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Over 250 at GTJ event

GTJ’s Most Eligible event by the numbers:

  • Day:  11/17/2011
  • In attendance:  Over 250
  • Raffled:  10 highly eligible men (stallions) and 10 high eligible women.
  • Prizes:  43 prizes given away.
  • Total worth of prizes:  $1,806.00
  • Total worth of date raffles:  You can’t quantify the type of charm and beauty we had up on stage.
  • The number of amazing emcees we had:   1 (Joshua Novikoff — thank you so much!)
  • The number of super event admins we had:   Many!  Jodi T., Sara S., Karen S., Josh Y., Jon H., Brian W.
  • The amount of our gratitude for our event sponsors:  Tons!  Please check out the organizations that made this event possible.
  • The number of pictures taken:  Over 100.  See them on the GTJ Facebook page.
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Thankful for Ethiopia: A Foreign Lens on an American Holiday

I have always thought of Thanksgiving as an American holiday with a Jewish theme. Eating and giving thanks is what we Jews do best, proven by the fact that many years after graduating from Jewish day school, I can still recite the blessing of Grace after Meals by heart, without giving it a second thought. “Hakarat Hatov,” literally translated as “recognizing the good,” and usually interpreted as “giving thanks where thanks is due,” is a concept that is prevalent in the Jewish tradition. The Rabbis tell us to thank God for every little thing we have and do, a list that ranges from waking up to going to sleep and everything in between. Whether or not you are the kind of Jew who says or thinks the words of gratitude daily, we are all happy to celebrate a holiday to remind us to appreciate what we have, and gives us an excuse to eat pumpkin pie.

Every year, at my family’s Thanksgiving table, I make a foolish attempt to get my family to play the “I am thankful for…” game. As everyone else in the family becomes immediately and intentionally distracted by everything but the game, I am left thinking about my own sentimental answers: my supportive friends and family, my job, my apartment (and my roommates!), my Jewish community, etc. I never forget to voice how thankful I am for my Mother’s delicious cooking.

This year, my answers and perspective are slightly different than they have been for the last 20 or so years. For example, this year I am also thankful for every pencil I have ever laid my hands on. Why? Because I recently returned from a service trip to Ethiopia with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).  If anyone can teach you about what it means to be thankful, it would be an impoverished Ethiopian child whose face lights up just because you gave him something as simple as a pencil.

While in Ethiopia, I listened to a first-hand account of the history of JDC’S involvement in transporting Ethiopia’s Jews to Israel on massive airlifts during Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991). Committed to the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, JDC continues to engage in long-term humanitarian efforts for the poorest Ethiopians. I was privileged to contribute to their projects of construction of a rural school and medical treatment for children. I also learned about other JDC projects, including scholarships for university and nursing degrees, water well construction to provide rural villages with potable water, and life-saving heart and spinal surgeries, and treatments for curable forms of cancer. This was truly a life-changing and unforgettable opportunity.

So, some other things included on my “I am thankful for…” list this year:

  1. Thankful that…I can drink water from the tap. It may taste nasty before it runs through a Brita filter, but it doesn’t contain parasites and bacteria that make me ill. I don’t have to walk for miles to get to the water, and carry a heavy water-filled jerry can back home, only to get sick from drinking it later on. I watched some women in Ethiopia do all this with babies on their backs, at a certain stream near a village in Gondar (see picture!). I am thankful that, within the next year, JDC will build a water well in that same area, to make clean and safe water accessible to the villagers.
  2. Thankful for…living in a city where my higher education is encouraged. We met with JDC scholarship recipients, all female, most of who were the first in their family to attend university, some of who were considered rebellious because most women do not attend university in Ethiopia.
  3. Thankful for…the lack of parasites in my body. Ethiopians are chronically infected with worms, which can negatively affect health, nutrition, and cognitive development. We spent a day at a school, deworming over 150 children, many of whom had never swallowed a pill before in their lives. We then went on to distribute school supplies to those children, which were donated back in the United States, hence the excitement associated with the pencil.
  4. Thankful for…my straight back. “Zokef Kefufim,” the daily prayer said to thank God for “straightening those who are bent,” takes on a whole new meaning after spending a few days with a doctor who has made this his life’s mission. A Jewish man originally from the United States, Dr. Rick Hodes has lived in Ethiopia for over 20 years, treating patients with spine disease, as well as cardiac disease and cancer. He fundraises to save the lives of children who require surgery but cannot afford to pay for the procedure. I was privileged to meet some of his patients at a Shabbat meal at Dr. Hodes’s house. Some of his patients live in his house, while he adopts others to send them to the United States to receive a proper education. All of his patients have been inspired by him, and some have even claimed that they would like to be medical doctors when they grow up. The HBO documentary “Making the Crooked Straight” delves into Dr. Hodes’s work in Ethiopia, and the miraculous encounters of his everyday life.
  5. Thankful that…I can bring the experience home. The group of young professionals that I traveled with to Ethiopia is currently fundraising for spine surgery for three of the children who we met at Dr. Hodes’s house. If you are in the position to give, please click here to donate and learn about his patients.

Amisagenalo (thank you) and happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C.

It’s like college all over again—many friends go home since nobody’s actually from D.C., and enjoy the company and warmth of their families and childhood friends. But for those for whom “home” is much too far for a quick jaunt, it can be tough to be left behind here. That feeling of being stranded doesn’t exactly make you feel all fuzzy about Thursday morning parades on TV, the overpriced Thanksgiving dinner specials at local hotels, or missing out on two weeks of leftovers. And if it’s your first time being stuck in D.C., all the worse.

Per usual at Gather the Jews, we’d like to help.

I’ll recommend not worrying about helping yourself right away—go help some other people before you think about where you’re going to procure sweet potatoes and cookies to scarf down.

DC JCC is having a volunteer night Wed., Nov. 23 to prepare more than 7,000 servings of food for people in need in the D.C.-metro area. While you can’t get tickets to the event anymore, I’d say check in with the JCC just to see if there’s anything they still need. (Does anyone ever turn free food down?) DC Central Kitchen is helping to coordinate this effort, and could probably always use more help in the future. So Others May Eat is having its Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger on Thurs., Nov. 24, starting at 9 a.m. to benefit the hungry and homeless in D.C. Or help by donating to the Capital Area Food Bank through Nov. 30, particularly to help out low-income seniors who could use a good Thanksgiving meal.

But feeding yourself is also key.

You can either, a) Go find someone else who’s making a whole bunch of Thanksgiving food and hosting a meal, or b) Take the initiative and host a dinner yourself.

There are definitely a few kind souls around town who are hosting kosher Thanksgiving dinners for those stranded in D.C., and are of the opinion that the more, the merrier. If you’re looking for such a generous host, feel free to email me.

And if you’d like to do some hosting yourself, we’ve already got you started with a parve pumpkin pie recipe posted on the site yesterday. These kosher Thanksgiving recipes look pretty salivating-worthy too. Or maybe I’m already hungry for lunch at 10:45 a.m. But either way, give them a try whether you’re joining someone’s dinner and need to bring a dish or are playing host.

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Parve Pumpkin Pie

For most people, Thanksgiving means turkey and pumpkin pie.  But for those who keep kosher (and for the lactose-intolerant among us), the pumpkin pie can present a bit of a problem.  Variations on pumpkin pie abound, but when it comes to the dairy component, the options are usually evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, or, for Paula Deen, cream cheese, cream, and butter.  While Paula’s recipe looked delicious, that seemed like too many substitutions to make.  There is a non-dairy substitution for sweetened condensed milk, but it’s slightly labor-intensive.  So, I decided to keep it simple with a substitution for evaporated milk in the recipe from the Libby’s pumpkin can.  The result had a subtle soy flavor (which may vary depending on the kind of soy milk powder you use), but it definitely pleased the crowd I served it to.

Recipe

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

Total time: 1 hour 15 min.

Yield: 8 servings

Level: Easy

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 ½ cups soy milk mixed from soy milk powder using twice the amount of powder suggested on the package
  • 1 unbaked 9” deep dish non-dairy pie shell (homemade or store bought)

Directions

Beat eggs in a medium-sized bowl.  Add remaining ingredients except pie shell and mix until well blended.  Pour filling into the shell.  Bake at 425º for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350º and bake an additional 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in a wire rack for 2 hours.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.  Do not freeze.

Note: It is often a good idea when baking any pie to bake it on a preheated baking sheet, both to cook the crust better and to catch anything that may overflow.

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Jews and Sports… Stop Laughing: A Winning Loser

Red Klotz

If you look up the word “loser” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Red Klotz.  Merriam-Webster’s definition of “a person or thing that loses especially consistently” is perfect for Klotz and his Washington Generals basketball team that has toured with the Harlem Globetrotters for more than half a century, losing more than 13,000 times and winning only once.  The only problem is that Merriam-Webster’s second definition of “a person who is incompetent or unable to succeed, something doomed to fail or disappoint” couldn’t be further from the truth about the Jewish Klotz and the Generals.

In 1926, a Jew born in London named Abe Sapertstein founded a basketball team named the Harlem Globetrotters who were made up of the top black players from Chicago.  Saperstein called his squad “Harlem” because he thought the name would be synonymous with entertainment given Harlem’s rich cultural tradition.  In that sense, Saperstein was ahead of his time in fusing sports and entertainment.  Imagine the Super Bowl without the halftime show or the funny commercials or an NBA game without the dancers, mascots, or music.  (Actually this year, you’re kind of forced to imagine an NBA game.)

The Globetrotters toured around the country, and one game in 1939 found themselves leading 112-5.  They started playing to the crowd and ever since have endeared themselves to fans such as Queen Elizabeth II, Pope John XXIII, and Nikita Khrushchev in more than 100 countries with dribbling, passing and shooting showmanship.

In 1949, Klotz, a former college basketball player at Villanova and NBA player with the Baltimore Bullets where he won a championship in 1948, was part of a team called the Philadelphia SPHAs (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) that upset the Globetrotters during a tour.  Saperstein noticed Klotz’s skill and in 1953 gave him a $1,500 loan to form a team that would tour full time with the Globetrotters.  Klotz called the team the Washington Generals for entertainment purposes.  “Ike had just thumped Adlai Stevenson, and generals were pretty popular at that time,” Klotz told Sports Illustrated in 1995.  “I thought the name might win us some fans.”

Go ahead and cross out the words “win” and “fans” from that last sentence because so began Klotz’s career as a loser.  Crowds came to see the Globetrotters, and the Generals assumed the role of the victim and the villain.  With the exception of one victory in 1971 when Joshua stopped the sun, the Generals have lost more than any other team has lost before.  In the one game Washington won, Klotz hit a go-ahead shot with 10 seconds left, and the clock operator failed to stop time after a Globetrotters shot banked out.  The sound of the final buzzer was accompanied by adults aghast and children crying.  Even when Basketball Hall of Famers like Rick Barry and Nancy Lieberman have suited up for the Generals, the team still cannot add to this lone victory.  Redskins fans could watch Generals’ losses and legitimately say, “You know what, we aren’t that bad.”

Klotz has insisted that the Generals don’t throw games, but they know their role: don’t interfere with the Globetrotters’ “Magic Circle;” have a smile on your face when your shorts get pulled down; be part of the entertainment.  But if it takes two to tango and you need two teams to play a basketball game, the Generals are as vital to Globetrotters games as the Trotters themselves.  The Globetrotters get their story told all the time, but few actually know about how amazing the lovable losing Generals are.

“The thing about the Generals that always inspires me,” explains Dan Pratt, who founded the “Washington Generals Fan Blog” in May, “is that, as players have said over the years, while they are known as ‘losers’ the truth is they actually do win.  Most Washington Generals are kids straight out of college who play for one to three years with the team.  They are kids who get to travel the world expenses paid, play basketball in some of the most famous arenas in the U.S. and the world, they help the Trotters bring joy and laughter to kids everywhere they go, and they earn enough to make a living while doing it.”

“I guess Red’s legacy is in how he’s touched my life and the lives of all his players,” Sam Sawyer, a former General from 1958 to 1975, said.  “It’s like Red knows the secret to happiness.”

Invoking Grantland Rice, Pratt says, “The Generals are to me the ultimate embodiment of, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Klotz played with the Generals until he was 63 and coached for 12 more years, but he and his family still own and run the team.  Klotz and the Generals have found creative ways to lose, such as in the middle of a Middle Eastern political standoff after a 1953 game in Syria.  The airplane taking the team out of Syria was overweight, and Klotz, two Generals and two Globetrotters got off the plane to drive to Beirut for another fight.  “So I get stopped at the Lebanese border,” Klotz recounted to Sports Illustrated in 1995, “and everybody is running around like crazy with machine guns, getting ready to go to war with Israel for the umpteenth time.  I’m trying to identify myself by pretending to dribble and shoot, but the guards just keep looking at my visa list that has 42 names on it, and they want to know where we’ve buried the bodies of the other 37 guys.  It didn’t help much that the first two names on the list were Saperstein and Klotz.”

At a time when one losing season can cost coaches their jobs or draw the ire of fans, Klotz can offer a sporting and life lesson.

“I guess that’s why I don’t worry too much about being the losingest coach in history,” Klotz said.  “It’s like if you come home at four in the morning and you hear the milkman whistling on the job and you wonder what he’s so happy about. It’s because he understands his purpose.”

Sure there’s a difference between the NBA and the Globetrotters, but with the NBA and its players in a standoff that threatens the entire basketball season, Red Klotz and the Washington Generals sure look like winners.

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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The Network. Lagniappe edition.

Stephen Richer is President and co-founder of Gather the Jews.  Stephen’s undoubtedly fatuous views do not reflect any GTJ institutional stance. 

……..

Some of my favorite Jews... at "The Network." Photo from JFGW.

Three hundred and five DC-area Jews gathered (we get a quarter every time that word is used) Wednesday night at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s “The Network” event.   It wasn’t as awkward or pretentious as I had feared given the title and alleged purpose – I didn’t have to play any name games (I’m terrible at those, ask Shaina L.) and I didn’t have to talk about my career ambitions (ruler of the world or social dilettante along the lines of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Goring).  Instead, JFGW treated us to a really nice event by providing:

  1. A great venue (Marriott Hotel),
  2. A fun/provocative keynote speaker (Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s),
  3. A large number of people that are smarter and more accomplished than I am (20s and 30s),
  4. A large number of people that are MUCH smarter and MUCH more accomplished than I am (people over the age of 40),
  5. Comfortable seating (I hate being squished),
  6. Some amazing cupcake tops (I hate cupcake bottoms),
  7. And ice cream for both appetizers and dessert (and that, as the keynote speaker said, is definitely a good thing).

I’ve promised to leave the actual reporting on the event to my boy Jason L., but in the meantime, I’m going to exercise my presidential license and subject you to a few disjointed thoughts about the event and Federation.

International Love – the thawing a stone cold heart?

Yasha!!!!! Photo from JFGW.

Most of my habits have a bizarre twist (see, e.g., My Eating).  This includes my allegiances to nonprofits.  I fear that most 501(c)3s are either socialist incubators, anti-corporate breeding grounds, anti-Israel hate shops, democratic internationalist kumbaya singers, or are somehow connected to the ACLU.

Accordingly, I even greeted the JFGW with some skepticism when I enrolled in the NEXUS program – a program designed to familiarize young leaders (I got in because I knew the administrator) with Federation’s efforts and to encourage future Federation and Jewish community involvement.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the JFGW is very solid on the local front: its young Leadership Division runs really great events, and it does a wonderful job getting young adults more involved in Federation or encouraging the launch of their own Jewish endeavors (e.g. Federation has been supporting of GTJ.  Also, be sure to check to complete your ConnectGens Fellowship applications by November 20!).

But Federation’s international giving rubbed me funny.  Yes, rescuing Jews across the world is a nice thing, but American Judaism is shrinking, and in many respects, we’re the leaders of the Jewish world.  Shouldn’t we fix our own house first?

Last night’s speech by Yasha Moz threatened my notions on this subject.  I never knew Yasha’s full story – I knew he was Soviet-born, and I knew he played chess well (stereotypical), but I hadn’t known that Federation had played a large part in: 1) The development of his Soviet Jewish community, 2) His ability to leave the horror that was (and is) the Soviet world, and 3) His ability to skip the apple cart-pushing stage of Jewish immigration that so many of our great grandparents had to go through around 1910.  I know and like Yasha.  I didn’t realize Federation had made it possible for him to be with us.

And maybe the “Yasha impact” is unique to Federation.  I have happily given to Mesorah DC a few times since moving here because I’ve gone to over 100 of their programs.  But Mesorah DC doesn’t have the ability to create a “Yasha impact.”  Only a behemoth like Federation can build the world clout and international connections to make that happen.

I still say America first.  But I won’t object to growing more Jewish Yashas.

Marriott Hotel – The creation of the JuMo.

Marriott International is Mormon in origin.  I love it when we have Jewish events in Mormon hotels – combines my two peoples (I’m from Utah…  semi-Mormon by affiliation).

Corporate social responsibility

Jerry with long time GTJ friend Micha and my newest Facebook friend Jonathan S. Photo from JFGW.

Jerry Greenfield, the evening’s keynote speaker and the Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, spoke at length about corporate social responsibility.  Businesses are designed to maximize profit, and modern day focus on the bottom line diminishes societal well-being.  Instead of focusing solely on profit, Jerry argued, businesses should rate their success both by profit and the amount of charitable money it gives to society.

I certainly don’t object to giving charity – the positive effects of private charity for both giver and recipient are well documented.  But I do object to the message (read Jerry’s speech if you can) that business isn’t contributing to society if it doesn’t give charity.  Businesses exist to meet consumer demand.  People want ice cream.  Ben & Jerry’s provides great ice cream at a competitive price.  How is this not providing a service to society?

This debate of “when is a company benefitting society?” came up recently in the context of Steve Jobs.  Jobs never embraced the charitable world to the extent that guys like Gates and Buffett have.  But does this mean that he didn’t contribute as much to society?  No.  Absolutely not.  He led the technological drive that increased world utility by billions – I would be tons less happy if I didn’t have my iPhone or iTunes.

Bottom line:  If your business wants to give money away, great, that’s nice of you.  But that certainly isn’t necessary for your business to create societal benefit.  All that is necessary for societal benefit is for your business to create a product or service that people want.  And fortunately, this societal good can be easily measured just by looking at the bottom line.

Ice cream eating contest

At the end of the evening’s speeches, event sponsor David Waghelstein of Member Car announced an ice cream eating competition.  I’m somewhat (understatement) competitive, and I like random competitions (see, e.g., Afikomen Scavenger Hunt, 2011), so I rushed outside to the reception area looking for a competition table.  I didn’t see any, so I figured Wahgelstein had just been joking.

Only at the very end of the evening did I learn that the competition had been an informal one, and that you simply had to report back to somebody on how many ice creams you at.  Suspiciously, Ellen Kagen WaghelsteinDavid’s wife – won the competition and got the cool Ben & Jerry’s t-shirt.   I immediately challenged her to a one on one eating competition.  She accepted.  Stay tuned.

You too can launch an iconic business!

The early youth histories of Ben and Jerry – as told by Jerry – are amazing.  Ben shuttled around to three or four different colleges, dropping out of each and never getting a degree.  Jerry only found his way into the ice cream business after applying to 20 medical schools and getting rejected by all 20.  He then applied a year later to 20 more.  Same result.

Together, Ben and Jerry had under $20,000 in savings when they started their Vermont-based business.

Clearly these guys weren’t born on third base, nor did they get there with the first swing of the bat.  So if things in your life (or my life) aren’t exactly where you want them to be yet, take heart; we can still be the next Ben and Jerry.

Other media

 

 

 

 

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I Scream, You Scream, the DC Jewish Community Screams for Ice Cream

Forget ice breakers.  The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington held a networking event with ice cream breakers on Wednesday, November 16.

JFGW’s The Network Event brought 300 business and civic leaders together to celebrate our DC Jewish community.  It featured a keynote by Jerry Greenfeld, of Ben & Jerry’s fame, who shared his company’s business philosophy and story.  Two friends that grew up together, took a risk to start a small business, and have turned it into a $300M enterprise.  This corporation that serves desserts has certainly sweetened communities.

The Federation sure knows how to throw a great party — offering ice cream as both an appetizer and as a dessert.  I like the way they think!

Coming into this week, I was excited for The Network Event for more than Cherry Garcia and Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream.  Last year, I attended The Network Kick-off and it was the best DC Jewish event I’ve ever been to.  This year held up that same level of energy and excitement.  The event connects generations and makes connections in our Jewish community — like the ConnectGens program some friends and I helped found last year after returning from the Birthright Leadership Mission.  Before Jerry shared his remarks, it was great seeing Nathan Bortnick up on the stage highlighting the ConnectGens Fellowship powered by Presentense (NOTE — Applications are still available to become a part of this exciting program!).  Eva, Nate, and the steering committee are doing a great job and I’m excited about becoming a coach for the program.

The Network brings us together — no matter whether we’re a young or established professional, secular or orthodox, MD/VA/DCer, etc.  It introduced me to a new business partner, mentor, and friend in Bob London.  It helped make me a GTJ Guy of the Week.  And over the last year, it has helped inspire me to continue to stay involved by hearing stories from some incredible speakers: such as David Falk (Michael Jordan’s agent), the Ambassador of Morrocco, Bill Kristol from the Weekly Standard, a co-founder of sweetgreen, and IDF officers who have transitioned from the battlefield to the boardroom.

JFGW’s The Network program has many more great events scheduled for 2012 including Lunch and Learns with the Co-founder and Managing Director of The Carlye Group, the President of The Economist Group, President of Hillel International, and the Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition.  I hope to see you there!

If you missed out on The Network Event, check out the photos below or at this page. If you’re interested in getting involved, let me know or visit www.shalomdc.org/TheNetwork.

Jerry Greenfeld speaks to DC area Jews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry Greenfeld with event organizer Eva Davis and former Jewish Guy of the Week, Spencer Gerrol

GTJ's President Stephen Richer, Guy of the Year Uri Manor, and Executive Director Aaron Wolff

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Are You There G-d?

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:

How can we be 100% certain that G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people? I feel that I cannot observe a religion if I am not certain that it is true. Is there any proof of G-d and Torah?

Answer:

Imagine you could do a blood test to determine who your soul mate is. You would go to a laboratory with a prospective partner and give blood samples, and half an hour later they would tell you yes or no. Sounds amazing! But think about it: Is that an ideal way to start a relationship? Would it be romantic to say, “Listen, the blood test came out positive, so we may as well get engaged”?

The truth is we wouldn’t appreciate a laboratory-tested soul mate. What makes a relationship meaningful is that it is a choice coming from within. If we based a commitment on external evidence such as a blood test, we would indeed have certainty, but the sense of freedom would be lost. Freedom is an essential ingredient of true love – certainty is not.

That’s why proving G-d is not helpful. G-d wants us to enter into a relationship with Him by choice, not by force. He created us as free beings who can deny Him if we want. There is no outside force or argument or proof that compels us to serve G-d. For that reason, when we do serve Him, it is by choice, it is coming from us, and that is the basis for a real relationship.

There are many logical proofs of G-d’s existence and the truth of Torah. But just as most people only recognize their soul mate after they have already committed to the relationship, most people are only ready to appreciate these proofs after they have already established a relationship with G-d.

If you wait to know for sure that you have found your soul mate you may forever remain single. And if you wait for proof of G-d’s truth you may forever live in a lonely universe. Embrace uncertainty and open yourself up to a real relationship. When you make that choice, you will find proof of G-d within your own soul.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

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DC ownz Chicago

Image from original article at Oy! Chicago

Last week, Andy Kirschner pitted DC against Chicago in “an un-OY-fficial match-up.”  He graded the cities on 10 factors:

  1. Origins – Tie
  2. Namesake – DC
  3. Most recognizable politician – Tie
  4. Pizza – Chicago
  5. Museums – DC
  6. Most Visited Tourist Attraction – DC
  7. Getting Around by Car – Chicago
  8. Getting Around by Public Transit – DC
  9. Famous Fires – Chicago
  10. 2011 Disasters – Chicago

Chicago won four; DC won four.  The result … a tie.

………

Fortunately, I’m here for overtime.  My qualifications are the same as Andy’s – I lived in Chicago before moving to DC.

And in overtime, DC freaking ownz Chicago. 

  1. Weather.  I ran outside in shorts and a t-shirt yesterday.  I think I ran outside in Chicago once… Then I realized I didn’t like running in sub-zero temperatures with wind.
  2. Degrees.  DC has more academic degrees than Chicago, and, as any northwest DCist can tell you, the number of degrees you have is directly proportional to your coolness and your general life value.   “Washington region ranks as the best-educated in the country.”
  3. Health.  We’re fit.  We’re the second healthiest city in the country according to Centrum (and American Fitness).  Chicago… not on the top 10.  I guess that’s because you’re hibernating.
  4. Night at the Museum.  There’ve been Night at the Museum movies made about New York and DC.   Chicago?  I guess yours is still coming?  I heard they might do Salt Lake City or Boise next though.
  5. Most recognizable politician.  Ok.  We tie on the Ace.  But we’ve got the next highest cards.  HRC and Biden > Rahm.
  6. NBA Team.  Bulls vs. Wizards… Doesn’t matter because there’s not going to be an NBA season.
  7. Tallest building.  Nobody knows what yours is named (Sears?  Willis?  Big black building?).  Everyone knows ours is the Washington Monument.
  8. Airport.  It takes me 15 minutes to get from downtown DC to Reagan International.  It takes you 60 minutes to get from downtown Chicago to O’Hare.  My plane is delayed by one hour.  Yours is delayed by five.
  9. Percentage of Jews.  Wikipedia says DC > Illinois.
  10. Dan Brown. Dan Brown has written books about Seville, the Arctic, London, Paris, Rome, and …  DC.

Win.

Please feel free to share other reasons why DC > Chicago in the comments section.

 

*** Andy’s original article appeared at Oy! Chicago — a news and events website affiliated with JUFJ for Chicago Jews.

 

 

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Hello, Goodbye

You know what’s sad? When you’ve been in D.C. just long enough that you’ve made a great new set of friends, and already a few of them are leaving.

I recently had my first experience saying goodbye to new friends thanks to the infamous nature of D.C.’s transient young professional scene. Because if there’s one adjective I’ve consistently heard since coming here, it’s that dreaded T-one. I also learned that even a few more new friends will be leaving the area in the upcoming weeks. (For those of you reading and know who you are, you’ll be missed greatly.)

So what do you do when you find out your new friends are leaving?

Replace them.

Kidding, of course. In the case of a couple friends, it helped to go to events or places in the community that they were involved in that I didn’t normally or previously attend. After all, whether it was a synagogue they loved or a charity they helped out, these institutions were what made those friends special and comprised who they were.

For example, one friend loves knitting. She participated in the DC JCC’s Handmade for the Homeless program. So stopping by on Wednesday night this week from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. could be one way to think of how she contributed to the area.

Another friend was a regular Kesher Israel attendee. I got the opportunity to visit the synagogue last weekend thanks to that friend, and was reminded of how great the community is there. Visiting again, whether for Friday night services or Wednesday night learning, is definitely in the future.

There are definitely plenty of ways to remember these friends, and you never know—if they come back into town, they might need a way back into those programs and institutions that you’ve now joined. There’s a great deal of benefit into letting yourself be inspired by those who cross our paths in D.C.

If you really are all about making new friends quickly and easily, while I won’t support replacing your old ones, there is this Gather the Jews event on Thursday I can’t not tout… If you’ve really missed the big banner at the top of the website, just click on the link to get more information on what will likely be a huge social event.  [Editor's note: I swear we didn't make her write this. But, yes, you should all come. It will be awesome.]

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DC Jewish Blog Round Up — Wanted: A few good entrepreneurs

Picture from Washington Jewish Week article by Meredith Jacobs. See link below. The admissions team of the steering committee meeting to discuss application criteria for the ConnectGens Fellowship, clockwise from Andy Kirschner, in blue shirt (PresenTense coordinator), Zachary Lainer, Julia Moss, Eve Copeland, Harrison Miller, Matthew Rosenblatt and Joshua Novikoff (admissions team co-captain).

In case you weren’t able to read the other local Jewish blogs this week, here are a few of my favorite posts:

  • Jewish Policy Center

American Support for Israel Remains Strong.  No matter which you slice it – J-Street style, AIPAC style, CUFI style, etc. – Americans are pro-Israel.   As noted by Samara Greenberg writing for the Jewish Policy Center, “68 percent of Americans characterize Israel as ‘one of our strongest allies.’”  Additionally, “60 percent of Americans polled agreed that Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel are committed to peace.”  Both of these polls come from The Israel Project; a poll from the ADL found that “61 percent believe ‘Israel is a crucial American ally.’”

Most of us already had a good sense of these statistics, but occasional quantitative love fests between the United States and Israel are important because they:  1) Remind we Jews that the United States and 2) Remind Israel that even if the rest of the world is hostile; we’ve got its back.   As Herman Cain said a few months ago:  “If you mess with Israel, you mess with the United States.”

This lockstep coalition hasn’t been in place – 1967 really started the special relationship – but I hope it will last for the rest of our lives.

  • The Blog at 16th and Q – DC JCC blog

Review + Sales Update.  Theater J of the DC JCC scores yet another positive review of its three-week-old play “After The Fall” by Arthur Miller.  But reviews, schimews … more importantly, the Theater’s ticket sales continue to climb.  If you haven’t seen the play yet, you have until November 27.

  • Washington Jewish Week:

Wanted:  A few good entrepreneurs.  Meredith Jacobs reports on the ConnectGens Fellowshp program.  Look for former Jewish Guy of the Week Andy Kirschner in this article, as well as close GTJ friend Eva Malka Davis.  Applications to Fellowship are due November 20.

Handicapping the J Street-ECI boxing match.  Adam Kredo is getting his popcorn and scorecard ready for the battle between ECI and J-Street in the 2012 elections.

 

Want to recommend a DC Jewish blog that we should be reading? Email stephen@gatherthejews.com

Local Jewish blogs we’re reading:

 

 

 

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Israeli Couscous: Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Daylight savings time and fourth quarter madness at work has put me in a perpetual state of exhaustion. So while I usually enjoy a bit of a challenge in the kitchen, this week I needed the cooking equivalent of a gimme. Just to convey my state of mind, I briefly contemplated purchasing a box of frozen knishes and calling it a blog post. In the end, however, I settled on a recipe for Israeli couscous.

Israeli couscous, which is bigger and rounder than regular couscous, is a quick and easy side dish. This particular recipe included quite an array of ingredients that surprisingly worked when thrown together. My favorite part of this recipe was that it called for both rosemary and thyme, which provided a somewhat decent reason to sing Simon and Garfunkel in the spice aisle. I tweaked the recipe a bit after reading online reviews that the vinaigrette was too strong and salty; I cut down the apple cider vinegar and salt by more than half. I also would recommend reducing the herbs, which ended up overpowering the dish.

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

Prep time was limited to toasting the almonds and chopping up some ingredients.

Overall ease: 5

I was beginning to think cooking Jewish food always requires spending an entire day in the kitchen. This recipe dispelled all such thoughts and provided a simple and quick dish I’m sure to try again. Israeli couscous won me over and may become a pantry staple.

Cook time: 5

Eight minutes of simmering the couscous and the meal was done! Just be vigilant about watching the pot in the final minutes to make sure the couscous pearls don’t dry out.

Cost: 1

These ingredients added up to more than $30, which was a lot to spend on a meatless side dish.

Taste: 4

I was a little apprehensive about how many ingredients this recipe called for, but somehow all the flavors worked. The tangy apples and sweet cranberries were especially tasty. I can’t give this recipe a 5 because the herbs were too strong, especially the rosemary. The next time I make this dish I will definitely cut down on the rosemary, parsley, and thyme.

Ingredients:

Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, see note below

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

Cook’s Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

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Jews and Turkey: A Review

Two weeks ago, I co-chaired an event with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – more commonly referred to as JDC – that took a deep dive into the experiences of the Turkish Jewish community. The event, titled “Inside Jewish Turkey: Where East Meets West,” featured a panel of young Jews who grew up or spent considerable time in Turkey, and was held at Agora Restaurant in Dupont – guaranteeing delicious Turkish food and drink.

The panelists included Sedat, who grew up in Istanbul and reflected on the good relations he experienced with his Muslim peers. He and the two other panelists, Can and Jamie, emphasized to the audience of 150 DC-ers that the biggest challenge to the Jewish community in Turkey is not anti-Jewish or Israel sentiment – rather it is the dwindling size of the community due to young people leaving for Israel or the U.S. and intermarriage.

The panel was moderated by Michelle Gorman and organized by the JDC, the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian organization. JDC works in 70 countries around the world to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, meet the needs of Israel’s must vulnerable citizens, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and manmade disasters.

I was lucky enough to see firsthand JDC’s work when I traveled to Istanbul as part of a young professionals trip last March. JDC has young professionals trips all over the world and is currently accepting applications for Turkey 2012. For more information on this trip and others, visit: http://www.jdcinservice.org/our-trips-young-adults

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out more pictures from the event at JDC’s Next Gen Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/jdcnextgeneration

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Over $1,800 in prizes to be given away on Thursday night.

Make sure you’re coming to Thursday night’s GTJ event because we will be raffling over 43 prizes at a total of $1,806 in prizes.

To see all of the prizes, go here.

Prizes will go to couples, singles, and date raffle winners!

Come one, come all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This Week’s Torah Portion – comments by GTJ’s Guy of the Year

 

Dr. Uri Manor is the 2010 Jewish Guy of the Year and a research biologist by day.

Parshah Chayei Sarah

This parsha opens with Abraham coming home to find his wife Sarah is dead. In case you forgot, last week’s parsha ends on the joyous note of G-d making His covenant with Abraham after Abraham was ready to sacrifce Isaac. I believe that the lesson here is that even Abraham was unable to enjoy constant happiness, and he was the greatest tzaddik in our history. Thus, how can we expect (at least relatively) wicked people such as ourselves to enjoy constant happiness?

Next, we learn that Abraham went to buy the cave of Machpaila to bury Sarah in. The Midrash says that this is a cave Abraham discovered when chasing the sacrificial lamb that “replaced” Isaac. This cave is full of the shechina (the divine presence) , and also happens to be the burial place of Adam.

Next Abraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac. He meets Rebecca, who demonstrates to us the concept of “midda-keneged-midda” (“measure opposite measure”, literally, but it means “what goes around, comes around”). She treats Eliezer kindly and generously by giving him and all of his camels all the water they want, and she is repaid with beautiful jewelry and is also repaid with Abraham’s son as a husband! The lesson here is that it can pay off to be kind to strangers.

One interesting note the Midrash makes is that Rebecca grew up in a wicked town. The reason is that G-d wanted Isaac’s wife to be someone who grew up surrounded by wickedness, but was still able to remain virtuous. That way He knew that the descendants of Isaac (e.g. us Jews!) would have the genetic background necessary to maintain virtue throughout the ages, no matter how wicked the world became. It appears to me that G-d was thinking like an evolutionary biologist, or even a molecular biologist that “selects” for colonies with the properties necessary for their experiment to run as planned. Or maybe it is the other way around? Either way, I think that if we look deeply enough, we can find that there is no contradiction between the theory of evolution and the Torah. After all, is nature not meant to lead us closer to G-d?

In fact, the Midrash says that Abraham discovered G-d through the study of nature. At first, Abraham worshipped the Earth, because its production is that which sustains life, but then he realized the Earth isn’t all powerful since it depends on the heavens for rain (let’s ignore the irrelevant scientifc inaccuracy for a moment), so he worshipped the heavens, in particular the Sun, since that was what he perceived to be the ruling power of the firmament. But then when the Sun set, he figured that the Moon must be divine, but then he abandoned that thought when he saw that the Moon only shone by night. Finally, by observing the regular rhythm of day/night, the seasons, and all the natural laws, Abraham inferred the presence of a wise creator. I don’t see any significant difference between hypothesizing a single “wise creator” who controls all of the universe and a “grand unified theory of everything”, which is of course the Holy Grail of modern physics.

Thus, nature and the study of it, including the “E word”, should bring us closer to G-d.

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