Gathering Voices: Free Coffee for a Sweet New Year

rosh hashanahDear Friends,

From Gather the Jews (GTJ), I wish you a happy, healthy and sweet new year ahead.  May it be filled with good friends, personal growth, and new DC adventures!

And I hope GTJ can be a part of it.

To start the Jewish new year with some extra sweetness, let me treat you to a new years coffee on me in your neighborhood!  Just e-mail me at or sign up HERE.  Feel free to sign up with friends as a group, too.

As part of GTJ’s listening tour (Gathering Voices), I am excited to meet you, hear your story, and learn from your DC experiences.  I hope you’ll add your voice to these conversations!

Rachel Gildiner at Gather the Jews


Rosh Hashanah from NEXT

NEXT RHThe Jewish New Year is this week! Find a local event where you and your friends can celebrate on NEXT’s interactive map: Want to create your own celebration? Birthright Israel alumni can host a holiday meal for friends, with resources and some funds from NEXT:









Online Dating: Past and Present-GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 95)

online-datingOnline dating has been around for quite a while now.  In fact, JDate first opened its proverbial doors back in 1997, when I was in high school!  As you may know, I was actually a very early adopter of online dating, using JDate back in 2000 or 2001, before people really had any idea what it was all about.  My parents, naturally, flipped out, thinking I was going to meet some psycho-killer, or worse, someone who wasn’t worthy of their daughter!  The worst that happened, of course, was a few bad dates with some socially awkward men… er… boys who were clueless as to what dating actually involved.  But why not try it out?  I was technologically savvy.  I mean, I did have a cell phone in college before anyone else did, even if it was this ridiculously large blue thing that I didn’t want anyone to know I had.  (It was very uncool to have a cell phone back then.)

I thought we’d take a stroll down memory lane and compare online dating in the early 2000s to online dating today.


Person 1: Um… I’m going on a date with this guy Sean.

Person 2: That’s great!  Where did you meet him?

Person 1: Well, we haven’t actually “met” yet.  I found him on JDate.

Person 2: What?!?!  You’re not that desperate, are you?  Geez—protect yourself!  Tell me all the details.  Let me know where you’ll be.  I just hope you’ll be safe.  You never know what psychos are hiding on those sites.  Wow—I didn’t know anyone I knew would actually try online dating!


Person 1: Um… I’m going on a date with this guy Sean.

Person 2: That’s great!  Where did you meet him?

Person 1: On OkCupid.

Person 2: Cool!  My sister met her husband on  Have fun!



OMG—I think that guy across the room at the dessert table looked at my profile on (whisper) JDate.  I can’t even look at him.  How embarrassing!


I think that guy and I matched on Hinge the other day.  I think I’ll go say hi!  Maybe it’ll speed up the process of him asking me out. ;)



Which four pictures should I use for my JDate profile?  I guess I’ll have to upload the pictures from my new digital camera to my computer to post them on the site.  Or, I guess I can scan some of the other ones I have.  I hope it works.


Which 12 pictures should I use for my JDate profile and six for my Tinder?  Let me check out some pics on Facebook and my phone to see which ones I want to use.  Actually, I think there’s a really good one on Instagram that someone tagged me in!

Side note: I still only recommend posting three to five photos



Person: How did you two meet?

Couple: Um… well… haha… it’s a long story.  (Look at each other embarrassingly.)


Person: How did you two meet?

Couple (in unison): On JDate!  I hear that if you have a JBaby and you let them know, they actually send you a onesie!

The stigma is gone, and online dating is here to stay.  Daily Mail UK predicts that in 20 years, half of all couples will meet online, and this number may rise to 70% by 2040.  If you’re not already playing the online dating game, now’s the time to give it a whirl.  Why not?


erika e-1405-4Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people navigate the world of online dating, and author of Love at First SiteWant to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.







AJWS DC Action Team Launch Party

ajws_logo_large15 years ago, I took a chance by using my summer break to travel with American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to the developing world. I only knew about AJWS because the then-new President, Ruth Messinger, was a prominent New York City politician that I greatly respected and I was curious about this organization with which she was involved, but had no idea that it would inspire such passion in global social justice in me.

I ended up spending 7 weeks working side-by-side with community-based organizations on projects that helped build infrastructure and economic sustainability. For 5 weeks in Zimbabwe, I helped the local rural community we lived with construct a dam and reservoir to preserve their water supply during the frequent droughts. While performing this physically laborious work, we also managed to conduct a cultural exchange program, sharing sports, song and dance, and to document the stories of the community members in an area where AIDS was diminishing the population rapidly. Then, for 2 weeks in Israel, we had day projects with various different communities, ranging from Ethiopian children to Druze teenagers and even Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

When I returned, I was determined to stay involved with the organization, as I credited the experience with sparking my own interest in social justice. Over time, I have followed the development of a partnership with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, engaged the DC community through involvement in its DC City Team, spoke out for food justice as part of its Reverse Hunger campaign at Global Hunger Shabbats, and joined the organization for a White House Community Leaders Briefing Day with the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. Additionally, I have listed to Ruth Messinger herself and recipients of AJWS grants when they have spoken at local synagogues and community centers about the work of the organization.

While AJWS no longer offers volunteer service programs like the one in which I participated, there are now amazing opportunities to get involved in social justice changemaking with AJWS in DC through its strong advocacy and campaigns and organizing departments. The We Believe campaign has action opportunities to promote passage the International Violence Against Women Act and the International Human Rights Defense Act, and to urge the appointment a special envoy on Global LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights. This campaign calls on the U.S. government to stop violence against women and girls, to stop hate crimes against LGBT people, and to empower girls to end child marriage, in order to help improve the lives of people in the developing world. And you too can be part of this changemaking by joining me and other members of the DC Action Team at our launch party on October 1st!

Timed to fall between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this party is an open invitation to our local community to attend a party to celebrate both the Jewish New Year of 5775 and our new team. Ruth Messinger will discuss our work and ways for you to take action here in D.C. to advance justice around the world. Nikki Mawanda, an AJWS grantee from Uganda who advocates for transgender rights, will talk about the grassroots activism AJWS supports that is creating lasting change for the most marginalized people. And members of our team will address opportunities for direct involvement in international human rights advocacy!

So, if you are at all interested in enjoying some food and drinks and meeting others in the area who share this passion for international human rights and believe in taking action on its behalf, please join us at the 5th & K Busboys and Poets between 6pm and 8pm on Wednesday, October 1st!

If you would like to RSVP or have any questions, please contact Mike Salamon at either 202-379-4265 or



The Jewish Case for Changing the Redskins’ Name

Washington_Redskins_1000_reverseThe opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not represent the views of Gather the Jews.

Like many of in DC I have struggled with the issues with the name of the Washington Redskins.  I am a local to the DC area.  I grew up in Mclean, Virginia, fifteen minutes from the DC line and I have lived in the DC area all of my life except for my time at Syracuse University.  I have seen Joe Gibbs hoist the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl.  I know that the only person more second-guessed than the person sitting in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the one walking up and down the sidelines at Fed-Ex.   I understand what the Skins mean to DC, and the special moments this team has helped create.

I also know that in the realm of things, the problem of a team name or mascot is towards the bottom of the list of the issues confronting Native Americans, such as struggles with poverty, addiction, suicide, and education.  If the people who are extremely offended by the name actually put a quarter of the effort into resolving the underlying problems in the Native American community as they did working to change the name, some of these problems could begin to be addressed.

For the reasons above, I used be in the camp of, the name isn’t that big a deal.  However, the recent rise in anti-Semitism and a friend’s ride in an UberX changed all that.  The uptick in documented anti-Semitic incidents worldwide is alarming.  While there are some outside the Jewish community who are highlighting it, it is also widely accepted in Europe.  While extremely incorrect, the idea that being anti-Semitic is not the same as other forms of racism still exists in numerous examples from the UN to some pro-Palestinian protests to anti-war groups.

During the recent conflict in Gaza, I finally understood what it meant to feel offended by something others brushed off as no big deal.  A friend recently got in an UberX and immediately saw in the window of his driver’s car an ancient Indian symbol that the Nazis bastardized and turned into the Swastika.  Even though it was originally used as an Indian symbol and the person likely did not display it as support for the Nazi’s or racist groups, it was still extremely offensive to the rider who got out of the car and cancelled the ride.  I would have likely acted in a similar fashion.  Then I started thinking about how I would feel if I was a Native American living in this city.  The logo of the Redskins is everywhere, and the same is true for the team name.  Regardless of its initial intention, the name clearly has a current association with a racist slur.  If any community should be sensitive to the idea of people claiming a specific racial incident is not that big a deal, it is the Jewish community and what we are experiencing across the globe.

I can no longer in good faith pretend the name is acceptable for a NFL franchise.  We can all support the team, but the name should change.  Then the team can return to being one of DC’s biggest unifying forces, instead of one of its biggest dividers.

Hail to the Washington Football Team- #HTTWFT


FREE 10-day Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip this WINTER!

Free Trip to IsraelAre you a Jewish young professional or graduate student, ages 22 to 26, living in the Greater Washington area?  Go to Israel for FREE this Winter on the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip with Shorashim. On this trip, you will travel with Israelis and young adults from the DC area for all 10 days. Registration for this amazing opportunity opens September 8thfor past applicants, and general registration opens on September 9th at 10 AM at The trip fills up fast, so get on the bus and join us for an amazing 10-day adventure! Contact Rachel Barton at or (301) 230-7266. Learn more at



Learning from History

AJC-logo3_H-tag newThis article originally appeared in The Times of Israel.

At the end of June, I was fortunate enough to take part in the American Jewish Committee ACCESS Third Generation Initiative trip to Germany, which brought together ten young American Jewish professionals and ten young German professionals to explore modern Germany and its history.  The trip was co-sponsored by American Jewish Committee

ACCESS; the Munich-based financial services company, Allianz; and Germany Close Up, a German nonprofit that promotes American-Jewish-German relations.

I first traveled to Germany in 1994 with my high school orchestra on a cultural and educational exchange program with the Detmold Jugendorchester from the small town of Detmold, Germany.  At the time, I was a bit hesitant about traveling to Germany because some members of my family regarded anything German or related to Germanys with some suspicion and distrust.  During my high school trip, I stayed with a German host family and was struck by how sensitive they were to my being Jewish and how attentive they were to my Kosher dietary restrictions, making special efforts to prepare vegetarian meals for me.  During this trip, I spoke to some Germans about the Holocaust and could see they were eager to learn about it and discuss it.

On my recent trip to Germany with the Third Generation Initiative, I saw that this interest in learning about the Holocaust runs far deeper than I initially thought.  During this trip, I saw Germans in all aspects of society going to great lengths to educate themselves about their Nazi era past and learn from it.

We visited the offices of Allianz, a large German financial services company that co-sponsored the trip.  Allianz has spent years uncovering its corporate history during the Nazi era, including its involvement with the Nazi regime during that period of history, and has taken a leading role in handling Holocaust-era insurance claims.

During the trip, we visited the former concentration camp, Sachsenhausen.  As I walked through the camp, I was surprised to see a number of groups of elementary school-aged German children visiting the camp.  After the visit, many of the German participants on our trip shared what grandparents and aunts and uncles were doing during the Holocaust.  I was moved to see how visibly conflicted and upset some of them were about relatives that may have been complicit in the atrocities.

On a visit with leaders from the German armed forces, I learned that the country’s history during the Nazi era influences current military policy.  The German Nazi and Stasi history has led to a general policy of military restraint, although this may be changing as Germany becomes a larger force on the world stage.  The military leaders told us that the army’s current oath is to defend the rights of the German people as opposed to the military’s oath during the Nazi era, which was to pledge unconditional obedience to one individual—Hitler.

Over the past couple of months I have seen numerous newspaper articles about the recent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.  I was especially shocked to read that protesters were shouting anti-Semitic slurs and attacking Jewish individuals on the streets of Berlin, which is so much at odds with my experiences in Germany.  However, I am encouraged by the strong statements denouncing these anti-Semitic actions made by Chancellor Merkel, other prominent Germans, and members of the German press. I have confidence that Germany will continue to take a strong moral stance and put a stop to the spread of anti-Semitism in Europe, and that Germany will be a model for the world in learning from its past.  As young leaders in the Jewish community, we have a critical role and responsibility to continue to support these efforts and to strengthen the German-Jewish relationship in the years to come.

Natalie Rosenfelt lives in Washington, DC and is an antitrust lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice. She received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Cornell University. 


Meet GTJ’s New Director: Rachel Gildiner!

Rachel Gildiner joins GTJ on September 8th as the new Director! Email her at

GTJ photo2GTJ: What are you most excited for with GTJ?

Rachel: I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I can’t wait to meet the thousands of Jewish young adults in DC and hear from them who they are, where they are from, what they love to do in DC – Jewish or not – and better understand what they feel is missing. I envision a Jewish DC where inclusive and dynamic communities are created by better knowing people’s stories and what they’re looking for.  I think GTJ can do that and I can’t wait to be a part of it.


GTJ: Wow! Another Rachel G.! Are you worried that people will confuse you with the outgoing Rachel G.?

Rachel: Well, that would be cool because I think the out-going Rachel G. is awesome!  Plus I’ve always wanted my own doppelganger.  But really, I’m sure in time people will get to know the new Rachel G. on the block.  My camp name growing up was just “Gildiner” or “Big G” so maybe I’ll starting signing my e-mails that way to avoid any confusion.  And if there is any confusion, I hope I’ll have the chance to clear it up with any one over coffee and some good conversation, or at one of our Happy Hours.

GTJ photo5GTJ: What is going to change about GTJ?

GTJ has built incredible Jewish life in DC.  It is the clear, one-stop shop for all things Jewish in DC so you don’t need to go to 20 different places to find out what’s happening.  It is known for it’s welcoming and well-attended happy hours as well as the Jewish Guy and Girl of the Week.  ALL OF THESE GREAT THINGS WILL CONTINUE!

The changes to come will focus Gather the Jews as an engagement platform – one where relationships are at the forefront of our work.  In this spirit, Gather will focus on the networks of people and circles of friends that happen in between the great programs and events.  Gather will play the role of individual concierge for young adults looking to connect to Jewish life, Jewish friends, or meaningful Jewish opportunities.  We will focus on innovative approaches to Jewish learning and living by playing convener and collaborator with the incredible Jewish organizations in DC and NOVA already providing and constantly thinking about new Jewish experiences to offer.  And one of the most exciting things for me, is that we will be piloting a Young Adult Fellowship where selected individuals will be part of engaging their own circles of friends in Jewish life in personally exciting ways.  More to come on all of this soon!

GTJ photo9GTJ: How did you first get involved with the Jewish community?

Rachel: Well, what I love most about the DC Jewish community in particular, is that it is actually a community of communities.  People have different friends and social circles, different ways of connecting Jewishly, and different geographic preferences for where we hang out.  Yet there is a greater connection that we all share by the fact that we all find Jewish life meaningful to help us live lives of value.  This idea of multiple communities is how I think about my own Jewish connection as well.

After working for Hillel International for 7 years, I have a Jewish community of colleagues across the country.  Having a desire to study Judaism academically after high school, I have an incredible Jewish community from the Jewish Theological Seminary and more broadly, the Upper West Side of New York.  But probably my most pivotal connection to Jewish community was when I started attending Camp Ramah in the Poconos as a child.  It made Judaism fun, social, and experiential.  It made Jewish life come, well, to life.  Some of my Ramah friends are still my closest and dearest friends.  I actually met my husband there although we didn’t start dating until we reconnected in college.

GTJ photo4GTJ: What’s your favorite part about being Jewish?

Rachel: This is such a hard question because there’s not one easy answer for me.  I really love being Jewish for so many reasons.  And as a total cop-out, I could say that’s part of what I love about it – that there are so many ways for someone to connect – through tzedek / justice or tikkun olam, through prayer and spirituality, through holiday and ritual observance, through Jewish song and music, through Israel.

For me though, I suppose my favorite part is that I find the holiday and life cycle rituals, traditions, prayers, liturgy, and practices so meaningful – and so human.  Now, I don’t pray regularly, and I certainly don’t observe every law and ritual in Judaism.  But those I do observe, the times I do pray, and even the ones I don’t observe but understand the reasons for, I am so grateful for their existence. For example, I love that there is a time to atone for our sins and seek forgiveness on Yom Kippur through Rosh Hashanah, and directly following that for Sukkot, there is a designated time where we are actually obligated to be happy and celebrate and show gratitude for the abundance in our lives.  These experiences are so human and natural, yet when Judaism provides the structure and even the right words to help offer both forgiveness and joy, it connects the Jewish people with each other and with our broader human experiences.

GTJ photo8GTJ: Do you have a favorite Jew?

Rachel: Oy, I have many.  One is my Mom who went back to have her Bat Mitzvah when she was 30.  A second is my dad who became a Mohel when he was 55.  And one Jew that I wish I had had the chance to meet is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.  While probably one of the most quoted Jewish philosophers and theologians of all time, he was a man who put his Jewish values of equality and justice into action.  Not only did he march with Reverend Martin Luther King during the civil rights era, but he wrote prolifically and gave a strong voice to the necessary role of Jews in the battle for civil rights for all people.  He worked with conviction and with faith in God and left a mark on the world, as a Jew.

GTJ: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and/or food?

Rachel: I love Sukkot.  It’s not a holiday I celebrated growing up, but in college we would have sukkot up on the main lawn, and leaves from the skach (the roof covering) would always fall into our soup.  It always smelled like fall and it was such a joyous and festive time.  Since then it’s been my favorite Jewish holiday.  Plus, you get to eat delicious fall foods like butternut squash soup!

GTJ photo1GTJ: When you aren’t gathering, what do you like to do?

Rachel: I love to dance, any type but mostly ballet. It makes me feel alive and centered.  I also love hiking and spending time in the mountains of Colorado.   But most often you can find me playing with my two children, Samuel and Vera.  They can always make me laugh and they remind me to cherish that childhood sense of awe and excitement in life.

GTJ: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Rachel: …all will feel welcomed and honored.  They will connect with new faces and old friends and find a holiness in being together.  Community will be created and celebrated.


Gather the Jews Announces Rachel Gildiner as New Director

GTJ Logo Slogan square white-bgNew Model to Usher in Innovative New Phase for Jewish Life in DC.

Washington, September 5, 2014: Gather the Jews (GTJ) announces today the hiring of Rachel Gildiner as its new Director.  Under Rachel’s leadership and funding from a transformative grant from a funding collaborative that includes The Morningstar Foundation, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies, and the The Jewish Federation’sUnited Jewish Endowment Fund, GTJ will revolutionize the future of Jewish young adult life in the Washington, D.C. area.

This new phase for GTJ will be centered in an engagement model, recognizing the individual and communal story of our young adult population.  GTJ will pivot to a focus on  1:1 relationship building, the cultivation of an engagement fellowship program, and a renewed emphasis on innovative Jewish learning, revolutionizing the way in which the Jewish community embraces and empowers its young adult population.  Through meaningful dialogue and a strengthened communal model, every Jewish young adult in the DC region will feel that she or he has a key personalized resource to activate the next chapter of his or her Jewish journey.

Steven A. Rakitt of The Jewish Federation said “The UJEF is thrilled to welcome Rachel into this role.  This is a cutting edge model in the Jewish community, and we believe that Rachel is well-positioned to work with the many aspects of our local community.”

Rachel Gildiner comes to GTJ with over seven years of experience in relationship-building and facilitating engagement trainings for young adults and Jewish communities across the country.   Through her years at Hillel International as the Director of Learning and Assistant Director of Student Engagement, and her own Jewish experiences, Gildiner says “I understand first-hand the need for authentic relationship building as a key platform to engage the complex and multifaceted young adult community.  I look forward to advancing DCs efforts toward creating inclusive and vibrant Jewish opportunities for each and every Jewish young adult in the city and surrounding areas.”

The grant, given over the course of the next three years, will enable the additional hiring of the GTJ Educator.  Together with Rachel, the new team will work in tandem to launch this new model and serve as a key resource to the wider DC Jewish community.

Susie and Michael Gelman, directors of The Morningstar Foundation, said, “We are excited at the prospect of giving young adults in our community the ability to make Jewish life more meaningful and accessible.  We believe that this is a great opportunity for Jewish  organizations in our area to enhance the range of offerings for young adults.”

GTJ remains committed to supporting the wider fabric of young adult life in DC. and our weekly newsletter will continue to remain a hub of information online, GTJ Happy Hours will remain a real-time meeting place for the community, and GTJ professionals will work closely with the talented array of Jewish professionals already committed to communal programming in the DC community.

Simone Friedman Rones of Emanuel J Friedman Philanthropies said, “We are thrilled to continue our relationship with Gather the Jews in partnership with GW Hillel, The Morningstar Foundation, and UJEF.  We believe that collaboration is the key to effective grant making, and we think that this GTJ initiative has the potential to be a model for collaboration in Jewish communities across the United States.”

About GW Hillel & GTJ:
GTJ found a new home under the auspices of GW Hillel in April 2013.  This transition has enabled GW Hillel to expand its demographic reach while maintaining its mission of supporting emerging Jewish adults write the next chapter of their Jewish journeys.  GW Hillel continues to recognize that one’s Jewish growth does not end after four years in college; GTJ is a natural extension of GW Hillel’s desire to provide identity building and growth to the next generation of Jews.


Rachel Gildiner,
Director – Gather the Jews

Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth
Executive Director – GW Hillel

Adina Dubin Barkinskiy
The Morningstar Foundation


(S)he Likes Me For Me – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 94)

followIt’s kind of scary to stare at a blank profile box, whether it’s on JDate, OkCupid, or J-Swipe, and imagine that in a minute, an hour, a day, or a week, your online dating profile will be “live,” isn’t it?  Even if you write for a living, when it comes to putting pen to paper about yourself (or fingers to keyboard or screen), that’s where things get a bit hairier.

Many people, when they sit down to write their profile, immediately think one thing: “I want to write what I think everyone will want to hear.  That way, I’m not limiting the pool at all.”  While at first glance, this may seem like a good strategy, I want to share why it’s not.

It’s, of course, nice to be liked, but you don’t want to lose yourself in the process of trying to fit into some arbitrary mold that you think others want to see.  Take for example the lines, “I’m just as comfortable in a little black dress and heels as I am in a t-shirt and flip flops,” or “I’m just as happy out on the town as I am at home with a movie and a glass of wine.”  Besides being really boring, do these lines actually tell us anything about the person writing them?  Nope.  They simply cover all the bases.  To me, they read, “I am trying to show you that I’m versatile so you don’t pass me by.”

While it may seem counterintuitive, I’ll come right out and say it: It’s okay to turn people off in your profile!  It’s more important to be the real you… not the version of yourself you think people want to see, and certainly not the version of yourself who attempts to appeal to everyone.  Just be yourself, quirks and all.  That way, you know when someone shows interest, it’s because he or she likes the actual things you said, not just that fact that you were being inclusive.

A sample profile for me on a dating app, where you want to keep things on the short side, might read something like this:

Things I love: Dogs (especially mine), Scotch and bourbon, “That’s what she said” jokes, puns, karaoke, grammar, silliness, board games, and push-ups (I’m a weirdo ;)).

It’s more than okay that I don’t run marathons, read War & Peace for giggles, or go from sweatpants to a ball gown in t-minus two minutes.  Instead, people will get a sense of the real me.  As another example, a client of mine recently wrote about her odd obsession with Post-its and Sharpies.  And you know what?  Men loved her uniqueness and confidence to share it!

I have a challenge for you: If you’re currently on an online dating site, and your profile contains one of the “all-inclusive” lines, change it into something that better represents who you really are.  And if you’re thinking about joining an online dating site, remember that it’s okay to share your interests in bird-watching, chess-playing, wine-making, and whatever else you do for fun.  Yes, you will probably turn some people off.  But you may also turn just exactly the right people on.

erika e-1405-4Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people navigate the world of online dating, and author of Love at First SiteWant to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.





Sela Public Charter School Immerses Students in Hebrew

selaAt Sela Public Charter School, we are beginning our second year of operations at the end of this month with students in pre-k through second grade. We will have about 90 students who come from all wards of the city and from a diverse set of backgrounds. Sela is located on Chillum Place NE and is very fortunate to have an amazing, light-filled long term space.

Sela offers children of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds in DC, from pre-k through fifth grade, the opportunities to achieve academic excellence, in a safe nurturing environment that focuses on Hebrew language immersion, promotes the value of diversity, and provides the skills for taking action in the world.

Sela is excited to announce that we have hired a new Head of School, who has extensive experience in DC charter schools, as an instructional coach and teacher. Natalie Arthurs is bringing her skills, expertise, knowledge and deep DC connections to Sela.

As Sela is a very diverse community, we want to ensure that all of our students, regardless of income or background have access to the same opportunities. We are in the process of designing a robust aftercare program for homework help, Hebrew instruction, and enrichment and are planning to raise enough money to keep this program at a very low cost for busy working Sela families. We know that after school hours are a critical time for students to have fun, extend their learning and stay out of trouble…if they have access to quality programming.  We are able to keep the costs low for this program through a generous grant from the Sidney M. & Phyllis O. Bresler Foundation. This grant is a matching grant and we are asking the greater DC community to help double our money, up to $5,000.00. This is an opportunity for even a small gift to go a long way.  You can make a gift here that will ensure quality after school programming for students of all backgrounds here.

We welcome visitors to Sela, are always looking for extra hands, and extra school supplies as well.  Please stay in touch by signing up for our newsletters.


Erika E. is releasing her first book!

erika ettin-49253-3 NewResident GTJ dating blogger, who just celebrated her 3rd year of blogging for us, is now celebrating releasing her first book!

Her book, Love at First Site, gives “tips and tales for online dating success from a modern-day matchmaker.”

Join Erika (and bring a friend…or 10!) as she celebrates at the Book Release Party!

Here is the event on Facebook as well.

Kol HaKavod, Erika!






How Deal Breakers Hinder Dating Success – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 93)

How many deal breakers is it appropriate to have when searching online for a partner?  One, five, fifteen?  There is no magic number, of course, and Patti Stanger of The Millionaire Matchmaker says that five is a good choice… I tend to agree.  If there’s one thing I know from both my own dating experience and from being a dating coach, though, it’s that 125 is too many!  Where did I get that crazy number, you ask?

A woman recently posted on Tumblr a section of a guy’s profile on OkCupid that I’ll just say was pretty limiting.  And when I say “pretty limiting,” I actually mean ridiculously and obsessively rude and off-putting.  Below is just a small sample of his “do not message me if…” section.  (For the record, OkCupid actually has a section called “You should message me if…”  This means that he actually added this new section to his profile.  Classy.)


After reading the entire list, I counted, and I have 20 of his 125 “don’t message me if” qualities.  Most notable were:

  • You consider yourself a happy person.  (Umm… guilty as charged.)
  • You wear uncomfortable clothing and/or shoes for the sake of feminine style.  (We all know that women dress for other women!)
  • You use the term “foodie.”  (I’m a foodie, all right, and I’m not sorry about it.  I’m just well fed.)

Even if I did fit everything (which I’m pretty sure no one possibly could), I would be so turned off by the negativity that I wouldn’t want to date him anyway!  A question I would pose to him is, “Why do some of these things even matter?”

In talking with Sarah Gooding, the resident Dating Coach at PlentyOfFish, she and I agreed that one should create and live by a few key dating deal breakers.  Most singles have established certain rules when it comes to dating, but they don’t know that they may have too many unnecessary deal breakers that are preventing them from finding a great relationship.  To ensure the right person isn’t being overlooked, let’s look at these five dating deal breaker rules, courtesy of Sarah and elaborated on by yours truly:

1. Deal breakers should be qualities, values, or beliefs that won’t change.

A lot of clients have said things to me like, “I can’t date him.  He’s between jobs.”  Does this mean he can’t get a job in the future?  Of course not!  Income can change; employment status can change; ambition probably can’t.

2. Create no more than five deal breakers/must haves.

Sit down and really think about what’s important to you.  Maybe it’s religious beliefs or level of education.  Stick to your guns on those things, but beyond that, explore.  As an exercise, picture that perfect person with or without each “deal breaker” and see if it matters.  If not, then it’s time to reevaluate your list.

3. Do not mention your deal breakers in the text of your online dating profile.

Most online dating sites have many check-box questions, such as age, religion, children, etc.  This is where the deal breakers will come out.  If you want kids, then check that box accurately.  No need to then state, “Don’t write to me if you don’t want to have children.”

4. Don’t use your previous relationship to create future deal breakers.

It’s easy after a relationship ends to want to find the exact opposite type of person, isn’t it?  We go through all of the things we loathed about our ex and list those as our new deal breakers.  I encourage everyone not to do this because 1) it comes off as fairly bitter and 2) there must have been some good quality in that person if you dated in the first place.  Using what you learned from your last relationship, make your list, but don’t make it solely based on what didn’t work the last time.

Also, as a side note, everything that may be a trait that you don’t want in a partner can likely be turned into a trait that you do want.  For example:

Negative: I’m not looking for players or serial daters.
Positive: I’m looking for someone who is ready for a committed relationship.

5. Be open-minded if someone meets all of your criteria.  However, if he or she doesn’t, decide if it’s worth giving it a shot.

If someone meets all of the criteria you’ve set for yourself, then it can’t hurt to give it a try.  On the one hand, perfect on paper doesn’t equal perfect in real life, so you’ll still have to assess chemistry, but at least you’ll know that you’re off to a good start.  On the other hand, if you know that someone has one of your deal breakers (let’s say religion), then perhaps it’s best not to “try that person on” if you know in the long run it’s not something you can live with.

Remember that in the end, what’s often the most important is how someone treats you.  Is he or she kind, generous, and giving?  How about trustworthy and honest?  That’s what matters in life.

A final note to the guy on OkCupid: I wear yoga pants when I’m not engaging in yoga, and I have participated in a flash mob. We are obviously not meant to be.

In other exciting news, our very own resident GTJ dating columnist has written a book!  Turns out we’re not the only ones she writes for!  Here is the info for the release party if you’d like to join:

Erika 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.


High Holidays 2014

Ishofar squaret’s that time of year again- do you know where you’re attending services?  To make it easier, we’re compiling High Holiday service options in one place.  Anything sold out has a strikethrough. If you know of a service we haven’t included, or see one on the list that is sold out, please email We’ll be continuing to update this page, so check back often. Looking for discounted YP tickets? Buy them through EPDC!

Erev Rosh Hashana – Wednesday, September 24th:

Rosh Hashana (1st day) – Thursday September 25th:

Rosh Hashana (2nd day) – Friday, September 26th:

Kol Nidre – October 3rd:

Yom Kippur, October 4th:

Evening/Neilah, October 4th:


Mensches of Motown: Rebuilding Detroit

5305_753954927979874_822597788960443057_nAt Freedom House Detroit, a temporary residence for asylum seekers from the most violent or oppressive parts of the world, I was curious about the inhabitants’ transition.

“How do you like Detroit so far?” I asked a Nigerian refugee, one who grew up in a country plagued by bloody ethnic conflict, AIDS epidemics, water shortages, sanitation crises, and terror organizations like Boko Haram.

“Man, Detroit is a damn warzone.”

A warzone.

Detroit, factory-forged from sweat, steel, and the American entrepreneurial spirit to become the one-time pride of our nation, is now being called a warzone from a man escaping Boko Haram.

The onslaught of crime, corruption, economic depression, and abandonment in the postindustrial era clearly took its toll on the American paragon.  Each passing Michigan winter, conditions degraded for Detroit until that Motown rhythm was blunted to a complete halt.  The city is now littered with abandoned buildings and blight.

But if our group of young professionals learned anything from the weekend volunteer trip, it’s that the spirit of Detroit, the spirit of big dreams and bigger community, hasn’t broken.

The 25 of us young professionals from Washington Hebrew Congregation in DC gathered this right off the bat from our first morning with Ben Falik and his team from Repair the World.  Within minutes of meeting the passionate, ambitious troop of staffers, it was clear that Falik and his crew could be living extravagantly in Manhattan, employed at any given corporate acronym with lavish expense accounts.  Instead, the Repair the World crew is taking disadvantaged inner city Detroit youth to museums.  RTW paired us with rambunctious grade school boys and girls to guide through the Michigan Science Center as they witnessed the wonders of engineering and air pressure via 4D movie theaters and trashcan wind cannons.  At the proceeding barbecue and ultimate Frisbee game, the thoroughly caffeinated, curly haired Falik detailed all of the other work the organization does with healthcare, education, and nutrition within the struggling city.

That night, we attended services at the Isaac Agree Downtown synagogue, the last surviving synagogue inside Detroit, resilient to the exodus of Jews.  The small congregation with no rabbi embraced our group with open arms, excited to share their beautiful 80-year old shul with young travelers to welcome in the Sabbath together.

The following morning, we had a breakfast meeting with Jon Koller who has been organizing volunteers to renovate and revitalize a once abandoned 100-year old housing complex.  We then drove to the B’nai David Cemetery, a graveyard entirely enveloped in the weeds of long neglect.  Our trip Rabbi, the tirelessly passionate Aaron Miller, told us that, in Judaism, there is no greater deed than charity for the dead because the deceased can never repay.  With that in mind, we terraformed the veritable jungle throughout the day to salvage the integrity of our buried Jewish brethren.  Trees were trimmed, grass was cut, and dozens upon dozens of garbage bins full of shrubbery surrounding the tombstones were removed.

We spent Saturday night at the aforementioned Freedom house, playing volleyball and sharing stories with the asylum seekers stuck in limbo, their true homes an entire world away.  We prepared a massive dinner together with fresh, local ingredients procured from Detroit’s bustling Eastern Market.  Before leaving, we were serenaded with the Detroit Freedom House song written by a former resident, repeating “G-d bless America” throughout the refrain.

We split up on our final day.  Some toured the city by bike with Falik, some were blindsided by the stunning collections at the Detroit Institute of Art, and myself and a few others joined John George of Motor City Blight Busters in a tour of the almost 700 properties his organization has cleaned up.  Almost all of us slopped up some Slow’s BBQ.

The volunteer weekend of the young professionals of 2239 is a drop in the bucket in terms of what Detroit needs.  But that drop meant so much to Ben Falik, John George, Jon Koller, Freedom House, Downtown Synagogue, and all the people of Motor City that we met.

We somberly left Detroit back to fight its own battle, but Detroit will never leave us.  That sense of community, volunteerism, and service will inspire us forever.

And one thing is for sure: that Motown rhythm is picking back up.

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