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Come to the December Midnight Mitzvahs!

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Masa Israel Featured Internship: Financial Assistant, The Digital House

The Digital House is looking for someone who can help with the financial side of the business by helping process invoices for the applications that have shops, manage the company budgets, as well provide over all support to the financial director.

The Digital House is a start-up that designs, creates, markets and distributes smart apps for iPhone and Android. The company tests the success of the application in Israel before going on to launch it in the UK, Canada and the US. http://www.interninisrael.org/financial-assistant-digital-house/

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Asking the Right Questions

Question_mark_(black_on_white)When I tell people I run a project called Gather the Jews, they usually have very strong feelings about the name.  About half of the people love it, and when they see me at Jewish events exclaim, “Rachel, you’ve ‘gathered’ the Jews!”  The second reaction is not so fun.  After telling her the name of the project, a friend’s mom said, “You know, we were gathered once before, and it didn’t end so well for us.”

So why did GTJ choose such a controversial name?  Founded just before Purim in 2010, our name comes from the Megillat Esther. In Chapter 4, Verse 16, Esther tells Mordechai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan, and fast for me.”  When Esther uttered these words, the Jewish nation was in trouble, under siege from its enemies who wished to annihilate our people.  The Jews of Shushan gathered, and Esther convinced the king to save us.

According to the recent Pew study, the Jewish people are still in danger.  There are still those in the world who wish us harm, but the Pew study speaks of a different kind of danger: the danger of assimilation.  But is this true?  Or did Pew ask the wrong questions?

As the director of Gather the Jews, an organization that seeks to bridge the gap between Jews in their 20s & 30s and the DC Jewish community, I ask a lot of questions.  What makes young Jews want to connect to the community?  How do they explore their Jewish identity?  What about Judaism inspires them?

The answers to these questions are different for every single Jew, and that is where the Pew study erred. The questions the Pew study asked focused on Jews connecting to Judaism through religious observance, which is only one way that Jews define themselves.  When I ask Jews in their 20s & 30s how they relate to Judaism, I hear about a diverse and multifaceted Judaism.  I hear about tikkun olam projects.  I hear about Shabbat dinners with friends.  I hear about trips to Israel. I hear about Jewish happy hours.  I hear about a thriving DC Jewish community.

And that is the lens that Gather the Jews chooses to view Judaism through.  We have become the number one resource for young Jews in DC and a clearinghouse for Jewish young professional events with the goal that individuals will connect to Judaism on their own terms.

Judaism values questions.  Now we need to be asking the right questions.

Rachel Giattino is the Director of Gather the Jews.  This article originally appeared in the Washington Jewish Week.

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In Defense of Thanksgivukkah

facepalm

By this point everyone knows that Thanksgivukkah is occurring this Thursday.  By some accounts, this is the greatest culinary event in history; by other accounts, it’s a horrible occurrence that needs to be ignored.  Almost every possible article has been written about it, even The 8 rules of Thanksgivingukkah Sex (just click on it now, we know you’re going to. We can wait ..questionable content for work).  While there are some valid reasons to want to separate the two holidays, many of the arguments, such as those presented by Allison Benedikt, are overblown.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. When dealing with any event that is several centuries or even millennia old, certain liberties are going to be taken with the story. Much like a plot twist in Homeland or 24, facts can get in the way of a good story.  Historical purists would probably take umbrage with the way both stories are told in elementary schools. However, the underlying principles of the holidays are both commendable. Personally, Thanksgiving is about gratitude and being thankful for what we have. Hanukkah is about overcoming adversity against challenging odds, it’s not about presents.

But Allison Benedikt’s complaints go far beyond historical critique, and her article needs a response because there are not enough face palms in the world to express my disdain for it. Why Slate chose to publish this is beyond me, because she is someone who appears to have a very limited understanding of Judaism as a whole and whose love of Judaism is itself questionable as shown in her own writings. Let’s proceed:

I don’t want my kids to think Thanksgiving is a “present holiday.”

This shows a complete lack of understanding about Hanukkah. If you think Hanukkah is a presents holiday, you are doing it wrong. This woman has completely secularized and commercialized Hanukah so, to her, it has little value beyond a night to give kids gifts and maybe eat fried foods. She has already lost the true meaning of Hanukkah, the continued struggle of the Jewish people against unmistakable odds and violent attacks that was overcome by our community’s famous strong will. It’s true that with the recent exception of Black Friday hysteria, Thanksgiving has largely escaped the commercialism that plagues so many other holidays.  She should try to keep Hanukkah free of commercialism as well.  Also, her failure to teach her kids about the story behind Hanukkah, rather than just presents, demonstrates her own misunderstanding of Hanukkah and deficiency as a parent.

Combining the Holiday foods is an awful idea.

First, if you don’t think sweet potato latkes sound amazing or think pastrami with Brussel Sprouts (since bacon is out of the question) is awesome, I can’t help you. More amazing Jewish fusion food for me! Due to Hanukkah’s connection with oil, basically anything imaginable on the Thanksgiving menu can now be justifiably deep fried like a state fair. Fried foods are better than their regular counterparts; this is an inarguable fact of life. Anyone who disagrees should probably just pack up and move to North Korea. . Our food is one of the things that bind us as not just a religion, but as a culture, and we should embrace the culinary hybrid of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

Jews should not feel ashamed to be different.

I spoke with two individuals whose parents were intermarried and they mentioned they liked Thanksgiving because it didn’t highlight the differences in the two sides of their family.   Those of us from dual Jewish parent homes can still relate to the awkwardness of the holiday season. As Jews we often can feel like outsiders and Thanksgiving is a bonding time where regardless of our religious differences we are like everyone else in the Country. These differences are most obvious during the Christmas season.  There are holiday parties which are, to be honest, Christmas parties at work and with our friends. Our desire to socialize and celebrate with friends and coworkers can often be in conflict with our religious roots.  As the incomparable Kyle Broflovski says, “It’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas”, but on Thanksgiving it doesn’t matter.

Hanukkah’s rise and specifically its association with gifts is at least partially related to our exclusion from Christmas activities. In the realm of religiously important holidays, it’s not particularly high.   We spend our holy days not eating, while others get a Federal holiday to celebrate their biggest religious occasion.   However in our desire to fit in, we shouldn’t ever be afraid to embrace who we are and the addition of latkes to the thanksgiving table shouldn’t alarm anyone. We can still appreciate Thanksgiving as a secular American holiday even if we happen to give it a Jewish twist this year.

This is the only chance in our lifetime where the first day of Hanukkah will occur on Thanksgiving. Something fun and unique is happening in the Jewish world, and we should embrace it.

Happy Thanksgivukkah,

Jon Halperin

The opinions reflected in this article are that of the author and do not represent the views of Gather the Jews or its staff.

 

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Masa Israel Featured Internship: Special Education & Occupational – Physical Therapy Assistant

Special Education & Occupational – Physical Therapy assistant, Gan Eliya Israel Association for the Advancement of Blind and Visually Impaired Children

As an intern your responsibilities will be to assist the staff in caring for the blind and seeing-impaired babies and toddlers.

Gan Eliya is considered a world leader in specialist programs that meet the needs of blind and visually-impaired children. Treatment includes hydrotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding. http://www.interninisrael.org/special-education-occupational-physical-therapy-assistant-gan-eliya-israel-association-advancement-blind-visually-impaired-children/

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Have a cool idea? #MakeItHappen

makeHave an idea you want to put into action?  Here’s your chance!  Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington Partner with the Schusterman Philanthropic Network to provide micro-grants within Greater Washington Jewish Community.  Check out the press release below to find out how you can get funding for your cool Jewish idea.

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Washington, DC – Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced that they will join as community partners in the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network’s (Schusterman) #MakeItHappen Micro-Grants Initiative – Schusterman’s global call-to-action for Jewish individuals to submit inspiring ideas for creating Jewish experiences in their communities. Schusterman will select up to 50 ideas from around the world for micro-grants of up to $1,000 each, with five ideas receiving up to $5,000. Submissions will be accepted through January 15, 2014. The initiative is designed to activate ideas from individuals, not solicit requests from organizations for operating or programmatic budgets.

As Greater Washington’s community partners, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will grant up to twelve additional #MakeItHappen grants between $1,000 and $2,500 to individuals from the Greater Washington area. Preference will be given to ideas that have the potential to expand and have long-term sustainability and impact on the Greater Washington or global Jewish community.

“These micro-grants provide support for emerging leaders and serve as a catalyst for innovation within our local Jewish community,” said Simone Friedman Rones, President of Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies.

Steven A. Rakitt, CEO of The Federation, added, “This is an innovative approach to engaging individuals and opening the door for future involvement in our community. We are very excited and thankful to partner with  EJF Philanthropies and the Schusterman Philanthropic  Network on this great effort.”

This campaign is a means of promoting and supporting a new generation of Jewish leadership, especially those who may not have otherwise been involved with the local philanthropic community.  Selected projects will identify creative means of engaging, serving, and leading local Jewish communities – from hackathons to meetups, Shabbat dinners to service projects.

More on Schusterman’s process and guidelines:

  • Submit it!  For a limited time, individuals 18 years of age and older can upload their inspiring ideas for a project, event or program that will make a difference in their communities and engage their peers in a meaningful Jewish experience.  Terms and restrictions apply.
  • Share it!  Eligible ideas will be posted on the #MakeItHappen website where they can be shared with friends, fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else people like to convene and converse.  Visitors to the site can search ideas by topic and location, “Like” their favorites and even contact the creators directly to assist them in making those ideas happen.
  • #MakeItHappen!  Schusterman will announce several recipients per week through January 15, 2014. Schusterman will also share additional opportunities for all people who submit ideas to help #MakeItHappen in their communities.

A few key details to keep in mind:

  • A central part of the experience must have a specific nexus with Jewish life, whether it is cultural, educational, spiritual or social.
  • Organizations cannot submit projects nor receive a micro-grant. They have to be submitted by an individual who is personally going to take the lead on making it happen.
  • Micro-grants are not intended to be small “operating grants” for existing projects.  They are intended to support “experience grants” that enable specific programs/events that would not have occurred otherwise.

More info:

For any questions on Greater Washington grants, contact Sarah Arenstein, Federation’s Young Leadership Director, at sarah.arenstein@shalomdc.org or 301.230.7277.

Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies:
Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies (
http://ejfphilanthropies.org/) has  five grantmaking priorities: saving the cheetah from extinction, improving pediatric asthma care, stopping Alzheimer’s Disease, ensuring the continuity of the Jewish community in the Washington, D.C. region, and improving education outcomes for District of Columbia public school students. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington: 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s  (www.shalomdc.org) mission is to care for those in need, deepen engagement in Jewish life and strengthen connections among Jews locally, in Israel and in 60 countries around the world. Because of the caring and generosity of our individual donors and corporate sponsors, we are able to help Jews of all ages and walks of life and support interests from education and the arts to social services and cultural programs.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network:

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network (SPN) is a global enterprise that supports and creates innovative initiatives for the purpose of igniting the passion and unleashing the power in young people to create positive change for themselves, the Jewish community and the broader world. SPN includes the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Schusterman Foundation-Israel, ROI Community and REALITY. www.schusterman.org.

 

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Let’s Make a Thanksgivukkah Miracle – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 79)

UntitledWhat happens when you mix turkey with latkes, bellies full of grandma’s kugel (or is that only a Thanksgiving tradition at my house?) with eight crazy nights, and the Pilgrims with the Maccabees?  Why, Thanksgivukkah, of course!  As I learned from the tiebreaker question at Sixth & I’s trivia night last week, this union of the two holidays, where the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide, won’t happen again until the year 79811!!  (However, if you count an overlap as the first night of Hanukkah with Thanksgiving, then it will actually happen in the years 2070 and 2165.  I definitely hope I get to celebrate with both pumpkin pie and jelly-filled doughnuts when I’m 89 years old… assuming I still have some teeth left.)

In the spirit of both holidays, I’d like to share eight reasons we should be thankful this year, as it relates to dating:

1. Online dating exists.

Do you think the Pilgrims in 1621 had a way to meet people across the field, let alone across the world?  Their best place to flirt was likely over the ear of corn they were growing, not on their couch in their jammies using some new-fangled technology we like to call the Interwebs.

2. We have options.

We live in a time when, for most of us, the choice of the person we date and/or marry is ours and ours alone.  Of course, parents have some influence in this decision, as do friends, but you ultimately get to choose the person who makes you the happiest.  Arranged marriages were the norm worldwide until the 18th century.  I’m just glad we live in this day and age.

3. Interracial and interfaith couples are becoming more widely accepted.

A study published earlier this month by Kevin Lewis, a UC San Diego sociologist, suggests that racial barriers to romance are not as insurmountable as we might suppose.  He did his research by analyzing the patterns of 126,134 OKCupid users in a two-and-a-half month period.  He found that, while people often still mainly reach out to others of their own racial background, they are, however, more likely to return a cross-race email than previous research would have led to us to expect.  And, once they have replied to a suitor from a different race, people are then themselves more likely to cross racial lines and initiate interracial contact in the future.  Baby steps…

4. There is more gender equality, especially with online dating.

While I am still a proponent of chivalry when it comes to opening doors and paying on a first date, I also strongly encourage women to reach out first online with an email if someone strikes their fancy.  And, if someone is trying to have an e-lationship, then I also recommend that women suggest meeting in person.  This is the better option to dropping communication completely simply because no one knows the appropriate time to ask for that cocktail or coffee.

Now, we gaze at the Shamash!

5. Dating apps exist.

This is similar to #1 above, but this time, all you have to do is click, send a few texts, and then meet.  Easy as pumpkin pie!

6. There are events galore for meeting people.

Between the aforementioned trivia night, Shabbat services, community service events, and, of course, the infamous GTJ happy hours, there are so many places to meet people for networking, making friends, and dating.

7. DC is a young city.

In 2010, which was the most recent comprehensive age demographic data I could find for DC, the population of people aged 25-34 was 17.1%.  While this number may not sound high on its own, it’s the highest percentage of all age demographics.  For the entire US that year, people aged 25-34 represented 13.4% of the entire population.  Obviously not everyone in this group is single, but at least the odds of meeting someone in that age range are slightly higher… unless Hugh Hefner is your type.

8. DC is fun!

My next article will consist of fun and cheap winter date ideas.  Just for a tease, you could show off your triple Salchow at the new Shaw Ice Skating Rink, go to the Museum of American History and impress your date with your knowledge that it was the Battle of Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key’s lyrics to our National Anthem, or indulge in a salted caramel hot chocolate at Co Co. Sala.  Calories don’t count if it’s below 40 degrees out.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and please remember the miracle that is Thanksgivukkah… one drumstick, doughnut, and date at a time.

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

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Top new Thanksgivukkah Videos!

Videos for the holiday that comes only once every 77,000 years! Also don’t forget GTJ’s Chanukah event guide!

Thanksgivukkah Song by ‘Dish Nation!’

Six13 – The Thanksgivukkah Anthem

The Maccabeats – Burn – Hanukkah

Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik & The Maccabeats Miracle Match
Donate and/or make sure you’re on the bone marrow registry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmsgP2VF0Yc

The Thanksgivukkah Song by Buzzfeed

Chanukah Honey (Santa Baby Parody)

Ari Lesser – Give Thanks – Hanukkah – Thanksgiving

Hanukkah 2013 Song Maoz Tzur by Technion Students- Israel

“Thanksgivukkah Pie”, Holiday Tribute by Benji Lovitt

“Oils” – A Thanksgivukkah Miracle (Royals song parody)

The Chanukah Song – Ella No Sigue Modas, Jewish Version (with English, Spanish, and Hebrew lyrics)

!נס גדול היה פה – “A Great Miracle Happened Here” a cappella medley by Hillel House

I Want A Hippopotamus For Hanukkah – Mr. Palindrome

The Dreidel Song: Hanukkah Rap

The Thanksgivukkah Movie Trailer

Thanksgivukkah – ” Scream and shout ” by Buba Myses

Thanksgivukkah: The Movie

Chanuka Rock! by KOPSHTICK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOM_DsxHS6c

What does Andrew do for Hanukkah??

I Believe in Miracles by Julie Geller

The Anti-Thanksgivukah Song

The Thanksgiving Turkey Dreidel by Conan O’Brien

Thanksgiving Under Attack: Hanukkah (Stephen Colbert)

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

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Masa Israel Featured Internship: Social Work Internship, Mesila: Municipal Aid Center for Migrant Workers and Asylum Seekers

While interning at Mesila you will be responsible for conducting intakes and providing referrals for clients from the migrant worker and asylum seeker communities in south Tel Aviv. You will also be given the opportunity to volunteer at one of the unrecognized pre-schools run through social services within the local community.  You may also have the opportunity to provide direct assistance to families with children with special needs to help them receive social service benefits.  Interns at Mesila must be able to read, write and speak in both Hebrew and English – volunteering positions are also available for those with limited Hebrew ability.

Founded in 1998, Mesila is a non-profit organization dedicated to combating poverty by raising public awareness about the importance of financial stability and independence among the refugee and migrant worker communities in south Tel Aviv. http://www.interninisrael.org/social-worker-internship-mesila/

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Vice President Biden Literally Breaks a Tie in Senate

bidenWASHINGTON, DC – (@The Comedy News) – Vice President Joe Biden came to the U.S. Senate floor today to exude his only real Constitutional duty– to break ties in the Senate. However, he chose to interpret his Constitutional duty as he had to literally take a necktie and break it into pieces.

When the Vice President arrived on the floor and silently grinned his trademark smile, he pulled out a brand new red and blue-striped necktie and proceeded to break it into pieces with his bare hands.

“Once that tie came out of his pocket, we knew exactly what ol’ Joe was gonna do”, a Senate Page reported. “We hear stories about how much of a goof he was when he was a Senator. And now, out of forty-seven Vice Presidents in U.S. history, Joe is the first that I know of to come to the floor and rip a tie to pieces—and then defend his behavior as his ‘Constitutional duty’.

Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 of the United States Constitution states that “the Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided”. There is no mention of neckties.

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at http://www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at http://www.BrianFishbach.com. Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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JSSA Legacy Brunch: An Organization Impacting the Community

Seated Dr and Mrs Clement Alpert seated_Second Row from left Vic Seested_Gail Maidenbaum_Larry Kline_All Legacy MembersThere is an organization that helps the elderly, the ill, the young, the hungry of all races, faiths and political affiliations in the Greater Washington area. No, I’m not referring to the government. For 120 years the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) has dutifully served its community. This year alone over 37,000 people have been assisted by the organization.

For generations the agency has had a meaningful impact on the lives of people the it touched. For Maryland native, Howard Rothman, JSSA entered his life in the early 90s when his mother became ill and needed hospice care. They came to the house twice a week to clean and do the shopping. JSSA recently reentered Rothman’s life as a form of relief for one his children when his daughter began to have separation anxiety during his divorce. During the alternating weeks of custody JSSA counselors were able to provide her with counselors that have helped her go from making ten or more calls in a weekend to her mother down to two.

As a nonprofit, the work the agency would not be possible without the support of the community. Over the past ten years, 482 individuals made annual gifts for a total impact of $13.2 million. Though no small figure the amount the work that remains to be done exceeds the donations received. To further JSSA in its mission many individuals have made the organization a beneficiary in their wills. To honor such people, JSSA hosted a Legacy Brunch. Though legacy giving is not a new concept it has yet to set roots in the Jewish philanthropic world despite being fairly simple to initiate. A legacy contribution can be made through various means such as designating an organization on an IRA form or creating a fund within another organization. Contrary to popular belief, legacy giving is not only for the super wealthy. Donations of any size from the meager to the sizeable are welcome to help further the work of the agency.

JSSA has made many friends over the years. One of their board members, Vic Seested, is evidence of that. Though he himself is not Jewish, his life has been touched by JSSA through the impact it made in his friends’ lives growing up in Maryland and he wanted to be a member of the organization which had enriched the lives of those who he loves. To assist JSSA in its mission to honor those who have designated the agency as a beneficiary of legacy contributions, Seested had his restaurant, Taste Gastropub in Olney, Maryland provide the three course meal for everyone who attended. The event also featured Matt Nosanchuk, the Associate Director of the Public Engagement and Liaison to the Jewish Community for the White House, as the keynote speaker.

For Nosanchuk, he views his role within the White House as the representative of the President to the Jewish people. At the brunch he espoused support for the work of JSSA over the past century. For him, it is important to bring new voices from across the spectrum of Jewish observance into the community and the inclusive nature of the agency facilitates that goal.

If you are interested in getting involved or finding out more about the agency they will be hosting a brunch on December 15 as a part of their Eggs and Ideas series to engage the community around areas of general interest, break bread with neighbors and provide information about social services available in your own backyard! The brunch will be hosted by Andy Pollin on December 16 at Clyde’s of Tyson’s Corner. Andy Pollin is a longtime D.C. sports-radio fixture who recently brought back his signature “Sports Reporters” franchise to weekday mornings on SportsTalk 570. You can find out more information about the event here.

Courtney D. Sharpe is a world traveler who has spent extensive time in the Middle East studying, traveling and working with the Peace Corps. She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she pursued a double degree in International Studies and Religion. 

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Hanukkah 2013 Events!

hanukkahAre you looking for something Hanukkah-related to do before or after you celebrate Thanksgiving outside the District?  Or are you riding out Thankgivikkah here in DC?  Either way, we’ve gathered the DC Hanukkah events for you!  If you see an event missing, email Rachel at rachelg@gatherthejews.com so we can make sure it makes it onto the list.

Many of these events require advance ticket purchase or RSVP.

Thursday, November 20th:

Sunday, November 24th:

Monday, November 25th:

Tuesday, November 26th:

Wednesday, November 27th:

Thursday, November 28th:
Sunday, December 1st

Monday, December 2nd:

Tuesday, December 3rd:

Wednesday, December 4th:

Thursday, December 5th:

Saturday, December 7th:

Sunday, December 8th:

Monday, December 9th:

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Famed Christmas Elf Toy Meets its Jewish Match: ‘Mensch on a Bench’

MosheLast April, GTJ told you about a Kickstarter campaign for ‘Mensch on a Bench’. We’re happy to say that ‘Mensch on a Bench’ has become a reality!

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When his son asked for The Elf on the Shelf—the famed Christmas toy that is said to keep an eye on children and report back to Santa Claus regarding their behavior—entrepreneur Neal Hoffman says he felt an admitted pang of “elf envy” and saw the need to offer something more appropriate.

“I said to myself that I wished there was a toy and book that was an alternative, that was rooted in Jewish traditions,” Hoffman tells JNS.org.

Hoffman, at the time an employee of the Hasbro toy and game company, would go on to create a new toy to ensure that those celebrating Hanukkah wouldn’t experience the same “elf envy.”

With roots tracing back to the 1970s, The Elf on the Shelf has sold nearly 2.5 million units. The elf has now met its Jewish match through Hoffman’s The Mensch on a Bench, a toy and book set based on the story of the character “Moshe the Mensch.” Available for the first time this Hanukkah, the set costs $36 (plus shipping and handling).

Using the popular crowd-funding website Kickstarter to raise money (in Jewish-appropriate denominations of $18) Hoffman brought his dream of a Jewish judge of childhood behavior to life. The book that comes with Moshe explains that this savvy tzaddik was in the Temple with the Maccabees when they defeated the Greeks in the second century BCE. As the age-old story goes, there was only sufficient oil for one night, but it lasted for eight. How? Moshe volunteered to sit on a bench all night and keep an eye on it. Thousands of years later, Moshe is still on a bench and still watching over Hanukkah, much like The Elf on the Shelf watches over Christmas.

Hoffman, a Massachusetts native who now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, explains that as a father of two in an interfaith household, he was well familiar with The Elf on the Shelf from his nieces and nephews. When his son asked for one, he says he initially laughed off his idea for a Hanukkah-themed alternative to the toy, but the idea kept coming back until he could resist it no longer.

While Hoffman sees The Elf on the Shelf as a symbol of the commercialism of a holiday, he suggests that Moshe the Mensch is a keeper of the eternal traditions of Judaism.

“The Elf is more secular and not as religious, just pure fun,” he says.

mensch-bookMoshe may not be an “answer” to the elf, but it is an “alternative” that is appropriate for Jewish children and allows them to create their own Hanukkah tradition, Hoffman says.

Hoffman used his years of experience at Habsro—where he worked (and played) with the legendary likes of G.I. Joe and the Transformers—to his advantage for creating The Mensch on a Bench. Yet the experience was different than anything he had done before, he says.

“This was the first time I had to take an idea and figure out everything, including the design, engineering, pa

ckaging, marketing, fundraising, Web development, and timeline management,” Hoffman recalls. “It really made me appreciate the caliber of people I had worked with in the past.”

While he didn’t have his former Hasbro colleagues working with him, Hoffman was far from alone. He quickly found fans on Facebook and backers on Kickstarter, and says his biggest support came from his family. The passion for Moshe the Mensch was immediately “contagious,” he says.

In an effort to explain Moshe to the masses, Hoffman hurried to come up with a believable backstory, and created the book to accompany the toy.

“The book is inspired by the story of Hanukkah,” Hoffman says. “It tells about how the Maccabees came back to the Temple and were tired from the war and needed to sleep. With only one night of oil, they were worried it would go out overnight and leave them in the dark. One man volunteered to watch over the lights: Moshe the Mensch.”

To give Moshe and his story more staying power and appeal, the book also includes activities for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Hoffman hopes to bring the book not only to his local library, but also to the Jewish literacy nonprofit PJ Library, which to date has delivered more than 3 million books to youths. He also says sequels are possible.

“There are still a lot of words that rhyme with ‘mensch’ that we can work with,” Hoffman says.

In the meantime, Hoffman is looking forward to opening his own Moshe on the first night of Hanukkah (Nov. 27).

“I think we have a fun idea that Jewish families can rally around and use to make Hanukkah more fun,” Hoffman says. “Over the next couple years, Jewish families will decide if this is a great idea and something they want, or if the Mensch will become a rare collectors item.”

This article also appeared on JNS.org.

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Guy Wastes 30 Minutes Googling Articles about Improving Time Management

En-Recherche-De-Temps-PerduBETHESDA, MD – (@The Comedy News) - Phillip Bergman, a management associate at consulting firm ConTech, spent thirty minutes today researching and reading articles about improving his squalid time management skills.

“After reading my ninth Buzzfeed article of the day before 10:00 AM, I knew I needed some self-help,” explained Bergman, a 25-year-old graduate of Tufts University.  That was 9:30 AM.  It would still be another 17 minutes before Bergman remembered that he needed an intervention.

At around 9:47 AM, emails from his supervisors began to speckle his inbox about meeting memos, expense spreadsheets, and Redskins ticket prices on StubHub.   At the same time, Bergman sat pensively, attempting to concoct a backhandedly flirtatious birthday Facebook wall post for a girl who Bergman hasn’t seen since kindergarten.

“The first thing I googled was ‘improving time management’.  Some no-talent hack had some YouTube videos.  One of them was over four minutes long,” Bergman complained.  “Fat chance I’ll watch all of that.  So I ended up on Yahoo Answers.  The suggestions weren’t helpful, but they sure were entertaining.”

Some of the Yahoo Answers to “How to be a better time managre” (sic) included the following:
–Deactiveate facebook
–Stop g-chatting with spouse or significant other
–Write down your to do list on paper, not a napkin or toilet paper.
–For immediate answers, use a telephone, do not text. For information on how to use a phone, google “how to use a phone”.

By the end of the 30-minute research and reading session, Bergman had visited almost 73 webpages that had mentioned time management.  “I feel slightly better,” Bergman admitted with his new life skills.

***Update***
At 1:00 PM, Bergman was fired for inappropriate use of work time and resources.

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at http://www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at http://www.BrianFishbach.com. Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

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What’s the Whole Point of Dating? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 78)

friendly_ways-get-man-ask-you-second-dateNot that I take Urban Dictionary as gospel (I’d have some problems if I did!), but when it comes to the definition of “dating,” the usually off-color site does a surprisingly good job of defining the word.  The first definition on the site says that dating is, “… To be in the early stages of a relationship where [you] go out on dates to find out what each other is like, as a prelude to actually being a fully-fledged couple.”  Notice that the definition isn’t “going out once to determine if this person will be your soul mate.”  This is where many people get confused.

Clients and friends (and GTJ readers) ask me all the time whether they should go on a second date since they’re not sure whether they were really into the other person (either for personality or physical attraction reasons) after the first date.  They reason that they don’t want to lead the other person on, making him or her think that this might be the beginning of a relationship when, in fact, the next date would be “just to see” if there’s any potential there.

While in theory this makes sense, I argue that the whole point of dating is to get to know people to see if you want to start a relationship with them!  The definition above even states that people date “to find out what each other is like.”  It’s often the case that we’re not sure how we feel after a first date.  Of course, it’s sometimes clear that you have a major spark, or alternately, that you can’t stand the other person.  (The guy I once went out with who literally sulked – yes, literally – when I beat him at ping pong certainly made the decision easy for me.)  It’s often too hard after just one date (which is likely only an hour or so long) to decide if this person drinking a Jack and diet across from you will ultimately be the mother or father of your children!  My point: It’s okay to see someone again just to see whether he or she is a good fit.  You’re not leading someone on – you’re just dating!

I know I’ve told this story before, but back in 2005, I went on a first date with someone I met at kickball.  (My team name, you ask?  Kick it up a Notch… Bam!)  I consider myself to be an engaging person who can talk to just about anyone, but there were silences… awkward ones.  When the date came to a close, I thought to myself, “Nice enough guy, but I don’t think I’m into him.”

The next day, I sent a “thank you” e-mail (which I do recommend — over e-mail or text — if you’re interested, and in this case, I erred on the side of being nice).  From that e-mail, we actually started a pretty darn witty banter.  And then he asked me out again.  What was a girl to do?  While I didn’t have a great time on the date, this guy seemed interested.  I knew he could at least communicate in written form, and, well, I was free the night he asked.  I figured it couldn’t hurt “just to see.”

Long story short: We dated for a year and a half.  It’s more than okay not to know after the first date how you feel.  Remember, you don’t have to make life-altering decisions after date #1, like what kind of wedding china you’re going to get.  Simply ask yourself this question: Do I want to have another conversation with this person to get to know him/her?  If the answer might be yes (or even if you’re not sure), you have nothing to lose by giving it another shot.  It’s just dating, after all.

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

 

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