Federation’s Reverse Mifgash – Bringing Israelis to DC

The incoming Reverse Mifgash delegation at an information session in Israel.

Eat better.  Go to the gym.  Call Saba and Savta more.  Donate to charity.

These are typical pledges made for New Year’s resolutions.  But what do people say when they make Jewish New Year resolutions?

It is that time of the year.  Pools are closing.  Leaves are starting to turn.  Sixth & I, Washington Hebrew, Adas Israel, and other shuls are filling up for the high holidays.  But it is also an atypical year.  The Nats have the best record in baseball.  RGIII has given a new hope to Redskins fans.  And Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is bringing Taglit-Birthright Israel to DC.  If your pledge for 5773 was is to get more involved in the Jewish community, reconnect with Israel, meet new friends, go out and have fun, fight anti-Semitism, or learn something new…then this program is for you.

The community is opening its arms and welcoming 12 Israelis for the Reverse Mifgash, which kicks off October 9 and will run for ten days.  As you could assume by the name of the event, the program complements Birthright Israel by bringing Israelis who have been on a Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip* to the U.S. to reconnect with their busmates and meet hundreds more of DC, MD, and VA’s most fun and attractive Jewish young leaders.

And just as the community is opening its arms, twenty-four young professionals from the Greater Washington region are opening up their homes so our Israeli guests have a more authentic experience during their stay than at a hotel.  Hundreds more opened up their wallets to sponsor the program and collectively they raised over $26,000 through “friend-raising” (grassroots fundraising through personal networks).  And your calendar just got filled-up with tons of exciting educational, cultural, and social programs during these ten days — such as a Birthright Bar Mitzvah Bash that celebrates the program’s 13th year with a 90s themed party at the DCJCC featuring one of the DMV’s best cover bands.

“This is my fourth Reverse Mifgash,” said David Manchester, who serves as one of the program co-chairs.  “The host committee and I are extremely proud to make this program the biggest one in DC’s history and we hope to see you and your friends there next month,” he added.

The program is sponsored by The Jewish Federation and NEXT DC (the DC-area Birthright alumni network).  It brings American and Israeli Taglit-Birthright alumni together for a ten-day immersive experience in the Greater Washington area.  Programming, in addition to the DCJCC, will be held at The Kennedy Center, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, JCC of Greater Washington, and other locations.

Acting Gather The Jews Girl of the Year Ariana Heideman is excited.  “I love Israel, Israelis, and bridging that community with American Jewry,” says Ariana.  “This really is a unique opportunity to reconnect with their Israeli peers and show them with the same hospitality as when they were on Taglit,” continues Heideman.

To learn more about the Reverse Mifgash or to register for events visit: or contact

*NOTE – Registration for the winter 2012-2013 Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip is currently open.  Click here to learn more.


DC’s Young Professional Dilemma: RENT or BUY?

As a realtor, I get asked all the time about the state of the DC real estate market and my answer is always the same, “It’s strong…to quite strong” (shameless “Meet the Parents” reference).  DC home prices are up almost 11% since the bottom of the market in the summer of 2009 and up 6.5% in the last year alone.*  DC continues to be one of the best housing markets in the nation and a strong argument can be made for the role of young professionals in helping to drive up both the region’s rents and its home values.


Since 2000, young professionals have accounted for the majority of DC’s population growth (the number of 20- to 34-year-olds living in DC has increased 23%!).  Since young professionals are more transient and tend to prefer renting to buying, the influx of young professionals moving to DC has had a dramatic effect on rental rates.  DC’s rental vacancy rate is among the lowest in the nation and rental rates have increased almost 15% since 2010 and 10% in last twelve months alone.**  If any of you have engaged in hand-to-hand combat to rent a subterranean efficiency with six foot ceilings and rats for roommates then you know the drill.  While some experts expect rental rate increases to flatten out in the short term as new apartment units come online, others feel that the trend of rising rents will continue as the pent up demand of the Boomerang Generation (i.e. all those friends of yours that are living in their parent’s basements or in overcrowded group houses) will be unleashed as the economy continues to improve.


The combination of rising rental rates, historically low mortgage rates, and a housing market that is rebounding from recent lows has led many young professionals to leave renting behind in favor of entering the marketplace for a single family home or condo.  With first-time homebuyers traditionally comprising 40% of home sales, increased demand among this key demographic, coupled with tight housing inventory levels (current listings are at their lowest level since 2005), have contributed to the price appreciation that we continue to see in the DC housing market.  So that brings us to:


While most economic indicators point to “buy”, my unsatisfying answer is….it depends (I know, I know…way to go out on a limb, Dave).  According to a recent breakeven study by Zillow, buying in DC becomes a better financial alternative than renting after just 3.5 years. While this analysis is much more robust than most of the rent vs. buy calculators that litter the internet, it still relies on a variety of assumptions with regard to home price and rental appreciation that may or may not come to pass (my crystal ball is in the shop).  These calculators also focus strictly on the financial aspect of the rent vs. buy dilemma.  A calculator cannot capture the qualitative aspects of both renting and buying that, from my experience, drive the majority of purchase decisions.  Is the flexibility of renting more important to you than pride of ownership and setting down roots in a community?  Do you prefer to live somewhere where you can put that 50” flat screen on the wall you just painted the Redskins’ colors (I am officially on the RGIII bandwagon!) or is it more important to you to not have to worry about the costs of maintenance and upkeep?  Do you feel like renting is throwing money down the drain or do you feel that the money you would spend on a deposit would do more for you invested in that hot new tech IPO (not Groupon or Facebook, I hope)?  In the end, while the argument in favor of buying in DC is compelling, the decision to buy vs. rent is a highly personal one that depends on your financial situation, your future plans, and what is important to you about how and where you live.

*Zillow Home Value Index

**Zillow Rental Value Index

David Abramsa new GTJ contributing columnist, is a native of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.  He received his M.B.A. from Emory University in 2009 and currently works as a realtor specializing in DC’s emerging neighborhoods with the BergerSandler+ team ( at Evers & Company Real Estate.  David is licensed in DC, MD, & VA.










Party Rock in the 5773 – Gather the News – 9/19

Shana tova! It’s a new year and a new Gather the News!
  • Every year, a rabbi, a cantor, and a small contingent of Jews travel from Israel to Egypt to ensure the last remaining synagogue, Eliyahu Hanavi, has a minyan, but this year they have been denied visas.  Hey Morsi, if Mubarak could ensure the safety of the Jews, why can’t you?
  • A super controversial video has been leaked of Romney giving his opinion on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and his doubt that there will ever be a viable two state solution.  What do you think? Tell us in the comments!
  • Is there soon to be a Matisyahu-Drake feud?  In a recent interview, Matisyahu claims that he is still more Jewish than Drake despite shaving his beard.  Sorry Matisyahu, I don’t think one person can be more Jewish than another, I’m gonna have to go Team Drake on this.
  • Our own Aaron Wolff has his article about Rosh Hashanah reflections and resolutions featured on the Washington Jewish Week! Mazel Tov, Aaron!
  • I know this music video is from last Rosh Hashanah, but the Jew fro and dance moves are just too good not to post.  Shana tova!







Rachel’s Weekly Update – 9/17

My favorite part of the Newseum!

Shana tova everyone! I hope you have all enjoyed a sweet start to the new year.

I have now been gathering for over two weeks, and I have been meeting amazing people and been having an amazing time.  Last Wednesday, I participated in the Young Jewish Professionals Network meeting to start planning next year’s Jewnity.  About thirteen Jewish organizations with a young adult component came together and I am looking forward to being a part of the planning this year.  I also met this past week with Andy, Sara, and Sara from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington at the Original Pancake House in Bethesda. Over the largest omlette I have ever encountered, we discussed Federation and GTJ  working together in the Jewish community.

Friday, for Shabbat, I made my first ever visit to the Moishe House for one of their Shabbat dinners where Noah and Rebecca made me feel extremely welcome.  There was delicious food and great schmoozing, aka Jewish heaven.  If you have yet to make it to one of their dinners, it’s definitely worth a try.

I also made it to the Newseum this week which was awesome.  My favorite part was the hall that displayed newspapers featuring historic events starting around the year 1455.  I could have spent an entire day in that hall alone, looking at and reading each newspaper.  One suggestion if you choose to visit, do not save the room with the Pulitzer Prize winning photos for last.  Most of the photos, though hauntingly beautiful, are sad or violent.  The exhibit put a little bit of a damper on the end of the visit.

This Rosh Hashanah marked my first High Holidays outside of Delaware.  I appreciate everyone who was so welcoming to me and invited me in for meals.  I spent erev Rosh Hashanah at Chabad (The Shul), where there was also a community dinner and I was able to meet some new people.  The next day, after services, Esti — Rabbi Shemtov’s daughter and the new Rebbetzin of AU Chabad — invited me to lunch in her parents’ home.  I cannot thank the Shemtovs enough for including me in their meal.  Then, for lunch on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Teitelbaum of MesorahDC asked me to join his family and staff.  Everyone there made me feel so welcome and at home, and I had a great time.

Thank you to everyone who helped make my week and Rosh Hashanah meaningful.  Shana tova, and have a great week!



Support Israel with Israel Bonds!

To buy an Israel bond, email today!  Be sure to mention GTJ!

Are you looking to give back to Israel, but are not sure how?  One of the best ways to contribute to the growth of Israel is by buying an Israel Bond.  Proceeds realized through the sale of Israel bonds have helped cultivate the desert, build transportation networks, create new industries, resettle immigrants, and increase export capability.  The best part is, even though you are buying the bond, you get your money back  plus some interest.  So you could just leave your money laying around in a debit account… Or you can make a sound financial decision with Israel Bonds and help Israel at the same time.

The eMitzvah bond is perfect for someone testing the waters with Israel Bonds. The minimum investment is as low as $36, and there’s no maximum.  I’m sure once you purchase your first eMitzvah bond you’ll realize what a great, safe, financial investment they are. After all, Israel has never missed a payment on a bond since the first bonds were issued in 1951.

You can read more about Israel Bonds on their website, and if you are interested in purchasing a bond email today! Remember to mention GTJ!


The Esrei Yamim Cleanse

Katieben’s Breakfast, one of the recipes on

Dear GTJ community,

I’d like to invite you to – a blog that Arielle and I created.

For the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, join us as we undertake an intensive reflection of the mind/body/spirit connection via “The Cleanse.” The blog is a forum for recipes, meditations, reflections, and support.

We invite you to join us regardless of your religious affiliations!

Esrei Yamim is Hebrew for 10 days – it’s the term representing the ten days in between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the day of repentance).

Here’s what I remember from Jewish Day School: Esrei Yamim is the time in which God chooses who will live and who will die in the upcoming year – God opens the book on Rosh Hashanah, and for the next ten days writes the names of who will live. On Yom Kippur, the last of the ten days, God closes the book to seal the deal. That’s why we’re so desperate to pray during those last few hours before the sun goes down on Yom Kippur. We get down on our knees and beg God for forgiveness.

It’s tradition to repent, reflect, and purify during Esrei Yamim. It’s also tradition to ask people for forgiveness.

Esrei Yamim has always been a time for me to think about the previous year – my accomplishments, successes, failures; the big questions I’ve pondered; the relationships I’ve built, maintained and broken; the holidays I’ve celebrated with friends and family; the states and countries I’ve visited; the milestones – and to consider goals for the upcoming year – identify my needs for improvement; think of where I have room to grow; figure out how I can be a better person than I was last year; apologize to people I’ve hurt; write a list of my top ten most offensive sins.

I make resolutions during the secular New Year too, but always draw a line between the types of resolutions I make on Jan 1 and Rosh Hashanah.  My resolutions for the secular New Year are typically material resolutions:  I want to stop using the word “like” in my speech. I try to keep my resolutions for Rosh Hashashah on a more spiritual plane: I want to rely more on my gut than my brain.

I think of Esrei Yamim as a time to recharge and reset, so I can start the new year on a fresh slate.

This year, Arielle and I are posing The Cleanse as an effort to integrate a mind/body/spirit connection with our Jewish traditions. We’ve done The Cleanse several times  (there’s even a category for it under the recipe index here!). I like the cleanse because it forces me to slow down and think about what I put into my body, to appreciate food that isn’t tainted by chemicals and synthetic additives, to taste the goodness of purity. Eating on the cleanse makes me feel clean.

Cleanse Rules:

We will only consume:

Vegan foods – no products derived from animals (no meat, eggs, dairy, honey, etc.)

Gluten-free foods – nothing made with wheat

Unprocessed foods – nothing packaged with more than three ingredients

Unsweetened foods – no added sugar, honey, agave, etc.

Alcohol-free beverages 

*One exception to the above rules above is to include yogurt that is organic, plain, stabilizer- and additive-free. This is a personal choice.

It sounds scary, but I promise that there’s still so so so much to eat. We will start the cleanse on Tuesday morning, Sept 18th. Visit for more ideas and thoughts.

L’Shana Tova,



Chipotle Honey-Glazed Carrots

Honey-glazed carrots are a favorite side dish around the High Holidays.  I decided to add a little kick to a Martha Stewart recipe to make this version different from the usual.  Add as much chipotle as you can handle to keep you reaching for your water glass and well-hydrated before your fast.

Total time: 40 min.

Yield: 6 servings

Level: Easy


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs mini carrot sticks, halved, or regular carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths, halved if thick
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Juice of 2 limes (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle pepper, or to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter


  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.   Add carrots; cook, stirring once, until they are starting to brown, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add water, honey, lime juice, and chipotle.  Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until crisp-tender, 10 minutes.
  3. Uncover, and cook over medium-high until carrots are tender and liquid is syrupy, 7 to 9 minutes more (there should be only a small amount of liquid remaining).
  4. Remove skillet from heat; add butter, and swirl skillet until melted.  Salt to taste.

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.


Shana Tova / Call Me Maybe video.

I know I missed the boat a bit on this one, but hopefully you can still appreciate this Rosh Hashanah-themed Call Me Maybe video.  (It’s a requirement of this site to post a CMM video every month or so.  See how it started.)

Thanks to Carole D. for the h/t.




Best of DC! Vote early, vote often!

Hi Friends!

Now’s your chance to make your opinion heard!  Do you have a favorite restaurant?  A favorite hair stylist?  A favorite bartender?  If so, take a minute to vote in the “Washington Post’s Express Night Out, Best Of” poll.

If I may be so bold, I strongly recommend you vote for former Jewish Guy of the Week Steve Davis‘s yogurt store Mr. Yogato under FROZEN TREATS.  Vote for Sixth & I for READINGS.  Vote for Theater J for SMALL THEATER.  And write-in “Gather the Jews” for BEST COMMUNITY BLOG.

You can vote once a day for the two weeks or so.


Stephen Richer is the co-founder and President of Gather the Jews.





Taking the political temperature of our Jewish community

The polls have closed on GTJ’s political survey.

Actually, they closed a while ago, but I needed to set up my new apartment at law school.

But…  Better later than never, so here are the results:


Over 100 people took the survey.  I dropped the responses that did not belong to Jews between the ages 22 and 39, living in the DC area.   That left us with 86 responses.

1)      Jewish identification:

An Orthodox Jew.  12.8%

A Conservative (religiously) Jew.  29.1%

A Reform Jew.  30.2%

A secular Jew.  8.1%


According to Wikipedia (yes, I trust it), 46% of Jews belong to a synagogue.  Of those Jews, 38% are members of a Reform synagogue, 33% Conservative, 22% Orthodox, and 2% Reconstructionist.   Not too terribly different from our results.

2)      Party Identification:

A Democrat  66.3%

A Republican  17.4%

An Independent  16.3%


Additionally, three people wrote in, one wrote “Libertarian”, and two wrote “Conservative.”

According to the 2011 statistics of the Jewish Virtual Library, 16% of Jewish American voters identify as Republican, 45% Democrat, 38% Independent.

Our contingent seems to be a little more partisan.  Two thoughts for this:  1) This was a volunteer survey; people more passionate about politics were more likely to spend time taking it (example: I’m guessing Steve Davis did not take it), and people more passionate about politics are more likely to align with a party.  2) We’re in DC, a city where people tend to gravitate toward one party or the other (many people come to DC for partisan reasons!)

The only segment of Jews that tends to be consistently Republican is Orthodox Jews.

For information on the Jewish vote in past presidential elections, I refer you back to this article.

3)      Rank the following political issues in terms of importance to you (1 = Most important; 10 = Least important).

So this yielded quite the data table.  I’m not going to give you the standard deviations or anything fancy like that for the time being, but here’s the mean, median, and most-picked for each:

  • The Economy — Average = 2.42, Median = 2, Most popular = 1 (31 selections)
  • Jobs — Average = 3.76, Median = 3, Most popular = 2 (21)
  • Health Care — Average = 3.92, Median = 4, Most popular = 3 (18)
  • Israel — Average = 5.14, Median = 5, Most popular = 3 (13)
  • Taxation — Average = 5.66, Median = 5, Most popular = 5 (16)
  • Environment — Average = 5.98, Median = 6, Most popular = 9 (14)
  • Abortion — Average = 6.13, Median = 6, Most popular = 8 (14)
  • Gay Rights — Average = 7.00, Median = 7, Most popular = 10 (22)
  • Iraq/Afghanistan — Average = 7.31, Median = 7, Most popular = 8 (17)
  • Immigration — Average = 7.69, Median = 8, Most popular = 9 (19)

Clearly, whichever candidate can prove himself most capable on the economy is going to score major points with our community.  The average American feels pretty similarly.  Here’s this issue ranking from Rasmussen Reports (July, 2012):

Economy 74%
Health Care 67%
Gov’t Ethics and Corruption 64%
Taxes 55%
Energy Policy 44%
Education 55%
Social Security 60%
Immigration 47%
National Security/War on Terror 46%
Afghanistan 30%


4)      Rate President Obama on:  (1 = Super Awesome; 2 = Pretty good; 3 = He’s aiite; 4 = Not so great; 5 = Terrible)

  • Health Care — Average = 2.50, Median = 2, Most popular = 2 (32)
  • Foreign Policy — Average = 2.70, Median = 2, Most popular = 2 (40)
  • Israel — Average = 2.94, Median = 2, Most popular = 2 (31)
  • The Economy — Average = 2.94, Median = 2, Most popular = 2 (39)
  • Immigration — Average = 2.98, Median = 3, Most popular = 2 (34)
  • Jobs — Average = 3.07, Median = 3, Most popular = 2 (31)

In summary, our community thinks President Obama is “pretty good.”  It’s perhaps not surprising then that:

5)      I will likely vote for:

Obama  69.8%

Romney  27.9%

I will likely not vote  2.3%


And yet, this is well below historical averages for Democratic Presidents.  President Obama won 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, and the Democrats have won, on average, 78.2% of the Jewish vote since the 1992 election.


Other fun info:

6)      Does Judaism influence your politics?

A lot  25.6%

A bit  47.7%

Not much  19.8%

Not at all  7.0%


7)      Will your vote be counted in the same/district state you currently live in?


My vote will be counted in the district/state I live in.  62.8%

My vote will be counted elsewhere (absentee).  37.2%


I was surprised by this.  I thought everyone in DC voted in another state…

About the survey:

This survey was not perfect.  But hopefully it was still interesting.  Our newsletter is sent to 4,000 people.  Of this group, 102 took the survey, and we used 86 responses.  All answer options were rotated for different users so as to avoid an ordering bias (people favoring answers that come earlier, etc.)

If you have any questions about the survey, or if you want more information about the survey, please email me (

Thanks for playing!


Stephen Richer is the co-founder and President of Gather the Jews.





Birthright Registration Opens Today!

If you are between the ages of 18 and 26, and have never been to Israel, you can apply to go to on a free 10 day trip with Birthright.  Birthright registration for winter trips opens September 12th for new applicants.

I participated in Birthright in June 2010, and had one of the best times of my life.  Hiking in the Golan Heights, laying on a beach in Tel Aviv, visiting a kibbutz on the Lebanon border, and celebrating Shabbat at the Western Wall are just a few of the lasting memories I made during my ten days, not to mention the thirty new friends.  Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity!

If you’re interested in going, the Jewish Federation organizes a DC community trip for people between the ages of 22 and 26. Find out more about their trip here.




Beyond Apples and Honey: How to Throw A New Year’s Party with Pizzaz

A Rosh Hashana apple themed feast.

Once upon a time I was 13, celebrating my Bat Mitzvah, and thinking about the day when I would be a real adult…you know, live in a big house with a gourmet kitchen where I could whip up amazing meals and host dinner parties for 24 twenty-somethings.  Or in my mind, 11 beautiful & sophisticated couples, my husband, Brad Pitt, and I being power-couple #12.

Okay, so maybe everything did not turn out exactly as I imagined, but I still love to entertain a room full of people.  Last year I decided I wanted to bring in the Jewish New Year the right way, so I gathered all my friends and held a Rosh Hashanah party.  A good party can reflect a theme  in various ways, from the second the invitations are sent out until the last guest leaves… with a party favor, of course. Below, see my suggestions for creating special New Year’s twists.


Deciding what type of party you want to throw can be a dilemma in itself, but what always stresses me is deciding what type of invitation to use.  Do I send the Facebook invite with a snarky image, hoping it will draw people’s attention, or keep it classy with a Coco Dot invitation? I finally decided to send out a themed invitation of my own making:

Let’s wear the colors of the holiday foods,
Pomegranate honey coolers will brighten your mood.
Nosh on some treats that are salty and sweet,
Get tipsy on a ginger apple martini and stay on your feet.

If you are taken, wear any shade of red,
Wear yellow if you are not yet ready to wed.
Show up in clothes that are green if you are single,
Maybe something fancy, if you are ready to mingle.


Sip drinks in Rosh Hashanah style with these printable smiling apple straw decorations.

Rosh Hashanah is all about sweetness…honey, pomegranates, honey, apples, honey, challah with raisins, and big tubs of honey you can swim in.  A sugar rush is great when you are 5 years old, but I don’t want anyone put into a diabetic coma at my shindigs. That being said, I think it is important to have a balanced menu, but still keep with your theme.

I set up these Pistachio and Pomegranate Meatballs in my slow cooker and let them marinate all night. Can’t find pomegranate paste? Me neither….I used pomegranate juice instead and they turned out great.  I made a big batch of  Quinoa and Apple Salad with Curry Dressing for my gluten-free friends who were all smiles after they saw this on the menu, and the curry added a good kick of culture.

If you are clueless in the kitchen, then these  Apple Brie Bites are for you — I would think even a JCC preschooler could figure it out.  For dessert, I suggest honey apple cupcakes topped with these cute A & H cupcake flags you can make yourself.  I also made these easy-peasy Apple Pie Parfaits (graham cracker crumbs, french vanilla instant pudding, apple pie topping, and whipped cream, sprinkle a dash of cinnamon).  If you want to take it up a notch and impress your crowd with a formal dinner instead, you can never go wrong with Martha.


Up close view of the wish tree.

On to decorations….I know people tend to congregate around the food table so I decided to give them another reason to mingle besides commenting on the amount of honey and apples dishes one can fit in a tiny space Behold … The New Year Wishes Tree.

How do you make a tree full of wishes appear in your dining room you ask? Just follow these steps:

  1. Go frolic in the fall leaves and pick out a branch about 2 feet long.
  2. Fill a large glass bowl with sand or colored gravel and put in the branch.
  3. Buy or make tags with strings and decorate with apples or bees.
  4. Make a sign that invites guests to share their wishes, thoughts, or blessings for the New Year and hang their tag on the Wishes Tree.

I can’t finish this article without mentioning my two favorite sites to peruse for theme & decoration ideas:  Pinterest and Etsy  but what if…..

Your decorations are not going to arrive on time for your fete?

Don’t schvitz the small stuff, you can always hit up your local Dollar Tree or $1 bins at Target and Michael’s for back-to-school “apple” sales items.  Last year I scored apple shaped bulletin board cutouts and picture clips at Dollar Tree that I turned into placards for my menu items, and decorative fall apples made of twine at Michael’s that I scattered around my delicious dishes.

Party favors

When the party winds down, send your guests off with mini honey jars and dippers or beeswax candles, and don’t forget to thank them for coming (or you might have to add another thing to your list to repent for later this month!)

Stacy is a proud member of the Greater Washington Jewish community and is the founder of NOVA Tribe Series, a social and philanthropic organization that provides Jewish young adults with innovative programming and leadership activities that take place in Northern Virginia and promote giving back to the NOVA Jewish community. When she is not hanging at her desk job reminiscing about how much she misses recess with her former students, you can find her rocking out on the dance floor and getting crafty and creative in the kitchen.Want to get more involved in your community or have a party planning dilemma? Drop her a note


GTJ T-Shirt Design Contest Open Now!

Can you beat this? Enter the design contest and show us your stuff!

The time has come to design new t-shirts for Gather the Jews and we want to open it up to all of you.  Send your original designs to up until November 31.  The creator of the design we choose to use will receive a free t-shirt, free entrance to GTJ happy hours, and eternal glory.














Adas Israel Renews!

Renovation rendering of the new sanctuary.

Adas Israel Congregation, home of the legendary Shir Delight Young Professional’s Shabbat service (averaging roughly 300 YPs per Shabbat!), announces the imminent launch of an exciting renovation and modernization project for its landmark building in Cleveland Park – all part of a wider “Vision of Renewal” initiative to bring Adas even further into the 21st century.  At the heart of the renewal is the creation of MakomDC (Place DC).

MakomDC is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on – it’s basically a ‘Jewish Politics and Prose!’” says Adas Israel Senior Rabbi Gil Steinlauf.  “It will feature comfortable seating and tables for lively discussion, books and technology, coffee and snacks, speaker jams, art, engaging sessions, and even interactive prayer services.  It will be the place where people, ideas, and Jewish experiences collide.”

The heroic architectural design for the new structure includes a complete overhaul of four worship and gathering spaces within the current 2850 Quebec Street address.  There will be new light-filled spaces used for worship, meals, celebrations, school programs, classes, meetings and other happenings.  Also, an expanded, super-modern entrance foyer will provide an open area to gather and will lead directly to MakomDC, the new and unique space at the heart of the building to serve as a bustling learning and engagement center for the 21st century.

The Charles E. Smith Sanctuary (also known as the Beit Tefillah, or House of Prayer) is the building’s largest worship space.  It will sport a more intimate seating arrangement, a stunning sculptured eastern wall, and a large circular skylight that will saturate the worship space with natural light, consistent with Jewish tradition.

“The landscape of Jewish life is changing rapidly and Adas sits at the crossroads,” says Rabbi  Steinlauf.  “With this renovation, we are poised to engage Jews from many different backgrounds and ages, and create an exhilarating, immersive opportunity for DC-area Jews to find true, personal spirituality for the modern world.”

Renovation rendering of the “MakomDC.”

Founded in 1869 by a group of European immigrants, Adas has been at its landmark location, one block east of the Cleveland Park Metro, since 1951.  The building has played host to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and, more recently, the Dalai Lama.  So it’s no small fry. However, the Jewish world (in particular, the young Jewish world) is evolving and so the congregation and its historic building must as well.

The Adas clergy and leadership worked closely with renowned architect Hugh Hardy and H3 Collaboration Architecture, who recently completed a reinvention of the Lincoln Center Theater in New York.  Construction at Adas will take place in three phases over the next year to allow continuation of all synagogue activities in the building.

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled for some time before the High Holidays next year, is sure to feature musical presentations, food, booze, and schmoozing!  And the word on the street is that it’s all going to be free for YPs, so follow all the latest developments at or on


Dating Atonements for the High Holidays — GTJ Dating Column with Erika E. (No. 49)

Believe it or not, the high holidays are upon us again.  (How do they always creep up like that??)  It’s important to not only celebrate the sweet new year but also reflect on our bad behaviors and sins from the previous year.  I’m guessing most of the things we’re sorry for are on a large scale – not calling our moms enough or wishing we had treated our friend better when she was going through a rough time.

As I discussed last year, I’m guessing that those of us who are on the market have committed a sin or two (or three or four?) in the field of dating.  So, let’s again think about it this year.  What dating sins have we committed, and can we correct them?  As we internalize the spirit of the High Holidays and try to improve ourselves in the year 5773, let’s remind ourselves of some of these “dins” (dating + sins), including a new one added this year:

Din #1: The last-minute cancel and never reschedule

You have a date planned that you’re just feeling “meh” about.  You’re tired.  You’re sick.  You’re hungry.  You worked late.  The last thing you want is to change out of your too-loose-to-show-other-people sweatpants.  So, you cancel.  Do you propose another date?  No.  Next time, cancel with the truth, or schedule another date at the same time you’re canceling.

Din #2: The no interest make-out

Have you ever been on a date and made out with someone at the end “just to see if there was chemistry” and there was, in fact, none?  And then you never contacted him/her again?  The make-out receiver thinks you’re interested.  In the year 5773, if this happens, at least give some variation of (over phone or e-mail), “I’m sorry.  I just didn’t feel the spark that I would have wanted.  But it was so great meeting you!”  At least no one is left out there wondering.

Din #3: Canceling via text

A text is never an appropriate way to cancel a date, especially a same-day cancellation.  E-mail is almost as bad.  Please have the courtesy to call.  The point is – make sure the person gets the message before he or she shows up and has to sit at the bar drinking one too many gin & tonics alone.

Din #4: Deciding you’re not interested and never telling the other person

It’s ok if you’re not interested in someone anymore after a few dates.  It happens.  That’s what dating is all about.  But if you’ve gone on more than one or two dates with a person and decided that he or she isn’t for you, dropping off the face of the earth is one big din.  It doesn’t require much, just a simple e-mail saying something similar to the response in #2.  It’s not a crime to lose interest in someone.  But the mature thing to do is to end it on a positive note.  Plus, if you run into this person later (which you know will happen), she won’t have to whisper behind your back that you’re the guy who snubbed her.

Din #5 (NEW!): Saying “I’ll call you” and then not calling

If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.  Most people (men and women) take what someone says literally.  If at the end of the date you are 100% sure that you’re not interested, and you don’t want to apply the Rule of Two, then a simple “It was nice meeting you” will do the trick.

No one’s perfect, and I’m sure we’ve all committed one or more of these dins (myself included).  In the year ahead, though, while we are first celebrating and then repenting, let’s think about how we can improve the dating world in 5773, one din at a time… and, of course, call your mother.  😉  L’shanah tovah!

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  Check out her interview on NPR here. 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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