JDate: The Blackberry of Online Dating

JDate. Not really the iPhone of dating services...

The views in this piece represent the opinions of the author and do not reflect a GTJ institutional stance.

Like many of my friends in the Jewish community, I’ve looked to Jdate to help me meet my soulmate.  I’ve heard the stories, ranging from those of my college roommate (who is now married to a wonderful woman) to GTJ’s own Erika. But after checking out a couple of other dating sites, I’ve come to the realization that, even for those of us who restrict our dating to a Jewish-only pool, Jdate is extremely outdated and serves very little purpose.

Jdate is the Blackberry in a world that has moved onto Droids and iPhones.  Pretty much anything someone wants to express on Jdate can be done through another service, more efficiently and probably cheaper.

Jdate has a number of glaring weaknesses compared to other sites. This largely boils down to the fact that Jdate is the same site it was five years ago, while all the other sites have been evolving. If anything, Jdate has become less user friendly in the last five years!

  • There is virtually no easy way to search a user’s profile. It’s 2012 and the only way we can see users sorted is by how recently they logged on, who is new (which isn’t that many people), and who lives closest to you! If you want to find someone who shares your love of something specific, such as the TV shows or books they might list in their profile, you’d better hope you get lucky when you click on the picture. Seriously? This makes Jdate virtually nothing more than a picture book. I’m looking forward to Jdate’s future function that allows you to fax in updates to your profile.
  • Outside of the hard to navigate “Kibitz Corner,” there is no easy way to search a user’s position on a certain question. On OKCupid, there is a great feature that allows you to see questions you have answered and how they match up to other users you are viewing. Questions can be sorted by category, or by how much a user cares about a question. This gives users the ability to learn more about a person than just the opening couple of paragraphs.
  • It’s expensive: Jdate often runs between $30-40 per month, depending on the length of the package. Worse, once they have locked you into a package, they try to upsell you like a car salesperson. OKCupid, which has a sizable amount of Jewish members, is free and only requires $5-10 for a premium account with extra search functionality. Match is also generally cheaper than the J. And keep in mind that Jdate’s relatively high cost has stayed more or less the same despite reduced functionality over time. Jdate once allowed any member to get an IM, however now only paid users can get IMs unless a user pays for a bonus cost for the length of their package.
  • It doesn’t appear to do any sort of matching at all. There is no real way to estimate how much you have in common with one person compared to another, except in some very basic ways. It’s basically like they threw everyone in a hat and said good luck.

I tried to think of something that I can do on Jdate that can’t be accomplished on other dating sites — either through comments or just through the structure your general profile — and I drew a blank. The cost is lower on most other sites and the functionality is greater. It seems to me that Jdate, much like a politician who has been in office too long, has stopped evolving and is taking its members for granted, assuming that Jews will naturally gravitate toward a Jewish-focused site. Fortunately for the Jewish community,  if Jdate continues to stagnate, there are other plenty of other options.


The Annual Israel Bonds Ambassador’s Gala

About every 2-3 months I head to The Capitol Hill Used Bookstore in Eastern Market.  I walk in with an empty book bag and leave with one over-flowing. Of the books I picked up last time I was there, three were about Israel.  They were written in 1949, 1967, and 1978 respectively.  As I read the books, I learned of the perspective of people of the time of the State that I call my second home – before I was born – on discolored pages that showed their wear.

On Sunday, June 3rd, hundreds of guests heard an updated story about Israel.  Not one of war, but of innovation.  Not one of fear, but of hope.  Not one of a desert worn down by strife, but of a thriving metropolis in a Democratic land.  They heard how they’ve contributed to the country’s growth over the years through their investment of our Homeland.

The story was recited at The Annual Israel Bonds Ambassador’s Gala, which has become one of the premiere nights of celebration by the Washington Jewish community.  It was held in honor of 64 years of Israel’s independence.

Ambassador Michael Oren provided the keynote address.  Additional speakers included leadership of Israel Bonds and campaign co-chairs Andrew Glick and Elliot Liss.  Eva Davis and Micha Weinblatt served as the co-chairs of the New Leader Host Committee.  And two Broadway performers performed a medley of show tunes for entertainment.

Ambassador Oren must be exhausted... He's spoken at seemingly every Jewish/Israel organization in the past two months.

According to Israel Bonds staff, the event was attended by 450 individuals, including ambassadors from 15 countries, 30 members of the Israeli Embassy staff, and 84 young professionals. $8.3 million in Israel Bond investments have been raised in this region so far in 2012.

The next Israel Bonds event in DC is tentatively scheduled for August 19, 2012, and involves the Nats vs. Mets game. For more information on that event, contact Richard Karlin 240-479-7923.

Here’s what some other community members had to say about the event:

“The event was absolutely fantastic!”- Rebecca Kastan

“I am so thrilled that my husband and I were able to make it to the Ambassador’s Ball.  It was a truly wonderful event! I was blown away by the amazing turn out and the exceptionally high caliber of the event the DC Israel Bonds puts on. I look forward to attending future DC events.  I am honored to be involved in such a wonderful organization.” -Danielle Levine

To learn more about making an investment in Israel, please visit or contact 301-654-6575. To “like” Israel Bonds on Facebook, click here.






To Google or Not to Google? That is the Question – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 42)

In this day and age, almost everyone has an online footprint… even grandma.  And whether through Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook, it’s easy enough to track someone’s entire life in 15 minutes or less.  When it comes to dating, the temptation to search before a first date is strong.  To Google or not to Google?  That is the question.

When it comes down to it, it’s hard to resist the urge to Google or Facebook your date once you have his or her full name staring you in the face, yelling, “Search me!  Search me!”  I’m not going to tell you that you can’t look (who wouldn’t?).  But no matter what you find, try your hardest not to create a firm impression of this person in your mind before you meet.  Unless you find out that he or she is a criminal (which actually happened to one of my clients who discovered that her date was wanted for securities fraud!), just go on the date, have fun, and try to put it all in the back of your mind.

When I was on JDate, I honestly didn’t even think about Googling someone.  Facebook was the first thing on my mind.  Why would I Google someone to see the awards he got in college or his marathon time when I could Facebook him instead and see all of his pictures, credentials, and status updates?  Google is, like, so 2005, right?  Before meeting each other in person, Jeremy and I actually joked in our e-mails about whether we were allowed to “Facebook stalk” each other before the date.  I even asked him outright (half-jokingly) whether he was planning to stalk me.  Jeremy’s response?  “What kind of person would I be if I didn’t at least make sure your Facebook picture wasn’t you punching a kid ;-)?  But you’ve got my name, too, so we’re in the same boat, right?  Stalk away.”

No matter whether you do your pre-date “research” or not, please remember that stalking does not equal “friending.”  Friending someone on Facebook before the date is the kiss of death (and the experts agree).  Unless you already know each other, do not friend your date on Facebook either before you meet or after the first date, even if it went really well.  The last thing you want is to see all of his pictures with other women and get jealous before you’re even together!  Plus, there’s something to be said for leaving some mystery.  And if the date (or next date) doesn’t go well, do you really want him/her knowing all of your business?  I think not.

Lastly, if you decide to look up your date, feel free not to mention you did so unless you’re sure he or she won’t put you in the “creep” category because of it.  (And for those under 25, it’s probably assumed that you looked!)  Stalking = okay.  Talking about stalking = creepy.  Know the difference.

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She 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.


Guns, Gays, Abortion, Oh My!

Guns, Gays, and Abortion
Jewish Perspectives on Hot Button Issues

With election season underway, debates over social issues are likely to take center stage on TV and in your living room. In this three-part series, Rabbi Shira Stutman will lead a guided discussion exploring the nuances of three hot button social issues – guns, gays, and abortions. The group will explore different viewpoints on the second amendment, gun control, conception, reproductive rights, and issues facing the LGBT community using Jewish texts as the basis for debate.

So reads the Sixth & I blurb for this three-part event that begins on Thursday (June 7).

I disagree with the assertion that “debates over social issues are likely to take center stage on TV and in your living room.”  This March 2012 Rasmussen Reports poll shows that 82 percent of Americans think the economy is the number one issue.  Every other poll I’ve seen suggests the same — jobs and the economy reign supreme.

As for Jewish “living rooms” — we’re, not surprisingly, pretty similar to the rest of the country.  An April 30, 2012 AJC poll found that 80 percent of Jews “cite the economy as one of the three most important issues in deciding their vote.”  Health Care placed second at 57%.  Abortion only ranked in the top three with 11% of respondents.  Conventional wisdom does suggest, however, that social issues rank higher with Jewish Americans than with the average American.  Especially female Jewish Americans.

Most Important Issues in Deciding Presidential Vote

Source:  AJC April 30, 2012 poll

But even if we disagree over which issues will take center stage, there’s no debating that this three-part event will make for an entertaining and lively discussion.

Your host for the program... Rabbi Shira Stutman

To prepare you for the discussion, I’ll (self-referentially) point you to my “Gentile’s Guide to The Jewish Voter” as well as this thorough study by the Public Religion Research Institute “Chosen For What?: Jewish Values in 2012“, and I’ll give you a few statistics on the three topics to be discussed by Rabbi Shira:


  • Couldn’t find many statistics on this.  If you know of polls on American Jews and gun control, please send them my way!  (
  • 88 percent of American Jews agree that there should be a nationwide ban on assault weapons (1997 AJC exit poll via National Jewish Democratic Council)
  • Good article by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz on Jewish perspectives on gun control. (The New York Jewish Week)


  • A Public Religion Research Institute poll showed 81 percent of Jews support gay marriage. (New York Jewish Week)
  • Nathan Guttman came to the same number (81 percent support gay marriage) in his article for the Jewish Daily Forward.
  • Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telgraphic Agency estimates Jewish support of gay marriage to be around 75 percent. (Jewish Exponent)
  • The Los Angeles Times reported that 78 percent of Jews opposed California’s Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage.
  • Gay marriage is opposed by the Rabbinical Council of American and the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America (see letter)



Hope to see you at the discussion.



GTJ’s Dating Columnist Gets Rave Reviews from Washington Post!

As we at Gather the Jews are always saying, it seems like our staff and featured community members just can’t stop doing amazing things! Whether it’s winning prestigious awards and fellowships, running charitable events, or throwing the best outdoor dance party in DC, we’re constantly blown away by how awesome DC Jewish young professionals are.

The latest example? GTJ’s resident dating columnist (and online dating expert extraordinaire), Erika Ettin, is the subject of a full-length feature article in the Washington Post! The article, which refers to Erika as a “modern day Cyrano,” details her growing business and ongoing efforts to help people find love.

An excerpt from the article (which can be found in full here):

Erika Ettin, the 30-year-old founder of A Little Nudge, makes no guarantee that she will find customers true love, or even a date. But she assures her tailored approach can improve the odds.

“People have a hard time writing about themselves, but for online dating to work, it’s important to tell a story about yourself to give someone a accurate picture of who you are,” said Ettin, who has written 150 profiles since starting the service in April 2011.

What the article doesn’t mention is that Erika shares many tidbits of her highly acclaimed dating advice with GTJ readers, via her regular column for us. Check her out every other Tuesday on our site or on her business website.



Jews gather to support The Lone Soldier Project

Ricki and a guy learning about The Lone Soldier Project

Approximately 115 people showed up to Tabaq Bistro on Wednesday night to support The Lone Soldier Project.  The project supports Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers without family members in Israel.  It is the brainchild of Ricki Meyer who recognized the need for the project while on the 2011 DC Birthright Alumni Leadership Mission.  To learn more about the origins of the project and its goals, see this brief Q&A with Ricki.

The Tabaq Bistro event “familiarized attendants with the project and its aims” (Karen S.), but it also allowed direct opportunities to support the lone soldiers:  guests could sign cards being sent to the soldiers (see image), and they could make donations to the project (can also be done on the project’s website)– a project that has no overhead costs in the form of paid staff or office space.

Overall, a good project, and a good time.  I pine when my Mom doesn’t send me regular care packages, and I live in a comfortable apartment with cable TV, a ping pong table, and a commercial drink refrigerator, so it naturally follows that 18-year-olds living in the desert and facing life-threatening dangers should also occasionally want a heartfelt care package.

The event was co-sponsored by Mitzvah Hoppin’, a project of  The Jewish of Greater Washington.

Sarah Arenstein was not there.  (per the last question in the Q&A).  :(






Sara W. at Mitzvah Hoppin' table










Image from Sara W. of JFGW



Picture from Sara W. of JFGW
















Welcome to Jspace!

Jspace is set to launch in DC on Thursday night.  If you want to celebrate with them, join them at Policy Bar at 8:00 PM.   Here’s a transcript of a brief exchange I had with Meara R — of Jspace — about what Jspace is.


SR: What is Jspace?
MR: is the one-stop shop for all your Jewish needs. Members enjoy the best of Jewish news, events, organizations and free dating all on one website. Connect with your local synagogues, kosher restaurants, and Jewish organizations, or just share the latest Bar Refaeli gossip with a friend. Log In To the Jewish World today at and start connecting.

SR: When did it launch?
MR:  We launched in November at the JFNA General Assembly in Denver and already have over 10,000 users and 180 organizations using the site.

SR: Who started it?
MR:  Jspace was started by two Israeli best friends who wanted to be better plugged into the Jewish community, but found there was not a single source for all things Jewish.

SR: What cities have you had “launch parties” in previously?
MR:  NY and Tel Aviv already experienced Jspace events. Soon LA, Miami, Boston, and Denver will all join the Jspace community.

SR:  Why DC?
MR:  Of course DC would be one of our first stops on our launch tour. We’re excited to be involved with the large active Jewish community, strong local organizations and the key DC Jewish ‘machers’ like Ariana Heidemen (Recently crowned Jewish Girl of the Year).





News of Week (Jewish Style) — 5/30 — Jewish women are hot

Last week we announced the return of GTJ’s news of the week.  And it’s a good thing we did because there’s a lot of fun stories that I would have missed otherwise.  Number 1 gave me an excuse to look at lots of pictures of hot girls on my work computer.  Number 5 took me to the impressive new website of the Jewish Policy Center for what was, embarrassingly, my first time.   If you have Jewish news that you’d like to share with the community, email me a link at 
  1. Jews claim spots 1, 3, 14, and 17 on Maxim’s Hot 100. (Jewish
  2. Mein Kampf goes back to German Schools (TC Jewfolk)
  3. Riots in Tel Aviv (h/t Moment Magazine) (New York Times)
  4. New Jersey woman fired by Orthodox Jews for being “too hot”? (h/t Moment Magazine) (Gawker)
  5. U.S. Committee to Increase Iron Dome Funding (Jewish Policy Center)
  6. The glass ceiling for Jewish women in Jewish organizations (Washington Jewish Week)
  7. Female reporter cross dresses to get into the all male anti-Internet gathering of 40,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews. (Jewlicious)
  8. A Comprehensive Guide For Ladies:  How to avoid schmucks in Israel (Jewlicious)
  9. Oh heck, I’ll thrown my most recent Jewish article in here — “Republican Anti-Gay Marriage Stance Alienates Jewish Voters.” (PolicyMic)


Bar Refaeli.  Named Maxim’s hottest woman.  Jewish.

Born in Hod HaSharon, Israel.  1985.


Help a Lone Soldier — Tonight!

Ricki B. M.

One of the perks of Gather the Jews is that I get to force really cool people to have G-chat conversations with me during the day.  One such really cool person is former Jewish Girl of the Week Ricki B. M. (RBM).  Ricki is hosting a party/happy hour TONIGHT to promote her newest Jewish endeavor: The Lone Soldier Project.  Hope to see you there.

SR:  What is the Lone Soldier Project?
RBM:  The Lone Soldier Project serves as the voice of the 5,700 young men and women from around the world who leave their homes and families to serve as Lone Soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces each year.  The goal of the LSP is to spread awareness of Lone Soldiers – who they are, what they do, and how we can support – to already existing groups, organizations, and communities.  The Lone Soldier Project works in partnership with The Lone Soldier Center, an organization in Jerusalem that provides on-the-ground support for soldiers – in addition to mentors, furniture, Shabbat and holiday meals, and a physical presence of encouragement at milestone ceremonies in each soldier’s course of duty.

SR:  Forgive me.  I’m kinda slow.  To clarify, the ‘Lone Soldiers’ aren’t soldiers necessarily without families, but without families living in Israel?
RBM:  Yep.  Their immediate families are not on the ground with them in Israel.

SR:  How did you get the project started?
RBM:  The preliminary idea to help Lone Soldiers began as an impact project from the 2011 DC Birthright Alumni Leadership Mission.  While in Israel, we had Shabbat lunch with Lone Soldiers and asked them about their experiences serving in the army without having their family on the ground with them in Israel.  Many soldiers said their friends became family.  However, one soldier said that he really noticed the absence of his family during package delivery when his Israeli peers often received packages of items they desperately needed on the front lines and he most often did not.  The conversation presented not only the needs of Lone Soldiers who voluntarily join the army to defend Israel, but also the ability we have to support them from afar.

SR:  What item have you sent that has been a big hit?
RBM:   Helmet flashlights.  We have received tremendously positive feedback and appreciation from Lone Soldiers and want to get more helmet flashlights to them as soon as we can!

SR:  You have a happy hour tonight at 6:30 pm at Tabaq Bistro (1336 U Street).   Sell me on it.  Pretend I’m popular and have lots of other social options.  What will be especially fun about your event?
RBM:   Entry is free and there will be happy hour specials all night. Most importantly, there will be opportunities to write notes of support to and sign posters for Lone Soldiers currently serving in Israel.

SR:  Will one Sarah Arenstein be there?
RBM:  You’ll have to come to find out!





Walnut-Lentil Veggie Burger

Grilling season is upon us!  For those who keep kosher, the easy solution is to go for the burger and skip the cheese, or whatever other dairy happens to be around.  But what if you really want ice cream on a hot day, or you want cheese on your burger?  The varieties of (and recipes for) veggie burgers are endless, but I figured I’d throw mine into the mix.  Homemade is definitely better than the prepackaged kind.  This one has a spicy-smoky barbeque flavor that will work well with a variety of toppings—including cheese!

Total time: 10 min., plus cooking time for the lentils and bulgur

Yield: 4-6 patties

Level: Easy


© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.


  • ¾ cup cooked red lentils
  • ¾ cup cooked bulgur
  • ¾ cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times.  Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and pulse a few more times until ingredients are combined.  Shape the mixture into patties and cook in a pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes per side.


ADL YP Division Parties for a Good Cause

Organizers and Host Committee

Last month, the Anti-Defamation League Young Professionals Division threw its First Annual Spring Soiree fundraiser.

In mid-April, nearly 300 guests filled The Rosebar at Current Sushi & Lounge to raise money and show support for the well-known Jewish organization.  The Saturday evening event featured sushi, sake, dancing, and a silent raffle and the energy in the combined indoor and outdoor space was electric.  The crowd enjoyed music by DJ Mike, ample sushi & dessert, and the signature drink of the evening –The ‘No-Haterade’.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of four top ADL leaders serving as event co-chairs, and a 16-member Host Committee, the Spring Soiree raised significant funds for the Anti-Defamation League and attracted a large number of young professionals who were attending an ADL event for the first time.

Stay tuned for an even bigger and better second annual spring event in 2013 and, of course, many local ADL events before that (e.g. the ADL Annual Concert Against Hate)! To find out how you can get involved before that, contact Sophie Dornstreich, the Associate Director, at


News of the Week (Jewish Style)

Y-Love at a GTJ event with GTJ staffer Tila. Y-Love recently publicly declared that he is gay. Mazal tov.

Remember when we used to update you on the week’s most interesting/important Jewish stories?  Scott W. did it first.  Then Candace M. took over.  Then we dropped it for a while.

But now we’re back. From outer space…  (in case you need to hear the song now)

So if you have a link or news that you want to share with the Jewish community, please email it to me (

Also, we’re going to “steal” a bunch of our stuff from the wonderful people at Moment Magazine who send out a thrice-weekly email with Jewish updates.  Check out Moment Magazine’s website to learn more about the country’s largest independent Jewish magazine.




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.

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