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Memorable Online Dating Stories – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 64)

cold loveWhen you have a business helping people with online dating, you’re bound to get the question, “What were some of your more memorable dates?”  For fun this week, I thought I’d share one of them:

The Pimple

I’m not sure how many of you used to watch The Wonder Years, but it was one of my favorite shows.  (And yes – I totally had a crush on Kevin Arnold.)  In my opinion, one of the best episodes was the one where Kevin was really excited to see this old family friend, who, from her recent school photo, looked like she blossomed into a total teenage hottie.  But hark – Kevin woke up that fateful morning of the visit with the pimple of all pimples.  After applying pimple cream, a cold compress, and plenty of TLC, the pimple remained, bigger than ever.

How did the day turn out?  In TV-esque perfection, when the girl came to visit, she, too, had a massive pimple on her face.  And the rest (of that episode anyway) was history.

Now, let’s talk about me!  ;)  About seven years ago, I was on JDate (I was an early adopter), and I was really looking forward to meeting this guy Dave for a drink one Sunday night.  On the day of the date, I, of course, woke up with the worst cold ever.  Sniffles, red nose, snot involuntarily running down my face – the works.  Plus, my voice… as if it’s not nasal enough already!  So the question was: To cancel or not to cancel?  As many of us know, in the online dating world, people often get what I like to call “grass is greener syndrome,” always seeing what the next best thing out there is.  I didn’t want the chance to pass me by if I cancelled.  Who knew if or when we’d reschedule?  So, I went, tissues in hand and DayQuilled up.  Until he got there, I blew my nose like it was my job, making sure it would be dry as a desert by the time he came.

And then he showed up.  Nicely dressed.  Very cute.  The first words out of his mouth, you ask?  “I’m sorry – I probably should have cancelled.  I have a really bad cold.”  We laughed.  We drank.  We blew our noses to our hearts’ content.  And then, lo and behold, we kissed.  It’s not like the other would catch our cold, after all.

That was my Kevin Arnold picture-perfect pimple moment.

What’s your most memorable story?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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.

 

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GTJ Welcomes DJ to the DC Jewish Young Professional Community!

dj pink guitar headshotDJ is Aish DC‘s new Director of Marketing and Programs.  GTJ interviewed DJ to learn a little more about her and Aish DC.

Rachel: Are you new to DC?
DJ: Not exactly…I actually grew up in Potomac.  Although, it’s definitely a little strange being back here…especially because I don’t recognize anything!

Rachel: We heard that you’ve worked in Jewish communities in New York, Connecticut,  Atlanta, and Baltimore.  Can you tell us more about that?  Are there a lot of Jews in Atlanta?
DJ: I have moved just about every three years for the last ten or so…not on purpose, it just turned out that way.  I was in New York for six years with a one-year break in Connecticut to work for NCSY, an international youth organization.  While I was in New York I ran events for a beginners program on the Upper East Side, mostly working with adults.  I really missed working with teens though, so I jumped at an opportunity to work with that demographic down in Atlanta.  I literally hopped on a plane and went down there; it was a little spontaneous, but I loved it.  Atlanta isn’t a huge community but it’s certainly substantial, and growing.  I made a lot of connections while I was there– I was sad to leave, but it was time to move on.  Socially speaking, there weren’t a lot of young professionals, plus I wanted to be closer to my family.

Rachel: So you’re working for AISH DC.  What is AISH DC?
DJ: Aish DC is a organization geared towards young professionals and families in the Greater DC area.  Whether you’re looking to deepen your existing Jewish knowledge, or you just want to connect with other people from the Jewish community, we invite you to come to any of our events!

Rachel: What kinds of programs does Aish DC run?  Where can we go for more information about Aish?
DJ: Our Young Professionals program holds weekly get-togethers and discussions on Jewish philosophy, Kabbalah, prayer, relationships, leadership – you name it, we most likely will cover that topic!  In addition, we host monthly Shabbat meals.  At this time, we are in the middle of planning a variety of events – such as speakers, a series of outdoor events, a high-end cooking competition, and much more.

You can get more information about our programs at www.aishdcyoungpros.com, and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@aishdcyoungpros) for updates and announcements.

Rachel: What are you most excited for as a member DC Jewish community?
DJ: It’s truly amazing how many opportunities there are on any given night here in DC.  I am honestly just looking forward to taking advantage of all of the classes and opportunities that abound!

Rachel: Most importantly, what is your favorite Jewish food?
DJ: I love a good bowl of cholent–but I’m really picky!  People add so many extra things–weird vegetables and sauces.  Just keep it simple and you can’t go wrong!

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GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Iran President Finishes Erasing Israel from All of his Maps and Globes

iran“I Don’t Have A Single Nuke, Only a Large Pencil Named ‘Duke'”

TEHRAN, IRAN – (@The Comedy News) – After warning the world for many years, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accomplished his controversial goal of erasing Israel completely from his map and globe collection.

Using a 20-centimeter pencil he won at a ring toss in Dubai on New Years Eve 2003, President Ahmadinejad staggered from room to room in his palace over the weekend, scribbling and erasing Israel from all of his maps.

According to sources, the 55-year-old President has been talking for years about finally using the big novelty pencil to carry out his irrational plans, so he does not have to see renderings of his least favorite regions of the world.

President Ahmadinejad has nicknamed his large novelty pencil “Duke” after the bloodhound dog from his favorite TV show as a kid, The Beverly Hillbillies.  Although the political leader has always wanted to have a bloodhound like the one featured on the TV show, he outlawed the possession of household pets in his country several years ago, and did not want to seem like a hypocrite.

So he settled for a big novelty pencil in lieu of a dog.  Ahmadinejad defends such a choice as “just following in line with the whole, ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ cliche.”

People around the world have feared that President Ahmadinejad had ambitions of using nuclear weapons (“nukes”) to escalate hostilities with rival countries.  However, he has now clarified that his possession of the pencil, “Duke”, has been mispronounced by the international community and interpreted to be “Nuke”.  Ahmadinejad calls these errors unforgivable and an “abomination to his freedom to keep, collect, and edit antique maps and globes”.

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 www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at www.BrianFishbach.com.  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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350 Gathered for the GTJ April Happy Hour

GTJ Founder Aaron W., JGOTYs Joe B. and Lindsey S., GTJ Director Rachel G.

GTJ Founder Aaron W., JGOTYs Joe B. and Lindsey S., GTJ Director Rachel G.

This past Monday, Gather the Jews held its April Happy Hour and JGOTY Competition at Penn Social.

350 gathered.

40 signed up the for the Be The Match registry.

7 were finalists for the Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year Competition (see the finalist videos here).

2 were crowned Jewish Girl and Guy of the Year. Read Lindsey and Joe‘s acceptance speeches.

A good time was had by all.

See some pictures here.

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We NEED Your Vote to Win $100,000 for Restorations

?????Among hundreds of historic places in Washington, DC, Sixth & I was selected as one of only 24 sites to compete for $100,000 in restoration funds from the Partners in Preservation annual campaign, held by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 2013 is the year for DC, and, with your help, the year for Sixth & I!

We need your VOTE to win and to preserve our historic stained glass windows. The $100,000 grant will be awarded to the historic site that receives the most votes.

The public campaign begins TODAY and we need you to VOTE for Sixth & I. You’ve
been a critical part of our past and present—now we need you to help protect our future because Sixth & I matters to you.

From now until May 10, cast a vote once a day, every day.

Sign up for daily emails to remind you to vote, and you’ll be entered into a raffle to win an iPad.

Our staff is beyond grateful for every single one of your votes.

Thank you for your support.

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GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Jewish American Princess Demoted to Jewish American Noble

udSYOSSET, NEW YORK – (@The Comedy News) – A high school senior at Syosset High School in New York was informed today that she may no longer be classified as a Jewish American Princess.

“So basically I was called to the cool table at lunch for an emergency meeting,” said Dara Pfeifferberg, an 18-year-old high school senior planning to attend Appalachian State University in the Fall.  “I went to go sit down at my usual seat and Shira was sitting there and was all like, ‘no, don’t even hon.'”

At that moment Dara was handed a detailed report chastising her lack of Jewish American Princess tendencies lately.

Dara was handed a formal demotion letter sent in the form of a text message by the Jewish American Princess posse at her high school.  The contents are published below:

Dear Dare-bear,

We have tried to be patient.  We have tried to guilt you into keeping up with us.  But now we have no choice, we have to expel you from our clique and you must give up your Jewish American Princess certification.

Its (sic) not all that bad tho.  You can like, still be a Jewish American Noble.  You’ll pull it off well, really. 

It’s not that we’re sad to see you go, because we’re not, we’re really just ashamed to call you our friend.  No offense.

Here’s why you are no longer a Jewish American Princess (in random order):

  • Not giving out monogrammed sweatshirts at your Bat Mitzvah in 2008.
  • Driving a pick-up truck.
  • Failure to attend mandatory mirror and rumor time.
  • Dating a non-Jewish boy who is short, smart, balding, and terrible at sports.  What’s the point?  Just date Yoni, or Dovid, or Moishe.
  • Being overtly selfless and sincere in compliments.
  • Failure to memorize Glamour Magazine’s top five brands of heels for the summer months.
  • And we also heard you referred to Rebekah Rosenblatt’s outfit as a “bug-eyed sleeping bag in moon shoes wearing pillow case”.  

In a related story, a Jewish American Prince, Matthew Strauss was demoted from Jewish American Prince to Jewish American Noble as well, after he was spotted with a Sigma Chi tattoo on his bicep, buying a used car at the listed price, using excessive mayonnaise, and storing his garbagecan not under the kitchen sink, but as part of the decor of his house in Idaho.

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 www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at www.BrianFishbach.com.  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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Max B. regains his title at the Sixth Annual Sixth & I Pickle Eating Contest

photo (1)After dominating the Fourth Annual Sixth & I Pickle Eating Contest, Max B. lost his title in the Fifth Annual contest by 2 ounces.  last week he won it back in a glorious feat of pickle eating.

……………………

It was a frigid January morning when I bought a jar – neigh, a four pound drum – of pickles from Costco.

It’s now almost May and that barrel of Vlassics is still taking up half of my refrigerator.  Those resilient green soldiers have survived a pregnant friend’s visit, a rainquester shut-in, and even a slew of St. Paddy’s day pickle shots.

That being said, what’s taken me five months to eat, I ate in five minutes on Wednesday night.

Why?

To become the two-time Sixth & I pickle eating contest champion.  I have a gift and that gift is the ability to devour, decimate, and metabolize entire crops of cucumbers in one sitting.  I want to share that gift with the world.

Do you have a particular method you use?  Do you practice?

919149_10100717745284497_1175466803_oMy opponents employed different methods, from the two-handed scoop and stuff to the no-handed spit and spew vinegar shower (namely, Ben S).  Every meal for me is practice for an eating contest.  I have no method.  I do no training.  I just simply eat what’s in front of me… all the time.

How did you feel after?

I had a 5-hour flight at 7 AM the next morning.  I got off the plane under the 90 degree Vegas sun with sodium and dill still coursing thick through my veins.  Worth it.

What’s next for the champ?

You tell me.  Anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Whoever thinks they can take on the skinny guy in any other food challenge, I’m in (disclaimer: no pork/shellfish and I hate mayonnaise).

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Mensch on a Bench

menschMensch on a Bench is a new Hanukkah tradition, meant to bring families together with a hardcover book and plush doll of Moshe the Mensch.  To support the campaign to get Moshe into stores, visit the Kickstarter Page.

ELF ENVY.  That is what started this whole thing.

Our son Jacob wanted to be like many of his friends and get an Elf on a Shelf, but being Jewish, the answer was no.

That got us thinking.   The Elf on a Shelf is a new tradition…so why couldn’t we, as Jews, add a new tradition to our holiday to add some more Funukka to Hanukkah.

We created the story of Moshe the Mensch.   Moshe was at the Temple when the Maccabees returned victorious from the war.   Judah Maccabee was exhausted from the fighting and he wanted to go to bed.   But, with only enough oil left for one night, Judah was worried the lights would go out in the middle of the night.   Moshe volunteered to sit on the bench of the Temple and tell everyone if the lights went out.   What a Mensch sitting on that Bench.

The book goes on to tell the story of Moshe, his 8 days sitting on the bench, and his love of the traditions that Jewish people have.

The product is designed for young Jewish families, but is a great introduction to Hanukkah for those not of the Jewish faith.

In the end our goal is to increase active participation in Hanukkah and make the celebration of the holiday even more fun than it is today.  We also want to teach kids what it is to be a true Mensch and teach them to strive to make a positive difference in the world around them.

The funds raised via Kickstarter will be used to cover the costs of the first production run of 500 Mensch figures.   The minimum order that the factory will produce is 500 units.  The funds will also cover the development and production of the Mensch on a Bench book and packaging.

Our progress on the project is as follows:

  • The concept and logo are complete
  • The prototype is in production
  • The manuscript to the book is written
  • We have selected a factory to produce the figures, books, and packages

With the funds from Kickstarter, our next steps are to:

  • Illustrate the book
  • Complete the package
  • Complete initial production run of 500 dolls and books
  • Ship product to the US and into the hands of boys and girls by Hanukkah this year!

Learn more about Mensch on the Bench directly from Neal:

 

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Videos from the JGOTY Finalists!!!

We had our finalists make videos about why they should be the next Jewish Guy/Girl of the Year. Don’t forget to come out to Penn Social on April 29th for the GTJ April Happy Hour and to cast your vote for your favorite finalist!

 

THE GIRLS

 

Lindsey S.

Melissa W.

Rachel Hillman

Rachel Racoosin

 

THE GUYS

 

Brian F.

Jesse R.

Joe B.

Don’t forget to vote on April 29th at Penn Social!

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Murder Mystery Shabbat!

Last year's Murder Mystery Shabbat.

Last year’s Murder Mystery Shabbat.

On the evening of April 26th, NOVA Tribe Series and Shabbat Hoppin’ will host a mystery-themed Shabbat.  A casual service will be followed by a night of fun and interactive comedy and mystery.  Tickets include dinner, drinks, and a mystery show.  There is only 1 week left to purchase tickets, a limited number will be available at the door!

5 Reasons Why THIS NIGHT will be Different Than All Other Nights

1. You will need to “watch your back” and be prepared to mingle with some interesting Shabbat guests.  The mystery company we have hired has said “We’re so adaptable that we don’t have just certain periods where audience members can interact with us, we’re ready to engage at a moments notice.  All audience members can interact with us all the time. ”

2. There will be a Shabbat event taking place in Northern Virginia, for young professionals, at one large venue.  This has been a goal of NOVA Tribe Series for at least 513 of the 515 days it has been in existence.  NOVA Tribe Series is an organization that provides Jewish young adults living and working in Northern Virginia (and those in the Greater Washington area) with innovative programming and leadership activities that promote learning about and giving back to the Northern Virginia community and seeks to create an active and engaged young professional Jewish community in Northern Virginia.

3. You will have to “hop” to a church, not a synagogue.  We say hop because of one of our hosts of the evening.  Shabbat Hoppin’ is a program sponsored by NEXT DC (the DC-area Birthright alumni network) and Young Leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington for those in their 20s and 30s (both Birthright alumni and non-Birthright alumni) to experience different Shabbat celebrations in the DC community.  Why will we be praying in a church?  There are no metro accessible synagogues in the Northern Virginia area so for this event we decided to make it easier for those without cars to get to us.  The next NOVA Tribe  Shabbat event will provide transportation to a local NOVA synagogue.

4. There will be no “Shabbat chicken.”  We know, you must be pretty sad about this.  However, we are confident you have always wanted to pretend that you are enjoying all of your Shabbat meals in Israel – so falafel and Israeli tapas are #1 on our menu.

5. There will be mysterious things occurring.  Last January NOVA Tribe Series hosted a mystery themed Shabbat on a smaller scale, 14-16 group members were assigned to one of three houses to participate in an 80’s themed mystery and enjoy a home-cooked Shabbat meal.  Turns out it was Polly Pingwald with the Rubik’s Cube.

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Finding Hope in Hate

bananasAny opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not represent the opinions of Gather the Jews.

The signs the protestors held outside our synagogue on the eve of the second Pesach seder read “GOD HATES JEWS,” “JEWS KILLED JESUS (.com)” and “GOD HATES (their terrible word for homosexual people).”  My entire life, I have been a member of the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC and it has become a family tradition to celebrate the seder with our community members on the second night of Passover.  But this year, the Westboro Baptist Church has also decided to make their presence known on this symbolic evening by attempting to sabotage our festive gathering.

That same day, the Westboro members demonstrated their vehement bigotry outside of the Supreme Court, where the justices are questioning the constitutionality of the “Defense of Marriage Act.”  There they picketed with “SAME SEX MARRIAGE DOOMS OUR NATION,” “GAY RIGHTS: AIDS HELL,” and their favorite fallback “GOD HATES (again, derogatory slur for homosexuals).”  They told reporters that “every leader at every level of this nation has some powerful f** influence right outside their door.”  They spent the day spewing hatred and intolerance on the subject of gay marriage (also towards “BLOODY OBAMA” and “THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS”) and then traveled all the way across town to spend the twilight hours disseminating their terrible messages outside our shul.

By this point, the Westboro Baptist Church is internationally known as a group of hate-mongers who have almost no credibility whatsoever (and yet, they did win their Supreme Court appeal over funeral protests).  But, even so, it is frustrating and disheartening to be reminded that people with such prejudice, who continually go out of their way to discriminate and promote their narrow-mindedness, exist and propagate and have a voice that is seen and heard.

There is a popular joke that every Jewish holiday can be summed up in three phrases: They tried to kill us.  We survived.  Let’s eat.  Before the seder began, the reaction to these crusaders of hate ranged from sarcastic indifference (“People hate Jews?  Quelle surprise!”) to bewilderment (“God hates Jews?”) to outrage (“I can barely stomach this gefilte fish I’m so angry!”)  But once we commenced our journey into reliving the story of the Exodus, once we were provoked into insightful discussion by thoughtfully prepared questions such as “Has any bitter experience in your own life been the springboard for something sweet?” and once we began to celebrate our surviving and thriving as a religion, a culture, an ethnicity, a people, the instigators of intolerance faded from our lives.  We focused on the hope that Passover inspires, the freedom that we rejoice in, and the sense of community that we cherish.

Our Rabbi, the brilliant Gil Steinlauf, did take a moment to recognize the impact and significance that the picketing represented.  “Our Haggadah tells us that in every generation there are those who seek to destroy us. We have a literal reminder of that reality outside, as members of the Westboro Baptist Church seek to spew hatred upon us and our LGBT brothers and sisters.  Their presence is a reminder to us all that our celebration of freedom brings with it responsibilities.  Even in our day, there are those who are not free from the oppression of those who hate.  Tonight is a literal reminder that our work for justice in this world is not yet done. May we draw inspiration from our story tonight in our work that lays ahead for us in liberating all the oppressed peoples of the world.”

The gay rights movement was a constant subject matter throughout our seder discussion.  Freedom, equality, and struggle are all themes that are intrinsic to Passover and are dealt with and explored during the seders.  And the symbolism of the maror, the bitterness, mixed with the charoset, the mortar that keeps everything together, seemed particularly pertinent given the current battle for human rights.  The success of nine states (and D.C.! Can’t forget us here) legalizing same-sex marriage mixed with the DOMA requiring inter-state marriage recognition only to opposite-sex marriage is inherently bittersweet.

But the Passover holiday reminds us of many lessons.  Through the darkest times comes light.  Through despair comes hope.  Through struggle comes triumph.  Through hate comes love.  And for all our LGBT brothers and sisters fighting for their right to equality in love, I eagerly await the day where we can celebrate together at your weddings and lift my glass to you to say “L’chaim.”

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GTJ Satirist Brian F. – National Archives Condemned and Evicted for Excessive Hoarding

archivesWASHINGTON, DC – (FACEBOOK:  The Comedy News) – Health inspectors have condemned and evicted the National Archives Building in Washington, DC due to excessive hoarding.

“When we walked in the Archives building, it smelled like mothballs and gymsocks,” said DC Health Inspector Daniel Tanner.  “Everywhere you look, there were black and white photographs of Civil War-era debutantes, to-do lists dating back to 1776—and an irrationally elaborate security system to keep anyone from stealing this old, stinky, faded junk—it was sad and with all due respect, pathetic, to see such rampant hoarding.”

A team of health inspectors in haz-mat suits reported that over 4.5 million documents, microfilms, and photographs were being hoarded in the 76-year-old building.

“Ever wonder what happens when the Congress passes a bill?” Questioned Health Inspector Tanner. “Those piles of paper come to this building to just sit, collect dust, and rot.  Although not very many Acts of Congress have been added to the pile of hoarded paper in the last 10 or so years, the Archives staff seem be delusional enough to think that people actually have a use for all this Government junk —all saved up in this here building.”

A 30-by-30-foot orange banner was hanged from the Corinthian pillars at the Constitution Avenue entrance of the National Archives.  It reads, “Eviction Notice—Warning Some of the Rotting Contents within These Premises Are Almost 800 Years Old.  Do Not Enter.”

According to the deranged curator of the condemned Archives building, somewhere in the pile of hoarded Government documents is a very significant document about a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy which he refused to show anyone until the year 2017.

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 www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at www.BrianFishbach.com.  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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Online Dating Usernames – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 63)

saladJamie20001
283017390
KidTestedBubbeApproved
TravelinHoyaFan

If I gave you these four JDate usernames (all made up, of course), whose profile do you think you’d click on first?  I’d venture to say #3 or #4.  Am I right?  While the username is sometimes an afterthought for online daters, I encourage you to think of it more as an executive summary.  It is one additional chance to share an extra tidbit about yourself in JDate- or OKCupid-land.  Using the computer-generated number is analogous to wearing a black suit and white shirt amidst a line of others in a black suit and white shirt.  Having a fun, clever username adds some flair, like a pink scarf or a purple tie.

Let’s say you walked into a bookstore, and there was a book called, “The Scientific Answer to Your Most Common Questions.”  Would you buy it?  Now, what if it was instead “Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini” that graced the shelf?  Perhaps some of us, solely out of embarrassment, would opt for the first choice, but I’m guessing that more of us would at least be intrigued by the scandalous title of the second choice.  (And for the record, this is a real book.  I own it.  Don’t judge.)

Now, back to usernames…

When online dating, one objective is to catch someone’s attention quickly.  There are so many options out there that it’s important to take every opportunity to differentiate yourself.  As an exercise, think of two or three words that really define you – nouns, verbs, adjectives, anything.  Then, try to string them together into a username.  For example, mine used to be “LovesLifeDC.”  For anyone who knows me, you know it’s rare to see me without a smile on my face.  Another former username of mine was “SmartandSassy.”  You get the gist.  I’d much rather date a “KidTestedBubbeApproved” over a “283017390” any day.  If anything, your potential matches know that you put in the extra time and effort to come up with something creative, even if it only takes a minute.  Let’s also try to avoid anything negative, like “JustGotDumped” or “NotIntoOnlineDating.”

Before you take the leap and post your username, though, make sure it doesn’t have any undesired meanings that you didn’t intend.  For example, I’m pretty sure the buyer at Macy’s didn’t mean “NiceRack” in the way it comes off.  Or how about “buttongirl,” who loves her collection of vintage buttons and brooches?  It’s probably best to leave anything that might be misconstrued as a body part out of your name.  And lastly – the pièce de résistance – don’t make your username TossedSalad.  Ever.  This may happen to you.

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.

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The DC Alumni Leadership Mission and Why I Decided to Go

b1Applications for the NEXT DC Alumni Leadership Mission are now open.  Space is limited so apply here today.  Check out pictures from last year’s trip here.

I applied to the trip on a whim.  An acquaintance of a friend who I ran into on the metro one night mentioned in passing that the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington sponsored a trip for Birthright alumni to return to Israel.  The trip was solely for young professionals living in the DC area who had been on Birthright before and had an interest in impacting the DC Jewish community in some way.  At the time, I was on the cusp of connecting in a more meaningful way to my Judaism and felt pretty removed socially from the Jewish scene in DC.  I had just been on Birthright the year before and welcomed the chance to return to Israel, but I didn’t really know what the Federation was or what my impact in the community here might be.  That night though, when I got home and thought some more about the chance encounter, I decided to apply for the trip.

B2When I was accepted, I was shocked and slightly terrified.  I went to the first in-person, pre-trip meeting with hesitation and a little bit of anxiety – everyone but me seemed to know at least one other person well enough to be sharing inside jokes, referencing the same mutual friends and being involved in the same Jewish programs.  But once we got through the first awkward ice breaker, my trepidation was quite quickly replaced with awe.  I was sitting in a room with 25 people in their 20s and 30s, who were Jewish, and all within them some core connection to their faith that in turn drove them outward to connect with other young people and enrich the community that brought them together in the first place.

Before applying for the trip, I knew not a single one of them.  Now, we’ve carved out our own little sub-community, sharing Shabbats together, celebrating each other’s birthdays, and supporting each other’s work.  The beauty of the trip is that the end result leaves you with a solid group of friends and supporters who share the same interest in leadership and community and who live in the same city as you.  Upon returning from the trip, you create an “impact project” that does just that; impacts the DC Jewish community based on something you experienced or were inspired by in Israel.  In our group alone, we have a diverse mix of projects in the works ranging from a comedy show that fosters coexistence dialogue through shared humor to an online forum to recognize the vibrancy of community influencers.b3

The trip itself is also its own humbling and enriching experience – on our trip, we attended a conference hosted by the President of Israel, planted fruit-bearing trees alongside the families whose yards they were growing in, and helped open a bomb shelter turned youth center for an Ethiopian Jewish community.  We spoke to young Muslim, Jewish, and Christian girls involved in a soccer program together and heard from the leaders of a nonprofit aimed at fostering social entrepreneurship.  We rang in Shabbat outside overlooking the hills of Jerusalem, we visited an Israeli micro-brewery, and we engaged in a rich dialogue about coexistence and tolerance in Beit Shemesh with members of the Haredi community that I still remember as vividly as if it happened yesterday.  In short, we experienced Israel through the lens of the people who live, work, and lead there, and we were challenged to find new connections between who we met and what we can bring back to DC.

I was asked to co-lead this year’s alumni mission trip as a lay leader, an opportunity that this time last year I would not have even known existed, and one I am honored to take on.  I hope the words I write here and my experience of coming in somewhat as an outsider will encourage you all to apply for this year’s trip, which takes place in November and coincides with the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly.b4

Whether you went to Birthright in college, last year, or last month, apply.  Whether you feel disconnected from the young leadership network and aren’t sure how you’d fit in or whether you are already immersed in Jewish programs and activities, apply.  Whether you’ve been to Israel a dozen times since Birthright or none, apply.  And if you don’t really know what’s intriguing you about the trip but you sense something is missing from the way you’re currently experiencing the DC Jewish community, apply.

I went into the trip last year feeling very much like an outsider and not quite sure what I wanted to get out of it, and I emerged with a renewed appreciation for the community we’re in here in DC, and with a clearer vision of how I might play a part in it.  I hope you’ll find the same by taking a chance and applying to go on this year’s leadership mission.  You’ll have a whole community of people ready to welcome you.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Come to the Gather the Jews April Happy Hour

jtgThe GTJ April Happy Hour is on April 29th from 6 to 9 pm at Penn Social. RSVP on Facebook today! Check out photos from the last happy hour here.

10. Awesome drink specials!

9. We’re raffling off a $50 Amazon gift card.

8. The last happy hour had 450 Jews- a GTJ record!

7. You might see some of Brian F.’s 21 People that You’ll meet at a Jewish Happy Hour.

6. The cover goes towards supporting your favorite hyperlocal Jewish news source (we can’t gather without your support!).

5. What else do you have to do on Monday night when it’s not football season?

4. You’ll have a chance to meet other Jewish Young Professionals.

3. You can vote for the new Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year!

2. Penn Social is located only a few blocks from all five metro lines, so it’s easy to get to.

1. It’s going to be amazing!

See you there!

See you there!

 

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