Are you a Birthright alumni? Birthright NEXT will help you host a Passover seder!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABirthright NEXT is providing some great resources to help you host your own seder!

Been on a Birthright Israel trip?  Celebrate Passover by hosting a NEXT Passover Seder for your friends.  NEXT will give you everything you need, including delicious recipes, up to $10 per person to help cover the cost of food, and a guide to customizing your own traditions.  Sign up today: Passover Your Way.

Even if you’re not a Birthright alumni, there are still great resources on the NEXT website that you can take advantage of.  Check them out here.


GTJ interviewed one of the organizers of the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner!

The Most Interesting Jew in the World - Screenshot of fundraising clip for White City Shabbat's Guinness World's Largest Shabbat Dinner in theme of Dos Equis beer commercial. Photo credit: courtesy of White City Shabbat

The Most Interesting Jew in the World – Screenshot of fundraising clip for White City Shabbat’s Guinness World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner in theme of Dos Equis beer commercial. Photo credit: courtesy of White City Shabbat


As part of White City Shabbat, Victoria is one of the organizers of the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner!  Learn more about the Shabbat dinner here.

Rachel: We heard that before you lived in Israel, you were living in DC.  What brought you to DC?

Victoria: I moved to DC in 2011 to get my masters in public administration at George Washington University.

Rachel: Why did you decide to move to Israel?

Victoria: I had come to Israel a few times since I graduated high school, once on a family mission trip in 2005 & once with my mom on a women’s mission in 2011, and both experiences were great but very centered on site seeing and learning about the history of Israel.  When I came to Israel on Taglit in 2012 on a DC community Shorashim bus, the trip had an element of self-reflection that I had never experienced on a previous trip to Israel.  I was forced to confront questions like “What does Israel mean to you?” and “What do you want your relationship with Israel to be?” and when I thought about those and other topics I realized that 10 days was not enough for me to answer those questions satisfactorily.  On the last day of Birthright we were given a presentation about coming back to Israel on Masa and I filled out a card saying that I was interested in possibly returning for a longer Israel experience.

A few months passed and as I was entering my last semester of my master’s degree and trying to decide what I was going to do when I graduated I received a phone call from a Masa representative asking if I was still interested in coming back to Israel.  The call couldn’t have come at a better time and I made the decision that if I was ever going to explore my relationship with Judaism and Israel by living in the Jewish homeland, now was the time. 

Rachel: What is White City Shabbat?

Victoria: White City Shabbat is the portal for Jewish Life in Tel Aviv.  Bringing the concept of Shabbat dinner parties to a wider community, the organization hosts its own private, warm, welcoming, all-inclusive Shabbat meals every month.  White City Shabbat also hosts holiday celebrations and meals, Jewish learning series, beginners learning minyan, and inter-community programming.  To learn more about White City Shabbat visit

Rachel: How did you get involved in White City Shabbat?

WCS logo (1)Victoria: White City Shabbat is one of many programs operated by a nonprofit organization called the Am Yisrael Foundation, which is where I worked as an intern during my Masa program.

While I was doing research on different Masa programs I reached out to a friend of mine, Natalie Solomon, who had made Aliyah recently and was volunteering with a passionate team of young professionals to form new nonprofit organization, the Am Yisrael Foundation, that actually had an intern at the time from one of the programs I was looking into.  After talking with Natalie and learning more about the great group of people she works with and the work they do to build community for the young-professional international community in Tel Aviv, I knew that going on Career Israel and interning with AYF was the right fit for me.

I feel so lucky that I was recruited for this position because it’s given me a chance to see Tel Aviv through the lens of passionate, highly motivated young pioneers who are working tirelessly to improve the city and the community that we’ve chosen to call home.  Even though my internship ended almost 2 months ago, I decided to continue volunteering with the Am Yisrael Foundation and helping them attempt the world record for the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner.

Rachel: What motivated WCS to host the largest Shabbat dinner ever?

Victoria: It’s actually a funny story, no one really knows who exactly came up with the idea.  People within our organization had been playing around for a while with different ideas to inspire Jewish unity with some type of global Jewish communal effort and that is where the idea to attempt a Guinness World Record came from.  White City Shabbat and Am Yisrael Foundation are led by passionate young professionals who devote their free time to run these programs & we wanted a way to involve Jews from around the world in the incredible work that we’re doing.

Rachel: Who are you expecting to attend the dinner?

Victoria: We expect a lot of diversity in the event’s attendees.  At White City Shabbat we believe that Shabbat is the cornerstone of the Jewish faith and as such has the power to bring people together.  Furthermore, because of its unique demographics of so many young professionals, its mix of immigrants and natives who are both religious and secular, and its overarching atmosphere of openness and inclusivity, Tel Aviv is the perfect city to host an event of this magnitude.

Rachel: When you’re not at the world’s largest Shabbat, where can you be found on a typical Friday night?

Victoria: Since I’ve been living in Israel for the last 6 months, I feel so fortunate that I’m able to celebrate Shabbat with my friends every week.  In the Olim (new immigrant) community here in Tel Aviv we have a saying that your friends are your family, since many of us do not have family living in Israel or if we do they’re far away, and I’ve definitely been living by that statement since I got here.  Every week I either go to a friend’s apartment or to a White City Shabbat event for dinner, and, wherever I am, I know that Shabbat dinner will be filled with people that I love expressing their gratitude and happiness that we are together in Tel Aviv, in the homeland of the Jewish people, being able to share in the beauty of Shabbat.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?

Victoria: I’d have to say my mom.  She converted after she married my dad & even though she wasn’t raised Jewish she embodies Jewish values, like Tikkun Olam & Tzedakah, more than anyone else I know & has inspired me to try and do the same.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Victoria: we can change the world!


Catch a Date with “Email Bait” – – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 86)

heartbaitDo you ever come across a profile that you like, you want to send a message, and then you have a strong bout of writer’s block?  It turns out you’re not alone.

Many people have no idea what to say in an initial online dating email (or text, if we’re talking about apps) to show someone that they have an interest in communicating and potentially meeting.  For this reason, it’s best to give these potential suitors (or suitoresses?) one more thing to comment about.  In other words, provide them with some “email bait.”

In my old JDate profile (LovesLifeDC), I had a photo of myself singing the National Anthem.  I got almost daily emails asking where I was singing and how I got the gig.  (Answers: A Washington Nationals game.  A good demo and a lot of persistence.  It was one of the best nights of my life… until I almost ran out of gas on the way home.  I’ll save that story for a rainy day.)  This picture alone gave men the “in” they needed to strike up a conversation with me.

Other examples of some of my clients’ interesting pictures have been:

  • A woman playing ice hockey in full gear
  • A guy dressed as a clown since he performs for children every Sunday
  • A woman climbing a tree at a winery
  • A guy singing with a mariachi band
  • A woman posing next to a sign saying “Completely Nuts” (Oh wait – that was me again!)

As a side note, I think I can speak for most of my fair gender when I say that we don’t care how big the fish you caught was.  Compensating for something, perhaps? :)

To show a real-life example, I’m going to use a photo of yours truly:


This picture, while fine, is not really showing anything special.

Now, let’s look at this one:


This picture instead shows me performing with Story League, something I like to do to get my creative juices flowing.  (I’m actually performing tomorrow night in the “Sticky” contest.)  It could easily generate questions like:

  • Where are you speaking? (Busboys & Poets)
  • Do you do that often? (Every month or two)
  • What was that particular story about? (A text message gone awfully wrong)
  • Do you always wear glasses? (If you want me to see you from far away!)

These two pictures were taken the exact same night, but one would do much better online.

The moral: Many people have no idea what to say in the initial email, so give them something easy to comment about, or “email bait.”

erika ettin-49381 Cropped (1)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: International Middle East Journalist, The Media Line

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#PurimNotPrejudice: It’s about you, me, and every single Jew in our diverse community

purimnotprejudice6Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

You might know me from my blogs, book (Thoughts From A Unicorn), videos, website or any other newspaper or magazine appearance I’ve made over the past five years.  I don’t say this to portray myself as a big deal.  I say this to in fact to prove the opposite: Despite all the above you probably DON’T know who I am.  Because I’m not particularly a big deal. I’m just a guy who sees something and says something.

It is with this approach on social issues in Judaism that I recently founded The Shivtei Jeshurun Society for the Advancement of Jewish Racial & Ethnic Diversity, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of and equality for Jews of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.  The organization’s first public project was the #PurimNotPrejudice campaign, a pledge to consider the costume choices we made this Purim and every Purim from this  year forward, and to not cross the line into offending other cultures, such as dressing in stereotypical or derogatory garb representing a people.  Or—as is most personally resonant with me—dressing in blackface.

Jews tend to forget, or not even consider the fact, that Judaism is not a “Whites Only” sort of boys’ club, and that some costume choices run the risk not only of offending other cultures, but also of offending other Jews.  Which is ironic, as the Purim story is telling of the salvation of the Jewish communities which existed in Ahaseurus’ provinces from India to Ethiopia, not, for example, from Germany to Poland.  We found our campaign to be a noble goal to stem the corruption of religious observance with racially offensive themes.

However, apparently some people saw #PurimNotPrejudice not as the educational awareness tool it was meant to be, but instead as a campaign to point the finger, shame, and embarrass those who may have dressed in offensive ways in the past.  Let’s be clear: That’s not what this campaign was about.

There was an incident last year involving a leaked picture of a politician and a sensitive costume choice, and subsequent statements of racial insensitivity by Jewish public figures actually sparked the conversations and discussions that led to the eventual creation of the Shivtei Jeshurun Society, with the purpose to educate not only Jewish communities, but non-Jewish ethnic communities as well, to the racial and ethnic diversity which exists in Judaism.  This mission was at the heart of the #PurimNotPrejudice campaign.

This past Wednesday, the SJS received a voicemail questioning whether the #PurimNotPrejudice campaign was “a Purim spiel or a real organization”.  Since the SJS is always open to respectful dialogue, I myself returned the call, and was greeted with a barrage of questions and comments regarding the nature of blackface, instances when blackface is offensive, if there are specific ways that make-up has to be applied in order for it to count as blackface, and so on.

This is it.  This is what our organization has been created to do—take an opportunity to unravel an interaction like this and get to the bottom of the issue, to take this interaction from one-on-one settings to a national conversation.

#PurimNotPrejudice was not about any one person or any one event, or any one Purim costume or any one community.  #PurimNotPrejudice was about Purim, and about the Jewish community as a whole, in its entirety, with all its diverse faces and experiences.

This campaign was about using sensitivity to observe a holiday which largely exists because of the results of a lack of sensitivity.

After all, the Jews went to Ahaseurus’ party where the serving vessels were ransacked from the destroyed First Temple, yet couldn’t understand why G-d might take offense that they partook of the feast.  Ahaseurus ordered his wife Vashti to appear naked before his guests, but didn’t get why she might be offended.  Haman wore an idol around his neck and got furious when Mordechai didn’t bow to him, instead of seeing how his choice of clothing might be religiously insensitive to someone who doesn’t bow to idols.

So to celebrate such a holiday through the use of costumes that disregard the feelings of others—and especially to shrug criticism off with careless “It’s just fun” kind of statements—is counter-intuitive.

Now, the SJS understands that some people might genuinely be unaware of how their costume might offend or impact people.  And so #PurimNotPrejudice was here not to shame them or embarrass them, but to take the opportunity to inform them.  After all, a Shylock costume wouldn’t fly and a Nazi costume would be absolutely out of the question at a Halloween party, right?

We hope you enjoyed the Chag, and that you continue to support our future campaigns!

MaNishtana is the Executive Director of The Shivtei Jeshurun Society for the Advancement of Jewish Racial & Ethnic Diversity.

You can see the pledge here and view the campaign FAQs here.


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Scars Masks Don’t Hide

maskI’m only a couple of months away from my 25th birthday and my quarter life crisis is in full effect.

For Jews, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah naturally lend themselves to self-reflection, but I find it more prudent to keep a running tally of the things upon which I’d like to improve. For me, Purim serves as the kick-off event for the nine-month period in which I remind myself that just a quarter of the way through the New Year, my resolutions have begun to fall through the cracks. Purim’s timing coincides with the beginning of spring, the renewal of spirit (and those resolutions), and most importantly, the start of baseball season. While Purim’s celebrations are lighthearted and joyful, to me, Purim’s story conveys some troubling themes that my mask cannot conceal.

Much like a 60 degree early March day, particularly here in Washington, (it’s snowing right now: Midnight, Monday March 17), the story of Purim is one of deception and false realities. The name Esther, Purim’s main heroine, literally means “hidden.” Esther hides her Judaism until she feels the time is right to divulge her true identity. She’s not alone. Mordechai also hides, never showing his identity.  No one could tell he was a Jew; Haman had to be told.  Haman hides his hatred through much of the story and plots in secret. At one point the text tells us that Haman’s face is covered when he is discovered with Queen Esther. King Ahasuerus’ good judgment (and sobriety) is shelved throughout much of Purim’s tale, and even God is nowhere to be found for much of the story.

While celebrating contemporarily, we wear masks to hide our own faces, and make loud noises to drown out the painful parts of Purim’s ‘reality.’

I believe Purim’s characters are archetypes of ourselves.  I learned that we wear costumes on Purim to commemorate the dressing up of Mordechai in King Ahasuerus’ royal garments. Another explanation is that Jews at the time pretended to worship alternative gods and god pretended that he was going to destroy the Jewish nation. God didn’t. For whom were we fronting? says (am I a nerd?) that this is a reason we pretend to be someone else on Purim, since both the Jews’ and god’s actions on its face had other underlying intentions.

When so many people turn to scripture for peacefulness, clarity, and answers to stressful real life occurrences, what should we take from scripture that muddles the lines of what and who is real? Furthermore, why mask our convictions?

Fortunately, many of us no longer live in a world in which a mask is required to shield ourselves or provide a façade to others from our true selves or practices.  That does not mean, however, that forces of intolerance and oppression are gone.

Just last weekend, nearly half a dozen anti-Semetic attacks were carried out across France. Every year, the Anti-Defamation League presents a ‘top ten list’ of pressing issues in the world of Jewry. This year’s: the rise of the far Right in several European countries as part of what the watchdog termed an increase in global anti-Semitism.  “Jewish communities around the world, and particularly those in Eastern and Western Europe and South America, witnessed a rise in serious anti-Jewish assaults, vandalism and harassment,” the ADL stated.

This year, instead of drowning out the bad and unjust, perhaps we should listen more closely to those who practice intolerance and hate. Maybe this year, it’s time to confront negative forces in the world, and in our lives, face to face.

Masks can only shield so much. There’s still work to be done.

Brian Block is a Penn State graduate with a passion for Italian food and his hometown, Philadelphia, most specifically the Phillies. Following campaign stints in New York, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, he’s lived in DC for nearly two years working in government relations and financial services.


Supporting Israel. Supporting the DC Economy.

AIPAC Policy Conference 2014Conversion Rate:  A Monthly Column from a DC Young Professional on the Israeli Economy (and other Misc thoughts…)

The doors opened and 14,000 pro-Israel supporters walked through.  This is the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference.  This is the largest gathering of supporters of the Jewish state in America and possibly the world (outside of Israel).  This is impressive.

In early-March the Washington Convention Center became just a step closer to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  Attendees heard from a long list of influential dignitaries – from Secretary Lew to Senator McCain to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  But this conference is more than sit, listen, clap, repeat.  The voice of AIPAC is more than the speeches.  The reach of AIPAC is more than the 48,000 times the speeches were streamed on YouTube around the world (as I write this blog a week later).  It is more than the boots on the ground and the feet that walk the halls of Congress – sometimes coming in from a late seasonal snowfall – to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state to our elected officials.  It is more than the heartbeat of American Jewry.  It is the full embodiment of the strength and unbreakable bond between the United States, Americans, Israel, and the people of Israel.

It is also an opportunity for DC.  Tourism equates for over $6B of the District’s annual revenue.  Like Taglit-Birthright, the goal of AIPAC isn’t economic.  It is educational.  It is grassroots advocacy.  But the economic benefits are a nice ripple effect.  And as I am the GTJ resident economic nerd blogger – that is exactly what we’re here to discuss in my second post for “Conversion Rate”…

During the kickoff night of AIPAC, I made the foolish and somewhat rookie mistake of trying to go to a locally run, small business, restaurant in walking distance of the convention center for dinner without a reservation.  A two and a half hour wait to be seated, said the hostess.  That is an allegory for what AIPAC means for the District of Columbia.

Like many young professionals from DC or visiting it for AIPAC from out of town, or from overseas, I had an active night ahead of me.  My UberX app was going to get a whole lot of attention.

Numerous groups were able to leverage the network of having so many like-minded Jewish and pro-Israel supporters in town.  So beyond the restaurants having two and a half hour waits, groups were able to host spinoff events that supported AIPAC and Israel.

Ambassador Ron ProsorThe AIPAC Policy Conference Welcome Party was hosted by HaLev.  Their focus is on increasing the level of young leadership engagement in AIPAC’s Policy Conference, to foster a more proactive sense of commitment from young pros around the U.S.  They do this by offering scholarships to cover the registration fee for AIPAC.  And they fundraised over $5,000 by hosting over 500 young pros at Capitale.  Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor provided opening remarks.

“It was great to see so many pro-Israel activists together, supporting HaLev’s vision of bringing people to their first Policy Conference.  I know they will be impacted for the rest of their lives,” said Max Bluestein, a member of the HaLev Israel’s Executive Board.

Earlier in the night the Israel Bonds National New Leadership Board of Directors hosted a happy hour at miXX Lounge at the Renaissance Washington.  Young professional AIPAC supporters and Israel Bond investors networked, enjoyed an open bar, and ate some kosher friendly treats there.  Attendees came from as far west as California, as far east as New York, and as far south as Texas and Florida.  DC young pros were also well represented and Eva Davis won the unofficial selfie contest – where the best selfie taker at the HH was awarded a $100 Israel Bond to donate to any pro-Israel or Jewish non-profit.  Hadassah was lucky recipient.

Lisa Yochelson, an active Jewish community organizer in DC and first time attendee of an Israel Bonds New Leadership event, said “it was great to learn about the impact that Israel Bonds is having on educating local Jewish leaders, I’m excited to be a part of this organization’s important mission and support future initiatives.”

Other programs were also held.  Hotel rooms were booked.  My UberX drivers got some good tips.

Overall, AIPAC provided much more to DC than it directly gave to the 14,000 people at the convention center and the untold fortunes given to Israel in knowing that across the Atlantic, there are thousands of pro-Israel supporters willing to wait two and a half hours for a restaurant reservation for them (amongst make other commitments to show their support for The Jewish State of Israel).

Conversion Rate represents the views of Jason Langsner.  Langsner has been active in the DC Jewish community for nearly 10 years.  He formerly drove the digital strategy for B’nai B’rith International.  He is an active volunteer leader in a number of Jewish communal organizations at local and national levels.  He has staffed a Taglit-Birthright trip and is a former runner-up to GTJ’s Jewish Guy of the Year.


JUFJ’s Labor Seder Focuses on Raising the Minimum Wage

jufjWe are commanded that in every generation, every Jew is obligated to view themselves as though they came out of Egypt.  In most Jewish families, this means dipping parsley in salt water, eating horseradish covered in charoset and singing “Hagadya”.  For me, this has also meant that for the last 5 years, I have attended Jews United for Justice’s annual Labor Seder.  For the past few years, I have a been a part of the seder planning team and this year, I have been co-chairing the planning process.  The Labor Seder is meaningful to me because the value of Tikkun Olam has always been central to my personal Jewish identity, but I have not always known how to integrate my activism with traditional Judaism.  My involvement in the Labor Seder has allowed me to connect my favorite Jewish festival, Passover, with my desire to see a more just world.

The haggadah states – “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt – now we are free.”  But many in our society are not free and experience oppression and hardship every day.  Every year, the Labor Seder brings a social justice issue of local and national importance together with the traditional themes of the Seder, connecting our history and values as Jews with the struggles of working people.  This year, as DC, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have already taken action to raise the minimum wage and JUFJ is part of an active campaign to raise the wage in all of Maryland, the theme of the Seder is the need to raise the minimum wage.  The 300+ person event features singing, speakers, group discussion, taking action, and of course, some light noshing.

The Seder will be at 5:30 pm on Sunday, March 23rd at Adas Israel Congregation in Cleveland Park, DC.  You can find more information and buy tickets here.


Jewish Girl of the Week – Ashley

427910_1975484063832_600939377_nWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Ashley: I moved to DC after college for an amazing job and a new experience.  Moving to DC was never the plan but it ended up being so much better than I could have ever imagined.  Being from Chicago, I never considered taking weekend trips to States like Delaware or West Virginia.  I never thought that a building with 11 floors could be considered tall!

Rachel: We see you at a lot of DC Jewish events.  What are some of your favorites?
Ashley: I love all the Gather the Jews happy hours!  In fact, I actually owe a lot of my initial early 20’s social life in DC to the Gather the Jews calendar. I knew very few people when I moved here so the website helped me find interesting things to do and I ended up meeting a lot of amazing friends.

533528_2179186636269_1609219657_nRachel: Have you been to Israel?  Do you have a favorite memory?
Ashley: In college, I went with my entire family to visit my sister who was working there.  We stayed with my dad’s family for several days and it was so nice to spend time with a part of my family that lives so far away.  Even though we had language barriers at times and had a limited amount of time to spend together, we were instantly connected because we were family.  It was hard to believe how far away Israel is from United States yet how similar and close we all are.

Rachel: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Ashley: One of my favorite parts of living in DC are the many different Young Professional shabbat options.  I try to experience all the ways to celebrate shabbat that exist within the city and appreciate them all in different ways.  I also love spending shabbat with friends.  Some of my favorite nights in DC have been at Adas Israel’s Shir Delight or 2239’s Metro Minyan.  I always meet really nice and interesting people who are like myself, just looking to find Jewish connections in the city.

1725321_2753126064396_1140497788_nRachel: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Ashley: Although I’m very excited about Purim in just a few days, my favorite holiday is definitely Passover.  I love all of my family traditions like my grandmother’s sweat and sour meatball recipe or my great aunt’s passover farfel cookie recipes.  They make the holiday so special.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Ashley: I’m a huge “That 70’s show” fan so Mila Kunis is definitely up there.  I have no idea if Ellie Goulding is actually Jewish but based off her name I’ve decided she is and I love it!  BUT the coolest Jews I know are my parents because they work to make sure Judaism always remains a strong, important part of my identity and they constantly work to keep our Jewish family traditions alive.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Ashley: Amazing things can happen!  And everyone gets Jew points.


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How Not to Catch Someone’s Eye – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 85)

eyesAccording to the handy dandy GTJ calendar, there are quite a few events coming up, aren’t there?  I know I’ll be at the Sixth in the City Shabbat and the Purim Bash in the next couple of weeks, and I have no doubt that many people reading this are also planning to shake their tuchuses at an event or two.

If you’re single, these events can not only serve to give you a taste of Judaism and the Shabbat or holiday spirit, but they might also serve to give you a taste of the finest kosher meat in town… and I’m not talking about your bubbe’s brisket!  It’s important, though, when trying to meet people at religious events (or large parties in general, regardless of the affiliation), not to creep someone out when your real intention is to do just the opposite: turn that person on.

Here are a few examples of people not to be:

The Tiger

This person waits silently until you take a breath in the middle of a conversation about your dog or take a swig of your Cabernet Sauvignon to pounce on you and go in for the kill, in the form of dominating your attention.

The Elephant

This person, oblivious to the surroundings and the discussion already in progress, will simply charge into the conversation, not worrying who or what is in his or her path.

The Shark

This person “swims” around the event, talking to no one and silently stalking everyone.

The Lizard

Much like the shark, this person doesn’t talk to anyone all night.  Instead, he or she simply sticks to the wall, observing but not actually entering any conversations.

Let’s say someone catches your eye.  We’ll call her a 5’1 woman with curly brown hair, hazel eyes, and freckles.  You really want to talk to her, but she’s engaged in a pretty in-depth conversation.  (You know this because her hands are flailing around.)  Rather than taking your social cues from Sea World or the zoo, your best bet is to simply be social with everyone.

If the brunette beauty is all the way across the room, it’s no big deal.  Simply chat with someone who looks interesting near you, male or female.  This gesture does two things: 1) Makes you look friendly and inclusive (and perhaps you might really enjoy the conversation) and 2) Warms you up before you get to talk to your new crush.  Before long, you will have made your way across the room without pouncing, charging, stalking, or cowering.  Instead, you will have been that nice, normal person who knows how to converse with anyone.  And when your time comes to talk with the target of your affection, you will have already talked to so many people that you won’t appear to be trying too hard.  This sounds much better than creepily watching her for two hours until she finally disengaged from her conversation to use the restroom, doesn’t it?

As a side note, if you’re looking to end a conversation for some reason, don’t simply walk away when you’re done.  Politely say something like, “I see someone over there I want to say hi to.”  And assuming you’re taking this article’s advice, that “someone” could be anyone!

So relax, be social, have a great time, and when you’re ready to talk to someone of interest, act like you grew up in a normal household and not the zoo.

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.




New Trends in Global Media

AJC AccessAs the United States continues to serve as a global power, Washington D.C. has grown from a sleepy town to a bustling global city at the crossroads of diplomacy, policy, culture, and commerce.

This reality, fused with technologies and media on a global scale that keep us connected in real time and at all times, has resulted in a transformation in the information landscape in Washington and in global centers throughout the world. While some domestic American news outlets have retrenched, others, particularly foreign media, have bolstered their global presence both for English language audiences in the United States as well as for dispersed citizens looking for media content in their native language.

These efforts and investments designed to shape public opinion are having an effect on global political views. Simultaneously, the landscape of diplomacy is affected by the pressures and realities of an unrelenting 24-hour, 7-day-a-week news cycle.  Better understanding the impact of these new media forays on how domestic and international events are perceived is critical to the effectiveness of the American Jewish Committee’s global Jewish advocacy efforts.

Through AJC and ACCESS, our young-generation program, we are deeply committed to fostering lasting diplomatic engagement in Washington and across the world, and to helping our young leaders understand the emerging issues that most affect the American Jewish community and rising diplomats based in the United States.

Our 14th annual ACCESS DC Young Diplomats event honors this commitment by bringing young diplomats from more than 60 countries together with talented young Jewish leaders. On March 24thwe hope you will join us to connect yet again for a fascinating exploration of how emerging media entrants are changing the way current events are portrayed and reported.

Please join us at 6:00 pm for a reception (remarks start at 7:30 pm) at 1777 F St NW to discuss this complex, timely, and important topic, together with young diplomats from around the world.

We are honored to host three experts who will discuss this issue from the perspective of government, foreign media, and research/academia, with moderation by a leader in Washington reporting:

Hilary Krieger, Multiplatform Editor, Opinions Section, The Washington Post

Our panelists will be:

  • · Vinay Chawla, Director of Digital Engagement, Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • · Pierre Ghanem, Senior Correspondent, Al-Arabiya
  • Mark Jurkowitz, Associate Director, Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project

For more information and to purchase a ticket, please visit



Seeking Jewish participants for online survey/doctoral dissertation exploring Jewish Identity!

star-of-david-0Dear members of the DC Jewish Community,

I am a Counseling Psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Louisville and I have always been interested in the intersection of psychology and religion, especially as it relates to my own Jewish foundation. There is a lack of psychological research that includes sizable and representative Jewish samples and I am writing to ask for your help in completing my doctoral dissertation with a strong community response.

Below is a link to an online questionnaire that explores how you define your current Jewish Identity, influences of your Jewish community, and its connections with overall personal characteristics. The only requirements for participation is that you are at least 18 years old and self-identify as Jewish, ranging from non-practicing to Orthodox. The survey will take 15-30 minutes to complete and remains completely anonymous. To thank you for your time and effort, you will be given an opportunity to enter a raffle for one of three prepaid Visa giftcard for the amount of $100 (1) or $50 (2). Only your e-mail address will be required, and it will not be connected to your survey responses.

Simply go to to access the survey. If you have any questions or concerns, or you would like a results summary when the project is completed, please contact me at This doctoral dissertation is conducted under the supervision of Dr. Mark M. Leach ( at the University of Louisville Department of Education and Counseling Psychology. Thank you for your time and hopeful participation.


Jason Goldstein, M.Ed.


World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner to take place in Tel Aviv


The Most Interesting Jew in the World - Screenshot of fundraising clip for White City Shabbat's Guinness World's Largest Shabbat Dinner in theme of Dos Equis beer commercial. Photo credit: courtesy of White City Shabbat

The Most Interesting Jew in the World – Screenshot of fundraising clip for White City Shabbat’s Guinness World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner in theme of Dos Equis beer commercial. Photo credit: courtesy of White City Shabbat

White City Shabbat has announced that it will be setting the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner set to take place in the Spring of 2014 at the Tel Aviv Port.

In order to break the record, over 1,000 Israelis and new immigrants must attend the dinner.  The guest list will also include notable Israelis including Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, former chief rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Eli Ben-Dahan.  In keeping with White City Shabbat’s mission statement of “Shabbat for all,” the dinner will be free of charge.  This week, White City Shabbat launched a creative Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign – mimicking the theme of Dos Equis commercials – to raise the $25,000 needed to cover the costs of this historic event.

A non-profit organization entirely run by volunteers, White City Shabbat is hoping that the Guinness title will encourage Jews worldwide to celebrate Shabbat in their own communities.  “While White City Shabbat is going to be the first organization to attempt this record, our hope is that in years to come communities around the world will come together to try and surpass the standard we set this year,” said Jay Shultz,  one of the event’s organizers who is often dubbed “the international mayor of Tel Aviv.”

Tel Aviv is known as being the economic and cultural epicenter of Israel, but the event organizers are hoping the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner will showcase another side to Tel Aviv, its spiritual side.  “With more and more immigrants choosing to make Tel Aviv their home, celebrating the first ever World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner with Guinness will further establish Tel Aviv as one of the most important cities for the Jewish people today,” said Eytan White, co-director of White City Shabbat.  White’s partner, Deborah Danan, agrees.  “Shabbat is the cornerstone of the Jewish faith and as such has the power to bring people together,” said Danan.  “Tel Aviv has a unique demography of mainly young professionals.  Couple that with its mix of immigrants and natives who are both religious and secular and its overarching atmosphere of openness and inclusivity, makes Tel Aviv the perfect city to host an event of this magnitude.”

Over 10,000 people have already attended White City Shabbat’s monthly meals and each one is packed to capacity with over 200 people in attendance and another 100 plus on waiting lists.  “At any given White City Shabbat dinner, you’ll hear about ten languages spoken and World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner will be no exception.  We’d like to see Jews from all over the globe take part in this event, either to come and enjoy this spectacular demonstration of Jewish peoplehood in person or by donating to our fundraising efforts.  After all, Shabbat is the soul of the Jewish people and Tel Aviv is a focal point of the Jewish world,” says Natalie Solomon, a new immigrant from Birmingham, Alabama and another of the event’s organizers.

To make a contribution to White City Shabbat’s World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner, please click here.

UK Toremet is the fiscal sponsor of the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner. Partial sponsors include the City of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Hanger 11, Golan Heights Winery and NakedSea Salt.

For more information, pictures or media inquiries, contact

WCS logoAbout White City Shabbat:

White City Shabbat is the premiere portal of Jewish Life in Tel Aviv.  Bringing the concept of Shabbat dinner parties to a wider community, the organization hosts its own private, warm, welcoming, all-inclusive Shabbat meals every month.  White City Shabbat also hosts holiday celebrations and meals, Jewish learning series, beginners learning minyan, and inter-community programming.  To learn more about White City Shabbat visit and to read more about the campaign or to make a donation, visit

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