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Naming the Nebulousness: Reflections on being White and Jewish in the Racial Justice Space Part Two

image1-1So being a white Jew in the racial justice space is hard and confusing and even painful. I have felt this way for a while but I haven’t been able to put my finger on what is going on. I wrote a blog for Gather the Jews three months ago exploring this and had no answers. But now I’m back.

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend the Facing Race conference with Repair the World which is an organization mobilizing young Jews to give back to their community. I did a lot of listening, exploring, feeling frustrated and saddened, and ultimately leaving empowered and inspired. Here are some observations and reflections I have formulated as a white Jew while operating in the racial justice space:

1. When we think about multiracial, multiethnic racial justice coalitions, many of us with white skin include ourselves. But others might not. Sometimes minority groups don’t want to build coalitions with white people. That is tough because many whites have dedicated their lives to racial justice work. Many whites have died fighting this fight. But we need to face the reality that many don’t want a white voice in these conversations.

2. The racial justice movement includes all minority groups, except Jews. Anti-Semitism is not part of the movement, despite its rise in Europe and America. It was difficult not to hear anything at the Facing Race conference about standing with Jews during this challenging time. Nothing. It was glaring. While we think our Jew “we-were-oppressed-too” card is our entry into the movement, in reality, it’s our exit ticket.

That’s painful because many of us have committed ourselves to racial justice and have in fact seen ourselves within this movement. And during a time when swastikas are showing up in Jewish spaces, and Jews are feeling increasingly less safe on college campuses and walking out of synagogues, it’s important for those fighting for justice to stand with us. But it feels like many of our peers in this fight aren’t standing with us. That sucks and it hurts.

But, my white Jewish friends, despite all of that, we need to stand tall and continue to work, and actually DOUBLE DOWN on our racial justice efforts because the need is great. Here are my thoughts on how I want to move forward and maybe some of these will resonate with you:

  • Acknowledge our white privilege (e.g., all the advantages we get because we look like mainstream white America), but also work to reject our sense of superiority as whites (e.g., the myth of whiteness). It feels challenging to do that because it’s as if we are both accepting and rejecting our whiteness. For now, I’m just holding both concepts in my consciousness.
  • Find our voice and don’t apologize for being born with white skin. We should be aware of white fragility (e.g., the tendency for white people to freak out when we hear things that make us uncomfortable) but we should always have a thoughtful voice in this fight. Being awkward and self-conscious all the time is inhibiting our ability to do good work.
  • Fight against white supremacy and structural racism on two fronts. We need to do our voting rights, affordable housing, educational equity work, etc. But we also need to work every day to root out our own racial biases and reprogram our brain. Because our default brain is racist.
  • Forge partnerships with people of color and center their voice in the conversation in ways that uplift their voice but don’t burden them.
  • Call each other in. It’s not the responsibility of people of color to tell us when we are being racist. We need to learn to call each other in, and in loving ways.
  • Stop trying to be down with black and brown people. It’s not about fist-pumping to show how cool we are. Be down for the CAUSE, do substantive change work, and we will be respected as peers in this fight.
  • Draw on our historical narrative and experience of being oppressed. Many of us are grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and we can use that painful history to fuel our work in promoting peace and understanding.
  • When the going gets tough, talk to each other and engage in self-care. Dig into our Jewish roots which has rituals to rejuvenate, connect, and heal us.

Let’s do this.

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 Resident of the Week – Sam

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Sam is the newest member of Moishe House DC. I got the chance to catch up with him to hear how living in the House was going and also hear what lead him to live there in the first place! Learn more about him and hear his recommendations for getting to know DC in our interview with Sam this week.

Jackie: You moved around a bit since graduating from Binghamton. Where have you been and what brought you there?

Sam: I originally grew up on Long Island and have moved basically every year since graduating college. I attended Binghamton University for my undergraduate degree and moved to Houston to teach middle school as part of Teach for America while also earning my Masters in Education. After that, I moved to New York City for a year, then Baltimore for a year, back to New York City, relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina and then moved to DC in March of this year. Some of the moves were related to work. Others were embracing opportunities to live in another part of the country and have an adventure along the way.

Jackie: What finally brought you to DC?14856074_10100587589263299_4070627615327562005_o

Sam: With every opportunity I take, I always consider how I can have an impact. I was surprised to learn that the third leading cause of death in the United States is medical errors. Looking to become part of the solution, I joined a fast-growing ed tech start-up based in Bethesda called Knowledge to Practice, focused on helping physicians with their continuing medical education needs. My role there is helping build the digital marketing team from the ground up. Everything from digital analytics, to content strategy, to marketing automation, and beyond. I’ll stop while I am ahead.

Jackie: You recently moved into Moishe House DC! Why did you want to live in a Jewish house?

Sam: Being part of the Moishe House represents an opportunity to be part of something larger than myself. A community that becomes a home away from home for many individuals who may only live in Washington, DC for a short time. Having the chance to build that sense of community and become a connector of the community is something that I strive to build in the many cities I have had the chance to call home.

Jackie: What has been your favorite part of joining that house?

Sam: The amazing people! Despite living in DC since March, I’ve met more people in the past month than I have in my total time here previously. The range of events all the Moishe Houses put on in the DMV area allows everyone to connect.

11824943_10101608180155952_7293008731603885208_nJackie: What are some recommendations for the seeing things off the beaten path in the DMV?

Sam: Walking tours are a great way to learn about the city. One of the best tours I recommend is food walking tours you can do in different neighborhoods in DC and VA. Walking around for a few hours. Trying 5-6 different types of food. Learning about culture and history along the way. You really can’t go wrong. I also recommend checking out different breweries.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew? 

Sam: Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing is pretty much as close as you can get to my heart. Besides Hamilton at the moment.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… The house shakshuAKES-ah! (I am so sorry).

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State of Mourning

For many millennial DC Jews, an intersection of three extremely liberal subsets of the population (and around 95% of whom most likely voted for Hillary Clinton), now may feel like a time for shiva. Today we mourn the loss of the America we thought we lived in, the loss of the misplaced optimism that we had, and the loss of feeling safe and secure about our present and our future.

Many of us are too broken, too hurt, too angry to do anything but weep, and the wisdom of shiva is that we need to make space for that. But the deeper wisdom of shiva is that we then must leave our home and re-enter the world. We must confront this new reality, if not today, then soon. We cannot fall back on escapism.

The Jewish response to brokenness is twofold – to learn and to hope. Religion will not solve our problems, but it can provide a space for us to come together, reflect and, when the time is right, move forward.

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 Cook of the Week – Jackie

14915456_10109529814741681_9150082870296178926_nJackie: Where did your interest in Jewish community start?

Jackie N: I’ve always been lucky to live in places with a strong Jewish community. I attended Jewish day school, went to a Cuban-Jewish Sephardic synagogue (yes they do exist!), and grew up in a very traditional home.

When I went to college at the University of Florida (go Gators!) it really propelled my interest in getting involved with the Jewish community. Up until that point, I had lived in Miami which made me take Jewish practices and communal life for granted.  For the first time in my life, I was living on my own without my family nearby. It felt very unnerving to not have Shabbat dinner every Friday and although I loved my new friends at school I missed Jewish life. I started getting involved by going to UF’s Hillel and Chabad and by the time I graduated I sat on Chabad’s board and was very active in Jewish life at UF.

When I moved to DC in 2008 I didn’t really know too many people and had no family in the area, so the Jewish community was an easy and a great way to make friends.  I realized that many of my friends were also alone up here without our families nearby. So I decided to step up and take the lead and host the major holidays and Shabbat for my friends. It also felt more intimate, fun, familiar and less stressful than going to a large holiday event with hundreds of people. From there, my dinners grew tremendously and I became known for hosting Shabbat dinners.

A friend approached me in 2013 about co-hosting a Sephardic Shabbat service/dinner. I agreed and it was a massive success! From there I began hosting monthly Shabbat dinners through my organization Sephardic Jews in DC.

10731068_10105919570544991_2032516370974524497_nJackie: Can you tell me about your love of food? 

Jackie N: I’ve always loved to cook. I’ve been cooking ever since I was a small child and I used to help my mom out in the kitchen all the time. She’s an even better cook than I am, but hopefully one day I’ll be as good as her! I especially love learning about the history and evolution of food. I’m fascinated by what ancient Sephardic Jewish communities ate, how they lived, and how their lives differed from the rest of the population and why. I’m constantly tinkering in the kitchen, researching different kinds of recipes and cuisine, and making it for my friends. I even have a food blog which contains many of my recipes.

Jackie: What is your favorite Sephardic meal to cook?

Jackie N: Oh way too many! I love cooking Turkish Sephardic food, especially borekas, keftes de prasas (leek latkes), abondigas de prasa (leek meatballs), and sofrito. I also love cooking Persian food and my favorite dish to make is fesenjoon (a walnut/pomegranate stew). I also love Moroccan food and love to make Chraime (Moroccan fish), hamim
(cholent) and Moroccan carrot salad.
 

Jackie: How did you get the idea to start Sephardic Jews in DC? 13906725_10109007473278161_3125682790798231446_n

Jackie N:I was raised in a traditional Sephardic home and grew up going to a Sephardic synagogue. I really love the customs, heritage, history, and cuisine of the Sephardic world, but almost all of the synagogues and Jewish events in Washington DC are Ashkenazi, with the exception of a few synagogues in suburban Maryland.

I started the organization because the preservation of Sephardic culture, traditions, heritage and cuisine is very important to me. I want to ensure that Sephardic culture doesn’t die out, but rather will continue to evolve and be celebrated for its many contributions to Jewish life.

I spent many years frustrated that most Jewish organizations in DC didn’t address the Sephardic world, so I decided to take the lead and create a community-based organization to fill this void. My goals with this organization are not just to feed people delicious food (certainly an added benefit), but rather to create a robust Sephardic community in DC and educate people on Sephardic/Mizrahi culture, cuisine, history, liturgy, and traditions.

I believe that sharing a meal helps bring a community together and keeps traditions alive. Plus, learning about something is always easier when you have delicious food close by.

I, of course, have to acknowledge that “it takes a village” and use this opportunity to thank the  people and organizations that have assisted me throughout the years. My fellow Sephardic leaders Ari, Aaron, and Jen. Also organizations like Chabad (Rabbi Levi and Menachem Shemtov), 6th and I (Rabbi Scott Perlo), Mesorah DC (Rabbi Teitelbaum), and Moishe House Arlington/DC for their partnerships.

Jackie: What are ways for people to get involved with your organization?

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Jackie N: I’m always looking for people who are interested in volunteering their time to help nurture and grow a Sephardic community, whether it be helping to cook for events, leading or participating in services, generating ideas for events, or just attending and helping out at events. Thus far we have been a community lay-led organization with no major sponsorship. I’m hoping that in the future I’ll be able to work with larger Jewish organizations and be able to create an organic Sephardic Jewish community in DC. If you’re interested in learning more about coming to one of our monthly Shabbat dinners please visit our page on Facebook Sephardic Jews in DC.

Finish the sentence: When the [Sephardic] Jews Gather…there will be delicious food, good conversation, and fun times.

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Gather Giving Circle

Apply here to join Gather’s Giving Circle with Reb Aaron. 

Most Jews in their 20s and 30s that I talk to are afraid to say anything definitive about what it means to be Jewish – I think a big reason for this is that, the moment we do, we risk alienating or excluding certain people who identify as Jews. Yet this tendency toward inclusivity has its own risk because it can render Judaism contentless and meaningless.

There are many ways to practice Judaism. But there are some basic requirements that should unite all Jews. And one of them… perhaps the most important one… is giving tzedakah.

Tzedakah, often (mis)translated as charity, comes from the word tzedek, which means justice. Judaism has a unique perspective on the value, and the obligation, of donating money. Yet, most of us have not engaged with Jewish texts since becoming adults and earning salaries. Instead of letting Jewish wisdom inform our financial giving practice, we make less intentional choices and sometimes don’t give at all.

So, I’ve decided to host a Gather Giving Circle – a four-week-long giving circle for about 15 Jewish 20s and 30s (who live in greater Washington DC) to come together and talk about the Jewish value of tzedakah. In each 90 minute session, we’ll unpack why, how, and to whom we give. And in order to make sure these are not just hypothetical conversations, we’re also asking those accepted to donate $100 to this circle*. By the end of the 4 weeks, we will collectively decide where to donate our pooled money.

If you’re interested in learning more about Judaism’s take on the responsibility of money, or if you’re looking to make a philanthropic donation but want some support getting started, I hope you’ll apply here. The deadline for the application is Tuesday, November 22 at midnight, and the group will start meeting the following Monday, November 28 and for the three Mondays after.

And if you’re not able to make these dates, or if this is too much for you to give right now, what’s most important is that you give something, somewhere, at some point. As it says in the Talmud: “Tzedakah equals in importance all the other precepts combined” (Bava Batra 9a). The rabbis were not afraid of making definitive statements about what it means to be Jewish, and they placed tzedakah at the top of that list.

*Don’t worry, accountants, it will be tax-deductible.

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Taking Note: My Experience at JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference

Carly writing in her note book at JWI's Young Women's Leadership Conference

Carly writing in her note book at JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference

When I was asked to write this post, I knew exactly where to start searching for inspiration. I went to my bookshelf and found the pink Moleskine notebook that has joined me on two trips to Israel, and in between, JWI’s 2015 Young Women’s Leadership Network conference. I filled up over a dozen pages with words of wisdom from the women who spoke that day, and I’ve consulted these notes many times since last December. Ever-pursuant of convenient literary devices, I thought I’d pick one quote that stuck out to me; instead, I’m finding it impossible to narrow it down.

Truth be told, I really needed that event last year. I was in what felt like a state of near-perpetual self-doubt. I didn’t know what my next professional step should be, which felt exceptionally difficult for someone with a tendency towards a long term plan. I had (and continue to have) some wonderful people surrounding me serving as mirrors, sounding boards and role models, but couldn’t deny that some neutral, outside perspective would be helpful. When two friends who’d attended the conference in 2014 suggested I register, I didn’t hesitate.

I woke up the morning of the event unmotivated to get out of bed – the same early case of the Sunday scaries I’d felt weekly for the previous few months. But after a couple of encouraging text messages (and a reminder of the OPI nail polish in every gift bag), I put on my best game face and headed over to the venue, notebook in hand. After some hellos to a few familiar faces, I settled into my seat, expectations a bit unclear. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was looking for, but my hopes were high that I’d walk away with something I could latch onto.

Clearly, with all of those pages of notes, I found that – and more. The women I heard present throughout the day were honest and open, sharing stories of their successes and failures, letting us in on their insecurities and what got them through it. They offered perspectives on what it means to be a professional, to be a friend, to be a Jewish woman navigating the world today. Author, psychotherapist, and advocate Rebecca Alexander offered us her mantra to borrow if we didn’t have our own – “breathe in peace, breathe out fear” – but truly, any sentence that I jotted down in that notebook could serve the same purpose.

It wasn’t just the women on stage who inspired and impressed me. I started conversations with the other attendees throughout the day and found that they, too, were excited to talk about their experiences. I admired the women who stood up to ask questions of the panelists – the same questions I’d had on my mind throughout the sessions but hadn’t found a way to vocalize. I had the chance to reconnect with one of my Birthright leaders – a woman who is an incredible example of strength and leadership and was an influence in the Jewish journey that led me to that very event. The diversity of backgrounds and perspectives was enlightening and refreshing, and above all, a clear example of the power of shared experience.

With the start of the new year just behind us, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my own path. I find the organization’s history to be a particular fate for me, as my grandmother served as the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Women before it became the JWI we know today. It has always struck me that my connection to Judaism has helped me find new ways to connect with her, even though she passed away many years ago. I think it is thus appropriate that I find this event so compelling, as my grandmother was the strongest and most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. The knowledge that this organization was so meaningful to her makes me especially honored to be a member.

As I find myself on the precipice of another professional change, I know that I can expect even more inspiration from this year’s conference. I look forward to listening to such inspirational women speak about their struggles and successes. The conference will have many familiar faces, but I am also excited to meet new people and share this experience with the similarly inspiring attendees. I’m glad I have plenty of pages left in my Moleskine and can’t wait to see what words fill another dozen pages this year. And, of course, I’m really excited about that new OPI purple polish.

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There’s so much to gain when women are able to come together and share their greatest accomplishments, their deepest vulnerabilities, and their personal wisdom in a space that is free of judgment and pretense. At this conference, it’s hard to feel anything less than awe at the number of incredible Jewish women who are doing amazing things in all parts of the world, but also remain ready to guide and support you on your own path. I cannot think of another event I’ve attended that’s encouraged me to listen, process, and reflect as much as the YWLC, and I’m thrilled to be able to participate again this year. I hope you’ll join me!

You can register to be a part of JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference here.

 

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The Israeli Culture Program You Don’t Want to Miss

israel-arts-dc-600x600-israel-story-2The amount of conversation about Israel in the political sphere can be overwhelming and divisive. BDS, the UN, peace, foreign aid, rockets, and violence and politics come up in the news on a sometimes daily or weekly basis here the US. I don’t know about you, but I often ignore anything the media says, too tired to handle it all.

But engaging in Israel doesn’t have to be so stressful and politicized! The Edlavitch Washington DC Jewish Community Center wants to help you engage with and connect to Israel through culture and dance at the Israel Arts DC Festival, from November 6th-14th.

Whether you are interested in literature, dance, or storytelling, there is something for you.

Highlights of the festival include:

  • popular podcast Israel Story’s debut in Washington DC through a live, interactive multi-media performance
  • acclaimed author Meir Shalev
  • author and public speaker Dorit Sasson with filmmaker Yael Luttwak
  • a dance workshop and conversation with renowned (spell check this) Choreographer Ella Rothschild focusing on the Gaga style of modern dance and a retrospective of her work.

Immerse yourself in the diversity and richness of Israeli culture. Through words and movement, we can celebrate Israel together.

Jews and non-Jews of all walks of life, political belief, and ability are encouraged to attend. Special discounts for young professionals, with tickets as low as $10.

Israel Arts DC is made possible by a generous contribution from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and through support from the Israel Embassy and Israeli House as well as IAC, Masa Israel and the Deborah Lerner Gross Jewish Cultural Arts Center at the Berman Hebrew Academy.

For more information about the events and to purchase tickets, visit our website here!

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Our Religion is Political

Just days before the most contentious presidential election in our lifetime, it would be unwise for a DC rabbi like me to rant about anything political. I’d risk alienating people. I’d risk my organization’s tax-exempt status. And let’s be honest – the last thing anyone cares about is a rabbi’s thoughts on this election.

In America, politics and religion are separate and should stay that way. After all, that’s a foundational principle of our government.

But it’s not a foundational principle of the Jewish religion.

A central objective of the entire Torah is establishing a just government. Our religious scholars have written countless commentaries analyzing and developing Judaism’s political ideas and ideals. Granted, most of these texts were written when Jews had little political power and were not written about America. But would anyone really think our religious tradition of over 3,000 years has nothing to say about this current election?

Even regarding our government, the “separation of church and state” is often misunderstood. This separation means that America has no established religion. As a religious minority group in America, we should be deeply grateful for the religious freedom that we enjoy in this country – a freedom that we have so rarely experienced throughout our long history (see Passover, Purim, Channukah, the Crusades, etc.).

But this separation does not mean that church and state have no connection to each other, and this myth misrepresents the purview of both politics and religion. Both, at their core, are about values, morality, and visions for an ideal society. This shared essence is exactly why our government, at its founding, was profoundly influenced by Judaism. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, “the United States is the only country today whose political discourse is framed by the idea of covenant.” To divorce politics or religion from conversations about values, to pretend our politics aren’t a reflection of our morality, to restrict religion to “praying to God,” ignores this intersection and makes religion sterile.

Of course your rabbi shouldn’t tell you who to vote for.

Of course America should not enforce any particular religious practice or ideology.

Of course it’s scary to think about religion having real implications in the real world.

But shouldn’t it? If religion has no effect in the world, then what’s the point?

Everything that is consequential is, in one way or another, “political.” If our religion has nothing to say about “politics,” we render religion inconsequential. When I hear rabbis say “I don’t like to talk about politics,” what I hear is: “I’m too afraid of alienating people to talk about anything meaningful.”

I won’t tell you how to vote. But I will tell you how to be religious. Or more precisely, how not to be religious. If your Judaism is only about singing songs in synagogue, about feeling proud, about getting together with friends and family… and yet has nothing to say about the world you live in or how to live in it, then you certainly aren’t fully realizing what it means to be a religious Jew.

So go vote. It’s not only what responsible citizens should do. It’s also what religious Jews should do.

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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November in the City

30 in the City (1)

Novmeber is here and it is kinda, sometimes getting cold. Hillah is here to help you pick out some Jewish events for those who are 30 in the City!

Make History with Us: The 1876 Synagogue is Moving, Again

When: Thursday, November 3, at around 10:00 AM

Where: The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (701 Third Street NW, Washington, DC)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Bring your family and friends to witness the historic building make its SECOND move, an exciting step in our transformation. The move is estimated to take an hour. The Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum will move 30-40 feet into Third Street, NW. In a few years, the synagogue’s THIRD and final move — one block south to Third & F Streets, NW — will bring it to its permanent site, where it will become the heart of our new museum.
What makes this event cool?

It is not every day that you get to witness a building being picked up and moved a few feet, let alone a synagogue! For all history buffs and “everything Jewish” enthusiasts, this could be a once in a lifetime event. Also, it is down the street from the Building Museum, which makes it a perfect field trip for children!

Who should go?

You like history, architecture, and Transformers (they’re literally lifting up and moving an entire building)! If I could get out of work to watch this, I would be there in a heartbeat.

Cost: FREE

More Info: here

 

Get Out the Vote

vote`When: Tuesday, November 8. Shifts can be selected between 6:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Where: Sixth & I Historical Synagogue (600 I Street NW, Washington, DC)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Looking to do more than cast your vote on Election Day? As part of a non-partisan Get Out the Vote effort, come volunteer with us through the Election Protection Coalition and its partner organization in Alexandria, VA. Help with various tasks including phone-banking, canvassing, or providing rides to the polls.

What makes this event cool?

Let’s talk for a second about what actually makes America great. America is great because we have the right to vote regardless of whether you’re a woman or man, black or white, Jewish or Muslim. All of our voices count. Helping others get to the voting booth on November 8 is probably one of the biggest mitzvahs you can do this year.

Who should go?

You are a political enthusiast, love volunteering, and don’t have to be at work that day. Also, if you have small children, this is a great opportunity to teach them about the democratic process.

Cost: FREE

Register: here

 

Man-O-Manischewitz

man-o-manischewitz_resizeWhen: Wednesday, November 9, 7:00 PM – 8:15 PM

Where: DCJCC (1529 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food traces how all-American products like Coca-Cola and Jell-O tried to become kosher, the debates among rabbis over the incorporation of modern science into Jewish law, and the story of how Manischewitz wine became the first kosher product to win over non-Jewish consumers.

What makes this event cool?

There is no better way to digest the 2016 election than by schmoozing over the history of food in America, especially when it is the countdown to Thanksgiving. Learn about what makes American food great and how it fits into your kosher pantry.

Who should go?

You like food – Check. You like to cook – Check. You love being around people and discussing food at the same time – CHECK!

Cost: FREE

Register: here

 

Pre-Conference Alex & Ani Event for the Young Women’s Leadership Conference

When: Thursday, November 10, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Where: Alex & Ani Georgetown (3068 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Pre-Conference kick-off! This event, which precedes JWI’s annual Women to Watch celebration, is an opportunity for young professional women to interact with and learn from accomplished Jewish women in a variety of fields – technology, science, entertainment, philanthropy, business, spirituality, and more – and it is totally worth it. All of the featured speakers are current or former Women to Watch honorees who have made exceptional contributions in their professional lives and communities. After a series of workshops that will cover issues and topics important to women today, the conference will conclude with one-on-one sessions with the speakers in a speed networking event, followed by a wine and cheese reception.

What makes this event cool?

Ok, so this is a bit of an early plug (the JWI Conference is happening in December), but I know how fast December arrives on our doorsteps. It is not every day that you get to be upfront and personal with some dynamic and earth-shaking women. Some exceptional women will be at the conference, including Meryl Frank, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, and Ellen Stone, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Bravo and Oxygen Media. Go to the Pre-Conference Alex & Ani Event to learn more about the conference!

 Who should go?

You know there is more to do than just your job, you are meant to grow and become something bigger. You love being around pro-active women like yourself.

Cost: FREE

Registerhere 

 

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Personal Finance Resources for Beginners

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In September, I spoke at the brunch portion of Bossed Up Bootcamp here in Washington, DC. It was an honor to be able to speak to the amazing women who had gathered together to be trained on how to craft sustainable careers and happy lives. Especially because I was literally in their seat last summer.

One of the questions I was asked was what resources I would recommend to someone who is just starting to sort out their financial life. It can be overwhelming trying to dive into the personal finance realm, and the breadth of information can be discouraging.

So, I wanted to share some of my favorite financial resources with you. I hope you find them as helpful as I do!

Books

Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams by David Bach

This is one of the first personal finance books I ever read. It was recommended to me by the “office mom” when I was a baby intern in DC, and I haven’t looked back. If you feel like this book won’t speak to you, don’t worry! David Bach has written many books about investing, debt, retirement, and more.

Financially Fearless by Alexa Von Tobel

I’ve been obsessed with LearnVest pretty much since they launched, and I was not disappointed by this book. It breaks down financial issues into digestible chunks, using compelling, understandable language.

Money: A Love Story by Kate Northrup

I read this book when I first decided to become a financial coach. The author spends a lot of time talking not just about money, but about your own personal relationship with money. I initially thought it was a little too “woo woo” for me, but I ended up loving it. I quote it on my social media all the time. You can’t fully address your financial problems until you understand the emotions behind them.

Sacred Success by Barbara Stanny

This book was recommended to me by my lovely friend and life coach, Jess Lyons. It shows women that they are able to achieve wealth and power on their own.

Don’t forget: to save money on books, you can always use your local library. There are plenty all over DC. They even let you rent books via your Kindle or other e-reader! If you like to own books and write in them, ThriftBooks has awesome, cheap used books.

Blogs

Daily Worth

This company was founded by Amanda Steinberg because she didn’t feel like financial literature was in any way geared towards women. She, like me, aims to advance women’s financial confidence and wealth. This website is a good start for learning about personal finance, whether or not you’re a woman.

Mr. Money Mustache

I haven’t reach much of this site yet, but a few of my clients love it! He uses some tough love and personal experience to show readers how to get their finances under control.

LearnVest

I already mentioned LearnVest above when I recommended the book written by its CEO. But this business also publishes daily articles on many different financial issues. You can sign up to get them delivered directly to your inbox. Bonus: Like Mint, LearnVest also has a free budgeting program that you can use to have all of your financial information in one place.

The Financial Diet

I’ve been reading Chelsea Fagan’s work since she was at Thought Catalog, so I was excited to see that she founded a personal finance blog. You’ll find articles about pretty much every aspect of life (since money affects everything). And now, I’m actually a regular contributor to the website! Keep an eye out for my byline.

Podcasts

I am borderline obsessed with podcasts, but I’ll be honest – I don’t listen to many podcasts that deal with money. I focus mainly on history and entrepreneurship right now. However, I do know of some podcasts that you might find useful and interesting.

Her Money Matters: Money Talk for Women

Death, Sex and Money

Best Work/Best Life from Kathy and Mo

Profit. Power. Pursuit.

Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn

Coaching

I would also like to offer myself up as a financial resource to those in Washington, DC (and beyond). I am a Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach. I mainly work with women, but I am excited to help anyone who wants to take control of their finances and live the life they’ve been dreaming of.

I work one-on-one as a coach, send out a weekly Money Monday newsletter, speak at events like The Art of the Side Hustle, and I host monthly Money Circle meetings in DC.

If you’d like to learn more, schedule a free discovery call with me!

Do you have any other financial resources that you’d like to recommend? Share with me on Twitter!

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Walk of Shame – Jewish Identity the Morning After

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Besides being Halloween, this Monday night is also the beginning of the new Jewish month of Cheshvan, known as Mar Cheshvan (“bitter Cheshvan”) because of its lack of holidays. What an ironic juxtaposition of holidays – one is associated with sweet candy, the other is associated with bitterness. I for one will be honoring both by handing trick-or-treaters fresh cuts of bitter herb.

For many of us, our Jewish identity centers on the holidays. So before we hibernate from being Jewish like little Jew bears (Jew Bear-ymore… possible Halloween costume?), emerging two months later for the next Jewish holiday of Channukah, I’d like to challenge this holiday-based connection that many of us have.

To be clear, I love Jewish holidays. They help us mark the passage of time in our own lives, they push us to reflect on certain ideas and values, and they bind us to our people’s history. Even for those who don’t believe in the history or connect to the message, Jewish holidays are still great opportunities to gather with friends and family.

f40de42d-8045-43bd-ace6-22f8258191feBut that can be hard to do when all of these holidays are not in sync with the American calendar. (The Jewish calendar is both lunar and solar, which is why Jewish holidays fall on different dates in the Gregorian calendar each year.) If you’re from outside the DMV area, it’s much easier to travel to family on American holidays like July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas than it is to take off a random day or two in the middle of the week for Rosh Hashana or Passover. And without a group of friends who live nearby and are also interested in celebrating, the holidays could be isolating and lonely.

The issue with connecting to our Judaism only on holidays goes beyond the practical challenges. It also limits Judaism to certain days during the year, allowing us to compartmentalize it in our life – to put it in a box like our menorah and seder plate, to be taken out only a few times a year. Holidays alone are not enough to build community, maintain a spiritual connection or sustain personal growth; they are infrequent and meant as a supplement to Jewish life. Tapping into Judaism only around the holidays also limits Judaism to certain historical/agricultural events and the particular values and ideas associated with them. There is no Jewish holiday for charity, sex, or gratitude… yet our tradition is far from silent on these topics.

In Judaism we welcome each major holiday with a blessing over wine (except, of course, on Yom Kippur). There’s an interesting debate in the Talmud about what to sanctify first – the wine itself, or the special day. Hillel the Elder says we bless the wine first because it is more common. To me, this answer reveals something deep about being Jewish. Yes, holidays are great, but they are by nature a break from our routine. Judaism is, at its core, meant to be lived in the day-to-day, guiding us through and occasionally elevating the mundane. Perhaps Mar Cheshvan, with no holidays in sight, is the perfect opportunity to think about what that could look like. What Jewish value, idea or practice informs, or could inform, your daily life?

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 Advocate of the Week – Ben

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Ben was nominated as Jewish Advocate of the Week by fellow Tufts alumni and Jewish Foodie of the Week, Julie. I had the opportunity to ask Ben about his diverse interests, how they come together in his work and life, and of course who his favorite Jew is! Learn more about Ben in his interview below.

Know someone who you think should be Person of the week? Nominate them!

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Ben: DC is the third city I have lived in; I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and went to school in the Boston area. In my mind, these three cities are very similar. They are of a similar geographic size, have fantastic cultural institutions, and have strong communities (Jewish and otherwise). I spent a summer in DC while I was in college, and knew I could see myself living here afterward. During my senior year, I was able to find a job in the city.

Jackie: In college, you studied Peace and Justice Studies and Physics. What drew you to these polar opposite pursuits?

2016-09-04-12-37-10Ben: The first time I walked into a physics class, I fell in love with the subject. Math had always come easily to me, but I found it boring. With physics, math finally had a use and a fantastic one with that! Early physics courses so clearly translate to our experienced reality (mechanics, magnetism, etc.), that I was able to apply this framework to my universe in a way that thrilled me. I felt compelled to learn as much as I could about the subject.

However, I’ve always had a commitment to doing something for others beyond myself. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and there has always been a nagging within me to make sure I make a difference in the world. Tufts University, where I attended college, offered this interdisciplinary program in Peace and Justice Studies, which I was immediately drawn to. I viewed it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” major, as I was able to take courses in philosophy, anthropology, English literature, sociology, among many others. Rather than studying two disciplines, I could study five or six – but with a common thread. By the time I reached my senior year, I attempted to combine these pursuits: what is the relationship between science and society? My thesis attempted to justify government funding for scientific research, and my capstone explored the public understanding of scientific language. In my mind, they aren’t polar at all.

Jackie: You now work as a lobbyist. What causes are you advocating for?

2016-08-02-07-55-10Ben: This certainly was not a job I ever expected. I work exclusively with institutions of higher education, research associations, and laboratory facilities that are nonprofits or public. In essence, I advocate for continued public investment in scientific research. Given my background in physics, I work more on the physical sciences side, including engineering, energy research, and “smart cities.” Since WWII, the federal government has been one of the biggest funders of research on a spectrum from basic (think, discovering the Higgs Boson) to applied (think, making solar panels better). Universities and scientific societies do a great bulk of this research, and it’s important to make sure that Congress is supportive of science.

Jackie: How do you pursue your interest in Urban Planning and architecture?

Ben: This is a personal interest that I have been pleasantly surprised to also work on it in my day job. Pittsburgh (my hometown) has changed significantly over the past 30 years, not unlike many major cities throughout the U.S., including Washington, DC. There are whole wards in DC that look nothing like they did 30 years ago, and while that can come with significant benefits, it also can hurt residents who live here and who have lived here. During the Obama administration, a confluence of events led to an increased interest in cities. Open data initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels have made cities “smarter,” insofar as they are more efficient in delivering services. A number of cities have hired Chief Innovation Officers to help integrate technologies into their cities. I’m fascinated by how cities will change in the next 20 years, and getting to work with “anchor institutions,” such as universities, that are studying and changing their own cities has been a great experience. I also tend to do a lot of reading, with City Observatory, The Atlantic’s City Lab, and Planetizen all being great sources.

12961539_10154232286153968_5784365337675715953_nJackie: What do you like to do for fun in DC?

Ben: It’s incredible how much DC has to do. I try to frequent the museums as often they have new exhibits. The National Portrait Gallery/National Gallery of American Art is a favorite, as is the National Building Museum. A number of friends from both Pittsburgh and Tufts have also moved to DC, so it’s also good to see them, either grabbing a meal, walking through Rock Creek Park, or having them over for Shabbat Dinner.

Jackie: You have been on many world travels! Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Ben: Favorites are hard for me. I was just in Colombia, though, and that was an incredible experience. I traveled alone for a week in Bogota and Medellin, and so enjoyed my time there. Medellin has changed so much during my lifetime, and it was incredible to see.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Ben: Again, favorites are hard, but among Jewish historical figures I think I would go with Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… it is sure to be interesting!

 

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Dear UNESCO, You are not the UN Security Council

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Recently, a UNESCO vote was called upon for countries to debate whether or not Temple Mount was strictly a Muslim holy site. The vote was pushed by a group of Middle Eastern countries, all of whom practice Islam, and felt that Temple Mount was undergoing discrimination. Specifically, many governments surrounding Israel, including Palestine, were furious that Jewish right-wing protesters chose to appear within Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest Muslim praying grounds. This move, motived because of a belief in ‘oppression and occupation,’ now ignores religious and cultural difference that exist on the Temple Mount. While browsing through my Facebook newsfeed and the immediate CNN and BBC phone updates, one headline stood out: ‘UNESCO votes to give Palestinians Temple Mount’.

Now, not only did that headline so drastically exaggerate the situation, it, unfortunately, implied that what happened during the UNESCO vote was one step towards anti-Semitism and another towards worldwide hatred for Israel. In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to take the time to reiterate that new sources have you fooled.

What the media fails to highlight is that the UNESCO vote does show improvement against Israeli sentiments. Earlier this year, while UNESCO gathered in Paris during late April to also vote on Temple Mount in which there were 33 votes supporting Temple Mount as strictly Muslim (yes votes) and 17 abstentions. The vote called earlier last week resulted in only 24 yes votes and 26 abstentions. Nine countries changed their vote from yes. NINE. Those that moved to abstain were France, Argentina, India, Spain, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Guinea and Togo and one voted no.

This small alteration is in itself an achievement for Israeli diplomacy. Furthermore, while Brazil voted yes, it still heavily argued against the specificity of Temple Mount becoming ‘strictly’ Muslim. Additionally, Mexico switched its vote, no longer supporting the UNESCO vote. Moreover, not a SINGLE European country voted yes for the resolution.

However, while this is an achievement for Israel diplomacy, there are still conflicts that arise from the approval of the UNESCO Resolution. First, the Old City in Jerusalem is split into four quarters. Not a single new source mentions the fury the Armenians must feel in regards to overlooking their portion of the historical claim to the land and the Christ Church Jerusalem. In addition, while Temple Mount does contain Dome of the Rock (Qubbat As-Sakhrah), it also contains the holy Jewish Western Wall and borders directly with one of the holiest Christian sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I have had the luck of walking through the Old City cobble streets, touching the walls that border the city and the four religions within, entering all of the churches, sitting on the grounds of Qubbat As-Sakhrah, and placing my note within the ancient cracks of the Western Wall. I have related to every human that connected with the age and importance of the city, and I have witnessed hundreds and thousands of tourists visit these sites for their personal redemption and religious needs and wants. I have watched people cry, bent over, in all four of these sacred sites.

It is absurd that UNESCO has chosen a political route in a city split in four. UNESCO stands for United Nations Educations, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. None of those words defines UNESCO state political interest. To be frank, it is ironic that an organization that prides itself in cultural respect is now imposing political will on a city that uniquely holds more historical and religious diversity than anywhere in the world, and in doing so, has chosen to highlight only one.

UNESCO’s history seems to contradict this resolution. When Jerusalem’s Old City became a World Heritage site in 1981, proposed by Jordan, it was stated that:

“The Ramparts represent the Ottoman boundaries of the 16th century and enclose within it the built sites of the Temple Mount/Haram el-Sharif and the Christian shrines of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa.

Jerusalem between these hills, forms a unique witness to the cultural cradle of the Western monotheistic religions, including Jewish sites identified during, the Temple periods, including the City of David Christian sites identified by Queen Helena including Gethsemane, the Church of the Ascension, Bethany, and the site of the Last Supper, and Islamic sites of the Night Journey of Mohammed.”

Therefore, this vote seems to not ideally respect the four religions within the Old City and the original reflection from the 20th century. Even in its mission statement, UNESCO aims to ‘contribute to peace and security by promotion collaboration among the nations through education, science, and culture.’ In a vote made up a majority abstaining votes, and one that has already led to the opposite of security and disorder, this seems to strongly contradict the very fundamentals of the organization.

So, to close this, I view the vote as a humorous effort of a UN branch to further discredit its legitimacy around the world. This vote, criticized both by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, achieved nothing. Nothing in Jerusalem will change.

Jerusalem contains political turmoil and injustices. However, let us remember that fighting fire with fire will only create more chaos. Perhaps it is time for the United Nations to either impose security in religious sites or learn that what used to be a powerful, respected, steadfast organization is now a political diplomatic machine.

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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Community Gone Missing

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The line I hear most when getting coffee with Jewish 20s and 30s around the city is: “I want to get more involved in the Jewish community.”

Let’s set aside, for now, the disquieting reality that “the Jewish community” doesn’t exist. Our organization’s name, Gather the Jews, might fuel this misconception by implying that there is a central place where ALL the Jews gather – spoiler alert: there isn’t. (If you’re interested in reading more about a variety of issues related to “the Jewish community,” check out the most recent issue of Sh’ma Now, for which I wrote the introductory essay.) And let’s also shelve the questions of what “getting involved” in a Jewish community looks like and why that is so important to Jews.

Before we can have those important conversations, we first need to address a more basic issue that is not unique to being Jewish: We have lost the concept of community. So what is a community? I’ve heard the word used to describe people at a concert, a yoga class, a local coffee shop, and fellow commuters on the Metro. When it is used to describe any gathering of people, it loses its meaning and we lose the aspiration to belong to one.

Parker Palmer, the Quaker elder and activist, recently shared: “I went to Washington, D.C. and became a community organizer working on issues of racial justice. Five years later, I realized that I was trying to lead people towards something that I had never really experienced for myself, namely community.”

What components are critical to help create an authentic community? I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts, but here are four criteria of mine:

1) A community is more than a feeling – you need to actually communicate with each other, learn about each other holistically, and know what is going on in each others’ lives. That you recognize the same 15 people at your spin class each week is not enough.

2) A community is not limited to a particular time. Of course communities can dissolve, but they don’t form instantly and shouldn’t have a pre-set expiration date. Something that happens once or twice – like High Holiday services – constitutes only an isolated experience or program and is not the basis for an ongoing community.

3) A community is also not limited to a particular place. There needs to be a way for people within the community to encounter each other regularly, and a particular location can help facilitate that. But a community cannot be defined by any one place. Sorry, Birthright bus, but if you don’t stay connected after returning to the States, then that community has ceased to exist.

4) A community is more than a group of friends – it brings people together for a larger purpose. That purpose can be artistic, political, or intellectual (to name a few) but it must be more than social.

Few of us, if any, have experienced a community that meets all of these criteria. These types of communities are hard to find and difficult to build. But our tendency to put the label community on any gathering of people might reflect a desire to belong to something deeper. And acknowledging this need might provide us with the motivation to start exploring ways to fulfill it.

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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Opening Your Doors During the Holidays & Hosting Those Who Are New to DC

After graduating from a university in the area, many of my friends had moved away. For the first time in a long time, I found myself without an easy answer for what to do for the high holidays. Knowing there were other people in similar situations, volunteering to become a High Holiday Host with Gather the Jews gave me the chance to explore young professional Jewish life in DC and meet people along the way.

On Erev Rosh Hashannah, I met up with a girl for happy hour before services at Sixth & I where we bonded over our love for Jewish summer camps and our new jobs. She later met me for Kol Nidre services and a break fast at my house. In the spirit of hachnasat orchim (hospitality), and because I believe that celebration is a group activity, I chose to invite friends and strangers without a place to go for the holidays to my house. Expecting only 6 people at first, I was overjoyed that my house was filled on break fast with seemingly endless food and 19 new friends. It felt great to help create a new community that far surpassed my expectations, but more than anything, my house filled with people with full bellies felt like home.
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In an effort to recreate that feeling, I  hope to host more holidays like this in the future, and I hope that if you are ever left without a place to celebrate a holiday, you reach out.

Happy Wednesday,

Andrea

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