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Why go to the Matzoball?

The following is written by Greg of thingstodoDC.com, and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of GTJ.

MATZOBALL … THE LARGEST CHRISTMAS EVE PARTY IN DC… RETURNS FOR IT’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY.
THOUSANDS ATTEND EVERY YEAR!

There is simply no substitute for the original and largest Christmas Eve Party in Washington, D.C.   Every year thousands of Washington’s young Jewish Professionals gather at the biggest celebration of the year!

The Matzoball attracts thousands for a reason:

  • WASHINGTON’S TOP PROFESSIONAL DJs – Featuring DJ Biks (Jay Sean’s Official Tour DJ)
  • THE BEST NIGHTCLUBS in DC
  • 25 YEARS OF PROVEN SUCCESS

3 Floors…3 Parties

  • Hip Hop, Top 40 and the Latest Modern Hits
  • Retro Dance Classics from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s
  • House and International Dance!

Don’t miss an awesome night of dancing and romancing and holiday cheer.

Tickets are $30.00 at the door, but, we offer a reduced rate of $25.00 if you purchase in advance at www.thingstodoDC.com or www.JewishPro.com


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Report From the Hanukkah Field

Hanukkah officially started last night, but in terms of parties, this miraculous first candle been burning for over a week.

– Republican Jewish Coalition (12/13)

I started Hanukkah last Tuesday with the Republican Jewish Coalition.  In recent weeks, the RJC has contributed to a victory in New York’s ninth Congressional district, hosted a Presidential forum for all the main Republican candidates except Ron Paul, and even earned itself a segment on Jon Stewart’s show (watch this clip; it’s amazing).  Accordingly, the event’s energy was plentiful, as were the donuts and latkes.  For any of you Republicans trending Jewish, or Jews trending Republican, I highly recommend getting in touch with the organization (asiegel@rjchq.org)

Donut count = 2;  Chocolate gelt = 5;  Latkes = 0 (they’re gross.  I’m decidedly team Hamentashen).

– Mesorah DC’s Dreidel Championship (12/17)

The dreidel arena

I was a bit curious to see how Mesorah would pull this off.  The game of Dreidel as it is supposed to be played – see Wikipedia if uncertain – is one of the most lackluster games I’ve played, and I don’t know of anyone who actually plays it.

Mesorah’s style was better.  Players at the different tables took turns spinning the dreidel in a board the shape of a Jewish star.  Each spin was clocked.  After all players spun, the administrator shrunk the board by putting another star inside the original star.  The players spun again.  This was done three times.  At the end of the three rounds, the table administrator added up the times, and the player with the longest time advanced.

Some you know I’m a competitive person, so I definitely took this seriously.  Jonathan Horowitz and I even managed to get inside of one of our competitors and caused him to choke away his lead on the third round.

The fake champion. But when my grandkids find this picture 50 years from now, they'll think I was awesome.

It was not to be.  My poor small motor skills (index finger and thumb in this case) have failed me many times in the past, and they failed me again here.  The championship trophy went to Josh “Spinner” Stern (see picture), but that didn’t keep me from posing with the trophy (see other pictures…  I’ll be able to convince my grandchildren that I was once a Dreidel champion!)

Food and drink were served.  Over 200 people showed up.

Donut count = 2;  Chocolate gelt = 10;  Latkes = 0 (they’re still gross.)

The real champion. Josh.

 

– Fare thee well (12/17)

I then helped escort our favorite Italian Jew from the premises of our country.  But we did this profile of her before we kicked her out.  Somehow that took us to the Diner in Adams Morgan at 3:30 AM.  Classy.

– Courtney wins Hanukkah-themed cooking competition (12/18)

On the seventh day – in Christian counting – I rested.  But that doesn’t mean that everybody spent reading, sleeping, and watching Tim Tebow vs. Tom Brady.  GTJ’s very own cooking columnist Courtney Weiner took first place in Sixth & I’s cooking competition.

– How the times have changed… Austrian Embassy Hanukkah Party (12/19)

I trust that one day my enormous biography will be written by Walter Isaacson or his protege.  In that sense, all of my days are historical.  But Monday night was especially historical because I got to go to the Austrian Embassy’s first ever Hanukkah Party!

The American Jewish Committee cohosted the event with the Austrian Embassy.  Big hit.  The Austrian Embassy is gorgeous, and the Ambassador said he enjoyed the event so much that he would like to make it an annual affair.

I spent most of the evening talking with the Ambassador about his daughter’s studies in Switzerland and why his daughter’s desire to move to the United States (New York), is not only reasonable, but is a great decision;  2) Learning more about the AJC’s efforts and young professional opportunities; and 3) and, of course, eating gelt and donuts.

Austrian Ambassador

Donut count = 5;  Chocolate gelt = 15;  Latkes = 0 (so oily.)

– National Menorah Lighting (12/20)

Lew and Shemtov

No, I was not Dreidelman.

Many of you asked.  But after last year’s show-stealing performance, I decided to pass the torch – blue dreidel suit – on to another worthy Jewish lad.

You can read about this event at the Washington Post (front page of the morning’s Metro section) and many other national papers, so I’ll just quickly say that everything was great per usual:  Rabbi Shemtov capably led the event, OMB Director Jack Lew (highest ranking White House Jew) lit the menorah; the three cantors sang; the Maccabees trooped around; and Dreidelman spun.

– Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill (12/20)

This annual event is always huge.  And it was again last night.  Over 300 people crowd into the two bars in the Capitol Hill area.

I couldn’t make it, but I got 5 texts last night and this morning asking about different Jewish girls and guys, so it must have been a success for at least some…  Everyone I spoke with today has confirmed this.

Congratulations to Ilana and DC JCC for taking the lead on this.  And thanks to all the groups (including GTJ) who cosponsored.    I’ll get some pictures up soon.

………

Visit back for updates on the next 7 nights.

And to find out what’s available out there, visit our Hanukkah calendar.

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Courtney wins Sixth & I Cooking Competition

Courtney's victory apron

As one who has never turned on an oven, I view cooking in the same light as rocket launching:  Both regularly occur, but I have no idea how.

And so it’s with considerable awe that I proudly present the recent winner of Sixth & I’s Third Annual Holy Chef: Battle of the Spuds competition:  GTJ’s very own food columnist Courtney Weiner!

Courtney cooked against 11 other chefs in the Sunday night competition.  Each chef had bring a kosher dish — dairy or pareve — to be sampled by the approximately 40 taste-testing guests.

Courtney made “Coconut Sweet Potato Flan.”  Her inspiration was simple:  “I knew I wanted some sort of sweet potato dessert.  I had made sweet potatoes with coconut before, so I thought they might combine well in a dessert.  As for the recipe, I looked up a sweet potato flan recipe and a coconut flan recipe that morning and figured out way to combine them.”

With her victory, Courtney established a perfect competitive cooking record:   She is now 1-0.  When asked if she was nervous for her first outing, Courtney replied, “I was concerned because I had never made flan before and had just made up this dish (meant to do a trial run, but I didn’t have time).  I tasted it before I left and was happy with it, but I had no idea what other people would think.”

As a prize for winning, Courtney received a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card and an apron that reads “Holy Chef, Sixth & I Champion.”

Check back in a week or so to see the recipe for Courtney’s award-winning dish.  In the meantime, you can check out some of Courtney’s past kosher creations (see below).

Debra Pearlstein finished second in this year’s competition

GTJ’s dating columnist, Erika Ettin, won the first year competition.

Congratulations to all chefs.

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If you have any local Jewish young adult stories that you’d like to see covered, please email Stephen at Stephen@gatherthejews.com

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Chanukah Events in DC!

There’s a lot of great parties this season (below).  I’ll be updating this page regularly so make sure to check back.

Here’s a few things to help get you in the festive mood:

Hanukkah Parties:

Holiday volunteer opportunities:

 

Let me know (in the comments) what I’ve missed, and I will add.

 

 

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Mesorah DC Dreidel Championship – and the winner is…

 

Live music, Open bar and….dreidels? This past Saturday night over 300 of D.C.’s finest young professionals joined Mesorah DC at Sixth & I for the first DC Dreidel Championship. Competition was fierce yet friendly, as the masses competed to become our nation’s capital’s top spinner.

While not competing, participants enjoyed an open bar and fresh latkes from the first ever “Latke Bar.”  Mesorah’s own Master Chef, Malka, treated partygoers to a choice — either “specialty” or traditional latkes expertly fried on the spot.

A spectacular evening came to a close as Josh “Spinner” Stern hoisted the championship cup and was crowned DC’s first Dreidel Champion.

Think you can spin? Start practicing for next year, and please join us at another great Mesorah DC event soon.

Check out pics here.

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Why Attend the Falafel Frenzy?

The following opinions do not reflect the opinions of Gather the Jews.  They are written by three of the Falafel Frenzy’s hosts.

Five reasons you should go to the Falafel Frenzy.
  1. All proceeds go to charity!  Money is tight for everyone this year, so get the most bang for your buck by allowing your party entrance fee to do double duty.  For only $20 in advance or $25 at the door, you get to have a great time at an awesome party AND you’ll also be giving to charity!  Last year, this event raised over $10,000 toward hunger programs in DC.  Help us raise even more this year!
  2. It promotes the Jewish values of giving back.  Spend Christmas Eve with other MOTs and be a part of a meaningful event for the Jewish community.
  3. It’s a grassroots event that needs YOU.  The Falafel Frenzy was created by Jewish young professionals just like you who were fed up with the other for profit options on a night that is supposed to promote giving. This event is a grassroots effort created by members of the DC Jewish community, not sponsored by any organization, and we need YOUR support to make it a success!  
  4. Great music, hotter people, and signature drink specials. Lima Lounge generously donated the space and a popular Jewish DJ, and we’ll have DC’s best mix of the 80s, 90s, and 2011.   We’ll have drink specials including Latke Shots, Falafel Baltinis, and Holy Moses, along with hundreds of people for you to meet.  Last year, in our first year, this event had more than 500 guests, and we expect it to be even bigger this year!  Looking to meet that special someone or just hang out with hundreds of new and old friends?  You’ve come to the right place!
  5. Doesn’t everyone love falafel balls?  The falafel itself will be attending in spirit this year, but you can still show your love by making a difference with your falafel balls!

For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.  To buy tickets, click here.

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How to Navigate Chanukah in DC

Editor’s Note: To discover more Hannukah events, see our hand-edited Chanukah events page, the events list to the right, and the events we have posted on our Facebook wall.

Chanukah week is a prime week for making connections in D.C., particularly if you’re still new to the scene. You won’t find a better week with more diverse socializing opportunities, be it volunteer, organization related, or just for complete fun.

The great part about is that the holiday theme means there is less pressure to wear your suit and tie, be well-stocked with business cards, or have an elevator speech ready at these types of gatherings.

But whether you’re hitting up the Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill this Tuesday, or gorging on falafel at the Second Annual Falafel Frenzy on Dec. 24, don’t totally slack off. There are a few easy ways to keep yourself in check and still make the most of these events that could reap longer-term benefits, be it socially, educationally, or professionally. Because you never do know who you’ll meet at these Chanukah functions. Everybody loves a good party, and more people are likely to turn out this week than any other.

Here are just a few tips to safeguard your Chanukah-week outings:

  • Inform your guest. If you’re bringing a guest with you to an event, make sure they’re in the know about the event you’re attending.  Also, debrief them on proper decorum and attire, if necessary. Your guest can reflect directly on you should you run into a potential connection, and your guest’s behavior, positive or negative, can be a factor for your reputation.
  • Make the most of first impressions. How you introduce yourself to people is fairly important. It can be a little difficult to navigate gracefully through an introduction when your face is stuffed with latkes or you’re double-fisting for the night, so keep in mind that you may need to shake some hands and compose yourself with poise.
  • Read the news. Or something. There’s nothing worse than uncomfortable silences. So do your due diligence and have a few conversation topics ready in case you need to quash the awkward silence. It’s worth it to read up on the latest news (totally not a ploy to assert validity of my job), and generally topics like the economy or foreign affairs will get you scooting around conversationally in D.C. Of course, if you’re still new to the city, you’ll soon learn that it’s nearly impossible to evade the political discussions. And probably religious ones as well, since at least 90 percent of the crowds you’ll see during Chanukah events are Jewish. So pick a topic or two and master it. It will pay to have something to contribute to the conversation.
  • Give yourself some down time this week. With so many events going on, you don’t want to burn yourself out with all the socializing. Feeling over-socialized could hinder your maximum networking abilities or drive you to write blog posts recounting your Chanukah overdose.

And most of all, have fun. It’s a great time of the year and it should be enjoyable for you, whether you stay in D.C. or head elsewhere. So stay warm, be surrounded by good company, and have a happy Chanukah.

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Jews and Sports… Stop Laughing: Chanukah Wish List

My Chanukah wish list for Jews and sports:

  • That Tim Tebow wins the Super Bowl.  What does the Denver Broncos quarterback have to do with Jews and sports? I love Tebowing, the celebration the religious Tebow does by dropping to one knee and bowing his head.  It turns out that the whole Tebowing phenomenon was started by Jared Kleinstein, a 24-year-old Jewish real-estate marketer born in Denver and living in New York.  Kleinstein created the Tebowing website, where people submit pictures Tebowing from all corners of the globe.  “People found hope through a gesture,” Kleinstein recently told the Wall Street Journal.  The picture of a little boy who posted “I’m Tebowing while Chemoing!” is pretty inspiring.  For those of you who stay long enough on Yom Kippur, Tebowing is a little reminiscent of the avodah service.
  • That the positive performance-enhancing drug test by recent Jewish National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun be overturned on appeal.  The questionable character and billions of dollars in today’s professional sports has made people cynical about a cultural phenomenon that has historically bound the United States and been a symbol for social advancement and national pride.  Braun was proud of his Jewish faith and his character as a young player trying to help baseball eliminate its steroid stigma.  “I realize,” he told the New York Times, “all these things are a result of me having success on the baseball field, carrying myself the right way and staying out of trouble off the field.”  Braun maintains his innocence and insists his positive drug test was the result of improper testing mechanisms.

The contrast between the feel-good Tebow victories and the disappointing Braun drug test is indicative of a schism in sports.  For better or worse, American athletes are revered like Babylonian Talmudic scholars.  Should Babe Ruth have been paid more than the president of the United States?  “I had a better year than he did,” Ruth said.

When athletes show character—like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax not playing baseball on Yom Kippur—they can have tremendous positive inspiration.  When sports stars do not—felonies, infidelity—they leave us with a sour taste at a time when we could all use some encouragement.  Maybe sports fans are overly nostalgic, like the protagonist in this year’s Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris” was about his literary legends.  But it seems like the athletes in Washington have just as much impact, if not more, than the politicians in the city.  Tebow’s Broncos lost to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but he’s still the biggest winner to this point in the NFL season.  And hopefully we’ll have more to Tebow about—or maybe even one day to Braun about.  Happy Chanukah.

Gather the Jews member Jonathan Horowitz (www.jjhorowitz.com) is the horse race announcer at Arapahoe Park and host of the show “A Day at the Races” on Altitude Sports TV in Denver. He also has authored The ONE and ONLY: A Sports Quiz Deck of Definitive Games, Teams, Players, and Events that will be published by Pomegranate Publishers in January 2012. If you would like to purchase a personal copy ($9.95), please contact him at jjhorowitz@gmail.com for details.

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On the Eight Nights of Chanukah, My Dating Coach Said to Me… GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 22)

As the year comes to a close, I want to provide a summary of the top eight tips from 2011.  Feel free to sing along!

On the 1st night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

In online dating, differentiating yourself is key.  You want someone to be able to paint a picture of you in his or her mind rather than painting a generic person who could be just about anyone.

On the 2nd night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Try to avoid making online dating like ordering a pizza.  We are all looking for that on-paper perfect mate.  And since online dating sites give so much choice in the matter, we think it’s our right to have everything we’re looking for.  Go ahead, order whatever you want for dinner, but when it comes to dating, there’s no check-box order to place.  Give people the benefit of the doubt because in the end, after meeting in person, chemistry may trump all to give you the slice of your life.

On the 3rd night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Don’t use a spur-of-the-moment Groupon/Living Social Deal on the first date.  If you’ve planned the outing in advance because of the Groupon, then you’re good to go.

On the 4th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Online dating isn’t easy, which many people don’t realize. They think they can just throw a profile up there and wait.  No way, Jose.  That’s like walking into a bar and just plopping yourself on a stool without even trying to make conversation with anyone.  It’s just not going to work.  Yes – online dating takes work.  But then again, so do most things in life that are worth the outcome.

On the 5th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

There’s no modern-day dating Lemon Law, so for the “creepy” bad date (other variants are “scary” bad, “offensive” bad, “mean” bad), the best bet is to be honest.  “You know, I just don’t think we’re clicking.  It was nice to meet you, but I don’t want either of us to waste our time, so I thought I’d say that to give us the option to go do something else tonight.”

On the 6th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

On a first date, you can always add dinner, but you can’t take it back.  Enough said.

On the 7th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

In online dating, non-response does not equal rejection.  In other words, the absence of a positive reply (an e-mail back) is not the same as someone turning you down.  Just forget about it and move on.  Remember – for all you know, they just didn’t like your hair.

On the 8th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Don’t commit any of the four Dins – 1) The last-minute cancel and never reschedule, 2) The no interest make-out, 3) Canceling via text, and 4) Deciding you’re not interested and never telling the other person.

And a partridge in a pear tree. 

Have a wonderful holiday from Erika at A Little Nudge, your GTJ dating blogger.

If only there were eight more nights to write about.  In case you want more, an archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

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Orthodox Judaism and Gay Marriage: Incompatible?

Photo from Roee Rottenberg's article at 972+ http://972mag.com/orthodox-rabbi-marries-gay-couple-in-washington-dc/27424/

The text of the Torah informs us that (the act of), “homosexuality … is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).

The majority of Jews reject this.  The New York Times in 2007 reported that 67 percent of Jews support gay marriage, and in 2008, The Los Angeles Times wrote that 78 percent of Jews opposed California’s Proposition 8.  Jews, in fact, are more accepting of gay marriage than any other major religion in the United States.

But though gays and gay marriage have slowly trickled into the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist communities, the issue is still a point of contention, and it is especially so in the Orthodox community.  Ordinarily this is subject that we at GTJ would leave to our expert friends at yeshivas or national Jewish websites, but the discussion now has local flavor following the recent marriage of DC residents, and DC Minyan regulars, Ron Kaplan and Yoni Block at Sixth & I Synagogue.

The Orthodox Wedding that Never Was

Owing to this first-to-the-scene report by Roee Ruttenberg, the wedding between Bock and Kaplan has been branded as, “the first time an ordained Orthodox rabbi has presided over a gay marriage.”

But this is not how Bock and Kaplan see it: “We’ve never said anything to suggest that it was an Orthodox wedding” (Kaplan), nor is it how the officiating rabbi – Steve Greenberg – intended the wedding to be presented (“It wasn’t a traditional Jewish wedding.”)

Rather, Kaplan labeled it a civil wedding with a Jewish commitment ceremony conducted by a rabbi who “has long been our friend and just happens to be ordained in the Orthodox tradition.”

Mark another tally in the “media inaccuracy column.”

The Rabbi

The Orthodox rabbi in question is Steve Greenberg.   Greenberg’s career is an interesting one:  He received his Orthodox semikhah (ordination) from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan; 17 years  later, Greenberg came out as openly gay in a documentary titled Trembling Before G-d , and he later wrote the book, Wrestling with G-d and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition. (information from Steven Philp, New Voices).

Greenberg is no stranger to debate, and he seemingly takes pride in pushing traditional Judaism to address hard questions that prompt discussion.  But in an interview with yours truly, Greenberg repeatedly stated that his “intention was not to create a storm of controversy.  I wanted to conduct a ceremony in a way that would create both a civil and a religious bond between the two men in a fashion that both families could enjoy, appreciate, and feel was meaningful.”

Orthodox response

Good intentions pave the road to hell.  And Greenberg’s efforts, rather than being celebrated as a nice deed for two of his deserving, long-standing friends, has generated, not a storm, but a light shower of controversy.

Responding to the media-driven idea of a gay Orthodox wedding, 100 prominent Orthodox rabbis from around the world signed a letter on December 5 stating that:

“We, as rabbis from a broad spectrum of the Orthodox community around the world, wish to correct the false impression that an Orthodox-approved same-gender wedding took place. By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.”

Among the declaration’s signers is the local intellectual and Modern Orthodox powerhouse Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel, a popular synagogue located at 28 and N streets, NW.

Rabbi Freundel did not respond to my request for a discussion, but I did get a hold of another signatory who wishes to stay anonymous, but shared his thoughts on the subject:

“The issue of gay marriage is … complicated, and to me, quite depressing.  The Torah is clear that it forbids homosexuality.  While other religions do not address … our Talmud says that it [is] a serious anathema.  … God can forgive the sin of homosexuality, as long as people are humble and regret their sin, and are not so arrogant as to try to justify their sin through a ‘marriage’ agreement.”

The rabbi went on to say that the Torah does not recognize homosexuality, only homosexual actions.  People committing homosexual actions, however, should not throw in the towel and call themselves homosexual:

“Even if a person feels like this, it is not hopeless.  There is always possibility for repentance and healing for any sin, even those that are most ingrained – even biologically – into any person.  Even if someone does not overcome this sin totally, they can at least recognize it as a sin.  If someone tries to turn a sin into a non-sin, that is heresy.  … The so-called ‘gay rights’ activists are really the ones who have contempt for those who are struggling with homosexuality, as it robs them of hope.”

With respect to Rabbi Greenberg and the marriage he performed, the rabbi said,

“Rabbi Greenberg recently officiated a same-sex marriage in Washington, DC, claiming to be the first Orthodox gay marriage in the USA.  This is a misrepresentation of Orthodox Judaism.  While Greenberg was ordained by an Orthodox institution, his action cannot be justified by Orthodox Judaism.  … This officiation may ipso-facto lead to his being defrocked as an Orthodox rabbi.”

Asking for a conversation

Greenberg regrets that the wedding has alienated many of his good “friends, colleagues, and former allies.”  But he does not intend to back away from this point.   On December 6, he penned a response in The New York Jewish Week, and in our phone conversation, he expressed frustration with the declaration signed by 100 rabbis.

“I’m asking that this conversation be had.  None of this is about me or the particulars of the ceremony I conducted.  It is about giving a sixteen-year-old hope for a good future.  What hope for love and companionship would they offer their own children who discover themselves to be lesbian or gay?”

Where do gays fit in?

The conversation that Greenberg wants to have is: “Where do gays fit in the Orthodox community?  In his words, “homosexuality is a common, non-pathological, minority expression of human sexuality.   Every professional psychological organization in the country understands homosexuality this way.   Without abandoning the fundamental claims of Modern Orthodoxy, how can my colleagues in good conscience not feel compelled to come up with a better answer for how to address homosexuality?”

Greenberg is especially upset by what he feels is the neglect of rabbinical responsibility.  “If a 16-year-old wants to know what God wants of her or him, and the answer we provide is lifelong celibacy and shame, that’s a formula for self-destructive behavior.  It’s just not a credible response.”

What is to be done?

Some in the Orthodox community feel there is little to be done.  “There is no such thing as gay Orthodox wedding, period,” said one Kesher congregant.  And, as another community member said, “The Orthodox community does not suffer change lightly.”

But change in the Orthodox community is not without historical or intellectual precedent.   The tradition used to allow no interest bearing loans between Jews, until a loophole was found.  Orthodox tradition used to prohibit women from studying Talmud.  That has changed.**   Greenberg said, “the ideology of a changeless law, is just that, an ideology born in the Nineteenth Century.   It may have been useful in the dawn of modernity, but we now need to revert to an earlier sense of halakhic creativity.  As one of the greatest Orthodox thinkers of the Twentieth Century – Rabbi Avraham Kook wrote, ‘The old shall be renewed and the new shall be sanctified.’”

In the years to come, Greenberg predicts that Orthodoxy will begin to open new ways of understanding and responding to gay Jews.  “Twenty years from now, there will be many Orthodox rabbis committed to making the Orthodox community a hospitable place for gay people.”

A happy ending

Because we at GTJ are upbeat, positive people who like Meg Ryan romantic comedies (ok, maybe I’m just describing myself) and because we held our most recent staff meeting at an advanced screening of the cheesily uplifting movie New Year’s Eve, we have to end on a happy note.  And that’s not hard to find in this case.   Kaplan told me that the wedding went very well and that Sixth & I was a great venue.  David Goldstein of Sixth & I confirmed the success of the wedding, and he noted that Sixth & I has already performed six or seven gay weddings and that it will continue to be a home for “all and any type of Jews.”

Update:

Since the original writing of this article, the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has issued the following policy notice:

In light of the extensive media coverage concerning the attitude of Orthodox Judaism towards homosexuality, the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest Rabbinical group within Orthodox Judaism, has decided to issue the following clarifications:

  1. The Torah and Jewish tradition, in the clearest of terms, prohibit the practice of homosexuality. Same-sex unions are against both the letter and the spirit of Jewish law, which sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.
  2. Attempts to ritualize or celebrate same-sex unions are antithetical to Jewish law. Any clergyman who performs or celebrates a same-sex union cannot claim the mantle of Orthodox Judaism.
  3. While homosexual behavior is prohibited, individuals with homosexual inclinations should be treated with the care and concern appropriate to all human beings. As Rabbis we recognize the acute and painful challenges faced by homosexual Jews in their quest to remain connected and faithful to God and tradition. We urge those Orthodox Jews with homosexual tendencies to seek counsel from their Rabbis. Equally, we urge all Rabbis to show compassion to all those who approach them.
  4. On the subject of reparative therapy, it is our view that, as Rabbis, we can neither endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. We insist, however, that therapy of any type be performed only by licensed, trained practitioners. In addition, we maintain that no individual should be coerced to participate in a therapeutic course with which he or she is acutely uncomfortable.
  5. We pray that God will ease the way for all who struggle with a full heart to feel His presence in their lives.

Resources:

Original report on wedding from +972.
Declaration from 100 Orthodox rabbis.
Greenberg’s Response in The New York Jewish Week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Threat to Jewish Survival

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

Question:
I am teaching a high school class about threats to Judaism in the modern world. What do you see as the biggest threat to Jewish survival–assimilation or anti-Semitism?

Answer:
The biggest threat to Jewish survival is confused Jewish identity. Sadly, today in many Jewish schools and families, Jewish identity is built through teaching Holocaust awareness and a fear of marrying out. The Jewish community’s preoccupation with assimilation and anti-Semitism is not the solution, it is the problem.

A pessimistic and negative presentation of being Jewish turns off young Jews more than anything else. When we obsess about anti-Semitism we paint ourselves as perpetual victims. When we over-emphasize the threat of assimilation, it makes us feel like an endangered species. The Jews are alongside the hump-back whale and the giant panda in the list of helpless and pitiful communities disappearing from the planet. Is it so surprising that young Jews are opting out of Judaism? Who wants to be a victim?

We have to stop defining ourselves by the way others perceive us. Assimilation is when non-Jews love us so much they want to marry us. Anti-Semitism is when non-Jews hate us so much they want to kill us. They both just happen to us; but what do we think of ourselves?

We need a clear and positive reason to stay Jewish. Failing that, why should Judaism survive? Is there a good argument for not assimilating into the welcoming societies surrounding us? Is there a compelling reason to stay proudly Jewish in the face of anti-Semitism?

I think there is.

Judaism is the most powerful idea that the world has ever seen. Jews should survive because we have a message that the world needs to hear.

The Jewish way of life is a revolutionary force that can transform ordinary lives into lives of meaning. A family that keeps Shabbat is always reminded of what is really important–that there is more to life than accumulating wealth. The kosher laws teach us that we are not mere animals that must feed our every urge and desire, and that eating itself can be holy. A mezuzah on the door tells the world that this home is built for a higher purpose.

Judaism teaches lessons that the world urgently needs to learn–that every individual person is created in the image of G-d, and is therefore unique and valuable; that morality is not relative but absolute; that humans are partners with G-d in creation, with a mission to create heaven on earth.

These bold Jewish ideas are more relevant now than ever. But bold Jewish ideas need bold Jewish people to perpetuate them. The world can only be elevated if individuals first elevate themselves. We can only make the world into a divine home if we start with our own home. This is Judaism’s formula to change the world for better. This is why we must stay Jewish.

The biggest threat to Judaism is not external pressure but rather internal confusion. When we lose sight of our mission, we lose the strength and stamina to survive. The Jewish feeling we need to develop in ourselves and our children is not fear of anti-Semitism, or guilt about assimilation. It is a humble pride in the greatness of the Jewish mission and confident resolve to fulfill it. When we are clear about our identity, no threat in the world can shake us.

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The Art of Letting People Down – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 21)

The Scene: Cleveland Park Bar & Grill, a first JDate

The Cast: Jordana, 26, avid marathon runner and ice skater, and Scotty, steak-lover and fan of WWF and extreme fighting competitions

The exit interview:

Jordana – “He was just ok.  We didn’t have a lot in common, and the attraction wasn’t there for me, unfortunately.  I’m glad we met, but I think it was pretty clear that this was our first and last date.”

Scotty – “Wow.  Jordana is the girl I have been waiting for.  She listened to every word I said about wrestling, and she got two drinks, so that must mean she wanted to stay longer.  I think I’ll e-mail her tomorrow to ask her out again.  I don’t see any reason why she’d say no.”

This scenario occurs a lot, and the disappointed party is not limited to either gender – it happens to all of us.  It’s not the end of the world, though.  Seeing if you have a mutual connection with someone is what dating is all about.  Unfortunately, sometimes you just don’t.  But it’s how you handle yourself afterwards that really matters.

If your date wants to see you again, you’ll usually get an e-mail or text.  (The phone’s gone out the window these days.)  If you’re not interested, you have four choices: 1) Agree to go out with him/her again, 2) Politely decline with a white lie, 3) Politely decline with the truth, or 4) Ignore him/her.  Assuming you really do not want to go out with the person again, the best option is #3.  No one can be upset with you for politely telling the truth.  But it’s all in how you say it.  When I was on the market, I probably should have saved this e-mail to copy and paste since I used it so often:

It was really nice meeting you, and thanks again for the drink.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t think we clicked the way I’d want us to, but I think you’re really great and hope to run into you again soon.

Not bad, right?  It’s truthful (unless you don’t think the person is great at all), gets the point across, and there won’t be any miscommunication.

But what if someone wants to convey this message but lacks the tact to do so properly?  A friend of mine received the text you’re seeing to the right.  He lacked sensitivity, and now not only does she know he’s just not that into her, but she doesn’t even like him as a person.  As I said, no one should get angry with you for being honest, but try to do it nicely.

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me her dilemma: “That reminds me, I went out with the French guy from online who I had a nice ‘e-lationship’ with.  The date was fine.  I don’t really have complaints, but I also do not have butterflies whatsoever, not even moths fluttering around.  I think the attraction was not there.  He has now been texting, but I couldn’t get myself to text him back yesterday.  I just don’t think I want to hang again.  Is that bad?  Should I give it another shot?  Also, if not, do I need to let him know that nicely or do I just not write back? Ugh I never know what to do!”

My response: “Well, I’m glad the e-lationship with the guy ended and you finally met up.  Did he at least have a sexy accent?  ;)  Unfortunately, only you know whether there’s enough potential to go out with him again.  If you think there’s even a small chance, it can’t hurt to have another drink.  Some people do get nervous on the first date, and attraction definitely grows the more you get to know and like someone’s personality.  But that one is up to you.  As for letting him know vs. not, in this day and age, as you know, most people do not get back to someone after the first date if they don’t want to go out again.  Given that he did text, you could let it go, which I’m sure is what most people would do.  But the better, more mature, response would be to say, ‘I had a great time the other night.  Not sure I felt the spark, but thanks again for the drink!’  That way, it’s honest, and if you ever run into each other, he can’t fault you for being truthful.  I’ve found that it’s typically the best policy because the non-response gets awkward sometimes, and with DC being so small, you’re bound to run into people.  Let me know what you decide to do.”

Plus, by not responding, you always run the risk of this happening.  So be honest… and be nice.

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

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From Standing Still to Jumping Forward

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

Question of the Week:

My life has come to a standstill. I’m bored at work, and my relationship is going nowhere. I think I need a change of scenery. Should I move away, or do you think a career change will be enough?

Answer:

There’s only one problem with changing scenery. Wherever you go, you’ll still be there. Even if everything around you changes – your address, your job, your partner, your car – as long as you are the same old you, you will be living the same old life.

The human soul has a deep need for growth. Stagnation is poison to the soul. What was good enough yesterday is insufficient for today, and the me of the past will not satisfy us in the future. We need to be constantly adding new insights, facing new challenges and charting new territory. To achieve this, we need not go anywhere. We need just to look inside ourselves and change our inner scenery.

You don’t need a career move. You need a soul move. Embark on some new challenges in your spiritual life. Go and buy an inspiring and meaningful book and read a little every day. Feed your mind with new ideas. Challenge yourself to work on a character weakness, like being more patient with your parents or coworkers, or thinking before you speak. Take on a new mitzvah, like putting on Tefillin in the morning or saying a blessing before and after eating.

The changes need not be big and dramatic, but they must be consistent. We learn this lesson from the Chanukah candles.

On the first night of Chanukah we light one candle, on the second two, and we continue to add one new candle each night, until the eighth and final night when we light eight candles. This means that what was enough yesterday is not enough today. If on the fourth night of Chanukah I light four candles, I have fulfilled the mitzvah perfectly. But if I light the same four candles on the fifth night, I am lacking, I have fallen behind. Every new day requires another new candle.

If you aren’t growing spiritually, if you haven’t added more light, you are stagnating. Not even a new iPhone can fill that void. But if you just add one candle, a single spiritual challenge and one solitary step further in your soul journey, then you have changed from within, and the whole world changes with you.

All the best,

Rabbi Moss

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Dealing with the Jewish World During Flu Season

It starts with a cough. Or congestion. Or overall malaise.

Then it turns into stomach pains, massive nose drainage, and woe-ing and kvetching. You’ve suddenly noticed the tired, glassy-eyed look and the way your friend’s head lulls around aimlessly.

Congratulations, you’ve entered cold/flu/need-to-up-the-Vitamin-C season.

Perhaps it started at work, or from the stress of dealing with finals or family during Thanksgiving. The temperature changes, day-to-day stress, and overall pick up of germs can cause the domino-effect of getting each other sick. And if you’re new to D.C. and jumping into the Jewish social scene, being trapped indoors during many of the wonderful events going on lately can also turn you into a prime petri dish.

Thankfully I’m not a doctor (sorry, Dad) and can only prescribe common advice as you can apply it to local Jewish events. If you catch a cold this season, please don’t sue me. GTJ does not offer its staff writers med-mal insurance.

Past that disclaimer, here are some generic tips we’ve all heard but could use the reminder to keep them top of mind:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Duh? But we all know that for the most part, we don’t actually scrub our hands and take off a layer of skin the way we’re supposed to. So keeping hand sanitizer around will effectively get the job done. That way, when you’re busy shaking hands and meeting new folks at events such as Kesher Israel’s community oneg on Dec. 9, you can more covertly squeeze a dollop of sanitizer between introductions. (Please don’t do it right after you shake someone’s hand, that might be considered fairly rude.)
  • Buffer the germs at the buffet table. Many of these events, such as luncheons after Shabbat services, or the terrific dinners at Café Night at 6 & I Historic Synagogue, tend to serve food buffet-style. Efficient? Yes. But please don’t double dip or snack directly from the table. Or stand over the table while you’re eating.
  • Watch your diet. Winter holidays in particular tend to induce a feeling of going all out and indulging on all sorts of great foods. But splurging for six weeks in a row can make your system yo-yo around, which can take a toll on your immune system. So before you go crazy at the next big meal, like the Moishe House Shabbat dinner on Dec. 9, check yourself. Generally drinking a glass of water, eating a food with protein, or curbing your sweet tooth with fruit or mint-flavored foods, can often help you balance out the “eyes-bigger-than-stomach” sensation.
  • If you’re getting sick, please stay home. Yes, you might’ve signed up for the Chanukah cooking demonstration Chabad is hosting Dec. 11, but no amount of gloves or wearing a mask will guarantee keeping you from infecting others. Especially since we’re talking about handling food, and most Jewish events do center around food. We love you, but do us a favor and get well before you join the party. You’ll be happier that you got the chance to rest up and kick the bug faster anyway.

If you’ve got a friend (or five) who aren’t feeling so hot, do what you can to visit them or keep them entertained if they’re down and out. Even if you can’t juggle hacky sacks or sing Britney Spears, your friends will at least laugh at you attempting to do so. And keeping your friends positive is a good way to help them get well.

 

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Piece O’ (Apple) Cake

The decorative apples in my apartment were looking a little tired. Realizing they had served their purpose of brightening my living room, I decided to put them to good use in sweetening an apple cake. Apple cakes, I have learned, are not technically a Jewish food. However, they are associated with Jewish cooking because they do not include any dairy products, and are therefore a dish that meets the constraints of kashrut for a typical holiday or Shabbat dinner. This is an easy recipe that led to a breezy and uneventful baking experience.

One direction that I added to the original recipe was tossing the apple slices in the cinnamon sugar mixture. It prevented the apples from browning while I made the cake batter and led to sweeter apples. You can check out the recipe here.

So how does the whole experience rank? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “bad” and 5 being “good”:

Prep time: 5

Peel the apples, mix up the cake batter, and you’re good to go.

Overall ease: 5

This was a very stress-free baking experience. I would have had to try very hard to mess this up.

Cook time: 3

I was very concerned about the cake being too dry, so I took it out after 60 minutes. I think it would have tasted even better if I had taken it out at 50 mins.

Cost: 5

If you have basic baking materials you won’t need to purchase many items.

Taste: 4

This cake was sweet and spongy, but not as moist as I would have preferred.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 apples – peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 5 teaspoons white sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 10 inch tube pan. Combine the ground cinnamon and 5 teaspoons of the sugar together and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and 2 cups of the sugar. Stir in the vegetable oil, beaten eggs, orange juice, and vanilla. Mix well.
  3. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Top with 1/2 of the sliced apples and sprinkle with 1/2 of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour the remaining batter over the top and layer the remaining sliced apples and cinnamon sugar.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 70 to 90 minutes.

 

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