Masa Israel Featured Internship: Research Internship and Legal Internship, Kan-Tor & Acco

As the Research Intern you will be responsible for identifying regulations and policies affecting U.S. Immigration Law today using databases and web searches. In addition you will research current laws and regulations on a per client basis. The Legal Writing intern’s responsibilities will include researching and writing articles for publication, and preparing thorough, well-written research reports on a series of issues, including (but not limited to): relocation matters, international regulations, etc.

Kan-Tor & Acco is a global relocation law firm comprised of three inter-related practice areas: Israel-bound relocation, U.S.-bound relocation & global relocation. The firm strives to contribute added value to the practice of immigration law through publications on a wide variety of international regulations and relocation matters. The attorneys have authored books on relocation-related issues, published in English, German and Hebrew, as well as a series of Client Guides on specific visa types.


Thanksgivukkah Hybrid Foods to Consider

b-thanksgivukkah-102313With Thanksgiving and Chanukkah combining forces for the first time ever this November, many American Jews are considering modifications to their traditional thanksgiving dinners.

So here are a few ideas for combining almost 400 years of Thanksgiving deliciousness with 5,000 years of Jewish culinary tradition:

Sweet potato ball soup
Parsley and Horseradish salad

Beef brisket-stuffed Turkey
Venison Bagels with Cottage Cheese

Brussels Sprouts-wrapped Hamentaschen
Gefiltefish Stuffing

Pumpkin Knishes
Potato Latke-Crusted Apple Pie
Pecan-Kugel Pie

Manischevitz cranberry wine
Lox Cider

Remember to save some room for wontons and egg rolls on December 25.  And don’t forget to celebrate Thanksgivukkah early with the GTJ November Happy Hour! (RSVP on Facebook to be entered into a raffle for two Matisyahu concert tickets!)

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  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 Art of Setting Yourself Apart – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 77)

jdateLet’s say we’re in a room full of 100 people.  Say, a GTJ happy hour… except that’s more like 300 people!  We look around, and everyone seems fairly different, right?  But before knowing a thing about anyone else, we are all basically the same… just people in a room together.  Now, what if we try to segment the 100 people into categories?  For example, we might ask the question, “Who likes to cook?”  Let’s say that 25 people raise their hands.  Now these 25 people are different from the other 75 who would rather be jumping into a pool of crocodiles than trying to decipher a recipe in “How to Cook Everything.”  Those 25 people, though, are now all the same – they like to cook.  So let’s delve a bit further by asking around to see what specific dishes these people like to cook:

Erika – “I love making my grandma’s kugel recipe with apricots and raisins.”
Betsy – “I make a flourless chocolate cake for Passover that people really like.”
Jonah – “I make one thing and one thing only – eggplant parm.”
Conner – “All I know how to make is a tuna melt.  But it’s a good tuna melt, if I do say so myself!”
Maxine – “I’m no gourmet chef or anything, but I love making summer salads with chick peas and beans.  I also make my own salad dressing.”

The five of us have now differentiated ourselves, first from the larger group because we each like to cook, and now from the 25-person subset because we have shared specifically what we enjoy cooking.  Who would you rather go on a date with: Someone who says he likes to cook, or someone who says he makes the best apple pie on this side of the Mississippi?  I’d venture to say the latter.

In your online dating profile, it’s very important to differentiate yourself to the point where people can see you for you and not assume you’re just like everyone else.  Let’s look at these two profile excerpts:

I love to laugh and have fun.  My family and friends are so important to me, and I always try to be there for them when I can.  I love to cook, run, and play with my dog.  

When I’m not chasing my dog all the way to the dog park every morning (trust me – he’s fast!), I love hosting family and friends for dinner.  It gives me great pride to make my late grandma’s kugel recipe for every Jewish holiday.  The best advice she ever gave to me was to use a whole stick of butter every time.  Maybe it’s a good thing I get my exercise by running every morning… even if I can never catch Scruffy!

The first profile doesn’t tell us much.  It lists a few hobbies, but on the whole, it’s pretty nondescript.  The second profile, however, really gives us a sense of who this person is – someone silly and family-loving who loves to cook and who has an abnormally fast dog.  That’s someone people want to meet!

So look around the room, and if you think you might be writing the same profile as the person next to you, it’s time to get more specific.  There’s an art to setting yourself apart, and now you’re well-equipped with the skills to do it.

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article also appeared on JDate.




Activities Instructor, Etgarim

As an Activities Instructor, you will be responsible for teaching classes, running rehabilitation programs, encouraging activities with families, and providing an environment in which students can achieve and strengthen their abilities while providing them with skills to help with their integration into the community and society. Opportunities may also be available in fundraising and public relations.

Etgarim was founded in 1995 with the purpose of bringing outdoor athletic activities to people with special needs. Their goal is to promote outdoor activities and educational programs with special emphasis on socializing and communication.


Statue of Liberty Celebrates 114th Anniversary of her Bat Mitzvah

stateNEW YORK HARBOR – (@The Comedy News) – Today, the Statue of Liberty will celebrate the 114th anniversary of her Bat Mitzvah.

On Saturday, October 28, 1899, the Statue of Liberty turned 13 years old.  On that day, she read from the Torah as a Jewish rite of passage in front of her family and close friends.

In attendance at Lady Liberty’s Bat Mitzvah was The Great Sphinx traveling from Egypt, Christ the Redeemer from Brazil, Moai from Easter Island, and the entire population of New York City, which around 1900 was 3,437,202 people.    Her first dance at her party after the ceremony was with Michelangelo’s David, who dressed in only a kippah.

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  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.


Getting Productive…Some of our Favorite Tools

ringFeeling overwhelmed???  Who isn’t—especially this time of year.  As we head into November, our “to do” lists are suddenly packed with holiday planning and end-of-year work projects.  At Ringya, we are all about productivity and collaboration. So we thought we’d share some of the tools we use to stay organized, manage our lives, and stay all around sane.  We’ve also included a couple of new ones that we haven’t test driven yet but sounded cool.

Ringya – Ringya is the first communication solution especially created for groups like work teams, class lists, sports clubs and community organizations.  Ringya lets users easily create mobile groups (or “Rings”) and conveniently communicate with group members via text messaging, group chat, message boards, calls or email

Pocket – How many times have you come across an interesting article but didn’t have time to read it just then? With a click of a button, Pocket saves articles for you so you can read them later…on any device where you load a Pocket account.  Ringya staffers use Pocket to read on their smartphones, tablets, and eBook readers.

Remember the Milk – At Ringya, we believe in putting an end to paper lists.  With Ringya, we helped get your contact lists onto your phone so we were excited to hear about a digital task list that lets you scrap your paper to do and grocery lists. This cross platform app lets you access your to do list on your phone or desk top, sync it with your Google calendar and much more!

Of course, we couldn’t possibly neglect to mention Evernote! We LOVE it! All your notes – work, personal – saved digitally and totally searchable.

Asana – Collaborating on projects can lead to confusion. Time to get coordinated! Asana helps you work together allowing everyone on the team to connect, share priorities, and see who owns what. (We admit, it’s a bit confusing at the outset…but many on the Ringya team swear by it!)

Circa – Now that the daily paper is becoming a thing of the past, it’s hard to determine whether you’re catching the most important headlines. Recently launched by a group of editors, Circa provides headlines and stories chosen for relevance and importance.

TripIt – Going on a business trip? Planning a reunion or holiday vacation? We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the AWESOME TripIt. A great collaborative travel organizational tool. By the way, if you follow @tripit on Twitter, you’ll find some great travel tips. So start packing!

Hipmunk – Let’s you search and book plane tickets, hotels and restaurants. Find flights according to different parameters; see where hotels are located relative to landmarks and tourist attractions; find out what restaurants are nearby.


Lifting Sanctions on Iran Would Threaten Our Security

iran_sm_2013The following is an opinion piece, and it should not be construed to reflect the ideas or position of GTJ as an organization.

The Obama Administration’s ill-advised rush to soften the U.S. stance towards Iran threatens our security along with the very existence of Israel, one of our closest allies. Talks regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons development program are underway between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany. And the administration indicated this week its openness to “quickly” lift these sanctions depending “on what they put on the table.” In fact, according to The Hill, an administration official is “open to Iran’s ideas about how to proceed forward.”

Many within the general public and within the Obama administration appear to be have been lulled to a false sense of ease with the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. Although presented as a “moderate” by the general media, his record is that of a dangerous radical. True, Rouhani’s pleasant Rosh Hashanah greeting via Twitter pleased the ears. But the world should recall that he played a leading role in a 1994 attack on the bombing of an Argentine Jewish community center. The blood of the 85 people murdered remains on his hands.

Rouhani is far better skilled at improving public opinion through pleasantries than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, this likely serves only as a means of securing the regime’s goal of regional domination and nuclear weapons development. And make no mistake; Rouhani has faithfully served the brutal Iranian regime for decades, and was rewarded with the post of “representative of His Highness” to the Supreme National Security Council beginning in 1989.

Sadly, President Obama has shown a tendency to fail to communicate the threat extremist jihadist ideology poses peaceful co-existence. This administration chose to label the Fort Hood massacre as “workplace violence” rather than an act of Islamist extremism and initiallyrefused to admit that jihadists orchestrated the attack on our nation’s representatives in Bengazi. And in the wake of the Arab Spring, the Obama administration funneled billions of dollars of aid to the Muslim Brotherhood — an organization known for its past nurturing of terrorist leaders and engaging in terrorist activity.

The most recent blow to the Obama administration’s foreign policy credibility occurred this past summer when chemical weapons were used in the Syrian civil war. In August, 2012, the president declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be “a red line for us.” After chemical weapons were used, the president scrambled to enlist global and domestic support for a military response to these attacks. He failed on both fronts. Obama’s “red line” was breached, but in the end the administration chose to back down.

Regardless of whether or not U.S. military intervention would have been prudent, the stark contrast between the president’s warning to Syria in 2012 and the inaction following the use of chemical weapons this summer stokes doubt over this administration’s commitment to halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Of course, this concern over the president’s approach to Iran existed even prior to this summer’s foreign policy debacles. In a rare, unanimous bipartisan vote, the Senate approved new sanctions against Iran in November 2012. The administration opposed these sanctions. Yes, Obama opposed every Democratic senator in his party on sanctions designed to inhibit Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons capabilities.

Now, once again, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress who understand the Iranian threat are attempting to counter the administration’s seeming desire to lift sanctions without fully accomplishing the task at hand. And Israeli leadership is warning the administration that the talks in Geneva could result in another Munich 1938. After the “peace” achieved in Munich, Hitler proceeded to extinguish the lives of millions and embroil the world in war.

Sanctions on Iran must only be lifted if Iran completely complies with demands to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons capability. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian regime threaten our own security, threaten Israel’s very existence, and threaten to condemn millions of innocent Iranian citizens to further subjugation. Now is the time for the United States to oppose today’s evil with resolve.




The Future of American Jewry

pewJudaism has thrived in the United States for centuries, which makes A Portrait of Jewish Americans, the newly published Pew Research study on American Jewry, unexpectedly grim.  Ten years of data tells us that the future for American Judaism is more unstable than we thought.  Today’s Jewish institutions will shape the Jewish future, and if the Pew study says nothing else, it is time for a new set of tactics.

The Pew study concludes that one of every five Jews today identifies as having “no religion.”  When we look more closely at Jewish millennials, this number shoots up to one in three.  Congregations of all stripes have responded by offering some version of “Judaism lite.”  As a millennial and a rabbi, I think this mostly makes things worse.  Young Jewish adults are exploring their Jewish identities every bit as seriously as their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, and when Jewish programming stops at happy hours and kickball teams, it is no surprise that 20s and 30s might walk away saying, “This Judaism does not speak to me.”  Jewish experiences for any age can and should be content-rich.  They should challenge and inspire.  They should breathe life into the Jewish soul, and if they don’t, then they have fallen short.

To stem the tide of Jewish dissolution, every stream of Judaism now plays a pivotal role.  Orthodox Judaism, with its cutting-edge millennial outreach initiatives, will always be an answer for some.  For most Jews who are drifting from Judaism, however, Orthodoxy is not a realistic or accessible option.  This means that Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and thoughtful non-mainstream institutions have a greater role to play than they ever did before.  Ninety percent of the American Jewish community is at stake.

To strengthen the 90 percent, Jewish communities need to serve and energize the Jews in the pews while reaching out to those who are not.  Gone are the days when Jews joined a congregation simply because it was there.  As bonds to organizational Judaism continue to fray, congregations will need to spark Jewish interest before ever suggesting membership.  We have to reach people where they are, and increasingly, this is behind a computer screen.  Jewish institutions typically do an amateur job marketing themselves and the Judaism they espouse, and until we do, we can no longer expect people to walk through our doors.

For some Jews, especially the intermarried, our synagogue doors seem forever closed.  Encouraging Jews to date and marry Jews is and will always be an indispensable part of Jewish continuity, but according to the Pew study, 58 percent of Jews (71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews) now intermarry.  Intermarriage is an American reality, and the future of American Jewry depends on how well we address it.  The numbers are telling us a truth we need to hear.  If we are concerned for the Jewish future, it is time for rabbis and congregations to value and honor our core members while embracing intermarried couples and inspiring them to raise Jewish children.  If we don’t provide interfaith families with the warm community, the rabbinic embrace, and the Jewish passion they deserve, Jews will leave us for their loved ones and intermarriage will continue to unravel the Jewish community.  We have not yet wrapped our heads around a Jewish future where interfaith marriage is normal, and in turning away those who love non-Jews, today’s standard-bearers are a part of the problem.  It cannot be this way.

I am a rabbi, a millennial, and an optimist at heart, and I don’t think this means some inevitable end of American Judaism.  Two statistics tell me that, if we’re smart, we’re going to be just fine.  Seventy-five percent of Jews in America report “a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people,” and more significantly, nearly 100 percent are proud to be Jewish.  That is the most important number of them all.  Some Jews might not know how to express these overwhelmingly positive Jewish sentiments.  Many lack both the vocabulary to give their Judaism a voice and the rabbis, congregations, and, communities to animate their Jewish souls.  This can change, and when it does, I believe that American Judaism will change along with it.

There are two futures facing America’s Jewry.  If all remains the same, America’s Jewry will be anemic, stale and dwindling to an ever-shrinking core.  But nothing in Judaism has ever remained the same, and the Pew study tells us loud and clear that staying the same is not an option.  The other future for American Judaism is one that is vibrant, alive, and expanding in ways that have only recently seemed possible.  The end is not near.  Not even close.  We are a generation of Jews who, like every generation before us, has paved the road for the next.  If the generation ahead of us does its job, and if we do ours, ani m’amin b’emmuna sh’leima, I believe in perfect faith, that the next generation will do the same.

This article was originally featured in the Washington Jewish Week.

Rabbi Aaron Miller is assistant rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation.


20 Things Nobody Ever Said in Jumbo Slice

delete2Jumbo Slice—a late-night rite of passage for any young rambunctious professional in our Nation’s Capitol out having a good time.

The slices sometimes exceed 20 inches from crust to tip, are covered with grease, and are a delicious end to many evenings in neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan and U Street.

Expensive?  No.  Healthy?  Afraid not.  Fun?  Definitely.  We don’t go to Jumbo Slice for fine dining.  We stumble in because it hits the spot.  We enjoy it because a little cheating on the diet never hurts…right?

So, please enjoy this list of of the Top Twenty Things You Never Hear at Jumbo Slice:

20)  “Pass the napkins, I should wipe-up this grease before I take my time eating it.”

19)  “Great brunch, girls!”

18)  “Cheer up!  You could meet your future wife here.”

17)  “I need to watch my language in this place.”

16)  “Oh cool they just renovated.”

15)  “I went to a place just like Jumbo Slice in Italy.”

14)  “I’m not here for pizza, just wondering if I could use your bathroom.”

13)  “One venti pumpkin-spiced latte, please.”

12)  “This sure beats all that crappy pizza we get in Manhattan.”

11)  “Hey look, Michelle Obama once ate here!”

10)  “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

9)  “Gee, tonight was a success!”

8)  “That’s it?”

7)  “Now, let’s grab dessert at Ben’s Chili Bowl.”

6)  “I know it’s only January 5th, but this is the ONLY time I go to Jumbo Slice in 2014.”

5)  “Let’s bring the kids here next time.”

4)  “Will you marry me?”

3)  “Pardon me, but I think you were ahead of me in line.”

2)  “You can cut the line, I am certain my booty call will text me at exactly 10:00 PM sharp.”

1)  “Certified kosher?!  Yalla!”

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  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.


You Get What You Allow – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 76)

deleteAs a dating coach, I hear complaints like this from my clients and my friends (mostly the female ones) all the time:

– “He won’t pick up the phone to call me.  I am so sick of texting!”
– “Ugh – he only contacts me once a week.  What’s up with that?”
– “Why can’t he ask me before Friday if I’m free this weekend??  My schedule fills up by mid-week.”

All of these are, of course, are valid concerns.  But what’s not valid is not saying anything about them to the person you’re dating.  As much as we want them to be, people are not mind readers.  Even if we think we’re being as clear as a freshly washed glass door (I use this as an example because I walked into one last week – oops), we often dance around things that bother us until the other person figures it out… and they usually don’t.  This leads to the demise of many a relationship when often simply talking it through would resolve the problem.

Let’s take the first example: texting.  In our generation, the default is to text.  Running late?  Send a text.  Curious to know what someone’s up to later?  Send a text.  Ask someone out on a second date?  You guessed it.  Most people will send a text.  Now, I pose this question: If this overuse of texting bothers you, what do you do about it?  Too often, the answer is nothing.  If you allow the texting to go on by answering all the time and not mentioning that you would prefer a phone call, your date/partner assumes that it’s ok.  Remember, no one reads minds.  Even today, a 54-year-old female client called me to ask what to do about a guy from who has been texting her since asking for her phone number.  She said, “Ugh – he must be lazy!  Should I just ignore him?”  My response was, “Write him back saying, ‘Why don’t you give me a ring, and we’ll schedule a time to meet?’”

For the next example, someone only contacting you once a week, again, it’s ok to say something like, “I think it would be fun to talk a couple of times a week.”  You can even throw a joke in there with something like, “I think it would be fun to talk (and maybe even see each other) a couple of times a week, you know, so I don’t forget what you look like. ;)”  And for the issue about last-minute planning, it’s more than ok to say to someone that you tend to plan ahead.

In life, many people end up being passive-aggressive or unclear when trying to get a message across.  The act of having a real, honest conversation about something that’s bothering you is a lost art, but it’s the foundation of a good relationship.  Rather than having little things, like the frustration with texting, add up until you can’t take it anymore, instead, you can ask yourself, “Have I mentioned that I would prefer a call sometimes?  Do I answer every text as if it’s no problem?”  If the answers are no and yes, respectively, then before you break up (likely via text, given the circumstances), have a conversation about your different communication styles, and try to find a middle ground.  Remember that you get what you allow, so by allowing the “problem” to go on, you’re sending the message that it’s not a problem at all.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.


Masa Israel Featured Internship: Coexistence Educator, American Corner Arab-Jewish Community Center

Interns will gain experience in English tutoring as well as participate in the Big Brother/Sister program. In addition, interns will assist with program coordination/public relations by helping the director set up, run, and promote the programs that the center undertakes. Daily tasks will include brainstorming, research, data entry, updating the social media sites, as well as other routine tasks.

This is an organization funded partially by the American Embassy and the Municipality of Tel Aviv Jaffa. American Corner AJCC runs a number of different programs, all with the aim of promoting American values, such as tolerance, co-existence, and democracy.


Importance of a Minyan in Akko


The Jewish sages would kiss the rocks of Akko upon entering the Land of Israel.

Adverse possession is a centuries-old legal theory that transfers valid title in real property to a squatter. The rationale is that good land shouldn’t go to waste. Hence, the true owner’s neglect is said essentially to have invited the encroachment. Many parts of undisputed territory in Israel appear to be undergoing this phenomenon in spirit if not in law. The old city of Akko represents but one example.

During a recent backpacking sojourn through Israel, I myself debated whether to visit this city. Five days earlier, three southbound rockets had been launched from Lebanon toward Akko with only one of the explosives having been intercepted. Nevertheless, I risked the trip, reasoning that, if my time had come, I would be equally vulnerable at a café in Haifa as I would 30 minutes northward, exploring streets the Rambam walked nearly 1,000 years ago. Besides, after three weeks pinging around Eretz Yisröel, only two days remained until my return flight to the United States. So, I took my chances and caught the train.

image (1)The Akko train station lets out across from the parking lot of an open-air meat market. It was nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit that day and the smell of dead chicken blood overpowered. A five-minute cab ride later, though, I was inside the old city, admiring the historic markers affixed to fortress walls barely worn despite centuries of relentless seaspray. The engraved plates told of many sages who over the last 5,000 years had passed through this, one of the oldest working ports in the world.

Sadly, the series of engraved plates — some of which have been scratched out — is the extent of the Jewish imprint on this town. Indeed, local synagogues are listed on a legend at Akko’s front gate amid other “Places of Interest” directly following sections labeled “Churches,” “Mosques,” and “Parking Lots,” respectively.

Yes, there are tunnels built by the Templar Knights and Inns in existence since the Ottoman Empire. But what I was there to see could only be reached by tripping over Tonka trucks and tricycles down a little-used alleyway. Indeed, so infrequently is the path to Beit Ramhal traveled by Jews in search of a place to daven together that Arab children have claimed its front door as a vacant play yard.

Beit Ramhal's caretaker

Beit Ramhal’s caretaker

Granted, the tiny gem that is Beit Ramhal cannot compare with the artistic splendor of the Tunisian synagogue just beyond Akko’s old city walls. In fact, in absence of the Beit Hamikdash, the Or Torah is easily the most glorious shul one could hope to ever see. Still, Ramhal, however humble, easily fits ten men. Ten men who never come, according to the Ramhal’s faithful caretaker. Between lessons about the deerskin Torah on display, and the pomegranate ink with which it was inscribed, he shrugged at my persistence about the shul’s disuse and waved that it hasn’t had an active minyan in decades.

Now, I am not a man and do not plan to move to Akko just to make sure someone says Shema there twice daily. But the sudden realization that this gateway to Israel for so many ancestors has been given up for lost to the forebears of its one-time conquerors grieves me to no end. I am not a woman who succumbs easily to tears and, yet, I wept deeply at Ramhal’s house of study and several times since then over the lack of a religious quorum in Akko.

"Beit Knesset Ramhal": Knesset means Assembly

“Beit Knesset Ramhal”: Knesset means Assembly

Ultimately, my great epiphany that day was that our ongoing struggle over borders and territorial authority is a farce for so long as Jewish men willingly surrender town by town, inch by inch, in Israel and in America, through their failure to appear. In a city such as Akko, where Jews comprise roughly 75% of the population, but largely live at the margins of history (i.e. outside the city gates), a new history is being written of a people who gave away their hard-won political and property rights by exhibiting inertia in later asserting them.

I can only hope when I return to Israel in Spring that I find a miraculous reversal of the despair-worthy trend I have recounted here. In the interim, I would entreat you to consider whether Judaism generally and Israel specifically, Sir, isn’t worth your vote. If you find that it is, I would encourage you to make the time — whether it’s thrice a day or once a month — to vote with your feet and show up, as G-d commanded, for your minyan and for your community at large. I’ve seen with my own eyes the negative impact your absence is having already.

Lisette García is earning a master’s degree in political management from The George Washington University.  She anticipates putting her additional skills as a Freedom of Information Act attorney to work for NGO Monitor in Jerusalem from May through July 2014.


Friendship Circle Connects Young Professionals to Young Adults with Special Needs

Friendship Circle LogoNext week is the first Friendship Circle event with Gather the Jews!  What is Friendship Circle, you ask?  Friendship Circle is an organization that strives to create bonds between young professionals and young adults with special needs in the DMV through fun and creative programming.  On Sunday October 20, we are going to Siena’s to make our own pizza, hang out, and get to know each other in a relaxed and intimate setting.

The young adults with special needs who are planning on going are so excited and want you to be just as excited!  Events like these allow them to practice their social skills and improve their language.  So often people with special needs feel isolated from people their own age because they live at home, far from where young professionals live in more urban areas.  “It’s important for young adults with special needs to be invited to programs – some feel disconnected and left out when no one asks them to participate, and others who need to be more social, simply accept the status quo and stay home,” says a mother with a son on the autism spectrum.  “My hope is that the Friendship Circle program provides an opportunity for young adults with special needs to meet one another and young professionals.”  Friendship circle events allow everyone to make meaningful friendships.

Friendship Circle is a national organization that has recently branched out to working with young professionals.  Typical “circles” usually focus on teenagers.  However, leadership realized that there was an essential untapped market in the “20 somethings” looking to give back in a meaningful way.  Additionally, people with disabilities between the ages of 20 and 30 tend to be the most lonely because they are no longer affiliated with a school system and have not yet transitioned to living on their own or in a group home.  It seems to be the perfect pairing.

As one friendship circle member commented on the upcoming event, “it might be interesting because I can learn how to make my own pizza and make good friends!”  Who wouldn’t want to go?

Check out the facebook event.  If you have any questions or suggestions please email me at  Thanks!


Reviewing “Our Political Nature”


Learn more about Our Political Nature here.

Our Political Nature is evolutionary anthropologist Avi Tuschman’s first book. In the work Tuschman posits that there are underlying causes that explain the political orientation of each individual across religious, cultural, and national boundaries. The book is organized into six sections that relate to the evolutionary and personal origins that contribute to political personality: tribalism, tribalism’s biological origins, tolerance of inequality, biology of family conflict, biology of altruism and perceptions of human nature.

Dr. Tuschman introduces the reader to the scientific evaluation of an individual’s conservatism. Tuschman argues that an individual’s results are less a personal choice than a factor of genetics and are relatively immutable throughout the course of one’s lifetime. Tuschman synthesizes the combined research of many to support his theory of human expression of political identity.  Tuschman pulls global examples citing studies from places varied such as Israel, Libya, Peru, Pakistan and the United States to support his findings across religious groups, political systems and climates and establish the universality of the left to right spectrum of liberal to conservative thought he argues we all fall upon. He argues that a conservative outlook, which can be scientifically tested on an unbiased scale, encourages ethnocentrism that can reinforce tribal nature whereas more liberal attitudes tend to express xenophilia, the interest in out-group people, and are more likely to partner with people from other groups. Relatedly, where ethnocentrism and conservative behaviors are prevalent, so are rates of religiosity. Where religiosity is high, so are rates of childbirth relative to the secular population and as well as negative attitudes towards non-reproductive sexual behaviors.

In the examination of a hypothesis it can be challenging to avoid letting one’s assumptions sway the outcomes of the study. Reading the work I felt that Tuschman did a good job of letting the research speak for itself with scant assumptions. One assumption, that though I agreed with, seemed to stand without fact. In the examination of the conflict in Israel between Ultra Orthodox Ashkenazim who refused to allow their children to study with Ultra Orthodox Sephardim and Mizrahim the book states that the reason the Ashkenazim protested was that the Sephardim and Mizrahim allowed televisions in their homes and they did not want their children’s minds to be corrupted by ideas they felt to be unsuitable in an atmosphere of shared learning. Despite both groups being religious Jews, Tuschman argued there is an ethnocentricity that intensifies with religiosity that impedes the expanding of the tribe. The irony of course is that given that the relative newcomers of European descent think that the Jews who have stay localized during the past two millennia are not as good Jews as they. From this, Tuschman made the judgment that the actual underlying cause was that despite the words used to argue, the true fear was based in tribalism that was unwilling to allow for the eventuality of friendships that may later in life result in marriage. Although this may sound like a reasonable deduction it was conveyed in a manner that felt like speculation.

Overall, the work is a captivating study that combines interdisciplinary research across the sciences to create a more complete picture of the human psyche as we relate to others and ourselves. I was intrigued by the examples cited and felt myself largely convinced of Tuschman’s arguments. My greatest critique of the work is the editing. There is high quality research however in the presentation of facts the tone sometimes shifts from academic to informal. Additionally, there were instances where sentences should have combined into one fluid thought instead of fragmented throughout a paragraph.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is tired of hearing outdated and unhelpful ideas of why certain groups behave as they do. This work portrays no one as a victim of their position and circumstance but rather explains how those conditions work in tandem to influence thought and perhaps even predict reactions. Our Political Nature excels in taking the fear out of the ‘other’ by creating context for political identity. The work enables the reader to evaluate their position on the spectrum, which facilitates the respect of the placement of another at a different point across cultures, both domestic and abroad, due to a better rubric for evaluating the factors that shape our political personality. Our Political Nature has the potential to make us more understanding of difference and less critical of the choices of other by encouraging healthier ways to judge behaviors among less familiar populations. If for no other reason, that point is why I think this book provides valuable information to the whole of humanity that makes it worth the read.

Courtney D. Sharpe is a world traveler who has spent extensive time in the Middle East studying, traveling and working with the Peace Corps. She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she pursued a double degree in International Studies and Religion. 


Billions of Wild Animals Thrilled about National Park Shutdown

yellYELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY – (@TheComedyNews) – While many people thorughout the United States are furious about being furloughed from their Federal Government jobs, there are billions of animals who are taking their share of joy.

Due to the Federal Government shutdown, all National Parks are closed to tourists, leaving billions of diverse wild animals free of gawking tourists invading their habitats.

“I can hardly remember the last time I was this relaxed”, a Yellowstone Elk rejoiced.  “I’m a three-year-old father of seven.  I used to worry every day that a dumb family from Wisconsin will run over one of my children with their Subaru.  Good riddance!”

A similar sentiment was expressed by Bryant, a two-thousand pound grizzly bear..  “No matter how many people we gore each year, tourists keep coming back.  It’s really annoying.  But just one government shut down and bam!  All intruders to our neighborhood are gone.  Now I can go fishing for lox and dumpster diving without annoying tourists shooting sepia-faded Instagram photos of me.”

In addition to the natural fauna at the closed National Parks, the flora are pretty amused by the lack of tourists and researchers as well.

“Look at me, I’m 5,000 years old,.  Have I been waiting for a time that all the scientists would just fuck off for a few days?”  A Redwood tree in Northern California at the eponymous National Park snapped while smoking a cigarette.  “You bet I have.  You try to germinate while some dork in short shorts and tubesocks takes measurements of your dong.”

Still, there is some wildlife that misses the daily drudge of human contact.

Damien, a Burmese Python at Everglades National Park expressed his insistence that the parks open up to tourists once again.

“It’s not that I enjoy harming humans,” Damien explained.  “Me and my buddies just like to scare the shit out them.  ‘Snake!  Snake!  Snake!'”  Damien mocked.  “Man I miss that shit.”

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  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.

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