The Mamboniks: A New Documentary on Jewish Mambo Dancers

Machito Orchestra NY 1947

Machito Orchestra, New York’s Glen Island Casino, 1947

With President Obama visiting Havana, and Cuba opening up to Americans for the first time since the early Sixties, it’s a good time to savor all things Cuban…and remember its intersection with Jewish culture in America in a new documentary film entitled “The Mamboniks.”

Directed by Peabody Award winner and DC resident Lex Gillespie, “The Mamboniks” tells a surprising, little-known story: how Jewish people fell head over heels in love with Latin music and dance in the years directly following World War II. Back then, two cultures, Jewish and Latino, met on the dance floor at a time when America was racially segregated, and anti-Semitism was commonplace.

Sitting down in a Boston deli one day in 1959, Irving Fields faced a puzzling problem. A pianist and composer, Fields had just finished recording a new album, and he needed a title. His record was a novel, upbeat mix of Latin rhythms and Jewish melodies. As Irving took a bite of his bagel, the title hit him: “Bagels and Bongos.” His landmark record reportedly sold two million copies worldwide after its release.

Irving Fields, pianist and composer who recorded LP album "Bagels and Bongos" (1959)

Irving Fields, pianist and composer who recorded LP album “Bagels and Bongos” (1959)

Irving Fields and countless other Jewish musicians and dancers fell under the sway of Latin rhythms that hit their peak of popularity in the Mad Men, neon-splashed world of ‘50s New York.

Set in New York, the Catskills, Miami Beach and sultry Havana, the film features a lovable, somewhat zany group of characters now retired yet still dancing near Boca Raton, Florida. This array of Damon Runyon-like characters from mambo’s heyday ranges in age from the seventies to the nineties. We meet dancers, musicians, club owners, disc jockeys, and record company moguls. Many possess the Yiddish gift of gab, spinning their tales with humor, heart and chutzpah.

Their affinity for Latin sounds began in the 1930s, when Jewish Americans got their first taste of Cuban rhythms, rum and romance while vacationing in Havana, “the Paris of the Caribbean.” Their love blossomed on dance floors back home.

In the late 1940s, a hot new dance from Havana was on the rise: the mambo. At Manhattan’s Palladium Ballroom, located at W. 53rd and Broadway and known as “The Home of the Mambo,” Jewish dancers were captivated by the swinging big bands of Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez.

They became the mambo’s biggest non-Latino fans, earning them the nickname, “the mamboniks.”

“It’s a Yiddish expression,” explains Irv Greenbaum, a sound engineer for a variety of Latin record companies. “Whenever you add the suffix ‘nik to a word, it means follower or group member. Like beatnik. So a mambonik was someone who went crazy for the mambo. They danced to it, and went everywhere mambo was played.”

Director Lex Gillespie is a veteran public radio and television producer. He is a three-time Peabody Award winner for two PRI (Public Radio International) series he wrote and produced about culture and music: “Whole Lotta Shakin,” a 10-hour exploration of early rock ‘n roll music and “Let the Good Times Roll,” a 26-hour history of rhythm & blues. He was a Producer at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on the documentary series “Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was,” which won a Peabody and a Silver Baton from the duPont-Columbia Awards at Columbia Journalism School.

“The Mamboniks” chronicles the rise and fall of the mambo itself – a Cuban-born dance set to a mix of African rhythms and European melodies. Its catchy beat pirouetted the mambo to national prominence, and it was danced coast-to-coast. It was prominently featured in LIFE magazine. Marilyn Monroe was an avid dancer. It inspired pop hits like Dean Martin’s “Mambo Italiano.” And on the air, TV programs like “The Ed Sullivan Show” spotlighted the duo Augie & Margo.

We travel to Cuba with mambonik Marvin “Marvano” Jaye, who last visited the island in 1959, when dancers performed as the bombs of Fidel Castro and his bearded revolutionaries echoed in the streets. “Marvano” takes us on a tour of his old haunts, from tropical beer gardens to the famed Tropicana nightclub.

Most dancers say the mambo was pure fun, but their affinity for it often runs deeper than that. During the post-WWII era, dancing helped Jews banish, at least for a moment, the horrors of the Holocaust and find joy once again.

As Holocaust survivor Charles Swietarski explains, “People who experienced the bitter years of the War, who were later liberated, and looked forward to a new life, enjoyed the beat of the Latin music.”

The film sold out E Street Cinemas when it debuted as a work-in-progress at the Washington DC Jewish Film Festival in February.

Now, finishing funds are now needed to complete a final version and show it at Jewish Film Festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Australia’s Jewish Film Festival wants to show it down under!

Please become part of this uplifting film with a tax-deductible donation here: The Mamboniks.




The Safer Seder


Ladies and Gentlemen, please direct your attention to the monitors to get your Pre-Passover safety announcement from the Schusterman Foundation. They have plenty of resources to help you get your seder off the ground and to get updates on what is going on in DC for passover check out our the Passover Guide.




April Events – 30 in the City

30 in the City (1)

We’ve hit another month in the district and that means a calendar packed full with Jewish Events. Not sure what to choose from? Never fear Hillah went through the calendar and pick some great events for those of us who are 30 in the City! (Think there are some great events people should know about this month? List them in the comments!)


for we wereFor We Were Strangers: Stories of Refugee Children with Sonia Nazario

When: Tuesday, April 19, 2016 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Where: Adas Israel Congregation (2850 Quebec Street NW, Washington, DC 20008)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

On April 19th, BILLA (AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs), along with ACCESS, AJC’s young professional division, will host an evening with Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario to discuss the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children who risk their lives travelling to the U.S. border. Nazario is the author of “Enrique’s Journey,” the harrowing story of one boy’s solo journey from Central America to the U.S. in search of his mother. Additional discussion will be facilitated by volunteers from KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) an organization that provides lawyers and advocates for unaccompanied children.

What makes this event cool?

When the media runs short on stories to report, they often turn to the borders and the unaccompanied children coming across them. We hear everything from the children as invaders to being victims of circumstance, but we never have the opportunity to actually ask our questions on this issue and get answers. Attendees will gain more insight into the border situation and get their questions answered.

Who should go?

You enjoy national security, international affairs, and human rights topics. You believe children have a right to a safe home.

Cost: Free

Register: here



GDD2016_buttonRnd3Mitzvah Hoppin’ at Good Deeds Day with the Jewish Food Experience

When: Sunday, April 10, 8:45 AM – 12 PM

Where: Depends on your Mitzvah!

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Good Deeds Day is an annual celebration of Doing Good around the world. Half a million volunteers come together to help others, putting into practice the simple idea that every single person can do something good (be it large or small) to improve the lives of others and change the world.

What makes this event cool?

Many Jewish organizations around DC/MD/VA will be providing opportunities for the Jewish community to give back. There are many great organizations and causes out there, and it is hard to choose which to showcase here. The Jewish Food Experience has shown time and again how to give back through food. They provide a road map so that after volunteering you can decided to continue volunteering with the organizations they partner with.

Who should go?

You are a Mensch and believe in giving back. Can’t go? Send a proxy!

Cost: Free




Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 4.55.46 PMEscaping Egypt: Escape the Room

When: Monday, April 25, 7:30 – 9:30 PM

Where: Escape the Room DC (2300 Wisconsin Avenue NW, #102, Washington, DC)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

You are trapped in a room and only have 45 minutes to get out! Can you do it? Join 2239 and EntryPoint DC this Passover for Escaping Egypt: Escape the Room! We’ll work together to escape the locked room by solving a mystery and playing Passover trivia!

What makes this event cool?

Every friend, family, and organization brings its own unique flair to celebrating Passover. Whether you are celebrating Passover by setting the story to show tunes or reading the Facebook Hagada, there is something out there for everyone. So why not spend the fourth night of Passover celebrating in a whole new style? Try to escape like our ancestors did, but only for one hour (in a safe environment)!

Who should go?

There is no better way to spend a Jewish holiday than by being social. The corn maze during Halloween growing up was just too easy to navigate.

Cost: $29

Register: here


torahsexTorah Text, Torah Sex: Torah for Women in their 20s and 30s

When: Wednesday, April 20, 7 PM

Where: Sixth & I Historical Synagogue (600 I Street NW, Washington, DC)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

When talking about how and where we’ve learned about sex, more often than not, synagogue isn’t the first thought that comes to mind. So much of what we know and think about sex has been informed by the media, the internet, television, and movies.

Consider modern sexual experiences through the lens of ancient Jewish perspectives on sex and gender in a salon-style conversation and text study with writer and educator Merissa Nathan Gerson. We’ll look at what the Torah and Talmud have to say about sex and sexuality, intersex, homosexuality, and pleasure in general. By invoking different and historical lenses to approach the text, you’ll learn to reframe the ancient codes into a modern, sex-positive context.
What makes this event cool?

Nathan Gerson is a DC-raised, LA-based writer and educator who teaches about sex and religion across the country. Her writing has been featured in Playboy Magazine, The Atlantic,, Tablet Magazine, and Lilith Magazine, among others. She is also a consultant to the Amazon TV show Transparent. This event could get hot.

Who should go?

Young professional women who enjoy exploring the Torah, dating, and having conversations about sex.

Cost: $10 in advance/$12 day of event

Register: here


Want more?

There is a lot going on around town for Passover. Some seders to check out: Jews United for Justice Labor Seder and AJC ACCESS & Sixth & I’s Black Jewish Unity Seder: Celebrating Connected Histories

Need a place to go for a Seder dinner or do it yourself: Seders Across DC, Sixth & I’s Community Seder or Participatory Seder, EntryPointDC Satellite Seders, DCJCC 9th Annual National Rainbow Seder or Second Night Community Seder, Washington Hebrew’s 2239 Passover Seder

Getting in touch with Passover: Sixth & I’s Let My People Know: Seder Storytelling, DCJCC’s It’s All About the Food: Passover Recipes and Deconstructing the Haggadah, Temple Rodef Shalom’s The Great Passover Bake-Off with Lauren Katz, Duke’s Grocery Matzah Monday.



Passover Guide 2016

Screen shot 2016-04-01 at 2.16.52 PM

Passover is the Jewish Holiday that American Jews are most likely to celebrate! There are many different way Jews all over the District will be celebrating in the upcoming weeks. Whether it is getting together in small groups or finding a larger community to celebrate with, there is an event for you.

Passover begins Friday evening April 22nd, but there are events throughout the week worth checking out. Here is a list of what is going on in DC for the holiday to make sure you do not miss out. Sign up early to secure a spot at one of these great events!



Did we miss anything? Submit events here and/or leave a comment on this post.

Saturday, April 9th

Sunday, April 10th

Monday, April 11th

Tuesday, April 12th

Saturday, April 16th

Monday, April 18th

 Friday, April 22nd

Saturday, April 23th

Sunday, April 24th

Tuesday, April 26th

Wednesday, April 27th

Friday, April 29th


Sunday, May 1st


Other Resources:



Monthly Mussar: As Simple as Possible, but Not Simpler


Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices you have to make in a given day?  If so, you are not alone: the phenomenon is so prevalent in today’s hectic times that it has been given its own name, decision fatigue, as well as its own magazine.

With this in mind, for this month of my mussar inititaive, I focused on the concept of simplicity.  From a Jewish perspective, we can think about developing our halacha, Jewish law, as an exercise in simplicity.  In trying to best answer the question of how best to live our lives, or how God wants us to live our lives, depending on how you look at it, hundreds of years of debates about the intricacies and nuances of Jewish law have been simplified into a set of rules and traditions.

We can take the same approach in our own lives, creating rules, habits, and routines to simplify our choices, from the spiritually inclined to the mundane.  During this month, I found myself turning to my own rules.  I happened to be contacted by an ex about meeting up when he moves back to the area.  And in the moment that I got that email, there was a part of me that wanted to pursue that.  But then I recalled my rule, that I do not keep in touch with exes who habitually lie, and I restrained myself.  And the next day, when I was no longer as caught up in nostalgia, I was glad that I’d followed my rule.

When I recently wrote about self-care, I also mentioned a number of other rules that people adhere to for simplifying their lives, like meal schedules or uniforms.  Aside from my ex-avoidance, my major simplification effort this month was related to breakfast.  Over many years, I have struggled with finding a breakfast option that was simple to prepare, that would keep me full until lunch time, and that I would actually want to eat every morning.  Getting serious about this pursuit, I surveyed friends about their breakfast choices and started by writing a list and thinking about whether each potential option met my criteria.  The winner: bananas with Nutella.  Bananas are easy, cheap, and come in their own wrapper, and paired with Nutella, they provide enough sustenance and deliciousness to keep me coming back.


The same simplification ideas also apply to communication.  If you’ve ever texted with someone for two hours trying to decide where to go for lunch, you know what I’m talking about.  And there is absolutely no good reason that I’ve found for why such a small decision should take so much back and forth and should drag on for so long.  But what I have started to recognize is that the more complicated the conversation, the more complicated the relationship with the person on the other end.  Could simplifying our communications also simplify our relationships?

But I mention all this with the usual grain of salt, that by pursuing the simple, wf895a01f-4d4d-4616-b412-6610d555dceee may lose out on the richness of the complicated.  For example, when we blindly follow rules, we are subject to the biases of the people who made those rules, with whom we may not agree, and as result, we may find our options and perspectives unnecessarily limited.  The same goes for writing off complicated people or ideas, from which the world becomes a less vibrant and interesting place.

I believe the trade-off between the simple and the complicated is like a lot of tradeoffs I’ve examined in this series.  There are a lot of parts of our lives that are determined by forces out of our control, but for those that are within our control, our choices are real, but the consequences of those choices are also real.  We make choices that can build or break relationships, uplift people or break them down, or simply keep us full until lunchtime or not.

If you’ve been following this series, I hope that it has provided a different perspective on the choices we make, the consequences they have, and the effects on ourselves and the people in our lives.


Top 5 Reasons To Volunteer this Good Deeds Day

GDD2016_buttonRnd3How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

As Jews, we have the extraordinary and critical commandment to leave the world just a little bit better than the way we found it. We are told to live our lives not solely focused on our own pursuits of success, but on the success, justice and welfare of society at large.

The world depends on individuals realizing that we are not independent of anyone or anything on earth – but that we are interconnected. The hostile anger and bigotry of one person can spread hate across a nation, just as the loving kindness of another can create lasting peace. Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to share our goodness with the world. We are here for only a limited time, so, as Anne Frank once noted, why wait a single moment before starting to make our difference?

It was in this spirit that in 2007, renowned businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison launched Good Deeds Day, the international day for those of all ages and backgrounds to join together in the pursuit of the idea that, “if people will think good, speak good and do good, the circles of goodness will grow in the world.” Since Arison and the organization Ruach Tova first launched Good Deeds Day in Israel, it has grown exponentially. Today, more than half a million volunteers in 90+ countries across the globe participate in this phenomenal day of service. Among them are more than 10,000 Do Gooders right here in Greater Washington.

On April 10th, for the fifth year in a row, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will host The Sara and Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day. Together, community members from across the DC area will gather for more than 200 projects and put our own spin on Arison’s idea into practice: that every single person can do something good, be it big or small.

In honor of Federation’s five remarkable years of planning and hosting Good Deeds Day in Greater Washington, here are the Top 5 reasons why you should sign up to join us on April 10:

  1. Get the “Helper’s High”: Positive Psychology has conducted extensive research studies proving that those who take the time to give back to others are happier than those who do not. According to the Americans’ Changing Lives long-term research project, “volunteer work is good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteer are happier and experience better physical health and less depression.” – Peggy Thoits, a lead researcher on the study.
  2. Meet Some Really Nice People: It turns out that when you volunteer with other people who are choosing to spend their Sunday make the community a better place – you meet awesome people.
  3. Make Bubbe Proud: All your life, your family has been spending every waking moment (subconsciously or not) trying to turn you into a mensch. Now’s your chance to show them – and thousands across the Greater Washington community – that you are a “Do Gooder.” You are someone who lives with the Jewish values you learned in Hebrew school to be kind, loving, respectful, hardworking and passionate about giving back.
  4. Make a (Real) Difference: This is not just a day of feel-good fluff. On April 10th you’ll put your best self to work and get your hands dirty to make a real difference for those in need. From gardening and planting, to packing and delivering food to local seniors, to making care bags for homeless children and blankets to keep hospice patients warm – check out more than 200 projects available to choose from!
  5. Forget Your Problems: At the end of the day, making time to step out of your own head, consider the plight of others and make a difference, however big or small, to improve their lives, is a powerful feeling. Every single day, we encounter people who are facing some sort of struggle. Yet, often times we are far too caught up in our own plans, logistics, relationships, career planning (ad infinitum) that we become unable to notice or be there for others.

On Good Deeds Day, you’ll have the incredible opportunity to pause, get outside of yourself and lend your time, your kindness and your resources to help those in need throughout our community. I can’t wait to meet you – and Do Good with you – on April 10th!

Allison Cossman is an Account Executive at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.


Seeking Refuge: Young Voices, Stories of Resilience

An individual’s story is their most powerful possession. It can be used to connect us with others and inspire change, and it can’t be taken away. The Jewish people have lost many to persecution, and we remember these people their stories. After the Holocaust, we were not just moved to say “Never Again” because of the headlines or the facts; it was the first-hand accounts of the survivors, it was hearing about people’s fears and how they decided they needed to persevere that connects us as a Jewish community.

On Monday, March 28th, young professionals from around DC will come together to hear the stories of young adults who have shown strength while fleeing persecution at JDC Entwine’s, “Seeking Refuge: Young Voices, Stories of Resilience”.

This powerful storytelling program will highlight young adults who have sought refuge in the face of global conflict and recognize the work of global organizations, like JDC and HIAS, which directly shaped their stories.

At the program, you’ll hear the story of Juliya Sheynman’s family, who fled Soviet Belarus for the promise of a better life, free of anti-Semitism. You’ll hear from Mohammed Al-Samawi, a Yemen-born asylum seeker who risked his life advocating collaboration between Jews and Muslims. And finally, you’ll hear from Lana Alman, a Jewish refugee whose family fled Moldova with active conflict at their heels, and the Soviet Union collapsing before their very eyes.

As headlines flood our newsfeeds of people suffering around the world, we feel, as chairs of this event, an obligation to broach this issue in a way that unites us in the most basic human way: through storytelling. Join us as a community as we become eye-level with human experiences that connect us to universal themes of hardship and hope.

For more information and to RSVP for the event, click here.


Event Chairs, JDC Entwine’s “Seeking Refuge: Young Voices, Stories of Resilience”





Jewish Sports Fan of the Week – Ryan!


This week I had the oppurtunity to interview with Ryan. Originally from Raleigh, NC he came to DC to pursue journalism and business before finally turning to Sports Management. We talked about his love of sports and his favorite Jew in this Weeks interview.

Know someone who should be featured on Gather? Nominate them!


Jackie: You have been in DC for a couple years now, you originally came to study at AU, what made you want to stay in the city?

Ryan: The reason I wanted to stay in the city after my studies were done at AU was because I wanted to live on my own and not in the shadow of my parents in North Carolina. I didn’t want to live in a busy city like New York but a historical and less hectic city like Washington, DC.

IMG_2622Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in the city?

Ryan: My favorite place to spend time is on the Mall. I play softball and kickball during the weekend near the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian museums. I also am a runner, and running around the Mall seeing the monuments and the Capitol makes me feel like a made a great decision staying in DC.

Jackie: Who are you rooting for to win it all in March Madness?

Ryan: I picked UNC to win the whole thing in my bracket this year. I am a NC State fan because I am from Raleigh, North Carolina and they did not make the field this year.

Jackie: What made you interested in the Sports Industry?

Ryan: Honestly, it’s because I’m a huge sports fan (hockey in particular) and I feel like you should find a job that you are passionate about!  So, the sports industry was the answer… although it took me a while to realize it.  I’m glad I finally did!

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Ryan: My favorite Jew off the top of my head would be Andy Samburg because I am a huge SNL fan and loved him in the sketches he was in before he left the show.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

…good things always happen!




Gather the Jews is hiring a Community Coordinator!


Community Coordinator

Gather the Jews is looking for an energetic, impressive, Community Coordinator to join its team.  We are seeking a recent college graduate to help advance our ongoing community engagement efforts of the thousands of young Jews in DC. This full-time position will be responsible for initiatives to engage key populations, focusing specifically on recent college graduates and those new to the DC area. The Community Coordinator will join a staff team of three other highly motivated, passionate professionals and report directly to the Gather the Jews Director.

Gather the Jews is an innovative non-profit start-up, grass-roots network and online platform that helps connect young Jewish adults in DC to meaningful Jewish opportunities around the city.  We believe there is no one-way to be Jewish, and we strive to help every Jew between the ages of 22 – 39 find or create their personal Jewish fit. We believe in the power of social Jewish interactions and experiences. We serve as a community convener and resource for local Jewish organizations looking to reach young adults, and for young Jewish professionals looking for professional networks and resources.

Gather was recently named by Slingshot as one of the 18 most innovative Jewish non-profits in D.C. and we are looking for an enthusiastic Community Coordinator to join our efforts. Our offices are currently located at the WeWork collaborative workspace in Dupont Circle.  Gather the Jews is a project of GW Hillel.

Summary of Position/Job Responsibilities

The Gather the Jews Coordinator will:

  • Manage New(ish) & Jewish initiatives and follow-through, engaging hundreds of young adults when they arrive in the area
  • Maintain an expansive 1:1 engagement portfolio with young adults in D.C. and utilize our relationship management system
  • Represent Gather the Jews at community functions and events around the city
  • Organize monthly Happy Hours that regularly attract between 150 – 300 young adults across the city
  • Create and compile weekly newsletter for over 5,000 recipients, with opportunity for creative and editorial input
  • Assist in comprehensive social media strategy for over 3,000 Facebook and over 1,000 Twitter followers
  • Update website content including local calendar of events, blog, and highlighting local partner organizations
  • Assist with marketing of all Gather the Jews events and promotions including print materials, give-aways, etc.
  • Execute other tasks as needed as part of an innovative and small staff team


Passionate, dedicated self-starter and team player, with strong written, verbal and online communication skills.  Looking for a natural relationship-builder who is excited to learn about the DC social scene and the diverse Jewish communities within.  Looking for candidates with 0 – 2 years previous work experience.  Social media savvy and ability to utilize online technology a must.

Desired Start Date: Spring 2016.

Competitive salary commensurate with experience.

To Apply: Please click HERE to apply.

GW Hillel is an equal opportunity employer. Equal employment has been and continues to be both GW Hillel’s policy and practice. Its policy of equal employment opportunity is to recruit, hire, train, promote, and base all other employment decisions without regard to gender, race, color, sex, gender identity and expression, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or any other protected status.

About Gather the Jews & GW Hillel:

Gather the Jews began as a project between three Jewish friends in their 20’s who wanted to see a more cohesive and connected DC Jewish community.  In April 2013, Gather the Jews officially became a project of GW Hillel.  For the past five years, Gather has been the preeminent resource for young adults seeking a connection to the DC Jewish community through information provided on its website, it’s 6,500+ person listserv and its monthly Gather the Jews Happy Hours.  Gather the Jews emphasizes its role as a resource to the community, rather than being a competitor to the diverse Jewish organizations programming for young adults in D.C.  Additionally, the Gather the Jews website includes:

  • Comprehensive calendar that features events with a young adult target audience
  • Blog
  • Housing and bulletin boards
  • Organizational and rabbinic directories
  • Jewish People of the Week which highlights active members of the community

Over the past year, Gather the Jews has ushered in a bold new phase for DC Jewish young adults by creating a relationship-based model to enable individuals to further explore their Jewish connections and create community within the robust offerings of DC. Utilizing relationship-based engagement, Gather the Jews has expanded its platform through which individuals can connect to each other, connect with Jewish institutions, and create their own Jewish lives based on personal interests and desires. Gather the Jews provides high-quality training and professional development for young Jewish adults, with the intention of enhancing the social fabric of Jewish life in DC and helping DC become an exceptionally dynamic and inclusive city for Jewish life.

Join our team



Jewish Entrepreneur of the Week – Lindsay!

922977_10100759162898267_231440761_n (1)This week I had the oppurtunity to sit down with Lindsay! I first met her through her job marketing for Cove but then learned she has a fascinating side business she has been working on. Read on to learn all about it…

Jackie: You grew up in St. Louis, what do you miss most about the city?

Lindsay: My parents and sister still live in St. Louis, and I miss them a lot. The St. Louis Cards is a close second. I love living in DC though, so I visit home when I can and I cheer for the Cards from afar.

Jackie: You studied abroad in Australia in college and that began you love of travel, where are some other places you have had the chance to visit? 

Lindsay: Since traveling all around Australia when I studied abroad, I’ve been to New Zealand, Poland, Prague, and Spain. My favorites were Prague and Barcelona. I hope to take a trip somewhere in Europe this summer, but not sure where yet.

Jackie: You have a small business can you tell us about it? 

IMG_4279Lindsay: I founded The Cookie Jar DC just six weeks ago to make edible cookie dough. The cookie dough doesn’t have eggs in it and you don’t bake it—you just eat it! I make several different flavors, from classic chocolate chip to sugar cookie with sprinkles, and they come in different size jars as well as small bites dipped in chocolate. While it’s only been six weeks, I’m already selling in Glen’s Garden Market (Dupont and Shaw) and Union Kitchen Grocery, shipping nationwide, doing delivery three nights a week, and accepting pickup orders. I also do catering and favors with custom branding for events, from office lunches to baby showers to bachelorette parties and more. You can find everything on my website:

Jackie: So you aren’t really that into cooking, what made you want to start an edible cookie dough company?

Lindsay: It’s funny that my business is edible cookie dough because I find cooking to be boring. However, there’s actually no cooking or baking involved in making the dough since nothing goes in the oven. The business started because I wanted to do something creative, and I wanted to run my own project. I began playing around in the kitchen and thinking up creative recipes that people wanted but couldn’t find in the stores. At one point I thought, “I should sell this.” So I looked for a commercial kitchen to produce out of, and the next thing I knew, it was official.

Jackie: What is your favorite place to spend time in DC?

Lindsay: Recently, I’ve reallyLindsay_The Cookie Jar DC (1) enjoyed spending time in Union Kitchen, where I produce all of my edible cookie dough. The vibe is great, the other chefs and bakers are friendly, and there’s always different music playing. It’s easy relax and focus on making the cookie dough. It’s a very different environment than I had ever been in before I launched The Cookie Jar DC.

Jackie: You work full time and have your own business on the side, when do you sleep? 

Lindsay: It’s been a whirlwind so far, and I honestly haven’t had much time to sleep. I try to compartmentalize everything so that I’m focused on my job during the day and edible cookie dough at night. As I build up efficiencies with The Cookie Jar DC, I’ll hopefully have more time to relax. Regardless of how busy it keeps me, it’s a ton of fun and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Food?

Lindsay: Charoset!

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Lindsay: They eat edible cookie dough!


Purim Guide 2016 // 5776

snowflakePurim is many people’s favorite holiday, but Purim is very near and dear to our hearts here at Gather. Some of you might wonder where we get the name Gather the Jews… well it is actually from the Purim Story.

In the book of Esther, she tells Mordechai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan, and fast for me.” And so we do! We work to bring together the members of our community, connect them to each other and find their fit.

In that vein, Purim begins Wednesday, March 23rd at sun down. Do you know where you’ll be celebrating? There are many opportunities in the coming weeks to celebrate with the DC Jewish Community.

Did we miss anything? Submit events here and/or leave a comment on this post.

Thursday, March 10th

 Friday, March 11th

Thursday, March 17th

Saturday, March 19th

Sunday, March 20th

Monday, March 21st

Tuesday, March 22nd

Wednesday, March 23rd

Thursday, March 24th

Friday, March 25th

Saturday, March 26th


Hasn’t a Jew Eyes?: Howard Jacobson Reads at the Folger

Shylock-Is-My-Name-jacket-imageHoward Jacobson, author and humorist, is often called the English Philip Roth. His response: No, he’s the Jewish Jane Austen. He explained to the New York Times, “I’m an English writer who happens to know about Jews and would like to write like Jane Austen, with a little bit of Yiddish.” He is best known for his novel The Finkler Question, a satire about anti-Semitism, which won him a Man Booker Prize in 2010.

So when Hogarth Shakespeare Press needed a biting humorist to take on one of Shakespeare’s most challenging plays and turn it into a contemporary novel, they called his agent.

Jacobson said, “They want Merchant of Venice, don’t they?”

Hasn’t a Jew Eyes?

Jacobson was reluctant at first. When he read Merchant of Venice at school, Shylock (the Jewish moneylender in the play) became something of a running joke among his classmates. “Whenever we felt that someone was saying something against the Jews, we would fall into caricature mode, hunch our shoulders, wring our hands, and go, “Hasn’t a Jew eyes?”

It was only after reading Merchant of Venice again as an adult that Jacobson saw past the caricature to the troubled man who’s lost his wife and been betrayed by his only child. And Simon Strulovitch, the protagonist of Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name, certainly is troubled: his daughter Beatrice has run off with a footballer famous for giving Nazi salutes on the field.

Shylock is My Name takes on Shylock, one of Shakespeare’s most infuriating, misunderstood characters, and pulls him into the present, and brings him to life in a way only Howard Jacobson can.

Howard Jacobson will be reading from Shylock is My Name on Monday, March 14, at Folger Shakespeare Library, and discussing it with Aaron Posner, whose play District Merchants premieres at the Folger on May 31st, 2016. This event is co-sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Wonder of Will, the Hogarth Shakespeare Series, and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Tickets are $15 at more information here.

Cover photo Jenny de Yong.



New People, Mini Groups

Mini Gatherings

Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? Looking to explore questions that matter to Jewish 20s and 30s? Like drinking? Afraid of commitment?

Gather the Jews is excited to open applications for the newest cohort (#3!) of Mini–Gatherings, taking place this April.

What is Mini–Gatherings, you ask? It is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together about 15 diverse Jews to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions, and laughed at least twice. Guaranteed or your money back!

Cost: FREE

What: The three gatherings will be held from 6:30 – 8:00 pm on Tuesdays, April 5, 12 and 19 in Dupont. Each session will involve some schmoozing, drinking, and an open conversation facilitated by Rabbi Aaron about questions relevant to Jewish 20s and 30s. No background knowledge necessary – everyone is welcome.

In addition, Rabbi Aaron will host a Shabbat meal on Friday, April 15 (tax day!) at his apartment in Dupont.

Must commit to attending all three sessions and the dinner.

Who: Anyone who does not feel connected to a Jewish community in the DC area and is looking to meet other Jews in a smaller, more personal way.

Application: Here Applications due by Thursday, March 24 at 5 pm.

Want more information? Email Reb Aaron


Jewish Artist of the Week: Josef

This past week, Jackie had the opportunity to interview artist and activist, Josef. Josef  specializes in intermedia work that challenges social constructs and redefines Tikkun Olam. Read on to find out where in DC you can spot Josef’s work, and learn about his upcoming projects.

Jackie: You work locally as an artist and arts organizer here in DC, what kind of art do you create?88041628-30e3-4940-a7d9-4286ffe0c8f8

Josef: I create immersive art experiences for my audiences – that is, intermedia work that expresses the themes and concepts I’m addressing across various artistic forms all at once, such as audio/video, live performance, installation/sculpture, as well as more traditional forms of visual art folks are used to seeing.  I want people to engage with my projects on a fully interactive level, allowing their own experiences and biases to inform their subjective takeaways from the work I’ve created, oftentimes in collaboration with other artists, and exhibited in what I always aim to be really creative, contrarian ways that shift paradigms  and expectations of what art can be and do.

Jackie: Where can we see some of your art?

Josef: The majority of my projects these days are rooted in the ephemeral and experiential, so unfortunately, that means you have to catch my art live and in person!  However, in 2010, I was contacted by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities to contribute to a neighborhood public art initiative, and a piece I designed titled Clean Slate was purchased by the District of Columbia and put on permanent installation inside the fountain plaza on 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights.  Clean Slate is meant to represent a chalkboard – as a “clean slate”, if you will, which is exactly how I perceive the rebirth and revitalization of Columbia Heights following the riots that shook the area in the 1960s.  The messaging of Clean Slate encourages residents to leave their mark on the mosaic’s black tiles using sidewalk chalk, while simultaneously reminding viewers to also leave their mark by helping to create a sense of community in the neighborhood.  It’s always fun to walk by the piece when I’m in Columbia Heights to see things like yard sale announcements, poems, and doodles from kids written on it.

Jackie: What first inspired you to get involved in activism?c546183d-4ad9-4a6b-a0f4-b2f5bd7bf862

Josef: Without a doubt, my Judaism inspired me to get involved in activism. In college, I was really engaged in activism on the crisis in the Darfur region of what is now the Republic of South Sudan, where a genocide was taking place for many years.  As Jews, we are told to heed the call of “never again” when it comes to crimes against humanity, so I coordinated tzedek campaigns with my campus Hillel group to help raise awareness and inspire action on these issues. I think pursuit of tikkun olam is an imperative for the Jewish community and the world in which we live.  It’s definitely something that inspires my work as an artist, too. I want my work to transcend societal constructs and bring the humanity back to the humanities.

Jackie: How did you first get involved with a Wider Bridge?

Josef: They commissioned me for my first internationally-focused community arts project last summer to creatively interpret the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Israel and Palestine for audiences back home.  As an artist, I was curious to find cultural connections to our queer communities here in the United States with those I encountered in the Middle East, and I wanted to create some kind of project for A Wider Bridge to highlight the things that relate to all of us who exist beyond the global heteronormative hegemony.  Upon my return to DC, I presented the distillation of my experiences abroad as a one-night-only salon-style “happening” titled TAKE OFF THE MASC, curated around my own interests in the concept of a global LGBTQ community and the masculinity paradox gay men struggle with in our collective culture worldwide.

Jackie: You are now involved with planning the Beyond the Bridge cocktail reception, what is this event about and who should think about attending?

Josef: Yes!  I’m on the host committee for the Beyond the Bridge reception, and our event takes place on Saturday, March 19, from 8:30 to 10:30pm at Acadiana in Mount Vernon Square.  This will be an informal kick-off to AIPAC’s annual conference, opening the following day, and we’ve assembled a great group of speakers to talk about the latest in LGBTQ advocacy in Israel and around the world.  We’ll also have an open bar, selections from Acadiana’s amazing Cajun-Creole menu, and live entertainment that I’m keeping under wraps for now.  Come see what it will be!

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Josef: My favorite Jew is my great friend Daniel.  Neither of us are all that religious per se, but he inspires me to stay connected to the culture and find meaningful intersections with my life and Judaism.  I like to say he’s my spiritual big brother!


Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Josef: Mofletta!  It’s kind of crepe generally topped with honey, butter, or in my case, Nutella, it’s typically the first leavened food Moroccan Jews eat after Passover.  It’s also a lot of fun to make.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Josef: You’ll feel an instant sense of community.  There’s a shared fundamental connection that unites us all, and I think it’s truly remarkable.


30 in the City- March Event Guide

30 in the City (1)

We’ve hit another month in the district and that means a calendar packed full with Jewish Events. Not sure what to choose from? Never fear Hillah went through the calendar and pick some great events for those of us who are 30 in the City! (Think there are some great events people should know about this month? List them in the comments!)

brave miss world“Brave Miss World” Screening

When: Tuesday, March 8, at 6:00 PM

Where: TBD

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Join JWI and the Israeli Embassy for International Women’s Day for a celebration of brave Jewish women with a screening of the acclaimed documentary Brave Miss World.

What makes this event cool?

Not only is this an award-winning movie, it will also be a great opportunity to speak to representatives of both the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Women International about their outreach when it comes to humanitarian rights for Jewish women internationally.

(Extra perk: Lt. Colonel Nataly Tavor, Defense Attaché for the Embassy of Israel, will be guest speaking!)

Who should go?

Women’s rights are a key passion of yours and you enjoy celebrating and discussing related topics with other women.

Cost: Free

Register: Here


civil-discourse-weeble-620x300Civic & Interfaith Partnership Celebration

When: Wednesday, March 9, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Where: Adas Israel Congregation (2850 Quebec Street NW, Washington, 20008)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

A celebration of civic and interfaith partnership! Restoring civility to the public discourse is a panel discussion featuring Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, Greater Washington Urban League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and AJC Washington.

What makes this event cool?

With the current political climate, some nasty things are being said about what has historically made America great. The US is a melting pot and this is a great event on how to restore civic and interfaith partnerships, how groups can learn from each other through collaboration, and about working together to create a more diverse and open community.

Who should go?

You like speaker series, are engage with your community, and looking for new ideas on how to get involved or give back.

Cost: Free




Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.09.24 AMADL NextGen Launch Reception

When: Thursday, March 17, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Where: Center for American Progress (1333 H Street NW, 6th Floor, Washington, DC 20005)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

ADL NextGen is the young professional branch of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington, DC Region. ADL NextGen seeks to unite the next generation of leaders committed to the mission of ADL – to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Come hear stories from ADL partners about the impact their leadership with ADL is having on the community, experience interactive information stations, test yourself at trivia, network with other local young professionals, and more!

What makes this event cool?

This is an opportunity to learn about the ADL and how young professionals can be involved. Always wanted to take your lawyer skills to the next level? Enjoy advocating for human rights? This an opportunity to relax after work, ask questions, and mix and mingle in a relax atmosphere.

Who should go?

All you do-gooders out there in the world. People who enjoy in-depth conversation while swirling their wine glasses.

Cost: Free

Register: Here


refugeeSeeking Refuge: Young Voices, Stories of Resilience

When: Monday, March 28, 7:00 PM

Where: Sixth & I Historical Synagogue (600 I Street NW, Washington, DC)

What the organizers have to say about the event: 

Join JDC Entwine for an evening of inspiring story-telling. Hear first-hand from young adults who’ve sought refuge in the face of global conflict in the Middle East & Soviet Union.

PLUS: Learn how Jewish humanitarian aid organizations like JDC & HIAS have worked to help refugees and displaced persons throughout history and today.

What makes this event cool?

Understanding how migration has changed in today’s world with today’s conflicts is a necessity of life. Further, as we learn more about the refugees in Europe, let us not forget that these people are leaving other countries behind.

Who should go?

Your coworker is boring you to death with her watercooler stories. You enjoy narration and storytelling and it just so happens that migration, immigration, and resettlement are close to your heart.

 Cost: $10 for one/$18 for two

Register: Here


Want more? Check Out:

Get your Purim on with the Jewish Food Experience Pre-Purim Palooza, Sixth and I Historical Synagogue’s Purim 2016: Make Shushan Great Again, and brought to you by more organizations than I can list The DC Purim Bash.


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