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.


Life Is Lived: One DC Jew’s Israeli Journey

DC resident Elissa Gross, a former intern with Masa Israel Journey, recently reflected on her past experience living and studying abroad in Israel. Masa Israel Journey connects Jewish young adults to internship, service, and academic programs in Israel.  It is a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel and is made possible by the generous contributions of the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-UIA. Visit for more information. This is a guest post and thus represents only the opinions of the author; it does not represent a GTJ institutional stance.

Why did I leave to go to Israel during the Gaza War? The answer to this question is simultaneously simple and complicated, personal and universal. As were the nine subsequent months that followed, which I spent in this complex country of chaos and contradictions, resilience and passion.

The simple answer is that I had been placed on a Birthright Trip on January 11th, 2009, and received scholarships and grants to stay in Israel after that and participate in Masa Israel’s WUJS Jerusalem Program.” The complicated answer is that for years I had been grappling with my Jewish identity–with what being Jewish means to me both personally and as part of a collective history–and I desperately wanted to continue this journey in the land that my people call “home.”

Even after countless time spent envisioning, preparing, and planning for the voyage I was to embark on, when it came time to step onto the plane, to step into my new life, I almost could not do it. I was seized with fear—about what lay ahead, about what I would discover, and, not, of course, what entering a country during wartime would entail. But the moment I stepped off of the plane and into Israel’s whirlwind of vibrancy and life, my apprehension was assuaged. One cannot say that life in Israel is not affected by the constant threat of or reaction to violence and terror, but one can say that “life goes on.” Life is lived. And the Jewish spirit forges ahead.

While I am grateful for my uplifting Birthright experience, it was the weeks that I spent on my own afterward exploring the land and the people and the culture that were the most personally profound. From spending a week studying Jewish mysticism with an artist in Tsfat, to celebrating my 23rd birthday in a Bedouin tent with new Israeli and Arab friends in Eilat, I experienced culture, identity, religion, and humanity in ways I could never have imagined. And I began to delve into the many different ways to embody and celebrate being Jewish, in unique personal, societal, and religious ways.

While living in Jerusalem and participating in the WUJS program–where I took classes on subjects such as “The Arab/Israeli Conflict” and “The History of Zionism”—I began to work with a group of interfaith, independent leaders: “The Jerusalem Peacemakers.” Through my association with this exceptional group, I had opportunities that further opened my eyes and my mind in profound ways. I accompanied an Arab leader from the Mount of Olives to an Orthodox Jewish wedding in the settlement of TeKoa, conducted interviews with an Uzbekhi Sheikh on the Via Dolorosa, and participated in an event called “The Big Hug,” which brought together people of all religions and backgrounds in an effort to inspire each individual to create harmony on any level possible.

I continued to travel within the complicated city of Jerusalem, where so many people’s prayers and hopes are directed, and far outside of my immediate surroundings and my comfort zones. Each new experience expanded my journey of discovering who I am as a person and as a Jew. I attended Shabbat services in the Haredi area of Mea Shearim, wailed at the Western Wall, and sat on Mount Herzl with families of lost soldiers on Yom Hazikaron. I walked to Bethlehem from my apartment and explored the ancient city, spent time sipping tea with Palestinian rug dealers in the Old City, and sampled hummus in Abu Gosh. I marched in solidarity in the Gay Pride Parades in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, spent hours tasting olives and fresh baked challah and halva in the many shuks, and attended countless art shows, outdoor concerts, movie screenings, and book/food/music festivals.

I lived life as fully as possible. Through constant challenges, as a Jew, as a woman, as an American, and as a person struggling with identity and meaning, I continued to search and discover and persevere and founder. My journey is far from over, as I am instilled with a need to learn and explore each layer of my heritage and my identity. And there is so much life yet to be lived.


The Bar Test – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 38)

Have you ever wondered whether you made the right choice to be exclusive with someone?  If you’re questioning things, then you have a few choices:

  1. You could write a pro/con list (though, this might be up there with making a spreadsheet).
  2. You could see how you feel when you’re not spending time together.
  3. You could apply what I have affectionately named “the bar test.”

Here’s the test: When you’re at a bar (or restaurant, wherever) with your new belle or beau, are you looking around to see who else is out there or who might see you two together?  Or, are you perfectly content with your partner, and you want everyone there to notice you with him/her?  If the latter is true, then he/she passes the test.  But if it’s the former, it might be time to decide whether being in a relationship with this person is your best option.

I remember once getting dinner with some girlfriends – two of us were single at the time, and the third had started seeing someone exclusively about a month earlier.  My single friend and I wanted to be in a relationship, and my off-the-market friend craved what we had… the ability to date whomever she wanted.  In other words, the newly minted boyfriend definitely failed the bar test.  She was still looking and, not surprisingly, a month or two later they broke up.

People say that when you’re with the right person, you’ll just know.  There’s merit to that statement.  And when you’re not with the right person, you’ll know that, too.  Is it hard to introduce him as your boyfriend (or her as your girlfriend)?  Is the thought of everyone knowing you’re off the market scarier than a swarm of bees attacking you?  And when you go to a bar or a restaurant with your new man (or woman), are you constantly looking around to see who might catch your eye?  If the answer is yes to any of these questions, your significant other doesn’t pass the bar test.  That’s okay.  You deserve to be with someone who does, so keep on looking.  You’ll know it’s right when your new partner passes the bar test with flying colors… and even buys you a drink while you’re there.

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.


Jews and Sports… A Local Take

I ended up at a Wizards game this past Monday, at the suggestion of a friend.  Sure, I know they’re terrible (sorry Wizards fans, but you know I’m right) but it’s important to support the local team every once in a while . And they were playing the Bobcats, so I figured that they might actually win this game (they did).

Unbeknownst to us going in, it was Jewish heritage day at Wizards stadium. What fortuitous timing. So what did such an event entail? Well, the band played Hava Nagila while the players were shooting, enforcing my theory that this song is played at literally any Jewish event attended by non-Jews.  The half-time show consisted solely of children from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington playing a very mediocre but enthusiastic game of basketball. If we were trying to undermine stereotypes about Jews and their collective proficiency in sports, I’m not sure this was the way, but it was heartwarming from a family values perspective. All in all, I might not hurry back to watch the Wizards, but I will now certainly be quicker to recommend the JCC to Jewish friends of mine with kids.

There were plenty of empty seats at the game and tickets were quite cheap (see my earlier comment about the Wizards’ skill level), so it doesn’t seem like it wouldn’t have been too hard to arrange a mass Jewish gathering to this particular game.  Perhaps the JCC should think of involving GTJ in their marketing strategy next time?  Could be fun…

JCC kids at the Wizards' game




What’s going on with the Jewish Guy/Girl of the Year competition?

Can Ben magic his way into Jewish Guy of the Year?

I’m lazy.  I’m a mediocre basketball player.  I’m highly unfashionable.  I can’t parallel park.  I’ve never cooked before.  Etc.

Add to my undoubtedly innumerable flaws this one:  I’m slacking on the GTJ Guy/Girl of the Year competition.

But please bear with me; we have four amazing guys and four amazing girls as our finalists, and we assure that we will pick two in short time to be crowned your Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year.

Until then, I’ll refer you to this page showcasing the 8 finalists and this page celebrating last year’s Jewish Guy (Uri) and Jewish Girl (Rachel).





Job opening at Sixth & I


Want to work for the heart of Jewish DC?  Then consider this job opening at Sixth & I.


Announcement from Sixth & I:

We’re looking for a creative, thoughtful, dynamic, motivated, and organized team-player to help manage our Jewish programming team. This is an ideal opportunity for a rabbi, senior Jewish educator, or other Jewish communal professional seeking to play a key role in the growth of an innovative Jewish organization.

Please forward this announcement as you see fit. Applicants should send a cover letter and resume to me at


See this PDF for more information on the job (Educator – Senior Program Director).

If you’re looking for a job, or if you want a bunch of young Jews to see about a job you’re hiring for, please check out our Job Board.  And since you’ll probably need a place to sleep when you get your new job, check out our Housing/Bulletin Board too.


Finally, if you’re curious as to why this position is opening up, it’s because our much beloved Annie L. got married (see this Washington Post article) and is flying off to California with her new husband.





And the winner of the Fifth Annual Sixth & I Pickle Eating contest is…

Last year Max described — in epic format — how he won the Fourth Annual Sixth & I Pickle Eating Contest.  This year — the fifth year — Max placed second behind Ben S., a former Jewish Guy of the Week and our new Pickle Eating Champion.  

All photos taken by Sarah A. of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.


Ben and Max competing side by side.

What weighs two ounces these days?

Some pocket lint. A few feathers. A $20 drink from a bartender with sunglasses on.

Oh, and the amount of pickles that cost me my crown.

I thought I sized up my 11 other competitors pretty accurately, who mostly sized me down — my lanky frame belies the nuclear reactor churning my digestive track within.

Across our stage were a few gluttons for punishment who I dominated in last year’s victory, as well as a couple of new huskier gentlemen that gave me a little cause for concern. Nonetheless, I was sure this was in the bag, again.

The contest began and the beasts were unchained. I quickly outpaced the 10 others but noticed the bowl of dills to my left rapidly diminishing.  To my absolute astonishment, the contestant behind it, Ben, grabbed a last handful and motioned for a second bowl. I never got to my second bowl last year.

The Sixth & I crowd looks on.

I strengthened my resolve.

In a fury I started choking down the dills, three bites to a swallow, no chewing, no breathing. I had the solace of knowing that if I happen to suffocate, I’d go out the American way — eating.

Give. me. another. bowl.

I did damage on that second bowl but with about 10 seconds to go, I knew my fate.  Ben gained an insurmountable lead.

With a last, desperate stroke,  I scooped up all the remaining nubs, bits, and pieces I could muster and shoved them into every nook and cranny of my mouth. Time was called and we had 15 seconds to swallow.

Gains were measured, the results were in – Ben over Bluestein by 2 ounces.  Two measly, freaking ounces.

Now my blood is running white as salt, I haven’t been able to sweat in a full week, and my Cheerios still taste like pickle in the morning.

Lesson learned: When you play the game of pickle eating, you either win or you smell like dill for 2 weeks for no reason.

That being said, Ben, usurper, consider this an official and very public challenge to a rematch.

I’m thinking 4 pound burrito or the Strassburger. To hell with the sprint, let’s do a marathon.

Max hands over the plaque to Ben. His two fingers are held up for the two ounces he lost by. Also... his second place finish.











Before things got started


Another ... a weaker ... competitor ... David C.


The competitors


The Champ!







Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara

The suggestion for adapting this recipe comes from one of my readers, and it seemed like a great one post-Passover.   (Please note the hint to send me ideas!)  Traditional pasta carbonara has an egg and cheese sauce and is flavored with bacon or pancetta—a double no-go on the kosher front.  Rather than lose the cheese in the dish by going with turkey bacon, I decided to look for a vegetarian substitute.  I settled on smoked tofu.  It’s precooked, so it’s denser than uncooked tofu, and works as a good substitute for pancetta.  To up the smokiness in the dish a little bit, I added a few dashes of liquid smoke.  I also added a little bit more oil, since you can’t render fat from tofu.

The one execution trick to this dish is adding the egg mixture while the pasta is hot enough to cook it but avoiding scrambling the eggs.  I will admit that I was not entirely successful in this.  I recommend making sure there is a cook surface onto which you can move the pan readily available and stirring quickly as you add the mixture to the pan.  The original recipe is courtesy of Tyler Florence.


© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

Total time: 25 min.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Level: Intermediate


  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces smoked tofu, diced into 1/4” pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 3-4 dashes liquid smoke
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  • Dried red pepper flakes (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for about 1 minute less than the package directions indicate, or until al dente.  Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

While the pasta is cooking, beat the eggs, cheese, and liquid smoke in a bowl until well blended and there are no lumps.  Set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and saute for about 3 minutes, until the tofu is crisp. Add the garlic and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the oil.   Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir the egg mixture again briefly and pour into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble.  Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with chopped parsley, red pepper flakes, and additional cheese.


Chesed Project Meets Mother’s Day

Please join The Chesed Project and Montgomery County Moishe House, where they”ll be making small Mother’s Day baskets for the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA) to distribute to women in their shelters.

WHEN: Sunday, April 29 from 2:00 -4:00 pm

WHERE: 2000 N St NW (by the Dupont Circle Metro), in the Party Room

The Chesed Project will be providing cellophane, ribbons, and items to decorate cards, and are asking people to bring at least one mom-friendly thing to donate (lotions, bath salts, teas, chocolates,* etc.).

For the first hour of the event (2:00 – 3:00 pm), a member of JCADA will come talk about the group’s work and about opportunities to get involved. Feel free to drop in any time. Snacks will be provided.

Please sign up on the Facebook event page. For questions, contact Samantha at samantha.hulkower @

*Please make sure that any edible items have a hechsher


Take Me Out to the Ballgame – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 37)

With baseball season upon us (and the Nats actually winning for once), it brings about thoughts of beer in the Bullpen, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and a warm day with nothing but the outfield, some peanuts, and a half smoke in front of us.

Of course, we all learned about the bases in elementary school (well, except for those of us who learned about them in middle school from a girl named Sarah on the way to a theater competition).  But how many of us know the strikes to keep in mind when it comes to mixing dating and baseball?

Strike 1: A baseball game is a great date idea!  It’s not, however, a great first date idea, especially when you’re meeting someone from JDate or OKCupid for the first time.  First dates should consist of either drinks or coffee, not a game that could last over 3 hours… not to mention the long, stuffy Metro ride home.  Save the game for a later date, when you’re more comfortable spending that many hours together.  And don’t forget to put on your deodorant.

Strike 2: It’s a real turn-off for anyone when you curse at the top of your lungs or heckle because you didn’t like the call that the ump just made.  On a baseball date, try to keep the cursing, bad-mouthing of the other team, and general rudeness to a minimum.  And please don’t sulk all the way home if your team loses.

Strike 3: It’s really easy on a beautiful afternoon to sit at a game and not notice exactly how many beers you’ve had.  Was it 3, or was it more like 13?  Keep things under control, and stick to the limits you’d normally use at a bar.  I can’t think of anything worse than that long, stuffy Metro ride home with a date who’s too drunk to stand up and hold onto the hand rail.

Now that you’ve mastered the baseball date, it may be time to plan some other fun outings.  Feel free to refer to these warm-weather date ideas for things to do in the DC heat.

Go Nats!

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.


Dance in the Circle RESCHEDULED!

As GTJ reported earlier, GTJ staffer and organizer extraordinaire Michael Lipin has been working to produce a multi-group dance festival in Dupont Circle Park.

The aptly named “Dance in the Circle” (DITC) was originally scheduled for tonight, April 21. However, due to the threat of inclement weather (80% chance of thunderstorms and rain), the event was rescheduled for May 13. Same location, obviously.


Rishay vs. Weinberg vs. Ettin vs. Briks vs. Glickman vs. Savin … etc. — Danny’s Heroes Karaoke Battle of the Century

This is going down tonight:

Can Jews sing?  We’ll find out.

Email me if you’re interested:

Danny’s Heroes Karaoke Teaser Video! from Casey Girard on Vimeo.



Stephen’s Prayer Teach

Some of you were kind enough to ask for a copy of the remarks I shared with Sixth & I on Friday night.  They are below.  Just imagine a goofy redheaded kid sharing them and you’ll have the full effect.

The prayer teach is a component of the Sixth in the City shabbat and service hosted by Sitxh & I Synagogue on the second Friday of each month.


Shabbat shalom!

The last time I prayed was nine years ago.  I was 17, and a senior in high school.  I prayed to God to help me get really good grades, and I prayed that he somehow trick my high school crush into asking me to the fall formal.

God went 0 for 2.  I thought this was statistically significant, so I stopped praying.

But I still believe there’s a lot merit to the textual analysis of prayer, so I said “yes” when the Sixth &I crew asked me to say a little something about the Mi Chamocha prayer.

Mi Chamocha is the prayer that we sometimes sing at Sixth & I that goes a like – *** sing *** — except it sounds a lot better when Rick Recht, Erika Ettin, and the like sing it.

It’s the prayer that the Israelites sang after allegedly crossing the Red Sea that Moses split.  And – as we are celebrating Passover – it’s appropriate for this time of year.

Translated – courtesy of Yahoo! Answers – Mi Chamocha reads:

“Who is like you, Adonai, among other gods?

Who is like you, glorious in holiness, awesome in praises, doing miracles?


With a new song, the ones You rescued praised your name at the sea shore.

All of them in unison gave thanks and praise Your rule, and said: ‘Adonai will reign for ever and ever.”


Now, in all likelihood, this prayer was probably just intended to be a simple flattering ode to God in the hopes that he would reward us with tasty manna in the desert.

But, in the spirit of modern academia, I’m going to say three things about Mi Chamocha that the original author undoubtedly didn’t mean.


Number 1:  This prayer serves a litmus test for your type of personality.  Before there was the Myers-Briggs INTJ personality test, there was Mi Chamocha.  If you’re like I am, then you likely read this prayer and said, “Nice work God, but where the hell were you for the previous 400 years of slavery?”  This means you’re likely the type of person who complains when it’s 65 degrees as being both simultaneously too hot and too cold.

Alternatively, if you’re the type of person who reads this prayer and says “This is a really nice prayer.  God definitely deserved thanks,” then you likely can appreciate a pretty flower in the middle of torrential downpour.

I suspect that the latter of these two outlooks produces the happier life.  But I similarly suspect that my disposition toward the former is immutable.  Oh well.


Number 2:  Mi Chamocha teaches us that we can celebrate victories of freedom even when our when our enemies suffer death and misery.  After all, this joyful prayer and song comes on the heels of the drowning of the Egyptian army and on the heels of ten plagues of Egypt – both pretty big on the scales of death and misery.

But there’s a caveat to our celebration.  The song or celebration should be about our savior or defender, not the death of our enemy.  Accordingly, regarding the death of Bin Laden, our celebration should have focused on the merits of either the administration, the US Armed Forces, or Seal Team 6.


Number 3 and last point, because, let’s be honest, this needs to be over:  The Mi Chamocha prayer challenges the notion of the self-made man.  Can any person really have great success simply under his own steam?  Even though it seemed that the Israelites did a lot under their own steam, they always had God helping them.

The same holds for most of today’s highly successful people.  President Obama had Dick Durbin to help him launch his electoral success.  Mark Zuckerberg had investor Peter Thiel.  For most success stories, it’s a supportive family that enabled success.

This message has been carried through up by the Western Cannon:

In Leviticus – the book we’re reading during this time of the year – it says:

“Any man of the House of Israel, who slaughters an ox, a lamb or a goat inside the camp, or who slaughters outside the camp, but does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to offer up as a sacrifice to the Lord before the Mishkan of the Lord, this [act] shall be counted for that man as blood he has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.”  (Lev. 17:3 – 17:4)

John Donne said that “No man is an island.”

Fabulous and Ne-Yo rapped that:

You plus me it equals better math
Your boy a good look but she my better half
I’m already bossing already flossing
But why have the cake if it ain’t got the sweet frosting?

I’ma need Coretta Scott if I’m gonna be king

I’m a movement by myself
But I’m a force when we’re together
Mami I’m good all by myself
But baby u make me better
U make me better [X8]


And last, but not least, consider the Harry Potter novels.  The force of good, and the eventual victor, Harry Potter, even when he seemed like he was going it alone he depended on people like Dumbledore, Hermione, Sirius.

Voldemort, on the other hand, was famously independent: he didn’t want friends, and he didn’t even want to drink unicorn’s blood because it would make him dependent on another creature.


And so, in the spirit of Mi Chamocha, I want to quickly say that though it has been my privilege to take some of the credit Gather the Jews, it absolutely could not have been done without the amazing GTJ team (such as Mike Weinberg and Jon Halperin), and it could not have been done without an amazing Jewish community.  Following on the heels of Julia Moss’s speech last week, it is now my turn to say goodbye.  I will be leaving this summer, but it has been an amazing four years in DC, and I appreciate the DC Jewish community for really making me feel like this has always been my home.

Happy Passover.







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