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From Bob Dylan to Amy Winehouse: an interview with Asaf Galay

Asaf Galay is a renowned art curator and a successful film Director from Israel. He will be in Bethesda for Think and Drink on January 28th to discuss pop culture and Jews from Bob Dylan to Amy Winehouse and the impact of Judaism on those two iconic musicians. He spoke with Danielle Flicker of the JCC of Greater Washington before the event to discuss his life and his most recent exhibit on Amy Winehouse.

Danielle Flicker: What brought you to the profession of curation and film making?

Asaf Galay: I was born in Tel Aviv and was educated at a secular public school. As a teenager I loved art and cinema but majored in science during high school because I thought it is more serious than abstract art.  When I went to college my opinion changed and I majored in literature. Looking back I can tell it had a great contribution to my career and my professional development because documentary film making and also curating requires good story telling skills and not just an artistic eye.

Danielle: You were the curator in Israel for the exhibit Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait at the Beit Hatfutsot. Tell us who is behind the idea of the exhibition on Amy Winehouse?

Galay: The person behind the idea is Amy Winehouse’s brother. After her death in 2011, her house in London became almost a sanctuary. Some people even broke into the house and started stealing objects from it. That was when her brother decided to donate Amy’s personal items to the Jewish Museum in London and these created the first exhibition that tells her life story. When the idea of adapting the exhibition to the Israeli Audience was suggested to him, he was very happy about showing the exhibition at the Beit Ha’Tfuzut.

Amy1140x527

Danielle: What was the main massage in this exhibition? What were you trying to emphasize?

Galay: Amy Winehouse is a singer and a Jewish one. Her contribution to Pop of the new Millennium is very large. During her career she released only 2 albums but these were revolutionary. It is hard to find a “Jewish meaning” in her songs but the story of a Jewish girl from a poor family in London who dreamt of success since an early age, is fascinating and inspires us even with the tragedy of her death in an early age.

Can you think of imagination between Bod Dylan and Amy Winehouse?

I think they are both pioneers in this industry and made great revolutions in their filed. They were both raised In a Jewish home and had some connection to their Jewish identity. Sometimes the connection was out front and sometimes on a more private matter.

Danielle: What were the comments to this exhibition in Israel?

Galay: The exhibition was a great success. The Israeli Audience was thrilled and many people came to see the exhibits.  The final part of the exhibition was a wall filled with Post it notes that the visitors could write their personal reflection of the exhibition and a message to the Winehouse Family.

As an Israeli. I thought I knew the Israeli audience and ordered 100 Post it notes since I didn’t think of the Israelis as very sentimental and a bit more cynical but only three days after we opened the exhibition, we ran out of all the notes and after six months we had thousands of notes we had to ship to London.

 

More details about the event: Dflicker@jccgw.org

Link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/151653501873759/

 

 

 

 

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Adrianne Jewish Advocate of the Week

depas-207Jackie: You are originally from Boston, what do you miss most about Bean Town?

Adrianne: That the locals don’t call it Bean Town! But seriously, the local vibe of loyalty to the city, the sports teams, the history and the people is really second to none. And way better Jewish deli food than anything you can find in DC! Zaftigs in Brookline tops DGS any day!

Jackie: You founded the Black-Jewish Unity Seder, what inspired you to create this event?

Adrianne: I went on an AJC ACCESS Advocacy Day trip, which is a 24 hour trip over a Sunday and Monday to meet with local government, diplomatic and community leaders in cities where AJC has a presence, to Atlanta, where ACCESS was founded. The trip centered around the relationship between the local Jewish and African-American communities. We visited Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood home and neighborhood, and had dinner at The Temple in Atlanta with members of the African-American community there to discuss the history of the relationship between our communities. I have been very involved in cultivating ACCESS DC’s relationship with the Thursday Network, the young professional leadership group of the Urban League, for the last few years, and when I learned that AJC Atlanta hosts a Black-Jewish Seder every year, I thought that we absolutely needed to replicate that in DC given our strengthening relationship with the Thursday Network. It took almost a year of planning, but we brought six amazing groups together and sold out! I can’t wait for the Second Annual Black-Jewish Unity Seder this year on April 11!

Austrian Embassy Hanukkah Party 2015 2-2Jackie: How did you get involved with AJC ACESS?

Adrianne: I like to say that I am second generation AJC. I grew up with my dad being very involved in AJC in Boston. We hosted events in our house. I went to AJC Boston’s Diplomatic Seders every year, as well as other events. So, when I was done with grad school and had extra time on my hands, I knew I needed to fill that time with something meaningful. I sought out ACCESS in DC, having heard about ACCESS in Boston, and attended some events, including the Winter Party and Young Diplomats Reception. I joined the board just a few months after my initial introduction, and I am so glad that I did.

Winter Party 2014Jackie: What can we look forward to with the Winter Party?

Adrianne: Winter Party is not your typical, average happy hour, and that is one of the reasons why I am involved in and love ACCESS. I co-chaired the last two ACCESS DC Annual Winter Parties, and this year’s 7th Annual Winter Party will include part of the proceeds going directly towards AJC’s priority to combat global anti-Semitism. We party with a purpose! If you haven’t registered, now is your chance to buy your tickets here! I’ll be there and so should you on Thursday, January 28th at U Street Music Hall.

Jackie: You recently got married, what is the biggest lesson from married life you can share with us?

Adrianne: Don’t change who you are just because you are married. My husband, Mitch, and I have always had so much fun together, and we wouldn’t change that just because we’re married now. We take joy in the small things and celebrate the big things, but we always find a way to have fun. Even if it’s just cooking dinner together on a weeknight or throwing a huge dinner party (we also both love to cook!), we try to make it as fun as we can. Laughing and joyfulness are so good for your soul.

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

Adrianne: Mitch and I live in Navy Yard and I really love the neighborhood. There are new restaurants opening, and great neighborhood places. We also love walking up to Eastern Market whenever we can. Just spending time walking around this cool, new neighborhood is so much fun.

cookingJackie: I hear you are quite the cook, what is your favorite Jewish holiday recipe?

Adrianne: I’ve been working on my challah over the last few years, and while it can be really frustrating to make, it is rewarding in the end. I’ve made different types of challah with different fillings inside, everything from a traditional plain challah, to fig and orange filled challah. It takes a long time to make, and the weather can totally screw it up, but when it’s right, it is so tasty!

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather… we make a difference.

 

 

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Monthly Mussar: Honor and the Impostor Syndrome

This month, I focused on the concept of honor. From the Mussar perspective, the goal is to see the light of the divine in everyone, and accordingly, each person is due honor just for this fact.

We can think about honor along two dimensions of honor: showing honor for others and showing honor for ourselves. In Everyday Holiness, Alan Morinis focuses on showing honor for other people in our lives. He talks about how it is our natural inclination to see ourselves and our own issues as the most important and emphasizes turning our attention to others. While I agree that this is a worthwhile pursuit, I will focus here on the issue of honor from a different angle, of showing honor for ourselves.

Have you ever felt that you are just not good enough? That, even if things are going well, eventually people will see the real you, who has no idea what they’re doing?

I have.

On my part, I’d felt highly competent throughout grade school, college, and my early working years. But throughout my time in graduate school, my confidence was shattered. Suddenly, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and whether I really belonged there. It was an excruciating feeling. I later learned that I was not the only one, and that the feeling had a name: the impostor syndrome.

I’m not alone. In recent years, more outlets have been starting to talk about the impostor syndrome. It can affect anyone, but perhaps affects women disproportionately.

And it’s a problem. It’s a problem because it not only holds you back from being your best self, but it also denies the world all that you have to offer.

On my part, I thought I had conquered it. With lots of hard work, I started to see some successes, and started to believe that I did have what it takes.

But yet, the impostor syndrome reared its head in my life this month. I had written a journal article that I was fairly optimistic about, and it got rejected. Now I should mention that rejection is a part of the publishing process – this was not the first, nor will it be the last, paper I write that has gotten rejected. Nonetheless, with that rejection letter, I felt embarrassed and humiliated – I thought I was beyond the specific issues they mentioned in their letter – I thought I knew what I was doing.

And so, I found myself feeling inadequate, not because the paper got rejected, but because of all the ways it clearly indicated that I was failure. And all the more so because I had thought I had mastered my subject area and my impostor syndrome. But I was clearly wrong, on both counts. And while I wouldn’t actually go down this route, there was a part of me that just wanted to give it all up. Why bother if I clearly wasn’t cut out for this.

I was pretty down for the next few days. Giving up easy isn’t really my style, so yes, I would work on the article and make it better than it had been before, even if I hated the way all of this had made me feel.

As it happened, though, later that week, I received an acceptance for another paper. At the moment I got that email, I was on top of the world – my feelings of inadequacy were gone, and I felt like I could conquer any challenge that came my way. So OK, my excitement may have been a bit over the top. But in that joy, it helped to put my rejection in perspective. It made me remember that I do know what I’m doing, and that the rejection was an isolated incident, not a reflection on my overall competence.

Final BodyMy encounter with the impostor syndrome during this month of honor helped me to be mindful that we all warrant a basic level of honor, in our relationships with others and our relationships with ourselves. I know that this won’t be the last time I get a paper rejected, nor will it be the last time I ever feel inadequate, but I hope this experience will help me to be more ready for the next time.

Have you ever struggled with the impostor syndrome? Were you able to overcome it? How? Have there been situations when you’ve acted dishonorably to yourself? How would you have handled those situations differently? Share below in the comments.

 

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Revisiting Snowpocalypse of 2010

Capitol-1Have you heard that its snowing in DC? If you have been to a grocery store in the last few days you might have noticed everyone stocking up for a big one. Accept the guy in front of me at Trader Joes who waited in that line for one clove of garlic. Hope it’s the best you’ve ever had.

Something you might not have known is that Gather the Jews was first conceived in the DC’s last great snow storm Snowpocalypse of 2010. As a group of friends were snowed in they came up with the idea of creating a platform where young Jews in the area can go to get all the information they need to participate in Jewish life. And so we have Gather the Jews.

 

It has been 6 years since the initial conceptions and Gather has grown. From a group of friends Gather Teamvolunteering their time to a full time staff of three. What started as a email blast to small group has grown to an email list of 5,000, a website with comprehensive information on the DC community. The monthly Happy Hours are going strong and we have launched new fellowships. Everyday we grow.

Now with 2016 comes a new snow storm. We are excited to see what the next 6 years for Gather brings.

We hope that someone out there is dreaming up the next great idea for our community.

Stay warm and safe.

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Jewish Mensch of the Week – Josh

1913734_1524321174533721_5696876135623580384_nJackie: What made you initially wary of being featured for Gather the Jews?
Josh: I think every person in our community should be featured by Gather the Jews. There are so many people doing amazing and impressive work our there that should be featured before me. I tend to like to be a behind the scenes guy and do what I do without any public recognition. However, since I got a Jewish Guy of the Week t-shirt before I was every featured on Gather the Jews, I felt compelled to earn the shirt. It would not have been right for me to wear it in public without being featured.

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?
Josh: I came to DC back in August of 2009 to start my year of service with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. I then left for a year to work at The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and then came back to DC once again to work for AVODAH starting in October of 2011.

Jackie: Do you have a favorite story from your work with Housing Unlimited, Inc?
Josh: Anytime I sign a lease with someone who has been on our wait list is a favorite story for me. We have a wait list of over 200 individuals in mental health recovery in need of affordable housing up in Montgomery County. So when I get to hand over the keys to someone who has been homeless or living in substandard housing and see that smile on their face, it reminds me how important and needed the work is that we do.

11704888_781452161855_3791433005746740942_nJackie: Anyone who runs into you knows you are a Bernie Sanders fan. Have you always been politically interested/active?
Josh: I have ever since my failed run for class president my senior year of high school and my political career came to a sudden and tragic end. But in all seriousness I have been politically active since high school. I was a delegate for Howard Dean at my state Democratic caucus where I was the youngest representative from my town. I have participated in environmental protests in front of the Israeli Supreme Court to being interviewed outside of an NRA press conference for holding a ‘Down With The NRA’ sign while trying to get Congress to act on sensible gun reform legislation. These days I focus my political energy on the Bernie Sanders campaign as he resonates with where I stand politically.

Jackie: I hear you have some interesting things in your backpack, what are they?
Josh: I always like to keep myself grounded and remind myself of where I came from. One thing I have is a little pocket blessing on a little fabric scroll that reads, “Seek Peace And Pursue It.” I got that after my year of services with AVODAH. I also have a Morgan Silver Dollar from 1884 that was a graduation gift from my high school shop teacher (yes, we had shop class up in Vermont). And lastly I have a tiny hand stone that is of the world made by Danforth Pewter which I got from the Environmental Studies Department at The University of Vermont. It always reminds me that I have the world in the palm of my hand.

Jackie: You’re involved with a lot of organizations around DC, do you have some recommendations for events that we should be attending this month (January)?
Josh: On January 28th at 7pm I’ll be going to the Masa Israel Journey will be hosting its Winter Shalom U’Lehitraot Party at Moishe House Columbia Heights where Masa Israel Alumni are invited to welcome back recent returnees and send off the next class of Masa Israel participants. Just RSVP to Jenn at Jrheuban@shalomdc.org. And who can forget the Gather the Jews’ January Happy Hour on Tuesday, January 26th at Redline.

Jackie: What is your favorite part of the Open Doors Fellowship so far?
Josh: Meeting all of the people who make up this amazing and dynamic young professional community in Washington, DC. And also Rabbi Aaron Potek’s improv skills and getting to know other amazing people in my cohort. If they have reached out to you for coffee you should definitely take them up on the offer!

IMG_2515Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?
Josh: I’m changing the questions to Jews because I can, right? I would go with my Bubbie who I talk with almost daily. She reminds me of where my family came from and the importance of connecting to Judaism in whatever way is most important to you. I would also be amiss if I did not mention my parents who always taught me that the best things in life aren’t things and to always stand up for what is right.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…
at least one of seven reasons that Jews might be there: National Identity, Spirituality, Jewish Values, Community, Shared Memory, Religious Practice, and Ancestry.

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Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day with the DC Jewish Community

The Maccabeats and Naturally 7, sing James Taylor’s “Shed a Little Light” in memory of MLK Jr. Day in our own backyard.

Looking for ways to gather and give back this weekend? Here is a list of some of the things happening.

  1. MLK Shabbat with Washington Hebrew Congregation – Friday January 15th
  2. DCJCC MLK Day of Service – Monday January 18th
  3. MLK Day of Service with Washington Hebrew Congregation – Monday January 18th
  4. MLK National Day of Service Volunteer Project with Adas Israel – Monday January 18th
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Jewish Organizer of the Week – Maya

Jackie: First of all welcome to DC I hear you just moved from Baltimore! DC is a great city but what are you going to miss most about Baltimore?

Maya: I’m probably going to miss how modest and small the community was in Baltimore. There’s a reason it’s called Smalltimore—if you spend enough time there, you start to realize that everyone you meet is at most two degrees away from someone else you know. Oh, and the rent. I was paying $250/month for a small room in a Baltimore rowhouse, which, I’ll admit, is unusual even for Baltimore (but not that unusual!)

Jackie: What campaign with JUFJ are you working on?

Picture 3Maya: I’m working on JUFJ’s Rent Control campaign, which is part of a larger campaign for affordable housing that started last year. With the cost of living skyrocketing in DC, rent control is one of the few ways that the city can preserve affordable housing, particularly for DC’s long-time residents. DC is one of only a small number of cities that has a law ensuring rent control for certain units, but the current law has a number of loopholes that keep it from being as effective as it needs to be. Our goal is to pass legislation that will close these loopholes.

Jackie: If someone wanted to get involved in Social Justice action in DC where do you suggest they start?

Maya: I would honestly suggest they start on twitter. As dumb as it sounds, I didn’t really come into consciousness until I started following a bunch of activists, bloggers, and independent journalists who were tweeting about Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, and the Fight for 15. The amazing thing about twitter is that it manages to stay about two to three days ahead of the news cycle because people are reporting on events in real time. It’s a great platform to connect with other activists and like-minded people in your area. Facebook is for engagement photos and birthdays of people you don’t care about anymore. Twitter is the real deal.

Picture 2Jackie: I hear you’re a vegan. What inspired that?

Maya: I’ve been vegan since I was 18. Prior to that I had been vegetarian and wanted to be vegan, but when I tried it I felt like there was nothing I could eat. I was literally eating lettuce and tomato sandwiches like an idiot. But when I got to college, I became friends with some people who showed me the ropes—taught me how to make tofu scramble and work with nutritional yeast and flax eggs—it’s a lot easier starting out when you have vegan friends to cook with. Then options start to open up for you and you realize that there’s a whole vegan world out there. I don’t talk about it very much because people seem to get annoyed at even the slightest mention of it (especially if you’re an ethical vegan as opposed to someone who’s doing it for the health benefits), but when I started to learn about the realities of the animal agriculture industry, there was really no other way.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Food?

Maya: Probably my mom’s latkes. She uses a combination of regular potato, sweet potato, beets, and apple and the results are outstanding. Not only are they delicious, but they’re visually stunning as well. They are my ultimate comfort food.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Maya: In terms of famous Jews, definitely Drake. I remember seeing this list of backstage refreshments that his team demands for him before every show and it specifically said “large deli tray with NO PORK” and my heart fluttered. In terms of non-famous Jews, my oldest brother. He has always sort of served as a gatekeeper to Judaism for me, and now, as a baal teshuva, he’s teaching me a lot that I didn’t learn from my secular upbringing.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

The person you’re talking to is actually your fourth cousin.

 

Interested in getting involved in JUFJ’s Rent Control Campaign? Learn more here and join them Tuesday January 19th for the campaign meeting.

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Multi-Session Learning Oppurtunities in DC

This winter there are several opportunities to find yourself in multi-session learning settings with peers. Check out these options and let us know if we have missed any!

  1. Introduction to Judaism – Winter Session 2016 – DCJCC. This 8-week course meets on Wednesday nights starting January 13th.
  2. The Religious Action Center’s Introduction to Judaism – Religous Action Center. This 16-week course meets on Mondays starting February 8th.
  3. Mini Gatherings – Gather the Jews. This three week mini Fellowship meets on Wednesdays starting February 10th.
  4. Building a Jewish Home – Sixth & I. This 4-week course meets Friday, February 12, and Tuesdays, February 16, 23, and March 1.
  5. Interfaith Couples Workshop Series – Interfaith Families Project. This 5-week course meets mostly on Sunday afternoon starting February 21th.
  6. 12 Jewish Questions: A (RE)Introduction to Adult-Level Judaism – Washington Hebrew Congregation. This 12-week course, which includes dinner, meets Monday nights starts February 29th.
  7. Nexus – Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. This 6-week course meets different days starting Monday March 7th.
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The Applesauce to Your Latkes: The Year of Love

Any of the following people sound like you? Jew #1: At the family Hanukkah party you listened to your mother remind you for the tenth time this year to “find a nice Jewish boy.” Jew #2: Your mother-in-law barely touched your baked scallion-ginger latkes and didn’t ask for the recipe. Jew #3: You called the woman you met at that Falafel Frenzy to ask her on a date but she tells you she is more interested in your friend. Jew #4: You let the clock strike 12 but didn’t lock lips with that random stranger standing by the bar.

High five, you made it through the holidays.

It’s 2016 and a time to start again, a chance to meet new people and strengthen our current relationships. Chances are if you are reading this article, you probably have “join the Jewish community” or “attend more programs and meet more Jews my age” on your list of resolutions.

Some people feel the only reason to join the community is to find a partner. Those Jews that are on the periphery of Jewish life, those that fall into the connected-ish category, sometimes claim “this is such a meat market-y scene, sooo not what I am into.” Even those Jews that show up to almost every event get tired of the Jewish dating scene in DC based on expectations that there will be a certain “vibe.” Tons of people steer clear of these types of events. Which is sort of sad, because let’s be honest, we never know who we may come across.

Our peers in relationships are interested in finding new friends too. Maybe we don’t want to join a synagogue yet, but we want to find other ways of connecting with cool people.   Not to mention the fact that eventually some of us in relationships are thinking about taking the next step—but it often seems like the only place to go when you are thinking about getting married is a synagogue or a rabbi.

Regardless of our relationship status we are all grappling with a lot of questions – if we are single we debate if we should Swipe right? Date only Jews? Put career first, date later? And if we are in a long term relationship we wonder Do our spirituality levels match? How do we merge our finances? Where do we find a chupah for our wedding?

In the DC young professional Jewish community there are not many programs focused on dissecting, discussing and debating the dating scene. The DCJCC has recently decided to delve deeper by introducing B’shert 2.0: A Modern Jewish Love series. The program will attempt to uncover by casting a wider net and explore the DC dating scene without being scene-y. The events in the series will be diverse; they will provide different kinds of opportunities for people to meet without pressure and without expectation but in real life. The events are for couples, singles and everybody in between, and will include speakers, workshops, comedy, mingling, drinking and more.

The series kicks-off this Monday, January 11th with a discussion with David Yarus, Founder of the dating app Jswipe. Later this month you could meet your match at the largest Jewish speed dating event in the DC area, laugh at love in February and deepen your relationship with your significant other at a young couples conference this spring.

Here’s to a New Year full of good times with those you love!

Stacy Miller has been active member of the Greater Washington Jewish community for six years; she is currently the Manager of EntryPointDC, the DCJCC’s program for 20’s and 30’s Jews. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former Gather the Jews Girl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.

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Mini Gatherings Cohort II Applications!

Mini Gatherings

Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? Looking to explore questions that matter to Jewish 20s and 30s? Like drinking? Afraid of commitment?

Building off of the success from last month’s initial cohort, Gather the Jews is excited to open applications for the next round of MiniGatherings, taking place this February.

What is MiniGatherings, you ask? It is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together about 15 diverse Jews to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions, and laughed at least twice. Guaranteed or your money back!

 

Cost: FREE

What: The three gatherings will be held from 6:30 – 8:00 pm on Wednesdays, February 10, 17 and 24, at the WeWork office – Dupont location. Each session will involve some schmoozing, drinking, and an open conversation facilitated by Rabbi Aaron about questions relevant to Jewish 20s and 30s, such as “Are Jews different?” “What are the unique challenges to being Jewish today?” and “Does Judaism have any deal-breakers?”

No background or knowledge necessary – everyone is welcome. In addition, Rabbi Aaron will host a Shabbat meal on Friday, February 26 at his apartment in Dupont. Must commit to attending all three sessions and the dinner.

Who: Anyone who does not feel connected to a Jewish community in the DC area and is looking to meet other Jews in a smaller, more personal way.

Application: Applications are closed.

Want more information? Email Reb Aaron

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Social Media Manager of the Week – Lauren

10696295_10204140727298772_7533492181160699128_nJackie: You lived in DC and then moved to California, which coast do you prefer?
Lauren: The two coasts are very different in a lot of ways. I’m glad I got to experience the West Coast (I had no idea how delicious persimmons were until I had a tree in my front yard), but I’m ultimately a homebody and like being closer to family on the East Coast.
 
Jackie: What is the most exciting part of your job at Vox? Besides getting to show up to work with your brother!
 
Lauren: The most exciting part of my job is working in a field that is constantly growing and changing –– Vox.com launched on three new social media platforms in the last year.
 
Jackie: Out of all the places you have gone for you blog Gluten Free DC, what has been your favorite meal so far?
 64722_4629078845328_1980468492_n
Lauren: Favorite meal…that’s a tough one. If I had to pick, it would be Bibimbap at Mandu, which is my go-to restaurant for visiting friends and family. The food is amazing, and the menu does a great job of indicating gluten-free options.
Jackie: Speaking of food, do you have a favorite Jewish food?
 
Lauren: I love a good brisket. My mom makes it for almost every Jewish holiday, and there are never enough leftovers.
 
Jackie: How did you get involved with the Jewish National Fund’s Social Media Committee?
 
Lauren: Serving on the JNF social media committee allows me to combine my professional skills with my love of Judaism. Before getting involved with JNF, my only exposure to Israel was through a Birthright trip in college. JNF’s projects have opened my eyes to many more places, organizations and people living in Israel.
Finish the Sentence: When the Jews Gather…I’m at home no matter where I am.
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January Events – 30 in the City

30 in the City (1)There is a lot going on this month – here are the featured highlights! Check the bottom for a few highlighted social events!

 

BShert2.0 logo-01Behind-the-App: A Conversation with Jswipe Founder David Yarus

When: Monday, January 11, 7:00 PM

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

What the organizers have to say about the event:

EntryPointDC is kicking-off our Modern Jewish Love Series with a behind-the-app conversation with @DavidYarus, founder of @Jswipe. In conversation with Lisa Bonos, who writes the popular Solo-ish column at The Washington Post, find out how Jswipe grew to have over 500,000 users, why David considers himself “post-affiliation,” and how apps are changing the modern dating experience.

What makes this event cool?

Navigating love in the technology-driven 21st century is complicated. Swipe right? Facebook stalk? Blind date? Build a profile? It’s definitely not as easy to find your b’shert – your soulmate – as it was for Bubbe. Enter B’Shert 2.0 – EntryPointDC’s Modern Jewish Love Series for 20’s and 30’s singles and young couples. Push speed dating aside and welcome cool speakers, workshops, mingling and more

Who should go?

You like using JSwipe, enjoy creating and using phone apps, and you may be an internal conversationalist on the topics of “what does love have to do with it anyway?” and “what does this dude know that I don’t?”

Cost: $13

Registerhere

 

Image_ACCESS_UMDA Different Lens: Israel from a Non-Jewish Perspective

When: Thursday, January 14, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Where: United Macedonian Diaspora Headquarters (1510 H Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, 20005)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Join AJC ACCESS DC & Project Interchange, with the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) & Generation M, for a discussion on experiencing Israel as a non-Jew. Invited panelists will reflect upon their recent trips to Israel and their personal relationships to the Jewish state.

What makes this event cool?

Now for something completely different! We have all heard the stories and we even like to brag about our first…first time in Israel! But have you actually heard the first-time story from a non-Jew? Hear from students that are dedicated to activism on behalf of their Macedonian heritage and woke up one morning saying, “hey, I met so many Jews through my activism work, let me check out what Israel is all about?” Starting the New Year off with reflection and insight always makes it a bit sweeter.

Who should go?

Regardless of where you stand on Israel matters, this is a panel that is not to be missed. This is for those interested in: international affairs, activism, campus engagement, and everything Israel.

 Cost: Free

Register: here

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 11.57.17 AMThe Jewish Museum Vienna on 52nd Street

Exhibition: Erich Lessing. Andrew Mezvinsky

When: January 20 – March 18 (Mon – Fri: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM and 2:00 – 5:00 PM)

Where: Embassy of Austria (3524 International Court, NW, Washington, 20008)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Erich Lessing, an Austrian Jew, fled Vienna for Palestine in 1939 and returned to Vienna in 1945. As a photojournalist for the Associated Press in 1947, a full member of Magnum Photos, and chronicler of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising against Soviet occupation, he became one of the most important Austrian and well reputed international photographers.

What makes this event cool?

It is not every day that the Jewish Museum Vienna goes on tour and the public receives free access, let alone to the Austrian Embassy. Take a teatime stroll with your loved one, friends, or even parents to show them a different side of DC.

Who should go?

You love art, photography, and history.

Cost: Free

Register: here

 

41h+oGsB30L._UX250_Adam Ruben at the JCC of Northern Virginia

When: Saturday, January 16 at 8:00 PM

Where: JCC of Northern Virginia (8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax, VA)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Adam Ruben, a writer, comedian, storyteller, and, yes, a molecular biologist is the author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School, a satirical guide to the low points and, well, lower points of post-baccalaureate education. Ruben performs all over DC; you may have caught a glimpse of him at the 2014 My So Called Jewish Life at Sixth & I Historical Synagogue. His new one-man show, I Feel Funny: True Stories of Misadventure in Stand-Up Comedy, premiered at the 2015 Capital Fringe Festival.

What makes this event cool?

It will be two weeks since the start of the New Year and we will already be taking ourselves too seriously. This is a great opportunity to cut loose, laugh a little (or a lot), and have an up-close and personal seat with one of DC’s premier Jewish comedic storytellers.

Who should go?

You have a funny bone in your body (or at least you think you used to). Enjoy storytelling, comedy, a slow passed evening, and good company.

Cost: $24 (General Admission)

Register: here

 

Looking to get down and social? Check Out:

Mix and mingle and rub shoulders with the who’s who of Washington’s Jewish Young Professionals at the AJC ACCESS Winter Party.

Catch up with old and new friends at Gather the Jews Monthly Happy Hour, Sixth & I Historical Synagogue’s It’s Only Natural: A Tu B’Shvat Celebration or DCJCC’s Tu B’ShBrunch.

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3 Musicians and a Rabbi Have a Chat

I knew my conversation with the three members of Zusha (Elisha, Shlomo, and Zacharia) was going to be unique from the moment we began our skype call, and not just because I was a rabbi interviewing a group that specializes in Hasidic Soul. There they were – Zacharia strumming on a guitar, Elisha strutting across the screen while drumming on a large container of Utz pretzels, and Shlomo rocking back and forth with his eyes closed – all three humming an improvised tune in beautiful harmony. I joined them for a minute because it was fun and soulful and uplifting, all words often attributed to their music and not often attributed to one’s spiritual life. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to capture that experience in words, I then transitioned us to a more conventional style of interview. As it turned out, that experience was just as fun, soulful and inspiring, and just as hard to capture in words.

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Aaron: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you guys get your start?

Shlomo: Back in college, amidst all the work we were doing, we were searching for something else. Something more. You know, a lot of people focus on their work. It’s important. But some people think the ikkar (primary) is tafel (secondary), and some people make the tafel the ikkar. You have to remember: what’s the essence and what’s secondary? And what we prioritize is friendship and connection. In college, you hang out with a lot of people at parties, you drink with them, and they help you forget everything. How many friends do you have that help you remember everything? That help remind you of the beauty of learning Torah, of singing a niggun (wordless melody) on Shabbos, of keeping Shabbos? Two of my best friends became Elisha and Zack. Our beginning was in friendship. We started singing together, and then we brought in instruments, and then Zusha was born.

Elisha: We started as an informal band, playing in different people’s apartments, until eventually we decided to gather the Jews (laughs). We decided to perform, and our first show sold out the Mercury Lounge in NYC. And then our debut EP went to #9 in the billboard charts for world music. (He then shows me a sketch drawing of me that he drew on a napkin.)

Aaron: In addition to being talented musicians, you’re also pretty goofy. Do you see any connection between humor and music?

Zacharia: I just watched an interview with John Cleese, and he talked about how throughout his childhood he was moving around and whenever he moved to a new place and didn’t have any friends, he would tell jokes. Humor broke down a lot of people’s walls and helped him to make friends. If you make someone laugh, you’re immediately connected. And I think that’s very similar to what we’re trying to do with our music. Humor is a big part of who we are. We’re trying to break down as many walls as we can. Humor does that. And singing songs without words does that too. It breaks down people’s defense mechanisms.

Shlomo: Humor is when the words take you to a place beyond the words. We’re trying to get to the ultimate laughter. Mashiach (messianic) humor. That’s real stand up – when stand up actually lifts people up after they’ve fallen from their throne.

It’s like we say (in the grace after meals): “May God lead us standing up into our land.” In the times of Mashiach, G-d will stand us up.

Aaron: For most people, talking about the Messiah gives them….

Zacharia: The heebie jeebies?

Aaron: Exactly. So to hear you talk about it so openly is both refreshing and jarring. Why do you use messianic language?

Zacharia: If you don’t have a vision or a goal, then what are you doing? I think it’s important to have a personal vision, a vision for your family, and a vision for the world. We’re asking: how can you make the world the most beautiful place?

Shlomo: It’s like taxes.

Elisha: Taxis?

Shlomo: No, taxes. You have to keep track of all of it – where is it coming from, who paid it, where it is going to, etc. We’re not supposed to drive ourselves crazy, but there’s an idea of putting your mind into your matter, and that’s how you get mind over matter. Bringing in mind and heart in all that we do. If there’s no consciousness in what I’m doing, then where am I going?

Elisha: I heard taxis. Which is like the metaphor of a car. If you have a nice car, but if it doesn’t take you to where you’re going, then it’s a waste of money. We’re trying to go somewhere. For us, mashiach is our ultimate destination. It’s like those ride cars at the grocery store that cost 25 cents. They move around a lot but don’t actually move anywhere. That’s an immature perspective of the world – to stay in one place. We talk about mashiach because we always have a goal in mind.

Zacharia: When it comes to messianism and mashiach, we’re talking about improvement. Actively striving. For self-improvement. Societal improvement. World improvement. A better life and existence.

Aaron: You like to share deep thoughts, and I noticed that you do this on your website as well. I imagine that’s pretty uncommon for a musical band to do. So why do you do it?

Zacharia: We don’t see Zusha as just music. It’s a movement. In that movement there are so many different parts. There’s the friendship. The music. The silence. And the Torah that inspires us. There’s all sorts of different creative parts. And we’re always trying different things. Sometimes we’ll try a dvar Torah (a thought or word of Torah). Sometimes we’ll try a movie. Or Elisha will make a drawing. We want to encourage people to explore different parts of their life that can break down barriers between them and other people.

Aaron: What’s the strangest feedback or comment you’ve received?

Zacharia: It’s not a weird thing necessarily, but people are always saying that they can’t believe we’re so cool and we’re Jewish. They can’t believe that we’re doing what we’re doing, and connecting to such diverse people, and still being religious Jews.

Elisha: It seems people see a dichotomy and believe that these things are contradictory. We’re trying to unite all kinds of forces. And that comes through in our music. The idea of uniting seemingly conflicting energies or notions or influences and finding a way for them to fuse.

Zacharia: People have asked us: “What are you saying? What does it mean?” Our music is about revealing your inner light. Discovering what animates your life and your neshama (soul). The niggun allows us to unite under a common melody.

Shlomo: A niggun is the emotion behind all of our motions.

Aaron: Do I have time to ask one or two more questions?

Elisha: Yes, but then we have to go daven mincha (pray the afternoon prayers).

Aaron: Why did you decide to call your new album (which came out on January 5th) kavana (intentionality)?

Zacharia: Kavanah is so integral to what we do. Two people can do the same thing and or sing the same niggun and it will be totally different for each of them. The impetus is a person’s kavanah – what they bring to the table. We don’t like to sing at people, we like to sing with people. It’s not what we’re thinking, it’s what you’re thinking.

Elisha: That’s descriptive of our shows. We’re trying to create experiences where we’re all experiencing mindfulness to connect in a deep way. We so rarely have that experience. We want to bring people together and have kavana.

Shlomo: Maimonides says there are different spheres. And the highest sphere is the part that allows all the other spheres to shine through. That’s what a niggun is. It’s the level above all other levels that let’s everything else shine through. Thought is more powerful than action because a thought can be manifested in many different actions. An action is defined.

Zacharia: I don’t know if I agree with that.

Elisha: Machloket zusha. (Machloket is a Talmudic term for a disagreement.)

Zacharia: I think action speaks more than the language.

Elisha: And I think it’s speech. When to talk and when not to talk. What to say and how to say it.

Aaron: Gather’s target audience is Jews in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are struggling to connect to their Jewish identity. Any advice about what Judaism could look like to them?

dc_poster (1)Zacharia: It’s like if you’re looking for the most beautiful thing – a wife or husband – and you’re asking, “What can he or she do for me?’ then it will never work out for you. It is like that with Judaism. It should be presented in a way where you want to give to it. You want to sacrifice for it. Put work into it. Because it’s work.

Shlomo: There’s no beauty in that which you only take from.

Zacharia: It’s one thing to be mindful. It’s one thing to say I love you and another thing to take out the garbage. Judaism is full of opportunities to take out the garbage. (He laughs.)

Aaron: Why did you just laugh?

Zacharia: My mom just walked in. And I haven’t taken out the garbage all week…

Zusha will be playing at Tropicalia in Washington, DC on Sunday, January 17. For tickets, please click here.

 

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My Stanford Prison Experiment While Waiting in Line for ‘Star Wars’

The scene reminded me of the 1971 experiment on authority which suggested why Nazis conformed, only instead of cells with prisoners there was an IMAX movie theater full of Star Wars nerds.

My numbered wristband revealed when I could enter the IMAX theater at the National Air and Space Museum the night Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened. I would be the 362nd nerd in the theater because I arrived only 90 minutes before the showing instead of 630 minutes like the luckiest nerd, Number 1.

Screw this. I cut through the pack, weaving between ropes, to stand with my friend Griffin who had arrived 150 minutes early.

“Do not cut in line or stand out of order!” a uniformed man who was standing outside the roped area screamed to the moviegoers. “You will enter the theater single-file! We will check your wristband! If you are out of order we will remove you! There will be no saving seats!”

Nerds began chattering, asking other nerds “What number are you?” to ensure they lined properly. When nerds asked about my number, I said, “I’m just standing with my friend,” and pocketed my right hand.

“Good luck, I hope you make it,” nerds said patting me on the back.

The line began moving and solemn nerds shuffled towards the leader, the man checking wristbands, in front of the theater. I quickly considered what to say to that man justifying my disorder in as few words as possible. My confidence grew, remembering that I was young and strong and I teach classes on how to write in plain language for my profession.

“This is wrong,” Griffin said. “Let me handle this.”

I looked at my livid friend, Number 158, who always supports social justice and is never afraid to speak up. “Ok. Thanks for sticking up for me,” I said.

Terror overtook me when just eight nerds stood between us and Wristband Checker. “150,” he yelled and I searched for a hidden tunnel under my feet, a ram to sacrifice, or anything else to help me escape.

The line shortened even more and I could see three nerds standing outside the roped area next to a burly security guard. They were caught. Before I could turn back, Wristband Checker yelled “158.”

Griffin, animated and high-pitched, started in rapid fire. “My friend goes in with me he had cancer twice and couldn’t stand in line with me that long his hip bone was removed due to childhood cancer!”

Wristband Checker, who didn’t look in our eyes and saw us only as numbers, grabbed my arm and said, “362. . . to the side! You can’t enter yet. Wait until you are called.”

“But he wouldn’t have been able to stand with me for two and a half hours!” Griffin fought back.

“I can’t let him in.”

“I’m sorry, I tried!” Number 158 said to me, walking away.

I drooped and watched as hundreds of other nerds entered, taking the best seats. The security guard looked down at the two-inch lift in the sole of my left shoe, which I need to walk after cancer left that leg shorter. He said in a voice softer than I had expected, “You should have taken the disabled entrance. There’s a special entrance upstairs for you people. I wish you took the disabled entrance.”

A young woman joined us segregated nerds. “That’s my fiancé!” she said, looking towards a young man walking away and miming something like, “I’ll come for you later, I promise.”

She was Number 410 and he was Number 279. “You are going to split up an engaged couple?” she said almost in tears.

“You were out of line,” Wristband Checker said, his focus already having moved on to Number 280’s wristband.

“Nothing he can do. He has to follow orders,” the guard told her.

“Get those people back!” Wristband Checker instructed the guard, pointing to us. “They’re too close to the ropes.”

We retreated from the ropes and from the security guard who had a gun, or maybe a light saber? I suddenly forgot where and who I was.

Twice the guard asked me, “Who are you again?”

It was easy for him to forget amid the chaos we marching nerds caused. “I’m Number 362,” I said.

“I told you you should’ve taken the disabled entrance,” he said again.

After Number 361 entered, the guard stopped Wristband Checker. “I got Number 362 here!” he said, sweeping me into the dark theater as if it were a hidden cellar.

That man saw my humanity and I won’t forget him.

I followed the other nerds down the hallway and up stairs towards empty seats when I spotted Griffin in the middle of the fourth row, a great location that allowed the 85-foot-wide screen to occupy her entire visual field. “Hey!” I said.

“Hey you made it, thank God! I even saved a seat for you.”

I didn’t ask how she did it. I sat beside Griffin and eyed my right wrist. For years hospital wristbands branded me a “cancer patient,” and now I was branded a “lesser nerd.” Rage began bubbling.

Then I beat the authoritarian Wristband Checker by forgetting he exists when the screen illuminated my life for two and a half hours with bastard children and cute robots. I felt for the end of the wristband inside the loop and pinched it with my thumb and the knuckle of my forefinger. In one yank I ripped it apart and thought, as I did after finishing treatment for both my first and second cancers, never again . . . never again.

This originally published on The Huffington Post. Benjamin Rubenstein is the author of the Cancer-Slaying Super Man books.

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2015: A Jewish Year in Review

Another year is almost over! 2015 brought many great things and to usher out the year in style, Gather the Jews has put together a little year in review of our own. As a greater Jewish community, it is nice to remind ourselves of where we have been and where we are going…

In this year alone, local D.C. area Jewish organizations and individuals posted over 1,400 events to the Gather the Jews calendar. That means an average of 100 events per month were happening all throughout the city, attracting and inviting different Jews from all walks of the DC/NOVA/MD Jewish life. We hope that this year you were able to find your fit in the large community that exists and if not, that’s what next year is for!

So how do we look at such an amazing year? Some of our organizational partners sent us just a few highlights from their year – these are the moments that you created through your enthusiasm and participation! Check it out…

 

2015 Highlights

February 24: First Happy Hour planned by Gather’s new associate Jackie!

Happy Hour at 18th Street Lounge in Dupont

Happy Hour at 18th Street Lounge in Dupont

 

 

March 13: Gather the Jews launches the inaugural Open Doors Fellowship

Cohort I Open Door Fellows

Cohort I Open Door Fellows

 

 

April 22: Adas Israel’s Young Professional Kavanah Experience samples a taste of Jewish yoga, meditation, learning and kirtan.

kavanah experience

 

 

May 7: ACCESS DC 15th Annual Young Diplomat’s Reception “Celebrating Culinary Diplomacy: The Art of Breaking Bread and Building Bridges

AJC ACCESS DC Young Diplomats Reception 2015 Option 1 (1)

 

 

May 14:  YWLN Cake Pops and Entrepreneurship Event at Baked by Yael

Young Women's Leadership Network making Cake Pops

Young Women’s Leadership Network making Cake Pops

 

 

May 22nd: Gather the Jews held the fifth annual Jewish Guy/Girl of the Year Competition. We crowned Jewish Guy of the Year Marc and Jewish Girl of the Year Sasha!

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From left to right: Gather Associate Jackie, Jewish Guy of the Year Marc, Jewish Girl of the Year Sasha, Gather Director Rachel Gildiner, Former Gather Director Rachel Giattino

 

May 31: Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s first-ever Blue & White BBQ

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June 11: 6th in the City Black Tie Trivia Night 2015

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Host Committee for Black Tie Trivia Night

 

 

June 13: Nice Jewish Boys DC gathered before heading over to march in the Capital Pride Parade.

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Can you spot former Jewish Impacter of the Week Ben?

 

 

October 15: It was Young Leadership’s 5th Annual Impact DC!

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November 5: Let The Sun’s Light Rise Remembering the life and legacy of Yitzhak Rabin with Scholar in Residence Member of Knesset Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin

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Member of Knesset Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin

 

 

December 6: Moishe House roommates lighting Hanukkah candles.

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Moise House DC members Tiffany, Benji and Adam

 

 

December 6: Young Women’s Leadership Network Conference

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December 9: Moishe House DC member Tiffany celebrates Hanukkah at the White House.

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December 10: Austrailian Mixer with Moishe House DC

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December 19: YP@Adas seeing Zoo Lights

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