Lazar’s acceptance speech

To the GTJ Community,

I am humbled by this honor, and pleased to share it with someone as accomplished and worthy as Ariana.  Also, I’m somewhat surprised, since I haven’t won anything since the 1989 Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby in Stoughton, MA. (Well, I came in third place out of three contestants, but I got a trophy.)

Gather the Jews provides such a  unique and precious service to the DC Jewish community. In a time where young Jews cluster into communities based upon their religious observance, GTJ offers a fun atmosphere for young Jewish professionals to create a community across the religious spectrum. It’s Jews who enjoy socializing and spending time with other Jews, and it’s a model that I hope will be replicated across the country.

I have tried to shape my own involvement in the Jewish community in a similar fashion. I work with Jewish college students at GW and college students of all faiths at Georgetown; I serve on the board at the warm and inviting Kesher Israel synagogue; and I seek to set the record straight on Israel in the public sphere.

Even with all the wonderful work GTJ and other Jewish groups do, our community will fail to live up to its true calling if we forget some of our core Jewish principles about relations between man and his fellow, all of whom are created in the image of God:

  •  “The world is built on kindness.” (Psalms 89:3)
  • Greet everybody with a warm, cheerful, and pleasant countenance.” (Pirkei Avot 1:15)
  • “You…shall not bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Again, thank you for this honor, and I wish all of you a wonderful Shavuot holiday, as we celebrate receiving the gift of the Torah and its timeless and beautiful message.

Best wishes, and chag sameach,


Lazar’s original Jewish Guy of the Week profile 

Lazar’s finalist video





Ariana’s acceptance speech

Shalom Jewish Community of Greater Washington,

I am very honored to serve as DC Jewish Girl of the Year along with Jewish Guy of the Year Lazar. It will be my privilege to continue to gather Jewish people and spread the vital message that Israel is Forever.

It has been so wonderful making new friends in this great community. I am so touched by my many friends, old and new, near and far, who encourage me to always reach for the stars and be the best that I can be.

I look forward to welcoming you all on 5.31.12 at the DC Jewish professional’s event from 8p-midnight at Policy.


Chag Sameach,

Ariana  Michal

Ariana’s original Jewish Girl of the Week profile

Ariana’s video submission as a finalist



In Case You Missed It: Matisyahu’s Here!

Tickets are still available to see renowned Jewish rapper Matisyahu (still sans beard) here in DC! The artist will be at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Thursday, May 24th, as part of THE TEN, an innovative take on the Shavuot celebration.

In anticipation of the holiday, Rabbi Shira Stutman will emcee an acoustic performance by Matisyahu followed by a discussion between the hip-hop/reggae artist and The New Republic’s Frank Foer. Stay after the show for dairy delights and study sessions with Rabbi Shira.

Shavuot begins at sundown on Saturday, May 26th, and ends at sundown on Monday, May 28th.


When Do You Take Your Profile Down? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 41)

Please note that starting in June, Erika’s dating column will run bi-weekly.  Got ideas/questions/thoughts for a future article? E-mail 

Finally – you’ve met someone online, let’s say on JDate!  You went on a first date, and you kind of liked each other.  Then you went on a second date, and you liked each other a little more.  You went on a third date, and thoughts of exclusivity started permeating your mind.  But when is it time to take down your online dating profile?  Should it be after a certain number of dates?  After you’ve had “the talk”?  After you’ve changed your Facebook status to “in a relationship” (the tell-tale sign for many people these days…)?  Or, is unsubscribing from receiving online dating site e-mails enough?

In this day and age, when virtually everything we do is online, how you portray your relationship status to the world is almost as important as the relationship itself.  No one wants to be on the receiving end of an e-mail from a friend saying, “I don’t know how to say this, but your new guy/girl is still on JDate and appears to have logged in within the last 24 hours.”  It makes your heart sink.

I’m a firm believer in e-mailing and dating many different people initially to see who’s out there.  But at some point, when you think you’ve found the right person, it might be time to scale back on your online dating life and start to enjoy your offline dating life.  When you get to that point, unfortunately, there is no predetermined protocol as to when it’s appropriate to take down your profile, but there are two pieces of common sense that you should follow:

  • Don’t log into JDate immediately after a date.  Even if you didn’t like your date, try to show some respect by not logging in until the next day.  That way, you’re not rubbing it in the other person’s face that you need to immediately check out your other options.
  • When things start to get serious with someone – even before you’ve discussed your relationship status – it’s a good idea to minimize your online dating usage to give the relationship a chance to bloom.

Many people (especially older men) continue responding to e-mails during that initial period in a relationship, perhaps saying something like:

Thanks so much for the nice e-mail.  I’ve actually “met” someone on this site, and I am going to try and concentrate and see if that can develop into a real relationship.  I can’t really handle the multiple communications.  Thanks again for writing, and good luck to you!

My question for those of you who think you’re just being polite is: Why are you still actively answering e-mails?  If you really want to see where the relationship is going, then stop logging in to your online dating account!

And finally, when you’re ready to be exclusive with someone, the only surefire way to make sure you’re both on the same page is to openly discuss taking your profile down.  Heck, you could even have a “profile deletion party” with a glass of wine in hand.  That actually sounds like a pretty fun date!  In the meantime, don’t forget these online dating profile tips.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for


Free wine, challah, ice cream, and fro-yo at the DC JCC. Friday!

From our friends at the DC JCC:


Shabbat Pre-Game
Pre-Shavuot Sundae Bar

in honor of the upcoming holiday!

Stop by after work or on your way from the gym. We’ll be in the 16th St Lobby for a quick
Glass of WineTaste of Challah,
and Ice Cream & Fro Yo Bar!

ice crea

Tomorrow Friday May 18 in the Washington DCJCC 16th Street Lobby 
5:30 – 6:30 pm
FREE, Just Stop By!

Contact Ilana Weltman at if you are looking for places to go for Shavuot services/dinner or find out at the Pre-Game!





Your 2011 Jews of the Year

I know it seems a bit odd to be crowning our 2011 Jews of the Year in May 2012…  But …  Well…  Thanks for your patience.

Many thanks to all of our competitors, and a special thanks to the Jews who made videos for the final rounds.  All finalists will receive a prize.  The Jews of the Year will receive a larger prize.

Also, thank you to our celebrated panel of judges hailing from Washington Jewish Week, DC JCC, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Washington Hebrew Congregation, Mr. Yogato, as well as a number of critical, but unaffiliated, Jews in the DC community.

Come see our winners crowned tomorrow (Thursday) at our happy hour!

Now… finally.., the two Jews that will be joining Rachel and Uri in the history of Gather the Jews are:





























Amb. Oren lashes out at young Jewish Americans hating on Israel — AJC ACCESS 20/20

It’s spring time in DC, and that means annual events and galas.   The Jewish community is no exception.  AIPAC and J-Street had their big conferences not too many weeks ago.  And I’ve seen invitations for:

But most recently in the spotlight was the American Jewish Committee.  Approximately 1,500 Jews participated in the half week conference (May 2 – May 5), so if you’re still wondering why you saw a sudden increase in the number of kippahs around Metro Center, now you know.

The conference divided into two parts:  The AJC Global Forum and AJC ACCESS 20/20.  Global Forum boasted over 1,200 attendants, and it featured an array of policy luminaries including: Barney Frank, William Kristol, Jacob Lew, Dennis Ross, and foreign ministers from Brazil, Germany, Cyprus, and Canada.  To read summaries of the three day conference, and to watch the week’s speeches, visit this website.

Dr. Michael Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States. From ACCESS 20/20

I didn’t make it to Global Forum (real work always interfering!), but I did, along with 400 others from 31 different countries, attend the ACCESS 20/20 portion, the Friday through Sunday conference meant especially for young adults.

Summaries of this conference can be found here, but I’ll quickly note my two favorite parts:

  1. Seeing the look of shock on a co-attendant’s face when she saw me and exclaimed:  “You’re wearing a suit!  I’ve never seen you wear anything but basketball shorts and a hoodie.”  Too true I’m afraid.  But I’m from the west.  That’s how we roll.
  2. Listening to Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren deliver the keynote speech.

The first point doesn’t merit any further discussion, and it probably didn’t deserve to be brought up in the first place, but I’m writing this quickly, and the backspace key slows me down!

The second point does deserve more detail.

Oren’s speech – I strongly encourage you to read it here – didn’t tiptoe around egg shells.  He targeted – bluntly and successfully – the Jewish American youth who are content to sit in the safety of the United States while working to undermine Israel as alleged punishment for the measures Israel has taken to defend itself.

“I was shocked, then, that on the very day that I spoke with my kids about their concerns in Israel, some American Jews were discussing a call to boycott products made by Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” he said.

“But what most struck me—not as an ambassador but as an Israeli and as an Israeli father, was the fact that, on the same day that my son was worrying about his raw recruits and my daughter about rockets in Beersheva, a portion of the American Jewish community was debating whether or not to buy Ahava hand products.”

Peter Beinart's new book. From Amazon.

The speech is especially powerful coming on the heels of Peter Beinart’s new book The Crisis of Zionism, in which Beinart argues that young American Jews are becoming detached from, or hostile to, Israel due to the immorality of the state and the Jewish U.S.-based institutions that support it.

Criticism of Israel, Oren argues, is certainly welcome, but at the same time, unity of the Jewish people is needed, and there are a few lines which the pro-Israel person must never cross.

When I grew up in this country, the slogan of the United Jewish Appeal was “We are One.” Today, that same logo is more likely to raise eyebrows than funds.

No doubt, a majority of American Jews care deeply about the security of Israel and oppose those seeking to undermine it. And even some of those calling for boycotts do so out of a sense of caring—I’d say misplaced sense of caring—about Israel.

And yet, sometimes it seems that we, Israelis and American Jews, not only inhabit different countries but different universes, different realities.

Professor Steven M. Cohen. Hebrew Union College.

It’s unknown just how many young American Jews could desperately do with a dose of Oren’s medicine.  Beinart, who sees young American Jews as drifting away from Israel, points to a study by Steven Cohen (NYU) and Ari Kelman (UC Davis) who said that “non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders.”  Those scholars asserted that only 54% of non-orthodox Jews under 35 are “comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state” (as compared to more than 80% of non-orthodox Jews over 65).  Another poll found that only 20% of young Jews labeled themselves as “highly attached” to Israel (Slate).

But there are other studies that come to drastically different conclusions.  The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise and The Israel Project recently released a survey of 400 American Jewish college students which found that:

  • 90% agree that Israel is the spiritual center of the Jewish people.
  • 83% said caring about Israel is an important part of being Jewish.
  • 73% said American and Israeli Jews share a common destiny.
  • 89% have warm/favorable feelings toward Israel.
  • 78% sympathize with Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
  • 84% think America should support Israel.

(Mitchell Bard, The Jerusalem Post)

Perhaps we’ll do a little poll of our own here at Gather the Jews.  But in the meantime, read Oren’s speech and give it some thought.

The views in this article are Stephen Richer’s individual opinions and do not represent a GTJ institutional stance.


From Bad to Worse, Photo Edition – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 40)

Starting today, I’ll be writing an article once every few months called “From Bad to Worse,” showing actual photos, profiles, or e-mails from various online dating sites that are too good (as in, too awful) not to show.  This week’s topic?  Photos.

By now, we should all know the five rules of thumb for photos:

  1. Less is more
  2. Have at least one clear “face” photo
  3. Be by yourself in the shot
  4. Have one photo where you’re doing something interesting
  5. Be accurate

Even if you don’t follow the rules above, some photos should never make it onto your online dating profile.  All of the photos below miss the mark.

I spy a fanny pack… and how many years ago was this taken??  Is this the ‘80s?

Does that say 1997 in the corner????

Am I going out with him???

Really?  She’s looking for a serious relationship with those hanging out?  I’m sure she’ll get some upstanding guys.

The mirror picture’s a no no… at least he has his shirt on!

And my personal favorite:

Did I mention she’s 73?

In online dating, making a good first impression is key.  People can easily pass over your profile if they don’t immediately see something they like.  And a recent study confirmed what we already know, that men are extremely visual, and look mainly at the photos and less at the profile itself.  So choose wisely!

If you’d like to contribute any photos/profiles you find or e-mails you (or friends) receive to “From Bad to Worse,” please e-mail

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.


GTJ staff member, Michael Lipin, pulled off quite the public dance party this past weekend. Hundreds of people gathered at Dance in the Circle on May 13th, to see nine dance troupes perform on a stage in Dupont Circle… and even dance themselves.

Michael Lipin — Dance Party Organizer Extraordinaire

After a wide range of dance styles were featured — from clogging to hiphop — the evening wrapped up with an open hour of dance, including lights, speakers blasting, and massive audience participation.

The crowd gathers

“The Circle almost had the feel of a night club, but with everyone invited – especially the moms, who got some special shout-outs from the MC in honor of Mother’s Day,” Lipin told GTJ.

Co-organizer and design director Alex Emmerman in action on the Dupont Circle fountain as part of Hoop Dance DC’s performance

“Dance in the Circle was a personal dream of mine, given my passion for dance,” he said, “but its success was the result of excellent teamwork, particularly with my fellow-volunteers Daniel Kramer and Alex Emmerman. Daniel had been working with me on the planning of DITC since April 2011, while Alex came on board last December and did an amazing job as DITC graphic designer and webmaster.”

Yala Fitness leading the crowd in their energized dance fitness program

“In producing DITC, we all experienced ups & downs, but we were determined enough to overcome the obstacles. A key to the success of the event was building a broad coalition of supporters in the community, from non-profit groups like Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, to local businesses such as Attache Property Management and BGR The Burger Joint, and even DC Councilmember Jack Evans,” Lipin added.

According to event organizers, some 500 people turned out for the event during the day. The event had been postponed from its original date on April 21st due to inclement weather, but Sunday’s warm weather attracted many passers-by. The event was such a bit hit, it caught the attention of the Washington Times.

For more pictures, click here.


Help Mothers on Mother’s Day, with Yachad

As GTJ reported earlier, DC community service non-profit, Yachad, will be building homes for needy mothers in celebration of this Mother’s Day.

The group of young professionals has spent the last two months fundraising over $3,000 to sponsor the repairs needed to a Trinidad row house, home to two local DC mothers.  Run much like a fundraising walk or run, each Yachad Uniter, as they are called, asked their friends and family to sponsor their efforts.  With the funds raised, Yachad was able to pay for the professional work needed on the home such as roof repairs, drywall repairs and plumbing repairs.  Now, this Sunday, the group will finish up the repairs needed such as painting and doing small carpentry tasks.  Accessibility modifications will also be made in the home which is sponsored by The National Fair Housing Alliance.

“I was a bit nervous to inform my mom that I wouldn’t be spending the day with her, but then I realized that giving back is something that she instilled in me from birth.  There’s no better way to honor her on this day” said Jason Kastner, Yachad Board Member and co-leader of Yachad United. Jason will be joined by about 30 other Yachad Uniters and they will be working side-by-side with the homeowners and their family.  “We can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and work alongside these wonderful volunteers.  This is the best Mother’s Day we could ask for,” said one of the homeowners.

Yachad, which means ‘together’ in Hebrew, encourages partnership between volunteer and homeowner.  “Yachad brings people together through good work.  How better to make our communities stronger than to work together to repair them,” says Alexandra Barnett, Yachad Board member and co-leader of Yachad United.  Together they will be, and after the home repair, the entire group and the family will celebrate down the street at the H Street Country Club, sponsored by Goose Island 312.


GTJ’s Featured Jews Just Keep Being Awesome!

Jeremy receiving his award

Congratulations to Jeremy Rosen, former Jewish Guy of the Week (not to mention one of DC’s most active and featured Jews) and Rachel Cohen Gerrol, former Jewish Girl of the Year.

These two outstanding members of the DC Jewish young professional community were recently awarded the 2012 Jerome J. Dick Young Leadership Award in recognition of their commitment to leading and motivating the young adult community in the Greater Washington area.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to wish Jeremy the best of luck as he leaves DC for nursing school in Alabama. Jeremy, we’ll miss you and your unceasing positive energy!


Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month

Now that you’ve learned of Jewish American Heritage Month, it’s time to celebrate it by going to this event.


From the NEH:

Upcoming Celebration of Jewish Heritage Month, Downtown at the Old Post Office Building

On May 23rd, head over to the Old Post Office Building after work for a free 6pm happy hour reception hosted by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for Jewish Heritage Month. Although relatively new, Jewish Heritage Month turns May into a time to look back at our history, share stories from our ancestors, and celebrate the diversity within our community. The NEH will serve happy hour style refreshments and host the President of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (a great stop during your next visit to Manhattan), Morris Vogel, to talk about how the Museum recreates families’ tenement apartments and stores as they were during the period now considered icon in Jewish immigration to New York. Visiting the Museum might be described as entering a life size, interactive doll house, which lends itself nicely to Vogel’s engaging dialogue. This free reception will be a great opportunity to network with other young people in the District and hear about nontraditional ways Jewish history is shared with all Americans.

To learn more about the Museum, the NEH and this event please visit this website. If you think you may attend, please RSVP to





It’s Jewish American Heritage Month! Surprise!

Since 2006, May has been officially recognized by the federal government as Jewish American Heritage Month.

But don’t feel like a bad Jew if you didn’t know!  Of the Jews I just surveyed, 40 responded “no” and only 9 responded “yes” to the prompt:

“Survey question:  Did you know it’s Jewish Heritage month?”

That’s 18% that knew.

To appreciate the depth of the month’s pathetic promotion, consider that the survey’s respondents were Jews on my gchat list at 2:30 pm, a large percentage of whom are active Jews, and some of whom are even Jewish professionals.  Others on the list work for the federal government – the designator of this month.

Based on this, I would imagine that under 10% of Jews nationwide know that we’re celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month.

Why such a low percentage?  And what does it mean for the Jewish community?

Undoubtedly it doesn’t mean much, but in the spirit of modern academia, I’ll try to spin together a few thoughts for next week.

Congratulations to those who answered “yes”:

  • Ben W.
  • David M.
  • Diane H.
  • Kenny A.
  • Sala L.
  • Sara G.
  • Sarah B.
  • Scott W.
  • Shira S.


So what can you do for Jewish American Heritage Month?  You can:




Spinach and Cheese Enchiladas

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I thought I’d take the opportunity this week to make something Mexican-inspired.  Mexican food is often tough kosher-wise because there are so many meat and cheese combinations.  Soy cheese is a good option when you want shredded cheese as a topping, such as on tacos or tostadas, but if you’re going for a dish that uses melted cheese, only the real thing will do.  A perfect example: enchiladas.  So, here’s a recipe for vegetarian enchiladas.  The sauce is courtesy of my mother, a native Texan—it might not be authentically Mexican, but it makes for some great enchiladas.

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 3 servings

Level: Moderate


© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.


  • ½ lb spinach, rinsed, tough stems removed, and torn
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼  tsp salt
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded monterrey jack cheese
  • 2 cans Campbell’s Healthy Request tomato soup
  • 2 ½ tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ cup salsa


Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet.  Add onions and sauté about 3 minutes, until they begin to soften.  Add spinach and salt and sauté about 2 minutes, until spinach wilts but before it discolors.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine soup, 1 ¼ cups cheese, cumin, and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until all cheese is melted and consistency is uniform.  Remove from heat.

Coat a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray.  Two or three at a time, wrap tortillas in paper towels and microwave for approximately 20 seconds to soften them.  Working in batches so the tortillas stay warm (so they don’t crack), in each tortilla, place a line of spinach and one tablespoon of cheese slightly off center across the tortilla.  Roll the tortilla and place it seam-side down in the baking dish.  When all of the tortillas are in the dish, pour the sauce over the top and spread to cover.  Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.


Is Ashton Kutcher Online Dating?! – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 39)

When I saw an article last week saying that Ashton Kutcher was doing online dating, you can imagine that I gave my computer screen a double-take.  Really?  How will he go undetected as a celebrity?  Would he use the username “2.5Men” and the tagline, “Better off sans Demi,” for his profile?

But, alas, Ashton had not actually signed up for an online dating site, much to the dismay of some of his groupies, I’m sure.  Instead, he was promoting the snack company PopChips through a commercial spoofing all those online dating ads.  In the ad, Kutcher portrays himself as several different single men looking for dates.  This list includes “Raj” from India, a Bollywood producer seeking “the most delicious thing on the planet,” who apparently has the hots for Kim Kardashian and Snooki.  The ad caused an uproar because Ashton wore “brownface” for the video and used an accent.  It was actually quite a funny video, but was it wrong?

The CEO of PopChips has since apologized, and the ad was pulled immediately.  That wasn’t enough to stop the Twitterverse, which came up with trends such as #BoycottPopChips and tweets like, “Newsflash to @PopChips – never heard of you before. Now I’ll see your name and think ‘racists’ not ‘yummy snack’ Fail!”

It’s not for me to decide whether the video was racist or not.  But what the ad does show is that online dating has most definitely become mainstream.  If Hollywood can make jokes about it, and even big-name stars consider going online, then there’s no reason not to give online dating a shot yourself.  Jack Black has gotten in on the action, too, pitching an online dating sitcom to NBC.  That should be a fun one to watch.  I wonder what will come next…

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

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