Mastering Change for the High Holidays

Jewish tradition calls the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the Days of Awe. What are they typically like for you? When you leaf through your own high holiday memories of the past few years, what stands out?

Maybe you took time off work and paid big money to attend services. Perhaps you found yourself transported as the cantor sang the Kol Nidre prayer. And if you were caught off guard by the gravity of the Yom Kippur liturgy, awed by the weight of the words looking up at you from the prayer book, then you weren’t alone.

There’s often dissonance between the dignity we attach to the Days of Awe and the lack of spiritual preparation we undertake to meet them. Through Sarah Tasman’s work as a rabbi and my own work as a coach, we’ve seen that people who fail to lay their own basic spiritual groundwork often put an unnecessary damper on their high holiday experience.

But what does ‘spiritual preparation’ even mean? And how do we do it?

Small Group conversationsThe spiritual preparation that Rabbi Sarah and I propose is not about probing arcane mysteries. It’s more practical than that: Essentially, what we recommend is taking stock and making choices.

It’s easy to drift from one Jewish year into the next, never quite letting our accomplishments sink in, always holding onto hurt and humiliation, and neglecting to file squarely in the past those aspects of our life that have no business accompanying us into the future.

However, imagine spending a few focused hours this Elul reflecting on the year that’s about to end. What if we looked 5776 straight in the eye, seeking perspective on what worked and what didn’t? We’d clearly see what we take pride in and what we’re ashamed of, and level with ourselves about our role in all of it.

This investment of time and contemplation is pivotal. It’s an act of spiritual preparation that has the power to dissolve the imaginary wedge we drive between ourselves and the deeply satisfying experience of atonement we desire.

It also easy, as one Jewish year fades into the next, to ignore the responsibility we hold for choosing how we will approach the coming year. Every year Rabbi Sarah and I see people making this same unforced blunder: recognizing that we can’t do everything and responding by barely doing anything.

Here, too, imagine instead envisioning at the dawn of the new year what should lie ahead. How might 5777 unfold if we chose and held in mind a theme for the year? This theme could filter the opportunities we seize from the ones we decline, influencing our response to the curveballs life will inevitably throw our way.

This mental exercise sets us up to use more of our time devoting attention to things that actually matter to us.

These steps are simple. Taking them isn’t always easy. They require the vulnerability to reflect and the boldness to plan. These aren’t luxuries we’re accustomed to giving ourselves. But the real-world dividends that this regimen of spiritual preparation can pay are generous. Recognizing this, Rabbi Sarah and I are offering a three-part class this autumn designed to support you in approaching your transition through the high holidays with confidence. Registration is open now!


Welcome to Jewish DC!

JewishDC Facebook

August 20 – September 9, 2016

Come one, come all to the greatest three weeks in DC’s young Jewish professional community! Whether you’re new to DC, new to the Jewish community, or just want something to look forward to as summer winds down – take your pick from seven awesome events over three weeks to schmooze with friends new and old (but all under 40), celebrate Shabbat, cheer on the Nats and more!

Sign up for one—or all—of these Jewish DC Welcome Week events!

Saturday, August 20: Havdallah Bike Ride with Sixth & I + DC Jews on Bikes!

DC Jews on Bikes is teaming up with Sixth and I for a special “welcome to DC” edition of our popular havdallah bike ride. Open to cyclists of all skill levels, this slow, social group ride is the perfect way to see the city, celebrate the start of a new week, and enjoy happy hour with new friends!

Tuesday, August 23: Gather the Jews Happy Hour at Policy

Each month, Gather the Jews brings together hundreds of Jewish Young Professional from all over the District to mix and mingle over some drinks. This is an opportunity to hang out with friends and meet some new ones! Join us this month at Policy in the U Street Corridor.

Friday, August 26: Metro Minyan with Washington Hebrew’s 2239

2239’s monthly Metro Minyan Shabbat community meets on the 4th Friday of every month for a casual, musical (with guitar), come-as-you are service, followed by dinner, where hundreds of young professionals come together to celebrate. For anyone who can make it, be sure to join us before Metro Minyan for Shot of Torah, an in-depth, “no background necessary” discussion on the Torah portion over drinks.

Sunday, August 28: Grand Slam Sunday with Federation’s Young Leadership

Join Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington at the second annual Grand Slam Sunday: Jewish Community Day at Nationals Park on Sunday, August 28 as the Washington Nationals take on the Colorado Rockies. Enjoy free beer, corn hole, reserved seating and more!

Wednesday, August 31: Jew Kids on the Block: EntryPointDC’s Newcomers Happy Hour with Edlavitch DCJCC

Whether you are new to DC, new to the Jewish community, or just want to make some new MOT friends (you know—member of the tribe!), join us for an evening of mingling. Nosh on great food, sip on refreshing drinks, admire art, and get to know the Jewish organizations of D.C. that provide programs for young professionals.

Friday, September 2: Communal Shabbat at Meridian Hill Park with Adas Israel

As part of “Welcome to Jewish DC” join YP@AI for an outdoor Friday night service at Meridian Hill Park in Columbia Heights. If you’re feeling nostalgic about summer camp or just interested in enjoying a beautiful summer evening, come help us welcome Shabbat. Feel free to bring along a picnic blanket and food to enjoy afterwards. Note: this is not an organized potluck event, just a wonderful opportunity to stick around and enjoy the park with fellow YP’ers and friends. If you are planning on bringing food for yourself, please keep it kosher dairy.

Friday, September 9: 6th in the City at Sixth & I

Musical and interactive service with Rabbi Shira and musicians Aaron Shneyer and Rich Recht, followed by dinner. Enjoy appetizers and cocktails before the 7:15 pm service.

Jewish DC Welcome Week is made possible in partnership with Adas Israel Congregation, EntryPointDC at the Edlavitch DCJCC, Gather the Jews, Sixth & I , Washington Hebrew’s 2239, & Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.



Mini Gatherings Applications Now Open!

Mini GatheringsWant 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 (#4!) of Mini Gatherings, taking place this August.

Building off of the success from previous sessions, Gather the Jews is excited to open applications for the next round of Mini Gatherings, taking place this August (Yes, in two weeks!)

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 Tuesday, August 2, 9 and 16. Each session will involve some schmoozing, drinking, and an open conversation facilitated by Rabbi Aaron about questions relevant to Jewish 20s and 30s, such as “Are Jews different?” “What are the unique challenges to being Jewish today?” and “Does Judaism have any deal-breakers?”

No background or knowledge necessary – everyone is welcome. In addition, Rabbi Aaron will host a Shabbat meal on Friday, August 12 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: Applications are clossed.

Want more information? Email Reb Aaron


Jewish Resident of the Week – Emily


I had the opportunity to interview Emily for this week’s feature. This nomination came from Emma, our Jewish Musical Lover of the Week. I got the oppurtunity to ask Emily about her time in Moishe House, the nonprofit she started when she was in middle school and her favorite Turkish food to cook!

Jackie: How long have you lived in Bethesda?
Emily: About 6 months, but I’m a local so I’m familiar with DC/MD.

Jackie: What is your favorite part of living in Moishe House Bethesda?
Emily: Having the ability to meet so many new people in one space, helping make connections to people who are new to the area, and creating events that can welcome both introverts, extroverts, and anyone in between.

Jackie: I hear that you are Turkish and make some incredible food! What is your favorite thing to make?
Emily: That’s very sweet! I love cooking Shabbat dinners and trying to make it as close to my grandmother’s traditional recipes as I can – one of my favorite dishes is a tomato dish called “armiko” (which is more Sephardic… they always blend together in my family).  It can be served hot or cold and has tomatoes, onions, peppers and olive oil.

Emily_2Jackie: Can you tell us about the nonprofit you started in middle school?
Emily: Absolutely!  A small group of my friends and I co-founded School Girls Unite, with help from the founder of the “Youth Activism Project.” We began by just brainstorming ideas on how we could change the world – it started big with tons of ideas being thrown around, but after several meetings we narrowed it down to wanting to help girls in Mali, Africa get an education. We fundraised to setup scholarships for our sister chapter to go to school by selling school supplies. We also met with Congressman Van Hollen, and aides to leaders on Capitol Hill to discuss increasing U.S.’s funding for foreign education.

Jackie: Your birthday is on fourth of July. Does that make it the best birthday or the worst?
Emily: Worst! The classic “the fireworks are just for you” gets tiring after 25 years. Until I was about 15 my grandmother (who lived with me) would get me red, white and blue themed birthday supplies.  The plus side of it though is I’m usually with friends to see fireworks, so I do get to see people on the actual day. However planning a party around that is always tricky.

Emily_4Jackie: You just got a new bike. Are you an avid biker or trying something new?
Emily: I’m hoping to become an avid biker! I started to bike short distances on my old bike, so I thought I’d make the investment to see how far of rides I can go on. It’s been really exciting though – I went to Van Ness a few weeks ago, then Adams Morgan last weekend so I’m taking baby steps.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Emily: I love Shabbat dinners with groups where my friends are but where I can also meet new people. Shabbats in someone’s home is always more comforting to me than at a Synagogue, but a plus side of a Synagogue one is hearing the Rabbi’s dvar torah.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… the community strengthens.


Food waste and what we can do about it

Just East It poster_croppedIt’s Saturday morning, you’re in your pajamas, and you have one mission: clean out the refrigerator. It’s been months, and something in there has grown appendages. You discover leftovers from going out two weeks ago, some very moldy cheese (make new cheese from the bacteria? Is that a thing?), and at this point, the broccoli from the farmers market the week before is no longer salvageable (at least you know it was definitely organic).

An estimated 40% of food grown, processed, and transported in the US will never be consumed and end up in landfills. When food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

We’re taught from an early age that wasting food is terrible. We’re told to clean our plates because there are children in the world who go hungry. And obviously, as individual consumers, we don’t waste food on purpose – that bag of spinach went bad before there was time to make a salad, or the leftovers got pushed so far back in the fridge that we forgot about them altogether.

The problem is much bigger though – because of federal and state regulations and standards, a lot of food ends up in landfills before we as consumers even have a chance to buy it.

The thing is, American food production has a tremendous resource cost – 10% of the nation’s total energy budget, 50% of its land, and 80% of all U.S. freshwater consumption is dedicated to the production and distribution of food. When 40% of the end result isn’t consumed, the system is some kind of broken.

You know what the worst part is? About 48 million Americans live in food insecure households, unsure whether or not they will have sufficient food to eat that day or that week.

Luckily, there is a growing movement of consumers, businesses, and industry leaders who are speaking out and taking action to reduce food waste in America.

If you want to learn more about how you can join in, come out to the DCJCC on Thursday, July 28th at 6:30 pm to watch Just Eat It: A Food Waste Movie. Filmmakers and food lovers Jen and Grant dive into the issue of food waste from farm, through retail, all the way to the back of their own fridge.

Afterwards, join in a conversation with Elizabeth Bennett, founder of Fruitcycle, a social enterprise that makes healthy, locally sourced snacks using produce that would otherwise go to waste while providing jobs for women who have been formerly incarcerated, homeless, or are otherwise disadvantaged.

Tickets and info here.

We hope to see you!



Jewish Musical Lover of the Week – Emma!

I met Emma a while ago, and she’s definitely the kind of person you should know! She’s kind, very outgoing, and loves musicals (we both have Hamilton on our bucket list). We talked about her identity as an English ex-pat, her passion for baking, and her surprise headline in USA Today. Look out for her in the community; she’s super involved. Read more about her in this following interview.

Know someone you think should be featured as Jew of the Week? Email Jackie to nominate them!

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Emma: I came here for college at American University, and have stuck around since then. 18-year-old me was ready to get out of South Florida’s suburbs. I now can’t stress how much I miss the beach!

Jackie: What do you do, both in your professional and personal lives?

12080034_10206684319402079_1608659411625563233_oEmma: The D.C. question! Work: public relations. Personal: I love to write; I have a side photography freelance gig. I could spend all day in a modern art museum and all night bouncing between D.C.’s amazing theater selection and/or the district’s many Jewish events. I’m practicing taking relaxing time. If not at yoga or the gym (which I count as extroverted relaxing time), I’m likely figuring out how to make healthy muffins that are actually tasty, or I’m daydreaming about whatever next trip to take (read: some international destination).

Jackie: You were born in England and so both of your parents are English. Do you ever get to go back?

Emma: I was born in London, then moved to France and California before ending up in Florida. French was my first language, English with a beautiful British accent was my second, and some version of American with some weird British remnants was my third. I call it my identity crisis. I have gone back to London several time: as a child to get my green card and in the years since to visit my grandparents. It’s funny to have such deep family roots in a country that I grew up so far away from. Yet, given the home and culture in which I grew up, I definitely maintain a connection to that identity.

Screen shot 2016-07-02 at 1.11.34 PMJackie: I heard you were published on the front cover of USA Today when you were in college. Do you mind telling us why?

Emma: I spent a year writing for USA Today while in college, first as a collegiate correspondent and then as a reporting intern. My first article assigned as an intern was on minimum wage hikes. The topic was dry and the content was so nuanced. I struggled writing the piece. The article finally got approved by editorial that Monday. I was sitting in my college reporting class the following Tuesday, my off day from my internship, when I got a text. “Grab a newspaper”, my co-intern sent. My article had made front cover of the national and international editions of the USA Today print publication. This was all while I, clad in gym clothes, trudged through my college classes before heading to my afternoon babysitting job.

Jackie: We also know you like Broadway musicals, and you know all the lyrics to Rent. What song is your favorite?

Emma: OMG yes. I fan-girled HARD when I met Anthony Rapp (original Broadway cast for Mark, one of Rent‘s main characters) at stage-door of If/Then two years ago.

I have two favorites: “Another Day” off the movie soundtrack—so much of Rent’s central theme focuses appreciating the moment to squeeze the love and joy out of our daily lives. “Another Day” captures all of that, while blending the tension of the characters’ emotions into a deeply poetic and moving song. My second favorite is the Original Broadway Cast musical version of “Christmas Bells”. It’s such a fun song that mixes so many storylines into one.

Jackie: What other musicals do you like?Screen shot 2016-07-02 at 1.12.22 PM

If/Then and Bright Star have such fantastic music. Les Miserables is a classic. Hamilton is on the Broadway bucket list.

Jackie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Shabbat. I know it’s not a one-off holiday, but I grew up in a family that did Shabbat dinner each Friday, and it’s a tradition I’ve since continued. I think any excuse to bring people around a table to enjoy in each other’s company is truly special. Shabbat, for me, is just that.

Jackie: Fill in this sentence. When the Jews Gather…
…we add another knot to the thread connecting us all through the generations.


Jewish Community Organizer of the Week – Jordan

I met Jordan and heard all about his work as a participant of the Jeremiah Fellowship. I thought he would be a great addition to our blog so I asked him a few questions. Learn more about Jordan Bleck, this week’s Jewish Community Organizer of the Week! (Or as he may call himself, a “Justice Jew.”) Read on to find out more:

Know someone you think should be featured as Jew of the Week? Email Jackie to nominate them!

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

10626565_1528220964077112_6596191237203903372_nJordan: Back in 2010, all that I wanted to do was international development work. My impression of DC before moving here was that it was all business and had no spirit of its own, and I have never been happier to be wrong. I spent several years working with an NGO that sent me to Uganda to teach people how to build bicycles out of bamboo. That project has now ended and I’m focusing my energy on building up our local communities, and celebrating the breadth and diversity that DC has to offer.

Jackie: You just bought a new house. What excites you most about the community you’re living in?

Jordan:  The community in Brookland is a really wonderful place and is unlike anywhere else I’ve lived in DC. Even though we’ve only just moved here, my housemates and I feel like we’re getting to know our neighbors quickly and easily. Before we moved in, the whole block put together a party to say goodbye to the previous owner (who moved down to Arizona with his partner after they met across the backyard fence), and to get to meet all of us. My housemates and I were totally blown away; this feels so far beyond the idyllic motif of being able to knock on a door to borrow some sugar, and I feel so lucky to have found it.

10174980_10201437591660412_7016019028852993923_nJackie: You just finished the Jeremiah Fellowship. Can you explain what this Fellowship is and
share what your experience was like doing this work?

Jordan: The Jeremiah Fellowship is a social justice organizing training program. It’s run by Jews United for Justice, which is an organization that strives to attain justice and equality for all DC residents through a lens of Jewish values. They are some of the most driven and impactful people I’ve ever met. The Fellowship is all about learning how justice work is such an integral part of Jewish culture and how to do it in a sustainable way. I started Jeremiah with no organizing background at all, and through the Fellowship, have participated in both of JUFJ’s current campaigns: DC Affordable Housing and Paid Family and Medical Leave. I feel like I learned an incredible amount through the Fellowship and am excited to put it to good use to make DC a better place for everybody to live.

Jackie: What is the biggest thing you will walk away from the Fellowship with?

Jordan: The best thing that I got out of the Jeremiah Fellowship is an incredibly powerful support network. Organizing can be really scary, and sometimes social justice campaigns feel like they’re an uphill battle. However, through the Fellowship I really feel like I can wield the strength of a vast network of justice-minded folks, especially the other people from my fellowship. Sharing that experience with a dozen people–all with different backgrounds, but all fighting for the same thing–was incredibly powerful.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC?12794609_10104486187301538_5222489486969859375_n

Jordan: I am always happiest when I’m outside, so any favorite place is going to reflect that. I think if I had to pick just one it would be the C&O Canal trail (where I absolutely love to take my bike and go camping). Trail running in Rock Creek Park or a picnic in the Arboretum are also close to the top of that list so it’s really hard to say.

Jackie: You are a huge biker, anywhere you like to bike with Jews?

Jordan: The havdallah bike ride, run every other month by DC Jews on Bikes, is a fantastic event and a great way to connect with the Jewish community. It is actually the brainchild of Lisa Kaneff, who started the ride while doing Gather’s Open Doors Fellowship, and it’s brought together a really stellar group of people. We leave from Sixth & I, ride for a bit, have a havdallah service, and end up at a bar to welcome in the new week. It’s also a really gentle ride, so anyone who has any interest in riding bikes should do it. To anybody reading this: bring your bike or check out a Bikeshare and join us!

Jackie: Who are your favorite Jews?

10174858_10100747494262377_6462863739471430286_nJordan: I’d have to say that Justice Jews are my favorite Jews. I’m living with three of them (who had all done Jeremiah before I did) and they make up a huge portion of my network here in DC. If I had a nickel for each Justice Jew I know who is working on an incredible project here in DC, elsewhere in the country, or abroad, I’d have…a heck of a lot of nickels. Instead, I have a wealth of people inspiring hope everywhere I look. Therefore, I can continue to believe that, despite all of its chaos, the world is still moving in the right direction.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

…the world will be repaired (as soon as we’ve all had bagels and coffee).


Jewish Artisan of the Week – Greg

I met Greg at Adas Israel’s Late Night Lounge: Shavuot Experience. We were talking around 1 am and he was telling me about how he started his work as an artisan butcher.I knew this was a great story to share with our community and asked him to be this week’s Jewish Artisan of the Week.

Know of anyone you think should be featured as Jew of the Week? Email Jackie to nominate them!

Jacgreg3kie: Your past as a chef is quite interesting. You were trained in a kosher cooking school in Jerusalem. Are you still cooking?

Greg: I’ve left professional cooking for the time being. Although I’m a good cook and have the skills to be a good chef, I didn’t do great as a line cook, and the stress and hours were too much for me. I reached my goal of a Michelin starred restaurant in NYC and it still wasn’t the right fit. I work as a whole animal butcher now and I love it, it enables me to work normal hours, still be hands on with food, and be much more strident about my idealism in food sourcing. For instance I only work on pastured animals – no factory farmed meat crosses my butcher block. Happy animals produce better meat, no question, not to mention much safer meat, and properly managed pasturing of grazing animals is actually carbon positive. So where as commodity beef is one of the worst industries in America as far as carbon footprint, the beef I work on is actually helping to reverse that effect, trapping that CO2 into healthier pastures and nutrient dense, super meaty beef.

Jackie: Where can we try the food that you make?

Greg: Since I don’t cook professionally anymore, finding my food involves being my friend, haha. We host shabbat brunches from time to time and since it stopped being work, my home cooking has come to life again, my fiancee and I really love hosting together.

greg6Jackie: What is your favorite thing about living in DC?

Greg: I grew up in NoVa so it’s nice to be close to home, but still far enough that we have our own life here in DC and can visit NoVa to see friends and family. Also, the food scene here is booming. It’s a really exciting time to be working in food in DC, this fall DC gets put on the global radar for restaurants with the release of the first DC Michelin guide. I can’t wait to see what the french food power elite think of our budding fooding culture.

Jackie: Can you tell us about your time as a hype dancer? Also what exactly is a hype dancer?

Greg: Many of the readers may remember the people dressed in all black that came out with the DJ’s at bar mitzvahs and helped get the dance floor going, as well as lead line dances and facilitate the games like coke & pepsi… thats a hype dancer. They also get hired by night clubs from time to time. I did it on weekends my senior year of high school, and it was a lot of fun. I loved dancing anyways, so why not get paid to do it? Who knows, I may have even danced at the bar or bat mitzvah of someone reading this!

greg4Jackie: You are getting married in September. Will you be using some of the dance skills at your wedding?

Greg: I sure hope the old hype dancing days will come in handy at the wedding, since my fiancee and I have catering and event planning experience and are pretty particular about how we host, we’re doing everything for our wedding ourselves. So no DJ, and no hype dancers. We’re thinking we can do a pretty good job getting the dance floor going ourselves.

Jackie: I hear you are quite the handyman! What kind of furniture have you built for your home?

Greg: In high school I built sets for the theater department and worked as a contractors apprentice, plus my dad and I finished our basement, built a porch under the deck and a play house for my little sister, so I’ve always felt confident building a few things as needed. This year I built our radiator covers, a freestanding closet/wardrobe, plus our raised bed garden and compost bins; our bed frame, pantry unit, and my butcher block work table moved with us from NYC. I’ve got a few more projects coming up this fall, but someday I’d like to build a sustainable off grid house… we’ll see if I get there.

greg5Jackie: What does your personal Jewish community look like?

Greg: Right now our personal Jewish community is still building. In NYC we’d built a great group through our shabbat dinner circles, and before that we lived in Blacksburg and both worked for the Hillel at Virginia Tech. Here we have a few friends already, but we still need to build that kind of thriving Jewish foodie crew we had in NYC. I’ve been really happy to find so many Jewish food idealists to latch onto. A friend of ours from Hillel at VT runs the CSA that we’re members of at Whitehall Farm in Clifton, VA. I love talking to her about some of the really radical farms she’s worked on and how it ties into Jewish values around intentionality and conscientiousness with regards to food.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather… we grab hold of that thread of heritage that ties us back to thousands of years of tradition and get to weave it into the tapestry of our modern lives.


Shabbat Clusters- My Introduction to Jewish DC

9ace538a-578f-41c7-812d-f51b122e6223February 1, 2016 marked my third anniversary of living in DC.
Looking back on the friendships I’ve created and home I’ve built here, I’ve realized that I have the Jewish DC scene, specifically DCJCC Shabbat Clusters to thank for most of it.
Like a lot of people here in DC, I am not from here originally. I grew up in the NW suburbs of Chicago and there was never a shortage of Jewish peers around. In DC, after moving here on a gut feeling and a need for change, I was no longer surrounded by people I knew. In fact, I could count on one hand how many people I knew in this city. For some, starting over can be a paralyzing feeling. For me, I found a new start was just what I needed. I took solace in knowing that there was a Jewish population here, and being the outgoing person that I am, I would be ok. It’s that instant connection and bond that I feel when I meet a fellow jew, that comforted me.
After having been set up on a lady-date from a mutual friend (not a Member of the Tribe) who said, “You’re both Jewish with similar relationship stories, be friends,” we hit it off and together, decided to check out Shabbat Clusters through the DCJCC.
We walked into the April 2013 Kickoff Dinner in the basement gym of the JCC and randomly chose a table towards the side. As the table slowly began to fill, we chatted it up with our table-mates. As luck would have it, a girl who sat at that table was also assigned to our cluster.
I realize I got extremely lucky with my group, because we all got along and continued to meet once a month for Shabbat dinners over the course of the year. We bonded over food, you know, as Jews do. Our dinners included Mexican tacos, Thai, Chinese food, healthy wraps and more. As the year progressed, we gathered for more than just Shabbat. We hosted Hanukkah parties, Passover seders, and Yom Kippur break fasts. Even when the Clusters program was over, we continued to meet and our social circles all began to merge.
Soon our cluster expanded beyond just our group and began to include friends of friends and significant others until it was just a group of friends gathering together – as it is today.
Shabbat Clusters introduced me to some of my closest friends, Jewish life in DC, and helped this new kid in town feel at home in a new city. For as small as DC is and how much smaller our Jewish population is, it is rare that I go out and don’t see someone I know on the streets.
DC is a transient city and many people come and go. Three years later, it’s because of the Jewish community that I felt welcome here and was able to make a life here. I have found a stronger Jewish identity here in DC than I did back in Chicago.
Shabbat Clusters creates community by gathering people by their interests and neighborhoods to eat and celebrate Jewish life together. Come out to the Shabbat Clusters & Friends Mid-Season Happy Hour on July 13 or email Stacy Miller, Manager of EntryPointDC, at to learn more! Shabbat Clusters is hosted by EntryPointDC, a social network for Jews in their 20’s and 30’s at the DCJCC.

Meet the New Community Coordinator – Shaina!

This week, the Gather team got13406786_10154165669345120_4241892941627554331_n a little bigger! Shaina Dorow joined us as the new Community Coordinator. She just graduated from Brandeis University, and she is excited to learn more about DC and the Jewish community. Learn more about her in our interview with her and email her for coffee to get to know her more!

Jackie: Tell us about yourself and what you’ve been up to until now…

Shaina: First of all, I just graduated Brandeis University (let’s play Jewish Geography?) and studied Sociology. Throughout college, I did a bunch of volunteering. I just recently moved to DC and so I’ve been just getting to know the city (and used to this awful humidity). I enjoy art, theater, cooking, exploring new places, and meeting new people.

Jackie: You are brand new to the city, how do you plan to get a lay of the land?

13238922_10153649524203170_4354411583136149059_nShaina: This is such a good question because I’m still figuring it out! I would love to go out and get coffee or drinks all over the city and just get to know the city geographically. I want to start walking around and seeing different things. If anyone wants to explore the city with me or has some great recommendation on where to start, feel free to reach out!

Jackie: What motivated you to work in the Jewish community?

Shaina: It’s always been something I’ve been interested in doing. Ever since I was 10 years old,  I’ve been going to Jewish summer camp (this is my first summer not at camp in 12 years). I did NFTY in high school then went to Brandeis; I always have surrounded myself with Jews. Through these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about the nuances within the Jewish community and learned how I fit in to this framework. Now I believe it’s my turn to help others and to continue the learning myself. Due to my many experiences, I’ve seen first-hand what a Jewish community can do for people and for myself.

Jackie: What are you most excited about as you start with Gather the Jews?

12219539_10153669314885196_8268728210448149591_nShaina: I love talking to new people and figuring out what they’re interested in. I’ve always been passionate about people’s personal stories and therefore always strive to make people feel comfortable. I am excited to transfer these skills and passions to this job. I’m also really excited to get to know the Jewish community in this city.

Jackie: What is your new role with Gather?

Shaina: I’m the Community Coordinator. This is a brand new position at Gather, and I have been brought on to engage people who recently arrived in DC. It is tough to transition to a new city, especially when you don’t know anyone. I will be here to help them navigate that transition, especially since I’m going through it as well. I am also excited that it is now my job to grab coffee with people and get to know them! 

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 12.16.37 PMJackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Shaina: Does Josh Lyman count even though he’s fictional?

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Shaina: Passover. It’s such an event in my family, and I can’t imagine life without it.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

…there will be loads of good food. Probably bagels.




Ways to Connect to Torah

3Despite being one of the “big three” pilgrimage holidays, Shavuot is one of the least celebrated Jewish holidays among American Jews. This is probably because the unique “ritual” associated with it – staying up all night studying Torah – is often both inaccessible and impractical. But it also might reflect a deep ambivalence that American Jews feel toward the Torah. Much like Rabbi Isaac – who asked over 1000 years ago: “Why didn’t the Torah start in the middle of Exodus with the first commandment?” – many Jews today see the Torah as a book of laws, laws that unlike Rabbi Isaac they don’t follow. No wonder they don’t stay up all night studying it.

Here are 3 alternative ways of relating to the Torah that might inspire us to crack open a Jewish book this Saturday night as the holiday begins, even if we fall asleep before sunrise on Sunday morning.
1) The Story
Unfortunately for Rabbi Isaac, but fortunately for us, the Torah doesn’t start in the middle of Exodus. It starts with Genesis, a book of stories about a family. That family is our family, and in many ways we are continuing that story today. There’s a famous rabbinic adage – maaseh avot siman l’banim – that roughly translates to: “the actions of our ancestors are a sign for the children.” The Torah preceded the industrial revolution, the internet, and snapchat. But in many ways, the human truths behind these ancient stories continue to manifest today and can help guide us as we write our chapter.
2) The Paint
Just as an artist needs paint in order to create a drawing, the Jewish people need images, ideas, and myths to create a rich and vibrant culture. The Torah is the most riffed on story in history, yet many Jews today completely miss the references, despite identifying as cultural Jews. Jewish art is not art made by someone who happens to have a Jewish parent. It’s art that is influenced by Jewish culture, which finds its roots in the Torah. The Torah is our primary colors, and the future of our culture is dependent on our ability to play with it.
3) The Glue
When I ask Jews for their definition of Judaism, the answer I hear most often is: Judaism is whatever any individual Jew wants it to be. This sounds like a riff on a 30 Rock joke by the farcical Dr. Spaceman, but in this case the joke is on us. Without a single unifying element to us, there is nothing that actually binds us. Perhaps the Torah can be the glue that binds us. Not because we all follow its laws or believe it is from God, but because we need to share something if we’re going to share an identity. Perhaps the Torah is our shared language that allows us to connect without agreeing.

Shavuot Events 2016/5776

Shavuot is almost here. Some of you may celebrate this holiday, some of you may eat cheesecake though you’re not totally sure why or you might have no idea what we are even talking about. So what exactly is Shavout? It is the Festival of Weeks, the holiday’s date is determined by counting seven weeks after the end of Passover. Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is customary to stay up all night and study Torah and to eat dairy foods (that’s where we get the cheesecake)!

So now that you are ready to get your Shavuot on how do you celebrate? It is one of the lesser celebrated holidays but there are still several organizations holding events. Did we miss anything? Submit Events Here.

June 4th 2016

June 7th 2016

June 11th 2016

Recipes for Shavuot:ChocolateCheesecake-230x150Try this Chocolate Cheesecake & Challah Recipe from



Cooking these Cheese Blintzes, recipe from, will make your roommates love you!



These Spinach Tidbits from make a great appetizer, or whole meal if you have no portion control!

Other Shavuot Resources:


Jewish Climate Scientist of the Week: Michael


This week I had the opportunity to interview Michael. Reb Aaron nominated him as a Jew of the week after grabbing coffee with him a couple weeks ago. I was able to ask him about his PhD studies and his work with Al Franken. Read more about him (and his dog!) in our interview below.

Jackie: What motivated you to get a PhD in climate change?

Michael: I originally became interested in the topic of climate change from a lecture in my Freshman year of my undergraduate studies. As I took more courses, I was drawn to the complexity of the problem, from both a science and policy perspective. After spending a few years learning about the science behind climate change, I found it frustrating to remain stuck in dialog regarding the validity of the science instead of the policy itself. This motivated me to get a PhD in climate science, as I wanted to be thought of as a scientist first when working outside academia.

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Michael: I came for a fellowship program that brings PhD scientists to Washington to work in Congress. As part of my fellowship year, I am working in the office of Senator Al Franken on his energy, climate, environmental, and agriculture portfolio.

IMG_1681Jackie: What kind of dog do you have? When did you first get him?

Michael: We have a black lab mix named Franklin. We rescued him 2 years ago from a shelter in Chicago, and while he’s a lot of work, we wouldn’t trade him for the world!

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

Michael: I am a huge fan of H-street. You get a really interested mix of people in the neighborhood, and the restaurants and bars offer a more authentic feel than others around the city.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Michael: I am still mourning the end of the Daily Show, so for now I will say Jon Stewart.

DSC_0158Jackie: You are currently in a long distance marriage, any advice for people who might be in a similar circumstance?

Michael: If it is meant to be, you will make it work. It isn’t cheap, easy, or typical, but it can still be just as meaningful and rewarding if you make the effort.
Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… I feel better about my talent level in most sports.


How Kosher is Your Comedy?

A long, long time ago in the DC Jewish world, back when Gather the Jews gave out slap bracelets, there was a comedy night hosted by NOVA Tribe Series in Arlington. This event was called the Unkosher Comedy Tour: Making Mitzvahs Happen and was the brainchild of former Gather satirist Brian Fishbach (who has gone on to become oh-so-famous in LA comedy land – we miss you Mr. 50 Shades of Grey.)

He gathered some young Jewish comedians to perform, including Matty Litwack who was featured on Fox’s Laughs and Jessica Brodkin who has performed at Caroline’s on Broadway and has a principal role on TruTv’s Road Spill.

EntryPointDC is bringing the Unkosher Comedy Tour next Wednesday, June 8th at RFD and changing things up a bit. There will still be some great young comedians doing stand-up but this time the line-up will feature comedians of all backgrounds who will share their comedic revelations in honor of Shavuot. The host for the evening will be former Moishe House resident, Benjy Himmelfarb who performed at the EntryPointDC Kiss & Kvell comedy show is this past February.

Grab a ticket and be prepared to laugh your tuches off.

To get ready for the Unkosher Comedy Tour: Revelations, we present a look at comedy on a scale from kosher to unkosher. 

100% kosher:

Mayim Bialik makes both Yiddish and a date at a Kosher sushi restaurant seem cool in this YidLife Crisis video.


Mostly kosher/ eat meat out at restaurants:

Crazy Jewish Mom is always trying to get her daughter to date a Nice Jewish guy but will sometimes go off the deep end and fight over a box of matzah.

crazy jewish mom

Moderately unkosher/no shellfish kosher:

The Fat Jew – Jewish in name, but sometimes accused of stealing jokes.

fat jewish

Mostly unkosher/ mixing milk and meat kosher:

Whole Foods food offering samples of challah the first Night of Passover

challah passover

Walmart displaying a special for ham to be served at Chanukah

ham for chanukkah

Very unkosher:

Dressing as bacon for Halloween (and wearing a tallit, yarmulke and posing with Orange Juice (Orange Jews…so punny)

kosher bacon 4



30 in the City – June Events

30 in the City (1)

Hillah is back this month with her recommendations for events going on in the District for those who are 30 in the City! Which ones will we see you at this month?


When: Sunday, June 5th, 2016, 12:00 PM – 10 PM

Where: Washington Hilton Hotel (1919 Connecticut Ave, Washington, DC 20004)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

The ACCESS Summit, held at the same time as the AJC Global Forum, is an innovative, interactive conference for young Jewish leaders. The Summit is an unparalleled networking opportunity, offering a platform for participants from all over the globe to share best practices and engage in practical skill-building.

ACCESS Summit brings together global Jewish leaders from across the political spectrum to tackle today’s most pressing issues. Only at ACCESS Summit can you learn from leading scholars and activists from the Muslim world standing on the forefront of change, explore powerful coalition building opportunities with leaders from Latin America and Latino communities here at home, talk about the big questions facing Israel and its place in the world, and brainstorm how to combat global anti-Semitism. Attendees have the opportunity to take part in hands-on skill-building workshops designed to prepare activists and volunteers for effective advocacy and community engagement.
What makes this event cool?

There are only few places you can go that give you the opportunity to network with other likeminded young professionals from around the world, who believe as much as you do in building a safe and thriving Jewish community.

Who should go?

Young professionals that are active within the Jewish community, seeking a way to get active, or enjoy lively discussions.

Cost: Ranges based on DC resident, student, ACCESS membership. For pricing e-mail

Register: here


6th in the City Chorus Concert

When: Wednesday, June 8th, 2016, 7:30 PM

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

What the organizers have to say about the event:

The 6th in the City Chorus performs a mix of old and new songs with choirs from Turner Memorial AME Church (which worshiped in Sixth & I’s building for nearly five decades) and the Metropolitan AME Church.

The 6th in the City Chorus has been singing together since 2013. Led by Marty Lamar, Director of Music and Creative Arts at Metropolitan, the group of young Jewish professionals in their 20s and 30s reinvigorates traditional Jewish songs and prayers with elements of Gospel and contemporary worship music.

What makes this event cool?

The 6th in the City Chorus is becoming a staple of the Jewish community. They are a troop of young professionals with impressive tunes and vocal cords that make you wonder why the tickets are such a bargain. Not to be missed, since it is always a good time. Unfortunately, when I tried to bribe one of the singers for their list of concerts songs, she wouldn’t leak a note.

Who should go?

Music lovers. You know you have a friend in the chorus and it wouldn’t look so good if you didn’t show up. So, I made it easy for you to register by clicking the register link below.

Cost: $12



Cuba: in Focus | Captured Moments of a Society on the Edge of Change

When: Thursday, June 9, 2016, 7:00 PM

Where: Fathom Creative, Inc. (1333 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Step into the vibrant and changing society of Cuba today through a dynamic photo exhibit created exclusively by Entwine Cuba alumni.

Learn about contemporary Jewish life & JDC’s work in Cuba while sampling authentic Cuban-style food & drink!

What makes this event cool?

Let’s face it. Cuba has always been a hot topic and there is something sexy about it, whether it is the complicated U.S. political relationship with the island nation or the handiwork of our literary writers fantasizing over a land they can’t touch. After decades of difficulty for Americans to travel to Cuba, this became much easier last year with the travel ban being lifted. With the ban significantly reduced, waves of business interest and tourists will be flooding the island state and bringing change with them. We are not always sure of what change means – it can be good and it can be bad. Looking at it through a lens shows us the diversity of life that we don’t always witness when reading the paper or visiting as a tourist.

Who should go?

You enjoy food, art, photography, and you love giving back to other communities.

Cost: $15 regular priced ticket | $25 for two tickets

Register: here


Behind the Booth with Jewish Food Experience

When: Sunday, June 26th, 2016, 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Where: Mosaic District’s Fairfax Farmers Market (2910 District Ave, Fairfax, VA 22031)

What the organizers have to say about the event:

Savor the sights, the smells and stories of our region’s largest farmer’s market. Go “Behind the Booth” at Mosaic District’s Fairfax Farmers Market during a private walking tour with its co-founder, Debra Moser:

• Sample fresh fruits and veggies
• Discover the market’s history
• Enjoy an exclusive conversation with Israeli-American chef Josh Rosenstein

What makes this event cool?

Understanding what it takes to go from farm to table is slowly falling out of communal knowledge. Behind the Booth gives the average person the opportunity to learn what it takes to get produce from the farm to the market and from the market to our table. What better way to learn about the importance of local farming than by checking out a farmers’ market, tasting the fresh produce, and listening to stories based on real life experiences.

Who should go?

Foodies, urban gardeners, food security activists or hobbyists.

Cost: $10

Register: here


Want more?

17th Annual Jewish Music Festival will be taking place from June 3rd to 15th.

Join GLOE @ Pride from June 6th to 12th.


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