Jewish Girl – Abigail

(Jewish Girl of the Year Voting Page)

You recently moved to D.C., right?  How do you like it so far?  What about the D.C. Jewish community?
I love DC so far. There is such a vibrant young Jewish community here. And lots of cute and intelligent Jewish boys!

Thursday night:  Adams Morgan vs. Dupont vs. Chinatown vs. Arlington vs. Capitol Hill.  Discuss.
Dupont because it has the highest concentration of Jews and Front Page has great happy hour specials. Arlington?? People go out in Arlington??

Friday night:  Adas Israel vs. Sixth and I vs. DC JCC vs. Rosh Pina vs. Kesher Israel.  Where can we find you?
Sixth and I! It’s a great place to meet other young Jews. And the food is so good!!

Favorite biblical character and why?
I’d have to go with Rebecca. I admire her work ethic and generosity.

I understand you’re hosting a Jewish event in the next few weeks.  Tell me about it.
Yes! I’m hosting a young professionals’ happy hour for the Republican Jewish Coalition. Wednesday, August 4th at the Madhatter in Dupont. Email me ( for details!!!

I didn’t know that one could be a Republican Jew…  How does it work?
It’s actually very simple and fulfilling to be a Republican Jew. What kind of JGOW would I be if I didn’t enjoy lower taxes, support Israel, and have a crush on Eric Cantor?

Jewish Guy – Marcelo

Jewish Guy - Marcelo

I heard you’re from Puerto Rico, what do you miss (or not miss) most about it? And what’s the Jewish community like there?
There are certainly little things I miss about Puerto Rico, such as the old San Juan area, the FOOD, and the colors.  More importantly, I miss my family and friends!

I’m glad you are asking that question because a lot of people here in the States have no idea there’s a Jewish community in Puerto Rico.  And why would they?!  Here in the US, the Jewish community is certainly two things we are not in Puerto Rico: BIG and public.  There are around 3 synagogues in Puerto Rico and a Chabad Center. And although we have Ashkenazim, Sephardim (just like me!), and Mizrachim, the community consists of only approximately 2,000 families.  Acts of anti-semitism are rare in Puerto Rico, but they do happen, so the community certainly feels the need to keep its Jewish identity and traditions to itself.  I wish we were open about it though because I think at the end it just fuels feelings of ignorance and misunderstanding.

If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
Without a doubt: mofongo!  Lots of meals in PR are plantain-based for the obvious reasons.  Mofongo is a oval-shaped meal made exclusively out of plantain, and then it’s filled with whatever you want, be it vegetables, chicken, etc.  Otherwise, I would settle for some bourekas.
Imagine you could hit up Adams Morgan with any biblical Jew, who would it be and why?
I think my Adams Morgan buddy would have to be Ruth, without a doubt! I would love to take her to a nice coffee place or even for falafels and ask her what’s her take on the conversion law in Israel.

If you had to describe your day as a traffic sign, what would it be and why?
I’m probably a “No stopping anytime” sign. I’m constantly thinking of alternative ways of doing something, and I love having different plans for anything, even when I go out with friends. That being said, the same goes for partying: “no stopping anytime”.

Did you watch the World Cup? If so, any thoughts you’d like to share?
I’m completely obsessed with anything between two countries. So to answer your question: of course I watched the World Cup.  I was very excited to see lots of Latin American teams make it to the group of 16, although we all know by now what happened at the end.  I hope to see Israel qualify for 2014, and I hope the US and lots of Latin American countries will do well.
I also have to say I just loved the way this World Cup served to portray South Africa. I actually lived in the Cape Town area for an internship program in 2002, and I just felt in love with the country.  It’s not the Rainbow Nation for nothing.
Where can you be found on a Friday night?
I love Shabbat services on Friday night and the DC area certainly has a significant amount of options.  I regularly attend the following: Sixth and I (because it’s extremely welcoming!), TLS (because it’s the Dupont area), Beit Mishpacha (a great minyan with a LGBT perspective), Adas Israel (because it’s near my place and my boyfriend’s 😉 and finally but certainly one of my favorites Magen David in White Flint (It makes me feel closer to home).

Roasted Broccoli With Garlic

Jill Aronovitz
Roasted Broccoli With Garlic
July 19, 2010

Few side dishes are as simple and quick as roasted broccoli with garlic.

After being away for a week, I had to rush through my refrigerator on Friday afternoon to find something to quickly prepare for that night.  The broccoli heads in the vegetable bin saved me.

The best part about this recipe is that you can easily personalize it.  Make as much or little as you like.  There’s also room to add other ingredients such as pepper flakes for those spice lovers.  Or you could or incorporate it into your favorite pasta or rice recipe.

The following recipe serves four:

2 Heads of Broccoli
6 Large Garlic Cloves
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt/ Pepper

  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Take out baking sheet, line with tinfoil, and set aside.
  • Wash the heads of Broccoli and start chopping them into bite size pieces (I personally don’t like the stalks so I don’t use them, but its up to you to use them or not).
  • Once chopped, place pieces on baking sheet.
  • Finely chop the garlic cloves and sprinkle them over the broccoli.
  • Drizzle the olive oil, add salt and pepper and mix everything together on the baking sheet.
  • Everything should be evenly coated and spread out, ready to place in the oven.
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes and you will have a delicious side dish!

Jill Aronovitz is a staff writer for Gather The Jews.

A Perfectly Imperfect World

Will Gotkin
A Perfectly Imperfect World
July 13, 2010

Have you ever wondered why we live in such an imperfect world? As wonderful as it is, life can be full of hardship and confusion. Hashem, the Creator of the universe is absolutely perfect. How do we reconcile this with the fact the world is not?

The first Mishna of the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avos states:

“The world was created with ten [Divine] utterances. What does this come to teach us? Surely it could have been created with one utterance! It was to exact payment from the wicked who destroy the world created by ten utterances, and to bestow ample reward upon the righteous who sustain the world created by ten utterances.”[1]

“What does this come to teach us?” According to the Midrash, the question the Mishna is asking is two-fold. It is asking: a) Why was the world was created with ten utterances? And b) For what purpose does the Torah let us know that the world was created with ten utterances?[2]

According to the Arizal’s commentary on the Midrash, a world created with one utterance would have reflected the oneness and unity of its Creator. In such a world spirituality would have been more easily and more powerfully perceived. In such a reality, suffering, challenges, triumphs, character deficiencies, and failings would be far less likely. At first glance such a world may seem appealing. However, an existence that hardly allows for any ability to fail and achieve, experience suffering and redemption, or joy and pain – all things that define life as we know it – would be a boring existence indeed! It should be noted that in the times of Moshiach (the future redemption we are all waiting for, may it come speedily in our days), we will be content to live in such a world. However, the reason we will appreciate the oneness of Hashem and the unity of Creation being so apparent is likely because we have endured many years of goles or spiritual exile.

As the Arizal states, Hashem created the world with ten utterances instead of one in order to create a very material world, thereby providing for the possibility of human challenge and achievement as well as reward and punishment. A person cannot experience the joy of self-actualization if a person is born perfect from the start. A person cannot experience meaning if they cannot pursue growth. Nor can a person experience fulfillment from improving the world if the world is in no need of improvement. The whole reason Hashem created this world in the first place is so that He could create an entity (human beings) who could actualize their potential and experience the sweetness of enjoying the fruits of their own labor. We all cherish and enjoy the things that we earn for ourselves far more than the things we are simply given. Therefore, the ability to fall down and get up again is in essence the point of life. Humanity’s ability to fail and to succeed is something we should all embrace rather than lament.

Our mishna states that the world was created by ten utterances in order “to exact payment from the wicked who destroy the world…and to bestow ample reward upon the righteous who sustain the world.” The Mishna uses the phrase, “to exact payment” rather than “to punish.” The Midrash explains that this is meant to teach us that Hashem does not punish human beings for the sake of revenge. Rather Hashem only punishes in order to set a person on the path of teshuva or return (usually wrongly translated as repentance), so that the person will thereby be given an opportunity to repay their debt and redeem themselves. Interestingly many wicked people prosper, because Hashem realizes that such people will not be aroused to teshuva through punishment. If such people fail to atone for their sins in this lifetime, ‘payment’ is then extracted from them in the next. In life, such wicked people become Hashem’s tools in providing good people with their needed soul corrections (For more on this, please read The Garden of Emunah by Rabbi Shalom Arush).

However, a question remains. Would Hashem, who is an infinite well-spring of kindness, create the world in a way that increases the punishment of the wicked? Furthermore, why does the Mishna list this as Hashem’s primary reason and the reward of the righteous as a secondary reason?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that through repentance one surpasses the level of a tzaddik (a righteous person) who has never sinned. One who experiences spiritual darkness returns to Hashem with an intensity much greater than that of a tzaddik. Such a person thereby elevates the negative acts they have committed, since their misdeeds become fuel for their return. However, tzaddik, however great, serves Hashem only within the permitted.[3]

Through teshuva, one’s aveiras, or sins, are retroactively transformed into mitzvos! It is for this reason that the Talmud states that in the place of a baal teshuva (a Jew who has returned to Hashem through performing mitzvos), one who has been perfectly righteous one’s whole life cannot stand.

Says the Rebbe, Hashem creates the world with ten utterances, a world of disparity and challenge, to “exact payment from the wicked,” i.e., for the return of those who have fallen and secondarily, for the straightforward service of the tzaddikim.

The tzaddikim also have a holy purpose. According to the Sfas Emes, the Hebrew word for sustain, kiyum, in the context of Jewish law means ‘confirm.’ Homielitically, he renders that the Mishna is insinuating that through their G-dly ways the righteous confirm and testify that the world was created by G-d and that it is continuously sustained through the energy of His ten utterances.[4]

The entire purpose of Creation is for us to grow as people, learn and teach Torah, and do acts of kindness. Chassidus explains that Hashem is constantly speaking the world into existence. May we continue to elevate the world around us and see through its fragmentation. May we enhance our awareness of Hashem’s Divine hand in Creation and may we soon experience a unified world in which His presence and glory are fully revealed in our physical reality!

Will Gotkin is a contributing writer for Gather The Jews.

[1] Pirkei Avot. Kehot Publication Society, page 158

[2] Ibid.


[4] Ibid.

A Poem

Sheryl Burstein
July 7, 2010

This morning I sat outside
For the sole reason
Of hearing my thoughts
Loudly echo between my ears

I watched the sunrise
As the morning sky was filled with gold and pink
They were the most brilliant colors
The ones that dreams are made of

And as I watched the sun appear
I realized I was a bottle sitting in this burning light
About to explode from so much inspiration
It’s been so many thousands of minutes now
Since I’ve seen that same sun rise in the Holy Land
And I feel like it was all a sweet dream
Spent in a foreign place, that was never really foreign
So I thought about life, about death, about love,
And I thought about what being Jewish means to me

It is everything grandpa fought for
Everything grandma was afraid of
Everything mom tried to hide
Everything dad was proud of
And it’s come to be everything I stand for

My religion used to be nothing more than a title placed upon me at birth
But, now if you could see into me, you would see so much more
I used to think it would be easier to just walk away
But now I have promised myself that I will be proud
Because there is no longer any choice for me
My brothers and sisters
Were pushed down
But still they fought for freedom
For life
For truth
So many times
And I will not abandon what they have given me

And after all this time,
Now I know
God has always lived in my dreams
He lives in my thoughts
And in my actions
And in my words
So be kind
To me
And others like me
Because I will respect you
If you will respect me

I’ve learned that being Jewish means
Everything that is future
Everything that is past
And it has spirit that is never ending
Hope is the sunlight we continue to pass on
And I pray you will all be part of that brilliant glow

Sheryl Burstein is the Director of Events for Gather The Jews and a former Jewish Girl of The Week.

Nighttime Prayer — All Is In Order

Ayin Tove
Nighttime Prayer — All Is In Order
July 2, 2010

In the evening, we recognize in the first blessing of the Shma that G-d has given order to the universe: “umsader et hacochavim b’mishmorotahem” (and has ordered the stars in their watches). Literally, G-d’s act of creation has created order. A priori, this comes from G-d’s existence. You can go to sleep knowing that everything is in its place, and all is right with the universe, G-d is in heaven, and the stars are in their watch. We learn from the Talmud in B’rachot that G-d roars like a lion during the three watches of the night: when the dog barks, when the donkey brays, and when a woman nurses her child or speaks to her husband. B’rachot 3a. G-d is watching like a lion over the world, as all of this happens on earth. One might think about the barking dog, the braying donkey, and the crying child as a cacophony, but they are part of a larger constellation given an order by G-d who set it in motion, and whose Presence transcends. The stars are in their place.
And this is even before the other blessings of the evening Shmah where we learn about love, law, redemption, shelter, and peace.

Ayin Tove is a contributing writer for and is a lawyer for the federal government.