In recent weeks I’ve (co-founder Stephen Richer) heard:
- That Gather the Jews (GTJ) is a dating organization.
- That GTJ is an anti-Semitic conspiracy.
- That GTJ is an arm of Chabad.
- That GTJ owns 90% of the city’s Jewish email addresses, but organizes less than 1% of the city’s Jewish events.
- That GTJ 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: “Do you have to wear a hat, particularly a fedora, to join GTJ staff?”
Answer #4: Nope. That’s just my stylish co-founder Mr. Aaron Wolff (THE WOLFf!). You’re of course welcome to wear a hat, but we invite willing staff members regardless of head apparel. If you want to join GTJ staff, firstname.lastname@example.org
FHQS #5: “Does GTJ promote one type of Judaism over another? E.g. Orthodoxy over Reform over Reconstructionist over secular?”
Answer #5: 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 #6: “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 #6: “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 #7: “Was the Jewish Guy of the Year Competition rigged so as to prohibit Steve Davis from being Jewish Guy of the Year?”
Answer #7: This is the question I’ve probably heard the most. But I’ve only heard it from one person: Steve Davis. We did not rig the 2010 Jewish Guy (or Girl) of the Year Competition – we had always planned to havemultiple rounds. I don’t pretend that we ran everything perfectly, but it was our first try at it, and hopefully it will be even better next time. We’re immensely proud of our 2010 Jewish Guy (Uri) and Jewish Girl (Rachel) or the Year, and while we’re sorry that Steve couldn’t win it all, we do wish him a hearty congratulations on his solid victory in the first round.
FHQS #8: “Do you have to be a libertine libertarian to be part of GTJ?”
Answer #8: No. That’s just me.
FHQS #9: “Speaking of political philosophy; is GTJ politically biased?”
Answer #9: 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 GTJ 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 #10: “Is GTJ funded by Chabad? Or is it linked to Chabad in any way?”
Answer #10: No. GTJ is completely independent. We have received support from many individuals and organizations, but none of these organizations can claim partial ownership over GTJ. We admire Chabad’s activity in the Jewish community, and we certainly have a relationship with Chabad, but this relationship is no different from the relationship we strive to have with all local Jewish organizations that serve the young professional community.
FHQS #11: “Do you guys ‘make bank’ off of GTJ?”
Answer #11: Definitely. But according to Jewish rapper Shyne, “There’s nothing in the Chumash that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini,” so we don’t see what’s wrong with it.
Actually, that’s far from the truth. GTJ has not paid a dime to any of its staff members. It is entirely volunteer led. To date, GTJ has generated approximately $18,000 through donations, grants, and advertisement sales. Some of the money has gone into corporate costs, website infrastructure, website design (for the original website, Maya L. made the current version pro bono), marketing, and payments for conferences. The rest of the money is being saved to either buy a new, super-tricky, website or else higher a staff person who can allow some of our leaders to get their lives back.
FHQS #12: “How many people read GTJ?”
Answer #12: We get a little under 3,000 hits a week to our website. Approximately 2,100 people subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.
FHQS #13: “What are the future plans of GTJ?”
Answer #13: We first hope to improve our services for the Jewish young professional community here in DC. Then we hope to launch satellite GTJs in other cities that currently don’t have a GTJ-like website.
FHQS #14: ”How do I get involved in GTJ?”
Answer #14: You email email@example.com. We then say “Yay!” And then we email you back to set up a meeting.
FHQS #15: ”You didn’t answer my question on this list!”
Answer #15: Sorry. Email me at Stephen@gatherthejews.com, and I will respond ASAP.