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Jewish Artist of the Week: Josef

This past week, Jackie had the opportunity to interview artist and activist, Josef. Josef  specializes in intermedia work that challenges social constructs and redefines Tikkun Olam. Read on to find out where in DC you can spot Josef’s work, and learn about his upcoming projects.

Jackie: You work locally as an artist and arts organizer here in DC, what kind of art do you create?88041628-30e3-4940-a7d9-4286ffe0c8f8

Josef: I create immersive art experiences for my audiences – that is, intermedia work that expresses the themes and concepts I’m addressing across various artistic forms all at once, such as audio/video, live performance, installation/sculpture, as well as more traditional forms of visual art folks are used to seeing.  I want people to engage with my projects on a fully interactive level, allowing their own experiences and biases to inform their subjective takeaways from the work I’ve created, oftentimes in collaboration with other artists, and exhibited in what I always aim to be really creative, contrarian ways that shift paradigms  and expectations of what art can be and do.

Jackie: Where can we see some of your art?

Josef: The majority of my projects these days are rooted in the ephemeral and experiential, so unfortunately, that means you have to catch my art live and in person!  However, in 2010, I was contacted by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities to contribute to a neighborhood public art initiative, and a piece I designed titled Clean Slate was purchased by the District of Columbia and put on permanent installation inside the fountain plaza on 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights.  Clean Slate is meant to represent a chalkboard – as a “clean slate”, if you will, which is exactly how I perceive the rebirth and revitalization of Columbia Heights following the riots that shook the area in the 1960s.  The messaging of Clean Slate encourages residents to leave their mark on the mosaic’s black tiles using sidewalk chalk, while simultaneously reminding viewers to also leave their mark by helping to create a sense of community in the neighborhood.  It’s always fun to walk by the piece when I’m in Columbia Heights to see things like yard sale announcements, poems, and doodles from kids written on it.

Jackie: What first inspired you to get involved in activism?c546183d-4ad9-4a6b-a0f4-b2f5bd7bf862

Josef: Without a doubt, my Judaism inspired me to get involved in activism. In college, I was really engaged in activism on the crisis in the Darfur region of what is now the Republic of South Sudan, where a genocide was taking place for many years.  As Jews, we are told to heed the call of “never again” when it comes to crimes against humanity, so I coordinated tzedek campaigns with my campus Hillel group to help raise awareness and inspire action on these issues. I think pursuit of tikkun olam is an imperative for the Jewish community and the world in which we live.  It’s definitely something that inspires my work as an artist, too. I want my work to transcend societal constructs and bring the humanity back to the humanities.

Jackie: How did you first get involved with a Wider Bridge?

Josef: They commissioned me for my first internationally-focused community arts project last summer to creatively interpret the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Israel and Palestine for audiences back home.  As an artist, I was curious to find cultural connections to our queer communities here in the United States with those I encountered in the Middle East, and I wanted to create some kind of project for A Wider Bridge to highlight the things that relate to all of us who exist beyond the global heteronormative hegemony.  Upon my return to DC, I presented the distillation of my experiences abroad as a one-night-only salon-style “happening” titled TAKE OFF THE MASC, curated around my own interests in the concept of a global LGBTQ community and the masculinity paradox gay men struggle with in our collective culture worldwide.

Jackie: You are now involved with planning the Beyond the Bridge cocktail reception, what is this event about and who should think about attending?

Josef: Yes!  I’m on the host committee for the Beyond the Bridge reception, and our event takes place on Saturday, March 19, from 8:30 to 10:30pm at Acadiana in Mount Vernon Square.  This will be an informal kick-off to AIPAC’s annual conference, opening the following day, and we’ve assembled a great group of speakers to talk about the latest in LGBTQ advocacy in Israel and around the world.  We’ll also have an open bar, selections from Acadiana’s amazing Cajun-Creole menu, and live entertainment that I’m keeping under wraps for now.  Come see what it will be!

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Josef: My favorite Jew is my great friend Daniel.  Neither of us are all that religious per se, but he inspires me to stay connected to the culture and find meaningful intersections with my life and Judaism.  I like to say he’s my spiritual big brother!

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Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Josef: Mofletta!  It’s kind of crepe generally topped with honey, butter, or in my case, Nutella, it’s typically the first leavened food Moroccan Jews eat after Passover.  It’s also a lot of fun to make.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Josef: You’ll feel an instant sense of community.  There’s a shared fundamental connection that unites us all, and I think it’s truly remarkable.

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30 in the City- March Event Guide

30 in the City (1)

We’ve hit another month in the district and that means a calendar packed full with Jewish Events. Not sure what to choose from? Never fear Hillah went through the calendar and pick some great events for those of us who are 30 in the City! (Think there are some great events people should know about this month? List them in the comments!)

brave miss world“Brave Miss World” Screening

When: Tuesday, March 8, at 6:00 PM

Where: TBD

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Join JWI and the Israeli Embassy for International Women’s Day for a celebration of brave Jewish women with a screening of the acclaimed documentary Brave Miss World.

What makes this event cool?

Not only is this an award-winning movie, it will also be a great opportunity to speak to representatives of both the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Women International about their outreach when it comes to humanitarian rights for Jewish women internationally.

(Extra perk: Lt. Colonel Nataly Tavor, Defense Attaché for the Embassy of Israel, will be guest speaking!)

Who should go?

Women’s rights are a key passion of yours and you enjoy celebrating and discussing related topics with other women.

Cost: Free

Register: Here

 

civil-discourse-weeble-620x300Civic & Interfaith Partnership Celebration

When: Wednesday, March 9, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Where: Adas Israel Congregation (2850 Quebec Street NW, Washington, 20008)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

A celebration of civic and interfaith partnership! Restoring civility to the public discourse is a panel discussion featuring Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, Greater Washington Urban League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and AJC Washington.

What makes this event cool?

With the current political climate, some nasty things are being said about what has historically made America great. The US is a melting pot and this is a great event on how to restore civic and interfaith partnerships, how groups can learn from each other through collaboration, and about working together to create a more diverse and open community.

Who should go?

You like speaker series, are engage with your community, and looking for new ideas on how to get involved or give back.

Cost: Free

RegisterHere 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.09.24 AMADL NextGen Launch Reception

When: Thursday, March 17, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Where: Center for American Progress (1333 H Street NW, 6th Floor, Washington, DC 20005)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

ADL NextGen is the young professional branch of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington, DC Region. ADL NextGen seeks to unite the next generation of leaders committed to the mission of ADL – to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Come hear stories from ADL partners about the impact their leadership with ADL is having on the community, experience interactive information stations, test yourself at trivia, network with other local young professionals, and more!

What makes this event cool?

This is an opportunity to learn about the ADL and how young professionals can be involved. Always wanted to take your lawyer skills to the next level? Enjoy advocating for human rights? This an opportunity to relax after work, ask questions, and mix and mingle in a relax atmosphere.

Who should go?

All you do-gooders out there in the world. People who enjoy in-depth conversation while swirling their wine glasses.

Cost: Free

Register: Here

 

refugeeSeeking Refuge: Young Voices, Stories of Resilience

When: Monday, March 28, 7:00 PM

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

What the organizers have to say about the event: 

Join JDC Entwine for an evening of inspiring story-telling. Hear first-hand from young adults who’ve sought refuge in the face of global conflict in the Middle East & Soviet Union.

PLUS: Learn how Jewish humanitarian aid organizations like JDC & HIAS have worked to help refugees and displaced persons throughout history and today.

What makes this event cool?

Understanding how migration has changed in today’s world with today’s conflicts is a necessity of life. Further, as we learn more about the refugees in Europe, let us not forget that these people are leaving other countries behind.

Who should go?

Your coworker is boring you to death with her watercooler stories. You enjoy narration and storytelling and it just so happens that migration, immigration, and resettlement are close to your heart.

 Cost: $10 for one/$18 for two

Register: Here

 

Want more? Check Out:

Get your Purim on with the Jewish Food Experience Pre-Purim Palooza, Sixth and I Historical Synagogue’s Purim 2016: Make Shushan Great Again, and brought to you by more organizations than I can list The DC Purim Bash.

 

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Who’s Ready for the DC Purim Bash 3.0?

Purim Bash team (2)
What are you up to on Saturday night, March 19?

A bunch of DC’s most exciting Jewish 20’s and 30’s organizations have been collaborating for months to book one of the hottest venues in the city, an open bar, great music, lighting, and hamentashen (of course), to make this DC Purim Bash the best one yet. We here at Gather reached out to the planners of this shindig for a little DC Purim Bash Q&A.

Jackie: Who am I going to see there, and what will they be wearing?

Marcy: I think the more important question is “Who won’t you see there?” The DC Purim Bash is THE place to be if you are a young Jewish professional in the DC metro area. Young professionals in our world means ages 21 – 39. There will be singles, there will be couples, there will be exes, and for some lucky people, there might even be future partners. As far as attire, we want you to look your best. Most people in years past have been in cocktail attire, but we’re not picky. Maybe you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to come in costume as one of the Presidential candidates. Perhaps you just bought an amazing pair of jeans, cowboy boots, and bolo tie. Whatever you choose, make sure to dress it up with a smile. Oh and maybe most importantly when figuring out your outfit… there will be a coat check; free of charge!

– Marcy Spiro is the Director of Membership Engagement at Adas Israel Congregation

Jackie: How would you describe this year’s Purim Bash… in haiku form?

Stacy: Celebrate Purim

              Mingle, drink, nosh, and sway, until

             Haman goes away

– Stacy Miller is the Manager of EntryPointDC

Jackie: Why did you decide to join the DC Purim Bash team?

Emily: Being a part of the DC Purim Bash team combines all of the things that I love about my job—creating open, fun, welcoming spaces for DC Jewish young professionals to gather together—but with the other amazing Jewish organizations in the area. The Federation, 2239, Adas Israel, and EntryPoint all put on such fabulous programming on their own; being able to collaborate with everyone on this team to pull from the strengths of each organization is a dream come true.

– Emily Zeller is the Young Professional Event Associate at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

Jackie: Why do tickets cost $45?

Aaron: The Purim Bash is a totally break-even celebration. The ticket price only covers the hard costs of putting on the event. We took the total cost and divided it by 400 tickets (this is our fire-code capacity, so seriously, get your ticket ASAP before they sell out). That’s how we got the ticket price. Our warm and fuzzy goal is to celebrate all of the things that make DC the most welcoming and collaborative young professionals Jewish community in the country. Our financial goal is to make $0 at the end. We really want to keep the tickets as inexpensive as possible.

– Rabbi Aaron Miller runs 2239 as the Associate Rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation

Jackie: When can I get tickets, and what happens when tickets sell out?

Rachel: You should get your ticket NOW by clicking here! The price goes up March 15th, and we are only able to sell 400 tickets (fewer than in past years), so I wouldn’t wait. The DC Purim Bash sells out every year, but even if you can’t get a ticket, you can still join us for the after-party at Station 4 on the Southwest Waterfront!

– Rachel Barton is the NEXT DC Coordinator for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Jackie: Thanks Marcy, Stacy, Emily, Aaron, and Rachel for everything you’re doing to plan the best DC Purim Bash ever. I can’t wait to see everyone there!

 

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Jewish Connector of the Week – Tammy!

Jackie: What first brought you to DC? FullSizeRender

Tammy: I first came to DC for undergrad to immerse myself in the politics, cultural events and diversity of the city. I apparently like this city a lot because I’ve been here for almost 9 years?! Being an Arizona girl at heart, I’m not sure I will ever get used to winter, but I love being surrounded by so many opportunities to engage in the community.

Jackie: You currently work as a School Counselor at a DC Public School. Can you tell us a little bit about your work? 

Tammy: Sure, I work at a preschool-8th grade education campus. When I say I’m a school counselor, many people assume I work with high schoolers. They are so intrigued to learn that my main focus is advocating for the youngest students. Yes, many of us didn’t have school counselors in elementary school, but my position was created to serve some of the neediest students in the district. Besides meeting with students individually and in groups to improve self regulation, social skills and academic achievement, I’ve helped create programs such as the school’s inaugural career day and an elite scholar’s program. I also took some students who were too young to actually attend a scheduled college tour to college for a visit!

Jackie: I hear you like cooking with CSA ingredients in your free time. What’s your favorite dish to cook? 

Tammy: Yes, I had a CSA during the summer months. I loved being creative with whatever fruits and vegetables came in the share and adding fresh garlic or spicy peppers to almost anything. (My least favorite dish I made was a bitter melon stir fry).

Jackie: Do you have a favorite Jewish food? 

Tammy: My favorite food would have to be matzo ball soup on a cold day. Also, anything with tehini! I just bought tehini and made hummus and (gluten free) tehini cookies. I also love being creative with food. Last Rosh Hashanah, I made a charoset ice cream!

Jackie: You’re an Open Doors Fellow for Gather the Jews. What is your favorite part of the Fellowship so far?

Tammy: My favorite part of the fellowship has been meeting various people around the city. I have loved rediscovering different events, neighborhoods and groups through of lense of making these spaces more welcoming for all. I have also enjoyed getting to know the other fellows, spending our Tuesday evenings discussing how to make the DC Jewish community a smaller, more connected, more inclusive space for the unaffiliated to the most observant.

Jackie: What else do you like to do in your free time?

Tammy: I have joined an intramural basketball team and I like  to flamenco dance. After a long day I enjoy a good workout and  de-stressing in the steam room.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat? 

Tammy: My favorite Shabbat would be spent in Israel, walking around the shuk and buying fresh ingredients and the best rugelach in the world. I love how it seems like the whole world stops for 24 hours in Jerusalem and you are “forced” to relax and be mindful for a day. Since that hasn’t happened in a few years, a close 2nd would be spending Shabbat with friends in DC in a smaller setting. Anything that involves good friends, good food and some relaxation.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…a Jewish geography game and twice as much as necessary :)

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He Fudged His Height. Was it Okay?

I had a date about a year ago with a guy I met on OkCupid. He seemed handsome, witty, and intelligent—certainly enough to get my attention—so we decided to meet for brunch the following Sunday. (I prefer drinks on a first date, and that’s what I advise my clients, but I couldn’t resist the bacon… blush.)

When I walked in, I spotted him immediately. He had a great smile, just like in his pictures. So far, so good. He was already sitting at a table, but he got up when I walked in. (Points for chivalry.) When he stood up, though, I noticed that he was only about two inches taller than I am. I’m 5’1, so height is actually not something that I care about in a partner. Regardless, it wasn’t his height that irked me… it was the fact that he lied about it.

Given that I’m the honest (blunt?) person that I am, I blurted out, “You’re not 5’7!” He says, “Well, I’m 5’5.” I go, “Okay, you’re not, but why did you lie about it?” Nothing. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I stayed to have a great conversation, and at one point, I innocently asked if he had children since I knew he was 39 and had been previously married. Before he responded, he awkwardly looked at me and said, “I have something I have to tell you.” Oy. He then proceeded to tell me that he’s not, in fact, 39, but he’s really… wait for it… 45. He told me this because he has a 19-year-old son, and he figured I might do the math.

Now, as a 33-year-old woman at the time, I had placed my age parameters at 27 to 39, or six years on either side of my own age. He had lied by six years, seemingly to get dates with women in their early 30s. I felt deceived, and I told him so. Perhaps he hasn’t been caught before, or perhaps no one was as up front as I was, but he sat there with his tail between his legs while I kindly but firmly told him that he was wasting my time, not because we didn’t have a lovely time but because he got the date through deceit.

He followed up with a very apologetic text, telling me he was sorry. I told him that rather than apologize to me, he should make sure not to do it to anyone else. And that was the last we spoke.

Why am I telling you all of this? To “height-shame” people? Of course not. More like to “lie-shame” people. This past weekend, the New York Times featured a lovely-looking Jewish couple in the wedding section titled “Stretching the Truth to Find Love Online.” The article commented on how the groom, 5’5”, had fudged his height to 5’8” to get more profile views. I, of course, see his rationale. Women often make an arbitrary cut-off of anything below 5’8”. For men’s sake, I wish that being tall (whatever that means to someone) wasn’t equated with attraction.

In 2010 (so admittedly somewhat dated), OkCupid did a study of its users to find that men (and oddly, also women) exaggerated their height by an average of two inches.

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They also showed that taller men and women, up to a certain point, are having more sex. Interesting stuff.

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As for the happy couple in the NYT, here’s what I had to say:

Thrilled for this very happy-looking couple! But, I do–and will continue to–tell my clients not to lie when online dating. Not about age, not about height, and not about accomplishments. I’m thrilled that it worked for this couple. As a general practice, though, starting on a lie is not the way to enter a new relationship, or even a date.

We remember the one story like this and not the hundreds who were called out on it, however small or large the lie was. (Just as we remember the one couple meeting on the airplane and falling in love, not all of the stories of the time you sat next to the drooling guy or the failed dates from bars.) And it’s this one story that makes others do the same. (I found this article because a client just emailed me saying this: “I’m not the only person who lies about their height… go figure. ;-)”

Do I think women specifying a certain height over which it’s “appropriate” for them to potentially start a relationship is ridiculous? You bet. In the same way I believe men should be searching for women of their own age, not some arbitrary number of years younger.

Regardless, I’m thrilled for the couple here. But don’t lie. Period.

People lie for all different reasons: they want to date younger or older, they have an aspirational weight that they like to believe they are, they want to appear more financially successful. When it comes down to it, the main reason people lie is a lack of confidence. If you’re 100% confident in who you are, then there’s no need to lie to get the date. You may go on fewer dates being the real you, but at least you’ll know that you haven’t hidden anything. Everyone has that “thing” that holds them back or is perceived as a red flag to others: height, weight, age, religion, race, level of education, etc. I would have encouraged our new friend in the article to write to anyone he wanted, even if she listed a height above her minimum, but to be up front about it. He was trying to come up in people’s searches, when a lot of the success in online dating actually comes from who you pursue.

In the end, lying generally only bites you in the tuchus because, while you and your date may get along, you got the date under false pretenses, and he or she may be wondering what else you lied about. And we know most people are us online stalking us anyway, so stick to the truth.

Or just join Tinder, where you don’t have to share your height. 😉

I actually thought this about summed it up:

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You think you have a demanding Jewish mother?

LAUNMPosterVsmllb (1)For those of you who come from homes with highly critical parents, there is hope.

Since I was a teenager, my mother has been pressuring me to have a nose job. I wish that was the worst of it, but it’s not. It has taken me decades to come to terms with the constant criticisms and belittling I endured from my mother, but I have found peace, love and healing – with the help of my mother.

This is my story.

As I said, my nose wasn’t the only thing my mother was critical about. Way before my nose started to grow to her displeasure, my curly hair was an issue. My mother was having my hair professionally straightened since I was in third grade, and I often dreamt of waking up with straight hair. That is, until I found a like-minded group, a creative crowd, which at that time in the 70s were called hippies – and I had perfect hippie hair!

However, as I grew into a young woman, my mother’s withering, caustic observations turned not only to my hair and nose, but to my body as well.

There was not an aspect of my life that wasn’t affected by this – relationships with my parents, obviously, but also with my brothers, boyfriends, peers, even my religious identity – it is impossible not to notice that the characteristics my mother most criticized in me are considered stereotypical Jewish traits.

I knew I had to forgive my mother in order move on and have a happy life.  The question was how to do so. I decided, finally, to take action. I confronted my mother, lovingly, and asked her to participate in therapy sessions with me. She agreed.

Through the therapy sessions she opened up about her own painful childhood. I started looking at her differently.  I was able to see her as a wounded child, not as my mother who should have loved and adored me.  With the added wisdom of the therapist, I was able to understand her challenges in life and with having a daughter.  There are some women who have narcissistic natures and are greatly threatened and challenged by other females, even (perhaps particularly) their own daughter.
I worked first to train myself to practice acceptance — she is who she is, and at her age, she isn’t changing. Just because she is your mother, she doesn’t automatically know how to love you unconditionally and treat you fairly.

Then came practicing understanding. I got to know through talking with her, and through therapy sessions with her, a great deal about what informed her childhood and her relationship with her parents. She has her own baggage and wasn’t born with nurturing skills.

And, I decided to forgive my mother, completely.  And it is quite liberating. It is like  ridding yourself of an addiction.  For example, when you are addicted to eating, you think about food often.  When you are hanging on to anger and resentment towards someone, it affects every aspect of your life.   The smallest thing can trigger your anger. And hanging on to those emotions affects your health, too.

When you practice forgiveness, you render your critical parent or abuser powerless, and you are free from all the criticism they express. By understanding her pain and looking at her as a wounded child when she says something insulting, her words lose the power to hurt you.

I now not only accept my mother but love her. We have a blast together. She is one of the most dynamic, funny, smart, versatile women I know. And she is in her early 90s. Don’t tell anyone — she keeps that a secret from many of her friends who are much younger than her. She is a pistol and a force. And she still sends out those zingers, but they fly right by me instead into me, and we both laugh about it.

LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! Trailer from Gayle Kirschenbaum on Vimeo.

— Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaum is the writer, director and producer (and co-star, along with her mother Mildred) of the documentary LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!, playing Feb. 25 & 28 at the Washington Jewish Film Festival.

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Jewish Buckeye of the Week – Ryan!

RL - 3This week I had the oppurtunity to interview Ryan. Origionally from Ohio, Ryan has now made DC his home. Learn more about him in our interview below.  Know anyone who should be a featured person for Gather the Jews? Nominate them!

 

Jackie: You went to school at the University of Maryland, what made you want to stay in the area?

Ryan: I love the DC area.  I became fascinated with the culture here and I am motivated by the speed at which the city moves.

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

Ryan: Nationals Park, after work, beautiful night, with a cold beer.

Jackie: You are originally from Ohio. Do you want to move back there someday?

Ryan: I’m in DC for the long term.  I’m fortunate to have a wonderful career and great friends and to be a part of the strong Jewish community here.  Family is important to me however, so I make time to go back to Ohio to visit.

Jackie: In 2012 you participated in the Federations Nexus program, what was the biggest take away you have from that program? RL - 1

Ryan: The Federation’s Nexus program helped me learn about the programming for young Jewish professionals here.  I found this to be particularly valuable being from out of state.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Food? 

Ryan: My mother makes a really good noodle pudding.  I’m open to trying any of the local versions if anyone has any recommendations?

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Ryan: Larry David.

When the Jews Gather… things get done.

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Top 5 Films to Watch at the 2016 Washington Jewish Film Festival

Now in its 26th year, the Washington Jewish Film Festival explores gender, migration, the supernatural, artists’ lives, and LGBTQ themes. In addition to the groundbreaking lineup of films, the Festival will host talkbacks and panel discussions with over 50 domestic and international filmmaker guests, as well as numerous Beyond the Films events including a storytelling showcase by Story District (complementing the Festival’s Rated LGBTQ series), a Jdate singles event, and a set of clip talks at the Library of Congress.

With over 69 films and over 150 screenings, it’s easy to get lost in this year’s Festival lineup. Here’s your list of must-see films during the 2016 Washington Jewish Film Festival.

Yona



Focusing on the early ‘60s, we witness a turbulent slice of famed Hebrew poet Yona Wallach’s life. She is just taking her first steps in the world of published poetry, battling for recognition in a chauvinistic, male-dominated and downright cynical environment.  

 

Summer Solstice



Poland, 1943 – Love, friendship and fate connect a simple Polish country boy, the daughter of a local farmer, a young German soldier and a Jewish girl from Warsaw. The four of them come across something that both threatens and provides an escape from their harsh reality: love.

 

The Hebrew Superhero


Israelis long shunned comics as something on the cultural fringe: they were deemed childish, trivial, and perhaps most cuttingly, un-Israeli. Shaul Betser and Asaf Galay outline the medium’s origins, tracing its evolution from quirky upstart to an indelible reflection on the various forms of Israeli heroes.
The film features gorgeous animation and interviews with Daniella London Dekel, Etgar Keret and Dudu Geva.

 

Demon



In this chilling, modern interpretation of the Dybbuk legend, Piotr’s joy at visiting his bride-to-be at her Polish home is quickly upended by his discovery of human bones on the property.
Marcin Wrona’s wickedly sharp and creepy story of possession is set against a bacchanal celebration of blissful union.

 

Wedding Doll




Hagit, a young woman with a mild mental disability, works in a toilet-paper factory and lives with her nurturing and protective single mother. Hagit prides herself on her independence but also dreams vividly—and daily—about marriage.
The February 25 screening will feature a Dinner and a Movie event in partnership with EntryPointDC, the DCJCC’s young professionals network. 

 

Don’t forget to join this year’s Festival kickoff event at Sudhouse DC on Thursday, February 18!

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The Oldest New Way to Do Friday Night in DC

OneTablephotox1My partner and I applied to be OneTable hosts in New York when they were first arriving on the scene; we love hosting our friends for dinners and both find that hosting in our home is the most fulfilling way to celebrate Shabbat. Going to a synagogue where we don’t know anyone and leaving immediately after services can feel cold, uninviting, and distant. A home-cooked meal feels like the Shabbats we both knew growing up, however cost and time are both factors that keep us from hosting more often.

After applying to be hosts, we were contacted by Rabbi Jess Minnen to set up an appointment.  We grabbed coffee in midtown and talked about the kind of atmosphere we hoped to create at our first dinner.  We talked about our commitment to ethically-sourced ingredients and intentional conversation.  We don’t serve kosher food or follow observant laws on Shabbat, but we try to bring the intention of mindful food choices and a present attitude to our Fridays.  Jess was very supportive of any way we wanted to observe Shabbat, and told us she was our personal on-call Rabbi if we had any questions! I must admit, the online platform where hosts posted their meals was intimidating at first; I was afraid random New Yorkers would show up at our apartment!  So we decided to attend a few programs and meals before posting out first Shabbat.

We attended a mixology workshop just for hosts where we learned how to make three fun cocktails and discussed the Jewish value of welcoming guests into our home. We also delved into the meaning behind L’Chayim, and spent the night making many toasts. There were great people there who had hosted OneTable Shabbats all over the city.  We talked about how to select attendees, whether to post an event as open, open but password protected, or invite only, and all our fears were alleviated.  We ended up going to a Shabbat at the home of an amazing couple that we met at the mixology event.  Kate and Jason’s Shabbat confirmed that OneTable was right for us.  It felt unlike any awkward Jewish singles mixer I’d been dragged to in the past.  People were there to enjoy the company, appreciate the food and have an engaging Shabbat experience.

We hosted several Shabbats after that, inviting other guests and hosts we had met through the OneTable network along with our friends and family.  I even incorporated values-driven discussions from our OneTable workshops into our events. The “nourishment options” are unlike any of the Shabbat reimbursement programs I’ve used before.  Instead of creating more work for the host by requiring receipts and follow-up reports, OneTable offers a variety of accessible delivery options for busy millennials.  Having groceries or alcohol delivered on my schedule helped alleviate the cost of hosting a large group and at the same time checked one task off my list for the event.  The options OneTable has include apps like Drizzly, Etsy, and Seamless.  It honestly couldn’t be easier to be a Shabbat host.

As newcomers to DC, we’re so happy to introduce OneTable to this community! OneTable has stepped into the home-hosted DIY Shabbat scene in thoughtful ways, effectively creating small communities within big cities. For young Jews who want an in-home Shabbat experience that is DIY and tailored to your taste, OneTable is it.  I especially love that OneTable collaborated with the JCC and Repair the World in New York.  It’s incredible that these organizations are working together to make points of access for everyone’s preference.  I can’t wait until the OneTable community in DC is up and thriving the way it is in New York. I loved scrolling through my list of options for Friday night, and feeling connected to the other hosts in my community every week.  Sign up to host a OneTable Shabbat today, or come to our next meal–we’d love to have you.

 

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Shabbat Guide

Something really incredible happened in DC. At some point in the history of Jewish DC, three major organizations in the city who are the primary providers of Shabbat experiences got together. They came up with  a Shabbat schedule that does not overlap, allowing young adults to attend the different options in a month without having to choose one over the other. Not only is this an amazing model of Jewish organizational partnership and collaboration (one that doesn’t exist in many other cities), but it also encourages us to experience a different kind of Shabbat each week.

These are four distinct Shabbat experiences, across denominations, in different parts of the city, with different styles of prayers, but all with some social component to help you meet new people. Maybe this month you want to hit up all four, or you are deciding where to spend your first Shabbat in DC. Below we have compiled a run down of these four Shabbat options. They are based on subjective experiences that community members have had at these places and we hope they paint a bit of a picture of what to expect there. (Full disclosure, we know some people enjoy Shabbat services and for others it’s just not your thing. That is so totally ok and there are lots of other ways to do Shabbat or to do Jewish. We hope the Gather the Jews website and newsletter can connect you to the full range of Jewish options in the city.) But if you are looking for a Shabbat service and meal option, here is a little guide that can get you started…


shir-delight-newFirst Friday of the Month: Adas YP’s Shir Delight

Where: Adas Israel Congregation in Cleveland Park

On the First Friday of each month, hundreds of Jews gather in Cleveland Park for drinks and services – and it’s not at the Quebec House, an apartment building near Adas Israel that somehow manages to maintain a 50% Jewish population of residents! It is for Shir Delight, Adas Israel’s young professional Shabbat. This predominantly lay-led (no Rabbi’s in the house till the sermon, although recently they’re experimenting with using their awesome rabbis to lead) Conservative service is kicked off with just the thing to loosen you up to a night of praying and eating: a happy hour. With a great selection of beer, wine, hard cider and hors d’oeuvres, you can mingle and make friends or just try to get as much of the crudité on your plate as you can. The service, usually led by one or two of your peers as you journey through Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, flows from one prayer to the other with the only interruption being someone calling out the page numbers to keep everyone on track. After services everyone (all 200+ people) shuffles into dinner where you take your seat and meet your new 8-10 best friends to share a yummy kosher meal. The room is usually still packed with people when they start ushering people out at the end of the night. And for many people, the night doesn’t end once Adas locks the doors; many continue the festivities informally at a local bar in Cleveland Park.

6thintheCityShabbatWEB59-300x215Second Friday of the Month: 6th in the City Shabbat

Location: Sixth & I in Gallery Place

Rabbi Shira Stutman’s 6th in the City Shabbat begins Sixth & I’s consecutive weekend YP Shabbat circuit. Like all of the Shabbat options we warm up with a drink downstairs where you can leave your jacket and bag because this is also the place you will be having dinner. Also for the yogis out there you can start your night with Shabbasana™: Pre-Shabbat Yoga that often links the weeks torah portion to your movements. Your dreams may come true if you happen to be there when Rick Recht is performing Cantor duties. If you haven’t been to this Shabbat yet make sure that you bring a friend who went to a Jewish summer camp that Recht played at and you can see your friend literally loose their mind with excitement during the service. (This is not an actual prerequisite to attend.) Make sure to get up and dance during the Lecha Dodi and always try to go for a spot on the bimah (stage), because some of us haven’t been there since our Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This is an accessible Shabbat experience where Rabbi Shira guides everyone through the evening. After the meal you can join your fellow congregants down stairs for a meal and some more prayers.

GoodSoulLogoSLIDERThird Friday of the Month: Good Soul Shabbat

Location: Sixth & I in Gallery Place

We have now hit the third Friday of the month and that means jamming in a spiritual sojourn lead by the brave and fearless Rabbi Scott Perlo and the great guy killing it on the drums. This journey also includes a “choose-your-own-adventure” element. You can start your night with either 45 minutes of meditation or a happy hour, whichever will get you in the right spiritual headspace for Shabbat. In this service, they really aren’t kidding with the name. Throughout the service Rabbi Scott continually calls attention to the meaning of the prayers that you might have just been going through the motions of without his guidance. He is usually accompanied by several musicians, which makes this one of the most musically focused of the Shabbat options. And once you are done singing your heart out, you of course eat dinner and you can join the jam session if you are so inclined.

2239s-Metro-Minyan---goldFourth Friday of the Month: Metro Minyan hosted by 2239

Location: Calvary Baptist Church in Gallery Place

If you live in Gallery Place, you are in a solid spot for the final Shabbat of the month. Rabbi Aaron Miller leads Metro Minyan (named so because this service takes place off-site of Washington Hebrew Congregation and brings it to a much more metro accessible location). Make sure to get there early for Shot of Torah (named such since there are drinks available) – an interactive round-table discussion in English about the Torah portion of the week, led by the fabulous and enthusiastic Rabbi Miller. You then transition to the service that makes those of you who grew up in Reform temples, summer camps, or youth groups feel right at home – with a guitar, Debbie Friedman tunes, and a Reform prayerbook. In addition to the Shot of Torah before services, two things really make this service special, especially for newbies. Rabbi Aaron asks people to stand up and introduce themselves if you’re attending Metro Minyan for the first time. If you are really shy, there’s no pressure, but it is an opportunity for you to be welcomed by the community. Speaking of first timers, if you showed up with no one, no problem! At the end of the service you can find someone on the welcoming committee to sit with and introduce you around. Another great part of the service is the chance to share your simchas (literally means celebrations, your good news from the last month) and accomplishments with the community. Whether it be big or small this is your chance to share what you have been excited about.


So there you have it – here are four great options for spending your Friday night with the Tribe. It is, afterall, the holiest day of the week for our people. I haven’t lived in other major cities but DC seems to have a pretty special and amazing Shabbat culture. And remember, there are many wonderful ways to spend your Shabbat praying or not praying if that’s not how you roll. The four Shabbats mentioned tend to be large (between 100 – 300 people) but there are many smaller scale Shabbat options, independent Shabbat options, pluralistic, vegetarian… the list goes on!

Saturdays:

  • Rosh Pina meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month
  • Mesorah DC meets on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month
  • DC Minyan meets on the  1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month
  • Segulah usually meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month

Other:

What are other ways you connect on Friday nights? Share in the comments below!

 

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If Traditional Shabbat Just Isn’t Your Thing…

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If a more formal Shabbat experience or service just isn’t your thing but you still want to do something to mark the day, here are some ideas to get you started…

5 alternative approaches to doing Shabbat:

1) Mark the day. The name for each day of the week in Judaism is in relation to Shabbat. Sunday is day one, Monday day two, etc., all the way until day 7 which is just called Shabbat. Shabbat is how Jews mark linear time. Days, weeks and months can all blend together without a regular break. By stopping to acknowledge the passing of a week, we are able to consistently assess our growth. I’ve found that a ritual is the easiest way to do this – whether it’s lighting the candles on Friday night, starting one’s Friday night meal with a blessing over wine, or wearing a different style of clothing. Do something unique at some point during the day to make it distinct.

2) Loosen the reigns. “Life goes wrong when the control of space becomes our sole concern”, writes Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Shabbat is a time to let go and put our illusion of control into perspective. There is a lot of brokenness in ourselves and in the world that needs repair, but stepping back from the role of “fixer” allows us to appreciate the world as it is and to acknowledge the aspects of our lives that are out of our control.

3) Reflect. We’re always busy, especially here in DC – too busy to think and reflect. Shabbat can and should be a time to pull ourselves out of the day-to-day and ask ourselves the bigger questions. It’s a time to focus on what’s important, not what’s urgent. Whether you prefer meditating, journaling, or going on a walk, find 30-45 minutes at some point during the day to set aside the checklist and turn inward.

4) Rest from work. Rabbinic Judaism defines work as any creative act, but feel free to define work in a way that is meaningful to you. It could be the thing you are paid to do, it could be the things that make you stressed out, it could be the things that distract you, etc. Once you have your definition, though, try to commit to refraining from those activities for the full day, or even for a few hours. See what enters your mind when you free it from those concerns.

5) Connect to others. Shabbat is also about being present with others. Many of the laws of Shabbat restrict mobility to keep you close to the people in your community (back then, and for some today, community was mostly determined by geography). Have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone. This could be over a meal, over tea, or just on a couch. It could be a group or just one-on-one. But allow yourself the pleasure of seeing and being seen.

Do you have other ideas or suggestions for how to do Shabbat outside of formal options? Please share them in the comments below!

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Shabbat Clusters Revamped: Bonding Over A Friday Night Meal

4385237204_8961b01dca_zA few weeks ago my friend (and neighbor) texted me on Friday and said she wanted to host Shabbat dinner. We decided I would bring the veggies and she would make the main dish and then I got to messaging people to join us. I had to think carefully about who to invite because at the time, Snowzilla was gearing up to take over Arlington and I was not quite sure how people would be able to get to us. I messaged two friends who lived in Clarendon and Ballston, my Jewish and non-Jewish roommate, and an acquaintance who wanted to get involved in the community. After everyone had dusted off their snow boots and sat down at the table, my acquaintance became oh-so-curious as to how everyone knew me, the only common denominator in the room.

We laughed as everyone shared their stories of how we met. One guy friend explained how he thought he was going on a “date” with our mutual friend but wound up crashing my huge Shabbat dinner party. My roommate talked about how she came out to Lox Meets Bagel, a dating event I hosted, looking for a guy and I wound up “picking her up” as she needed to find a place to live and I had a spot open in my apartment. Another guy friend teased me about how we met six years ago at a speed dating event and have kept the friendship going ever since (Anyone else noticing a theme here?)

Was it a little uncomfortable mixing my friend groups and bringing together a room full of strangers? Yes. There were moments of awkward silence, but we quickly bonded over our love of the same TV shows and that most of us did not know the blessing for hand-washing that our host graciously printed out and placed near her bathroom sink. (Wait, there is a hand-washing blessing?) Overall the night was a success- people became friends on Facebook and one person even wanted do a set-up between one of my guests and one of their friends. Snowzilla Shabbat brought this motley crew together for a meal and it got me thinking about the concept of Shabbat Clusters, the program I am currently revamping for work and participated in off and on for the past eight years.

Shabbat Clusters is a program the DCJCC runs twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Each session 150-200 young professionals sign up to be placed in a “Shabbat Cluster,” a group of 10-14 people that come together for monthly potluck style Shabbat dinners. Groups are for singles and couples and are formed based on location, age, and sometimes observance level and interests.

Sometimes the groups became BFFs and other times the groups fizzled after meeting twice. I wondered, did everyone in the room get along at Snowzilla Shabbat because I held the group together? Was it because we had similar interests or knowledge of Shabbat rituals? Maybe because we all lived in the same general neighborhood? Would anyone from the dinner organize a second Shabbat meal without me taking the lead?

One addition to the program this season is a Shabbat Cluster Committee. Each committee member will lead a cluster and help members decide when and where monthly dinners take place. They will make sure the group gels, and help guide dinner conversations when needed. I asked some of our new committee members to tell me more about their experiences with Shabbat Clusters and their thoughts regarding how the Shabbat Clusters program will be different this season.

Stacy: How long have you been involved with Shabbat clusters and why have you continued joining a cluster?

Geno: I’ve honestly lost track of how many clusters I’ve attended.  I think it’s in the 6-7 range.  I mostly keep going because they are fun, a good way to meet new people and make friends.  I’m not very plugged into the Jewish community, so this is a great way to get a foot in that door without a huge commitment.  I’m also single, and Clusters are great ways to meet other Jewish singles without the pressure of being at a dating/singles event.  They are best when you go with a friend, having a wingman never hurts. I am looking forward to being on the committee. In college I was very involved in Hillel, student government, a business fraternity, etc, but since I’ve moved to DC, I haven’t really given much of my time back.  I want to help the program succeed and grow since it’s been a big part of my Jewish identity here in DC.

Stacy: Josh, at the Mid-Season Shabbat Cluster Mixer we talked about your love of biking and you were excited when I told you we were going to be adding interest specific  Shabbat Clusters to our program this year. What aspect of the updated Shabbat Cluster program appeals to you the most?

Josh: I’ve always loved the idea of the Shabbat Clusters program, but none of my clusters have ever really worked out. It seems everyone has their own motivations for joining a Shabbat Cluster. If the cluster itself ceases to align with those expectations or motivations, participants abandon the group rather than attempt to find common ground. In some ways, I believe this is a reflection on the local culture here in Washington, DC. Stereotypically, we are ambitious, outspoken, highly motivated, moderately conceited, and extremely busy, which is a terrible recipe for encouraging any degree of flexibility in a social setting. Introducing very specific “Interest Clusters” is a pragmatic step toward resolving this problem because it establishes a meaningful common ground between the members of each cluster before they even meet for the first time. For example, a Shabbat Cluster catered toward outdoor enthusiasts could include hikers, climbers, cyclists, urban explorers, skiers/snowboarders, laser tag enthusiasts, etc., which means the members have activities they can always fall back on. Perhaps more importantly, hobbies like these are usually indicative of significant lifestyle choices and personality types, which are also likely to improve the chances of creating a meaningful and lasting rapport between participants. Interest Clusters are also then enabled to vary their gatherings and include activities other than or in addition to the actual Shabbat meal.

Stacy: Rachel, we recently met for the first time. I was so impressed with your friendly demeanor and willingness to get involved with the community that I invited you to be a part of not one, but two EntryPointDC programs (Rachel and other comedians with perform stand-up and improv at our Kiss and Kvell comedy show)  Why did you want to sign up for Shabbat Clusters program and join the Shabbat Cluster committee?

Rachel: I believe there is no better way to get to know people than over food! I grew up with weekly Shabbat dinners, and can’t wait to share this tradition with new friends.  I’m looking forward to meeting people I otherwise wouldn’t and I can’t wait to learn more about the DC Jewish Community since I recently graduated from school.

Stacy: Sarah, an option for Shabbat Clusters is to be part of a singles or couples cluster.  This year you signed up for clusters with your boyfriend. Tell me about why you wanted him to be involved in the program with you.

Sarah: My boyfriend and I signed up together so we can participate in an activity we can share. It’s always awesome when we find something we both want to do. Who doesn’t like potlucks and schmoozing?  Also, we will both be meeting new couples through the cluster, which is great. I’m looking forward to being on the committee and hoping I can help to keep our cluster motivated and active for the whole session.

You can learn more about Shabbat Clusters on the EntryPointDC website and register. Registration closes March 4th. The cluster season begins with a Kick-off Shabbat Dinner for all participants on Friday, March 11th at the DCJCC.

Featured image and article image taken from flikr.

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30 in the City- February Event Guide

30 in the City (1)

Hillah is your guide to being 30 in the City. It is a new month and that means she is here to talk you through some of the amazing events coming up this month. Read below for her recommendations and look out for her at some of these events!

kiss and kvllKiss & Kvell: Interactive Comedy About Love

When: Wednesday, February 10, 7:30 PM

Where: The Bier Baron Tavers (1523 22nd Street NW, Washington, 20037)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Jswipe date night? Jewesses night out? Nice Jewish Bromance hang? Kiss & Kvell is a comedy show for people searching for love, already under love’s spell, or who want to LOL at love. 100% Jewish mother approved, the night will feature interactive improv games and stand-up comedy and the audience will have the opportunity to share their dating and relationship stories and see them acted out in real time on stage.

What makes this event cool?

It’s definitely not as easy to find your b’shert. We have all been there, told our friends about it, even listened to our coworkers talk about their conquests and date night fails. Let’s take B’shert 2.0 to the next level and enjoy the conversations and have caused us to shed a tear in laught or in Argggg “why did that happen?”

Who should go?

You like using dating, listening to dating stories, want to give your partner a good laugh. JSwipe and Tinder is wearing out your eyes and you want to focus on actually three dimentional people.

Cost: $10

Want to volunteer and attend for free? Email Stacy!

Registerhere 

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.56.29 PMTrue Stories

When: Sunday, February 21, 4:30 PM

Where: Tikvat Israel Congregation (2200 Baltimore Road, Rockville, MD 20851)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Don’t miss the third annual “True Stories.” February’s program will again showcase some of the best storytellers in the Washington area and beyond. “True Stories,” Tikvat Israel’s program featuring true and humorous stories told by comedians, speaking champions, authors, local TV personalities and an Emmy-winning actress: Adam Ruben, Melissa Leebaert, Mike Bareuther, Kylie Jia, and John Melmed.

What makes this event cool?

You just survived Valentines day and now need a good laugh. This is a great opportunity to cut loose, laugh a little (or a lot), and have an up-close and personal seat with some of DC’s premier Jewish comedic storytellers.

Who should go?

Because laughing soooooooooooooo hard that you sometime just pee your pants just a little bit, but not so people see it, is how you roll.

Cost: $18 advance/$20 at the door

Register: here

 

57-atmdMoving On Up: How to Benefit from Mentorship

When: Monday, February 22nd, at 7:00 PM

Where: 6th & I Historical Synagogue (600 I Street NW, Washington, DC)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

You have big ideas and big dreams and you’re fired up to lean in. But how do you make the most of the potential you have and the contributions you’d like to make in your field? Sometimes you need a little help to put those big dreams into action.

A strong mentor can offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to guide you on your career path. Lisa Eisen, Vice President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and director of its DC office, will discuss how to find a mentor, the types of realistic expectations bring to the relationship, and how best to maintain it – specifically as it relates to women.

Eisen is a nationally recognized leader and presenter in the fields of philanthropy, Jewish service, Israel education and advocacy, and professional development.

What makes this event cool?

Our parents, peers, professors, friends, and even employers encourage us to find mentors. Mentors are especially key in navigating life and helping us choose the right paths, but we don’t always choose the right mentor for us or we just take which ever mentor is assigned to us by our civic group or job. This is an opportunity to figure out what type of a mentorship is right (like finding the right size shoe) and pursuing that person.

Who should go?

You are female! This event is actually geared towards women. Believe in mentorship or want to try it on. You are looking for that next step in your career and needs some fresh eyes.

Cost: $12

Register: here

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.59.12 PMBabka Bake by the JWI Young Women’s Leadership Network

When: Monday, February 29th, 6:00 PM

Where: 3010 Ordway Street NW, Washington, 20008

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Come out and learn to bake Babka with chef Paula Shoyer, author of The Kosher Baker and other best-selling cookbooks.

What makes this event cool?

Think you ate to much baked goods over Valentines day, no one cares. Eat more and prep your baking skills for Purim.

Let’s think about it:

  • Learn to bake a tradition dish? Check!
  • Put a smile on your parents face, because you finally put your oven to good use? Check!
  • Mix and mingle with some powerful young professional women? Check! Check! Check!

You can never go wrong with an event that brings baked goods and power-house women together into one room.

Who should go?

Ladies who enjoy baking, learning to bake, discussing food and being around like minded people.

 Cost: $10 for members/$12 for non-members (can we say bargain!)

Register: here

 

Want more? Check Out:

Get your house in order with Building a Jewish Home at Sixth & I Historical Synagogue.

You like comedy and giving to a cause, so join Jewish Foundation for Group Homes at their MC Live! A Special Evening of Comedy.

How much do you remember from your Birthright trip to Israel with Think & Drink: Israel Trivia brought to you by the J and NOVA Tribe.

Catch up with old and new friends at Adas Israel Second Annual Tu B’Shevat Community Sedar.

 

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Jewish Legislative Assistant of the Week – Joe!

1This week I got the chance to interview one of our community members working on the Hill Joe! We talked about his work, what lead him here and why his summer camp experience still matters to him. If you know someone who should be featured as the Jew of the week email me to nominate them!

Jackie: You are from Louisiana originally and went to Tulane. What do you miss most about New Orleans?

Joe: Definitely the food. The crawfish, the gumbo, the pork jambalaya, it’s all so delicious.

Joking.

New Orleans is one of those rare cities that really has a personality. It’s a city that loves to fun, but above all it’s a city where there is a pervasive sense that we’re all in this together; that we have our neighbors’ backs. It’s that sense of community that I miss most.

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Joe: I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to work public service and government, and DC is the place to be. Immediately after college, I spent the summer as a Rosh Eidah at Ramah Darom, and after that I moved to DC and started searching for jobs.


2Jackie:
What is the most exciting part of your job, working for Congressman Cedric Richmond?

Joe: The narrative about Congress is that we don’t get anything done, and it’s certainly true that Congress has been unwilling or unable to tackle head on many of the most important problems we face. And as members of the minority party, we’re even more limited in our ability to affect the agenda. Once in a while though, we’re able to make small changes that really make our constituents better off. Whether it’s tacking on an amendment to a larger bill or passing a bill of our own, those are the most satisfying moments.

Jackie: You lived through Hurricane Katrina, did that experience influence the career path you chose?

Joe: Absolutely. Government at every level – local, state, and federal – failed before, during,  and after the storm. One of the greatest myths about what happened to New Orleans is that it was a completely natural disaster; that it was not preventable. Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, but the flooding of the city and the devastation that followed a government-made disaster. As I kid, I was always interested in politics, but Katrina was the first time I witnessed firsthand what happens that the government fails. It motivated me to want to help make sure that government works for the people.

3Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC?

Joe: Wherever my friends are. I’m lucky to have some great friends in the city, and wherever they’re hanging out is where I’ll be.

Jackie: You are a Ramah Darom alumni, why is that experience still important to you?

Joe: My time as a counselor and a Rosh Eidah at Ramah was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. To watch the kids have the best time of their lives, and to know you helped make that happen, is really special.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Joe: I’ve always been enamored with Mordechai Anielewicz. His courage in the face of unspeakable evil is inspiring.

Finish the Sentence: When the Jews gather… Nobody can dance… So everybody can dance!

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Check Yourself, Don’t Wreck Yourself: Thoughts on Self-Care for the New Year

If you’ve been following my ongoing series on Mussar, you might have noticed that I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about self-compassion and self-care. We can only be our best selves if we are kind to ourselves. It sounds obvious and easy, but I think many of us know that it can be difficult to set our own well-being above all the other commitments in our lives. To that end, I’ve compiled some thoughts and resources that I’ve found valuable.

  1. Saying no

It might be nice to live in a world where we are able to do all things we would like to and all the things everyone else asks of us. But alas, we live a world of limited time, and so we owe it to ourselves to prioritize our different engagements and activities and be able to nicely and/or considerately decline those we can’t accommodate. It could require some soul searching about taking on fewer commitments or changing how you handle those commits, but may be as simple as holding yourself to leaving the office on time.

  1. Simplifying

We often make our lives more complicated than they need to be, and the extra hassle isn’t always worth the extra benefit. An example: I’ve spent years struggling with what to eat for breakfast, looking up different recipes, spending valuable weekend time preparing different concoctions for the week. But then I recently was craving bananas and began a personal bananas (with Nutella) for breakfast campaign, and I’ve found myself happy at breakfast and with a lot more weekend time on my hands. Some people have taken the concept further, abiding by meal schedules or uniforms.

  1. Taking time out during the day, before getting exhausted

This is one that I struggle with on a daily basis – I get so involved on a project I’m working on that I don’t want to stop, but by then end of the day, I am completely wrecked. I’m trying to be better about putting breaks on my calendar and calling on friends and coworkers for reinforcement. To that end, try eating lunch away from your desk, and even better, with a buddy.

  1. Getting enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep means I wake up feeling resentful and am more likely to burn out and be less than my best. So I’m working on enforcing mandatory bed times, as Gretchen Rubin suggests in The Happiness Project. I’ve also heard that snoozing is a no-no, but I haven’t yet rallied to give up my daily 3+ snoozes habit.

  1. Dance more

Whether it’s around my room or with someone else, I bet you’ll feel better when you’re dancing.

For a longer list of self-care dimensions and to assess your own level of self care, check out this great checklist.

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