Name a Drink, Win a Drink … For GTJ’s Summer Happy Hour!

Name us!!!!

As you may know, the upcoming Gather the Jews (GTJ) happy hour at Blackfinn is only days away (Tuesday, July 10).   In preparation for the event, Blackfinn has asked us to come up with three names for three drinks (one is rum based, one whiskey, one vodka).

Suggest a Jewish/GTJ/DC-themed name for one of the drinks by posting it to event’s Facebook wall or by commenting on this blog post.

If we pick your name, we’ll get you one drink — your drink — for free!

So go be creative!










Ask Ashley: Getting to the Beach and Finding an Apartment

Ask Ashley is GTJ’s new weekly advice column for questions about living in DC.  Have a question you want answered?  Email with subject line “Ask Ashley.”

Dewey Beach image from:

Question:  Dear Ashley, my friends and I are here in DC for the summer and looking for an easy way to spend the weekend at the beach.  Any suggestions?
Ashley:   For those of you like me, who moved to DC after living off a beach your entire life, the idea of driving three hours to sit on the sand is hard to handle.  But don’t worry, there are actually more options than you realize. For Memorial Day weekend this year, I hopped in the car with some friends and drove two and half hours and ended up on the coast of Delaware.

I know, if you’re not from the area, the thought of going to Delaware might seem a little weird, but I promise it’s not as random as you think.  Welcome to Dewey Beach, everything you could ever want out of a summer beach weekend plus a lot of things you’d prefer to do without.  Our adventure started at the Sand Palace Motel, right off the coastal highway, minutes from the ocean, and directly across from bars and food.  Throughout the weekend, we wandered our way to Seacrets in Ocean City, Maryland and ate calzones in the much nicer areas of Rehoboth. But over all, there was plenty to do, lots of people from all over the East Coast, and, of course, the beach right there, to enjoy!

Now, of course, the hardest part about getting out there is that you may not own a car.   But lucky for you DC2NY conveniently heads to the beach every weekend of the summer, straight from Dupont Circle or Union Station, and drops off passengers in either Dewey Beach or Rehoboth.

Could this be the ultimate apartment for you?  Probably not, considering it’s located in Portland… It’s just what came up when I typed in “apartments” in Google Images.  — Stephen

Question:  Dear Ashley, what’s a good way to find a great apartment in DC?
Ashley:   Finding an apartment in the District is not easy.  It can be extremely stressful, complicated, and often times misleading.  But lucky for you, there are several tips and tricks that can make apartment searching in DC a little more doable.

For starters, tell everyone you know—friends, colleagues, random people you meet, every Jewish person you know—that you are looking.  Tell them multiple times, whenever you see them, and continuously ask them if they know anyone who is subletting, transferring their lease, or looking for a roommate.  The reality is that finding an apartment is like finding a job:  It’s all about networking with people to get the connection.  You never know which random person you tell might have the dream apartment.

The next tip:  Do not be afraid of Craigslist.  Obviously, be smart; if something looks weird, it probably is.  But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with meeting someone you don’t know in a neutral area.  If you are nervous, you can always bring someone along.  In addition to Craigslist, check:

Also make your search known on Twitter and Facebook. It doesn’t matter how, just get the word out there that you are looking.

The take-away tip is to be extremely proactive.  The fact is, everyone is looking for apartments in DC and even if something feels like it’s “in the bag” you never know until you sign something that you have it for sure, and you never know what else is out there.  Just continuously check for postings and keep emailing and calling.  As frustrating as it can be, do not get discouraged and you will find the best apartment that’s perfect for you.

And in the end, if you really don’t like where you end up, you can always sublet!


Have questions for Ashley?  Ask her anything by emailing (yes, we’ll get her an individualized email soon!)


FIDF packs Public in inaugural event

On Thursday of last week, more than 200 DC Jews packed Public Bar to attend the inaugural event of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) — Young Leadership, Washington DC division.    Lots of people left with FIDF hats and pins, but in case you didn’t leave with all of your questions answered, here’s a brief interview with Andrew Friedson (AF), one of the event’s co-hosts:

SR:  What is FIDF Young Leadership?
AF:  Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to support the men and women who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as well as the families of fallen soldiers.  FIDF is committed to supporting and caring for IDF soldiers as a way to ease the incredible burden they carry on behalf of Israel and the global Jewish community.  The Young Leadership Division (YL) of FIDF engages individuals in their 20s to 40s in the organization’s work while providing social and networking opportunities.  It’s a fun and meaningful way to get involved, support Israel, and look out for IDF soldiers.

A packed Public Bar. My iPhone.

SR:  Why did you just decide to open in DC?
AF:  The DC area has an incredibly active, engaged and diverse Jewish community with so many young professionals who have been to Israel, befriended IDF soldiers and who are passionate about Israel and Jewish causes.  Combined with the fact that Washington, DC plays such a central role in the Israel-US relationship, it was only natural to have a strong presence here in the Nation’s Capital.  We’re fortunate to have the Embassy of Israel here, providing increased opportunities to interact with current and former Israeli soldiers and officials.

SR:  What was your role in Thursday’s event?
AF:  I was one of the hosts for the happy hour.  Along with our committee — Jeremy Alexander, Netaly Masica, Alex Langer, Lee Genish, Karen Reiner, and Eric Langer — we were responsible for planning the event and inviting everyone, with the help of FIDF DC Director, Stephanie Friedman.

SR:  What types of stuff will you be doing in the future?
 This was just the first of many more events we will be having in the future.  In fact, we’re having a dinner coming up on August 6, when we’ll be joined by a female lone combat soldier who is visiting from Israel, who will share her experiences at an intimate dinner, followed by a happy hour.  Stay tuned for details of these and other events by liking our FIDF-YL DC Facebook Page and feel free to email or call 301-960-3531 if you’re interested in joining us on August 6th!

SR:  How on earth did you get over 200 people to RSVP to your event over Facebook? Are we just obsessed with Israeli soldiers?  Or are the co-hosts especially popular?
AF:  We’d love to take credit for just being that cool! In fact, we had more people show up than the 200+ who RSVP’ed on Facebook.  But the huge turnout and success of the event was a testament to the incredible things that FIDF does, the passion in the community to look after those who look after Israel, and the start of a really special organization with a big presence here in DC. FIDF is meant to be in DC, and we are looking forward to building the organization here.

SR:  How did people help the FIDF cause on Thursday night?
AF:  The purpose of the event was to introduce FIDF to young professionals in DC.  It was more like a grand entrance!  The voluntary contributions and the percentage of proceeds from everyone’s “liquid generosity” will go directly towards FIDF’s mission: supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities.  Beyond that, we received messages from current and former soldiers from around the world who expressed how much it meant to them that young people in the United States recognize their sacrifice.

SR:  Did you have any Israeli soldiers at the event?
AF:  Yes, we sure did!  Capt. Meir Rozalis actually spoke at the event and talked about what FIDF meant to him.  We also had a former IDF soldier, Tomer Chutman, who was very active in the organization in Israel and now lives nearby, along with several other former and active duty soldiers.

SR:  I walked away with a pin and a hat.  What other schwag do you have, and how can we get it?
AF:  There’s more where that came from!  But you’ll have to come to the next event to see for yourself…so hope to see you on August 6th!


For more pictures, go to FIDF’s Facebook page.













First Date Turn-offs — GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 44)

For National Etiquette Week back in May (who knew there was such a thing?), the dating site HowAboutWe reported on the “Top 10 Worst First Date No-Nos,” and what they found was spot-on.  And as you’ll see in a recent News Channel 8 segment, I agree with all of them.

  1. Having your phone out or texting: It doesn’t get worse than this.  Nothing screams “I’m waiting for something better to come up” than a cell phone on the table waiting to be answered.  A corollary to this one is actually answering your phone on the date.  Try (as hard as it may be) to put your phone in your bag or your pocket for the entirety of the date.
  2. First date sex: For men, it makes you look like you only want one thing (and maybe you do).  For women, it makes you look easy.
  3. Talking about your ex:  If you say nice things about your ex, it looks like you’re still not over him/her.  And if you say bad things, it looks like you’re still not over him/her and you’re bitter.  Lose, lose.  Plus, people don’t want to feel like they are being compared to someone else on the first date (or ever, for that matter).
  4. Being late (more than 15 minutes): People run late – it happens.  But if it does, please call to let your date know before the start of the date.  Texting is insufficient.
  5. Being rude (to a server): No snapping your fingers, no yelling for the waiter or waitress, and no treating the servers like second-class citizens.  Red flag!
  6. Drinking too much: People have a tendency to divulge secrets or commit dating no-no #2 (or likely both) when too much alcohol is involved.  Don’t let it be you.
  7. Splitting the bill or letting the woman pay: You remember the game of “pick-up check.”  The guy should pay on a first date.  Whether you like each other or not, it’s still a date after all, and chivalry is not dead.
  8. Work talk: It’s certainly ok to discuss work, but not for the entire date, especially if you don’t like your job.
  9. Mother talk: Leave your mom out of the date.  Especially for men, it may make you look like a bit of a mama’s boy.
  10. Talking about marriage: Great – you like each other!  The last thing you want to do is to bring up marriage and scare the other person away.  (The same goes for talking about, or naming, your future children.)

A few others from the report were:

  • Bad breath
  • Not tipping well
  • Talking about yourself too much
  • Being “fake” or not being yourself
  • Smoking

Are there any others you’d add to the list?

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.


Two GTJ things you need to do!

Hi Friends,

I was a bit surprised to learn recently that one of our closest followers didn’t know we had a newsletter.  :(     Apparently we haven’t gotten the message out to everyone.

So if you happen to be one of the people who is just following Gather the Jews (GTJ) through our website, I STRONGLY encourage you to do two things:

  1. Sign Up For the Newsletter.  The newsletter is perhaps the core feature of GTJ.  It is sent out weekly around 4:00 PM on Wednesdays, and it includes a list of our recent blog posts, a list of Friday Shabbat dinners, a list of upcoming events, and more.   Approximately 4,000 people subscribe to the newsletter.  To subscribe, enter your email in the box to the right that says “Weekly Newsletter Signup.” You will receive an email almost immediately, which will direct you to confirm your subscription before you can begin receiving emails.
  2. Like Us On Facebook.  Another great way to find out what’s going on in the DC Jewish community is to “like” us on Facebook.   We use our Facebook page to share the newest events and news stories.  Go here  1,120 people already like us!





DC Jewish World Weighs In On “Having It All”

Princeton professor and former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter, has made virtual waves with her recent article, published in the DC-based Atlantic Magazine and entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Needless to say, the article made the rounds in the young professional Jewish community, judging by recent Facebook feeds. Moreover, some prominent DC Jews (to be fair, not all them young professionals) have decided to contribute to the conversation.

DC-area columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, a well-known member of Adas Israel, pondered about the work-life balance — for both women and men — in an online article for Bloomberg. In this piece, he also followed up with Slaughter, asking how she felt about the way her piece had been received and exploring the way in which her article ties into one of her pet policy issues — trying to make the advancement of women’s issues more prominent in US foreign policy.

Coming from a different angle, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld wrote a Huffington Post piece on changing women’s roles in Orthodox Judaism, specifically citing his congregation, Ohev Shalom, as an example. ” (Rabbi Herzfeld frequently writes on issues of women in Jewish Orthodoxy. For more information on this, see here.) He describes the distinction between progressive and egalitarian practice, as manifested in his synagogue:

“From a traditional Orthodox perspective our synagogue is relatively progressive as it relates to women’s direct spiritual involvement in the synagogue in areas traditionally reserved for men. […] With all that, we do not have an egalitarian prayer service because we are an Orthodox synagogue. Being an Orthodox synagogue means that we embrace halakhah, Jewish law, for we believe it must be a guidepost to our lives. This guidepost can be strict, and sometimes we may not understand its ways. But we submit ourselves to the tradition and to the law.”

Want us to cite other DC Jews who are weighing in on this issue? Write to


Jews, Judaism, and Obamacare

The following is an opinion piece, and it should not be construed to reflect the ideas or position of GTJ as an organization.


Stephen Richer is the President of Gather the Jews. 

In honor of today’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) by one of our local courts (The U.S. Supreme Court found the law constitutional, 5-4), I thought it might be fun to ask a couple community members to assess Obamacare through the lens of Judaism.  But almost as soon as I sent the email request for papers I recognized the request as fruitless, inconsistent, and inappropriate.

Fruitless:  Rabbi Shira of Sixth & I mentioned to me the other day that Jewish religious text can be used to support or evince seemingly anything.  I agree.  Completely.  I’m always astounded by the number of seemingly incongruent arguments raised through religious text.  Jewish text is especially guilty of this because there is simply so much of it (Talmud).   You don’t even have to step outside this healthcare debate to see how Jewish text can allegedly support both sides of the argument:  Here’s Julie Schonfeld (Washington Post) and Elliot Dorff ( writing in support of Obamacare, and here’s David Klinghoffer (Beliefnet) writing in opposition to universal health care.

Inconsisent:  If we locate text that seemingly speaks to health care, what of it?  Non-fundamentalists (and here I stand) reject the idea that religious text is 100% true.  The Torah also says that the world was created in seven days — we’ve dismissed that pretty summarily.  Why shouldn’t we similarly dismiss any text that speaks to health care?  And even Jewish fundamentalists — those who take the text as gospel — are able to dance around seemingly straightforward text such as “stoning a wayward/disobedient son,” a line that has seemingly been overturned by the oral law.   How do we know if the Jewish text on health care is a time when we’re supposed to dance?  And if we dance, which commentator or interpreter determines how we dance (problem 1)?

Inappropriate:  Even if we are able to discern Judaism’s ruling on Obamacare, what does this matter?  The laws of Judaism have no place in the governance of our society — bacon is still widely enjoyed in America.  And the idea of invoking religion to support a political position is an idea that, if transferred to another religion, is distasteful (to say the least) to most of us Jews.  American society would not take well to anyone trying to shape society according to Islamic law.  And we Jews are especially hostile to any seeming blurring between zealous Christianity and civic law.

Since any straightforward application of Jewish text to Obamcare is seemingly pointless, a better approach is perhaps an application of the general Jewish ethos toward health care.  I’ve spent the past few days reading as much as I can on this subject, but, again, I failed to find any sort of straightforward answer.   The Talmud very clearly states that Jews have the responsibility of attending to the sick and the poor in their community, and this mentality has been a hallmark of Jewish communities since Jewish history began (see, e.g., the Dorff article).  But this philosophy does not help us answer the questions:  How do we define the community?  Is the American public of 300+ million Jews and gentiles the same type of community that was envisioned in the Talmud? (Klinghoffer argues that it’s not).  And what about the individual mandate?  The Talmud might be seemingly clear that we’re supposed to help the poor and the sick, but are we supposed to force seemingly healthy people to plan for the future?

Then there’s the thoroughly Jewish notion of self-determination and free will — the Jewish individual is free to make good decisions and bad decisions.  And through this model, the measure of the man’s righteousness is measured.  If his life is controlled by God, and his hands bound (the only Biblical instance of which I know of is when God compels the action of Pharoah in Exodus), then he has no agency and cannot take credit for being good.   Similarly, can man take credit for making a wise personal decision (buying healthcare) or a magnanimous decision (helping others buy healthcare) if he is compelled?


If it’s hard to discern what Jewish text says about Obamacare, it’s not hard to uncover what the Jewish people think about Obamcare:  They overwhelmingly support it.

In the most recent major poll of Jewish political beliefs, 72% of Jews said they prefer Obama’s healthcare vision to Romney’s; 19% prefer Romney’s; 9% undecided.  (American Jewish Committee — April 30, 2012).  Multiple umbrella Jewish organizations (including, e.g., United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Union for Reform Judaism, and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) have signed letters in support of universal healthcare or Obamacare.

But this is hardly surprising given the liberal bent of American Jews and their oft cited interest in issues of “social justice.”


To close this little report on Jews, Judaism, and Obamacare, I’ve pasted (below) articles written by two community members on the topic.  If you want still further reading, I suggest the articles I linked above, or else go to this page to get a Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox opinion on whether “Jewish law mandates universal health care?” (Jewish Values Online)


Affordable Care Act Reflects Jewish Values

Madison Arent is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the social justice and public policy arm of the Reform Movement. This post originally appeared on RACblog.

Jewish tradition has long advocated broad access to health services. Maimonides, the revered medieval Jewish physician and scholar, listed health care first on his list of the 10 most important communal services that a city should offer its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23). Almost all self-governing Jewish communities throughout history set up systems to ensure that all their citizens had access to health care. Doctors were required to reduce their rates for poor patients, and when that was not sufficient, communal subsidies were established (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:16; Responsa Ramat Rahel of Rabbi Eliezer Waldernberg, sections 24-25).

Guided by our tradition and these texts, the Reform Jewish Movement has long advocated for more accessible health coverage and passed numerous resolutions on the importance of an affordable and inclusive health care system.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism was a leading voice in the faith community advocating for the passage of the Affordable Care Act; in the two years since it was passed, we have worked to educate our community about the new law and defend it against legislative attacks. In advance of the Supreme Court’s consideration of the law, the Union for Reform Judaism proudly signed on to two briefs: one arguing for the constitutionality of the individual mandate and another arguing in favor of the law’s expansion of Medicaid, which helps more low-income individuals get the health care they deserve and speaks directly to the practice of reducing rates for the poor and providing communal subsidies for health care when necessary. Moreover, the bold efforts of our congregations around the country have demonstrated solidarity around the improvements the Affordable Care Act can make to our health care system.

Access to affordable health care, including preventative and emergency care, is a fundamental human right. A mother should not have to choose between preventative health services and rent payment. A senior should not have to pay for costly prescription drugs and worry about depleting his or her savings. Lack of insurance should not prevent a child from maturing into a healthy adult. The Affordable Care Act helps ensure that 32 million fewer Americans will have to sacrifice their health because of circumstances out of their control. We acknowledge that this expansion of coverage is not universal, but it is a significant improvement over the system we have now, where insurers and money too often dictate the care we receive.

Our tradition teaches us that human life is of infinite value and that the preservation of life supersedes almost all other considerations. We, as Jews, believe that God endowed humanity with the understanding and ability to become partners with God in improving our world. The use of our wisdom to cure illnesses and formulate policies to provide health care has always been a central theme in Jewish thought and history, and the Affordable Care Act is a modern expression of that theme.

When I recall the words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers made very clear that one of the primary purposes of government is to promote the general welfare of its citizens. The Affordable Care Act is a law that does just that, serving the best interests of all by ensuring that no one has to suffer or go bankrupt because of lack of insurance. Not only is promoting the general welfare the responsibility of a government to its people, but it is also a moral imperative grounded in Jewish tradition.

The Reform Movement remains steadfast in its support of the Affordable Care Act and all of its provisions. Regardless of Thursday’s Supreme Court decision, we will continue to advocate for further improvements to our nation’s health care system to transform it into one that reflects the Jewish values that guide our advocacy—preserving life and caring for all people, including the most vulnerable.


Honest Weights, Honest Measures and Obamacare

Noah Silverman is the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Congressional Affairs Director.  This piece first appeared at the RJC blog.

It surely goes against the grain of the prevailing stereotype, but in the health-care-reform debate, the “Religious Left” — supporters of a government takeover of health care — are far more likely than religious conservatives to cite Scripture in making their case.  This is especially evident in the Jewish sector of American religious life, where most public advocacy is heavily tilted toward the left. (In fact, RJC is the only national Jewish organization standing with the majority of Americans who oppose the Obama health care plan.)

Have a look at this speech featuring a bullet-pointed list of “words of the Jewish tradition on health care,” delivered by Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), and a leading voice of the Jewish Left, at a “progressive faith groups” rally for Obamacare Tuesday on Capitol Hill:

To those who would say that religion has no place in the health care reform debate, that this has become too much a partisan political issue, we insist that this is a quintessentially religious issue. The failure to provide universal health care coverage challenges the simplest and clearest biblical command expressed by Ezekiel, that “Every living thing shall be healed.”

As uncompromising as this prophetic mandate sounds when marshaled to indict our current health-care arrangements, it mellows into something much more accommodating when it comes to assessing congressional Democrat reform proposals.

Every version of the Obama plan congressional Democrats put forth leaves millions of Americans uninsured.  Yet this does not prevent Rabbi Saperstein from enthusiastically urging the Senate to pass it.  In doing so, he and his allies decline the option of holding out for a straightforward (presumably government-run) universal health care program – while maintaining that such a program would be the most direct way to fulfill the alleged biblical mandate to provide universal health care coverage.

This is not necessarily evidence of hypocrisy or even proof that RAC’s official position in favor of mandatory universal government-run health care is insincerely held.  Religious Left advocates who mobilize for the Massachusetts-like mandate-plus-taxes/subsidy scheme that Obamacare has evolved into can rationalize acceptance of a watered-down compromise as morally justified. Prudence and pragmatism are both virtues for anyone pursuing a political venture, at least some of the time.

If only Religious Left folk would be as understanding when someone else’s prudent and pragmatic attempt to apply his faith’s ethical principles to a contemporary dilemma leads him to adopt a different policy preference.

Here’s a Torah principle that seems to me to pose a rather stark challenge to current Democrat health legislation: it’s from the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 19 [a chapter known as the “Holiness Code”], verses 35 and 36: “You shall not falsify measures of length, weight, or capacity. You shall have an honest balance, an honest weight, an honest ephah, and an honest hin.”

Talmudic and modern commentaries on these verses rightly emphasize their application to private-sector business ethics.  But is there anyone prepared to disagree that the imperative for honest measurement surely applies to the business of government as much as to other businesses?

How well do the current Democrat health-care-reform bills affirm the spirit of the commandment to use honest measures?  Not very well.

A persistent temptation to which governments at every level have fallen prey is the tendency to use funds deemed to apply to a different fiscal year’s budget to pay for current expenditures.  But usually such budgetary gimmicks are acknowledged by policymakers to be a necessary evil.

By contrast, Obamacare relies on such gimmickry to game the scorekeeping process.  In other words, the White House and its congressional partners are using gimmicks with the specific aim of rendering the official cost assessments provided to Congress by the Congressional Budget Office dishonest measures.

At a time when public concern about the risks associated with a burgeoning national debt is intense, Obamacare’s backers feel an acute need to be able to claim that their bill does not worsen the problem.  Most famously, President Obama included this line in his September address to Congress: “I will not sign [a health-care bill] if it adds one dime to the deficit now or in the future. Period.”

The Reid bill pays cynical respect to Americans’ fiscal concerns by delaying the onset of benefits while immediately instituting tax hikes.  Because of this fiscal sleight of hand, the CBO’s determination that the bill will not add to the deficit over the ten-year period covered by its cost assessment obscures, rather than clarifies, the bill’s true fiscal impact.

The practical result is a bill that collects revenues in the first four years after enactment — before paying out almost all the benefits in the remaining years.

Wednesday, the Senate debated — and Senate Democrats (Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh excepted) defeated — an amendment to make the effective date for benefits provisions the same as the effective date for taxing provisions.

This tactic of making Americans wait to enjoy the bill’s benefits to get a better CBO score looks particularly indefensible when subjected to the unforgiving terms of the biblical mandate Rabbi Saperstein delineated –  obeying Ezekiel’s “simplest and clearest biblical command” by requiring that every uninsured American get coverage.  Now we’re not just employing dishonest measures to ease passage of a health-reform bill; we’re leaving people uninsured for years for no better reason than to facilitate the dishonesty.

Another gimmick to front-load revenues and deprive the American people of an honest measure of proposed expenditures’ cost is the inclusion of a new entitlement program for long-term care that will collect more in revenues during the years that fall within the parameters of the ten-year CBO score than it expends in benefits — only to become a huge unfunded liability in later years.

And yet another: Cato Institute researcher Michael Cannon demonstrates how the architects of Obamacare learned from the failures of the 1993-4 Hillarycare how to ensure that the costs of universal coverage will not be reflected as federal expenditures in the CBO score.

Can someone please explain how anyone claiming to hew to a tradition that includes Lev. 19: 35-36 could support this bill now that its backers have specifically rejected an amendment to bring it into alignment with the commandment to use honest measures?





My Costa Rican Jewish Adventure!

Abby, a former Jewish Girl of the Week (and author of Secrets of Shiksa Appeal) writes a guest post about the DC-planned Jewish young professionals trip to Costa Rica.

I recently returned from the Costa Rica Caribbean Experience trip.  I hadn’t been out of the country since college, so I thought this would be a fun break before working this summer and an opportunity to work on my Spanglish.  The group was a total of eight people, a mix of DC (Courtney, Jenn, and Faina), NYC (me, Julie, Steph, and Josh), and LA (Isobel).  The group was all female except for our one pimp, Josh.  We immediately decided that our trip would be a real-life Bachelor, and we’d all fight to the death for the final rose.  Pulling a “Brad Womack,” Josh ended up giving the final rose to no one.

San Jose:  Most of us arrived in San Jose on Friday and spent Shabbat with the Reform Jewish community of San Jose. The service that night was led by the sisterhood. The interesting part was that most of the men were American and their wives were Costa Rican women who had converted to Judaism.  On Saturday morning, a few people opted to take a day-trip to the crater of the active Poas volcano. I kinda did the whole volcano thing when I was 15 in Costa Rica, so I decided to walk around San Jose looking for tchochkes for my niece and nephew.

Poas Volcano hike

On Sunday morning we left for a day of white-water rafting on the Pacuare river. We were lucky enough to have a very-attractive river-guide, Berto, who had no faith that a boat of six women and one guy would make it down the rapids without anyone falling out. Our boat was appropriately named “Berto’s Bitches.”  Despite Josh’s large size, Berto demoted Josh from lead paddler to the back of the raft because “he’s a bad listener.”  Ouch!

Pacuare River Rafting

Puerto Viejo:  Our tour next took us to Puerto Viejo, a Rastafarian surfer town on the Caribbean coast (the locals’ ancestors came over from Jamaica in the 19th century to work in the banana plantations).  This portion of the tour was lead by Junior, a chef whose mother supposedly runs the most famous restaurant in Puerto Viejo.  I’m pretty sure Ami and Junior were gay lovers at some point, because every-other word out of Ami’s mouth was “Junior-this” and “Junior-that…”  During our stay, we went to the beach, walked around town, ziplined through the jungle, visited a native village and made chocolate, took a kosher-style Caribbean cooking class, and went on a nature walk to the Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife refuge.  A few dogs began following our group on the nature walk.  Since there were no guys on the trip, I decided the cutest of the dogs, Pinto, would be my new boyfriend. He was very loyal, kept quiet, and followed our group the whole way on the trail.

On the Tortuguerro canal

Tortuguerro: After Puerto Viejo, we loaded our suitcases on a tiny boat to get to Tortaguerro. (Ami told us to pack light, but of course he forgot he was talking to a group of Jewish girls.) To get there, we took a three-hour boat-ride though a crocodile-infested canal and got about as close as 10 feet away.  Unfortunately I was on the shore-side of the boat and cuddled with Courtney so she would keep me safe from the massive crocs.  The next morning, I opted out of the 6am boat ride to the Tortuguero National Park and met up with the group for the nature walk after breakfast. The girls and I soon learned that the neighboring resort offered couples massages for $40 for 1 hr including boat transportation!  So Courtney, Jenn, Julie and I took advantage of this.  Not gonna lie, it was a little unsettling to be naked next to another girl during the couples massage, but anything for a $40 massage!  At night, Willis, a local guide, took us on a night walk along the beach to try and spot the massive sea turtles coming in to lay their eggs. To our surprise, after 5 minutes we came upon a Hawksbill turtle, one of the most endangered of the sea turtles – truly an amazing sight!

Horseback riding in Finca Rio Perla

The Farm (Finca Rio Perla):  The final stop on our trip was a Jewish-owned farm, and these were by far the most rustic of the accommodations.  There were a number of cute dogs on the farm, one who even resembled Pinto. So I decided to replace my boyfriend, Pinto, with another dog, Toby.  On the farm some of us milked cows (Isobel was fearless!), rode on horses, made cheese, made ice cream, swam in some amazing waterfalls, caught our own red-snapper dinner, and watched Superbad.  It was a great 9 days away from the craziness of NYC with a fascinating and outgoing group of people.  Ami always had every aspect of the trip well-organized, and we always felt like we were in good hands.  To see more pictures from our adventure, check out the trip’s fan-page.

Swimming in Fincal Rio Perla

The next Costa Rica Caribbean Experience for Young Jewish Professionals will take place from August 11 – 19, 2012!  

There is a special deal for GTJ fans: Use the code ‘GTJCosta8′ while registering to take $180 off the cost of the trip if you register for the August trip by July 5!

For more info as well as the full itinerary, check out the trip’s website here

For questions contact Ami at  or at 202-599-0655

About the trip: This trip offers a diverse adventure that combines the Caribbean Highlands of Costa Rica – with its breathtaking tropical beaches.  It begins with a whitewater rafting run down to the Caribbean Lowlands, with their beaches, unique flora and fauna, active nightlife, and indigenous culture – where we will also participate in a day of service benefiting one of the communities; it continues with a visit to Tortuguero National Park, with its majestic jungle canals and the late-night ritual of endangered turtle nesting on its beach; and it ends in the highlands, with their lush mountainous rainforest, waterfalls, freshwater pools and serenity – spending Shabbat while based at a cool Jewish owned eco-farm on the slopes of Volcan Turrialba. You can also add on an optional Shabbat experience with the San Jose Jewish Community before the trip begins.


The Pre-Date Method

Is it love? Try a low-risk coffee first, if you’re not sure.

Erika‘s off this week but worry not. Plenty people want to weigh in on dating for GTJ, including Mr. Sharon, the author of this post.

How many awful first dates have you been on?  Lots?  Have you been on one where your date is more concerned with her smartphone than your company?  How many minutes did you spend in awkward silence on your most recent first date?  Or worse, how much tedious small talk did you have to put up with?  Do you really care to learn the names of all of her cousins followed by the names of all of her dogs?

Whatever the problem may be, I have a simple solution:  Don’t go on first dates.

Rather, don’t go on one immediately. Go on a pre-date first. A pre-date is an informal affair that loosely alleges a purpose for the meeting other than the formal date.

Some of the best pre-dates are those across industry and interests: “You work in consulting?  So do I!  Would you want to grab lunch some time to talk about the field’s best practices?”  But it doesn’t have to be so concrete.  I’ve heard of people who have blurred the date line through incredibly simple means: “You work in Georgetown? I work in Georgetown. Let’s have coffee next week.”

Pick some innocuous time and activity, sit down with your interest, and take a test drive.  Don’t go right into date mode – remember, you’re there for an alleged other purpose! – but have casual talk without all the pressure of a date.  Then, see if you’re interested, and, at the end, start testing the date waters.    The connection should be an informal affair that straddles the line between friendly and flirtatious.

If your pre-date goes well, ask your interest out on a proper first date just before you part. This method has the following advantages:

  • The pressure is off! Your pre-date conversations form the basis of your first “real date” conversations.  By having the pre-date under your belt, you can better plan and prepare for the real thing.
  • By asking her out after the pre-date, it shows that you’re not just interested in your date’s appearance or a free meal – you’re interested in her personality.
  • If you and your pre-date don’t hit it off, then cut loose!  This way, you didn’t have to spend a tedious evening trying to force chemistry; you didn’t have to pay for two; and you don’t have an awkward “I think we’re better suited as friends” conversation.  Get on with your (pre-)dating life.

The pre-date is the best way around that awkward first date.  So get out there, and start looking for those connections that can lead to a nice pre-date lunch.


Ben vs. Max — yogurt eating contest.

Ben def. Max — 2012 Sixth & I Pickle Eating Contest

Ladies and gentlemen…  You’re in for a treat!

The two eating titans of the DC Jewish world are going head to head at this Saturday’s Mr. Yogato Fourth Birthday Party and Yogurt Eating Contest.

The last time Ben and Max faced each other, Ben emerged as the champion of the Fifth Annual Sixth & I Pickle Contest.

But Max had claimed victory the year before that.

Now, to settle the score, or to throw it into greater confusion, Ben and Max are taking the battle to yogurt.

Come one, come all, and witness the true eating power of these two.  Saturday, 3:00 pm.  Mr. Yogato (17 + P, NW)

Max — 2011 Sixth & I Pickle Eating Champion

Or, if you think you have what it takes to compete with the top Jewish eaters, email to enter!













Anti-Semitic Elmo? — News of the Week (Jewish Style) — 6/27

Not a very happy Jewish news week — Muslim Brotherhood, sex scandals, gun laws causing the Holocaust…   But I have to report it as I read it!

From Jewcy

Thanks, as always, to our partners on this project, Moment Magazine.

“Joe the Plumber” — From The Washington Post.










VENUE CHANGE – Lone Soldiers Event Tonight!

The Bonds of Bravery: Israeli Wine Tasting to Toast Lone Soldiers is taking place TONIGHT! However, due to unforeseen circumstances, it will no longer take place at the Embassy of Israel.

Keynote Speakers include Counselor Galit Baram and former Lone Soldier (and GTJ’s most recent Jewish Guy of the Year) Lazar Berman.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 27, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

WHERE: Now in the Consulate Ballroom of the Embassy Row Hotel, 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Advanced registration has been extended until doors open, so click here to register.  For more information about this event or about the Lone Soldier project, read GTJ’s articles on the topic (here and here) or contact


DC Rabbi Takes On Israeli Police

DC Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, leader of the Orthodox Ohev Shalom congregation, came out swinging against Israeli police today. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

In an article for Huffington Post, Herzfeld excoriated security forces for arresting women who had come to the Western Wall to pray… for the crime of wearing a tallit.  According to Rabbi Herzfeld:

“…women were denied the right by the Israeli government to practice Jewish law in a manner that is permitted by many great traditional rabbinic authorities. In essence, the Jewish State denied them their right to practice Judaism […] The decision of the Israeli police to arrest a woman for the crime of wearing a tallit is a colossal disgrace.”

For the full text of the article, click here.

This is not the first time that Herzfeld has articulated his views on the issue of women praying at the Western Wall. Two years ago, he clashed with the Israeli Embassy in Washington, following his protest of another woman’s arrest under similar circumstances.


GTJ seeks full time Executive Director

Gather the Jews (GTJ) seeks to hire a full time Executive Director to manage the day-to-day operations of GTJ starting late July, 2012.

The Executive Director will:

  • Oversee the operation of GTJ
  • Manage a large team of volunteers
  • Help maintain the GTJ website
  • Produce the weekly newsletter
  • Write regular blog posts and news stories
  • Sell advertisements
  • Promote GTJ
  • Attend Jewish events and meetings.
  • Help organize events.

The ideal candidate will:

  1. Want to eat, breathe, and sleep Jewish DC.
  2. Be an effective writer
  3. Be a self-starter and self-motivated
  4. Be highly entrepreneurial
  5. Be very organized
  6. Be personable and outgoing
  7. Be familiar with social media
  8. …  Recent college graduates (and those with advanced degrees) are encouraged to apply!

Why this position is awesome:

  1. You’ll get paid to essentially be the “go to” person in the Jewish community.
  2. You’ll get to attend tons of Jewish events — for free!
  3. You’ll have a very flexible work schedule.
  4. You’ll be the leader of an organization.
  5. You’ll get to exercise your entrepreneurial skills.
  6. You’ll get to do a little bit of everything.
  7. You’ll get to wear a t-shirt to work (if that is what you want).
  8. You’ll get to hang out with the fun GTJ volunteer staff.

Pay (Although after the above description you’d probably work for free, right?!):

  1. $32,000.00 to $35,000.00 base.
  2. Bonus system based on GTJ’s fiscal success.  Total annual pay capped at $60,000.00
  3. Health insurance.


Interested?  Hope so.  Email me at (please also cc:



China just wants a few good Jews — News of the Week (Jewish Style) — 6/20

Ronan Farrow tweets about his family’s odd structure (#2).  Image from Tablet.

Lots of good Jewish news this week.  If you have an article you want to share, please email me at

Thanks, as always, to our partners on this project, Moment Magazine.

  1. Chinese business looking for a few good Jews (Foreign Policy)(h/t Cory A.)
  2. Ronan Farrow can’t forgive Woody Allen for the Soon-Yi thing (Tablet)
  3. David Arquette is bar mitzvah’d (TMZ)(h/t Jodi T.)
  4. Gilad Shalit starts his new job – sportswriter (New York Times)(h/t Moment Magazine)
  5. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach rolls through the Republican Primary (CNN)(h/t Moment Magazine)
  6. Hasidic Jew fired for beard length (CNN)(h/t Moment Magazine)
  7. Biden dances the hora at daughter’s wedding (DCist)
  8. Hebrew National sued for not being kosher?  (Jewlicious)

    Biden dances the Hora (#7).  Image from DCist.

  9. Drake’s new song (Jewcy)
  10. Some rabbis are making bank (Jewlicious)
  11. Rockville Congregation wins USY award (Washington Jewish Week)
  12. Israel-Turkey Relations Hit New Low?  (Jewish Policy Center)
  13. A few more Jewish Republicans in Congress? (Jewlicious)
  14. An Anti-Semite for Congress? (Tablet)
  15. New report on New York Jewish demographics (The New York Jewish Week)











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