Exile No More: A New Documentary Film

exile no moreFor decades, South Tel Aviv has been the first and last stop for all types of “second-class citizens” who cannot stand on their own and have been ignored by the government for far too long.  Today, South Tel Aviv’s Israeli residents are living with over 15,000 African asylum seekers unable to care for themselves, and even worse, in fear for their safety.  In the past year, violence between Africans and Israelis in South Tel Aviv and around the country has risen and many are afraid to walk the streets.

Deep in the heart of South Tel Aviv, seen through the eyes of Israeli residents and African asylum seekers, Exile No More documents what it means to live in exile, amongst your own.  This 30-minute film follows the story of African asylum seekers in Israel.  After traveling thousands of miles, many have found themselves without status, without jobs, and without homes in the most impoverished area of Tel Aviv.  Exile No More shares the story of African asylum seekers such as Kidane Isaacs, a 24-year-old Eritrean who has lived in Israel for more than 6 years now, without any form of refugee status.  The film follows his story as an African fleeing country after country, arriving in Israel, becoming a strong political leader, and inspiring his people to demand more.  Just across the road, Shula Keshet, a veteran Israeli in South Tel Aviv is making impressive progress in her efforts to bring together conservative Israelis living with a completely new population in Israel: African refugees.  These two story lines in Exile No More come together to represent an exiled people in their own community and the struggle for real change in their government.  Filmed over the period of eight months, the characters in this film represent the key political leaders at a time when asylum seekers in Israel are facing a true crossroad.

photo-mainFilmmaker Kady Buchanan has spent the last year and a half working on the film, and is currently in post-production readying the film for release.  In asking what drew her to the film, she says it seemed like such an important topic, one that, because of Israel’s history as a nation of refugees, would only become more and more relevant.  Buchanan filmed in the summer of 2012 when protests in South Tel Aviv were breaking out almost on a weekly basis.  Buchanan also chose to follow both Israelis and Africans because she wanted to show how feeling exiled or excommunicated from your community is not only a feeling felt by non-citizens.

Buchanan had launched a Kickstarter in an effort to raise the final funds needed for the film’s release.  With only six days left to go, they still have to fund $3,000.  If all funds aren’t received by March 26th, they get nothing.  To support the finishing of the funds by donating or sharing, visit the Kickstarter page here.


The Jewish Food Experience

JFE“Inspired by tradition.  Delivered with a twist.”

The Jewish Food Experience (JFE), a new DC-based site, provides a platform for the community to come together through food.  JFE brings Jewish food with a modern twist:  The project allows foodies, including chefs, restaurateurs, food critics and writers, to share recipes, stories, international flavors, news about the local Jewish food scene, and volunteer efforts to fight hunger.  Steven A. Rakitt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, explains, “Food is a shared experience, and we expect this new project will provide opportunities for local Jews to not only experience food with family and friends old and new, but also engage the Jewish community in a deeper way.”  In addition to online activities, JFE will create shared moments around food through events and programs such as tastings, volunteer opportunities, book signings, cooking series, films, and more.

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Chef Todd Gray giving a cooking demo at the JFE launch.

Susan Barocas, JFE Project Director, explains, “The Jewish Food Experience is the first of its kind – a project that combines an appetizing website chock full of stories, recipes, and resources with exciting programs and partnerships.  There is something so elemental and natural about exploring, discussing, cooking, tasting, and sharing food that brings people together in a way few things can do.  And food is also a way to bring memory and tradition together with innovation and creativity.  It’s exciting to think about the possibilities of connecting people through food and contributing to richer, more satisfying ways to connect to Jewish heritage and culture.”

JFE held it’s official launch party on Tuesday, March 12.  The morning began with a bit of schmoozing (in true Jewish fashion) and breakfast consisting of twists on traditional Jewish foods and new innovative recipes.  Fritatta of wild mushrooms and muenster cheese, poached salmon mousse with cucumber salad, and matzah brei with strawberry compote were some of the delicious foods that attendees munched on.  While enjoying the breakfast fare, Chef Todd Gray, co-author of The New Jewish Table and member of the JFE Advisory Council, treated us to a cooking demo.  All who attended left with satisfied bellies and excitement for the Jewish Food Experience.

Check out the The Jewish Food Experience today!


Passover Events!

155Looking for a seder? Something to do during the eight days without chometz? We’ve got you covered. If we left anything off, please email Rachel at

Tuesday, March 12th:

Sunday, March 17th:

Monday, March 18th:

Wednesday, March 20th:

Thursday, March 21st:

Saturday, March 23rd:

Monday, March 25th:

Tuesday, March 26th:

Friday, March 29th:

Sunday, March 31st:


GTJ Satirist Brian F. – “Fear Factor: The Jewish American Prince & Princess Edition”

fearNEW YORK, NY – (@The Comedy News)  – Executives at NBC are debuting a spinoff of the hit game show, Fear Factor, titled “Fear Factor:  The Jewish American Prince & Princess Edition”.  Hosted by Canadian Jew Seth Rogan, the latest installment of Fear Factor will test the patience,  neuroses, and basic cardio endurance of Jewish American Princes and Princesses.  The first four episodes will take place in Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
The latest promotional advertisement features the 30-year-old actor speaking to the audience: “Hi I’m Seth Rogen, and this is ‘Fear Factor:  The Jewish American Prince and Princess Edition.’  The stunts you are about to see were all designed and supervised by trained professionals—specifically Doctors, Lawyers, Fundraisers, and Rabbis.  They are extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone, anywhere, anytime.”
Below is a preview of each episode of the first season.PILOT EPISODE:  Miami Vices and Crises

Second Stunt:  Contestants will have to eat luke-warm, frozen store-bought bagels schmeared with Le Moche Chevre—- the world’s most bitter blue cream cheese.

Third Stunt:  The remaining Jewish American Princes and Princesses will be given a Lexus with four flat tires.  The fastest Jewish American Prince or Princess to change all four tires drives home with the Lexus.

EPISODE 2:  Dorks and Pork in New York

First Stunt:  Jewish American Princes and Princesses from the Midwest who have never visited New York will be challenged to travel from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn without asking anyone for directions in less than four hours.

Second Stunt:  Contestants will be forced to sit in a room filled with 613 open jars of Manaschevitz gefilte fish.  The temperature will be set at 90 degrees.  The first three to exit the room or throw up will be eliminated.

Third Stunt:  The remaining Jewish American Princes and Princesses will be forced to dine at New York’s most vilified restaurant, Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar.  None of the orders will be served timely or accurately.  The first contestant to heckle the waiter, chef, and Guy Fieri into running out of the restaurant crying and screaming hysterically wins—and gets to punch Guy Fieri in the balls.

EPISODE 3:  City of Angels (Even Though Jews Don’t Believe in Angels)

First Stunt:  Contestants will have their federal income tax returns audited.  Those with errors will be eliminated.

Second Stunt:  Contestants will be given $2,000 in cash and dropped off on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills during regular business hours.  Any contestant returning with less than $1,990 will be eliminated.

Third Stunt:  The remaining Jewish American Princes and Princesses will walk into the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, tell an original Aristocrats joke, and then act it out.  Whomever WME signs to an agent wins.

EPISODE 4:  Chicago White Sox with Sandles

First Stunt: The contestants will be treated to a marathon of Mel Gibson movies: Mad Max, What Women Want, Conspiracy Theory, and The Passion of the Christ.  The first three to walk out or shout obscenities at the screen will be eliminated.

Second Stunt: Contestants will spin a wheel labeled with the Ten Plagues of Egypt.  Whichever one of the plagues the wheel lands on, the contestants must eat—that includes darkness and firstborn.

Third Stunt:  The remaining Jewish American Princes and Princesses will do the Hora on the observation deck of the Sears Tower.  The contestant that goes the longest before their mother phones them to “get down from there because it is dangerous” wins.

Brian Fishbach is a comedian, writer, political satirist, former GTJ JGOTW, and musician specializing in social and political commentary.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at, and enjoy his late-night jokes at  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.


The Drive to Save Wendy

wendEvery day people wake up and hope they will be able to change the world.  Practically speaking it is impossible to change the whole world at once, however we all know how the “Butterfly effect” works, and therefore how every single act of kindness we do is a step closer to making the world a better place.

Last year, I heard something that changed my perspective on the power of the individual entirely.

During a lecture at the International Living Legacy Conference in Washington, DC, Rabbi Adin Even-Yisrael (Steinzaltz) said the following: “When one person stamps his foot in protest no one can hear unless they are really close, if ten people stamp their feet it’s a little more audible, if a thousand people stamp their feet together you will be able to feel the ground shake under you, ever so slightly.  If a million people stamp their feet at the same time it will be heard very far, if the whole world, close to seven billion people were to stamp their feet together the whole earth would shake.  That is the power of one human being, to be able to cause so much by one movement, when it’ s accompanied by others.”

Every person at some point or another in his life has dreamed of being a hero.  Especially children.  Whether it be Batman, Superman, or a Fire Fighter, a child dreams to be able to help people in need, to save people’s lives.

We all have this childhood dream still within us, and who would not do anything to save a person’s life, if we only could?  What if I told you all it takes is a cheek swab, and you can be a Hero, you can save a life?

Sir Winston Churchill said: “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give”.

Many volunteers are surprised at how much fun it can be to help others.  Not every volunteer experience is the same, but I guarantee, you have a good chance of having fun while giving time.  There are many benefits that ensure from helping others.  Personal fulfillment, feeling a sense of accomplishment, meeting new people, and contributing to the community.

A community can only be as healthy, vibrant, and active as its members are willing to make it.  Volunteerism significantly improves the quality of life for ourselves and those we assist.

The Talmud states: “Whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

Here is an opportunity to do just that, the impossible, to save the world!  And it all it takes is one cheek swab.

Let me explain.  Approximately 2 weeks ago, I heard the sad story of Wendy.   Wendy Siegel is a dear friend of a GW student, a wonderful woman living in NY.  A few months ago Wendy was diagnosed with Leukemia.  For her to live, she must find a perfect match and get a bone marrow transplant.

Young Professionals of DC, a project of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and Gather the Jews, have joined together with “The Gift of Life” – a national bone marrow foundation – to run a drive at TheSHUL – Lubavitch Center (Chabad), located at 2110 Leroy Pl NW near Dupont Circle – to get as many people as possible to test if they are a match.

Testing as a potential donor is fast and painless, involving only a simple cheek swab.  That’s it – it takes 3 minutes.

A few days ago, someone wrote the following in response to our Facebook post about The Drive to Save Wendy:

“I am encouraging everyone to either register with the Gift of Life or Be a Match.  The Be A Match saved my life!  I would not be here today, living life to the fullest, without my volunteer donor, thank G-d!  Please be tested as it is a very simple process.  It is truly a great Mitzvah that one can give to another person to save their life!”

His wife immediately commented on his post: “And furthermore it also saves the whole family’s life!”

So what are you waiting for? Here’s your chance to save a life! Who knows if YOU might be the one!!



Former JGOTW Damien is Fencing in the World Maccabiah Games!

409654_276377985802155_544849008_nFormer Jewish Guy of the Week Damien is representing the USA in the 2013 Maccabiah Games.  GTJ at down with Damien to learn a little more about his fencing experiences.

Rachel: How did you get involved in fencing?
Damien: I started fencing when I was eight years old.  My best friend’s father was a champion level fencer in Sweden and introduced us to the sport at a young age.  I’ve had the same coach since I was eight (Janusz Smolenski) and I’m a sucker for consistency, so I don’t think I’ll be changing any time…ever!

Rachel: We heard you also coach. How has that been?
Damien: Coaching has been just as much a joy to me as much as fencing competitively.  I have had the privilege of mentoring a very motivated group of kids who love fencing and work their tails off.  One of my students (Suzanne Stettinius) qualified for the London 2012 Olympics, so I had the opportunity to travel over there with her and see her through to the big stage.  On the side, I run a website called and write a weekly fencing/fencing coaching column for the Washington Times.

Rachel: What is your proudest moment in fencing?400557_274331386006815_1242514897_n
Damien: Going to the Olympics and seeing a student compete gave me a feeling of joy that I can’t even put into words.  I’m no sap, but I may have gotten a little teary-eyed.  Three months after the Olympics, I joined three of my very good friends/teammates in winning the 2012 North American Cup Senior Men’s Epee Team.  I came in as the alternate.  We had a blast the entire day, didn’t take ourselves too seriously, and walked away with a gold medal.  All in all, 2012 was a great year full of many unforgettable fencing memories, and I’m hoping to continue this positive streak with the Maccabiah games!

Rachel: Are you excited to represent USA in the Maccabiah games? What are you looking forward to most?
Damien: Excited is an understatement!  To be selected for the Maccabiah games is humbling, unexpected, and the opportunity of a lifetime.  I embrace any opportunity to compete, and am thrilled to engage in combat with the best Jewish athletes in the world.  This will be my second trip to Israel, so I am excited to return.  I made some great friends on my Shorashim trip there last year, and am eager to reconnect with them.  Israel is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.  Who would not be psyched to return!

Damien needs to raise $5000 to finance his trip to the World Maccabiah Games. You can help him here.




Home Bais

IMG_20130305_201627_012“Welcome to Homehb Beis…You are in on the ground floor”.  These words spoken by Rabbi Zvi Teitelbaum began a new chapter in Jewish life in our nation’s capital. Home Beis: The Yisroel Lefkowitz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies, opened its doors this past Tuesday night in response to a resurgence in Washington D.C. of people willing to embrace and explore their Judaism in greater depth. The Beis, as in Beis (or Beit) Midrash, which is located just a few blocks from the White House provides an opportunity for young professionals to escape from the hectic lifestyle of Washington D.C. into the oasis of a yeshiva like environment.

IMG_20130305_212201_135On opening night, 18 men along with staff joined together to delve into the depths the Talmud. After Rabbi Teitelbaum’s introductory remarks, the group broke into chavrutot (study partners) or chose to participate in a small beginner’s level class on the Talmudic selection. Afterwards, the group joined back together for a brief, in depth, discussion of the ideas they had just studied followed by a short message about self development and personal growth.

The aim of Home Beis is to create a center for Torah study and growth in DC.  While the first program offered is the Tuesday night Beit Midrash program, the hope is to expand and provide more study opportunities to meet the demands of the growing community.  As Rabbi Teitelbaum mentioned, the goal is to help Washington DC flourish into a place where people can grow and embrace their Judaism.  He said: “we are not only here for ourselves, but also as a responsibility to our D.C. community.”  This is a community wide project not associated with any particular group or organization so that all Jews will feel welcome to participate.IMG_20130305_201724_540

Home Beis is generously dedicated by the Lefkowitz family as a tribute to the legacy of Mr. Yisroel Lekowitz.  Mr. Lefkowitz, the father of Rabbi Dovid Lefkowitz, was a visionary and an activist on behalf of the Jewish people. His acts of kindness and charity touched the lives of thousands.  Although he was an ordained Rabbi, Mr. Lefkowitz chose not to carry the title because he was not an acting rabbi.  The Lefkowitz family is confident that Mr. Lefkowitz would take great pride in his center playing a prominent role in the continuing development of the growing Jewish Washington DC community.

IMG_20130305_212907_348Much credit must be given to Manny Halberstam and Mark Donig for all of their work and the ownership they have taken in helping Home Beis and the Beit Midrash program get off the ground.

For more information about Home Beis please contact .


GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Fiddler in the Vatican: Cardinals Select First Jewish Pope

popVATICAN CITY – (@The Comedy News) – One-hundred-and-fifteen Cardinals have gathered in the Vatican City and selected the first Jewish Pope in the  two-thousand year history of Catholicism.

Woody Allen, a Jewish filmmaker from New York City, has been appointed the replacement for His Holiness Emeritus, Benedict XVI.

Although this is an unprecedented move by the Vatican, the first Pope, St. Peter, had a fairly positive relationship with the Jewish people during his reign, according to primary sources.

The world’s first Jewish Pope has selected his “Pope name”, which will be Pope Portnoy IX.
Pope Portnoy IX could not be reached for comment, because he was deeply engaged in a conversation with his Mother:

“For the last time, Ma, I’m not going to be a doctor,” Pope Portnoy IX screamed into his white iPhone 4S.  “No, Ma.  I’m sure she is a nice girl, but there’s no point in you introducing me.  Well, this new gig I got has some rules, goddammit.”

Pope Portnoy IX’s assistants have released a list of changes that he will embark upon for the remainder of his lifetime appointment as the first Jewish Pope:

  • Midnight Christmas Mass will be relocated from the Vatican to Katz’s Deli.  This will be followed by an early morning Christmas Day Chinese buffet lunch with the local Cardinals, and a Papal Mission to the nearest Regal Cinema.
  • Christmas will now focus less on Jesus’ birth, but rather, more on his Bar Mitzvah, twenty years before his death at age 33.
  • Pope Portnoy IX will donate his elaborate white outfit to charity, and instead wear a 20-year-old suit that spouts a plume of dust whenever a colleague pats him on the shoulder.
  • The trademark over-sized hat will be retired and replaced with a red over-sized Kippah full time.
  • In an Easter/Passover hybrid, the Afikomen will involve having bunnies find a hidden slice of Matzah.
  • The Communion cracker will come with lox and shmear.
  • All sex scandals will now involve Shiksas (18 and older) with tattoos.
  • The Pope Mobile upgraded to something safer, like a Volvo.

Brian Fishbach is a comedian, writer, political satirist, former GTJ JGOTW, and musician specializing in social and political commentary.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at, and enjoy his late-night jokes at  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.


Wanted: Roommate for Big White Beautiful House (rent TBD)

the_white_house_0Roommate wanted for luxurious, fully furnished neo-classical house located smack in the middle of DC!  Just three minutes from the national mall and a mere 2.5 miles away from hip places like Columbia Heights, Dupont, and the U street Corridor!  Seriously guys, this place is huge.  High ceilings, spacious rooms, and big beautiful windows letting in lots of natural light!

About us: My wife and I moved in four years ago with our two daughters and are looking for a chill roommate to help us with rent.  We travel a ton, and mostly just stick to our wing of the house so you won’t have to deal with us too much, but we enjoy sharing the occasional bottle of wine in the blue room if you’re down.  Your bedroom will be on the state floor in the newly constructed East Wing and comes with a queen sized bed, armoire, dresser, closet, chandelier and sconces.  For the most part, the house stays pretty quiet, but occasionally protesters like to make a raucous out front.  In fact, I can hear them screaming something about gun control right now.  Ear plugs.  Problem solved.  Now, if things get a little cray cray, don’t be afraid to head down to the situation room.

Our last roommate liked to rollerskate down the marble halls, while admiring the pre-civil war art collection on the walls.  Though we recognize the temptation to do this, please don’t.  It scratches the floors and they’re not easy to restore, to say the least.

We have a massive front and backyard so if you are into gardening, this place might be a perfect match for you.  I won’t say the grounds cover over 18 acres, but……………………………the grounds cover over 18 acres.  A little excessive, I know, and the cost to maintain it is a downer, but I swear it is worth it and our Christmas tree is huge.

MUST be okay with dogs.  Bo is super friendly and loves everyone, so you must love him back.  He’s kind of an attention whore, so no more pets please.

I feel I should give full disclosure.  This house is old, so history runs deep here.  With great history comes great responsibility, just kidding…what I meant to say was great hauntings.  Unfortunately, the house has been known to have a few stray poltergeists since it was built over a graveyard in 1800.  We only moved the headstones, but forgot to move the bodies…oops.  Anyway, they tend to just hang out in the basement in black rubber suits and lower rent significantly so they are actually a real asset.

Please respond via email with a little bit about yourself.  Try to be as dry and bureaucratic as possible.

Michelle and I are looking forward to a cool new roomie!


A Young Doctor’s Journey in Israel Part II: Israeli Health


Alex is spending the month in Tel Aviv as an International Fellow at the Gertner Health Policy Institute.  Over his next few columns he will share his adventures in Israel with us.

In addition to caring for Israelis in several diverse clinical settings and traveling throughout the region, during my month long fellowship in Israel I have had the privilege and honor of working with Israeli leaders in medicine and public health.

During my first week, I spent an afternoon meeting with Dr. Tami Shochat, the director of the Israeli Centers for Disease Control.  It was an honor to meet the women who leads this prestigious and important agency in Israel.  Like her colleague at our CDC, Dr. Thomas Friedman, Dr. Shochat is charged with setting the vision for prevention and disease management in Israel.  We discussed a number of her efforts, many of which centered around initiatives to collect population data on Israeli health.

Another leader who I met with was Dr. Ehud Davidson, Deputy Director General & Head of the Hospital Division at Clalit.  Clalit is Israel’s biggest health services provider and largest health insurer. For the last century, Clalit has provided care throughout Israel and now runs the largest network of hospitals in Israel.

During my conversations with Drs Shochat, Davidson and countless other clinicians and policy experts in Israel several interesting distinctions and features of the Israeli health system have come to light.

Health Care Delivery in Israel

In Israel health insurance is universal and provided for all by the government.  Through an approximately 5% tax on income, every citizen gets health insurance.  Since the 1995 National Health insurance Law, all Israeli citizens must then sign up with one of Israeli’s four HMOs (of which Clalit is the largest at 54% of all Israelis).  The HMOs pay physicians directly and in the case of Clalit, also own hospitals.

The Israeli government updates yearly its list of uniform benefits that are provided under the HMO.  No citizen can be denied these services or membership in any of the HMOs, regardless of race, age, gender, or level of health.  Israeli’s can purchase (70% do) supplementary insurance on top of their mandated plan that will allow them to see any doctor they wish and have additional available procedures and treatments beyond the uniform benefits.

pregnant_women_picturesFertility in Israel

One of the benefits of the universal health care system and the national pride in having large families is a generous infertility treatment benefit.  This is manifest in payments for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for all women for up to two offspring.    This would be unheard of in the U.S. where each cycle of IVF can cost in the thousands and is rarely covered by insurance.

Challenges in the Israeli System

Several challenges exist in Israel in the coming years.

First, the population is getting older.  After the atrocities of the Holocaust in the mid 1940’s Jews fled to Israel seeking freedom and opportunity.  Soon afterwards they began having children and this group of ‘baby-boomers’ is now hitting the age of retirement.  As the population ages these next few years and this large group retires and becomes sicker there will be a decrease in the proportion of Israelis paying into the program compared to those using services at a higher rate.  This will create a financial challenge.  Israel uses 8% of its GDP on healthcare (compared to 18% in the US).  This rate, while very low, will likely change in the coming years as the population ages

The second issue facing Israel is providing effective care to the Arab and rural population.  Due to consanguinity (relations between blood relatives), a high proportion of Israeli Arabs have genetic illnesses.  These folks are sicker because of it and thus have a higher usage rate of health services.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA third health care issue in Israel is the capitation fee model.  Clalit and the other 3 HMOs in Israel receive a capitation sum for each enrollee.  A capitation fee is a fixed sum of money available to pay for health services for an individual.  In the US and worldwide, the capitation model has been tried with some success.  The model often puts the onus of cost control on the HMO (and thus the physician). For every dollar the HMO spends below the capitation sum, they can save and profit from the surplus.  In Israel the capitation is age adjusted to provide larger sums for older patients who will utilize a greater amount of health services, but only recently has the government provided additional sums per year for certain patients who have certain illnesses that require additional health care utilization.  The Israeli health ministry will be working hard over the next few years to refine this list and ensure an appropriate model for health care funding.

A fourth issue for the Israeli health system is electronic health records and quality.  In the US we have created several quality measures under the ACA (Obamacare), including bonus payments for providers meeting diabetes health indicators.  We have developed the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) which allows for increased patient access with web portals to view test results and communicate directly with their doctor, greater drug adherence by allowing physicians to prescribe electronically and monitor prescription fill rates, and improved quality by allowing the creation of groups of patients with the same illness who can be monitored for meeting standard care measures.  The U.S. has also moved to the electronic medical record (EMR).  New initiatives in Israel encourage EMRs.

A fifth issue in Israel stems directly from the ageing population; a physician shortage.  As the population ages more doctors are needed.  In response Israel has opened a fifth medical school and is increasing the enrollment of the other four.  Despite these efforts, there will be a 10 year gap while the training occurs where Israel will have a great need for physicians.  Clalit and the other HMOs are trying innovative strategies to lure doctors to their facilities (Israeli doctors are notoriously underpaid).  This will be an emerging issue for Israel over the next decade.


Alex Berger, a new GTJ contributing columnist, is a native of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.  He graduated in 2008 from the University of North Carolina and is currently in his last year of a combined MD/MPH program. He is excited to be back in the DC area and to share tips on nutrition, health, and fitness. He can be reached at


First Date: Answer in the Form of a Question – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 60)

quiz-graphicWhat are some questions you can ask on a first date?

First dates are hard.  There’s no denying that.  From the endless supply of sweat that you didn’t know your body could produce, to the awkward silences when you actually contemplate talking about how unseasonably cold it is outside (Snowquester, anyone?), to the question of who pays the bill, first dates are often fairly anxiety-inducing.  One thing that makes it even harder is not knowing the right questions to ask.

Now, we all hope that the conversation flows naturally on a first date, pinging and ponging like Zhang Jike in the London Olympics.  (Yes – I’m a total ping pong nerd!)  But inevitably, most of us, even those who think we could have a conversation with a piece of broccoli if we had to, will be stumped at some point or another.  Rather than running off to the restroom to plot your next conversation topic, it’s a good idea to have a few questions in your back pocket just in case the gulping of your drink doesn’t quite overpower the dreaded silence.

There are certainly no right or wrong questions to ask on a date, but the ones that have the most luck require more than a simple one-word answer.  You want to get the person thinking, showing them that you actually care.  For example, rather than asking, “What do you do?” (perhaps the most boring question in the book), you could ask, “What made you decide to get into exotic bird-watching for a living?” or “How do you enjoy your job as a (fill in the blank) analyst?  I imagine it must be very rewarding.”  The first question allows your date to simply say, “I’m a _____,” but the other two require a bit more thought and introspection, leading to a more thoughtful conversation… and perhaps a second date.

Other questions that might come in handy:

-          What do you generally like to do after work?

-          What made you decide to move to the DC area, and how do you enjoy it?

-          How was your day?  (Often overlooked, but a great conversation-starter.)

-          What kinds of things do you like to read for pleasure?  Have you read anything good lately that you would recommend?

-          What would be your perfect Sunday?

Remember that this is a date, not an interview, so try to avoid acting like you’re judging the other person based on his or her answers.  (Maybe you are, but keep that to yourself!)  It’s best to stay away from the stereotypical interview questions like, “What is the hardest thing you’ve ever accomplished?” or “Was there ever a time that you were challenged to do something you felt was wrong?”  These questions are scary, whether at an interview or a date.  Don’t put the person on the spot.  Rather, ask something that he or she already knows or can at least have a fun time thinking about.

Dating is about both talking and listening.  The date should be a give and take, with you asking some questions and your date asking some questions.  What you say is just as important as your ability to listen.  And what will you be listening to?  The answers to these fabulous questions you’ll ask!

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  Check out her interview on NPR here. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.


Good Deeds Day 2013!

display_imageWashington, DC (March 4, 2013) – American-Israeli businesswoman, philanthropist and founder of the International Good Deeds Day network, Shari Arison will attend this year’s local Good Deeds Day occurring on March 10, 2013. Her appearance will highlight the incredible work of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and its commitment to volunteerism through the annual Good Deeds Day event, which has become the second largest of these events outside of Israel, second only to New York City.  With projected participation of 3,000 local residents throughout the metropolitan DC area, Good Deeds Day has ignited over 88 projects around the city and its surrounds. The event will be one of the largest efforts of this kind seen in the area, at which the Israeli ambassador is also invited to attend.

The various volunteer projects will be spread across a vast metro DC area, from College Park, Maryland to Leesburg, Virginia, with the main highlighted event being open to the media and held in the heart of the District at the DCJCC.  Attending this event will be community volunteers of all ages, including Arison herself (11 a.m. through 12noon), who will be on-site thanking volunteers while also attempting to beat a sandwich-making world record.  The event, taking place from 10 am to 1 pm, will enlist participants to have fun while “breaking bread” and creating lunch boxes for the area’s underserved in an effort to assist in the fight against hunger locally.
Arison, well-known for being one of the Top 10 Billionaires in the Middle East and #288 on the worldwide Forbes’ Billionaires List is, not surprisingly, one of the most influential women in the world and has been dubbed one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in the Middle East.  Arison is the owner of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank. She is the founder of the Arison Group, a global investment and philanthropic unit, and is the daughter of Ted Arison, founder of Carnival Cruise Lines.  Arison founded Good Deeds Day in 2007 to work as a simultaneous global celebration of volunteerism via her nonprofit organization Ruach Tova.WHAT: Good Deeds Day, Sandwich Making Community Project at the

    DCJCC with Shari Arison
WHEN: March 10, 2013
   10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
    (11 a.m.–12 p.m. Arison will be available for a short speech/media interviews)WHERE: DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

*Registration available now at“Every year, Good Deeds Day enables hundreds of thousands of people to experience the pleasure of doing something good for others and discover that in many cases, it’s really easy to help. As more people take part and come out to do a good deed, the circles of good grow.” says Arison.

“We are so honored to have Shari make a special trip to be part of our Good Deeds Day.  This day is important to our community, and helps us empower the city with the nutrients it needs,” DC co-chair of Good Deeds DayInna Dexter said.  “We would not be here without Shari’s vision and generous support.  We are looking forward to thanking her in person on behalf of the volunteers, and on behalf of the countless people whom this day has helped.”More information on the day can be found at as well as a comprehensive list of where and how to volunteer for all available events spanning DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland. There is something for everyone from preparing and serving hot lunches to the homeless at the So Others Might Eat event to attending a “Senior Prom” at the Jewish Council for the Aging; and from pre-planting at the Common GoodFarm to helping adopt out dogs at the Lost Dog Rescue, and many more—whether you are coming alone, with friends or as a family.

For media inquiries contact Tara Chantal Silver at and for questions concerning the event email or call 888-246-1818.

About Good Deeds Day

Founded in 2007, Good Deeds Day is an annual celebration of good deeds founded and pioneered by Shari Arison to spread a global celebration of volunteerism through her nonprofit organization Ruach Tova. Globally hundreds of thousands choose to volunteer and help others by putting into practice the simple idea that every single person can do something good, be it large or small, to improve the lives of others and positively change the world.The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington  ( is a community building organization that cares for those in need, deepens engagement in Jewish life and connects Jews to each other locally, in Israel and around the world.

Lessons Learned on the Mountain

thumbAlison Levine has climbed the highest peak on each of the seven continents.  She has skied to both the North and South Poles.  She is an adjunct professor at West Point and has survived working on Wall Street.  These accomplishments come in spite of the fact she was born with a rare heart defect and a blood vessel disorder that causes her vessels to narrow and inhibit blood flow.  She was also the speaker at The Federation of Greater Washington‘s Network event on February 28th.

After having surgery to correct her heart condition, Levine was free to pursue active interests including mountain climbing.  Levine shared with us the lessons she learned from her first attempt at Mt. Everest.

When first asked to be the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, Levine originally said no.  Then the tragic events of 9/11 happened and changed the world.  Levine realized, you can’t let fear keep you from doing what you want to do and accepted the role as team captain.  However, the hard part was just beginning.  She needed to find the funds to buy the needed equipment to make it to the top of Everest.  It just so happened that her expedition coincided with the launch of the Ford Expedition, providing perfect marketing for the full-size SUV.  Levine jokes that she is glad it worked out with Ford because she was also in talks with Chevy whose full-size SUV was named the Avalanche…Much better to go with the Expedition than the Avalanche when climbing a mountain.   With her team and funding secured, it came time to climb the mountain.

everestClimbing Mt. Everest typically takes two months.  Starting at the base camp (see picture), a team will climb to Camp I and spend a night there.  After that night, they will climb back down to base camp and let their bodies recover.  Next, they will climb up to Camp II and then, after spending some time there, climb back down to base camp again.  They then repeat this process with Camp III.  The repeated trips are necessary because the body starts to degenerate after 18,000 ft. above sea level and the back and forth between the camps allows the body to adjust to the air pressure.  Levine admits that this process, constantly having to go backwards, can be mentally frustrating.  The important thing, she continues, is to remember that even when you are going backwards, you are still making progress- sometimes you have to go backwards to get where you want to be.

Levine learned another lesson on fear at the Khumbu Icefall.  Located between Base Camp and Camp I at the head of the Khumbu glacier, the Khumbu Icefall is one of the most dangerous stages of the route because it is constantly in motion.  Climbers must cross the area on ladders while large crevasses, thousands of feet deep, can open with little warning due to the movement of the glacier.  Levine admits fear when crossing the icefall, “Fear is okay, complacency is what will kill you.”  The fear keeps you on the edge of your game, aware of your surroundings.  The fear gets you across the icefall alive.

thumb (1)The trek up the mountain included a multitude of obstacles, including the death of a member of another team a day ahead of Levine reminding them that no matter how much you prepare, things can go wrong.  Levine wondered whether her team would continue after the death of the fellow climber.  However, the morning following the death, her team packed up their gear and continued their trek up.  Levine reminds us that even when the storm rolls in, it is only temporary.

Her team pushed forward and finally reached Camp IV where the death zone begins.  Altitudes above 26,000 ft. are considered to be in the death zone, the height at which the body begins to die.  At this point, the climbers must take ten to fifteen breaths for every step they take.  Ten to fifteen breaths.  For one step.  Insane.  This is also the point at which Levine began to freak out.  She told herself, “I just need to make it to that piece of ice.”  Then, when she had reached that piece of ice, “I just need to make it to that rock.”  When she was ready to give up, she told herself, “Just make it to the next landmark.”  The task ahead can seem overwhelming if you look at it as a whole, but breaking it into smaller parts makes it manageable, and that is how Levine moved through the death zone.

About 500 ft. from the summit, the situation began to change.  Storm clouds appeared, and  conditions quickly worsened.  Levine’s team had to choose between moving forward and risking their lives in the storm, or turning around and abandoning their summit attempt.  A team only gets one chance at the summit because they only bring enough supplies to make it through the death zone once- thumb (2)turning back meant losing the chance to reach the top.  Making the decision to turn back was harder than than continuing on for Levine, but she had to think of the members of her team.  You can’t always stick to the plan and action must be taken based on the situation at the time.  Levine’s teamed turned around, and in the end they made it back down the mountain with their lives.

That would not be Levine’s last attempt at Everest.  Eight years later, in honor of her friend Meg Berte Owen, Levine made it to the summit of Everest.  Reaching the summit also meant that Levine had completed the Adventurers Grand Slam: summiting the highest peak on every continent and reaching both the North and South poles.

I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Levine at the end of the event, and I took the time to ask her, “What advice to you have for young professionals at the beginning of their careers?”  Levine reiterated her earlier advice from earlier: Sometimes you need to go backwards to get where you want to be, and not to be afraid of that.

Levine was an inspiration to everyone who attended the Federation event Thursday night, and Gather the Jews wishes her well in all her future endeavors.


GTJ’s Response to, “All but Observant Welcome”

GTJ_Logo+Slogan-squareThe opinion expressed in the article, “All but Observant Welcome,” expresses the opinion of the author and does not represent the opinion of Gather the Jews.  GTJ’s mission is to bridge the gap between young adults and the DC Jewish community. The article is simply meant to start a dialogue about a practice in the DC Jewish community that concerns a subsection of the community.

Gather the Jews does not support a boycott against organizations mentioned in the article and thanks the AJC, the RJC, and J Street for the continued support they have shown Gather the Jews and the DC Jewish community.  Gather the Jews looks forward to continuing to work with these organizations to build the DC Jewish community.

If you want to address this issue further, please contact Aaron Wolff at or


A Letter to DC

wash-dome-obeliskDear Washington DC,

I moved to you two months ago from LA.  I have no family or friends in you, and I feel that you are consistently trying to defeat me with your nonsensical roundabouts and one-way streets that magically become two-way streets.  The differently timed traffic lights that face the same direction on Rhode Island and 1st is a nice touch.  One light is green and the one directly behind it is red????
Despite your best efforts to kill me on the road, I survive.  No, I THRIVE.  Here’s how:

Moving into you might have been scary were it not for my “Nobody knows me here….I’ll do what I want” attitude.  will fake it till I make it.  I have confidence in my step.  Treat yo’self 2013.  Oh ya oh ya.  These mantras liberate me, and I will take to your streets by foot and metro since you hate my car so much.  I will experience and love you till you love me back.  I will be whoever I want to be, I will go to bars and parties alone until I have friends, and even Beyonce will be proud of what an independent single lady I am.

I will walk from Bloomingdale to the H street Corridor.  I won’t care that it is snowing and I’ll ignore my Los Angelean soul screaming, “I need Vitamin D!  You, know the kind you get from the sun?”  How often did I even actually go to the beach in LA anyway?  Let’s be honest.  Not that often.

Through chattering teeth, I say, “Maybe I should buy a jacket, or something.”  Or something.  The East Coast really isn’t kidding around when it comes to winter, and when a co-worker tells me 2013 has been mild so far, a part of me dies.

My car is frozen in a sheet of ice.  I scrape it off with my “scraper.”  I have a scraper.  “Scrapin’ my car, scrapin’ my car,” I sing to myself, smiling, because the novelty of having to do the chore is fun this first time, but I later learn, it was fun ONLY that time.  DC, ya whateva.  I got this.

There’s nothing like discovering you on foot.  I get a real sense of your neighborhoods and people, and your architecture is eye candy, to say the least.  People are surprised that I will walk from to Dupont to Adam’s Morgan.  It’s honestly not that far, you guys!  I appreciate your residents’ pride and dedication to their respective hoods.  It makes for multiple communities, and the more references I can make to brunch, bottomless mimosas, the green line, and how I think Arlington is weird, the more accepted I feel.  And when I say, “I live in Bloomingdale. It is an up-and-coming city, much like a blooming flower,” I am golden.

My new roommates in my new DC group house are the best, and they even let me get away with never ever talking about politics.  They have lots of friends, so, by association, I do too.

So in the end, I feel cradled by you, DC.  I feel accepted and happy in you.  But most of all, I appreciate how you consistently flag and remove the Craigslist Ads I write pretending to be Obama looking for a roommate to split the cost of rent in the White House.



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