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Jewish Guilt

Phew – that’s over. You checked off the “Did Something Jewish” box by fasting, going to synagogue, or at least teleworking from home as an homage to the big day. You thought about your Jewish identity and maybe felt a little Jewy, and that made some parent or grandparent proud. You even added another piece of evidence to your defense that you’re not a bad Jew, that you haven’t abandoned your history and your people, and that you’re not giving Hitler a posthumous victory.

In short, you have assuaged your Jewish guilt.

But what if I told you that your Jewish guilt is the very thing that should give you the most Jewish guilt?

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The only thing worse than a bunch of Jews disengaging because they find no meaning in Judaism is a bunch of Jews engaging despite finding no meaning in it. Jewish guilt defines the motivation for engaging Jewishly as completely extrinsic; it isn’t about you or for you. Those who claim that it’s better to engage for the wrong reasons than to disengage rarely consider how this seriously distorts the purpose of Judaism, which should move us toward becoming better, fuller, more self-actualized people.

Ironically, then, Jewish guilt might keep Jews connected, but it does so by stripping Judaism of all meaning and turning it into a pagan-esque religion obsessed with appeasing and placating someone else, whether that “someone” is God, a member of your family or some mythical ancestor. This isn’t just bad news for Judaism; it’s also a missed growth opportunity for Jewish 20s and 30s.

Some argue that doing something for the wrong reason can lead one to do it for the right reason. But I worry that Jewish guilt prevents us from discovering personal, intrinsic motivations for connecting to our Judaism by shutting down the question “Why be Jewish?” before we can ask it. As it says in Jeremiah 29:13 – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” This is a quote about God, but it could just as easily be about meaning: to find it within Judaism, we need to actively seek it.

So now that Yom Kippur has ended, it’s time to let go of Jewish guilt. Not until High Holidays next year, but forever. Stop doing Jewish stuff only because you feel bad or because you want to please someone else. Do it because it adds value to your life. And if, without the tranquilizing drug of Jewish guilt, you realize that none of this adds value to your life, let’s grab coffee.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization Gather the Jews, the Gather the Jews staff, the Gather the Jews board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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Sukkot Guide 2016

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Is your event missing from our list? Submit it here!

Sunday, October 16

Wednesday, October 19

Thursday, October 20

Friday, October 21

Sunday, October 23

 

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On Finally Finding Community: A Story of Jews on Bikes

img_2677Bicyclists use the term “critical mass” to describe riding across town in a group. It’s quite the sight. Bicyclists play music. They chat with each other. They invite other bikers to join. Sometimes they’re dressed in costume. It is, in short, a party. Everyone starts out at the same time–a clump of strangers navigating the first few lights while chatting. When the group is big enough, all you can see ahead of and behind you are bikes. Like a sea of fish pulsing through the ocean–all quick movement, flashes of color–a critical mass moves as one. Biking is normally a solo activity, so it’s stunning to bike as part of a larger group.

I attended my first critical mass in Michigan, the group of us mounting hills and gazing into the sunset. As the night ended, we dispersed in all directions down dark streets, becoming tiny lights in the distance, blinking, blinking until they disappeared. I was energized, and I vowed to find another critical mass to join.

My next opportunity cropped up a year later, and when I heard about it, I rolled my eyes. “Jews on Bikes?” I asked my brother-in-law, “I don’t get it. What makes it Jewish?” He explained that a bike ride would be followed by a Havdallah service, which would be followed by a happy hour. I didn’t say it at the time because I was embarrassed, but I wasn’t sure what a Havdallah service entailed. I’d been to a couple growing up, but not being very observant I couldn’t recall the songs or motions. I agreed to go, but mostly because going would offer a chance to experience a critical mass again and biking with my family sounded interesting.

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But then on the night of the ride, biking along Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House, I felt it again. The warm glow of a critical mass. We were crossing the city as a long, moving mass of bicycles. All of us pedaling and braking, signaling and turning, our beautiful city serving as a spectacular backdrop. It felt like being a part of something.

When we arrived at the park for Havdallah, we piled our bikes and gathered in a big circle. The sun was setting all around us, turning buildings pink. Someone walked around with a small bag for us all to smell–a cinnamony thickness emanating up and warming us. And then we all began singing. I recognized the song, though I didn’t know the words. So I just looked out at the group. And I smiled, happy tears welling in my eyes.

I have longed, for years now, for a Jewish community. Not being observant or believing in God, going to shul has seemed unappealing. But I’ve also wanted to participate in the traditions I grew up with, and to make friends here in DC who have that characteristic Jewish sense of humor. How do you find them, though, if you won’t go to shul? But there, in downtown DC, satisfyingly exhausted from the ride, I looked around the Jews on Bikes circle and realize there it was: there was my community. And it was more beautiful and diverse than I’d pictured. We came from all over the world and we celebrate all flavors of Judaism. But we were all there to take time out of the week to bike and reflect together… and then to get some drinks.

This experience stuimg_2674nned me. Partly because I hadn’t expected it, but also because I just couldn’t believe we’re so fortunate to have something like this here in DC. Here is this group of 50 or so people–a different group each time, really, though there are a number of repeat riders–who gather just for the joy of it. There’s no famous, funded organization running the event. It’s a grassroots effort. It is welcoming and friendly no matter what “flavor” you are, or even if you’re not Jewish at all. Or not a biker!

I’ve been on several of the rides since and have felt that same welling up of gratefulness each time. It’s hard not to. Jews on Bikes is a modern expression of Judaism–tradition, appreciation, and some tasty nosh. And I feel so, so lucky to have found it.

Join Jessica’s community for the next Jews on Bikes Havdalloween Ride! Pick out your (bike safe) costumes, grab your friends, and get ready to ride through the streets of our nation’s capital on October 22nd.

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Make Judaism Great, But NOT Again

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A recurring joke in the current season of South Park involves “member berries” – drug-like fruits that help you forget about the present by literally reminding you of the good ole’ days. It’s a poke at Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again, which references a past that may have never existed or may not have actually been that great.

In addition to Trump, member berries also made me think of many of us, or Jews you know, whose Judaism today is rooted in reminiscing. “Remember when it was fun to be Jewish? Remember Bubbe’s matzah ball soup? Remember BBYO? Remember summer camp? Remember your Titanic-themed Bar Mitzvah party?”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having fond memories of being Jewish. But a Judaism that is stuck in and defined by our childhood doesn’t translate for us as Jewish adults. Going to High Holiday services alone is nothing like going with your family as a kid. The stories we learned in Hebrew School were watered-down samples of a deep textual tradition. And we can stay camp counselors or sing camp songs to relive the magic of being a care-free camper, but we will never be 14 years old again.

Because our Judaism hasn’t grown up with us, connecting to our Judaism often becomes a regressive experience. Those of us who don’t want to check our adulthood at the door “resolve” this problem by simply disengaging. Those who eventually reengage do so only after they have children in order to pass on this Juvenile Judaism and perpetuate the cycle.

This desire to relive or preserve the Judaism of our youth might be an avoidance of the fact that we just don’t know what it means to be Jewish as adults. Like South Park, the film Midnight in Paris similarly critiques nostalgic thinking. As one character explains: “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

Holding onto the Judaism from our past not only limits Judaism’s potential; it also misrepresents the past. Many of us had very negative experiences with Judaism as a kid (see: Hebrew School). Many others weren’t involved at all (see: Jews by Choice, Jews who couldn’t afford $10,000 summer camp, unaffiliated Jews, etc.). Attempts at recreating Juvenile Judaism drives away those seeking to (re)engage as adults by falsely assuming that everyone shared in positive Jewish experiences.

Perhaps our own textual tradition puts it best: “Do not say ‘How was it that the former days were better than these?’” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). We need to shift our focus from the past to the present. We need to make Judaism great – for adults. I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization Gather the Jews, the Gather the Jews staff, the Gather the Jews board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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Jewish Extrovert of the Week – Lisa!

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If you have spent some time at Sixth & I Synagogue, there is a good chance you have met Lisa. She is outgoing, friendly, and welcoming; with a smile that you can’t miss! For many years Lisa was the Cultural Programming Associate responsible for bringing many famous speakers to Sixth and I, and is now on to a new adventure at The Washington Post! Catch up on what your Jewish Extrovert of the Week has been up to in our interview with her!

Jackie: What do you miss most about working at Sixth & I? 

Lisa: In life, sometimes you’re lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, and I was fortunate enough to have that happen to me in 2012, when I learned about the opening of the Cultural Programming Associate role at Sixth & I. Far and away, what I miss most are the people! I miss discovering new things about Jewish culture through conversations across cubicles and the adrenaline that goes into an evening of hosting 800 guests. Thinking back on my experience, I’m incredibly thankful to have learned how to think creatively, collaborate across departments and build community through my role at Sixth & I, as I have been able to carry those skills with me through my transition to The Washington Post.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew? 

Lisa: I know quite a few Jews and I’d consider many of them a favorite, so answering this question doesn’t come easily. The Jew who has been most influential in cultivating my identity as a Jew, as a partner, and as a forward-thinking woman is Rabbi Shira Stutman, Sixth and I’s Senior Rabbi. She is a Jew that is loved by many, and one that has taught me about the importance of acceptance of self, challenging the boundaries set by past experience, and experiencing Judaism through the lens of social justice.

gather-5Jackie: I am sure it is hard to choose, but who was your favorite speaker that you brought to Sixth and I?

Lisa: This is a tough one! I used to often say, “the one from last night”, as the caliber and content of speakers is beyond impressive. My favorite speaker event was the second time that Sixth & I hosted Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, for the release of her most recent book, Big Magic. I tend to resonate with the authors that have a message of finding one’s voice, expressing gratitude and accepting vulnerability. That is Liz Gilbert’s character, both in her writing and in how she carries herself through life. Her generosity shined through as she gave those working on the event, including Sixth & I’s wonderful cadre of volunteers, a charm from a store that she owned. The charm I chose from Liz’s bucket is a small, brass elephant. It’s intended to be part of a necklace, but since I haven’t found the right chain for it, it remains a happy keepsake on my desk at the office.

Jackie: What is your new role with The Washington Post? 

Lisa: In July, I joined The Washington Post’s Human Resources team as the Talent Acquisition & Organizational Development Specialist (Talent Specialist for short). I like to say that I do a little bit of everything as it relates to talent and development. I work closely with our recruiters to help build the candidate pipeline for the Post’s growing engineering team through managing university events and establishing partnerships with thought leaders in the areas of science, technology, math, and science. I have put my public speaking skills to the test through leading new employee orientation. I will soon start training to become a coach and lead organizational development workshops for management teams at the Post. My role is continuing to evolve! There is such a great energy, both on my team and in the company, and I can’t wait to see how my role continues to grow in the weeks and months ahead.

Jackie: What has been the biggest difference between working at a synagogue and a newspaper? 

Lisa: Sixth & I and The Washington Post share more similarities than I would have imagined before coming here. Both organizations have a strong sense of culture, community and a continued focus on innovation. In my short tenure here, the biggest difference that I’ve discovered is size. Sixth & I has a strong and mighty staff of 17. The Post employs more than 2,500 people across the globe. I am continuing to get to know my new colleagues through coffee dates, company-wide events, and connecting on good book recommendations. 

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Jackie: In addition to the new job, you are also celebrating your recent engagement. What are you most looking forward to about getting married?

Lisa: As silly as this may sound, I am most looking forward to calling myself Grant’s wife! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to marry Grant. He is the ultimate partner, in every way possible. He is the most joyful, affectionate and loving person. I’m fortunate to have found someone who loves me, accepts me and challenges me to be my best self. We’re at the seven-month mark and counting! I can’t wait.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC? 

Lisa: If a suburb of DC can count for this – my favorite place is Del Ray, a community just next to Alexandria in Northern Virginia. I like to describe Del Ray as a modern day Pleasantville. It has a small town charm that includes a cheese shop, a toy store for dogs and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. What else could be better?

Finish the Sentance: When the Jews Gather… there is dynamic and thoughtful conversation, full bellies, and an opportunity to discover new friendships

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Introducing “Rabbi Rant”

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As we enter the Jewish new year, we at Gather the Jews have decided to launch a new feature in our newsletter. Each week I’ll share a (hopefully) provocative idea about being 20 and 30-something Jews in 21st century America.

The easier choice, of course, is to keep my opinions to myself. Sharing my thoughts in such a public forum comes with the risk of offending or alienating all of you, of being perceived as not open or welcoming, or of incorrectly presuming that anyone actually cares about what I have to say.

But I worry these types of fears have led to an overly validating and sterile conversation about Judaism– one that affirms everyone’s Jewishness without questioning what it means or why it matters. The result is a real-life Jewish version of the movie Bigwe find ourselves as adult Jews with an adolescent understanding of our Jewish identity. After all, most of us were 13 the last time we thought critically about being Jewish (if that’s what you can call what we did in Hebrew school).

I also worry that we’ve lost a critical piece of what it means to be Jewish by sacrificing our Judaism to the gods of inclusivity. We haven’t always been so affirming of one another. Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish were study partners about 2000 years ago in what is now the State of Israel. When Reish Lakish died, Rabbi Yochanan tried to replace him with another Rabbi who supported every opinion that Rabbi Yochanan stated. But that’s not what Rabbi Yochanan wanted or needed. He complained: “When I used to state an opinion, Reish Lakish would raise twenty-four objections, to which I gave twenty-four answers, which consequently led to a fuller comprehension of the law.”

An important part of being Jewish is arguing – not for argument’s sake, but because dialogue and disagreement make us more thoughtful and more understanding people and Jews. Done right, discussing our different opinions can actually foster authentic, honest, and deeper relationships with one another. I hope Rabbi Rants can spark these types of provocative conversations, or at least push us all to think more critically about certain aspects of our Jewish identities.

I look forward to a year of disagreements, growth, and connection. Share suggestions in the comments below for future rant topics. Shana tova – and tune in next week for my first Rant of 5777!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization Gather the Jews, the Gather the Jews staff, the Gather the Jews board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

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Jewish Comedian of the Week – Max

MaxJackie: You are originally from California. What do you miss most now that you live on the East coast?

Max: I actually tell a joke about how Californians here complain about how much better California is than DC. The weather, the beaches, the Mexican food, yadda yadda. Honestly, my thing is the lack of places to get cheap, quality donuts in DC. In my opinion, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin don’t count and are honestly pretty terrible. And sure, you can get an “artisan donut” that costs $17, is locally sourced, and blessed by a hipster with glasses. But you can’t find a place in DC that’s really dedicated to the donut craft like you can in California.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC? 

Max: My new backyard! The first four and a half years that I lived in DC, I was in an apartment building. I just moved to a house and now I sit outside several nights per week, working on comedy and hanging out with friends. Being from California, I’m not a big fan of winter… even less so knowing that soon enough I won’t be able to spend as much time outside.

Jackie: What is your favorite thing about working at the Religious Action Center (RAC)

Max: Lots actually. First, I get paid to be on social media all day and interact with the press. Also, I have a very dynamic group of coworkers who are all great to work with. I’ve definitely had jobs in the past where I couldn’t stand being around my colleagues. I can’t say the same for my time spent at the RAC.

Jackie: As a comedian, do you incorporate your Jewish identity in your stand-up routines? 

Max: My stand-up is a mix of Jewish material and non-Jewish material. Ultimately, I don’t want to be known just as “a funny Jewish comedian.” I want to be known a funny comedian who just so happens to be Jewish. My stand-up is more reflective of my overall experiences, whether Jewish or not. Basically, if I think it’s funny, I’ll talk about it.

11709901_10152842785485981_6588522059791561531_oJackie: You will be performing at Confessions: A Storytelling Interrogation Show what can audiences expect from this show?

Max: I’ve never performed on a Perfect Liars Club show before, but from what I’ve heard about the many past shows, audience members can expect to be thoroughly entertained and even competitive as they try to determine which story was the lie.

Jackie: Where else can we see you perform?

Max: So, I recently launched a website for my comedy. It’s simply maxrosenblum.com. All of my major performance dates are on there. Plus, I just started a new show every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month at the brand-new Drafthouse Comedy Theater with my good friend Stephen Nicks, who by the way has always been a good friend to the Jews. The show is called Vent! and it’s (as far as I know) DC’s only interactive comedy happy hour. Basically, the show is about encouraging people to express what’s bothering them (vent) and we’ll talk about it during the show. But that’s not the whole show, just a part of it. We also incorporate sketch, stand-up, and improv comedy. Our next two shows are Fridays, October 7 and 21. Additionally, I’m on Twitter and Instagram (@MrMaxRose) and I post many of my shows on those platforms as well.

Jackie: You have opened for some pretty well-known comics. Do you have a favorite story? 

Max: Last summer, I had the thrilling opportunity to open for an internationally known British comedian named Russell Howard at Sixth & I Synagogue. He’s a big deal (over in the UK at least), and that was an amazing experience. However, the best story happened earlier this year. I opened for a comedian named Moody McCarthy (as seen on Conan and Letterman). Now, I often tell a joke about how I share the same name (same spelling) as one of the men who was indicted for dealing the fatal dose of heroin to Philip Seymour Hoffman. In the joke, I say that personally, I didn’t care when Hoffman died because, for the most part, celebrity deaths don’t affect me. However, this one did because my name was all over Google, but in a negative capacity. Anyway, Moody came up to me after the show to tell me that in college one of his best friends was PSH, and Moody showed me a picture of the two at Hoffman’s 19th birthday party. I immediately apologized to Moody for saying that I didn’t care that his friend died. Moody responded by saying: “No problem at all. Philip was a weird dude. I think he would’ve liked that joke.”

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Holiday?

Max: When I’m not performing on a Friday and I can get together with friends, my favorite holiday is Shabbat. It’s a good way to power down after a long week and meet up with close friends you haven’t seen in awhile. I also like Shabbat because it’s benign enough to be inclusive of people of all religions. You don’t need to be Jewish to have a get together with people you know, power down, and reflect on the week.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Hopefully, they decide to come to a comedy show. And laugh, of course.

 

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Who Knew All You Needed for Rosh Hashanah Was a Toilet?

It’s almost Rosh Hashanah.

That means people who have their act together are receiving their High Holiday tickets in the mail.

The rest of us are just trying to remember what exactly we should be doing this time of year.

Fortunately, The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is here to help you put the “new” in New Year – and all you need is a toilet!

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A Hilarious Storytelling Show, and that’s No Lie: An Interview with Perfect Liars Club

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Stacy Miller, the Manger of EntryPoint, recently sat down with Pierce McManus, the co-host of Perfect Liars Club, to discuss how the show got started and the upcoming show with EntryPoint DC. Mark your calendars for Confessions: A Storytelling Interrogation Show, an evening where you won’t have to ask for forgiveness for lying this Yom Kippur.

Stacy Miller: As the orchestrator of Perfect Liars Club, what is the concept of the show (how does it work?) and how did you come up with the idea?

Pierce McManus: Perfect Liars Club was created in 2013 by Scottish storyteller Layla McCay. The show has a simple but hilarious premise: Four people tell four stories. All are captivating but only three are true. Listen. Laugh. Suspect. Interrogate. Vote. Can you spot the liar? The stories are hilarious – but the interrogation is even better: you never know what questions will be asked or what evidence the audience might demand of the four storytelling suspects in their determined quest to spot the liar.

The idea for Perfect Liars Club was born when Layla and her wife Roz relocated to Washington, D.C. and decided to combine their desire to contribute to the Washington, D.C.’s growing storytelling scene with their nostalgia for the old game of Spot the Liar. In July 2015, Layla and Roz announced they were relocating from Washington. Rather than shutter their popular show, they handed over the reins to renowned fixtures of the D.C. storytelling scene Cara Foran and myself.

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Stacy: What is one of the funniest stories you have heard so far?

Pierce: One story? It’s impossible to choose just one story. Since the show started, we’ve heard hundreds of hilarious and unbelievable tales — a quarter of which were completely made up. Some personal favorites from our recent Capital Fringe 2016 run included a storyteller’s tale of an amorous experience at a Biggest Loser wrap party, another involved an awkward chance encounter with Dick Cheney in a cramped elevator, another recounted the time a New York City tour guide lost his tour bus — while it was still running and full of tourists, and another detailed a storyteller’s attempts to join a suburban “mommy-group” only to discover that two of the mommies were having their own adult “playdates.” Wondering who the liar in the bunch was? If you chose the NYC tour guide, you are correct!

Stacy: Does the audience always pick the liar?

Pierce: Always? Hardly. Rarely is more like it. You would think that a town like Washington, D.C. — a town that is teeming with Type A know-it-all smartypants types — would fare better than the current 20% success rate. Try harder, citizens of Washington. We know how much you love to be right.

Stacy: Where is the coolest place you have hosted a Perfect Liars Club Show?

Pierce: Hands down the coolest place that we’ve hosted Perfect Liars Club was the basement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Gallery Place. That space doubled as a venue for our recent Capital Fringe 2016 run and we quickly discovered that librarians really love to crank the air conditioning. Seriously. If you ever go, don’t forget to pack a sweater. Brrrr. Other cool favorites include the comfortably intimate and always raucous Bier Baron Tavern, which plays host to our monthly show on the first Wednesday night of every month, and the sadly-no-longer-with-us Science Club, which offered Perfect Liars Club a great place since its start back in 2013. Always eager to check out new venues and new crowds, we’re super excited to bring Perfect Liars Club to Buckeye + Bear on September 29th for this special show with EntryPointDC.

Stacy: You are hosting a show with EntryPointDC next Thursday, September 29. Does this show have a theme? Will the show be funny?

Pierce: We’re very excited to collaborate with EntryPointDC on this “first-of-a-kind” show for Perfect Liars Club. While the format remains the same, we’re incorporating the Yom Kippur themes of confession and atonement into the night’s stories. Each storyteller will disclose something unsavory about themselves or their past that they’ve kept secret up until now. In return, each hopes that their public admittance of guilt will yield forgiveness. But as is the case with all our shows, somebody is lying. And that’s where the audience comes in. Will they spot the liar? Probably not. Will the show be funny? You can count on it. And that’s no lie.

Check out the next Perfect Liars Club show, Confessions: A Storytelling Interrogation Show, Thursday, September 29 at Buckeye & Bear with EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. Tickets, $10 (40% off regular priced tickets): http://bit.ly/confessions-show

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Jewish Foodie of the Week – Julie

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This week’s Foodie was nominated by our Jewish Adventurer of the Week – Rose. Rose and Julie attended Tufts University together and are united again in DC! Rose wanted to highlight Julie for her love of travel and her passion for food justice.

If you know someone who you think should be the Jewish Person of the Week nominate them!

Jackie: What was your favorite part of Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps?

Julie: My favorite part of being an AVODAH Corps Member was definitely my house. I lived in an intentional and cooperative community with 12 other Jewish women in one of two AVODAH houses in DC. Each one of my housemates had unique passions and their own personality, and while it wasn’t easy to live with such a big group, we worked hard to establish systems of that allowed us to appreciate each other’s strengths and contributions. I admire and am inspired by each and every one of the people I lived with last year. Learning how to coexist and cooperate with this group allowed me to grow a lot as a friend, a person, a family member, and a Jew.

Jackie: How did you get involved in food education?

Julie 3Julie: My interest in food education kind of grew into a professional passion by accident…and very quickly! I’ve always loved food – I’m from a family of big eaters who all love to cook – but I really dove into the food scene after I studied abroad in Argentina. During my time abroad, I really learned about the city of Buenos Aires and Argentinian culture by eating the local food and sharing meals with friends. When I came back to the US, I realized that my passion for food was more than just a love of local produce and hatred of food waste – rather, it was something that allowed me to connect with different cultures and people. I realized that my love for food didn’t just have to be a personal interest! I started exploring further by taking classes at my university and doing research on food policy, local and urban agriculture, and sustainability. After I graduated I was lucky enough to land at Brainfood, a DC non-profit and youth development organization that runs summer and after-school programs for high schoolers all about cooking, food entrepreneurship, and urban agriculture. This opportunity allowed me to combine my interests in child development and education with my love of food in the best way possible.

Jackie: You are staying in DC now that Avodah is over. What about DC made you want to stay?

Julie: As a New Englander, DC felt surprisingly foreign to me when I arrived. After a year here, I feel connected to the city first and foremost by my Jewish community, and friends from AVODAH and from work. I also feel a deep connection to the city through the learning I’ve done both from research and from first-hand experience about education in the District. DJulie 2C schools and youth services have a unique set of issues, which I feel motivated to work to address. While there’s youth in need everywhere, I feel particularly able to do this work here in DC because of the amazing network of people I have supporting me.

Jackie: What was your favorite part of studying abroad in Buenos Aires?

Julie: It’s hard to pick one thing that stands out from my six months in Argentina, but I think the biggest thing I took away from this experience was the culture of social interactions. Meals in Argentina are much slower. There’s actually a term “sobre mesa” for the conversation you have after the meal is finished “over the table” (literally). Sharing “mate”, a bitter and highly caffeinated tea, shows the deepest sign of friendship in Argentina. I found the casualness and intimacy of this tradition really beautiful; when you drink mate you actually share the tea through one straw using one cup. While Buenos Aires was the largest city I’ve ever lived in, I came to appreciate the slower pace of life and the desire to spend time with others that is so innate in Argentinian culture.

Jackie: What inspired you to travel to Morocco with JDC?

Julie: Travel has always been an interest of mine, and I was Julie 1really excited by the opportunity this trip presented to learn about non-Ashkenazi Jewish practice and the co-existence of Jews and Muslims in an Arab country. I was also drawn to the idea of participating in this trip with fellow students at my university and using a critical eye to consider globalization and the ideas of service and charity. The opportunity to connect with a specific community and compare their Jewish experience to my own was a huge part of why I applied to this program.

Jackie: What was your favorite part of that trip? 

Julie: I was so floored by the graciousness and hospitality of our hosts especially given how the Jewish community in Morocco is shrinking almost daily. We were fed enormous amounts exquisite foods all day and were welcomed into the fairly private Jewish community with open arms.

When the Jews gather… you know there will be food.

 

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Jewish Minnesotan of the Week – David

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David was nominated by our Jewish Musical Lover of the Week, Emma! Besides telling us he is “lovely,” she made sure we asked him about his attachment to his home state and how he has managed to get along with the same roommate for 8 years! If you know someone who should be a person of the week nominate them today.

Jackie: I hear you are obsessed with your home state of Minnesota, what makes you love the state so much?

David: It’s the most wonderful state in the world! People are very friendly (“Minnesota nice” is real); the state is home to great inventions such as the honeycrisp apple and the post-it note, plus it’s home to 17 Fortune 500 companies and more than 10,000 lakes!

Jackie: One of my favorite films of all time is Drop Dead Gorgeous. As a native Minnesotan do you love the film as well?

David: I can’t say I’ve seen Drop Dead Gorgeous, but my favorite Minnesota movie is the Mighty Ducks. I can pretty much quote all three movies verbatim.

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

David: I went to American University; my sister went there and had a great experience. I had visited lots of times and always liked DC, so ultimately when I was deciding between AU and a couple of the Big 10 schools, I thought it would be more fun to live here for four years. Four years after graduation, and I’m still here!

Jackie: What is your favorite thing to do in DC?

David: It’s hard to beat a Nationals game on a non-humid summer night.

Jackie: You have lived with your current roommate since 2008. What is the magic that makes your living situation work?

David: Dan and I were randomly assigned to live together fre13781886_10207367528647896_2792066165896126333_n-1shman year at AU 8 years ago and we have lived together ever since. We have similar interests from sports to politics, to Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler comedies. We also have a pretty similar outlook on life in general and have very laid-back personalities.

Jackie: You spent sometime in Spain living with a family, do you still keep in touch?

David: My host seniora, Margerita, wasn’t too into technology, but I’m friends with her daughter on Facebook. So I get to see how her and her grandson are doing.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

David: Hard to pick between Larry David and Sandy Koufax.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…We shout l’chaim!

 

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Better Than “Stranger Things”: Shabbat Clusters is Back!

shabbat-clustersTired of binge watching Netflix on Friday nights? Get off the couch and meet some new people for dinner! This past spring 285 young professionals signed up for Shabbat Clusters, a program hosted by EntryPointDC of the Edlavitch DCJCC. The program takes places two times a year, in the fall and in the spring. Young professionals sign up to be placed in groups of 14-25 people that come together for monthly potluck Shabbat dinners.

Groups are for singles and couples and are formed based on location, age, and sometimes observance level and interests. You can request to be placed in a group with friends or significant others and you do not need to be present at every monthly gathering to join. Registration for Fall 2016 Shabbt Clusters closes September 16th and the season starts with a Kick-off Shabbat Dinner September 23rd where you can meet members of your group.

The program is continually changing so we can bring you the best Shabbat experience and help you do Shabbat your way, whether that is big Italian style Friday night meal around your kitchen table or a Saturday picnic in the park. Check out the top 5 reasons why you should join clusters this season!

  1. Themed Shabbat Dinners

This season the first three months of the program have scheduled dates for when the groups will meet; a Shabbat Cluster Coordinator will help the group choose dates and hosts for meals for the rest of the season.

Sukkot Under the Stars Shabbat Cluster Dinner – Friday, October 21
Give Back Friendsgiving Shabbat Cluster Dinner – Friday, November 11
Ugly Sweater Dreidel-off Shabbat Lunch  –  Saturday, December 3

  1. Funding for Meals

Don’t have time to cook before your potluck? A bit strapped on cash around the holidays? We are partnering with OneTable, an organization that provides “nourishment credit” for groceries, take-out delivery, and restaurant certificates.

  1. Discounts to EntryPointDC events and exclusive Shabbat Cluster mixers

Mid-season all cluster groups are invited to a happy hour so everyone can meet other members. Members also receive discounts for bringing out at least 50% of their Shabbat Cluster to select EntryPointDC events such as comedy shows.

  1. Interest groups

If you prefer to put in a group based on activities and background – Interest Shabbat Clusters would be for you. This year we are introducing two new interests: Singles and Jews by Choise. We are bringing back outdoors, arts, community service, foodies, Interfaith couples and more interest clusters!

  1. Larger groups and sisters clusters

Groups will be larger this season to account for some members not being able to make it to every dinner; each Shabbat Cluster group also has the opportunity to meet for meals with their sister Shabbat Cluster – another cluster similar to their own cluster be it location, age, or interest.

Questions about Shabat Clusters? Email Stacy, Manager of EntryPointDC, at stacym@edcjcc.org or visit the Shabbat Cluster FAQ page. Registration for Fall 2016 closes Friday, September 16. The cluster season begins with a Kick-off Shabbat Dinner for all participants on Friday, September 23 at the DCJCC.

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First Ever DC-Based Jewish Kickstarter Campaign

_aa94293_2Running a successful Kickstarter is hard, all-engrossing work. There’s the avalanche of customer requests, constant media inquiries, and endless hours stressing over fulfilling thousands of orders. Or at least I assume that’s what it’s like; I wouldn’t know. My Kickstarter is 44% funded with a little over two weeks left to fund it.

But still, what an honor to have created the highest funded Jewish Kickstarter campaign in DC history. It’s true! Also true that this is the first ever Jewish Kickstarter campaign in DC history, but who’s counting?

Now, some of you may already be thinking “How much does it cost and where can I buy one?” And to you, I say, “Hi Mom.” But for the rest of you, let me introduce you to the Jewish Wisdom Ball.

How many times has this happened to you: You have a burning question or you’re in urgent need of advice. You have no one to ask and wish desperately that something – anything! – could listen and tell you that you’re not crazy. If this sounds familiar, then boy do I not have the solution for you.

Instead, consider the Jewish Wisdom Ball, a Jewish version of the Magic 8 Ball that’s just as likely to answer your question with a question and may make you feel bad for asking in the first place. Instead of boring old answers like “you may rely on it” or “reply hazy, try again” you get classic Jewish responses like “if that’s what you want” and “so now you need my help?”

This project has been a dream of mine for a long time. After getting rejections from every toy company I pitched over the course of a decade, I finally decided to do it myself, letting Kickstarter backers decide whether the idea is good or bad. And right now, I’m 44% confident that this is an awesome idea.

I’m not saying all of this to make you feel guilty. That’s the Jewish Wisdom Ball’s job. I’m just letting you know about a great opportunity to support the cause of spreading Jewish wisdom in ball form.

So if you’re looking for the greatest Hanukkah gift ever invented, look no further. Check out the campaign, share on social media, maybe even buy a couple for your friends and relatives.

As the Jewish Wisdom Ball says, “you could do worse.”

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Save the date.. for something great… we’re calling it Party of 8 (Ate)!

partyof8_finalDC: Get ready for something new. Party of 8 (Ate) is a night of dinner and drinks with other young Jewish professionals like yourself. This is an opportunity to make new friends, network, and connect with others in the community – all over a meal in an intimate group!

How does this all work? Register for free* via Eventbrite and provide a few pieces of information about yourself. Our team goes to work and sets you up with others whom we think you will connect with. You don’t know in advance who will be at your table, only that it’s 7 others (or 3 other couples for those registering as a pair) picked just for you!

Can couples join too? Absolutely! If you register as a couple, you will be assigned to a couples party of 8, where you will only know your partner and have the chance to meet 6 new friends.

The week of the event, you will receive an email with your assigned restaurant. After dinner, all Party of 8 participants will meet up at a nearby bar – where you can connect with old friends and new ones you made tonight. We’ve even got some drink specials to sweeten the deal and encourage you to stay for a while.

Party of 8 is open to anyone: those who are already involved in Jewish life in DC and those who are not. This is for anyone who wants to step outside of their comfort zone and the typical happy hour scene and make some meaningful connections with other individuals. Jenny Diamond, Party of 8 co-chair, can offer the best testimonial to the success of Party of 8 – she met her best friend during Party of 8 in Austin!

Registration closes September 17th and space is limited. Register today!

Questions? Contact Jenny or Audrey @ partyofAteDC@gmail.com.

*This event is completely free to attend, but you are responsible for the cost of your meal and drinks at the after party.

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Thinking about Elul: Prompts to Prepare for the High Holidays

This past Sunday we welcomed the Jewish month of Elul, which means Rosh Hashana is less than a month away. Traditional Jews have the practice of blowing the shofar each morning during this month as a wakeup call, reminding us daily to reflect and return to our truest self. (And yes, reminding us that we still need to buy those high holiday tickets.) Instead of trying to make the sudden transition into the holiday as if we’re joining the 300 club, many people use these next few weeks to ease into a more contemplative state.

Elul is a time of reflecting back on the previous year, a time for checking in with ourselves at this moment in our lives, and a time to think about where we are going. Past, present and future collide during this period, as we seek to learn more about who we are, where we are, and what we can give to the world. Like most things in life, the more we prepare for the Jewish new year, the more meaningful it will be.

Below are 18 prompts that you can use for writing, praying, meditating, or whatever method you use to turn inward.

Past

  1. What did you do really well last year? What are you proud of? Imagine you were being honored for the work you did last year – what would the presenter of that award say about you.
  2. Who helped you get through this past year? Who gave you something you really needed? What would you say to them if they were right in front of you?
  3. What were some formidable moments that occurred to you this year? What news stories affected you most?
  4. How were you hurt this year? When were times when you were angry? Sad?
  5. What lessons did you learn this year? How have you grown? In what aspects of your life did you improve?
  6. What were the major themes of your life this past year?

Present

  1. Are you where you thought you would be at this stage in life? What did you not expect?
  2. What are you grateful for?
  3. What are three major emotions that you’re carrying with you right now?
  4. What relationships are adding to your life? What relationships are draining you?
  5. How do you currently relate to religion/spirituality/God?
  6. What are you missing?

Future

  1. What big choices will you have to make in the coming year? What will influence your decision-making process?
  2. Who are your role models? What is one thing they do that you could try to emulate this year?
  3. What relationship could you do something to repair? Who do you need to forgive?
  4. What is something you’d like to do this year?
  5. In what ways can you bring goodness to the world? What strengths can you utilize to help others?
  6. Where would you like to be one year from now? What can you do to get there?
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