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Challah Back to Summer Camp presents: Favorite Summer Camp Memories

For many of us, summer camp was the best time of our lives.  This summer is an opportunity to relive those glorious days. Escape the city and head to the Chesapeake Bay for a weekend-long summer camp with young Jewish professionals from the DMV.  Meet and connect with new friends as you choose your own adventure- take a canoe out, relax on the beach, go rock climbing, participate in a three-legged race, and much more!  Tickets are just $149!!!! until June 1st.  Use discount code: “gatherthejews” for $50 off.  More details can be found here!

In the mean time we asked the Challah Back to Summer Camp staff to share their favorite memories from their summer camp days:

S’mores:

 “Making smores was always my favorite.  Especially when my friend/genius innovator came up with the idea of substituting nutella for chocolate.”

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Capture the Flag glory:

“While the flag guards were briefly looking elsewhere, I stuffed the flag down my pants and took off at full speed back towards my side.  Due to sanitary concerns, the move was deemed illegal for future games, but it was still a tremendous and much hailed victory.”

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Stargazing:

“My favorite memory was really seeing the stars for the first time.  I know it sounds cliche, but I really couldn’t believe how many were out there.”

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Outsmarting the counselors:

“This one is from my dad.  He and his cousin were sent to a weight-loss camp (or “fat camp,” as he calls it).  Every afternoon they would canoe down the lake to where their grandmother lived, have a banquet of chocolate chip cookies and pecan pie, and then row back to camp.  Somehow, they didn’t lose much weight that summer.”

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Hiking:

“Getting out into nature is what I miss most from summer camp.  Hiking through forests, over streams, and up to viewpoints was always my favorite.”

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Learning how to woo the ladies:

“I tried to get my crush’s attention by shooting her with a spitball and then pretending it wasn’t me.  It wasn’t as successful as you may imagine.”

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Sharing bunkbeds:

“You sure get to know people when you share bunkbeds with them- late night storytelling, playing music, creating pranks, and many unmentionable things.”

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Making friends:

“I was assigned dish duty one night, which I was really dreading.  However, my fellow dishwasher ended up being my best friend at camp.  I learned that good company makes even the most mundane tasks fun.”

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3 Must See Shows at this Year’s Washington Jewish Music Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Washington Jewish Music Festival returns from June 3 through June 15 and will feature a lineup of international artists, family-friendly events, and educational programs throughout Washington, DC. With so much already on your calendar, here’s your list of must-see shows during the 2016 Washington Jewish Music Festival. Learn more about their lineup and score cheap tickets when you attend their free Festival Listening Party at Tropicalia on May 19th. Your first drink is free!

  1. YEMEN BLUES
    Kicking off this year’s Festival, Yemen Blues returns for the Opening Night performance on June 4th. Fronted by acclaimed vocalist Ravid Kahalani, Yemen Blues mixes the music of Yemen and West Africa with funk, mambo, soul, and ancient chanting techniques. Calling on a rich and diverse instrumentation that employs percussion, oud, horns, and strings, their diverse influences explode on stage. Check out their song Mountains Will Dance below.

 

  1. THE GEULAH TRIO
    Prefacing Zion80’s centerpiece performance the next day, The Geulah Trio – Jon Madof of Zion 80’s most recent project – will perform at Tropicalia as part of this year’s lineup. The group takes inspiration from Jewish music, rock, jazz and beyond. In their first-ever public performance they will be playing original music from Madofs’ Rashamim repertoire and John Zorn’s Masada Songbook. Get a first listen at this new group on June 8th during their electrifying performance!

 

  1. ZION80 The WJMF’s Centerpiece Evening will feature Jewish-Afrobeat sensation, Zion80. Zion80 explores Jewish music – from Carlebach to Zorn and everything in between – through the lens of the Afrobeat funk master Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Led by Jon Madof (Rashanim, Matisyahu), the 9-piece band arranges Jewish melodies using the polyrhythmic intensity of Afrobeat, blended with the madness of the Downtown scene. It’s essential Jewish music for the 21st century! Check them out below.


Visit WJMF.org for the full Festival lineup.

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JScreen Pop-Up: Take Action. Take Control. Get Screened.

Instagram_1in4The number eighteen, Chai, signifies “life” in Judaism, so it’s fitting that on Wednesday, May 18 you have the opportunity to greatly impact your life. We are really going to get down to the invisible aspects of your being. No, we’re not going to psychoanalyze your thoughts or study your dreams, but we will be testing your DNA. While we won’t be diagnosing you with any crazy syndromes, we will be conducting genetic screening to see if you are a healthy carrier for a range of devastating diseases that have the potential to be passed on to your future children. Think back to Biology 101 – if two carriers get together, there is a 25% risk of passing on that recessive genetic disease, but just one person being a carrier of a particular disease isn’t alarming. Fret not, as most of us are carriers of something and the there are many ways to still have a healthy child – even if both partners carry the same disease mutation. It’s amazing that in 2016, we have the technology to be able to take a drop of saliva and check to see if someone is a carrier for diseases such as Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, and Familial Dysautonomia.

Carrier1Whether you are single, dating, or married, genetic screening is important for every member of our community who plans to have children in the future. JScreen, a non-profit dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases, will be “setting up shop” at the DCJCC in an effort to provide as many people as possible with the chance to get tested. There is a huge gap in the accessibility of genetic screening, as many people won’t ever be offered testing for a full range of disease or be able to afford it. JScreen’s panel is extremely comprehensive with more than 100 diseases, and is easy, confidential, and affordable at only $99 with insurance (this same test can usually cost up to $1000!). It takes only 10 minutes and is done via saliva sample. Follow-up genetic counseling is provided by phone when your results are ready.

Drop by the DCJCC anytime between 4:00 and 6:15PM on Wednesday, May 18 to get tested. Register by visiting www.JScreen.org and selecting “DC JCC” from the ‘how did you hear about JScreen’ dropdown.

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Why Yom Hashoah Should Matter

Tonight is Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Day).

Unlike International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is on January 27 (the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau) and was created by the United Nations in 2005, Yom Hashoah is on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nissan (the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) and was created by the Israeli parliament in 1951. Whereas International Holocaust Remembrance Day is not a particularly Jewish day, Yom Hashoah is.

This brings up the question – now that we have an internationally recognized day, doesn’t Yom Hashoah lose its meaning? Do we really need both?

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day for the global community to remember and honor all of the victims of the Holocaust – one of the worst atrocities in human history – and to recommit to preventing future genocide. Our role as Jews in this day is critical.

Yom Hashoah, on the other hand, is a day for the Jewish community to internally remember the distinctly Jewish focus of Hitler’s Final Solution and to internalize the profound impact this period in history has had and should have on our identity as Jews.

Like all pain, this is hard to sit with and easier to ignore. Additionally, an overemphasis on anti-Semitism can blind us from helping other communities in need. But as Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto and was murdered by the Nazis, wrote in notes that were discovered after the war: “According to my knowledge of our sages and the history of the Jews, there has never been anything like this.”

We must let the Holocaust shape our Jewish identity.

Here are four suggestions, based on different ways you might personally connect to Judaism, to commemorate Yom Hashoah this year:

  • For those who connect to Judaism culturally, spend some time reading poems or other art pieces that were created during or inspired by the Holocaust.
  • For those who connect religiously, take the day to challenge your theology. A couple of books about post-holocaust theology that I’d recommend are “For the Sake of Heaven and Earth” by Irving Greenberg or “Faith After the Holocaust” by Eliezer Berkovitz, both available on Amazon.
  • For those who connect through family, talk to your own family about personal connections to the Holocaust. Take some time to remember the lives that were taken. For those who don’t have any immediate family connections, try to internalize a specific story from the Holocaust and realize that it could just as easily have been someone you know. Movies are easy ways to do this – HBO Go just released the Pianist on Monday.
  • And finally, for those who connect to Judaism ritually, I’d suggest fasting. With the exception of Yom Kippur, all other Jewish fasts relate to tragedies over 2000 years ago. As a result, they are not observed by most Jews. Yet we Jews have a much more recent tragedy worthy of a day of fasting and somber reflection.

For the first time, I’m going to try to fast tomorrow. I’ve dropped most of the traditional minor fasts, and this feels like a meaningful replacement. My hope for myself and anyone else joining me is that this fast connects us more intimately to the pain of the Holocaust and provides us with the renewed perspective to discern what is worthy of our sadness and our joy.

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Jewish Adventurer of the Week – Mary Ann

pic 3Jackie: Tell us about growing up in Manhattan, do you see yourself going back?

Mary Ann: People ask me all the time what growing up in Manhattan was like and I honestly can’t say that it was weird or really different in any way because I have nothing to compare it to. Even though NYC is huge and diverse, my universe was pretty much contained to the Upper West Side (89th and Columbus to be exact), where I grew up. Brooklyn might as well have been in a different state. I would say my friends and I spent most of our free time hanging out in Central Park, at 24-hr diners, Union Square, St. Marks and the Upper East Side where I went to middle and high school (Ramaz). At the moment, I have no plans to move back to NYC but you never know – man plans and god laughs…

4Jackie: You lived in a Moishe House in Denver, what do you miss most about living in a Moishe House?

Mary Ann: The thing I miss most about living in a Moishe House is having a space big enough to host lots of people. Hosting and community building is my passion and I try to do it as much as possible, but living in a small apartment makes it hard to host the dinners and events I would like to.

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Mary Ann: My boyfriend and I were living in Denver and he was accepted to law school in DC so we decided to move. Serendipitously, at the time we were moving, an amazing opportunity opened up at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and not long after, I joined the Foundation as Program Associate where I work to help advance the family’s national grantmaking agenda.

pic 1Jackie: I hear that you love being outdoors, do you have a favorite spot in the DC area to spend outside?

Mary Ann: Even though I’m from a big city, I got so used to spending time outdoors in Colorado I was worried about being “nature deprived” in DC. But thankfully I was wrong. DC actually has a lot of great outdoor opportunities right in its backyard. Rock Creek Park is probably my favorite spot to be outside in DC. A forest in the middle of the city – can’t get better than that! I also think Old Rag Mountain is beautiful and offers a great challenge – just make sure you don’t pull a Tina Fey.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Mary Ann: It’s too hard to pick favorites! But someone I really admire is Ruth Dayan –Moshe Dayan’s former wife. Ruth, at 99 years old, is still super active, was a feminist before the term became mainstream, is a huge social activist and happens to be best friends with Raymonda Tawil – Yasser Arafat’s mother-in-law.

Pic 2Jackie: What did you do for Passover this year?

Mary Ann: I partnered with Moishe House Without Walls and OneTable to host a Repair the World Turn the Tables Seder for about 15 friends and family in DC. Like I said, unfortunately my small apartment can’t accommodate that many people, so my good friend allowed us to use his large house in Petworth to host it. It was one of my most meaningful Seders yet. Using Repair’s resources, we discussed the global refugee crisis and explored what our role, as Jews and former “refugees,” is as hundreds of thousands of people seek refuge. There were people of all backgrounds at the Seder and it was awesome to see how even those totally unfamiliar with the custom were able to connect so intimately and meaningfully in this age-old ritual.

Finish the Sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Somebody will know somebody who went to summer camp with somebody who went to day school with somebody who was in Hillel with somebody…

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Relationship Goals: Learning to “Adult”

Romantic relationships are ______? Challenging, exciting, a roller-coaster, fun, work. Ask anyone that question and they will give you a different answer. After the honeymoon period, things get REAL. Sometimes you have to have hard conversations and discuss some not so easy topics while you are dating, when you get engaged, and after you are married.

Any of these situations sound familiar to you?

Mo Money, Mo Problems?
stacy1She is a major spender and wants to buy a new flatscreen and go on a 3 week ski vacation in the Alps, her fiancé is a super saver who keeps every penny – just in case. How do you go about combining both your savings accounts or what if one of you has major credit card debt?

Christmukkah

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She wants a Kosher kitchen, he loves to cook….lots of bacon. He wants a Christmas tree in the house, and his boyfriend would rather have a menorah on the mantle. Navigating the type of home you want to build can be tricky no matter what your religious affiliation is.

Sex-pectations

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Sometimes knowing Dr. Ruth isn’t good enough in the bedroom. Communication is essential to keeping things exciting in all the rooms of your house.

Welcome to My House

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You are ready to buy piece of property in the DC area for many, many shekels, mazel tov! What are you looking for to make a house a home? Can you afford it and will your parents or partner’s parents help with the down payment?

In Sickness and In Health

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It is easy to get into the pattern of binge watching your favorite Netflix shows together and ordering take out on the weekends. It is also just as easy to watch your girlfriend get up at 6:00 am to train for her marathon while you hit snooze until noon. How do you encourage your partner to participate in an active lifestyle with you and get healthy?

Will….You Remember Me?

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You seek adventure and are embarking on one of the most difficult climbs of your life on your 2 week vacation. Who will get your prized baseball collection and condo in Colombia Heights if you don’t make it back? We are still young and most likely don’t think about worst-case scenarios but sometimes life, just happens.

The 5 Year Plan

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Law school is done and you passed the bar. You want to start planning for a family but are not sure who will care for the baby. Your job wants to offer you a promotion and a raise but you have to move to Azerbaijan. When crafting a professional path it is important to speak honestly with your partner about expectations.

Beyond the Chupah

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You have the ring. You chose your venue. One bride wants a priest and a rabbi to officiate the ceremony. The other bride doesn’t know why she has to stomp on the glass after she recites her vows. Wouldn’t it be great if a panel of event planners just arrived at your doorstep to sort out all of the details.

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If you and your partner are ready to put your big kid pants on, talk together, and learn more about these topics, you should attend EntryPointDC’s upcoming event, #Adulting: An Afternoon of Workshops for Young Couples. It will be held on Sunday, May 15th at the DCJCC. Young couples in their 20’s and 30’s of all backgrounds- in long term relationships, engaged or recently married are invited to explore major themes of moving from two individuals to one unit; workshops will delve into the topics of finance, spirituality, intimacy, wedding planning, familial relationships and other common challenges of the modern couple. Visit our ticket page to learn more and purchase a discount ticket. We are also launching a couples boot camp to get in shape for the summer.

If you have any questions email Stacy Miller, Manager of EntryPointDC , a program of the DCJCC for those in their 20’s and 30’s.

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Painting A Picture of Diplomacy

Art has always been an integral part of our Jewish identity. For thousands of years, the Jewish struggles and triumphs have been etched, sketched, brushed, and composed to tell the story of our people. In Israel, we can view our rich heritage all around us in the great walls, tunnels, and stones. In Sarajevo, our past is painted in the pages of one of the oldest Haggadahs; the preserved sefer (book) originally written before the Spanish Inquisition. The importance that our people have placed on art can be depicted from Jewish artists: Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Itzhak Perlman, Annie Leibovitz and many others. The masterpieces the Jewish people create are displayed not just in homes, but institutions throughout the world. Art expresses who we are, where we come from, and ultimately where we are going.

In our own hometown of Washington, it is not out of the ordinary to find oneself outside of an Embassy wondering what is inside. The international intrigue lines Embassy Row, the cultural festivities on the mall, and foreign languages spoken on the street. Here in DC, young Jews have the opportunity to explore and experience nations, cultures, and of course art different from our own. In turn, artwork seen through our Jewish lens changes our perspectives on how we view the world.

Every young Jewish community is different; the DC community is no exception. While other communities represent themselves and some of the groups around them, the Jewish young professionals of DC represent the Jewish people on a global scale. Young diplomats are very aware of whom the Jewish people are however, not every diplomat has actually interacted with the young Jewish community. In a room of Jews and diplomats in DC, we are the representation and face of the Jewish people to the diplomats of the world representing their countries at the premier diplomatic position. We are the picture that they will paint in their minds of the Jewish people.

Coming up on Tuesday, May 3rd AJC ACCESS DC will bring together young Jewish professionals and young diplomats from Washington in an effort to explore art and its place in creating diplomacy. The 16th Annual Young Diplomats Reception will host a panel of professionals in their field with a dedication to utilizing art as a means for creating dialogue and fostering goodwill. To date there are representatives from as far as Australia and as close as Mexico and Peru. They come to this event not because they want to learn more about their own lives, but because they want to learn more about ours. Some diplomats who come for the evening are not familiar with Jews on a personal level; it is our job to open up and create these relationships with future world leaders. What picture will we paint as the young Jewish community of Washington? Join me and fellow Jewish young professionals on Tuesday for food, drinks, and art while representing the Jewish people to the Washington diplomatic community.

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Jewish Texan of the Week – Brandon

12967449_10209167730252616_2211697954412842074_oThis week I had the oppurtunity to interview Brandon! You may know Brandon as a resident of Moishe House Capitol Hill but I had the oppurtunity to learn much more about him.

Know someone who you think should be the Jew of the Week? Email me!

Jackie: So you are originally from Texas, what do you miss most about your home state?

Brandon: I miss three things most of all (excluding family and friends):

1) Tex-Mex food – specifically breakfast tacos.

2) Summer was a lot longer and winter was a lot shorter.

3) It is socially acceptable to wear boots with pretty much anything down there.

Jackie: When did you learn to speak Yiddish?

Brandon: I learned to speak Yiddish at the University of Texas. It was a unique program lead by eminent Yiddish scholar Itzik Gottesman. There was even a CBS Sunday Morning segment about it.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.44.42 PMJackie: You celebrated Belgian National Day this year in the small town of Bruges, what were you doing there?

Brandon: I was travelling this summer and lazing around in Antwerp. I was supposed to be going to Brussels but switched my train ticket on a whim per the recommendation of a buddy I met in my hostel. Bruges is a beautiful and historic city. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is ever going through Belgium.

Jackie: Reading anything good currently?

Brandon: I am currently reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Brandon: Moishe House Capitol Hill (where I am a resident) is always my first choice. If we are not hosting, I usually like to do one of two things: either go to another one of the great Shabbat dinners happening around the city or go to an evening candle lit Yoga class on H street.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Brandon: you can count me in!

Meet Brandon in person at Moishe House Capitol Hill events, learn more here.

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The Haggadah for the Single Jew in DC

Recently, a JDate writer suggested a Hagaddah for Daters. While funny, we thought it wasn’t as accurate to our community as it might have been. So instead, we give you our Hagaddah for the Single Jew in DC.

Here in DC young professionals (and organizations that outreach to them) are constantly trying to find the next Big Jewish Thing. We’re pretty sure that applies to the Passover Seder as well. There are tons of sederim in the city with specific messages, such as the Black Jewish Unity Seder, the Rainbow Seder, the Labor Seder… you get the idea. There’s lots of haggadot out there, too, so we can bring all kinds of ideas to our celebrations of freedom, including the popular:

  • Beyonceder
  • The Haggadah Good Feeling About This
  • The Unorthodox Haggadah including coloring pages of Morgan Freeman
  • The Bob Marley Haggadah

So without any extra words, here’s some concepts all the singles are probably thinking about this Passover/Cherry Blossom/Tourist/Rooftop Bar season.

The Haggadah’s Prayer For DC Singles

We have to start with a simple question: What makes our Hagaddah for the Single Jew in DC different from all other haggadot? It might be a little shorter, because instead of sitting around the table sharing stories with friends and family for hours upon hours, we could be swiping right on JSwipe. The prayers inside might be a little more relevant. And let’s face it, it’ll be a lot more entertaining, even for our happily married seder guests.

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While a standard Haggadah prayer would be something along these lines:

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, who, in Your goodness, feeds the whole world with grace, with kindness and with mercy. You gives food to all flesh, for Your kindness is everlasting.

Ours might be something more like:
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, Ruler of the universe, who everyone claims has put my b’sheret and I across from each other on the Green Line and will lead us to the same train heading to Mount Vernon Square.

Passover Questions For Singles

The traditional Four Questions might not be what we’re thinking at the Passover seder:

  • Why is this night different from all other nights?
  • On all other nights, we eat either unleavened or leavened bread, but tonight we eat only unleavened bread?
  • On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight, we eat only bitter herbs?
  • On all other nights, we do not dip [our food] even once, but tonight we dip twice?
  • On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but tonight we only recline?

We were thinking something more like this:

  • Why is this man (or woman) different from all other dates we find on Bumble, at that hipster bar on H Street, or at a power-networking event on the Hill?
  • On all other nights, we complain about or make fun of our relatives, but here we are pretending to enjoy their company as they ask for the 100th time are you dating a Nice Jewish boy or girl?
  • On all other nights, I know every unattached person in the room, but tonight – I still know every unattached person in the room.
  • On all other nights, we eat farm-to-table to small plates while drinking DC Brau and dissecting the latest developments in our love lives, but tonight we stuff ourselves with matzo and brisket and listen to a story that happened 2000 years ago.

The Plagues Of Egypt vs. The Plagues Of Dating

I think you’ll agree that the actual plagues are not exactly sexy. Frogs? Lice? Boils? Eww.

The Plagues of Dating are far more relatable to us singles in DC:

  1. Ghosting (3 little iPhone bubbles)
  2. Profile picture lies (he said he was 5’8, she was supposed to be a red-head)
  3. Metro delays (Snowzilla FTW)
  4. Type-A personalities and overinflated egos (ECL – Email,Crossfit,Laundry)
  5. Has dated all my friends (Jewish geography)
  6. Lives in a place you can’t get to on public transportation (deep in the ‘burbs)
  7. Name dropping (Why yes, I am a secret service agent that guards President Obama)
  8. Doesn’t want a relationship because they are in grad school/working on their 5 year plan/stuck at the dating buffet  (like a boss)
  9. Saw all my exes at the Friday night young professional Shabbat event (singing loudly, it’s a small world after all)
  10. Lived here two years, bye bye DC-icia  (#wanderlust)

Haggadah Songs Revised For Daters

And at any good Seder, there will always be singing. One of our favs is Dayenu.

A sample of the actual song:

If God had split the sea for us, it would have been enough.
If God had led us through on dry land, it would have been enough.
If God had drowned our oppressors, it would have been enough.

hot sauceTruth: BEYONCEDER

The daters’ version of the song would go a little something like this:

If he had cooked that Blue Apron dinner for me, it would have been enough.
If she went with me to the Nats game, even though she would be texting her friends the whole time, it would have been enough.
If he had waited just 2 days to call instead of 5, it would have been enough

Read the original here

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Jewish Leader of the Week: Vered

Last week I spoke with Vered, an Israeli born and DC bound philanthropist. Vered is passionate about community engagement and development. Read on to learn about her involvement with various Jewish organizations and her favorite way to spend Shabbat.

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Jackie: You were born in Israel, when did you move to the US?

Vered: I was born in Israel, and moved to New Jersey when I was 2 years old. Growing up I spent 2-3 weeks every summer in Israel, and still try to get back every other year or so.

Jackie: You graduated from AU, what made you want to stay in the DC area?

Vered: After AU I moved up to Hoboken, NJ. After a bit, I decided to move back to DC with my then boyfriend (now husband), we had a great network of friends down here, loved DC and all it had to offer, and I landed a great job at the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital (JPDS-NC).

Jackie: What made you interested in working for the Jewish community?

Vered: I always supported and was involved in a volunteer capacity with various Jewish organizations. Prior to my move back to DC I was working in the event production and marketing field; so when the opportunity at JPDS-NC came my way, it combined my passions for the Jewish community, events, and engagement, I jumped at it. I have learned so much about non-profit development over the years, an added bonus is that I get to see the future of the Jewish community, in the classrooms, on the way to my office every day!

Jackie: How did you get involved in JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership of DC?

Vered: I got involved with JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) through their Mother’s Day Flower Project. I was thrilled that there was an organization that gave me an opportunity to honor my mom in such a meaningful way. In exchange for my donation, JWI sends a card to my loved ones, AND bouquets of flowers to mother’s spending their Mother’s Day in domestic violence shelters.

After I sent that first card, I attended the YWLN conference, and was truly in awe of the remarkable women that were involved and willing to impart their knowledge on the next generation. From there, I was hooked. I joined the YWLN board, met an awesome group of young Jewish leaders, became a part of the conference planning committee, and most recently, I am on this year’s High Tea (shameless plug, it’s May 1!) committee that benefits the Flower Project. I am so proud to be part of a project that supports women who are trying to pull themselves, and their children out of a difficult situation. These flowers remind them that their bravery has not gone unnoticed!

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Vered: Golda Meir. Golda Meir has a list of outstanding accomplishments that I admire, during her time in the Israeli Government and as Prime Minister of Israel. But by many accounts she was strong-willed and straight-talking, and I have great respect for someone who just gets down to business.

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Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Vered: I love spending Shabbat with a big group of family and friends and lots of delicious food. Some of my fondest memories revolve around Shabbat lunches at my grandparents apartment in Israel, the aromas of a wonderful blend of Libyan and Eastern European cooking wafting in the air, surrounded by 20 plus family members.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather….

Vered: Delicious food is involved.

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God, Grandma, and My Tattoos

As Adas Israel’s Makom DC program concluded for the year, a few artists from the community were invited to share our perspective on a particular text: 

Mechadesh b’chol yom tamid ma’aseh beresheet: The world is constantly created anew

The goal of this “open mic” style Torah Slam was to bring innovation into the beit midrash, as is prescribed in the Talmud. I was honored to be one of those invited to share my torah. 

If you’ve ever seen the tv show Inside the Actor’s Studio, you’ll know that the host James Lipton ends every interview by asking the guest a series of 10 questions. They include:

  • What is your favorite and least favorite word?
  • What turns you on and what turns you off?
  • What sound or noise do you love and which do you hate?
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt, and which would you never do? And…
  • What is your favorite curse word?

My answers to these first 9 would be:headshot-2

  • Interrobang
  • No
  • Beards
  • Indignance
  • Laughter
  • Whining
  • Teacher
  • Cop
  • Fuck

But the 10th question is where things get interesting. Lipton asks, “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”

Now… That’s a pretty heavy topic for a talk show, but it’s great fodder for a d’rash.  Let’s get started…

If I were to arrive at the metaphorical pearly gates of our Jewish heaven, I’d hope this anthropomorphized God would greet me with a big hug, and an offer: “Hey, Lisa. Wanna help me make some cool shit today?”

“Sure,” I’d say. “But let’s start with a cup of coffee.”

After all, the Barchu says that the world is recreated anew every day. If that’s the case, God must stay pretty busy… and I’ll need all the help I can get keeping up.

As God and I drink this cup of coffee looking out the bay window of God’s dine-in kitchen, I’d take the opportunity to ask God about this daily ritual of creation. “It seems pretty inefficient to recreate the world every single day. What’s that about?”

Then, I imagine God reaching over, touching my arm, and filling me in on God’s master plans without saying another word, providing the divine reassurance that everything I need to know is already inside of me.

But back to reality.

I don’t believe the words of the Barchu is meant to be taken literally, and I, thank God, am not at those pearly gates. However, in studying this text, I’ve come to appreciate that creation is, in fact, inside of me.

As I see it, creation is a daily practice of gratitude and humility. It taking account of ourselves, appreciating our good parts — the parts we should cherish — and acknowledging the not-so-good part — the ones that aren’t serving us well. The only other step is actually making the change needed to fully express that new iteration of ourselves that we wish to create.

While my God is not anthropomorphic, I do believe God is there in my power to make change. My God is not a God who intervenes in the world to make things better, but who empowers me to find the wisdom, compassion, and chutzpah to know better, and do better, every single day.

I have to tell you though, I didn’t start off this optimistic. As a matter of fact, there were many years where I didn’t think anything would change with or without divine intervention.

See, I was a mess of a kid. My home life was tricky to say the least, and I didn’t see a way out of my pain. I certainly didn’t believe that the lonely girl whose nickname was “Ogre” and who ate lunch with her teachers had any raw material that could be salvaged, let alone molded into something beautiful or meaningful.

But some people knew better. One of those people, I’d come to find out, was my grandmother.

Grandma Mildred was a writer, too. She lived in Philadelphia nearly all of her life, and was sharp as a tack right until the end. Not a sign of dementia, no loss of memory. But every time I saw her she’d say, “What’s that? What’s that on your arm, Lisa?”

“Grandma. It’s a tattoo. You’ve seen it before. We’ve already talked about it.”

She hated that tattoo. All of my tattoos, really.

But I don’t think she’d have hated what one particular tattoo means to me. And I wish I had the chance to share its special meaning with her before she died.

Greek_lc_deltaOn my right bicep, I have a tattoo of the lower case Greek letter Delta.


While the triangular delta you’re probably familiar with is a symbol for change, a lower case delta specifically stands for small change. Incremental change.

Before I go on, believe me when I say that the irony of having a permanent tattoo that represents change is not lost on me.

So why? Why did I decide to get a tattoo that represents change? Because after all those years spent doubting that things would ever get better, fear that my anger and resentment would ever wane, I realized that I was wrong. Dead wrong. Things could change, but only I had the power to make it happen.

It is not easy to go from an indignant post-adolescent to a humble adult, and at times it was a painful, embarrassing, and messy process. I stopped letting other people define me. I learned about these beautiful things called boundaries. When I hurt someone, I apologized and meant it. I learned that being wrong is a blessing sometimes. And I learned that making change hurts, but it’s the only way to grow.

My torah tells me that every day I am created anew. Every single day I make a conscious choice to break something in me, heal, and in doing so grow a little more. I work diligently to be a better me tomorrow than I am today. Yes – growing pains are real. But they are proof positive of that growth.

So why would my grandmother be happy with my tattoo? OK – in no universe would my grandmother be happy about my tattoos. But she would have appreciated that I finally knew the real value of change.

My grandmother, a reserved but loving woman, watched from the front row as I evolved from a messy, angry kid to a messy, angry adolescent, and she loved me anyway. Through ruined family meals, tears that could fill an ocean, knock-down-drag-out fights with my family, she sat quietly, patiently and waited. The waiting would last years.

Thankfully, time and therapy heal all wounds. A few years before my grandmother died, I had the honor of getting to know her again — this time as an adult. We’d get pancakes at the diner and talk…

But through all our discussions over all those pancakes, she never once brought up my messy, angry, younger self. I guess she knew all along that the good stuff she passed to my mom was passed to me, too, and in due time I would make something good out of it.

If my grandma Mildred is listening today, I want her to hear this: I am 100% sure God is super cool with my tattoo. (At least that one.) My God understands that some people — people like me — need a more obvious, persistent reminder of the opportunity we have for renewal every single day.

So when I meet God at the metaphorical pearly gates, after we make coffee and some other cool shit, maybe we’ll go get matching tattoos.

I hope you connected with my torah. Please share your own take on creation and renewal (or even your tattoos!) in the comments. 

1

Finding God in All the Right Places

So, you’re out of college, you’ve chosen a life path, you’re trying on the adult label and adjusting as necessary to make it fit. Some of the changes and responsibilities come easy, others not so much, and yet others don’t seem to have any relevance in your life whatsoever. Your bar/bat mitzvah was a long time ago, and you don’t have time or money for a synagogue membership and all it entails. Besides, it seems as though the classic model of synagogue worship really only appeals to families with school-aged children (and maybe the older ‘daytimers’) but, not so much for you. You probably also assume that you don’t have many options out there, except you do.

For most of my life I thought that Judaism came in three flavors: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Eventually, I learned of another denomination (Reconstructionist), and then another (Aleph), and then of the many divisions within the Orthodox, and then the “just Jewish” or “secular Jewish” and then….I stopped counting and classifying. Did our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents pick and choose from types of Judaism? Mostly, no. They were Jewish. They attended a synagogue on the High Holy Days. They had Passover seders. They said prayers over Shabbat candles and wine.

Today, we are faced with myriad choices, not only in religion, but religiosity, spirituality, worship styles, food traditions, and so much more. To address this diversity a new movement has emerged, called Jewish Universalism. What? Another choice? How is this remotely helpful? Give me a chance and I’ll explain. The Union for Jewish Universalist Communities (UJUC) doesn’t want you to change who you are and how you worship. The UJUC “embraces the diversity of the Jewish world without judgment, conditions or requirements and asserts that all paths to the divine are equally holy.” What we hope to do is give everyone an opportunity to express themselves in a way that they find appropriate and comfortable.

UJUC is based on seven doctrines. The first and foundational one is “Hear oh Israel (and Humankind), Adonai is G-d, Adonai is One.” This is the Sh’mah, arguably the central prayer of Judaism, and the cornerstone of Jewish practice. The remaining six doctrines are:

  • Jewish Universalism believes the Torah is divinely inspired and is Holy.
  • Jewish Universalism believes all paths to the divine are equally Holy and that one’s religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth.
  • Jewish Universalism believes Judaism is a constantly evolving spiritual practice.
  • Jewish Universalism asserts that all people who follow the dictate to love your neighbor as yourself are “chosen.”
  • Jewish Universalism embraces Interfaith Families and unconditionally welcomes all people to participate in our Jewish worship and rituals.
  • Jewish Universalism honors our Jewish rituals, traditions, teachings and texts and seeks to repair the world, Tikkun Olam, through acts of loving kindness, G’milut Hasadim.

Clearly, we don’t live in a world that works with a ‘one size fits all’ approach to Judaism. As a Jew today you want to embrace your traditions and culture, but at the end of the day, you are quintessentially American–that is, fiercely independent and open to change. Jewish Universalism does not look to create barriers, but to break them down. Denominations arose to allow Jews to express their differing levels of observance and to express their American identity in a way that encompassed their Judaism. These twin goals remain vital and the establishment of a movement that recognizes that a many-thousand year old religion is bound to have many paths is by its very nature a welcoming notion and welcome change. Besides, you don’t need to pick just one “flavor” you can be Jewish Universalist and something else.

To see Jewish Universalism in action, you can tune in on weeknights to Sim Shalom an online synagogue with live services. Alternatively, the UJUC website can refer you to local affiliated rabbis who can provide a range of services, from life-cycle events to individual or group teaching.

 

 

0

Walk This Way

Avon_2015_Map_DC_F“Walking 39.3 miles in 2 days?  I must be crazy!”  This is a recurring thought I’ve had since signing up with my friend Shari last Spring to participate in DC’s 2016 AVON 39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer.  AVON 39 is a 2-day, 39.3 mile walk around the DC area (split between a marathon distance on the first day, and a half-marathon on the second day).  39ers (those participating in the walk) raise at least $1800 to participate, with the funds going towards breast cancer research, treatment, and prevention.  The event, held on April 30th and May 1st, strives “to take breast cancer down.”  That’s quite a lofty goal.  But that is something the Avon Foundation does – it manages and disburses the funds raised by the walk to institutions helping breast cancer patients and their families access mammograms and medicine, fuel research, and save lives.

39.3 miles is a scary distance for me – my friends would probably describe me as nature-averse and anti-sweat in general.  There’s a legendary response that I sent to a group discussion about a summer hike where I offered to go window-shopping at a mall instead.  So to prepare to meet my goal, I knew I needed to step up my game…literally.  I got a FitBit and challenged others to see who can take the most steps during a week or weekend.  I invested in better footwear.  I’ve walked with friends and other 39ers, exploring new parts of DC (shout-out to the Capital Crescent Trail!), and soaked up advice (extra socks and a water bottle are key).  The best part of training for the walk has been connecting with the other 39ers.  Many 39ers have participated in the DC walk multiple times before – and some have tackled the other Avon walks around the country.  They band together in solidarity towards the 39.3 mile goal, and they inspire me with their resilience.

To raise awareness about the walk, and to help with our fundraising efforts, Shari and I are co-hosting a Shabbat Dinner and Fundraiser on April 15th.  Please join us for a free casual dinner, beer, soda, good company, and to learn more about a great cause.  We encourage you to eat what you want, and donate what you can.  The event will be non-denominational and more just a celebration of AVON 39.  We look forward to seeing you!

Where: 1320 N Veitch St – 4th Floor Courtyard (near the Courthouse Metro)
When: April 15 @ 6:30pm

Please RSVP via EVITE to help us keep count of final numbers

0

Using 3D Printing To Help Repair The World

In modern Jewish circles, tikkun olam has become synonymous with the notion of social action and the pursuit of social justice — Learningtogive.org

…The world being broken. Maybe it isn’t that we’re supposed to find the pieces and put them back together. Maybe we’re the pieces. Maybe, what we’re supposed to do is come together. That’s how we stop the breaking. — David Levithan, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

The concept of Tikkun Olam, originating in Jewish texts, has become almost mainstream shorthand for philanthropic dynamics, referenced by everyone from President Obama to global healthcare visionary Paul Farmer.  The phrase, far removed from it’s original contexts, has resonance to many pursuing noble causes, and for Jews like us, engaged in 3D printing and related technologies, the concept of fixing a broken world seems especially apt.

DanteIn recent years, 3D printing has gone from fantasy to affordable reality, allowing individuals to own and operate their own printer and make any number of things they can find designs for or imagine.  Combining this capacity with the networking power of the internet, has encouraged innovation on a new scale,  including the creation of an online community of digital humanitarians known as e-NABLE and an Israeli-based global initiative called Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM).   

e-NABLE is a 3-year-old volunteer movement comprised of thousands of makers, teachers, students, artists, parents and others, in every continent using 3D printing and open source breakthroughs to provide free prosthetics to those in need.  

The resulting designs are assistive devices that provide an alternative to conventional prosthetics. While not comparably functional to traditional prosthetics, e-NABLE’s 3D devices offer other benefits, especially for children. The process makes keeping pace with a child’s growth easier. And, perhaps most importantly, these prosthetics often serve as tools helping children feel more confident and positively unique, as this recent Upworthy video illustrates.

3D-printed prosthetics and e-NABLE’s brand of digital humanitarianism has tremendous potential for all ages in a variety of settings. In fact, there is great interest in exploring the role it might play in the developing world and in places where war or natural disaster compromises access to health care.  

TOM handEnable International Haiti (EIH), a pilot project underway in just such a setting, is focused on providing 3D printed prosthetics training and equipment to Haitian health care professionals. The funding for this project came from a grant distributed by the Genesis Prize Foundation, as a result of e-Nable being selected as one of 9 winning teams awarded a grant of $100K as part of the Genesis Generation Challenge, a competition created in honor of 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate Michael R. Bloomberg.

Uniting people, ideas and new technologies to offer positive change, many of which can be seen as problem-solving ‘repairs,’ or ‘fixes,’ are goals e-NABLE shares with Israel-based Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM). TOM brings together strategic thinkers, engineers, designers, and project managers to solve unmet social challenges in disadvantaged communities. TOM’s work on assistive technology involves organizing make-a-thons addressing specific challenges facing the disabled. These events often produce solutions in the form of ingenious hardware and software prototypes. TOM make-a-thons have taken place in Israel, Brazil, and Canada with Vietnam the next stop.

On April 14th, Enable International Haiti, Enable Community Foundation, and Tikkun Olam Makers will come together in Washington DC for a special free event. As part of 3D DC, an annual 3D printing and policy gathering produced by Public Knowledge, EIH, ECF and TOM will co-host a lunch time panel on using 3D printing and social impact.  
For more information and to RSVP, click here.

6

It Happened to Me… I Got Ghosted

Confused GhostFalling off the earth, pulling the disappearing act, ghosting… it all means the same thing: just up and leaving a relationship without having to courtesy to tell your significant other that you’re, well, up and leaving.  In the days before texting and Tinder, there was actual talking and the art of the real, in-person conversation.  Even on Sex and the City, when Berger broke up with Carrie on a Post-it note, it was viewed as terrible form.  But ghosting is worse.  At least Carrie knew she had been dumped and didn’t have to wonder. 

There was an article in Huffington Post called ‘Ghosting:’ The 21st-Century Dating Problem Everyone Talks About, But No One Knows How To Deal With.  It talked about how people are simply disappearing because that seems easier than breaking up with someone.  The ghoster’s rationale is that he or she doesn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.  We all know that, in reality, the only person whose feelings are spared is the ghoster him or herself.  It’s the weak choice. 

With the use of modern technology, it’s almost too easy to think of people as disposable or commodities.  But, in reality, people are not things.  You need to muster up the courage to have an actual conversation, whether you’ve been on three dates or 300.  The other person deserves that much. 

That brings us to me.  I got ghosted.  Just because I’m a dating coach doesn’t make me immune to the inappropriate behavior, or lack of behavior in this case, of others.

I matched with Josh on Tinder in December 2013.  Because of the frequent snow that winter, his time constraints with his two young children, and the fact that he lived an hour away—I’m in Washington, DC and he’s in Baltimore—our first meeting got postponed several times.  But, we finally met that March.  It was a nice date.  Nothing earth-shattering, but nice. He came into DC one or two more times, and while I determined that “Baltimore Josh” wasn’t going to be the next great love of my life, and he decided the same of me, we did enjoy each other’s company enough to continue to see each other, even in a friendship capacity.  As they say, he was “good people.”

Josh and I saw each other about once a month, sometimes twice, over the course of the next year and two months.  Sometimes he’d come to DC, and sometimes I’d go to Baltimore.  I wouldn’t call what we had a relationship, but it was more than a friendship… with the occasional PG-13 benefits.  We talked almost every day, either over the phone or over text.  It was comfortable.  I liked having him in my life, in whatever form that took. 

In May of 2015 (over a year after we first met), I was asked to perform in a comedy show in DC, which I was really excited about.  Because Josh had his children that weekend, he wasn’t able to come see the show.  (He had seen me perform at other shows in the past—even brought his brother and sister-in-law once—so I wasn’t terribly upset.)  The show was on a Saturday night, so on Sunday we texted a few times about it. 

On the following Tuesday, a few days after the show, I called Josh to tell him all about how it went.  He promptly texted me back telling me that it was a busy day at work so he’d have to call me later.  No biggie.  I didn’t hear from him later, though, which was really odd.  So I called the next day, left a voicemail, and sent a follow-up text to make sure he got it.  Nothing.  This was abnormal.  He always got back to me very quickly, and there had never been an unreturned call or text in all of the time we’d known each other.

Now I started to worry.  I sent him a Facebook message.  Nothing.  Then another one.  Nothing.  I was so worried that something terrible had happened that I sent a message to his sister-in-law, whom I had met that time at my show, asking if Josh was okay.  She responded,

Hi Erika.
Thanks for reaching out. Everything is all good. I think Josh has been super busy. But I let him know you reached out so I’m sure he will be in touch asap.
Take care

What?!  No one is too busy to respond “I’m alive” after getting a text asking to make sure he was, in fact, alive.  And he did not get “in touch ASAP.” 

After about a week, I tried again.  Nothing.  So, I finally sent this email on May 31, 2015:

Josh,

I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, wondering what could be the cause of your not reaching back out to me.  I’ve called, texted, and even Facebook messaged your relatives because, after a year of conversing almost daily, it was unlike you not to respond to me.  I was concerned that something horrible happened to you.  When I got the notes back from your relatives saying that all was good on your end, I was just saddened.  Our relationship, whatever it was, meant (and means) a lot to me, and even if I’ve done something to cause you to want to stop communicating, I’d like to know what that is.  Simply ignoring me is baffling since I know you so well, and I know it wouldn’t be your nature not to choose the mature route.  Even a simple, “I’m alive” would have sufficed.  I don’t require much.

Anyway, I do hope to hear from you, and I wish you the best in whatever you’re doing or plan to do.  You have meant a lot to me.

Love,

Erika

I never heard back.  I was surprised, upset, and confused.  I still am.  It was on my mind for a long time.  I just wanted a response.  Any response.  “I met someone.”  “I hate you.”  Anything would have been better than this.  So, I finally bucked up and about two months ago (in February 2016), unfriended him on Facebook.  Chapter closed. 

Why am I sharing this story?  So you shed a tear for me?  Of course not.  I have empathy now where I didn’t before.  And I can tell clients and friends first-hand what an impact ghosting has on someone’s feelings, perceptions of him or herself, and trust levels for a potentially long period of time.  I know, rationally, that Josh’s disappearance had nothing to do with me.  It was his inability to deal with his feelings and share them in a productive manner.  But, the emotional, vulnerable side always continues to ask, “What did I do to deserve this?”  Nothing. 

So own up to your actions.  Take a little discomfort in the present for a future of knowing you’re not a person who hurts others to spare yourself.  Just be a good person, have fun with dating, and when it’s over, have the courtesy to talk to the person you’re seeing, even if the talk ends poorly.  Most people would rather have it end poorly than not end at all.

Want to hang out with Erika in person? Join her April 27th at the Chinatown WeWork to work on being more Right-Swipable!

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