In recent weeks I’ve (co-founder Stephen Richer) heard:
- That Gather the Jews (Gather) is a dating organization.
- That Gather is an anti-Semitic conspiracy.
- That Gather is an arm of Chabad.
- That Gather owns 90% of the city’s Jewish email addresses, but organizes less than 1% of the city’s Jewish events.
- That Gather is an amazing, volunteer-led organization.
Only one of these things is true. Can you name which? Perhaps many of you can’t, and that’s why I’m writing this quick “Frequently Asked Questions” post: to dispel a couple of rumors and to explain a couple of oddities.
Frequently heard question/statements (FHQSs):
FHQS #1: “The name ‘Gather the Jews’ is creepy. Don’t you guys think it sounds like a neo-Nazi organization?”
Answer #1: We’re actually quite fond of our name. We think it’s catchy; we think it accurately describes what we do; and we think it looks really good on our slap bracelets and sweet new t-shirts. But our fondness goes beyond that. We like to think that we’re reclaiming the term “gather the Jews” for a positive connotation. We Jews of 2011 America are better off and more secure than we’ve been since the time of King David. Let’s acknowledge that, celebrate that, and let’s gather to do wonderful things.
More directly, Joshua Kaller chose the name Gather the Jews to mark our birth at the time of Purim (2010), during which the Book of Esther is read. In this book (Esther, Chapter 4, Verse 16), Esther tells Mordechai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan, and fast for me.”
FHQS #2: “Gather the Jews is a singles’ site, right?”
Answer #2: Nope. We love couples, polygamists, singles, etc., all equally. It’s true that many of our readers are single, and it’s true that many of the events and columns we write pertain specifically to singles, but our demographic is young (22-39) professional Jews of all any relationship stripe.
FHQS #3: “Ok, well, the Jewish Guy /Girl of the Week thing… That’s for singles, right?”
Answer #3: It’s not. This is a common question, so we obviously haven’t been too clear about this, but the Jewish Guy/Girl of the Week (“JGOTW” to staff – pronounced with a silent W) is for married people, single people, people in new relationships, etc. The JGOTW feature is simply meant to showcase exemplary community members who are doing amazing things. It’s our hope that after reading about these people, community members will be inspired to be more involved in Judaism and/or Washington, DC.
FHQS #4: “Does Gather promote one type of Judaism over another? E.g. Orthodoxy over Reform over Reconstructionist over secular?”
Answer #4: I’ve actually only heard this question once or twice fortunately, but the answer is so critical to our mission that it’s worth restating here. “NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. “ We see all forms of Jewish observance as equally worthwhile; we do our best to promote all perspectives. This is reflected by our leadership team (Aaron, Jodi, Noa, Sara, Mike, and Me), no two of whom identify with Judaism in the same way. If you ever feel we are not living up to this standard, please inform us.
FHQS #5: “You say you cater to ‘young professionals.’ What does ‘professional’ mean? Do I have to be a doctor or lawyer to use your website?”
Answer #5: “Young professional” seemed to be the accepted nomenclature around here, and we just stuck with it. Perhaps this is dumb of us. We love students, non-professionals, retirees, unemployed people, etc., as much as we love doctors and lawyers.
FHQS #6: “Speaking of political philosophy; is Gather politically biased?”
Answer #6: We do our absolute best to avoid political bias. We really do. Many of our staff members have strong opinions, and we allow them to be expressed in blog posts, but none of these posts reflect an institutional position. We always try to balance these posts with competing perspectives. We post Republican Jewish events as well as Democratic Jewish events. We post AIPAC news as well as J-Street news. We welcome Jews from all political walks, and we are firm believers that a competitive and open market place of ideas is best for everyone. If you ever feel that Gather has failed to show multiple political perspectives, we ask that you please inform of us of our error, and we encourage you to write in with the needed balancing perspective.
FHQS #7: “Is Gather funded by Chabad? Or is it linked to Chabad in any way?”
Answer #7: No. Gather is a project of GW Hillel as of April 2013. However, we are nondenominational and support all organizations and events that abide by our guidelines.
FHQS #8: “What are the future plans of Gather?”
Answer #8: We first hope to improve our services for the Jewish young professional community here in DC. Then we hope to launch satellite Gathers in other cities that currently don’t have a Gather-like website.
FHQS #9: ”How do I get involved in Gather?”
Answer #9: You email firstname.lastname@example.org. We then say “Yay!” And then we email you back to set up a meeting.
FHQS #10: ”You didn’t answer my question on this list!”
Answer #10: Sorry. Email me at email@example.com, and I will respond ASAP.