trends. What was once a wild bachelorette party night out on the town has become a bachelorette weekend in a big city, small rural town, or sometimes a full-on vacation. The wedding in the downtown hotel has become a destination wedding.

With the expansion of the destination wedding trend comes the expansion of my traditional vacation budget and a stretching of my permitted work vacation days. Further, wedding season has expanded into late fall. Last year, a colleague of mine had a wedding every weekend over the summer and fall, totaling at 11. She was a bridesmaid for half of these, seven of the weddings took place outside of DC, and three were destination weddings. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against out-of-town weddings. We all want to be there to watch our friends tie the knot and wish them all the best on their journey. However, things begin to get even more complicated when you’re flying solo to these things.


Single or not-single, if you’re flying solo to the wedding, keep these in mind:

  • Be happy with who you are and how far you have come. You did it, you made it to the wedding!
  • Guests are attending the wedding for the couple-to-be, and will not be focused on you. Shift your focus to the couple and don’t worry about the one or two people in attendance you don’t get along with.
  • Buy a gift from the registry. It will be shipped directly to the couple, you don’t have to schlep it around, and you are getting them exactly what they want.
  • Remember ladies, if men can re-wear their suits, you can re-wear your formal dresses. You don’t need to buy a new dress for each wedding! I have winter holiday dresses that I wear to corporate events that can also be used at weddings, bat or bar mitzvahs.

For all you truly single ladies and gents:

  • Plus-ones are not necessarily boyfriends/girlfriends of the invitees. Therefore, don’t be concerned that you are the only single person showing up – you probably aren’t!
  • Does showing up solo bring you down? It shouldn’t! Not bringing a plus-one makes you more available to meet other people and not have to worry about whether or not your date is having a good time.
  • Worried about which table you will be seated at? Ask to be seated with the veterans or the teenagers. They have plenty of stories to share and will keep you entertained all night.
  • Lastly, don’t drunkenly toast the happy couple. When you make them look good, they make you look good.

For a destination wedding or a wedding away from your hometown:

  • Make it a vacation – arrive two days early, settle in, relax.
  • Don’t have enough vacation days? Check if you can work from the road. Working on the road is better than dashing out the office to catch a plane and showing up at the wedding frazzled, just to turn around and fly back.
  • You don’t have to stay at the hotel recommended by the bride and groom. If it doesn’t work for your budget, it doesn’t work for your budget! Find a cheaper hotel. One friend of mine likes staying at Holiday Inns whenever he travels, another friend is all about bed and breakfasts, and personally, I take it as an opportunity to stay with friends and family and catch up with them.
  • If you don’t plan on renting a car, be sure to stay near pedestrian friendly areas of town.
  • If you are nice to the front desk, they are nice back to you. Ask about free hotel breakfast vouchers.
  • Get yourself a mani-pedi – its ok to spoil yourself!

Lastly, you won’t be judged if you can’t attend a wedding. Sometimes we just can’t swing it. It is better to say it upfront and politely to the couple-to-be instead of waiting until the last minute (when you are exhausted from panicking about hotel, plane, wedding gift, etc.). It may be their special day, but the bride and groom want you to be happy too!





Ethnic vs. Religious Judaism

Jews have an identity crisis. Are we a religion, or are we an ethnicity? There is textual support for both answers, and the easiest solution to this crisis is to say that we’re both. I think this solution ignores the real challenge. While in theory one could identify as equally ethnic and religious, I have never seen this in practice. That’s because these two understandings of the Jewish identity are conflicting, and everyone is drawn toward one side:

-Ethnic Jews don’t have to do anything. Religious Jews must act religiously (the precise standards are defined by the denomination).

-Ethnic Judaism is determined by the past (do you have Jewish family). Religious Judaism is determined by the present (what do you do, believe, etc.).

-Ethnic Jews unite over shared history and blood-lines. Religious Jews unite over shared beliefs and practices.

-Ethnic Judaism cares about Jewish bodies. Religious Judaism cares about Jewish souls.

-You can be “half-Jewish” according to an ethnic understanding (though this terminology often conveys a misunderstanding of the Jewish identity as distinct from other ethnicities – ex. you can be half-Jewish, half-Black and half-Italian). There is no such “half” identity according to a religious understanding of Judaism, which is all-or-nothing.

There are pros and cons of both approaches:

Ethnic Judaism provides a sense of belonging. It’s welcoming and not judgmental (as long as you have Jewish family, you’re in). It creates a sense of rootedness and family. It’s unconditional.

The downside, though, is that it can become very exclusive and even xenophobic. It can lead to an obsession with blood-lines which often feel arbitrary, especially when there is not much else that is shared between the people who share that blood. It is stagnant and not aspirational.

Religious Judaism provides a sense meaning and purpose. It’s welcoming (to anyone who wants to take on the defined criteria). It too creates a sense of family through shared practice and/or belief. It is a framework to explore and challenge beliefs, values and ideas about the one’s self and the world.

The downside, though, is that it can be very judgmental and hierarchical. It can be exclusive in a different way – excluding everyone who doesn’t meet the defined criteria. It is demanding and can lead to insularity. And of course, those religious beliefs and values can lead to hurtful and even immoral behavior.

My hope in raising this tension is not to create a rift in the Jewish community but to highlight one that is already there. Instead of pretending that everyone agrees on what being Jewish means, let’s acknowledge our different understandings and deepen our individual Jewish identities by addressing the hard questions that inevitably stem from confronting these differing views:

Ethnic Jews – What, beyond blood-line, are defining features of this identity? What is meaningful about this identity? Why does this identity matter (I don’t care about other people who have brown hair or blue eyes)? How do you guard against insularity?

Religious Jews – What value are you adding to the world? Why do you need Judaism to get there? What are your standards, and how do you relate to people who don’t meet those standards? How do you guard against fanaticism?

These are provocative, scary questions that have the potential to unravel our identity. But they also have the potential to open a door toward a richer relationship with Judaism. Before we can ask these questions, we need to know where we stand on this spectrum between ethnic and religious Jew. That is where the journey of self-exploration begins.


Jewish Entrepreneur of the Week: Roger Horowitz!

Pleasant Pops3 Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Roger: I came to DC after working on the Obama campaign to get a job working for the administration. That didn’t end up working out because about 10,000 other recent college grads came to DC to do the same thing so I ended up starting my own business with my college roommate right after Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

Jackie: You are a co-owner of Pleasant Pops. Can you tell us about your work and how you got into the popsicle business?

Roger: I’m from New York and my college roommate Brian is from North Carolina. We were living together in DC right near the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market and decided that it would be great to incorporate fresh and local fruit into the Mexican style ice pops-called Paletas – that we both grew up with in NC and NY.

It was a totally random decision to start a business and especially a pop business. Neither of us studied business or had ever thought seriously about starting a food business before.

We started in 2010 selling at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market and soon after bought an ice cream truck  which we then used in addition to our carts at Farmers’ markets for the next couple years. In the fall of 2012 we opened our shop in Adams Morgan which is also a cafe and coffee shop and really expanded the business from 2 of us to about 15 folks and expanded our offerings with sandwiches, soups, salads, and of course coffee. Pleasant Pops opened our second location this past June right near the White House at 15th and H St. NW.

Pleasant Pops2

Jackie: We just moved past the High Holidays, did you make any fun resolutions for the new year?

Roger: My top resolution which actually is fun but doesn’t sound fun is to say “no” more. Working a lot means not a lot of time for hanging out with friends or being at home. David Plotz (former editor of Slate) wrote a great article a while ago that basically said if you wouldn’t want to do this tomorrow, you shouldn’t agree to do it six months from now. I’m trying to cut down on all the things that I don’t enjoy in life.

Jackie: What do you like to do on the weekends in DC?

Roger: I often find myself working on the weekends. I try and keep Friday night as my abbreviated version of Shabbat and go to Sixth and I for services or host friends for Shabbat dinner. We also host lots of out of town visitors and I love to show them that DC exists beyond the National Mall.

Pleasant Pops4

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Roger: My wife AnneMarie Horowitz.

Jackie: Do you have a favorite Jewish Food?

Roger: Latkes are my all time favorite but Knishes, Lox and bagels are all up there. I think Latkes are the best because we’ll freeze leftovers and use them as hashbrowns for breakfast and serve with ketchup.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: when the Jews Gather…

Roger: There is always way too much food and the goodbyes take all night.


An Interview With Women Who Rock – Bulletproof Stockings

Bulletproof Stockings is an all-female alt-rock band led by Dalia Shusterman and Perl Wolfe, who both identify as Hasidic. They are based in Brooklyn, and choose to perform for women-only audiences.

In the frum (a Yiddish word meaning devout) world, an all-girl, alt-rock band is particularly exciting. Women can be confined in many ways, whether they are restrained by the idea of kol isha, which is the rule that men should not hear a woman sing, or by other concepts of modesty to not dance, to sing quietly, or just feel pressured to hold back – in the Lubavitch world music rings loudly, but women fade to the background. With Bulletproof Stockings on the scene, women crowd into rooms together to sway at concerts featuring the female-only band. Bulletproof Stockings hopes to not only motivate women to claim their own space, but to get out there and share their music as well. Perl and Dalia are bastions of creative energy and wherever Bulletproof Stockings goes next, they will go as an inspiration.


DC writer Michele Grossman recently spoke with Perl and Dalia of alt-rock band Bulletproof Stockings to discuss their music, inspiration, and what success looks like to them.

Give me a brief history of your band.

Perl: Dalia has an extensive background in music, and as a former drummer of Hopewell.

I started writing music in 2011 after my second divorce. A channel opened up during the divorce and music started coming. This was really the first time that I had tried any of that. After the divorce, when I was home at my parents’ in Chicago — it sort of came to me: there was an answer coming from Hashem, and the music was going to speak to women.

I moved back to New York City, and I kept telling people I was a musician, and I didn’t know why. I was working at my old makeup job, then after booking my first gig, I got connected with Dalia.

Dalia: I played in bands, but when I embraced Chabad, I left everything behind. The name for our band comes from this time when I was fabrangening [a term used by term used by Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim to mean singing joyously or exploring / studying Torah or philosophy] with my husband and the name ‘Bulletproof Stockings’ came to me. “Wouldn’t that be a wonderful name for an all-girls band!” we said, and I set that idea aside. I think the same way about music as Perl. It’s a big gift to be able to speak the same language as someone.

Can you explain why you perform only for women, for those who don’t know about kol isha?

Perl: There doesn’t really exist a place for a full room for women to rock out. I had a special world of music growing up in Chabad, and want to transfer that space onto the secular world.

Dalia: Kol isha is all on the men. There is no halachic [Torah] law that says we can’t perform for men, but we are creating a special space for women where they can be a little more free. Rock and roll is sort of a boys’ club anyway.


In Vagabond’s Wagon, a very popular song of yours, there are a couple of lines: Somewhere down the line, he meets a child of four or five and she inquires of him, “Tell me what it’s all about.” He just looks at her and smiles, “Though it’s taken me quite a while, it’s better to be outside looking in, than to be inside looking out.” Can you tell me a bit about that song in general and that line?

Perl: All of the lyrics are based in Torah. At the beginning of the song it is describing leaving Egypt and wandering through the desert, and then moves on to talk about this guy who is trying to figure himself out, which is where we come upon that line. A lot of Jews were left behind in Egypt because they were afraid of change, and the comfort of slavery was appealing even though it was the comfort of an uncomfortable thing. The song, and that line is about having to do something but being held back by the fear of the unknown.

Even though we love Torah, and even though we are Hasidic, we really don’t like preachy music. We like open poetic lyrics. The music is really up to interpretation by the listener. When I listen to music, I want to interpret the music myself.

As women who work in a creative industry have you experienced push-back or tension from your community(ies)?

Dalia: A woman who’s playing drums experiences a bit of reaction. It’s a boys’ club.

Perl: They rebbe was so clear that whatever gift you have you must uplift the world with it. We have fans all over, including in more restrictive communities in New York, too. For girls who are reading: if you are worried about trying something like this because of negative feedback, know that it is overwhelmingly supportive on both ends, the number one reason the people have an issue with it is not because of halacha [religious law] is because it’s new. There’s no religious context for there to be a problem with it!


What does the word, “success” look like to you?

Perl: if women are inspired and excited by what we are doing and share their own gifts with their world and if we give women a space that’s just for them, that’s success right there.

Dalia: To unite women all over the place of all kinds and backgrounds.


People are talking about Bulletproof Stockings because they are inspiring, and new, and different. They string together musical influences from the indie sphere as well as from traditional Jewish sources such as nigunim. Both women grew up listening to rock music, their parents’ Beatles albums, and are influenced by such classic rock groups as Jane’s Addiction and Nirvana. They have a soulful, bluesy feel that harkens to the old-world Soviet (s)punk of Regina Spektor and to the street jazz that Dalia took in during her time in New Orleans.

Their lyrics are poetic and sometimes veiled, in contrast to their powerful and clear style that is reminiscent of the alt-rock of Hüsker Dü and the quirky indie stylings of Sleater-Kinney. Bulletproof Stockings’ music is emotional, bold, and complex.

In short, it’s impossible not to be entranced.

Bulletproof Stockings is releasing their debut LP, Homeland-Call-Stomp in December.

They will be at Sixth & I on December 8. 

Check out their Facebook and Twitter.

Listen to their music here.




Jewish Filmmaker of the Week – Lindsey!

Sitz1Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Lindsey: I grew up in Silver Spring, so I was homegrown in the DMV.  I love this city.

 Jackie: What first made you want to go into film?

Lindsey: When I was 12, my parents got me a cheap camcorder perfect for filming Destiny’s Child inspired music videos in the neighborhood storm drain. I went nuts with that camera—doc-style recounts of my baby sister’s basketball season, parody rap music videos for my Mom on Mother’s Day (“Mama with the Womb with lots of leg room!” dropped in 1999), and short fiction films.

Beyond filmmaking itself, I am obsessed with storytelling. Stories can inspire and connect—they can make you laugh and help you escape. My 8th grade English teacher, Ms. Barlev, was a huge force in my life. She gave my creative juices a place to percolate and encouraged me to believe in myself.


Jackie: Where did the idea for Cowlick first come from?

Lindsey: One day this past winter, my best friend asked me my thoughts on Mercury Retrograde. I did some research and a character popped into my head: an extremely anxious kiddo that obsessively followed the superstitious rules of Mercury Retrograde. Since then, Cole (Cowlick’s lead) has changed A LOT.

The themes of Cowlick—anxiety and how it holds us back—are ones that are very central to who I am.

Jackie: Are there other projects of yours we can check out while we wait for Cowlick to come out?

Lindsey: Absolutely. Most of what I have on my vimeo page is short doc pieces:

A short about a Special Olympics athlete, Brenda, and another about a vivacious 89-year-old woman, Fondly Maggie.

But this 2015-07-09 11.42.04past spring, I wrote and directed a more serious short fiction about a Passover Seder inspired by a story my Mom wrote, entitled Four Questions.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to hang out in DC?

Lindsey: I work in Adam’s Morgan and I LOVE Adam’s Morgan. Especially during daylight hours. Tryst and The Diner are two of my favorite spots to chill and get work done while enjoying some delicious grub.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Food?

Lindsey: MATZAH BALLS (SPECIFICALLY MANISCHEWITZ BRAND).  I apologize for the all caps.  I am incredibly passionate about this time of year—mainly because I know that I will be spreading the Matzah Ball gospel very very soon.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather

Lindsey: they laugh.



Love Yourself Before You Can Love Someone Else

erika e-1405-4We hear this expression all the time: Love yourself before you can love someone else. What does that even mean? What it means to me—and how I explain it to my clients—is that the only person who can make you truly happy is, you guessed it, you.

We all know those people who are down in the dumps, and then they start dating someone and everything turns into sunshine and rainbows… at least for a little while. Some people think that finding the right partner will make them happy. Not so. You’re the only person who can make yourself happy. In a relationship, 1 plus 1 should equal 3 (where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts), not ½ plus ½ equals 1. Once you are complete your own, adding someone else to your life should only add to that happiness.

In life, we’re often taught not to focus on ourselves but to put others first. In love, though, I’m going to tell you to flip that concept on its head and focus on yourself before you decide to bring someone else into your life. Here are five tips for creating some good ol’ “self-love”:

  1. Treat yourself like you’d treat your friends.

A few years ago, when I was just getting settled into owning my business, I was stressed… like really stressed. I wasn’t going to the gym like I wanted to. Heck, I was even skimping on my tooth brushing routine! (Don’t worry—no cavities.) I’ve learned that there a few key points: get enough sleep, work out, buy things that make you happy. Basically, treat yourself the way you’d advise your friends to treat themselves. I still need a reminder sometimes and even have a tattoo on my foot (sorry, rabbis!) that reads “Be good to yourself.” I listen to it maybe a third of the time…

  1. Find comfort in going solo.

I know many serial monogamists who jump from one relationship to the next, without giving themselves any time to heal or to mourn the last relationship. This is often because, whether they’re willing to admit it or not, they have a fear of being alone. While you don’t have to love it, being content when you’re alone can be very liberating. Even if this starts with one night a week at home cooking Pad Thai or sitting in Dupont Circle and reading the latest Grisham novel, it’ll be a great feeling when you know you’re fully self-sufficient.

  1. Get to know the real you.

Hi, my name is Erika. Sometimes when we’re in a relationship or focused on others, we lose a bit of ourselves along the way. Compromise is very important, of course, but to a degree. After a long-term relationship of mine ended several years ago, I remember one of my best friends saying to me, as she looked at my pink sequined shoes, “Erika! You’re back!” I had lost something in myself. In the process of getting over the relationship, I discovered, and re-discovered, who I really was—someone who loves the color pink… and tap dancing… and singing… well, you get it.

  1. Remember that only you know what’s best for you.

“When are you getting married?” “When are you giving me grandkids?” “Why are you still single?” These questions are so inappropriate and invasive that I might throw something if I dwell on them for too long. Most of us feel outside pressure at some point or another—from parents, friends, even strangers—to follow a preconceived social norm. As hard as it is, tune those people out. You never have to do anything to please someone else. It’s none of their business.

  1. Sample the many fillings.

When you start to feel that void, that emptiness, that loneliness, rather than racing to fill it with the next eligible bachelor or bachelorette, try to fill it instead with something else. Maybe it’s a new hobby or a refreshed wardrobe. While those things can’t make you happy either, they certainly get you on the right path.

In the end, no one should complete you; your partner can only complement you. Healthy relationships are made up of people who are comfortable with themselves first. Take the time you need to focus on you… and then revel in your next relationship when you feel ready.

Ask yourself this: “Could I love me?” And if the answer is yes, then you’re well on your way.







Cowlick. A coming of age short about a kid and his hair.

cowlickThere are 7 days left in DC local, Lindsey Sitz’s, Kickstarter campaign for her short comedy film, Cowlick. 

Cowlick is a comedic look at 13-year-old Cole Schwartzman on the morning of his Bar Mitzvah. Anxiety is in full swing as he prepares to jettison into manhood, despite the “support” from his neurotic family and that tiny (or rather large) voice in his head that keeps telling him, this is not going to go well. He does everything in his power—prayers practiced, lucky rabbits foot in hand, cowlick tamed–to make sure everything goes according to plan. He quickly learns that some things in life can’t be controlled.

Cowlick is a comedic look at 13-year-old Cole Schwartzman on the morning of his Bar Mitzvah. Anxiety is in full swing as he prepares to jettison into manhood, despite the “support” from his neurotic family and that tiny (or rather large) voice in his head that keeps telling him, this is not going to go well. He does everything in his power—prayers practiced, lucky rabbits foot in hand, cowlick tamed–to make sure everything goes according to plan. He quickly learns that some things in life can’t be controlled.

So what is this short comedy film and how was it inspired?

I’ve always been an anxious person. When I was 10-years-old, I spent what felt like hours re-reading the same page of “Shiloh” over and over and over again because somewhere in my tiny pea-brain, I believed that if I read it one more time, my family would always be safe. At 13, I flicked lights on—and off—and on—and off—and on and okay now it feels right. And I didn’t dare go a day without wearing what I considered extremely fashionable “armor”—my khaki fisherman’s vest.

Ever since my awkward tweenhood, I have slowly but surely realized that nope, no, the universe cannot and will not be controlled. It is a beautiful, unpredictable, wild mess that will throw the most unexpected your way. Read as: shit will always hit the fan. You can prepare all you want, but just when you think the skies are clear, that big shit covered curveball comes flying overhead. I quickly learned that laughter is one of the greatest weapons in our arsenal. If we can laugh at ourselves, everything will be okay.

If you’ve ever struggled with holding on too tightly, Cowlick is your story.

cowlick 2



Please help make this film a reality by donating to our campaign! 

Perks include: a badass Cowlick tee shirt, opportunity to be an extra in the most awkward Bar Mitzvah since your own (set to be shot at Sixth & I Synagogue on November 1st!), invite to the screening and wrap party, etc.


Jewish Impacter of the Week – Ben

10433063_10106417899434901_4469569414043671584_nJackie: What brought you to DC?

Ben: I moved to DC back in 2007, after working on a political campaign for Kirsten Gillibrand (now-Jr. Senator from NY.)

Jackie: How did you get involved in Federation?

Ben: I grew up in Pensacola, FL (yes, there are Jews in the Florida Panhandle) in a family that was always involved in the community. After a few years here in DC, I decided to get involved myself and applied for the Jewish Federation’s Birthright Alumni Mission.

Jackie: What are you most excited for with IMPACT DC this year?

Ben: Anyone who knows me knows, I am the first person on the dance floor, and the last to leave. I can’t wait to celebrate with hundreds of young Jews from across the area and really make a difference in the lives of so many in our community, in Israel, and around the world.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in the city?

Ben: Most Thursday nights you will find me at Stead Park in Dupont Circle playing with the Matzo Balls as part of the Stonewall LGBT Kickball League! What we may lack in athletic prowess we make up for in ruach (spirit)!!

Jackie: How do you take your bagel? 

Ben: Whole Wheat everything, double toasted, veggie cream cheese, tomato slices, and capers.

1426562_10104304474131151_1966111093_nJackie: How do you like to spend Shabbat? 

Ben: In addition to my work with Federation, I also run DC’s only young, gay Jewish organization, Nice Jewish Boys DC. We host Shabbat-luck dinners a few times a year at member’s homes. You haven’t experienced a Shabbat till you have one with a rainbow challah!

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gatherwe make an impact! Whether you are talking about the civil rights movements of the 60’s, the LGBT rights movement of today, or a host of other causes, the Jewish community has always been on the forefront of social justice. The Chosen People are an elite club that can do a lot even though there aren’t many of us. We accomplish that when we gather.


Introducing Cohort II Open Doors Fellows!

We are thrilled to announce this year’s Open Doors Fellows Cohort II! Hopefully you’ll see these faces all around town. Please use them as resources to help connect you to the DC Jewish life you’re looking for!

For information about the Open Doors Fellowship email us.

Want to grab coffee with a fellow and talk about DC Jewish life? Sign up!

FinalLindsay Goldman is a transplant to DC, originally from New York she is an East Coast girl at heart who loves talking about how homesick she is for a decent bagel and walking with a purpose. She graduated NYU with a bachelor’s in education and Judaic Studies. She now works at Maryland Hillel in College Park as the Jewish Experience Associate where she plans Shabbat and holiday programming for young adults and talks about pluralism, a lot. An alumna of Mechon Hadar, The Conservative Yeshiva and The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies she has a passion for Jewish learning and for teaching and hopes to create more local opportunities for learning this year. Dedicated to egalitarianism in the Jewish and secular world she loves chatting about women’s issues and looks forward to introducing volunteer programming about these issues this year. Lindsay loves traveling abroad and around DC as she continues to explore her new city. She is an avid member of DC Minyan where you can find her praying and socializing any Shabbat she is not staffing at UMD. She is excited to start making new connections!


HillelHillel Goldschein moved to the Greater Washington area (Silver Spring, Maryland) last year and has been happily occupied with experiencing many of the components that the wonderful area has to offer, such as making all types of friends, visiting many of the area’s wonderful sites, with the possibly unique distinction of never having been to a museum (the stuff inside doesn’t talk back!), and taking advantage of Jewish-related events. He works for Measuring Success, a consulting firm located in downtown DC that provides strategic direction for non-profit organizations and went for his Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. He is from NY (just ask him to pronounce”coughie”) and proudly incorporates his “big-city” tendencies  to his social life, such as inviting many people  to join him in all types of events and outings, stirring up fun “controversy” and making sure there is never a dull moment in a gathering, and not getting enough sleep. He enjoys and plays sports, learning about himself and others, studying biblical and prayer texts, writing, and physical activity.



Michele Grossman is an organizer by nature. Leave her alone in your kitchen for ten minutes, and your spice rack will be re-positioned by type of spice, and then in alphabetical order. (Cinnamon should never be next to pepper. Never.) She also organizes events for people and is the community leader for Moishe House Without Walls DC, facilitates a havurah called Shabbat Schmooze, and runs such events as SHABBATNIC (do Shabbat outside!) and Sunday School (think: Hebrew School for adults meets peer-to-peer learning). In the spare time she pretends to have, she paints, illustrates the thoughts she has while falling asleep, and writes poems about people she sees in the subway. Additionally, she is a freelance writer and bookkeeper, which is how she pays the bills. Michele is the daughter of two D.C. natives, and seems to take after the community organizing streak in all four of her grandparents who helped found Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, VA in the 1960s.


Henderson PictureBorn in London, Joshua Henderson moved to Washington D.C. when he was 16 years old. After two years in the nation’s capital, Joshua went to the University of Michigan where he studied History and Political Science. While a student, he grew more interested in foreign policy. After graduation in 2014, he was an Israel Government Fellow and interned at the Ministry of Justice in Tel Aviv. Joshua is a frequent runner and ran the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem half-marathons earlier this year. He also took Krav Maga for several months and is looking forward to the Rugby World Cup this Fall.


Josh N. PicJosh Neirman grew up in rolling hills of Vermont where he graduated with a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont (UVM) when flip phones were still a thing. Josh has lived in Washington, DC  for over 4.5 years and works in Montgomery County, MD for Housing Unlimited, Inc. as a property manager where he provides independent and affordable housing for adults in mental health recovery.  When Josh is not busy with his day job he enjoys his challah french toast with copious amounts of Vermont maple syrup as well as serving on the leadership committee for the North American Arava Alumni Network, the DC Jews on Bikes Planning Committee, volunteering for UVM Admissions, and co-chairing the DC Masa Israel Alumni Board among many other things.  He’s also a huge Bernie Sanders fan!


Tammy ScwartzTammy Schwartz is excited to be an Open Doors Fellow and hopes to welcome more Jews to the local community. A native of Scottsdale, AZ, Tammy moved to the District 8 years ago to attend American University. She was involved in Hillel, pro-Israel activism and exploring the array of cultural events in the city. Combining her passion for social justice and education, Tammy pursued a master’s degree in School Counseling at George Washington University. She currently works as a School Counselor at a DC Public School, promoting the academic, personal/social and career development of all students. Previously, Tammy worked at the DCJCC as a Preschool Teacher. She enjoys cooking with CSA ingredients, hiking, playing basketball and exploring new corners of DC.


JSUBAR_128_153Jackie Subar is a native Texan and recent graduate from the Bush School at Texas A&M University where she received her Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. During graduate school, she worked in development for Hillel at Texas A&M and was very involved in the Chabad on campus. Before graduate school, Jackie spent a year in the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem while interning for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. She returned to Israel last summer to work with NGO Monitor in Jerusalem. Jackie has been an active advocate for Israel and an involved member of the Jewish community in different capacities. Currently Jackie is serving as the Goldman Bridge Fellow for ACCESS, the young professionals arm of the American Jewish Community. Jackie loves being active and trying anything anything new; she really wants to take up paddle boarding. In her spare time Jackie loves reading new books, hanging with friends, and going on adventures. She is also down for a good chat, some chai tea, and good music (especially country).


Naomi pictureNaomi Yinuo Tao is a MBA candidate at The George Washington University School of Business. Before she moved to DC, she lived in Beijing and Toronto. Naomi holds a BA in Communications from York University (Toronto, Canada), and had managed an import and export company she co-founded for three years before going back to school. Naomi spent her summer between first and second year of MBA program interning for Ford Motor Company’s HR department in Michigan. She enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, traveling, and taking long walks. Naomi lives in DC with her husband, Gabriel, and they are both members of Temple Micah.


Ask Erika: How do I make a spark!?

erika e-1405-4We called, and you answered! Thank you so much for the overwhelming number of questions in response to “Ask Erika” a few weeks ago. Continue sending your questions my way! I’ll be addressing all of them in due time, but I wanted to start today with a question from a reader that I get a lot as a dating coach:

“I’ve been told multiple times after a first date that I’m a great guy, but that she just didn’t feel that “spark”. If you are meeting someone for the first time – what recommendations do you have to make that spark?”

In other words, is there a way to create chemistry with someone?

The long and short of it is, unfortunately, no. You can’t create chemistry, or a “spark,” from nothing. If one person is simply not physically attracted to the other, then it’s hard to move past that. I do, however, recommend giving it a second date if you’re on the fence about someone.

About 10 years ago (oy—I’m getting old), I went on a first date to a Mexican restaurant. (This is before I knew that you can always add dinner, but you can’t take it back!) At any rate, my date was, well, boring. At the end, I thought to myself, “Nice enough guy, but no chemistry.” The next day, I sent him a “thank you” email (he did pay for my meal, after all), and he wrote back about how he had a good time, and then he actually wrote something funny! I thought to myself, “This guy wasn’t funny at all on our date.  Interesting.”  And then he asked me out again. While I didn’t have a particularly good time on the first date, this guy seemed interested, and I knew he could at least communicate in written form. Why not?

For date #2, we met at the Metro, and he wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  In fact, he was kind of cute.  And then… against all odds… this guy was funny! I liked this guy, and sparks were flying. We ended up dating for a year and a half.  I found out many months later that he was nervous—very nervous—on the first date.

People often expect fireworks and rainbows on a first date, but the likelihood of that is only 100% in Disney movies. I encourage both men and women to give people a second chance if there isn’t a “spark” initially to see if one can grow. For the reader with the question, despite the lack of interest on their end, I am glad that these women are at least declining another date tactfully rather than saying nothing at all.

Now, onto the question at hand… while you can’t create a connection, there are subtle ways of increasing the “flirt factor” (not a scientific term by any means) on your dates by using simple body language cues:

  1. Notice where you’re facing.

Are your legs facing towards or away from your date? The more you point them towards your date, the more likely you are into him/her, and vice versa. Generally, if people turn their legs away from someone, it’s because they are trying to create some distance.

  1. Are you within spitting distance?

I hate two-tops. You know what I mean—the tables where you feel like you have to yell across it to have a conversation. If given the choice, either sit at the bar, or sit at a square table catty-corner from each other. This way, you’re more inclined to have an intimate conversation since you’re close enough to hear each other.

  1. Where are your hands?

Do you like your date? If so, a playful touch is generally a sign of interest. Let’s say you’re out with someone really funny. He or she cracks a joke. You might touch your date’s arm briefly while saying something like, “That’s really funny.”

  1. You looking at me?

If you want someone to know you’re truly listening, then make the appropriate eye contact. Speaking of keeping your eyes on each other, please put your cell phone away during your date. There’s nothing worse than interrupting someone mid-sentence to check a non-urgent text. If you’re expecting an important call or email, let your date know in advance that there’s a possibility you might have to step out for a minute.

  1. Pay attention to the end.

How do most of your dates end? With a hug? A kiss? A handshake? Unless it’s so clear that you’re on the same page (basically, the make out page), I would recommend a hug, and the quality of the hug actually matters. Just like in a business meeting, you don’t want to have a “dead fish” handshake, in dating, you don’t want to be the person with the weak hug. Now, I’m not saying give your date a great big bear hug that you’d give to your mom on Thanksgiving. What I am saying is to give a real, earnest hug that shows that you care.

What you say on a date is obviously important, but it’s often the more subtle things that people remember. So, while you can’t create chemistry, you can certainly do things to improve the art of flirtation… and if you’re not sure, give people a chance.




Meet Adi! Jewish Actor of the Week

Adi Stein Headshot 2 Jackie: What brought you to DC?

I came to DC because I went to school at American University and I just haven’t left since.

Jackie: So, you are an actor who often works in theater, can you tell us about the show you are currently working in?

Adi: Sure thing! I’m currently working on a show called The Cerulean Time Capsule. It’s a new site-specific play produced by The Kennedy  Center at The Botanic Garden. It’s a fun and exciting interactive children’s piece that takes the audience on a time traveling adventure  through the various gardens within The Botanic Garden. We run Saturdays and Sundays every half hour from 10:30am until 4pm and we’re  playing through October 25th! Also, it’s free, so you should come check it out.

Jackie: Since you are so involved in the DC theater scene, can you give us any recommendations of shows we should see?

Adi: Can do! There is actually this great new festival that just started called the “Women’s Voices Theater Festival” and there are a number of  exciting shows in it. The festival is a collaboration between all of the major theaters and theatre companies in DC. Together, over 50 new plays  by 50 female playwrights are being produced, and this kind of work is unprecedented. I just saw Queens Girl in the World by Caleen Sinnette Jennings at Theater J and it was spectacular. Beautiful text, outstanding performance from Dawn Ursula, and all around great production.  One of my favorite things I’ve seen in a while.


Jackie: You make a podcast with your friend, what made you decide to do this project? Also can you recommend your  favorite episode of the podcast or should we just start at the beginning?

Adi: Ha! Yes, I have a podcast with my good friend Brandon McCoy. It’s called Highly Unreasonable and it’s essentially just the two of us  goofing off and talking about any topic that people send our way. It’s a lot of fun, which is essentially what made us start it. We were both at a  time in our lives when we were looking for avenues of pure joy, and hanging out and talking was just that. So we said, “We should record this  and just see what happens.” And lo and behold, Highly Unreasonable was born. We’re less than 20 episodes in now so I would say start with  the beginning if you’re interested. Each episode is between 30 minutes and an hour and you can find them all on iTunes, SoundCloud, and  Stitcher!

Jackie: I actually saw you in a movie before we even met! You were in a movie Stolen Summer can you tell me about that experience?

Adi: Wow! Bringing it back. Okay. Well what you say is true: I was in a movie called Stolen Summer when I was about… 13? 14? In any case, it was a complete blast. It was the first Project Greenlight movie, so I don’t think I was as aware of the attention is was getting at the time, but looking back… woof. It was so great meeting and working with such incredible people like Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Pollack, Aidan Quinn, and Brian Dennehy. I was one lucky little dude.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Adi: Maybe Magneto? He’s pretty badass. A little xenophobic, but that’s all because of the Holocaust so… maybe it’s understandable? This got dark.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Adi: Eating delicious homemade foods until I fall asleep then waking up and doing it all over again.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather… there better be food.

adi play


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An alternative view of Yom Kippur

For most Jews, the two words “Yom Kippur” evoke two other words: fasting and synagogue. I decided to lead a Lunch-and-Learn outside of a synagogue to see what would happen. Everyone who came was fasting (at least at that point), and most had come from synagogue, so it wasn’t the counter-cultural group of rebels I might have expected. Nevertheless, we challenged these two main associations, and in doing so opened up new avenues through which to connect to the day and Judaism more broadly.

First – fasting. On Yom Kippur day, nearly every synagogue reads the section of Isaiah that seemingly mocks the very approach of everyone listening. “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?” he asks. “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

Isaiah wasn’t against fasting, so this probably isn’t an endorsement of the Broad City approach to Yom Kippur. But his words push us to rethink our understanding of piety. Is the point of fasting to transcend our physicality, feel holy and connect to God? Or are we supposed to be out in the streets, feeding those who are hungry year-round? There are obviously ways to reconcile this tension, but given the lack of social pressure to volunteer in a soup kitchen on Yom Kippur, it seems we might be overemphasizing the spiritual. Isaiah’s model for Judaism is one rooted in service, not services.

Which brings us to our second idea – synagogue. There is a debate in the Talmud about which is more sacred: a house of prayer or a house of study. While the conclusion, perhaps intentionally, is left unclear, what’s significant is the very question itself.

When I was working on a college campus, I would hear students say “I want to get more involved with Hillel,” or more often, “I feel bad I don’t come to Hillel.” I soon realized that “getting involved with Hillel” or “coming to Hillel” meant, to these students, going to services on Friday night. So ingrained is the idea that Judaism equals synagogue that even Hillel becomes one. This attitude continues after college, where “getting involved in Jewish life” for most Jews in their 20s means exploring the different synagogues in the area.

But it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when a synagogue was not the central avenue for religious expression but rather was part of a larger religious ecosystem, balanced by the equally-if-not-more-important house of study. That institution has more or less been lost in American Jewish life today, and with it, the space to wrestle, learn and grow. This is especially sad given the high number of younger Jews who are craving personal meaning through Jewish texts. According to one Chassidic rebbe (the Netivot Shalom), the only purpose of the book of Genesis is character development. But that can’t happen without spaces to engage with the text.

Our sages describe three distinct religious approaches through three types of relationships: person and God, person and self, and person and others. When we say there are different ways to be Jewish, we often distinguish between being religious and cultural. But there are different ways to be religiously Jewish, too. We’ve focused on the first approach (person and God) at the expense of the other two. Let’s honor the diversity of our religious expression by encouraging the exploration of these alternative paths.

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