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New Year’s Resolution for 2016 – Reining In My Unicorn

30 in the City (1)

The other night, my boyfriend and I discussed if people our age back in the 90’s were happier than they are today. We agreed that they were. Why? They were not chasing their “unicorns” as we do today. This unicorn, as described in Wait but Why’s Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy,” is an image, goal, or expectation to which we aspire based on what we see set forth by others on social media outlets. The five-second glance we take at social media while sitting at our desk, just for a quick escape from work, can sometimes add an emotional roller-coaster to our day that we did not anticipate. “Awesome [picture, article, status update here] + [friend’s name here] posted!” or “Why did [frenemy’s name here] not [verb] to [event, group, status, etc]?”

I will not deny that much of what is about to come in this article is me agreeing with Wait but Why’s thesis. However, I promise to provide ways to make 2016 different than 2015 through small tweaks. First, we have to accept that as a generation we:

  • Have access to smart phones
  • Have a constant need (and outlet) to share every life event
  • Make sure that everybody knows “we were there”
  • Ensure that our five seconds of “I’M SO HAPPY and I got to share it with EVERYONE” moments, will cause everyone to ignore our subsequent 12 hours of “Why does no one text me? Why did I pick this career? Why can I not get a date? Am I doing life right?”

So what do we do with this unicorn that, with every false image we see of our friends, makes us believe that we are behind on our life paths? We rein it in. We look at what gives it its powers and we start to put boundaries in place so we can still have our lofty goals and actually enjoy them. By setting boundaries around social media, we can attempt limit allowing our unicorns to give us any more crazy ideas about how our lives should compare to others by setting boundaries around social media.

Social media can sometimes be the stimulator of all intense emotions we feel in one day. Sick of flying like a pendulum from one end to the other? Unless you choose to delete your social media accounts outright, try some of these easy methods of handling your unicorn:

  • Create a friends list. Did you know that most social media outlets allow you to create different friend lists and then target your postings? Choose the audience for your social media post and ensure that only who you want to see it can do so.
  • Don’t unfriend, just unfollow. Every time you look at social media, do you see status updates from people who irritate you, the selfie parade (it is always the same suspects), etc? Just go to their profile and check the unfollow button and your newsfeed is [enter name here] free.

Take care of yourself:

  • Reflect. Think back to the New Year’s resolutions you made for yourself for the Jewish New Year. We just celebrated it three months ago; it is not too late to get back on track.
  • Look at where your friendships are. Do they make you happy? Are there ways to make them more meaningful? Check out Yes and Yes’s 15 Ways to Catch Up With Friends That Aren’t Grabbing Coffee or a Cocktail.
  • Listen to your body. Sometimes passing on an event or an evening with friends is just what you need to recharge.
  • Call it out! Don’t mansplain or womansplain. Keep the gossip to good gossip. Positively talking about people and events will make you feel happier at the end of the day.
  • Breath. Take a break from your computer, smartphone, car, and gadgets and take a stroll in the park.

Lastly, come up with a tangible goal that both you and your unicorn can agree on for 2016. It could be going back to school, looking for that new job, or maybe just learning a new hobby. Push your unicorn to be more like what it was pre-Facebook and not what social media has made it today.

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Monthly Mussar: The Pros and Cons of Staying Cool as a Cucumber

I scrubbed my dishes angrily.

This month, I focused on equanimity – staying even-tempered in the face of adversity. As Rabbi M. M. Leffin wrote in his book, Cheshbon ha’Nefesh, on Mussar, “As long as a man’s mind is settled, his intellectual spirit quietly stands guard, spreading its light upon his mind as if it were a torch atop the edifice of his body.” We can learn from this idea that when we let our feelings overtake us, it diminishes our ability to reach our full potential in the world. Going into this month, I wanted to cultivate more equanimity – to focus on maintaining my composure in difficult situations.

With this in mind, I found myself at the sink, scrubbing, taking out my feelings on plates and silverware. As I’d written last month, I had been juggling a lot. Still wanting to be a good daughter, I called my mother as I prepared to do dishes since this opportunity for multi-tasking was the only time I had. She told me she would call me a half hour later, which was just enough time for me to finish my dishes. An hour later she called, and I was angry. I’d been swamped all day, and I still had more to do. And I had waited for her to call when she said she would, but she was late. I was ready to just tell her I couldn’t talk – that I was too busy, and she’d missed the window when I was available. But I held my angry words for a minute and answered the phone. Before I could put my foot down, my mother told me about her awful day while holding back tears – a near car accident, a bad doctor’s appointment, and a bad talk with my father, who was out of town. I let her tell me about it all, and I did my best to offer comfort.

Part 1

While I did miss out on taking care of the things I was planning to, had I blown off my mother, I would have missed a rare opportunity for connection. And I realized then how dangerous it can be to our relationships when we let our ego or our anger overwhelm the feelings we have for each other.

But the answer isn’t so easy: there are two lessons of caution from this story as well.

First, in being supportive of my mother, I never expressed that I was angry at her that night, and I didn’t feel heard from the myriad of times over the preceding weeks when I’d expressed just how stressed and overwhelmed I was feeling. A better option would have been to be able to tell her how I felt in a calm way. Since I didn’t, I’m left with the danger that after suppressing those feelings this time, the next time I am swamped, the same thing might happen again, and my feelings might come out in a fury. Because while it might seem obvious to me that there is a problem, if I don’t make it clear to her, she will continue as if nothing is wrong.

But the other lesson from this story is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s a lot harder to keep your cool when you’re not able to or have chosen not to adequately care for yourself. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do: you have too many commitments and you just need to soldier on through them. But other times we make the choice to take on too much – to push ourselves too hard and to not care for ourselves the way we should – and if we don’t have enough for ourselves we certainly don’t have enough to maintain our relationships with others. So in the short term, the equanimity challenge is to stay calm in a tense moment, but in the longer term, the challenge is to have less tense moments in your life.

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Were you ever in a difficult where you showed equanimity? Or wished you showed equanimity? Share below in the comments.

This next month, I am focusing on honor. I plan to think about how we show honor to others, and how our egos might get in the way of that. But I also plan to think about how we show honor to ourselves.

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You’ve Disturbed My Pretty Universe

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I love when worlds, or in this case universes, collide. Steve Harvey’s Miss Universe mix-up this week strangely parallels another timely mix-up – from this week’s Torah reading. As the book of Genesis comes to a close, Joseph brings his two sons to their grandfather Jacob (renamed Israel) to be blessed. Joseph’s assumption, the assumption throughout the book of Genesis, is that the firstborn deserves the “greater” blessing by nature of his being born first. And so Joseph brings his oldest son Manasseh to Jacob’s right side, the “greater” side, and his younger son Ephraim to Jacob’s left. Yet what unfolds is surprising to both Joseph and the reader:

But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn. (Genesis 48:13)

Instead of blessing the oldest with his right hand, signifying the greater blessing, Jacob instead crosses his arms so that his right hand is upon the youngest. What is Jacob trying to teach Joseph, and us, through this choice?

I believe it is a very subversive message. A major theme of Genesis is that of chosenness and rejection, a theme that begins with Cain killing Abel because Cain’s offering was not accepted. In Steinbeck’s East of Eden, one character concludes from this story: “I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt – and there is the story of mankind. I think that if rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is” (p. 329).

To choose is also to reject. Even when it’s not as explicit as taking off someone’s crown to put it on someone else, it’s often experienced that way. As Jerry Seinfeld says about being second-place: “Congratulations, you almost won. Of all the losers, you came in first of that group. You’re the number one loser.” Being rejected is painful, especially when you expected to be chosen.

So how can we mitigate this pain? One way is to try to “amputate” rejection by getting rid of the very act of choosing. I’m not sure how realistic this option is, and I think a world without any choosing is also a world without ambition, accomplishment and recognition.

Jacob offers an alternative approach. Instead of refusing to choose, he challenges the connection between chosenness and greatness. By switching his hands, he transforms this selection process into a confusing and seemingly arbitrary one. Who is being chosen – the one on Jacob’s right side, or the one under Jacob’s right hand? And having just met both Manasseh and Ephraim, what criteria is Jacob using for his choice? This lack of clarity brings to focus the subjective nature of many choices.

As it says later on in the Torah, “God did not set love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people – for you were the fewest of all peoples” (Deuteronomy 7:7). Choice is less about the chosen than the chooser. Appreciating this undermines the inaccurate and often unfair conclusions made about people who are and are not chosen.

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Where will the Jews be on Christmas this year?

images-6One of the more noteworthy Christmas Carols begins, “Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

Well after we just finished a few 60- 70 degree December days I’m pretty much going to make the educated guess that us Jewish-Washingtonians will not be experiencing a white Christmas as we head to Gallery Place for the traditional Chinese food and movie experience. My magical iPhone weather app is telling me that Thursday, December 24, has a high of 73 and Friday, December 25, has a high of 63.

And for those of you in our Jewish community who will not be celebrating Christmas, or having a snow day in our pajamas binge watching Netflix episodes of the new Aziz Ansari show, we do have some other options…

On Christmas Eve our community has two large social events. The Matzo Ball returns to DC and moved from Eden to Midtown this year. They are advertising the event to 21-39 year olds and tickets are going for $30 + $1.74 processing fee. Doors open at 9 PM and close at 2 AM. There is no Facebook event online so GTJ can’t say how many people will be heading there this year.Falafel Frenzy Invite_GTJ Newsletter_2015

Across town the Falafel Frenzy returns to The Howard Theatre, and like the Matzo Ball, the doors open at 9PM. Unlike the Matzo Ball though, 100% of the money raised at the Falafel Frenzy will be going to charity – in fighting hunger in DC. Since being founded as a grassroots initiative five years ago by many of DC’s young Jewish professionals the event has generated $80,000 towards feeding the hungry in our community. Tickets are $36 in advance or $40 at the door. Drink specials will be available until midnight.

The folks at Duke’s Grocery have also put together a pre-party at 6:30 for the Falafel Frenzy with a special food and drink menu that includes Falafel with the works. For every special food and drink order made, images-4Duke’s will make a donation to advance the fundraising goals for the Falafel Frenzy.

On Christmas Day the DCJCC continues their tradition to provide service opportunities to our community. Projects range from 2-4 hours in length and include serving meals, preparing food for the homeless, visiting seniors, painting, and throwing Christmas parties. Several of the projects are family-friendly. RSVP to volunteer by December 23.

Our friends at Sixth & I will also be hosting a downtown Shabbat on Christmas night. Rather than the Christmas caroling, you can participate in a Carlebach-inspired service led by Chazzan Larry Paul and musician Robyn Helzner followed by dinner and Shabbat singing. Doors and a cocktail hour will begin at 6, images-5services will start at 6:45, and dinner will be served at 8.

And for anyone who hasn’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens – how about we do an unofficial GTJ meet-up and head to the 6:40 show in 3D at the Regal at Gallery Place? Buy your own tickets, head to get Chinese food before/after, and meet me there

 

 

 

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Eva is the Jewish Do-Gooder of the Week!

EvaDavisJackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC? 

Eva: I’m a real estate agent so touring awesome homes in DC!!

Jackie: You certainly have the travel bug, where is your favorite place you have visited?

Eva: Israel by far and then next is a tie between the Galapagos Islands and Tanzania!

Jackie: Your one of the founders of the Falafel frenzy, how did this whole thing start?

Eva: We wanted to create an alternative party on Xmas Eve where we could have fun with friends of friends and raise money for causes we all cared about. We’ve raised over $80,000 in last 5 years and given to charities supporting breast cancer research, poverty and hunger in DC and the Jewish community food programs.

Falafel Frenzy Invite_GTJ Newsletter_2015Jackie: What can we look forward to at the event this year?  

Eva: Lots of people partying for q good cause!! We’ll have fun music with our DJ all night!

Who is your favorite Jew?

Eva: Personally my grandmother who embodies so many of the tenants of Judaism and has dedicated her life to Tikun Olam, Israel and her family!

Eva: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Eva: My mom’s brisket and my grandma’s kugel!

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

exciting things happen!!

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Abigail is the Jewish Coordinator of the Week!

1743751_10206542289858983_7950879028272322121_nJackie: What brought you to DC?
Like many other recent college graduates, I moved to DC in the hopes of finding a job. Prior to moving out to DC, I spent several summers interning here, and felt that the best hope of employment was located in the nation’s capital.

Jackie: Can you tell us about your work with Republican Jewish Coalition?
I am the Grassroots Coordinator in our National office. Most of my time is spent accelerating the growth of our national membership around the country as well as programming for outreach events. Another aspect of my job is connecting college students and young professionals with our organization. As a perk, I get to meet several leading politicians and influential Jews.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to hang out in the city?
If it’s not Sunday during football season and I’m not watching my Green Bay Packers, then I love going to this little speakeasy called Harold Black in eastern market. Great ambiance, great conversation, and great whiskey!

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Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?
Hands down, Andy Samberg. He is hilarious and adorable! If you have not seen his new show Brooklyn 99 you are seriously missing out!

Jackie: How do you like to spend Shabbat?
I spend my Shabbat’s differently every week. Sometimes it is spent in services, sometimes it is spent at a Shabbat dinner with friends and family. However, a lot of the time, it is spent with me attempting to be an adult and cook for myself, failing, and just enjoy a bottle of manischewitz.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Oh what a time will be had!

Want to learn more about the RJC or to get involved? Email Abigail!

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Erika E… Signing Off

1207Over the last four and a half years of writing for Gather the Jews, a job which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, I’ve addressed a lot of topics—some serious, some silly, and some in between. In the 100+ articles from “Erika E.” we’ve talked about when it’s time to take your profile down, what to wear on a first date, who should pay on a first date (a lively discussion ensued!), and how soon to reach out to someone after a date. We’ve also talked about dating during the high holidays, online dating fatigue, and which profile pictures to use… and which not to use. (For a list of all of the articles, have at it!)

Throughout the course of my time writing for GTJ, I’ve also gone through a number of milestones in both my professional and personal life. Professionally, I am proud to say that my business, A Little Nudge, has taken off since Day 1. I have gone from working from a fold-up table in my apartment to renting office space in Chinatown and from a payroll of one (me!) to having two employees who help behind the scenes, one in DC and one in NYC. I have now written almost 600 profiles for clients—amazingly, no two of which are the same—and can feel proud about numerous client weddings, engagements, and the pure confidence some people needed to know that online dating can work for them. I feel very lucky to do something that I love.

In my personal life, since I’ve started the business, a lot has changed. While I’ve never addressed it head-on in my articles, when I started my business, I was in a serious, long-term relationship. When it ended, it was very jarring. The thought of both running a dating business and going on dates myself had never crossed my mind. (You can only imagine what kind of a conversation starter that is on dates!) But, having had the experience of heartbreak, a sudden change in the direction of my life, and the need to pick up the pieces not only made me a better person but also made me so much better at my job. I have an empathy for my clients that I never could have had before. I also have my finger on the pulse of the dating scene first-hand since I’m in it (it’s always funny when I tell people I have to download all the dating apps and DVR Millionaire Matchmaker for “work purposes”). While I never wish a difficult breakup on anyone, I can only hope that everyone comes out better on the other side. Oh yeah, and I got the cutest dog in the whole world, Scruffy.

If I were to sum up all of the dating advice I could ever give, then here’s what I would say, in no particular order:

  • Be yourself. Don’t let anyone compromise the essence of who you are.
  • Along those lines, let your quirks shine.
  • Ask questions. No one likes someone who talks too much, especially on a first date.
  • Be gracious. Even if you don’t like someone, what goes around comes around.
  • No “ghosting.” Honesty (within reason) is the best policy. Better to be tactful and honest than cowardly.
  • Stop asking people, “Why are you single?” It implies something is wrong with them. Single by choice is a valid choice.
  • Don’t be generic in your profile. People would rather read that you like to eat chicken pad Thai and drink single-malt Scotch than you like to “stay in with dinner and a movie.”
  • All dating sites are as effective as you make them. Put in the work, and you’ll be more successful.
  • Limit your dating deal-breakers. Try to decide if it’s really that important.
  • Confidence is sexy.
  • Every bad date is a good story.
  • Don’t talk about sex or your ex in your dating profile.
  • Keep a positive outlook and attitude. People can smell negativity… and it stinks.
  • Send unique messages to people, not a copy/paste job of “I liked your profile.”
  • Everyone loves to blame their own city for lack of dating success. It’s time to look inward… or move.

As sad as this is to say, my time writing for GTJ is coming to a close with this article.  I have LOVED writing over the years (especially when people comment on my articles at the happy hours!), but now that the business has grown quite a bit, I need to move in other directions. To continue to follow the business, please feel free to join my mailing list. And please share in the comments section which articles you particularly enjoyed over the years.

I’m sure I’ll see you around town, but for now, happy holidays, and best of luck!

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The Power of Young Women

If you look on their website, Jewish Women International defines their Young Women’s Leadership Network (Sponsored by The Sondra D. Bender Community Leadership Institute) as a group that bring together Jewish professional women in their 20s and 30s to grow as leaders in their workplaces, their communities and their personal lives.  The group is meant to build community for Jewish women at a time when it is often hard to find your place in society. The years immediately following college and beyond are by no means easy. There is pressure from all around to be successful, find a partner, get promoted, workout, learn how to cook, have kids, you get the idea. This is where the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) comes in.

I’m fairly new to DC, having only been here six months, so I was thrilled to come across a group to which I immediately felt connected. JWI does great work across the US working on domestic violence prevention, building healthy relationships, and teaching women the skills they need to be financially literate. Joining YWLN allowed me, a young professional living in DC, to be a part of their great work as well as grow myself as a leader.

This was my first time attending their third annual Young Women’s Leadership conference. Being familiar with JWI’s great work, I knew I could expect a good conference. What I didn’t know though was just how incredible and truly inspirational of an experience it would be. Rachel Horowitz, Talent Associate at Hillel International says, “I loved hearing all of the speakers. It was a really inspiring to hear from successful women and how they overcame various challenges in their lives.” The conference filled the room with inspirational and talented women both behind podiums and in the audience.

IMG_5936It was a truly refreshing experience to see that everyone in attendance was there with the genuine hopes of learning, growing, and building community. I am of the belief that if I learn one thing that I can apply to my life then the conference was a good use of my time. This conference however left me with so much more. Some of my favorite pieces of wisdom include:

“Women do not get what they deserve, they get what they negotiate”

“You don’t have to have all your ducks lined up to take one step forward.”

In the past six months the Young Women’s Leadership Network has truly become a part of my growing community and I am thankful for all they have done for me. For any woman that is new to the DC area or just looking to get involved I would highly recommend checking out the network!

Get involved with YWLN in D.C. or New York by liking the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/youngwomensleadershipnetwork) and attending an upcoming event (http://jwi.org/ywln)! Email saltschuler@jwi.org with questions, comments and ideas.   

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Jewish Volunteer of the Week!

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Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Stephanie: I grew up in the DC area and have stayed in this area because of all it has to offer (including going to Virginia Tech for my undergraduate).  You can walk around in the city or escape to the countryside and there’s always something new and exciting going. I hope to one day explore somewhere else but for now I’m happy.  

Jackie: I hear that you volunteer with ASPCA and other animal adoption organizations. How did you get involved with volunteering there?

Stephanie: I have always been big into volunteering and helping others in need. I started volunteering with A Forever Home Animal Rescue when I was in high school.  When I got back from college- something felt missing.  So I started helping with A Forever Home which helps find forever homes for puppies and dogs that will be killed in high-kill shelters all over most of northern Virginia and Maryland.  I also recently have gotten involved in Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department in Fairfax County and ride as a volunteer EMT (emergency medical technician).  It’s a lot of hard work and training but it’s worth it to help someone who truly needs your help.  steph4

Jackie: What inspired you to pursue an MBA?

Stephanie: I graduated with my MBA in May 2015. I graduated Virginia Tech with an animal science degree and a minor in business.  I found that in order to grow in my career – I was going to need more of a business background. That is when I decided to go for my MBA.  I found it helped shape me for the future as it enhanced my critical thinking skills.  

Jackie: So you recently graduated from grad school, volunteer regularly, work full-time, and on top of it all are an advisor to Masada BBG. How do you balance it all?  

Stephanie: When I’m asked about my weakness… I always say that my weakness is taking on too much.  I am often stretched to my limits and pulled in different ways from work to my friends to volunteering to school.  However – it is worth it in the end. I can truly say that I have accomplished things in my life and say that I’m working towards a better me.  I feel that you never stop learning or growing and you have to value the little things in life because otherwise – what is your life worth? 

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Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Stephanie: I don’t get a chance to truly celebrate shabbat often, but when I do, I love to have a big group of people celebrating over a “family” dinner or sitting around a bonfire singing and having a good time together.  I think the importance of shabbat is to celebrate others in your life.  

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather, there will be… 

Stephanie: …food, wine and good friends.  

 

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Behind the Scene interview with My So Called Jewish Life Performer

rmiron 2014 3Jackie: You have been a radio and television journalist for 15 years now. How did you get involved with journalism and broadcasting?

In fact I was a radio and TV journalist for 17 years but went on from there to work for the UN in diplomacy and now for the World Bank on communications related issues. But I got into it by chance. After studying history at University in the UK I was lost for ideas and given my wanderlust and curiosity for world affairs ended up travelling for a year in South East Asia, Australia and the Middle East. I then went on to journalism school and from there from a traineeship with the BBC – initially in children’s radio (I became expert at interviewing 7 year olds!) and then moved into new reporting with the BBC’s international service.

 

Jackie: As a journalist, you have been based all over the world. Where is your favorite place you lived?

Without a shadow of a doubt it would have to be Tel Aviv. It is Miami on the Mediterranean but with better food, nightlife, and in one of the most exciting regions on earth (no offence intended to Florida). I was initially based there from the mid-90’s when the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians was moving ahead. It was a time of hope – even with the outbreaks of violence, and there was a real excitement to living in the such a vibrant and dynamic city. Tel Aviv was also my base for reporting in the wider Middle East, and it was interesting to contrast it with other places in the region. Interestingly Beirut was in many ways the city most like Tel Aviv in the Middle East.

untitledJackie: So you’ve worked in the Middle East, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans. What brought you to DC?

Prior to moving to DC I had a job as a diplomat with the UN in Jerusalem – as the spokesman to the Secretary-General’s Envoy on the Middle East Peace Process. It was a job I was offered in 2007 at a time when I was with the BBC and I thought it would be interesting to return to the Middle East in a different capacity. I spent five years again in Israel, with my family and again loved living there. But it was never my intention to stay, and I was interested both in the issue of international development and in living in the US. Growing up the UK, America seemed larger than life, glamorous and exciting. I also thought that in terms of Jewish life it would be interesting for my family (I have two young daughters), as it is much larger and more diverse than the Jewish community in London, as well as very different from the completely immersive experience in Israel.

runningJackie: You’re are going to be a part of  “My So-Called Jewish Life,” at Sixth and I,  how did you get involved with Story District?

I love story-telling or at least listening to stories being told. I think there is something in my blood both professionally and culturally  that draws me to stories. I come from a very vocal family where loud Friday night Shabbat dinners  included discussions and holding the floor with stories. Added to this, I have also become an avid listener to podcasts – in particular ‘The Moth’ and was keen to find out about similar live offerings in DC. I stumbled across Story District on line and on an impulse submitted a story which they amazingly accepted.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Difficult question….On balance I think it is Yitzhak Rabin. He was there at some of the formative moments in the creation and development of the State of Israel. Without his prowess as a commando leader in 1948 and head of the Israeli Army in 1967, Israel could have suffered terribly.  He was a soldier who ultimately pursued peace, and a man who ultimately gave his life for that cause. His assassination marked a terrible moment for Israel, and the consequences of his murder remain unresolved and continue to be felt to this day.

Jackie: What is your favorite Chanukah tradition?

It would have to be spinning the dreidel for chocolate coins. It effortlessly combines two of my loves: eating and games of chance.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…

Lots of disagreement, eating, noise and balagan (chaos) – but it’ll be fun.

 

See Richard perform this Sunday December 13th at 6:30, My So Called Jewish Life at Sixth & I Synagogue.

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Yes I’m Jewish, despite the last name.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been performing and traveling with some “undercover Jews” on a tour entitled, “You’re Funny, But You Don’t Look Jewish.” Our show features African American, Indian, Italian American and Vietnamese Jewish comedians. I’m the token Italian American Jew in the show.

Capozzola onstage picI’ve personally done a lot of shows at synagogues, for Hillels, and appearances at Jewish events. But a small portion of my set always needed to be wasted on explaining exactly why a guy named Mike Capozzola is booked in a show with comics named Goldman, Cohen and Markowitz.  The line up usually sounded like a law firm, plus a typo.

Sometimes the rabbi, the cantor or a congregant hosting the show would try to make a joke of it while introducing me. It was never useful, even if they meant well.  “He has an Italian name, but he assures us he’s Jewish. Maybe he’ll tell you all about it… please welcome, I hope I’m saying this right…  Mike Kap- Cap… Capo?  Capozzelli…?”

Even landing Jewish gigs, getting my info to a Rabbi or Hillel director needed a pre-emptive explanation. It meant cutting and pasting this line from other outreach e-mails: “I’m actually Jewish, despite the last name.” [In the interest of full disclosure – I’ve cut and pasted those seven words from an old e-mail for the sake of authenticity.]

At some point, I realized that it would be easier to just create a show with a title that not only celebrates a degree of diversity, but also takes away the wide eyed stares of incomprehension that have greeted me as I take the stage. Sometimes I hear (or imagine) gasps and chatter, “What’s he doing here?” How did this happen?” “Mah-Zeh?!  “Do something, Lenny..!”

Was it so unthinkable and uncommon that there were Italian Jews walking among us?  Surely there were others out there…

I’d known a few other “undercover Jews” in my life. At Hebrew School, attendance being taken put my friend David and I back-to-back: “Bloom, Capozzola, Carnicelli, Cohen, Erenberg…”  For the most part though, aside from me, my brother Steven, and David Carnicelli, Italian Jews seemed almost mythical.

Then, at Ithaca College, I encountered a stunningly beautiful Italian-Jewish girl several years ahead of me whom I met at High Holiday services my Freshman year.  (I can’t recall her name but I like to picture it as the best of both worlds, “Contessa Francesca Abromowitz.”)  She called me a “Kosher Meatball.” She may have even patted my head. It was the first time that I’d heard this term and the mere fact that it had a name at all – was very cool.  It sort of legitimized the brand.

There’s also another term, “Pizza Bagel.” I’d heard that first from my friend, Lauren, who like me, and The Contessa has a Jewish mom and an Italian dad.  I’ve tried a few times to get the term “Kugelroni” in play, but no one seems interested.

Being a Jew with a distinctly non-Jewish name has meant, regrettably, that I’ve been a fly-on-the-wall when people decide to share some anti-Semitic thoughts and leanings.   I was halfway through a haircut when the barber explained away someone’s greed with this line, “Well, he’s a Jew you know…” I got up and said, “We’re done here” and I left. It was shortsighted of me to leave as this barber is now doubly assured that Jews will do anything to save a buck, like leaving midway through a haircut.

My dad was a passionate crusader for positive images of Italian Americans in media.  He deplored the gangster, buffoon, henchman and slob stereotypes. Until 9/11 changed the face to Muslims, it was the Bad Italian that permeated network television like the smell of garlic. Any crime, superhero or legal drama in need of a bad guy could just point to the Italian. It was always a variation on this revelation of corruption: “If these documents say what I think… then this leads all the way to Senator Esposito’s office!”

Understandably, the sitcom “Happy Days” was off limits growing up.  The Fonz was not as welcome in our house as he was in the Cunningham’s. But it was endlessly amusing to me that Fonzie was a played by Jewish actor, Henry Winkler.   In addition to being a comedian, I’ve been a cartoonist all my life and I snail-mailed a FONZ spoof of mine to Mr. Winkler not long ago.  He called to thank me for the art and the note, but I was on line at the DMV and somehow missed the call and it rolled into voicemail.  Still, very cool to hear “Mike, it’s Henry Winkler…” when I played my messages.  He even included a very authentic L’Shana Tovah.

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My story: my background is just 25% of the group with whom I travel and perform in this Jewish comedy night.  The other comics all have very varied and separate backgrounds.  Samson Koletkar, whom I’ve known for years, may very well be the world’s ONLY Indian-Jewish comedian.  He usually headlines our shows and he’s found a nice niche getting booked at Indian festivals and comedy nights where they can only afford a fraction of what Aziz Ansari gets paid.

Joe Nguyen comes from Atlanta. He’s a great writer with a sly delivery and gifted comic mind.   Joe has a great stretch of material about his experiences on the Birthright Israel trip.  In 2010, we did a Hillel show together and the idea started percolating for this tour. But it wasn’t until I’d met acclaimed Bay Area storyteller Gina Gold that it all fell into place.

Gina hosts a monthly show in Berkeley, CA called “TMI: Too Much Information.”  At her show, I saw Gina tell a fantastic story about being Jewish and African American.  That was the night that I had the idea to assemble this pile of comedy crayons into a single, themed, and packaged box.

Since April of 2014, we’ve played sold out shows at JCC’s, synagogues and theatres in California, Seattle, New York and Canada.  It’s been a lot of fun, but also there are moments that transcend any intentions and hopes.

One night we received a compliment that I’ll never forget. An elderly woman told us that she had not heard the sound of her husband’s laughter in many years until the night of our show.  It was off-brand of me to get teary eyed, but I did anyway as she thanked us.

We’re headed your way very soon and we hope that you’ll give thought to attending.

Show Logo Art

“You’re Funny, But You Don’t Look Jewish.” 

Saturday, December 12th at 7:00pm

Temple Beth Ami  14330 Travilah Rd, Rockville, MD

 

Mike Capozzola is the producer of “You’re Funny, But You Don’t Look Jewish.” you can get more information about the show he produces on his website or facebook.

 

 

4

Where is my place?


PA281186Somewhere between hope-filled happy hours and sedate sisterhood events, between the exuberance of young professional shabbat and the chaos of family services, between hebrew high and the study of kabbalah (jewish mysticism)… you’ll find me.

I’m Lisa, a single, childless, 34 year old woman, desperate to find my Jewish makom — my place.

“Lisa, why do you need a place? You don’t have kids. You aren’t getting married. You have so many options around DC!”

I’m so glad you asked. My answer is simple: “Because.”

Because I grew up in a place.

Because I had people in that place: my peers that I grew up with emotionally, spiritually, and physically (though at 5’9”, I passed them early on); my clergy who watched me learn about, struggle with, and find peace in my religion… then pick up the struggle again; my family I could count on seeing every year for the holidays.

Because I felt safe in that place, with open doors, spiritual hideaways, and holy communal spaces.

While I know we Jews like to own the “wandering” of our Jewishness, I want a place. A place to call my spiritual home. A place with a welcome mat put out for me, the single, childless, 34 year old woman who won’t be needing a wedding, nursery school, bar/bat mitzvah, or (God forbid) funeral any time soon.

The past few years have been filled with searching for that place. It’s been an exhausting journey.

Along the way, I experimented with Jewish institutions, but felt marginalized — relegated to the Young Professionals corner, a veritable romper room for 20-somethings bonding over cocktails rather than content. I can’t blame the institutions, though. The 20-somethings show up en masse to those events. I, too, once desired the pinball-like interactions of happy hour, bouncing from one person to the next without care or direction.

But my 20’s are fading from my personal rearview mirror, and as I look around, my options are increasingly limited. My 30’s have made me turn more and more inward. I want to learn, grow, and better myself. I want to create deep, lasting connections with like-minded (or respectfully-challenging) contemporaries. And sure, I want to find a partner — one who will join me one day (God willing) in a place where we can study and deepen our connection with Judaism and with each other.

Recently, I heard whispers of a new beit midrash (study hall, per se) at Adas Israel, a synagogue in Cleveland Park, DC. It sounded interesting — compelling even — but the truth is I I was scared I didn’t I belong.

First, I wasn’t a member, so I literally didn’t belong. But second, I was younger than most of the congregants, single-er than most of the congregants, and certainly less knowledgeable or experienced at text study than most of the congregants, particularly those who would show up on a Tuesday night to learn.

So one month went by without showing up. And then another. Finally, I had to reckon with myself. What I wanted was a safe place to study with curious people like me, and here it was. The only thing standing in my way was my fear and self-criticism.

Here’s the thing: no one there would be disappointed in me. My fear was being embarrassed and disappointed in myself. That excuse wouldn’t cut it, so on a rainy December evening, I attended my first class…. Makom DC.

I was welcome in this place.

The room was filled with people of all ages. There were teenages, a few folks in their 20’s and 30’s, a number of baby boomers, and a smattering of people old enough to be my grandparents. While we differed greatly, in that moment our experience was shared.

We all read the same text, we learned from the same rabbis, we shared our thoughts without judgement, we laughed together. We learned from each other as much as we learned with each other. We were a community.

While I feel vulnerable sharing this, one of my most deep-seated fears is that I will not fulfill the blessing of passing Judaism to another generation. I may never partner or have kids. I don’t say it out of pity, it’s just a fact of life.

But l’dor vador (the continuity of Judaism from generation to generation) is such a beautiful and important part of our tradition. And sitting in that room, that beit midrash, that makom, I saw my place in l’dor vador. I saw young adults in all their angst and confusion studying beside me, a young professional in all my disappointment and confusion, learning with a woman as old as my mother in all her anxiety and confusion, right next to a grandmotherly woman who was filled with peace and still seeking.

I don’t know how many “young professionals” secretly desire this deeper cross-generational connection. There was no open bar. There were no ice breakers or raffles. But it was good. This… this was my happy hour. Two hours, in fact. And I could have stayed all night.

So this is my invitation: Go find your place.

Decide what you want out of your Jewish experience and seek it out. Show up with all your anxiety about being in a new place, all your concerns about being the youngest/oldest/newest person, all your fears of being conspicuous. Explore ALL that DC has to offer. Find your place. Then, talk about it. Share your journey — the good, bad, and ugly. I know for a fact other people are seeking the same thing you are, whatever it is.

1

Josh – the Jewish Improviser of the Week

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Josh: I think like almost everyone else in this city, I moved to Washington DC for work. However that being said, DC was definitely one of the cities I was most interested in living in after college. I love how there is always something interesting to do around the city, and how open and willing people are to meet new people.

Jackie: What do you currently do?

Josh: I currently work at a consulting firm supporting the Department of Homeland Security. Definitely a little different from what I was studying in college, but I am really enjoying it!


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

Josh: Though is not exactly in DC, I love Great Falls. I think it is such a fun place to walk around and be outside.


Jackie: Can you tell us what first got you into improv and where is a great place to catch an Improv show!?

Josh: I have been involved in in Improv since I was in college when I randomly decided to try out for a group on campus. I have been hooked ever since! I currently perform all over DC with a group called Press Play. You can see us at any of the major Improv Theaters or at our monthly show at the District of Columbia Arts Center in Adams Morgan.

press play
Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

IMG_8878Josh: This one is a wild card, but my favorite Jewish food is stuffed cabbage. It must be because of my Hungarian roots.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Josh: My favorite Jew is a supreme court justice Louis Brandeis. Besides pioneering his famous brief, Brandeis was a champion of social justice and freedom of speech.

Finish the sentance: When the Jews Gather…

Get ready for good jokes and smart conversations.

 

 

 

0

30 in the City – December Events

30 in the City (1)At the beginning of each month, 30 in the City will highlight local “mix and mingle” events that offer opportunities to learn new skills, expand one’s knowledge, or just meet some new people!

Gather the Jews does not promote any events over the other. These events are highlighted at the contributors discretion. 

VERY FINAL_DC_GlobalNosh_12-8-15 (1)#GlobalNosh DC

When: Tuesday, December 8 at 7:00 PM

Where: Hillyer Art Studio (9 Hillyer Ct NW 20008)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

The event will feature in-depth conversations about Jewish life and humanitarian aid work in Cuba, Israel, the Balkans, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Argentina, Morocco, and more. Enjoy food and drinks at eight different “stations,” each one representing a different international community, many of which JDC works in.

What makes this event cool?

Each station represents a different community/country, and will include authentic food and drink, interesting facts, and photos, and information about JDC’s work in that area. Plus, you can meet with leaders from DC’s Russian-speaking Jewish community, network with young adults from a variety of professions and backgrounds, and learn how you can travel around the world with JDC Entwine.

Who should go?

Anyone who enjoys global cuisine, good conversation, and learning how to give back to the community.

Cost: $15 online | $20 door

Register: here

 

SonsOfTheProphet_Poster_FINALShabbat Dinner and a Show: Sons of the Prophet

When: Friday, December 11, 6:30 PM Dinner | 8:00 PM Show

Where: DCJCC at Theater J (1529 16th Street NW, Washington, 20036)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Have some culture with your challah! Join EntryPointDC and other young professionals for Shabbat dinner and a show! We’ll have a delicious (kosher!) Shabbat dinner together, then see Theater J’s latest production, Sons of the Prophet. Stay after the show for a discussion with production and Theater J staff.

About the show:

After Joseph’s father dies in the wake of a freak accident (involving a plastic deer decoy), Joseph is pretty sure lightning won’t strike twice. But it does, as Joseph’s health, sanity and family are called into question. Add in fending off his off-kilter boss, and Joseph’s to-do list is looking pretty long. But he’ll get to everything – just as soon as he can get someone from his insurance company on the phone. A 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist dark comedy that laughs in the face of human suffering.

What makes this event cool?

If you and your friends are looking for a way to relax on a Friday evening and do something cultural, this is the way to go. Shabbat Dinner and a Show has been known to connect new friends and even cause the occasional attendees to find a special someone. Lastly, the price for the value can’t be beat!

Who should go?

Anyone who enjoys good conversation, the theater, and the feeling of community.

Cost: $40

Register: here

  

MSCJLCOVERMy So-Called Jewish Life: A Story District Production

When: Sunday, December 13, 7:30 PM

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

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Join us this year over Chanukah for our 7th annual night of funny, poignant, powerful, and peculiar autobiographical stories about all things Jewish, not-so-Jewish, and wanna-be Jewish. Story highlights include: a cat whisperer with a two-degree separation from everyone you know, a human rights storyteller with a travel bug, a scientist that likes dresses, and more!

What makes this event cool?

We are not alone in the world and it always helps to hear how other Jews perceive, receive, and make their way through the world. This event is known to sell out early, so get tickets while they last and be prepared to laugh as hard as you can. Be sure to have desert afterwards with friends to compare story notes.

Who should go?

Anyone who enjoys live storytelling, doesn’t take one’s self too seriously, and who wants to support our local community members as they take to the stage to thrill us.

Cost: $20 online | $25 door

Register:  here

 

UnorthodoxHosts3-smallTablet Magazine Presents: Unorthodox at the DCJCC

When: Tuesday, December 15, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

Where: Washington DCJCC (1529 16th Street NW, Washington, 20036)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Love This American Life or Reply All? Looking to fill the void that Serial with Sarah Koenig left in your life? Join the DCJCC for a live recording of Tablet Magazine’s newest podcast, Unorthodox.

Unorthodox is Tablet’s fresh, smart and fun take on the latest in Jewish news, culture, and politics. From Amy Schumer to Israel, the presidential debates to Drake, no topic is off-limits. Hosted by Mark Oppenheimer and featuring Tablet staffers Stephanie Butnick and Liel Leibovitz, Unorthodox offers a weekly dose of commentary with a side of Yiddishkeit, plus guests like A.J. Jacobs, Sloane Crosley, Dan Savage, Simon Doonan, and more.

What makes this event cool?

As Jews we have been known to take ourselves too seriously. It is time to kick back, discuss serious topics, and laugh at ourselves, all at the same time. Best part, it is downtown and gives you time to do happy hour with your friends (or finish up that report for your boss), and make it to the recording on time.

Who should go?

Anyone who loves NPR, podcasts, Serial, a great Jewish discussion, and always wanted to attend a recording to see the stars upfront and personal.

Cost: $15.50 General Admission | $13.50 Member/Student with ID and Seniors | $11.50 EntryPointDC

Register: here

  

HotTopicsHot Topics 2016: The Jewish Take on Gun Control

When: Wednesday, December 16, 7:30 PM

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

What the organizers have to say about the event:

With election season upon us, debates over social issues are likely to take center stage. Rabbi Shira leads a text study and guided discussion that will explore traditional and contemporary opinions on the Second Amendment and gun control.

What makes this event cool?

When it comes to gun control, at the end of the day, it is up to us as individuals to say what works, what does not, and to make our voices heard in the voting booth and through our elected representatives on Capitol Hill.

Who should go?

Anyone who is interested in a Jewish perspective on gun control.

Cost: $15

Register: here

Have a cool event coming up next month? Want us 30-year-old professionals to make an appearance? Send us ane-mail and you may just make the cut!

0

Hanukkah Guide 2015

Hanukah

The festival of lights is almost upon us and you know what that means…plenty of events to celebrate with the community! Gather has compiled a list of all the events going during Hanukkah. We hope to run into you at some of them! We will be updating the list as more events are sent to us so make sure to check back in.

Did we leave anything out? Submit your event here.

Friday December 4th

Saturday December 6th

Sunday December 6th

Monday December 7th

Tuesday December 8th

Wednesday December 9th

Thursday December 10th

Friday December 11th

Saturday December 12th

Sunday December 13th

Hanukkah Recipes:

FN_noodle-kugel-011_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscape

foodnetwork.com’s Noodle Kugel

An easy donut recepie for Hanukkah!

An easy donut recepie for Hanukkah!

For those who are a little more ambitious: Martha Stewart's recipe

For those who are a little more ambitious: Martha Stewart’s recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

And you couldn’t get out of this with out a recipe for Potato Latkes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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