The Miracle of Journeys

IMG_0533No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process. It was my choice. My journey: to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality—not through books but through real life. At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity…to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth. I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission. Get ready for an amazing year filled with music of rebirth.” – Matisyahu, December 2011

On the seventh night of Chanukah I saw Matisyahu[1] perform at the 9:30 Club.  I had seen Matisyahu two other times, each six or seven years ago.  I remember a Chassidic Jew who literally bounced around the stage while wearing payes, a long black jacket, and a black hat.  The way he wove Hebrew and prayer into his music was incredible moving.  I had never seen Judaism and pop culture come together in this way.

Last night Matisyahu, formerly Matthew Paul Miller, looked like any other musician.  The lyrics were the same and the music was still great.  But it was clear to me that he was at a very different point in his life from when I saw him last.  During the concert, I began to wonder, What does it mean to say the same words, sing the same songs, and elicit the same emotions from your audience, while being in a very different place on your own personal journey?

The idea of journeys, or Jewish journeys, is discussed a lot these days.  Lately, I had been wondering if this concept of journey had lost its meaning.  But last night, seeing someone on a very unique, very public Jewish journey, gave the idea new resonance for me.  As I prepare to light the candles for the final night of Channukah, I find myself asking, Where am I on my journey?  What about me has changed, and why does it matter?

I, and many Jews I know, continually seek different ways to express an authentic connection to Judaism and Jewish life.  Unlike Matisyahu, however, we engage in these experiments in relative privacy.  Ideally, our family and friends give us space to try different personas and forms of expression as we explore our Jewish journeys.

Because Matisyahu’s Jewish journey has been so public, some have questioned his authenticity.  They have said that his more observant persona was an act to sell records.  But I have to say, watching him schlep out a huge channukiah and light candles on stage gave me a deep sense of pride and gratitude that he has the courage and strength to let us bear witness to this part of his journey.  I hope it will inspire me and others to embrace the messiness of Jewish exploration, and to never feel stuck or pigeonholed into our current form of expression.

So, here’s to Jewish experiments, to Jewish journeys, to Jewish life.  L’chaim.

Happy Chanukah!

[1]Matisyahu is the Hebrew name of Mattathias, who led the Maccabbes’ revolt against King Antiochus in the 2nd century BC.


Open Doors DC Fellowship

Impact the landscape of DC’s Jewish life.
Connect and build relationships with young Jews across the DC area.
Build inclusive and welcoming community that is meaningful to you Ÿ
Create innovative Jewish experiences Ÿ
Explore Jewish DC + further your own Jewish connections Ÿ
Receive financial support for your initiatives, personal and professional development, mentorship, skill-building, and more.  Apply Now.

Join a volunteer cohort of 10 – 12 Fellows to serve in a 5 month Fellowship from February – June 2015.  This inaugural fellowship is an innovative experiment to help deepen social connections and provide concierge services for Jewish life in DC to those in their 20s & 30s. You will pilot a relationship-based and concierge-model approach to building Jewish community.

Fellows will build 1:1 relationships, create community, and help connect those individuals to the Jewish opportunities and meaning they are looking for, creating your own innovative project where none exist.  These projects can include social justice, learning, outdoors, politics, or any other topic all depending on the needs and interests of those you’re meeting.

We are looking for social connectors from diverse backgrounds and experiences who care about Jewish life in DC and want to help others connect to Jewish experiences that matter to them.

Fellows will receive:

  • Immersive professional training in a retreat setting outside of the city – skill training, team building, resource mapping, and more
  • Access to human and financial resources to support your relationship and community building
  • Jewish learning opportunities and resources (all backgrounds encouraged to apply!)
  • A capstone experience or trip at the conclusion of the Fellowship
  • Follow-through after the Fellowship has concluded

Expectations of Fellowship:

  • One weekend of immersive training
  • Approximately 5 – 6 hours per week including:
    –  Fellows meetings 2x per month
    – Relationship building with diverse range of young Jewish adults in DC and Relationship Management
    – Serve as a Greeters for new arrivals to DC
    – Create personally relevant Jewish initiatives around a topic or issue that matters to your community
    – Help design and launch DC’s only online DIY (Do It Yourself) Jewish Experience Portal


A Gift for the Future


Thousands of years ago, when the Maccabees beat the Greeks,
No one could’ve imagined we’d have such advanced genetic screening techniques.
Although the Jews had an incredible and miraculous victory,
Genetic makeup and DNA was still a great mystery.
Witnessing enough oil for one day last for eight was a great achievement,
And a long ways down the road their offspring would have further scientific ascent.

For several years genetic screening tests have been improving
And now the ability to identify carriers of genetic diseases is outstanding!
Since JScreen came along in the Fall of last year,
The modernization of genetic screening has become quite clear.
Drastically revolutionizing the screening market
JScreen sends people an at home, do it yourself spit kit.

With the goal of helping couples plan for healthy babies,
When it comes to the decision to be screened there should be no maybes.
Also hoping to help people who desire to have children make educated decisions
JScreen is devoted to using technology that has incredible precision.
Although usually extremely expensive and difficult to come by,
JScreen makes genetic testing available to anyone who wants to buy.

Headquartered in Atlanta at Emory University’s School of Medicine,
After lots of hard work there are few states where JScreen hasn’t been.
Receiving impressive news coverage from reporters everywhere,
JScreen is an important program that you should definitely share!
Chanukkah is the perfect time to share the gift of love and joy,
So help friends and family bring to life a healthy girl or boy.

JScreen offers testing for diseases that are most common
Allowing future parents to have different options.
The test screens for the 40 most common genetic diseases in the Jewish population,
As well as 47 others seen in people from other ancestral nations.
Using JScreen’s easy to use saliva spit test before having children
Couples can learn about their genetic makeup that’s unprecedented.

Only 24% of Jews have been genetically screened before having kids,
Meaning a significant amount of Jews don’t know what their risk is.
Even if a couple has no known family history of genetic disease,
Genetic screening is still important and will help put parents at ease.
Early education is key so parents can discover their risk early
And learn about different options to continue their family tree.

JScreen recently started a new and exciting gift giving initiative,
Which should lend you the idea of the perfect present to give!
Know someone who has or will have children on their mind?
Well then what better gift could you possibly find?!
Whether thinking about starting a family in a week or a year,
This is a present that will surely make people cheer!

Hoping to secure the healthiest possible future for all children,
Giving a JScreen kit this holiday season is a definite win!
Many wonder what their children will grow up to do and be,
And you can help ensure healthy children to your friends and family.
So, help spread the JScreen mission to genetically screen
And give a gift that will help people learn about their genes.


The Hungry, Hungry Hebrew: Chabad Hopping

On Tuesday, December 9, a man with a knife stormed into the New York City Chabad headquarters yelling “I want to kill the Jews” and stabbed a 22 year old student in the neck. Chabad has always been a special home away from home for me and this is why:

819150_10101904690132550_525675366_oWhen I first got to Thailand, I was embarrassed to find pizza cafes and “hamburgerer” joints overcrowded with Americans forsaking a culinary kingdom for subpar imitations of their own staples – pizza sauce should never be ketchup.

However, after almost a month in Thailand – a month of Thai breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and second dinners of either “American spicy” or “Thai spicy” – I finally understood my fellow countrymen. All I wanted was an American sized carb-bomb to snuff out the smoldering debris that used to be my intestines.

Perusing through Bangkok for dinner on my final Friday night, my stomach shuddered at the scent of each passing pad thai stand and curry shop until I happen to stumble upon a Chabad. Challah!

I’ve always understood Chabad as a bunch of Orthodox folks with the single guiding principle of: give me your tired, your poor, your Jewish masses yearning to eat free.

That being said, a giant loaf of challah could be the one cure to extinguish the nuclear fallout from the three-week onslaught of atom bombs successively dropped in my gut.

The man at the Chabad door looked at me quizzically.529329_10101904696534720_1273192419_n

“Can I help you?” he asked in a thick Israeli accent.

“Yes, can I join you for services tonight?” My clothes were torn and tattered and so was my body – this was a few days after I bit gravel in a motorbike crash.

“This is a service for Jewish people,” the man said dismissively.

“I am Jewish,” I replied as he skeptically examined the 6 foot 2, blond-haired, blue-eyed raggedy traveler before him. Fully Jewish, at that. My folks are both 100% Jewish as were their folks before them. But somewhere along the line, some frisky Cossack must have dipped into our gene pool during any given Polish pogrom and produced a long lineage of Aryan looking offspring.

“It’s not for you here,” he brushed me off. Annoyed, I pulled out my passport and read him my last name. “Bluestein. Blue. STEIN.”

Unfortunately, the boy in the 9 year old passport photo with glasses looked more like Harry Potter than the Viking marauder presenting it.

379595_10101904695831130_526252340_nIt’s you or did you have it made up the street?” he accused, referring to the city’s dozens of shameless counterfeiters.

“It’s an old photo. How do I prove to you I’m Jewish?”

“Emmm. What are the four questions of Pesach.”

Challenge accepted. There I was, standing outside a crowded marketplace in Bangkok in December reciting a Passover prayer for an Israeli security guard that seems to think I’m collecting data for the Wehrmacht.

“Ma nishtana ha layla hazeh, mikol haleilot,” I sung out.

Just as I was getting into it, a rabbi stepped out of the front door and interrupted me, delighted to see a weary traveler uttering a completely irrelevant prayer.

“Stop messing with the boy,” the bearded black-hat said to the snickering guard. “Come in!” he demanded.

I proceeded to join the Bangkok Chabad in a beautiful service and, as expected, was invited to a tremendous dinner afterward with the rabbi, his family, and at least 3 loaves of challah.

830319_10101904665137640_158306842_oJudaism is a way of life built around tradition, as Jews on any corner of this planet will be saying the same prayers, singing the same songs, and eating the same challah on any given Friday night.

One of the most important of those traditions is hospitality. Ever since Abraham took in the three wanderers from Mamre, Jews have sought the mitzvah of opening their homes and hearts to others.

Nowhere have I seen this sentiment of hospitality expressed more than in Chabad Houses abroad, where no matter your background, language, or level of devotion, you can always find home.

Chabad-Lubavitch may be divisive, but one of its core tenants is that sentiment of hospitality, one which I aspire to replicate in my own home.

From Montreal to Toulouse to Thailand, I’ve found so much comfort in that Jewish hospitality that has bonded strangers, wanderers, and hungry, hungry Hebrews for thousands of years.






After my first birthright trip, I was stricken with the terrible genetic disease known as “wanderlust” – passed down to me by my great32 grandfather, Moses. Hungry, Hungry Hebrew captures my benign observations disguised as rants as I meander around the world


Do Good this Chanukah and Winter Season: Ways to Give Back

Know of more opportunities to help out in DC this season?  Or looking to organize a group to do service together? E-mail 

images-2In this season of Chanukah, winter cheer, and rededicating ourselves to what we care most about, here are some ways to consider giving back to those who could use some warmth, kindness, and extra blessings in their own lives:

Coats for Kids:  Help provide new winter coats to more than 6,500 children from (30) thirty local charities and community organizations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 

Volunteer on Christmas Day:   NOVA Tribe Series is working with The Holiday Project this year and visiting patients at the Washington Hospital Center in DC. We will sing songs, pass out presents, and visit with patients.

D25: Join the DCJCC Day of Service on Christmas Day. Projects range from 2-4 hours in length and include serving meals, preparing food for the homeless, visiting seniors, painting and throwing Christmas parties.

Donate Blood and Give the Gift of Life:  There is always a need for blood and platelet donations, but there is an increase during the holiday season.  Find the closest donation site to give or to volunteer your time.

JScreen: JScreen at Emory University is a public health initiative dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases through carrier screening.

MLK DayAs the DC Commission on National and Community Service and the Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism, Serve DC commemorates the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service each year by supporting and promoting service and civic engagement across the city.

House of Ruth:  Make a financial contribution to help end homelessness and life-long abuse.

Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse:  Help support victims of domestic abuse to become empowered and obtain safe environments. 

Eat and Party!:  Check out these culinary organizations and benefit parties that do good in their community:

Sunflower Bakery: They prepare individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities for employment in baking and related industries through skilled, on-the-job training.

Falafel Frenzy: Proceeds of the event will go to support hunger action programs, local Holocaust survivors living below the poverty line and many other community programs through the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Know of more opportunities to help out in DC this season?  Or looking to organize a group to do service together? E-mail 


Chanukah Food and Drink Around DC

donuts-and-milkAnd you thought those grilled cheese latkes looked good. Check out delicious local Chanukah food and drinks around DC!












Costa Rica Adventure

10347647_10152202326606174_7875312038987686032_nThis summer I took a group eco tour of amazing Costa Rica in Central America. Enthusiastic and experienced environmentalist Ami Greener and his travel company Greener Travel organized the ten-day adventure. The tiny nation the size of West Virginia is one percent of the world’s land mass and yet contains five percent of the world’s biodiversity. The flora and fauna, the pristine beaches, the happy people, the many cultures, the rainforest, the volcanoes, the cities. When you visit Costa Rica you understand why their most famous saying and national greeting is “Pura Vida,” or “Pure Life!”

My trip started in Washington, D.C. as I boarded a flight to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to the capital San Jose. We stayed at a hotel near La Sabana Metropolitan Park downtown — the country’s largest urban park that is enjoyed by the residents of San Jose. Costa Rica’s main international airport was located at the park for 44 years until the opening of Juan Santamaría International Airport.

Also located at La Sabana is the National Stadium of Costa Rica (Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica), which was completed in 2011 and is the first modern sport and event arena built in Central America. The 35,175-seat capacity stadium serves as the home of the Costa Rican national football team. The Ticos shocked the soccer world at this summer’s Brazilian World Cup by becoming the Cinderella team. They posted their best performance ever at a World Cup by finishing first in their group that consisted of powerhouses Uruguay, Italy and England. They then went on to beat Greece in penalty kicks to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in the nation’s history where they lost to The Netherlands also in a penalty shootout.


Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica

We were on a Jewish tour so we celebrated Shabbat in San Jose at a warm and welcoming congregation called Congregation B’nei Israel that is a liberal synagogue affiliated with both the Reform and Conservative movements. The rabbi gave a powerful sermon on the new anti-Semitism that has even made its way to Latin America and it was somber because another rabbi had lost her mother that same day. There was also a joyous farewell to a congregation member who was moving her family to North Carolina.

The next day we visited the heavily fortified Shaarei Zion synagogue and Jewish museum. Shaarei Zion is orthodox and the museum documents the rich history of Jews in Costa Rica. The place was a compound with lots security that was likely increased because at that time the conflict was raging between Israel and Hamas. It is a beautiful synagogue and museum and I highly recommend it if you are Jewish and decide to visit San Jose.

We also took a trip just outside of San Jose to Poas Volcano National Park, which climbs to 2,300 meters above sea level. The clouds had rolled in and it was rainy and misty so we couldn’t see the Poas Volcano Crater Lake. Our wonderful guide Gustavo then took us to an authentic Costa Rican family style restaurant for some delicious food.

After a night out dancing at a San Jose area nightclub, we boarded the bus for the trip to the Caribbean lowlands, lunch in Guapiles and then the rocky and muddy jungle roads to the small dock called Pavona where we boarded a boat for the the trip down the canals to our destination of Tortuguero in the middle of the jungle. Our eco lodge Rana Roja (Red Frog) is only accessible by boat.



We were woken up early in the morning by the sound of howler monkeys as we were surrounded by all the jungle animal and plant life. We took an early morning jungle boat ride and saw crocodiles, birds, monkeys and other flora and fauna. We also visited the funky main town of Tortuguero and the Sea Turtle Conservancy where we learned about the international efforts to save the turtles and preserve the egg nests from poachers. There was an optional late night tour to see the female green or Leatherback turtles lay their eggs, but I got sick and stayed in my cabin to recover. We called it the man flu because only the guys were getting sick. While it was awful getting sick in the middle of the jungle, it eventually passed after a couple of days and I fully recovered.

Next was a more than three hour boat ride on the inter-coastal canal to the port of Moin. The water was very shallow and the boat got stuck a few times and had to be manually pushed. One time the water was too shallow to pass so our captain ventured out into the open waters of the Caribbean and we nearly made it before a huge wave came crashing into our exposed boat and got everyone soaking wet including our luggage. Part of the adventure! Right!? Right? Uh. Yeah?

At Moin we boarded another bus for the short trip to the historic port city of Limon, the largest city on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Our guide David Carnegie told us about the Afro-Caribbean heritage of Limon and we had a wonderful lunch at an Afro-Caribbean restaurant in the heart of Limon.

We then headed to the bohemian village of Puerto Viejo where many Europeans take holiday (most Americans stay on the more luxurious Pacific side). In the late afternoon/early evening we headed to beautiful Punta Uva Beach.

The next day we visited the KèköLdi Indigenous Territory to learn about the indigenous BriBrí and Cabécar cultures and their efforts to preserve and rehabilitate iguanas. We then went to a traditional indigenous village where we witnessed a family make chocolate from the Cacao trees growing beside their house. The organic hot chocolate was the best I have ever tasted in my life. It was a spiritual experience.

KèköLdi Indigenous Territory

KèköLdi Indigenous Territory

We also visited Volio waterfall. We had to hike down to reach the powerful waterfall and then swam against the powerful currents to reach underneath the waterfall and feel the power of the falling water.

At the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo we saw sloths, snakes, owls, birds, horses and other species representing the diversity of animal life in Costa Rica. We even got to handle an adorable baby monkey.

There is an excellent Israeli restaurant in Puerto Viejo where we had some hummus and other Middle Eastern food which was a welcome break from the constant rice and black beans (gallo pinto) that is served with every dish in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The next night we took a Caribbean cooking class with Junior Palmer. We ate delicious food, drank to warm our bellies and listened to soothing Jamaican reggae music to warm our souls.

The next day our guide Tino took us on an amazing hike through the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge where I ate termites, had a spider weave its web on our heads, ate the healing Noni pear, had a piece of the biggest fruit in the world, saw the walking tree, tree frogs, the bullet ant that should be avoided at all costs, thousands of leaf cutter ants constructing their intricate city in the middle of the forest, lizards, monkeys, sloths and other species of flora and fauna that are only found in the rainforest. After the intense hike, we relaxed in the warm Caribbean waters and had a wonderful laid back lunch in this place that time forgot.

The next day was white water rafting the spectacular Pacuare River, which National Geographic rated as one of the top ten rafting rivers in the world. We started in the Caribbean highlands and made our way down the river, encountering class three and four rapids and enjoying the pristine nature and gorgeous natural scenery of one of the most breathtaking areas in the world. We even took a dip in the clean, pristine water between the challenging rapids. The run was 18 miles long and took about three-and-a-half hours thanks to expert leadership from our guide Monkey.

Pacuare River

Our final destination before heading to San Jose and our flights home was Arenal Volcano, a region in the northwest of Costa Rica. We went zip lining, went on a hike for panoramic vistas of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal and visited the therapeutic hot springs resort.

Costa Rica is simply amazing. The natural beauty is only matched by the warmth and generosity of their people. Pura Vida. Pure Life. It is not just a greeting but a way of life. You will have to experience it yourself to truly understand what it means.


 Journalist Josh Marks writes about his experiences traveling to different places around the world.



The DC Dreidel Championship


TMI! – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 99)

People don’t seem to shy away from sharing things about themselves these days. What may have seemed overindulgent a mere 10 years ago now seems commonplace. After driving back from NJ for Thanksgiving and listening to all eight episodes of a podcast in succession, I wrote a tweet that said, “May or may not have just listened to every single episode of @abexlumberg‘s @podcaststartup in a row. #bingelistening Even my dog likes it.” Some people might still think, “Who cares?” But you know what? They still read what I wrote. The voyeur in us all eats this stuff up.

With Twitter and Facebook and Instagram (oh my!) and GChat and texting and Snapchat, it’s almost impossible not to overshare. When it comes to dating, though, there’s a fine line between an appropriate amount of sharing and simply too much information. I’m going to break things down into several key stages: 

Classic Case 1 of TMI:

I was at my weekly mahjong game this week, and my friend Jennie was talking about a guy she had “met” online. They did not go on a date. Here’s what happened:<br

  1. They matched on the dating app Hinge.
  2. He messaged her to say hi.
  3. She responded.
  4. He asked if she had any more photos to send (red flag).
  5. She said she didn’t.
  6. He asked if she wanted to see any more pictures of him.
  7. She said no.
  8. He sent pictures anyway, including a shirtless selfie.
  9. She was so turned off that not only did he not listen to her but he also sent the shirtless picture. She ultimately decided not to go on the date.

Classic Case 2 of TMI:

About six months ago, I went on a date with someone I had matched with on Tinder. He seemed nice enough, albeit not my type, and we had an enjoyable conversation… until he mentioned his ex-wife. Now, I’m certainly not one to care if someone’s been married before. In fact, sometimes I think it may be a preference since, as we all know, people often learn from their mistakes. I didn’t ask any questions about that relationship because it’s really not my business. Without any prompting, he proceeded to tell me all of these negative things about his ex and how she made him miserable, in addition to telling me that she had a mental illness.  A few thoughts immediately went through my mind:

– He’s not over her.

– If he speaks that poorly of her, what would he say about me?

– He shares very personal information about other people with strangers.

While I was certainly flattered that he felt comfortable enough to share this information with me, it was completely inappropriate in that setting (at a bar, mind you), and, while we ddidn’thave enough in common to warrant another date anyway, the fact that there was TMI solidified that decision for me.

Now, I want to draw a distinction here between being yourself (do it right away!) and the TMI advice. They are not mutually exclusive.  For example, I’ve been known to dance in the middle of the room whenever I feel like it. Someone needs to see that side of me up front.  That’s my essence, if you will.  But sharing with someone that I have bad breath because I just ate Sabra’s garlic hummus?  Probably TMI.

After the stages in the chart above, how much information to share becomes up to the two people involved. Feel out the situation. Get to know each other. And then go crazy with the pictures and the deeply personal information. Just wait until the time is right.

1Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of Love at First Site, available on Amazon.  Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more.  To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.




Jewish Guy of the Week – Rich

Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

unnamedRachel: What brought you to DC? 

Rich: I went to grad school in Baltimore and came to DC for my amazing Adas job. So glad I did—this city is the

Rachel: So you’re from Morristown, NJ but you love the New York Rangers.  How does that work? 

Rich: Are you suggesting there is another hockey team in NJ worth rooting for??

Rachel: Did you play hockey as a kid? What got you into it? 

Rich: I started playing hockey when I was 7 and it immediately stuck with me. Hockey has become a huge part of my life and I’ve learned much of what it means to be a part of a team and how to work well with others from it.

Rachel: What is your favorite part of your job as Youth Director at Adas Israel? 

unnamed (2) Rich: I love showing youth & teens that life can still (literally) be fun and games well into your 20’s. Life is tough and can seem intimidating when you’re young, and I like to think I can help dissipate some of the fear of growing up by providing fun programming, meaningful life discussions, and just being someone who they can talk to about anything.

Rachel: What are your favorite ways to relax and unwind after a busy day? 

Rich: There’s nothing like a nice long run to reflect after a hard day’s work. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the occasional glass of white wine every now and then too.

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat? 

Rich: Back in Baltimore my friends and I created what we call “Vegan Shabbat”. We cook a bunch of vegan foods, crack open a couple bottles of wine, light the candles, and just talk and enjoy each other’s company. Usually some Jenga, Apples to Apples, or a puzzle finds their way into the evening before it ends.

unnamed (1)

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Rich: FALAFEL. #obsessed

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?

Rich: Marcy Spiro.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Rich: I’m most likely there.






Get Straight To The Date – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 98)

cute-puffer-fish-clipart-fish_swimming_underneath_a_worm_on_a_hook_0515-1007-0603-5561_SMUI was sitting at lunch the other day talking to a friend of mine about her online dating experience so far, and she mentioned a situation that sounded all too familiar: A gentleman contacted her, he sounded amazing, he looked extremely attractive, he happened to be out of town, he wanted to talk on the phone (but never Skype), he had no online footprint… and then he asked what bank account she used.  Luckily, she was smart enough to realize that he was inviting her into a trap, but not all people are.

It’s easy to fall in love with someone’s online dating profile, isn’t it?  The ultimate goal, of course, is to meet in person.  JDate even lists all of the options that one might look for, from a friend to an activity partner to a spouse.  OkCupid lists everything from casual sex to a long-term relationship.  People don’t join online dating sites to simply email (or text) back and forth with no end in sight.  In other words, don’t have ane-lationship.”

The best way to manage online dating is to schedule a date (coffee or a drink) after just a few emails/texts back and forth, because chemistry is next to impossible to gauge over email.  In fact, I don’t even recommend talking on the phone before a first online date.  Someone might be great on the phone and a dud in person or a bore on the phone and fabulous in person.  The point is that you never know whether you’ll have chemistry (which I call the “wild card”) until you actually meet, and no number of emails or calls will change that.  With too much pre-date communication, there are two types of risk:

The risk of ruling someone out before even meeting, perhaps because of the phone call/excess emails or maybe because you simply lost the momentum.

The risk of falling in love with this person’s online persona without much basis.

Of course, many people don’t know when it’s appropriate to move from the email to the date and err on the side of caution (aka waiting too long), so in this case, I recommend saying something like, “I’m really enjoying these emails.  Should we meet for a drink next week?  I’m free Monday or Wednesday if either works for you.”  If the recipient takes the bait or suggests a different day, then you know this person wants to meet.  If the answer is simply no (or there’s no answer), then it’s time to move on.  If someone is perpetually busy, then he or she either really has no time to date (a problem) or is trying to get out of meeting in person for some reason (a bigger problem).  If meeting in person is not feasible—perhaps you don’t live close enough to meet in a timely fashion—then the best thing to do is to suggest that you Skype or FaceTime.  It takes just as long to dial someone’s number and chat for a few minutes as it does to sit down and email each other, so if someone declines this offer, that is a major red flag.

My advice?  Meet offline as soon as you can.  If you plan the first date quickly and like each other, that’s great—you’ll have more time to spend together!  If you don’t have that connection, you can move on without investing more of your time.  Don’t be the next story on Catfish: The TV Show.

erika e-1405-4

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


The Hungry Hungry Hebrew: Traveling in Kosher-style

maxb2As a traveling Jew who keeps somewhat kosher, I too often find myself fumbling through my local dictionary to figure out how to say, “I don’t want bacon on my apple”. Now, I’m not the type who really cares how his steak was slaughtered, but I do strictly abide by the ancient, holy laws of “kosher style” (no shellfish and swine for this boy from Palestine but cheeseburger me to death).

Keeping this modicum is especially difficult to abide by in the Spanish speaking world, where being both Jewish and nourished seem mutually exclusive. If my forays into Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Uruguay taught me nothing else, it’s that “meat” means “pork”, that “rice and beans” means “rice and beans and pork”, and that anything off the breakfast menu means a couple of eggs and twelve pounds of pig.

The Latin countries have perfected the art of sneaking in some kind of cud-chewing animal appendage into your every meal, snack, and drink. Go anywhere near a sandwich shop or pizza place in Latin America and you’re certain to find some sort of pork bread, bacon crust, or ham napkins. They use pork as an ingredient like we use salt. For example, the menu at your favorite burger joint up the street typically lists ground beef, lettuce, and tomato between buns – noting nothing about salt. So why should the omelet you order in Argentina list the giant hunk of hammaxb3 enveloping it?

Spain is the worst offender, where every block has a Museo de Jamon (that’s a “ham museum” for you gringos). Known locally as “Spanish McDonalds”, each of these pork factories are decorated with forests of pig legs dangling from rafters as hungry, rushing masses of crucifix-laden Spaniards gobble them to the bone.

Seriously, even Spanish Ruffles are “ham flavored” (seriously).

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The worst part is, this isn’t some ancient cultural taste preference introduced by bands of pig-eating Iberian invaders thousands of years ago. Nor is it the product of some sort of chaotic pig population explosion. Rather, the pork obsession was imposed into Spanish culture during the Inquisition to keep the Jews away. The swine’s strong showing today indicates either the Spanish still really love their pork or they still really don’t like their Jews (probably more the bacon than the anti-Semitism).

So, for all of you kosher-styling, sojourning Jews out there, my Frommers(stein) guide to warding off anorexia in España and anywhere below America’s belt consists of learning three phrases:

Sin puerco

Sin jamon

Lay’s, por favor





After my first birthright trip, I was stricken with the terrible genetic disease known as “wanderlust” – passed down to me by my great32 grandfather, Moses. Hungry, Hungry Hebrew captures my benign observations disguised as rants as I meander around the world




Mystery Science Shabbat 3000: 11/21 Invite Science to your Shabbat Dinner Table!

Mystery Science Shabbat 3000: Friday, November 21 Invite Science to your Shabbat Dinner Table!
Join a DC Metro area community-wide night of Science Shabbat potluck dinners hosted in the homes of volunteers. Everyone brings a dish BUT each dish must come with a science explanation and/or demonstration associated with it. It’s fun! It’s creative! It’s social! And it’s Science!
Go to for more info and to sign up by November 13th!

GTJ December Happy Hour!


GTJ December Happy Hour – 12/1

buttonGather the Jew’s December Happy Hour!

Join us on December 1, 2014 from 6-9 PM at Blackfinn Ameripub!

For more info check out our Facebook event page!

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