Apple’s new Mac OS X Lion Update Includes Hebrew Support

The Apple Menu and Safari's menu bar in Hebrew

The Apple Menu and Safari's menu bar in Hebrew

Yesterday, Apple Inc. released a minor update numbered 10.7.3 to Mac OS X Lion that included one major feature for Israelis and Jews: Hebrew support.

Mac OS X had previously included robust Hebrew text entry support in the Finder file browser and most applications (Microsoft Office applications being notable exceptions), but the OS has generally lacked translations for menus, dialog boxes, and other interface elements.

Our tests have shown that in addition to translations of Finder text, there is now a Hebrew dictionary, better right-to-left support, and translations of major Apple default applications like Preview, Safari, and Address Book. Other applications like Mail and iTunes have yet to receive translations.

To turn on Hebrew translations or change other language settings, head to System Preferences, and click on “Language and Text”. Then drag Hebrew to be first in the priority of languages. The settings change takes effect for newly-opened applications and for the Finder after logging out and logging back in.

In addition to Hebrew translations, the new OS update includes new support for Catalan, Croatian, Greek, Romanian, Slovak, Thai, and Ukrainian languages. For more on the update, see Apple’s web site.

Settings, in Hebrew

Reordering Hebrew to be first priority

Reordering Hebrew to be first priority


Mapping out the regular Shabbat services

I recently had lunch with Rabbi Aaron Miller of Washington Hebrew Congregation to discuss GTJ and his exciting new initiatives, including Metro Minyan.

This got us talking about the amazing number of regular Shabbat opportunities for young professionals in DC.

I thought it might help to have this little cheat sheet on the different weeks.

Head to for the latest.






Tu B’Shevat Seder and Fundraiser

Wine. Trees. Israel. Each is awesome in its own way, but together? You have yourself the awesome experience known as a Tu B’Shevat  seder.

The Chesed Project is hosting a seder, to raise money for the Jewish National Fund to plant trees in Israel.

You might find yourself thinking – I like wine, but what is Tu B’shevat, why a seder (and I hope we don’t have to eat matzah). Basically, Tu B’shevat is the 15th of the month of Shevat, and it is new years day for trees in Israel, which is important for agricultural mitzvahs. In the 16th century the great Kabbalist the Ari (the same guy who wrote The Zohar), instituted seders, which offer a unique way for self reflection and personal growth.

We’ll be eating tree fruits and nuts, especially those grown in Israel, and exploring them as metaphors for people and our interaction with the planet. And did I mention 4 cups of wine? (Grape juice will also be available.)

The event will be Tuesday February 7th at 7pm at The Flats 2000 N St NW, in the party room. The seder will start at 7:30 promptly and last for about an hour. We are asking for a $10 suggested donation for each person. All money will be donated to the JNF. Please RSVP by Friday Feb 3, either by email or on our Facebook event page.

We are depending on the kindness of others to help provide the wine (4 cups per person!) and other things for the event, it’s just too expensive for us to provide everything ourselves. If you are interested in donating to help make our event as successful as possible, please contact Samantha at: samantha dot hulkower at gmail dot com. All donors will be acknowledged by name at the seder, or anonymously, if they prefer.

Hope to see you there!



Ridiculous Deal-Breakers – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 27)

I can’t say I love Patti Stanger’s advice on everything (and I certainly don’t try to emulate her demeanor), but once in a while she shares a nugget of information that I actually agree with.   This time it has to do with non-negotiables and deal-breakers.  Patti tells her clients to limit their non-negotiables to five things that they either can’t live with or can’t live without.  I don’t know if five is the magic number, or if there is a magic number at all, but having a long laundry list of a dozen “must haves” will inevitably doom your search for Mr. or Ms. Perfect.  In reality, no one is perfect, so it’s important to know what you can bend on.

Being an online dating consultant and dating coach, I hear them all: I don’t want a guy under 5’11.  She must weigh less than 120 pounds.  If he owns a cat, forget about it.  If she likes to play board games, she must be a nerd.  He puts Splenda in his coffee – that’s so girly.  She’s never been outside the US, so she must not have any idea about other cultures.  I can’t go out with him if he has the dry cleaner crease in his shirt.  She’s older than I am – it’s just a month, but I can’t date an older woman.  He does this weird thing where he wiggles one ear when he’s nervous.  The list goes on and on.

What’s really important in life?  When I did online dating to try to meet the man of my dreams, I had two main non-negotiables: intelligence and religion.  I knew that I wanted someone to be smart – really smart.  Not that I’m Einstein or anything, but I’d dated people who weren’t as intellectually stimulating as I had wanted, and it bothered me.  As for religion, I am Jewish.  I’m not terribly religious, and I’m more culturally Jewish than anything else (I make a heck of a matzah ball soup), but it was the common background that I craved.  Again, I’d dated someone who was not Jewish, and I learned that it was something I couldn’t compromise on again.  Nothing else seemed as important except for some age boundaries and physical attraction.  And the latter one is so hard to tell until you meet in person.

Once you get into a relationship, people seem to have a whole other list of deal-breakers.  Sure, this person has passed the non-negotiable test, but now he or she does something that drives you so crazy that you’re not sure you can live with it.  A common one is when guys leave the toilet seat up.  Is it gross?  Yes.  Is it annoying?  Double yes.  But is it a deal-breaker?  I had to laugh when a friend of mine, who just moved in with her boyfriend, wrote to me recently, “Oh, and get used to having the toilet seat left up (lol!).  I know many girls complain about it, but it really doesn’t bug me.  I think guys are just programmed to do it without even thinking.”  She got over this so-called deal-breaker, and so can you.  (Plus, this is one that can be fixed, given enough time.)  With the right person, even a simple, “Sweetie, it bothers me a little when you [insert annoying habit here],” might do the trick.

In the end, what’s most important is how someone treats you.  Is he or she kind, generous, and giving?  How about trustworthy and honest?  That’s what matters in life.  So, take your laundry list of deal-breakers and put it in the spin-cycle to disintegrate.  Think about the few things that really matter to you and stick to those.  Beyond that, throw caution to the wind, and date lots of people until you find that one who makes you happy, whether he leaves the toilet seat up or not.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she offers services from online dating profile-writing to e-mailing potential matches to planning dates. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

Got burning questions you want answered in a future post? E-mail


The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and Sixth & I are hiring!

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and Sixth & I hiring!   Take a look at the jobs below, and be sure to post/review other job descriptions on our JOB BOARD.


Sixth & I — Development Assistant


Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Contact with questions about the below position.



Position          :           Birthright Israel NEXT DC Professional
Department   :           Financial Resource Development (FRD)
Reports To      :           Young Leadership Director
Date                :           February 2012


Organizational Vision, Mission and Function:
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is a non-profit philanthropic organization dedicated to creating a vibrant and purposeful Jewish community.  The Jewish Federation inspires, connects, educates and supports. The Federation’s primary functions are community planning and allocations, financial resource development, and leadership development.


Birthright Israel NEXT DC is dedicated to fostering an ongoing relationship among the more than 11,000 alumni in the Greater Washington area. Based on a vision to further Jewish causes and support for Israel, Birthright Israel NEXT DC allows participants and their peers to stay connected with one another, meet new friends, continue their Israel experience and explore what the Washington Jewish Community has to offer.


The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington coordinates Birthright Israel NEXT DC events and serves all alumni regardless of trip date and trip provider.


Position Overview:

A strategic team-player, the Birthright Israel NEXT DC Professional works with Birthright Israel alumni and their peers to engage their interests and help connect them to the DC-area Jewish community upon their return from Israel.


The NEXT DC Professional is responsible for overseeing strategic initiatives to engage these young adults in the work of The Jewish Federation and/or other organizations in the community where their interests lay. The Professional will be responsible for programming, volunteer management, leadership development, community engagement and recruitment.


Specific Responsibilities:

  • Outreach to young adults in their 20s and 30s
  • Organize Taglit-Birthright Israel Orientation for any post-college participant in the DC area
  • Staff the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trips and begin making connections with participants from the DC community while in Israel to help foster their involvement and engagement upon their return
  • Cultivate personal relationships with alumni, mentoring them on Jewish communal life
  • Connect alumni to relevant local, regional and national activities to help cultivate their interests
  • Work with the local Alumni Advisory Committee
  • Foster existing partnerships with organizations in the community who cater to young adults, i.e. EntryPointDC of the Washington DCJCC and Sixth & I
  • Connect alumni and their peers to the work of The Jewish Federation in an effort to develop their philanthropic, volunteer and/or professional niche
  • Plan events to connect participants to each-other and the Jewish community
  • Follow up interviews and subsequent mini-reunions and events that tags onto already existing Federation and community events
  • Manage website and online communications.



  • Intimate knowledge of and passion for the Jewish community, its customs and practices
  • Experience in event coordination and planning
  • Experience with volunteer engagement
  • Deep and growing connections in the Greater Washington area across Jewish professional lines
  • A passion for engaging people
  • Exceptional organization and communication skills (both written and oral) with proficiency in English grammar and usage
  • Ability to develop relationships and work with a diverse population
  • Ability to work productively with minimal supervision
  • Ability to manage multiple tasks and short deadlines
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel
  • Ability to work on a variety of projects simultaneously; seeming them from concept through execution


Education and Experience:

  • Bachelor’s degree required
  • 2-5 years of related experience



The state of GTJ at 100 weeks

Aaron sends me about 10 emails every day.  But one in particular caused me pause yesterday:  a copy of our very first Gather the Jews newsletter.

  • It didn’t have a full listing of Shabbat dinners.
  • It didn’t have original articles on the DC Jewish community.
  • It didn’t have a long list of awesome DC Jewish events.
  • And it didn’t have the picture of a new Jewish Guy and Girl of the Week.
We’ve come a long way in 100 weeks.  Since March 1, 2010, Gather the Jews has:
  • Grown our weekly newsletter from 75 subscribers to 2,700 subscribers.
  • Received 187,125 visits to our website.
  • Welcomed 96,894 unique visitors.
  • Amassed 469,535 page views.
  • Written 1,003 blog posts.
  • Featured over 75 Jewish guys.
  • Featured over 75 Jewish girls.
  • Hosted 9 public events for over 1,600 guests.
  • Promoted the events of over 60 different Jewish organizations.
  • Found jobs for over 15 community members.
  • Found boyfriends/girlfriends for over 10 community members.
In short, the state of the GTJ union is good.  And we plan to keep it that way.
So thanks for reading, and thanks for being part of a vibrant DC Jewish community.

If you wish to help Gather the Jews, please consider either:

  1. Writing us a letter telling us what we’re doing well, poorly, or what you might suggest.
  2. Consider joining the GTJ staff (meeting this Sunday). 
  3. Consider making a donation to GTJ. 
Again, thanks, and here’s to another 100 weeks of GTJ!
President, Co-Founder
Gather the Jews

Other GTJ resources


A New Reform Minyan Joins the DC Scene

DC has one of the largest young professional communities in the country, but unless someone is comfortable with traditional prayer servicesor being the youngest person in the congregation (besides the bar mitzvah boy), there isn’t much for this age group.  There are plenty of local minyanim that cater to Orthodox and Conservative Jews (DC Minyan, Adas Israel’s Shir Delight, Tikkun Leil Shabbat, 6th St. Minyan, Mesorah DC, Downtown Shabbat, just to name a few), but for the 76% of DC’s younger adults who identify as “Reform,” there are few age-appropriate options.

Yes, Sixth & I offers a 6th in the City service once a month featuring Rick Recht, Temple Micah organizes small Shabbat meals in people’s homes, and TLS hosts some minyanim with instruments, but Metro Minyan brings something much-needed and new to the DC Reform scene.

The Idea

Metro Minyan is Washington Hebrew Congregation’s avenue to provide DC’s young professional Jewish community with an informal, musical, come-as-you-are Shabbat experience. Once a month, Metro Minyan will get together for a Shabbat service and dinner in different places along DC’s Metro. The organizers originally envisioned thirty to forty young Jews coming together in small community settings. After running a pilot a few months ago at WHC, which drew over 60 people (despite participants needing a car to get here), they knew they were on to something. This past Friday confirmed that, big time.

The Launch

The first Metro Minyan drew over 140 people. The service was geared toward all Jewish backgrounds, using familiar melodies from niggunim to Jewish summer camp favorites with guitar to traditional Hebrew chanting. Following kiddush and motzi over challah, participants lined up for dinner and dessert provided by New Course Catering, a non-profit catering company that provides chronically unemployed people with restaurant and catering skills. The night ended with a rousing birchat ha’mazon, and people socialized for over an hour before getting back on the Metro to continue their night with friends.

“Metro Minyan was a great occasion to get together with friends and celebrate Shabbos,” said participant David Michaelson. “Rabbi Miller’s enthusiasm and excitement about Metro Minyan, particularly the huge turnout and exciting prospects, were contagious. It was also nice to bring the Jewish community to a
part of DC that does not usually host a congregation or services.”

The Future of Metro Minyan

The next Metro Minyan will take place on February 17.  Needless to say, the folks at WHC are getting excited.

“We never imagined Metro Minyan would generate so much enthusiasm so quickly,” said Rabbi Aaron Miller. “Now we are recalibrating how we might grow the model into something bigger without Metro Minyan becoming “too big.” Over time, we hope to train and empower the community’s 20’s and 30′s leadership to host and lead their own services. On months between our large gatherings, these service leaders will be able to lead Metro Minyanim in peoples’ homes and apartment buildings on each of DC’s Metro lines. This will not only foster a smaller, more intimate feeling, but encourage these lay leaders to invite their friends to support them as they help bring an ever-growing circle of participants into the Metro Minyan community.”


Help 2239 As They Help Tornado Victims

It feels like just yesterday when I stood on soil completely destroyed by the massive tornados that struck Birmingham, Alabama on April 27, 2011. Two weeks ago, over MLK holiday weekend a group of 22 young professionals were led by Washington Hebrew Congregation’s, Rabbi Aaron Miller and Stacey Black to rebuild houses with 2239’s new initiative called ARK (Acts of Religious Kindness). ARK is a program for 20s and 30s to embark on organized service trips all over the country and to do some local Tikkun Olam (Hebrew for “repairing the world”) in the DC area.

The Alabama tornado took the lives of 238 individuals just over nine months ago. Our group was stationed in Pratt City, Alabama in Jefferson County where nearly all houses are piles of rubble in what is now a suburban wasteland. Other than a few streets where new construction is beginning, the remainder of the area is  entirely desolate.

Development appears to be very slow. Numerous plots of land lie abandoned, waiting for a dumpster pick-up and for builders to purchase the valueless land. It costs around $80,000 to clear a damaged property, which is far more than the land is actually worth

We spent two days helping rebuild the home of Ms. Evelyn Lewis, which had devastating damage following the tornado. Rabbi Aaron Miller reflected on his experience, “ARK was life-changing, both for Evelyn Lewis, whose house we helped to rebuild, and for our 22 volunteers who flew down to Birmingham, AL to help. We roofed Evelyn’s house, gutted her kitchen, installed doors and windows, ventilated the attic, sanded, painted and completed countless other restoration projects. We helped to create a better world, and I think in the process we all became better Jews.”

As you can see from the below photos, the home is nearing completion and when rebuilt Ms. Evelyn Lewis will live with her son and three year old grandson. However, the floors in the house have sustained large amounts of water damage as a result of the storm. All work is being done by volunteer labors on a limited budget and they anticipate the repair of the floor to cost $2,500. Our group has committed to helping complete the house not just by offering our time, by committing to raise the funds needed to finish this final project.

Jennifer Nannes, the chair of Washington Hebrew Congregation’s group 2239 said, “In the true spirit of Tikkun Olam, this experience made us cognizant of the devastating damage that still exists in the Birmingham community. As a group, we pledged to raise money to fund further efforts to help rebuild their community.”

We launched a campaign to raise $2,500 to repair the floor. We need YOU to join us in helping ensure that her grandson can grow up in a safe home. A gift of $18 would make a world of difference in helping us hit our goal to complete the home.


To learn more about 2239 and see the events calendar, click here.


When Is It Ok To Be Happy? GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 26)

Maybe a little less sharing...

As we all know, dating is hard, so when you finally find someone who makes you happy, you want to shout it from the rooftop.  But if you have single friends who are still in the muck of it all, struggling to meet just one normal person (let alone “the one”), it’s hard to know how much of your excitement to reveal.  The reality of it is that while friends will love you and hope for your well-being, inevitably jealousy can occasionally rear its ugly head, and those friends who are supposed to love you unconditionally start acting distant.

I met Jeremy in December of 2009, and I had a vacation planned with some girlfriends for New Year’s Eve that year.  When we booked the trip, all of us were single, but by the time our cruise sailed off, I was the one with the boyfriend (yes – we had already DTR’ed it).  I was darn happy about it, but did I want to share my newfound happiness with three people who expected me to be single and ready to mingle?  And on top of it all, one friend had just ended a relationship with someone she thought could go the distance.  I kept my Jeremy-talk to a minimum, which was hard since that’s the last thing you want to do when you’re starting a new relationship.  You just want to yell, “I finally found him!”

When it comes to starting a new relationship, while all of your friends should be happy for you, it’s best to come up with some sort of selective sharing.  The people who will be most excited for you (besides your parents) are the ones who are in the same place you are – happy.  They say misery loves company, but so does happiness.  Tell your friend who just got the promotion that your new boyfriend sent you flowers.  Tell your other friend who just had her fourth date with a guy she really likes that your new guy said, “I love you” for the first time.  I’m not saying you can’t share your good news with your single friends, but be sensitive to the fact that while they are likely content enough on their own, you’ve gotten the brass ring, and they’re still riding the horse empty-handed.

Of course it’s okay to be happy, but just be aware that friendships are not always on pace with each other, and certain people may be better choices to share the cute little details of your new relationship.  And if all else fails, you can tell your friend who’s tried and true – your journal.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she offers services from online dating profile-writing to e-mailing potential matches to planning dates. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.


Star & Shamrock — A restaurant that unites my peoples! (redheads and Jews)*

All mediocre photography is the fault of Stephen I. Richer.

The number of meals I have at Jewish-themed restaurants is sometimes overwhelming (2 in the past 55 days…).

On November 30, 2011, I took my Canadian date to a sumptuous meal at DISTRIKT Bistro — DC’s newest kosher restaurant (see my review here).

Unfazed by this Jewish culinary outing, I lunched on Sunday at Star and Shamrock Tavern and Deli, 1341 H Street, NE.

I’ve been meaning to try Star and Shamrock for a long time.  It opened in early 2011, but my interest was really piqued when the Washington Post mentioned both Star and Shamrock and GTJ in this December article on young DC Jews.

Better late than never!


From the outside, Star and Shamrock could not be better.  A tavern-style sign bears a giant Star of David with an Irish clover in the middle.  If that doesn’t draw your attention, then the restaurant’s storefront title surely will:  “Star” — written in what looks like Irish characters — and “Shamrock” — written in what looks like Hebrew characters.  So great.

Almost by definition, the inside couldn’t be as good as the outside, but it was still pretty solid.  The restaurant features a Jewish-style deli and an Irish-style pub.  All of your favorite deli sandwiches are there: Corned beef, pastrami, beef brisket, liverwurst, etc.  Other Jewish staples also make appearances throughout the menu: Latkes, reubens, Hebrew National franks, Jewish rye bread, etc.  (see the menu here)

Lame as I am, I went with a tuna sandwich, but my date — a tall brunette (**) with an obsession for yogurt, tennis, and model rockets — was a bit more adventuresome and ordered the Latke Madness: “3 potato pancakes, hot corned beef, griddle sauerkraut, swiss.”

I finished my sandwich quickly in the hopes of trying a bit of the Latke Madness.  It worked.  I got to try it.  “And it was good.”  (Genesis 1:31)  My date, admittedly a picky eater, praised the food in less divine terms, but still gave it a thumbs up.


Beyond the deli sandwiches, Star and Shamrock is also a place to drink (drink menu), watch sports (lots of TVs), and socialize.  On Monday nights, S&S hosts a trivia night; Tuesday night is kids eat free night (defined by age, not maturity level… damn!); and Thursday night has live music (see full “Happenings” list).


You may not be able to see it, but trust me, it's a picture of a menorah on a mantel.

I would have liked a stronger Jewish theme to the restaurant.  As it is, Judaism is limited to the exterior, the menu, and the menorahs on the mantel.  Perhaps this is best for attracting the non-Jewish customer, but I was definitely disappointed when I got a “no” upon asking the waiter if I could answer Jewish trivia for a discount (I guess that’s the Mr. Yogato in me).   There’s also the fact that the restaurant is NOT kosher, which of course detracts from the Jewishness of the place, though I can hardly blame the owners given my own experience with the Kosher process.  (Speaking of kosher food… Maoz recently closed, so we’re back to just two NW kosher restaurants)

The other problem is the obvious one: location.  I can count the number of times I’ve been to NE on two hands, and most GTJ readers are similarly ensconced in NW.  I haven’t explored how to get around the metro limitation — I would imagine Mike Weinberg knows of a bus that goes to H Street, NE — so for now, the only times I’ll go to S&S are when I can bum a ride.

But overall, the restaurant is very solid and definitely worth checking out if you’re on H Street, NE.


Souvenir S&S t-shirts.

Our meal, with tip, wound up costing $30 — probably about average for a $10 sandwich shop.

In true Twenty First Century fashion, we split the bill.


To learn more about the restaurant and the owners Jewish/Irish background, see this Washington Post review.

I emailed the owner to get more information on the restaurant and to see if GTJ readers can have a discount, but I am impatient and didn’t want to wait to post this.  I will update the post when he replies.

(*) Though I am a redheaded Jew, I’m only 1/8 Irish, and the red hair probably doesn’t come from that side of the family…

(**) My date’s self-described hair color:  “A luxurious blend of mahogany and chestnut.”




The “One and Only” Jonathan Horowitz – Now Published

GTJ’s very own sports columnist, Jonathan Horowitz, is now a published author!  The set of sports trivia cards he’s been writing, entitled The One and Only: A Sports Quiz Deck of Definitive Games, Teams, Players, and Events, has been released by Pomegranate Communications, Inc.  Click here to check them out.

The collection lists 48 teams, games, plays, and players so amazing that they’ve earned unique labels by sports enthusiasts. Each card challenges users to name the person, place, or moment that is the “One and Only.” In addition to the answers, the backs of the cards provide fun facts about why these monikers have survived years of debate among fans.

Sample questions include:

  • What was the Shot Heard ‘Round the World?
  • What Was the Battle of the Sexes?
  • Who was The Great One?

Gather the Jews member Jonathan Horowitz ( 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 for details.


Transcending Our Limitations

This week we read Parshat Vaeira, the Torah portion in which the Egyptians are struck by the first seven of the ten plagues recalled each year during the Passover Seder. Each plague could be discussed at length and in great detail and perhaps we will take a closer look at them during Passover. However, for now, we will look at how this week’s Torah portion teaches us to break free from our own individual ‘Egypt.’

At the beginning of Parshat Veira, G-d replies to a question Moshe (Moses) raised at the end of last week’s parsha. Last week after Pharaoh increased the manual labor of his Hebrew slaves, Moshe confronted G-d asking: “Why have you mistreated this people?” (Shemot 5:22). In our Torah portion G-d replies to Moshe by saying to him: “I am G-d. I revealed Myself to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov with the name Almighty G-d (Kel Shadai), but with My name “Havayeh” [the name for G-d spelled yud, hey, vav, hey, which is not pronounced], I did not become known to them.”

The first thing that must be addressed is Moshe’s question. Chassidut (the esoteric secrets of Torah) explains that the question Moshe asked of G-d was not inappropriate or disrespectful. Moshe sought to understand G-d’s actions, because he served G-d primarily through his intellect. This is why the Torah – the wisdom of G-d – was transmitted through him. By contrast, the patriarchs (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov) served G-d primarily through emotion, intuiting G-d’s will before the Torah was given. Since the primary emphasis of the Divine service of the patriarchs was not intellectual, they never questioned G-d or challenged Him for an explanation of His actions. Only Moshe did this, asking G-d, “Why have you mistreated this people?” In light of our understanding that Moshe primarily served G-d through intellect, it is easy to see that Moshe was not being insolent in asking this question. By asking this question, Moshe sought to come closer to G-d and to forge a stronger bond between himself and the Creator. Lacking understanding of G-d’s actions weakened Moshe’s intellectual bond with G-d and by asking this question he attempted to strengthen it.[1]

G-d responded to Moshe by saying that He never revealed Himself to the patriarchs by His name, ‘Havayeh’ (His true name). This name for G-d denotes transcending limitations. In essence, G-d was telling Moshe not to serve Him through intellect alone. By combining his service of G-d through intellect with that of the patriarchs – emotion and faith – Moshe would be able to serve G-d without limitation.[2]

The intellect can enable a person to understand Torah and to appreciate the greatness and majesty of G-d. It can also help a person recognize the Creator. However, the intellect on its own is cold and lifeless. G-d must also be served through the heart. A Jew must serve G-d even when he/she does not understand G-d’s actions and a Jew must serve G-d with joy, gladness, and passion. No matter how much one may think one understands G-d’s Torah, a person must realize that he/she is a fallible human being with a limited intellect. Compared to G-d “the wise [are] as if without knowledge and the men of understanding [are] as if [they are] without knowledge.”[3] It may seem counterintuitive, but by recognizing our own smallness we can connect with the Infinite and transcend the limitations of own shortcomings.

In connection to this week’s parsha and its message of transcending limitations, the Rebbe Rayatz (1880-1950) said in the name of his father, the Rebbe Rashab (1860-1920) that “the exodus from Egypt foreshadows every individual’s personal departure from limits and boundaries…Undergoing a personal spiritual ‘exodus from Egypt’ involves liberating oneself from the limits and boundaries of the world, while remaining in the world. In other words, while being involved in the world, one ought to constantly aspire to be outside its bounds. One must remove the confinements and perceive the truth – that the world itself is in fact good, for after all, this is what G-d willed.”[4]

[1] The Gutnik Edition Chumash. 33

[2] Ibid.

[3] Siddur Tehillat Hashem Morning Prayer

[4] HaYom Yom 25 Teves


Blacks and Jews: Best friends forever?

The following post reflects only the opinion of Stephen Richer.


Like Jason, I went to Sixth & I’s MLK Shabbat on Friday, January 14.

Like Jason, I enjoyed the event – you can’t go wrong with singing and dancing (Step Up 3 and Stomp The Yard are two of my favorite movies).  I also got to sit next to a whole bunch of high schoolers from BBYO.  Win!

Perhaps unlike Jason, however, I questioned the kumbaya nature of the event.  It seemed to suggest that American blacks and Jews are best friends, and that the only problems we have to deal with are external. I don’t think that’s true.  Perhaps even the opposite.  This skepticism doesn’t stem from a personal experience, but simply from a few statistics and a few lessons in recent American Jewish history that I have a hard time overlooking.

I’m not going out on a limb here.  The decline of black-Jewish relations is the subject of many books.  Time Magazine ran a cover story on the topic as far back as 1969, and in 2008, President Obama addressed black anti-Semitism in a speech on MLK day.  (Huffington Post)  If you want book suggestions, just let me know, but here’s just a quick sample of what I’m talking about:

General anti-Semitism / anti-Israel:

  • In a 2002 study, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that 35% of blacks are “strongly anti-Semitic.”  This same study found the national rate to be 17%.
  • In 2009 and 2011, the ADL estimated black anti-Semitism to be at 28% and 29%, compared to 12% and 15% nationally.  (Page 32 of ADL study)
  • Black Americans are far more likely to side with Palestinians over Israelis than the average American.

Physical strife

  • 1991 Crown Heights Riot.  A Lubavitch Jew accidentally spun his car out of control and killed one black child and injured another.  Angry black residents beat the driver.  A group of 10 to 15 black teens stabbed and killed an Orthodox Jew.  “For three days Jewish resident of Crown Heights and reporters were beaten, cars overturned and set afire, and stores looted and firebombed by angered black residents.”  (PBS)
  • 1968 Ocean-Hill/Brownsville teachers’ strike placed black community activists against the heavily Jewish teachers’ union.

Black leaders

  • In the 1990s, Professor Leonard Jeffries – a leading black academic – falsely advanced the idea that the Jews were responsible for the slave trade.
  • Reverend Jesse Jackson – calling New York City “Hymie-town” and supporting Yasser Arafat. (WND)
  • Al Sharpton accusing American Jews of all being diamond merchants that benefitted from the blood of blacks.

Etc., etc.

It’s of course sad.  It’s not how it used to be.  In 1964, northern whites went to Mississippi to help register blacks to vote.  Three-quarter of the helpers were Jewish.  At Sixth & I we heard much about Rabbi Abraham Heschel who marched next to Martin Luther King at Selma.  That pairing was fairly representative of the solidarity between blacks and Jews in the civil rights movement.

But that is no longer.  There is real tension.  We should of course continue to hold events like the one hosted by Sixth & I on Friday, but at these gatherings, there should be fewer fanciful proclamations about our amazing friendship and more assessments of why roughly 30% of black Americans are “strongly anti-Semitic.”


*Note:  I realize that black and Jewish are not mutually exclusive (I’ve seen this video).  But it’s a very small group.


Fight Piracy, Not Internet Users: Stop the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

One of the oldest jokes about Jews is if you ask three of us a question, you may get seven different answers. The discussion of ideas, the interpretation of laws and values is a central tenet to Judaism. It is also a fundamental part of why this blog, and countless blogs on other topics across the country, are successful. But what if the ability to freely share ideas were taken away? Normally this question would be followed by comments about the latest crackdown on citizens in Iran, Syria or North Korea. Unfortunately, this time a piece of US legislation is the culprit.

There is legislation pending in congress, called the Stop Online Piracy Act, and sister legislation in the Senate called the Protect IP Act, which both implement draconian measures to attempt to reduce piracy on the Internet.  The side effects of even attempting to reduce piracy via this legislation would come at tremendous cost. The legislation in its initial form breaks the internet, restricts free speech, threatens cute kittens, and violates due process.  Regardless of whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or someone who just wants to be left alone, below are the reasons to be alarmed by SOPA.

In its original form, SOPA literally breaks the internet. The website names in the address bar are translated to numbers through a process called DNS.  Mainly because it’s a lot easier to remember than its IP address of  SOPA wants to block US internet providers from forwarding on to sites associated with piracy. The problem is that any attempts to redirect traffic to anywhere other than the requested destination is treated by both software and hardware as an attack. There is no way to teach our computers the difference between a good redirection and a bad one. Worse, the bill wants to ban a new technology created by the US government called DNSSEC, which was developed specifically to prevent DNS redirections. The bottom line is that the internet would be considerably less safe, and everything from businesses to national security would be affected.

 Note: SOPA and its sister act PIPA are currently undergoing major review in this capacity, with a promise from the House, Senate, and White House that they will not break the internet to try to block piracy. However Congress has reserved the right to add this back in after “further investigation.”

Due process for sites accused of piracy is ignored. Currently blogs, and other content providers, as well as search engines are protected from what users post by what is called the “Safe Harbor” Clause in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Basically if a user posts a copyrighted video in the comments section of the blog, the owner of that copyright has to file a formal complaint, and then the website owner is required to research the request and take any appropriate action. The owner of the website can only be sued if they are negligent in responding to the request. However, under SOPA, these protections are abandoned. Worse, there is no real burden of proof to sue the website and the original version of the bill allowed ex parte proceedings, which according to an article in the Stanford Law Review means that “only one side (the prosecutor or even a private plaintiff) need present evidence and the operator of the allegedly infringing site need not be present nor even made aware that the action was pending against his or her “property.” The bottom line is those accused could be found guilty of copyright infringement for actions they were not responsible for and without an opportunity to even defend themselves.

It hurts social media and job growth. Because the law does not clearly define what copyright infringement is, people could potentially be fined or thrown in jail for a traditionally acceptable action, for example lip syncing a song on Youtube. Forbes recently quoted a venture capitalist saying that  they would no longer fund social media startups (one of the fastest growing areas of the tech world and the economy in general) if this new legislation happened, because of the massive risk from lawsuits.

Numerous sites have also correctly claimed that SOPA & PIPA would infringe on our country’s rich history of freedom of speech.

SOPA is an extremely damaging piece of legislation. It rocks the very core of American society, decreasing our security, changing the burden of proof onto the accused, and hurting our economy.

Opposition to this bill has been overwhelming and bipartisan. Republican Senators Charles Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, and Tom Coburn have signed a letter against PIPA. Across the aisle, Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Maria Cantwell (who are co-sponsors of alternate anti-piracy legislation, along with Republican Jerry Moran) have also opposed the bill, as has Ben Cardin. In the House, Darren Issa, Nancy Pelosi, and Paul Ryan are leading the anti-SOPA efforts. Even members of the Obama administration have emphasized that they “ will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

In the private sector, the opposition has been even more overwhelming. The Net Coalition, which represents leading global Internet and technology companies, including Google, Yahoo!,, eBay, and Wikipedia, to name a few, has undertaken a number of civil and lobbying efforts to block the legislation (see a statement here).

Google has launched a petition on its website. Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, went so far as to have a 24-hour blackout of his website on January 18, in protest of the legislation.

But this preliminary opposition, while important, is not enough. More individual voters need to get involved, too. Remember, there are hundreds of ways that SOPA could affect you daily. So read up on the legislation and, even better, contact your elected representative about this issue and let them know you will not see the internet ruined in your name.  Copyright owners have a right to protect their content, but not at the costs society would pay from either SOPA or PIPA.

Hopefully the OPEN Act, a recently proposed bipartisan alternative to SOPA/PIPA, will allow copyright owner to be protect without ruining the internet.

Thank you,

Jon Halperin


Bicontinental Sephardic Shabbat

DC Jews keeping up with news from the Holy Land may have heard about the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh in recent weeks. This suburb of Jerusalem was in the news after acts of religious extremism triggered widespread national protests.  These events, which sparked debates about the meaning of Jewish faith and practice across Israel, also provoked discussions in Jewish communities in DC (see, for example, here.)

This weekend, local Jews will have an opportunity to explore a new angle of Beit Shemesh, when YAD-MD hosts a diverse group of Beit Shemesh residents at a two-night Celebration of Middle Eastern Food & Music at the Magen David Sephardic Synagogue in Rockville, MD.

Friday, January 20th: Shabbat Services and Dinner

Saturday night, January 21st: Hafla. Celebrate the Sephardi cultural traditions of Israel in a night of music and culinary tastings presented by a delegation of Israeli musicians and cooks from Mateh Yehuda-Beit Shemesh. You will enjoy sampling appetizers and desserts, with a musical program that includes a mix of modern, ethnic, and traditional Israeli music. Open Wine Bar included.

Address: 11215 Woodglen Dr, Rockville, MD

Sponsored by MDSC and the Jewish Federation’s Partnership2Gether project of the Jewish Agency


Page 40 of 91« First...102030...3839404142...506070...Last »