Jewish Girl of the Year – Susan’s Acceptance Speech

imageShalom Gather the Jews Community,

It is an honor to be chosen as your Jewish Girl of the Year!  I am excited and feel quite humbled to be a part of DC’s bizarre although humorous tradition.  My parents mention it to everyone…I mean everyone.  So thank you for helping me rack up points on the home-front. 

In all seriousness, I often find myself using the GTJ website to determine which Shabbat service I want to attend, perusing various holiday offerings, and at times searching for roommates when needed.  When non-DC friends ask what the Jewish Community here is like…I always say it’s AMAZING!  Then I tell them to check out the Jewish events on…you probably guessed it…Gather the Jews!

This annual competition has been a fun and interesting opportunity to connect to the Jewish folks of DC.  A huge THANK YOU to former GTJ Guy of the Week, Jason, for making my video possible and actually creating a comical campaign.  To everyone who voted for me, thank you for giving my parents something to “kvell” about. 

GTJ plays a pivotal role on behalf of the DC Jewish community.  It allows us to find out where we can volunteer, socialize, pray, and learn.  So thank YOU to GTJ for supporting our Jewish community and giving us a place to gather. 

Until the next gathering,

Jewish Guy of the Year – Kevin’s Acceptance Speech

kevinHi community,

Thanks.  I’m really honored to be the Jewish Guy of the Year.

hank you to the friends whose enthusiasm kept this contest fun, and a shout out to the passionate community leaders who make being a Jewish young adult in DC great.  If you are reading this and are new to the area yourself, welcome!  I look forward to meeting you.

Gather the Jews does an awesome job acting as a hub for DC’s young adult Jewish community, and I’m looking forward to building together an even more meaningful and welcoming community in the upcoming year.

See you soon,

A Beginner’s Guide to Lag BaOmer

burningI’ll be the first to admit—I know nothing about Lag BaOmer. I’ve worked at a synagogue for two-and-a-half years, and I still couldn’t tell you what the “Omer” are exactly, except that “OMer” was the name of the raccoon logo for Odyssey of the Mind, a creative thinking program that I participated in religiously from fifth through eleventh grade. (So maybe that counts as some kind of observance of the Omer?)

It wasn’t until Sixth & I and 2239 got together to host Burning Mensch: A Lag BaOmer Celebration (on Sunday, May 18 at 5:30 pm—hint, hint) that I actually decided to investigate this mysterious holiday.

If you’re like me, you never learned about Lag BaOmer in Hebrew School. Our semester usually ended sometime in May, before the holiday usually occurs, and even if it did happen while we were still in session, our teachers were way too jaded by our apathy to try and teach us anything new. And so, I spent 24 years of my life still wondering what the what Lag BaOmer is.

I decided to ask the resident rabbis at Sixth & I, and here is what I learned (with a little help from My Jewish Learning):

1. No one really knows why Lag Bomer was started, sort of. To quote Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire.” Lag BaOmer is celebrated with bonfires and outdoor grilling, so it’s sort of like a Jewish Memorial Day (but not in the sense of memorializing fallen soldiers; there’s another day for that. It’s more in the sense that Lag BaOmer is traditionally celebrated with bonfires and barbecue, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the reason for the holiday).

burn2. Omer is the period between Passover and Shavuot, and Lag BaOmer means “the 33rd day of the Omer.” The Omer are the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. These days are a period of semi-mourning for Jews (probably because lamenting is a favorite pastime of ours). Because of this, you’re not supposed to get married or hold other celebrations during the Omer. To physically express this grief, observant Jews won’t cut their hair, which brings us to the next thing I learned.

3. Lag BaOmer is kind of the most hipster of Jewish holidays. Men are supposed to grow beards, and as most of us know, the only people who grow long beards in the summer, are hipsters. It’s also custom to roast various meats over a bonfire. Folks, the dream of the 1890s is alive in Lag BaOmer.

4. The Omer is a period of mourning because there was a plague, which ended miraculously on Lag BaOmer. This part was actually a little unclear (as most Jewish teachings are, I guess, like, can there ever just be one reason for anything?). Here’s what My Jewish Learning has to say:

The most often cited explanation for the Jewish practice comes from the Talmud, which tells us that during this season a plague killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students because they did not treat one another respectfully. The mourning behavior is presumably in memory of those students and their severe punishment.

According to a medieval tradition, the plague ceased on Lag BaOmer, the thirty-third day of the Omer…As a result, Lag BaOmer became a happy day, interrupting the sad­ness of the Omer period for twenty-four hours.

5. You’re not supposed to get married during the counting of the Omer, but you are allowed to get married on Lag BaOmer. It’s one day of celebration in a sea of mourning, after all. Better do it big.

6. It’s actually not really that different from Burning Man. As you may have picked up, we at Sixth & I love a good pun, whether it’s our Purim event Thrilla in Megillah to Chanu-Comedy: A Festival of Laughs, but more often than not, our puns are more for laugh than meaning. For Burning Mensch, though, it’s actually not that far off from the way Israelis commemorate Lag BaOmer. Israelis traditionally celebrate this somewhat mystical holiday with huge bonfires in the middle of the streets. So, to recap, both have fuzzy origins, and both have huge bonfires.

7. You should actually come to Burning Mensch: A Lag BaOmer Celebration (and not just because I’ll be there Lag BaOmering it up). For anyone who spends too much time in the District, you often forget how great it is to get outside of the city—even for a day. And if you don’t really know that much about Lag BaOmer, maybe you can learn something, too. Either way, there will be barbecue, outdoor sports, s’mores, and, yes, fire.


GTJ’s Rachel G. Announces Next Steps

At the January 2013 Happy Hour

At the January 2013 Happy Hour

Two years ago, at a Shabbat dinner in Delaware, I had the opportunity to schmooze with one of the founders of Gather the Jews. A few months later, I was hired as GTJ’s first ever employee. Getting to know the DC Jewish community, working with its dedicated professionals and befriending its dynamic community has been a formative experience. It is one that I will never forget.

Last April, Gather the Jews found a home at GW Hillel based on the synergy of our missions to guide young Jews on their Jewish journeys. This exciting, new partnership opened me up to a whole new world of Jewish engagement. Even though my position with Gather the Jews focused on young professionals, I began forming connections with students that grew into meaningful relationships, culminating in staffing Birthright for GW Hillel this past January. Returning from Birthright, I realized that I wanted to stay in that Hillel space.

This summer, I will be transitioning from Gather the Jews into a new role as the Senior Associate for Programming and Engagement at GW Hillel. I can’t wait to take the lessons I have learned through GTJ into my next role. And don’t worry, even though I won’t be officially “gathering”, I’ll still be popping up at Jewish events around DC!

Stay tuned: At the end of May, we will be announcing GTJ’s exciting next steps!







A New Start to Your Saturday Night: Second Saturday Havdalah with NOVA Tribe Series

havdalahIf you are a 20 or 30 something Jew living in the DC area, you are most likely doing one of the following on a Saturday night:

a) getting ready for a party hosted by one of the GTJ girls or guys of the week

b) hanging at the Star & Shamrock or DGS noshing on a reuben

c) out on date night with a nice Jewish boy or girl

d) watching that rerun of SNL featuring Drake’s bar mitzvah

d) none of the above but still watching a movie/bar-hopping/rooting for your team at the game/listening to your favorite band/reading a book

You could be doing any of these things on a Saturday night, but have you ever thought of taking some time before you head to the party, movie, or game to celebrate the beginning of a new week?

Havdalah, the short ceremony that takes place on Saturday night and marks the end of Shabbat, involves the lighting of a braided candle, blessing over a cup of wine, and smelling fragrant spices.

This summer you can participate in this ritual every Second Saturday of the month through a new program, Second Saturday Havdalah, hosted by NOVA Tribe Series. 

The first Second Saturday Havdalah will take place this Saturday, May 10th from 6:30pm-9:30pm at Quincy Park in Ballston.

Each month’s Second Saturday Havdalah will be hosted at a new location and have a theme.  This month’s theme is “spices” and the program will include a “spicy” food contest, a make-your-own-spice packet station, a potluck picnic in Quincy Park, and an after-party at Carpool in Ballston.  NOVA Tribe will also be partnering this month with Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation Young Adults & the Congregation Adat Reyim Young Adult Chavurah for ritual & songs.

NOVA Tribe Series Committee Member, Emily Landsman, remembers her first experience with the ceremony, ” Though my family always had a Shabbat dinner and went to shul on Saturday mornings, Havdalah was not one of our rituals.  My first experiences marking the end of Shabbat were in Israel on USY Pilgrimage when I was 16.  Our backdrops included the Jerusalem skyline and dramatic vistas of the Negev.  It was a great way to welcome in the new week.  I’m now looking forward to marking this ritual at home with friends in our local Northern Virginia parks.”

Second Saturday Havdalah offers something for everyone, from the foodie to the musician and everyone in between as each month will include mingling, ritual, music, art, and food.  The program also allows for participants to partake in some or all of the evening.  zthis Saturday, the potluck begins at 6:30 pm, “spicy” food contest at 7:30 pm, Havadalah ceremony at 8pm, and after-party at Carpool at 8:30pm.

To register for Second Saturday Havdalah visit here.

NOVATribeSeriesCircled853a1NOVA Tribe Series provides Jews in their 20′s and 30′s  living and working in Northern Virginia (and the Greater Washington area) with innovative programming and leadership activities that promote learning about and giving back to the Northern Virginia community. To learn more visit their website, join their event newsletter , and visit their Facebook group & page.





Masa Israel Featured Internship: Special Projects Intern, The Pears Innovation and International Development Program at Tel Aviv University

Special Projects Intern, The Pears Innovation and International Development Program at Tel Aviv University – Provided by Career Israel

The Special Projects Intern will work closely with program staff to promote special projects. In particular, the intern will help launch the first “innovation for development” accelerator program in Israel. This position provides exposure to all levels of the program’s operations as well as to key players in the field. It requires someone who is well-organized, creative, a quick learner, and strong on follow-through and relationship-building.

• Assist staff on research of existing accelerator models and outlining of key elements critical to a successful program
• Identification of potential local and international partners for implementation of accelerator
• Mapping and needs assessment of start up industry players eligible to apply for accelerators in fields such as health, alternative energy, agriculture, water, education and ICT
• Assistance in identification and recruitment of mentors both locally and internationally as aligned to needs of startups
• Identification of potential sponsors, VC and Angel funding for successful projects, etc.
• Create a Wikia for the competition and Hackathon
• Miscellaneous other needs that will arise with program development

The Pears Innovation and International Development Program at Tel Aviv University aims to make Israel the center of innovation and technological solutions for the developing world. The program works closely with the Israeli government, business and civil society in order to develop government policies and programs that can support an Israeli international development industry in important fields such as agriculture, water, renewable energy, health and education. In addition, the program organizes capacity building and community building activities on a wide range of international-development related topics for business and civil society in Israel.


One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 89)

trashIn my work, I get daily emails from clients, friends, and acquaintances with any and all questions they have related to dating.  This long question below is one I got not too long ago, and I wanted to share it with my GTJ readers since it also may have happened to some of us.


“I have my own personal question based on the whole dichotomous nature of online dating:  What if you are fond of someone you met online, but only platonically? Is there any way, realistically, to transition that to a friendship?  Also, here’s a specific variation: Is it super rude to suggest that one of your OKCupid dates might be perfect for a friend?  I actually think it’s a really good idea because I like and respect my friends, and I share common values with them, but we have different tastes and like somewhat different guys.  Moreover, I know this can work in practice because I have a friend who met her husband as a follow-up to his online date with her friend.  However, I mentioned this option to a date last week, obviously in a nice way, and he got pretty offended.  (And, btw, it was because we were wholly incompatible politically/ideologically, so it’s not even like I said, ‘Oh, I’m not feeling physical chemistry so why don’t you try my friend, instead?’)  I thought I was making a perfectly reasonable suggestion, but apparently it may be a huge faux pas.”

Erika’s Answer

As for setting up dates that don’t work out, I actually think it’s wonderful, but I do have some caveats.  If you think highly enough of someone to want to set him or her up with someone else, it’s a huge compliment.  That said, give it some time (at least a few weeks) before making this gesture.  I would be offended if, on a date or even the next day, the guy said to me that he wanted to set me up with a friend.  Even if I agreed that we weren’t a good fit for each other (and I would only recommend doing this if it’s agreed that there’s a mutual mismatch, lest someone get upset), I’d rather have the suggestion come to me after some space/time.  It’s all about the timing and the framing of it.

I went out with someone once on two dates.  After those dates, I concluded that, while he was very nice, he wasn’t for me.  (I have too strong of a personality for some people.  If you know me at all, you know what I mean!)  Anyway, when I kindly declined a third date, saying that I wasn’t feeling the spark, he got defensive and said some things that I didn’t appreciate.  Again, you want to make sure to handle things nicely and maturely with everyone… especially with me since I have a big database of single people waiting to be set up!

For this simple reason, in addition to, you know, the possibility of love, it’s important to make sure you’re at your best on every date.  Avoid being rude, having your cell phone out, drinking too much, talking about yourself the entire time, and generally being a poor sport about the date not going well.  And, I look forward to the flak I’ll take for this comment, but even if that date doesn’t go well, for opposite sex couples, I still recommend that the gentleman pays.  This way, he still comes off as generous, and he’s showing that chivalry is not completely dead.  And given that the first date should only be for coffee or a drink, it shouldn’t break the bank.

Now, go forth, date, be nice, and, after ample time, make those set-ups.

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.






GTJ Interviewed Rachel Ament, author of The Jewish Daughter Diaries!

JewishDaugher-coverRachel Ament is the author of The Jewish Daughter Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much by Our Moms which is now available on Amazon. Love the book and want more? Rachel A. will be at Sixth & I on July 17th for a book-club style discussion.

RG: The Jewish Daughter Diaries features hilarious and heart-warming stories from well-known female voices about their relationships with their Jewish, and at times eccentric, mothers.  How did you get the idea for the book?
RA: I have just always really enjoyed hearing and telling stories about Jewish moms.  The stories are always so funny and weird and relatable.  I thought there was this awesome universality about Jewish moms that Jewish women should be embracing and celebrating.

RG: Some of the contributors to The Jewish Daughter Diaries (like Mayim Bialik from Blossom!) are very famous.  How were able to connect to them?
RA: I wish I had some cool story where I was hanging out at an awards show and charmed all these celebrities with my wit and grace.  But alas, no such story exists.  I just emailed their publicists!

RG: What was the typical first reaction when you told potential contributors about the topic of the book?  Was there a typical reaction?
RA: They were really excited by the concept.  Many seemed to have been waiting for the chance to tell these crazy stories for years.

RG: Were there stories that didn’t make it into the book that you wish could have?
RA: One writer had a terrific story about her mom’s reaction to boys trashing her Bat Mitzvah party with tampons and menstrual pads.  We ended up going with another amazing story from the same writer but I still feel like there is a hole in the book without this pad-throwing tale.

RG: You also contributed your own stories to the book.  Is this a plot for revenge on your mom for embarrassing you throughout your life (as only a Jewish mother could)?  Did your mom get to approve the stories you chose?
RA: My mom rarely gets embarrassed so that kind of revenge plot wouldn’t work on her!  She is the most ego-less person I know.  I did show her my essay and she was way more concerned about the way I portrayed myself in it than the way I portrayed her.

RG: Any plans to write a sequel about Jewish dads?
RA: Probably not anytime soon.  I think that would be a great book but I’m ready to move onto a completely different theme.  I’m working on a novel right now based on my experiences as a college student in New Orleans.  It will probably be much darker and deranged than this collection!

Rachel Ament is a writer and editor living in Washington, DC. She has been published in the New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, Oxygen, AOL, Hello Giggles, and other publications. She was the head writer for the New Orleans-based film Nola  and her essay will be included in the anthology The Truth About Memoir: How to Write About Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion and Integrity, to be published in November.


James Vincent McMorrow: The Irish Bard Plays the Bimah

James+Vincent+McMorrow+JVM18I’m Jewish and a DC native, but this was my first time visiting Sixth & I.  The historic synagogue opened in 1908 and spent 51 years as a Methodist church before being restored and reopened as a 21st century Jewish community center of sorts in 2004.  Today, it plays host to comedians, musicians, and other performers, as often gentile as they are Jewish.

I decided to make my first trip for purely non-religious reasons.  James Vincent McMorrow was playing, an artist described by more than one publication as “the Irish Bon Iver,” and I’m a big fan.  McMorrow went to New York and then Coachella in the days after playing Sixth & I, but on a warm April night, a friend and I saw him in a show more intimate than those could ever be.

Stepping into the building from I street, it felt as though I’d entered any other religious or civic center with a small and uninteresting reception area distinguished only by the presence of a makeshift beer and wine bar.  My friend and I grabbed a drink and walked up the flight of stairs into the main sanctuary.  Stained glass windows lined one wall, and an eerie, hazy light filtered through them into the auditorium from the street.  Numbered pews faced a raised stage with balcony seating providing the feel of a concert venue, but a large menorah flickering to the side refusing to fully complete the image.

Glen Hansard, best known from the movie Once, wouldn’t be a bad superficial comparison for James Vincent McMorrow.  They’re both bearded Irishmen with a deeply emotional, lyrics-driven catalogue.  However, McMorrow’s voice is a tool entirely his own.  Like Justin Vernon, McMorrow lives within the falsetto, but he pushes his voice and volume further than Vernon to both his detriment and his triumph.  In many ways, he reminds me of the other geniuses of the falsetto who have been among my lasting favorites: Jeff Buckley, Andrew Bird, and Freddie Mercury come to mind.

When McMorrow and his three countrymen stepped on stage after a stirring acoustic culmination to opener Aidan Knight’s set, they seemed nervous.  They didn’t go right for their most popular songs.  The house was packed with a young crowd, many of whom had clearly never been to Sixth & I either.  Most concerning of all, the band didn’t seem like they had played together for long or formed much chemistry – a suspicion I later had confirmed.

But then they got a feel for the place.  A light show kicked in behind them.  It grabbed attention, with a textured screen and series of amorphous, slowly pulsing video projections.  The band picked up their pace, and McMorrow began to unleash.  He started hitting his best material, and reminded fans that it’s unbelievable how many solid songs he has on only two albums.  The audience had clearly been won over as well, finally getting in a groove with the alternating pattern of material from Post Tropical, McMorrow’s most recent album, and his first, Early in the Morning.

The band closed out their main set with “Cavalier,” a highlight and personal favorite from Post Tropical, before leaving McMorrow to break out a soulful solo cover of Steve Winwood’s 80’s jam, “Higher Love.”  Applause rained in, McMorrow took his bow, and then performed the shortest encore break in history, barely letting the doors close behind him.  He came back by himself and played “And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop,” bringing his voice louder with each chorus.  The soft-spoken guy, who described himself as doing “a poor job of looking like a lumberjack,” then told a story about feeling guilty for sleeping in and not getting to see much of DC.

The rest of the band came trotting out shortly after for their finale.  They hit their stride immediately, carrying over from where they left off before the intermission, and nailed the Mumford and Sons style build-up on “If I Had a Boat.”  The house (of worship) erupted in applause, and the band said their goodbyes.

I was left behind with images of “eight crazy, happy Irishmen” cruising the monuments on bright red Capital Bikeshares, as McMorrow triumphantly decided on stage they would be doing after the show.  Though he may not be the best at counting — there were only three other people in the band — there’s no doubt he can play, and with a few more albums as quality as his first two, I’ll be there to see him.

Listen to a clip Max recorded from the show:



Videos from the Jewish Guy & Girl of the Year Finalists!

Here are the videos for the Jewish Guy & Girl of the Year finalists! Don’t forget to come out and vote  for your favorite on May 7th at the GTJ May Happy Hour!

The Girls:

Molly G.

Tanya N.

Susan S.

The Guys:

Max B.

Kevin L.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite at the happy hour!


A Spring Breakdown of Dance Moves

Hope springs eternal. On Saturday, May 3, celebrate (what we hope will be) the end of winter at Spring Breakin’: A Sixth & I Dance Party. To get you in the mood, here’s a list of the best musical and dance numbers sure to put that spring back in your step.

1. The Rites of Spring

This ballet might be a little old school for of some of your tastes, but still, the avant-garde nature of this dance choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1913 created such a sensation that the audience almost rioted in the original performance.

Dance Life Lesson: Commit to your dance moves, no matter how bold and weird they may be.

2. Spring Breakers “Everytime”

Another semi-scandalous piece of musical bravado, Spring Breakers stars former Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens (making her first appearance on this list), Pretty Little Liars’ Ashley Benson, and another non-former teen starlet. There’s plenty of wild n’ crazy party scenes in the movie, but this one where James Franco’s character, the rapper/gangster Alien, croons Brittney Spears’ “Everytime” surrounded by the Hudgens and Benson, is one of the most hauntingly beautiful scenes in the movie.

Dance Life Lesson: Don’t let who you were in your past hold you back from tearing it up on the dance floor.

3. Mean GirlsSpring Fling Dance

After being crowned Spring Fling Queen, Lindsay Lohan’s character gives a rallying, yet sentimental speech apologizing for the social crimes she committed and unifying the school by giving everyone a piece of the Spring Fling crown.

Dance Life Lesson: We all deserve to be royals, at least for one night.

4. “Springtime for Hitler” 

In the musical version of the Mel Brooks masterpiece, The Producers, Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom attempt to put on the worst and most offensive musical in Broadway history to profit from the show’s early cancellation. “Springtime for Hitler,” the show’s catchy and outrageous opening number shocks the audience, but winds up being a huge hit anyway.

Dance Life Lesson: You can dance to anything.

5. “Springin’” in the Rain 

In one of the most iconic scenes in movie history, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) kisses Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), sending the ecstatic Lockwood into an all-out dance sequence that has him pirouetting in the pouring rain.

Dance Life Lesson: Dance your heart out. (Oh, and girls love a guy who can bust a move.)

6. High School Musical 3: Senior Year “Spring Musical”

Vanessa Hudgens makes her second (and a polar opposite) appearance on this list with the “Spring Musical” sequence from High School Musical 3. Sure, this movie and its previous iterations have enough cheese in them to fill a Doritos factory, but it’s still fun to watch. Not that this author paid to see this movie in the theater or anything.

Dance Life Lesson: Just keep dancing and all of your problems will go away.

7. She’s All That Prom Dance Scene

One of the teen-iest of teen romantic comedies based (slightly) on Pygmalion stars Freddie Prinze, Jr. as the Big Man on Campus who tries to woo the artsy glasses-and-ponytail-wearing weirdo Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook). In the big finale at Prom, there’s a strange pre-choreographed dance to “The Rockafeller Skank” by Fatboy Slim, which has supposedly been coordinated by Usher (the D.J. because this school has that large of a prom budget apparently).

Dance Life Lesson: Brush up on your dance routines—the Electric Slide, the Cha-Cha slide, the Macarena, and the Single Ladies dance, just for good measure. You don’t want to feel like you didn’t get the memo.



Masa Israel Featured Internship: Grant Writing and Resource Development Internship

The internship is flexible, but Appleseeds Academy needs help in the following areas: Development of new investment channels; conservation and development of partnerships from the business sector, private sector, philanthropic, government agencies and local authorities; mapping the channels of investment and development; company relationship management; contacting organizations, US government agencies, companies and private investors; and writing proposals and supporting the organization’s activities.

Established in 2000 as a business-sector initiative, Appleseeds Academy seeks to connect people, especially at-risk youth and lower-income individuals, with technology. Its mission, broadly, is to provide an equal opportunity to Israel’s socially disadvantaged communities through technological tools and the development of life skills.

Appleseeds Academy specializes in the initiation, management and operation of technological programs throughout Israel, combined with socially oriented training adapted to each sector, population and age group.

The organization carries out its mission by creating cross-sectorial partnerships, partnering with businesses, public sector and other social organizations to create sustainable projects with long-term impact. Appleseeds Academy is a certified academy of multinational high-tech companies such as Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, Google and others.


JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project: Give Mom a Meaningful Gift & Help Women in Need

JWI momA Meaningful Mother’s Day Gift for Loved Ones and Women in Need

Guidance, wisdom, unconditional love… a tissue from her purse, a scolding you’ll eventually thank her for… Mothers are constantly giving to us; but what do we give back?  This Mother’s Day, May 11th, give your mom – or all the important women in your life – a gift that expresses how much you value all the mothers of the world.

Jewish Women International (JWI) is making this holiday special for some of the 45,000 women and children spending Mother’s Day in battered women’s shelters. We can make a difference for these survivors of violence while we celebrate the women we love. JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project lets you give a gift that honors everything Mom has given you – and the person you have become because of it.

Through the annual Mother’s Day Flower Project, JWI will send bouquets of flowers, as well as beauty products from OPI Products, Inc., to 200 shelters across the United States.

Here’s how it works:

  • You choose an inspiring woman in your life – mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend – and make a $25 donation to JWI in her honor.
  • JWI sends a beautiful card, which will arrive by Mother’s Day, to each designated recipient, stating that a charitable contribution has been made in her honor
  • JWI uses proceeds from the sale of these cards to send beautiful bouquets of flowers and baskets of beauty products to domestic violence shelters on Mother’s Day
  • Your donation funds JWI’s work year-round.

You can buy your Mother’s Day Flower Project cards online at

For more information, please contact JWI at 202-857-1300 or  All gifts to JWI are tax-deductible.


The Digital Age of Dating – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 88)

It’s no secret that times are a-changing.  The term “gluten free” is now featured on many menus around town, a flattering (or not-so-flattering) selfie is now the norm for picture-taking (my parents have just adopted this, and it’s honestly hilarious), and the dating game has been turned sideways and upside down.  I’m here to set the record straight on not only how things have changed in the dating world but also how some things should remain the same.

The Past The Present
Boy meets girl at a party.  Boy asks girl for number, and she writes it down for him.  Boy calls girl in three days and asks her out to dinner. Boy meets girl at a party.  Boy hands girl phone and tells her to put her number in it.  Boy then texts girl immediately so she has his number.  Boy maybe texts girl in the next few days to ask her out for a drink.


Comments on the past: It’s simple and straight-forward, but if the boy loses her number, then we have a problem on our hands.

Comments on the present: It’s certainly efficient, but it’s much less personal and endearing.

Erika’s recommendations: It’s more than okay to put someone’s number in your phone when you meet, but I don’t recommend contacting him or her immediately.  Wait until the next day, and follow up with a text saying, “It was great to meet you last night!  I’ll give you a ring tomorrow so we can set up some plans.”  And then actually call!

The Past The Present
SWM seeks SWF for long walks on the beach, strawberry daiquiris, and a lifetime of intellectual conversation. I like to laugh and have fun.  I’m just as comfortable in a tux as I am in jeans and flip flops.  Sometimes I love a night out on the town, but other times I’m just as happy on the couch with a movie.  My family and friends are very important to me.


Comments on the past: It’s simple and easy.  No picture = no expectations.  You have no idea who might respond, though, and it’s hard to weed through the muck.

Comments on the present: First of all, this profile is terrible!  I learned nothing about this person.  Besides that, though, in this day and age, online dating is here to stay, so you might as well use it… and use it well.

Erika’s recommendations: Use online dating, but make your profile and photos stand out from the crowd.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to laugh and have fun!  (If you don’t, well, I’m very sorry.  Hang out with me – I’ll make you laugh.)  For more profile tips, click here.

The Past The Present
If you wanted to know about someone, you asked your friends. If you want to know about someone, you Facebook stalk, Google, follow, and Instagram.


Comments on the past: Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing!  But it’s hard to know whether this person is who he says he is.

Comments on the present: TMI!  While a little online stalking… ahem… researching is good (and normal), some people take it too far.  No need to know the year your date had her wisdom teeth pulled out (2008 for me) or his mileage breakdown on the last six marathons he ran.  Leave something to talk about on the date!

Erika’s recommendations: It’s fine to do some due diligence.  Just don’t overdo it and start obsessing or making assumptions that you don’t know to be true.

What’s the point of dissecting how things have changed?  It’s to show that each time period has its merits.  I love that we live in the digital age, and as long as we use that to our advantage, then we can only benefit.  Happy dating!

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika 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.





America the Beautiful: Reflections on James and Deborah Fallows’ “American Futures” Collection

AmericanFuturesCOVERSmall (1)The audience arrived early vying for good seats. The crowd was comprised of mostly grey-haired couples. If the people who asked questions were indicative of the majority of the group, many of the spectators had followed the work of James and Deborah Fallow for decades as they documented life and language for the Atlantic both internationally and in the States. The couple took the stage with a smile, accompanied by the night’s interviewer, the Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief, James Bennett, to share insights from their cross-country travels.

Since last August the Fallows have undertaken a project of national importance. They have piloted themselves around the nation at 2500 feet by propeller airplane to visit America’s small towns and uncover their stories. The small towns that they seek must meet a certain criteria, not merely a low number of permanent residents, but also places typically out of the national spotlight. They land in the small towns of the flyover states and report to rest of us what should be recognized by the whole of us.

The couple apologetically interrupted each other as they eagerly shared their favorite stories from the far-flung cities across the plains and the coasts, spanning from California to Maine, Michigan to South Carolina, South Dakota to Vermont. Their stories gave away their earnest surprise to discover high levels of national pride in every town. Each place also exhibited a go-hung ho attitude that expected and desired solutions for its successes to come from within its population, not from Washington or their own respective state capitols.

Listening to tales of the nation there were trends that stood out, things that as a country we should applaud and issues that we should all work together to overcome. In cities all across the nation there were entrepreneurs vying to not only create businesses that would allow them to remain in the small towns that they loved, but there are business innovators who are changing the economic markets by revolutionizing local industry. In Maine seaports are being reinvigorated, in South Carolina there is tech boom whose creative environment and designs rival that of Silicon Valley.

These places are transforming through collaboration between old populations and new residents and there is a strong desire to retain their younger generations. Change is good, but it comes with its challenges. There are clashes between PFAs (People From Away) and those who were born in the town. There are ideas about a sense of propriety and identity that outsiders are often expected to conform to which is sometimes difficult for Americans from other places and no more easy for immigrants.

In America today, many immigrants are skipping large cities as ports of entry and heading straight to small towns and suburbs. Some places, such as Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are on the map because they have extraordinary refugee integration programs. Economically immigrants are a boon to society but sometimes there arrival is wrought with complications that challenge communities to be adaptive. In many places across the United States ESL (English as a Second Language) classes are taught by teaching English to students via another language, often Spanish. This model is becoming useless in areas where there are more diverse immigrant populations and Spanish may only be spoken by 30% of the population and the other 70% is comprised of native speakers of various languages from across the globe. The schools are experimenting with various teaching models that have been previously underused in this country such as ulpan teaching method, where the instructors only speak the language that they are teaching without any translation into the students’ native language.

“American Futures” presents a country that is adapting to life in the 21st century but is also grappling with its past. Though the Fallows’ reports present a mostly positive view of American life across the country they are careful not to be too Pollyannaish, and with good reason. Many towns are still coming to terms with their violent histories of racism. There are still stark divides in perception of the advances areas have made when residents of different races are asked about their impressions of and experiences in their town as it relates to progress and opportunity.

There is hope for the United States’ future. The large cities tend to overlook small towns but the small towns have big personalities. They are hard workers and patriots, generous and innovative. They may be understated but they are not sitting idly. The entrepreneurial spirit and the imperative to confront problems head on offer lessons that the rest of country would do well to heed. “American Futures” offers lessons on humility and teamwork. Together city and town, large and small, known and unknown, we can advance impressively if we overcome our provincialism to embrace and celebrate our national strengths.


Courtney D. Sharpe is a world traveler who has spent extensive time in the Middle East studying, traveling and working with the Peace Corps. She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she pursued a double degree in International Studies and Religion. 

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