Jewish Girl – Abby

Jewish Girl - Abby

If you could meet any biblical character, who would it be?
If I could meet a biblical character (old testament, obviously) I’d have to say I’d want to meet Adam (of Adam and Eve).  That way when people say to me “You don’t know me from Adam!”, I can say “Yes I do!!”

Who is your favorite Jewish friend?
My favorite Jewish friend is my best friend Pailey. I know you said “no lame responses,” but in this case I just have to be honest.  She and I grew up in Dallas together and she sang Shalom Rav with me on the bima at my Bat Mitzvah.  Love you, Pay!

Which living Jew would you want to spend Shabbat with?
I’d want to spend Shabbat with Aaron Wolff because then he’d gather all the Jews so we could all spend Shabbat together.

What is one secret about you that nobody knows about until now? (FYI all the Jews in DC read this)
Sometimes when I am stressed I go to Walmart and just walk around. Sometimes I buy things, sometimes I don’t, but there’s just something so soothing about a discount store with smiley faces plastered everywhere.  Try it sometime when you’re stressed; you’ll thank me later.

What’s your favorite Jewish dish?
Brisket. Nuff said.

Lulav or Etrog?
That’s like asking “Laverne or Shirley?” You just can’t, they both made Nick at Nite what it is today. Shake it Shake it Shake it!

If you did Dancing with the Stars, who would you choose as your dance partner?
Emmitt Smith.

Jews have been known to wander, where is the most exotic place you traveled?
I took a random roadtrip to Nebraska once but the most exotic place is probably Greece. The beaches of Santorini and Mykonos are just beautiful.

Would you ever make your own Sukkah?
Of course! When I was little my family used to make our own “sukkah” by putting leaves and branches over the monkey bars on our swingset. I think at this point I’d need a bigger swingset but yes, absolutely!

Favorite part about being Jewish in DC?
There are so many different groups and activities to do to meet other YJP’s!  Stay on the look out for Service Shot, my own little organization starting up in mid-October!

What is your favorite food to dip in honey?
Do people really say anything besides apples? I mean, I love a good peanut butter and banana sandwich with a drizzle of honey, but that’s not exactly dipping.

Why were you chosen to be featured as Jew of the Week?
I saw Aaron walking down the street and literally yelled “That’s GathertheJews-Guy!” He was a great schmoozer and took the time to meet me and my friends, even the non-MOT’s (members of the tribe). Thanks, Aaron!!

Which Is Better: Doing Something You Have To? Or Doing Something You Don’t Have To?

?Ayin Tove
September 29, 2010
Which Is Better: Doing Something You Have To? Or Doing Something You Don’t Have To?

I have a feeling that the modern answer to this question is that doing something you don’t have to do is better than doing something you have to do. You’re going above and beyond. But I also have a feeling that the rabbinic answer to this question is that it is better to do something you are already obligated to do. In other words, it is inherently good to fulfill an obligation.

You might object: If I’m obligated to do something, then aren’t I already doing it? The answer is not so simple. Forgetting about keeping kosher, religious obligations like “Honor Your Father and Mother” or “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” can be difficult to interpret and to follow.

And now the contradiction: It’s a “mitzvah” to love your neighbor as yourself. “Mitzvah” has two meanings: to do a good deed and a commandment. To love your neighbor is both commanded and is a good deed.

So the things that we might think of as good deeds that you don’t have to do, may already be commanded. You have to do the things that you don’t have to do. How can this be?

We are commanded to do good deeds, mitzvahs, of various kinds, but the amount of them is left up to us. The Talmud teaches us that there is no prescribed measure for deeds of lovingkindness. Mishnah Peah 1:1.

Another word that covers these good deeds, especially the ones we are not obligated to do, is “tzedakah” which we think of as charity. And at the same time we are commanded to do “tzedek” or righteousness: “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof.” (“Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue.”) (Deut. 16:20).

We may not be obligated to do particular acts of lovingkindness, but we may be obligated to do some.

Ayin Tove is a contributing writer for Gather The Jews.

Jewish Guy – Shai

Jewish Guy - Shai

Which famous living Jew would you want to spend Shabbat with?
Leonard Cohen.  He’s my cousin.  Long ago he split with the family, and I wouldn’t mind talking things out with him up in Montreal over wine, cholent, and singing a little Halleluyah.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Usually at Savta’s in Kemp Mill (Silver Spring), but I’m tending to stay downtown more these days, and you can also find me at the gracious Moishe House or having dinner at another locale with friends.

Jews have been known to wander, where is the most exotic place you traveled?
Hands down, Suriname.  I was in the Peace Corps in the little known former Dutch colony north of Brazil.  The mixture of cultures (African, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, Jewish, Dutch, Amerindian, and more) isolated by rain forest, ocean, and neighboring countries speaking different languages is exotic at the least.  In the span of a few moments you can fly over the Amazon, eat at an Indonesian warung, walk over the sand floor of a nearly 200 year old synagogue, travel by a bus adorned by the painted faces of Bollywood actors, and end up in a village that feels like Africa.  Are you sold?  Here’s an article in B’nai B’rith Magazine that I wrote about the Surinamese Jewish community (page 22)

Would you ever make your own Sukkah?
For sure.  We used to build one growing up and though I haven’t done it on my own, I would.  However, and this is very important, it would not be one of those pre-fab Sukkot.  If IKEA starts selling sukkot, we know we’ve gone awry.

Jewish Girl – Erika E.

(Jewish Girl of the Year Voting Page)

Erika on why she should be Jewish Girl of the Year:
I should be Jewish Girl of the Year because my local claim to fame is singing at 6th and I, I make a mean kugel and brisket… not to mention the winning Erikanishes! I’m always smiling, and I’m not afraid to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything! Vote for me.

ErikaHow have most people responded, post 2008, when they discover you work at Fannie Mae?
To be honest, they’re amazed I still have a job!  I’m a Financial Economist, and I do research for the mortgage market.  That’s my left-brained job, anyway.  My right-brained side is singing and taking acting classes on the side.  It’s funny – we did a personality test at work recently, and I was the only person in my division to come out “sunshine yellow” – extroverted and social.

Word on the street is that you’re gearing up to be an actress.  That’s quite the change in profession.  If you could have any role in a movie or t.v. show, which would it be?  And what type of gig do you hope to land in the future?
This one’s too easy… GLEE!!!  I’m mildly (ok, majorly) obsessed.  I even sent in an audition video online.  I may have also applied to be on The Apprentice, The Next Food Network Star, and American Idol.  My dream is to be a household name, either singing or acting.  ‘Til then, anyone need to know how mortgages work?

You’re one of Rick Recht’s regular singing assistants at the special Sixth in the City Shabbats.  Do you know any of his secrets?  What’s he like?  Nice?
As much as I’d love to start a scandal and say he’s a real jerk behind the scenes, Rick is so talented and humble.  I went to his Songleader Bootcamp in May, and he’s very passionate about what he does and more than willing to share his secrets with people like me.


How does one get an invite to the special Jewish holiday get-togethers that you host?
Are you in my family?  You get an invite!  The rest is a game of space.  I once had 50 people over for Break Fast… big mistake.  I scaled down this year to 25 people.  All of my get-togethers have something unique – a new food idea, holiday trivia, and the infamous Yom Kippur “Erika Cake.”

If an alien came to earth and wanted to learn about American Judaism through one movie, one book, and one food item, what would you give him?  (Yes.  The alien knows English and Hebrew).
The food item is easy – kugel!  I make it with my grandma’s recipe, and I remember her saying in my ear, “Erika, never skimp on the butter.”  For the movie, I’d say “Prime” – partly because I love the movie, but partly because Meryl Streep really wants her son to marry a “nice Jewish girl.”  As for the book, I read the relevant chapter of “The Jewish Book of Why” before every holiday to brush up on why we do the traditions we do.  I mean, did anyone know there is technically more than one Jewish New Year??

You’re one of the most excited-to-be-Jewish people I know.  How can Gather The Jews and other awesome Jewish organizations get more people super excited about Judaism?
Give them free food?  Just kidding!  (Sort of.)  Make it an event that people would rather go to than just a regular night out.  In other words, make it fun.  And I might actually be the most excited-to-be-Jewish person I know too.  I guess that’s why I’m the JGOTW!  😉

Don’t Be A Sukkah, Get Into It!

Will Gotkin
Don’t Be A Sukkah, Get Into It!
September 22, 2010

Tis the season to be Jewish! Right now, Jews around the world are going through the holiday-filled month of Tishrei. We re-proclaimed G-d our king on Rosh Hashana (5771 years and still going strong!), beat our chests and confessed on Yom Kippur, but the fun is just beginning with the joyous holiday of Sukkot, also known as Succos (and if you’ve read any 19th or 20th century books about Jewish holidays you may have heard it referred to as the Festival of Booths). Read more

Jewish Guy – Kenny

Jewish Guy - Kenny

Kenny on why he should be Jewish Guy of the Year:
Don Draper teaches us that, “advertising is based on one thing:
happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”  A vote for Kenny Ames means you’re voting for happiness, your happiness, because whatever you’re doing is okay.  We are all okay.

Who’s the greatest Jew since 1900?
I would have to pick Albert Einstein and Sandy Koufax.  Einstein was arguably the greatest mind in modern times.  Koufax inspired a generation of future Jewish athletes, and by refusing to pitch on Yom Kippur, he demonstrated to American Jews that our holidays are sacred.

Is working on Capitol Hill as cool as most Congressional Staff say
it is?  Are you really “a big deal”?
My time as a Congressional staffer was incredible. I had the chance to work for two outstanding and respected Members of Congress.  The hours were long and the pay wasn’t great, but it was fantastic to work with several dedicated and passionate public servants.  I’m no Ron Burgundy; in fact, those that have an air that they are a “big deal” are often ridiculed and brought back down to earth.

If you could step into one part of the Torah, which part would it be, and what would you do?
I would have loved to have been at the battle between David and Goliath.  I think I would have been very good gathering rocks for David to use in his slingshot and reminding him to aim for the
weakness in Goliath’s armor.

What would be your first initiative as president of the United States?
I would pass food safety regulations immediately. We would label all meats accordingly (organic, country-of-origin, cloned, etc); all poultry would be raised cage-free and without growth hormones; we would stop stuffing our meat supply with antibiotics; downed animals would be ineligible to enter the food supply; foie gras would be illegal as would veal; we would test the meat frequently for mad cow disease and other ailments; and we would ensure that all workers in the food supply were able to earn a fair wage and be afforded basic rights.  Some might complain this would increase the cost of food, but I have always believed you are what you eat and if you spend a little more for quality, the product is better, tastier, and healthier.

Who’s going to win this year’s World Series?  Super Bowl?
I’d like to see Tampa Bay win it all now that my Red Sox are unlikely to make the playoffs.  They are an exciting team to watch, play the game right, and have a lot of exciting, young talent.  As for the Super Bowl, the Patriots, of course!

What’s the best upcoming Jewish event in DC?
Thanks for asking.  I have three great events coming up that I will be attending.
1) The Annual Sukkoh Hop is Saturday, September 25.
2)The ADL Young Professionals Division is hosting a panel on September 27 on The State of Prop 8: The Way Forward for the Gay Marriage Fight in California and Beyond.
3) October 13 is The Network Kick-off event.
If I had to pick just one, attend the ADL panel discussion.  Am I biased because I am on the planning committee for it?  Of course I am!

Word on the street is that you’re a runner.  What was the last
race you ran in?  Did you get first or second?
Word is correct.  I have run twelve marathons since I started in 2004 with Marine Corps.  I am an avid marathon runner, certified running coach, and VP of Training for DC Road Runners Club
(  We have excellent training programs to prepare runners for races of distances from 10K, 10 miles, half marathon, and marathon.  The last race I ran was the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon on September 19.  I ran it as a dress rehearsal for the Wineglass Marathon on October 3 in Corning, NY, where I hope to run a personal best and qualify for the Boston Marathon by running it in less than three hours and ten minutes.  In November, I am scheduled to run the New York City Marathon.  I love talking about running and theories behind training, so please feel free to contact me at

What’s the one thing that the Jewish community of DC needs to work on? Or what’s missing from the community?
I heard from someone in the know that the Greater Washington area has one of the highest percentages of Jews living here, yet one of the lowest among charitable giving to Jewish causes.  If more young Jews could give just a little now, that would help greatly as there as so many worthy causes that need our support.

If you could date any Jew, who would it be?
Probably Natalie Portman.  I don’t have a great reason other than she is talented, beautiful, and intelligent.

Jewish Girl – Meredith


(Jewish Girl of the Year Voting Page)

Meredith on why she should be Jewish Girl of the Year:
I should win Jewish Girl of the Year because I am not associated with girls, or Jews, enough with FiftyFirst(J)Dates ( Also, if I win, I will promote world peace, clean water initiatives, and the bettering of society through the Intermix Charity For Girls Without Smartphones.

Word on the street is that you run a popular blog.
I run Fifty First (J)Dates ( I write, edit, market, and hawk it all myself. Its a humorous dating blog (I write about my first jdates) and also general musings for anyone who’s bored at work and sick of gchat. We’re also on Twitter @50firstjdates and I probably attended your bat-mitzvah.

How did it get started?
FFJD began mostly as a joke. I joined JDate when I moved back to DC after spending a year living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (I’m from here. And no, not MD or VA. DC!) I sent it to my close friends because I found the jdate subculture to be epically hilarious. They sent it to their friends, and it exploded. Now I have to avoid paparazzi every time I got to Yogiberry.

How has it evolved?
Its now on Huffington Post and Jewcy, and articles on it have been in the Post and the Examiner. I also now take content (send your stories!) That I add my trademark nonsensical commentary to.

Do you have any future projects planned?
Book, movie, tv show, giant posters of my face. But seriously, I am also looking for a job so if you want to hire a charming JAP with a BBM addiction, hit me up.

Mitzvah Maker – Rabbi Fink

Mitzvah Maker - Rabbi Fink

What is your blog about?
My blog is an extension of my real life. The things I write about are things that I am talking about with friends, family, members of my shul and fellow law students. Sometimes, the blog is a repository for podcasts of Torah classes I have taught or essays I have written. Other times, the blog is a place for social commentary on international, national, local or Jewish news. Once in a while I talk about sports or a great video I saw somewhere. Of course I also blog about my Shul’s events and post pictures and videos of those events. I have also blogged about legal issues I have studied in law school or read about in the news. In short, I blog about whatever I find interesting and think others may find interesting as well. I try to give people an opportunity to get to know me and we have built an online community together that takes the outreach of our shul out of the brick and mortar shul and into the digital world.

Why blog?
Blogging is very important. Back in the days of yore, the people who had a voice were big, powerful leaders who spoke to massive audiences. These individuals were rare and their reach was far. People with contrary opinions might have been able to express their opinions to their immediate social circle of friends but their audience was severely limited to the people who would listen to them. The digital era has completely shifted this paradigm. Now, anyone with a computer and an internet connection, or even a mobile smartphone has a voice. There are so many voices out there worth hearing and blogs give everyone a chance to speak. If people like what you say, your voice can travel very far. Comments on blogs are of even greater value because they give readers a chance to think critically about what they are reading and conversation can ensue. So long as the conversation is civil, a lot can be learned by discussing issues on a blog. The more people who have a voice, the better our society will be. In my opinion, critically thinking about everything we encounter in life is an imperative. Blogging forces the writer and reader to think about their opinions and the more we think, the greater we can be.

For me, there is an additional reason to blog. Our Shul is pretty famous, after all, it’s on the beach, yet, most people know nothing about the shul. Blogging gives potential shul visitors the opportunity to learn about the shul, the membership and the rabbi. People are often surprised that an orthodox Rabbi is blogging and so far it’s only been positive PR for our shul.

Any Favorite Blog Posts?
I don’t know about favorites, but here are 5 that give a good cross-section of what my blog is like:

Essay: What is Teshuva (repentance) and How Does It Work in Judaism?

Pacific Jewish Center Featured on

The Real Orthoprax Issue

My Thoughts On The Aughts

Athletes as Role Models

What actor would play you in a movie about your life (and why)?
I have no idea how to answer this question. A good actor can take any role and make it his own. I would hope the actor playing me would be good enough to try to “be me”. Plus, I can only relate to actors in their roles, so I can only think of roles that I can think of playing me – not actors! But if anyone out there knows me, feel free to make suggestions.

Which biblical character would you like to be with on a deserted island?
King David. He’s got great stories – so we could shmooze for a long time. He can sing – so we’ll be entertained, he’s a great warrior – so probably a great hunter as well, and he’s the king – so someone will probably come looking for us.

You have to wander the desert for 40 years, what 3 things do you bring?
My family
iPhone with solar charger. It has everything, camera, books, Torah, music, etc

What type of apples do you eat with honey?
My favorite apples are golden delicious.

Any Rosh Hashana traditions that are special to your family?
We have the usual customs. Apple in honey, the simanim at the evening meals and the new fruit on the second night. All these customs are special to us!

What is the first thing you eat after Yom Kippur?
Starbucks Iced Frappucino and Entenmens Raspberry Twist. Then my family has the custom of enjoying a festive holiday meal with meat, so I have chicken soup with noodles.

Complete this sentence: Under the sukkah this year, I will ____…
…enjoy festive meals with my family, friends, and community.

Jewish Guy – Rob

Jewish Guy - Rob

Where can we find you on a Friday night? 
Chabad of DC is an vastly underrated Shabbos option.  I love the small setting, the casual atmosphere, the awesome Shabbos meals and the deep commitment to G-d and Judaism of the congregation.  Rabbis Shem Tov and Steiner, who lead the congregation, are dynamic, engaging, energetic individuals who make a super-human effort to reach out, in an accepting and non-judgmental way, to Jews who are on the edges of Jewish life and involvement.

Where is the most exciting place you have had kosher food? 
You know, I was in Port Villa, Vanuatu (an island nation off of the Eastern coast of Australia) this past Winter.  I’d brought along some food, but I was worried that I’d run out before I returned to Australia.  So, I walked into a local supermarket, expecting to subsist on raw vegetables for the remainder of my trip.  The first thing I saw, in a window outside the store, was a New York bagel chips display; the chips had an OU heksher.  Inside, I found soup mixes, tuna, pita breads, pastas, sauces, etc, all of which had heckshers.  There were even “Made in Vanuatu” products which were kosher.  The moral of the story – if you really want to keep kosher ANYWHERE, you can.   

If you could spend Rosh Hashana anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Jerusalem, and I’d bring my family.

Who’s your favorite Jewish Superhero? 
I have two:  1.  The IDF Soldier, who, in the face of insurmountable odds, accomplished the impossible, re-establishing and maintaining the Jewish state 2,000 years after its destruction. 2.  One I knew personally – Private First Class Daniel J. Agami, United States Army – a Jewish and American hero who was killed in action on June 21, 2007.
If you could have Shabbat dinner with any Jew in the world, who would it be?
I already get that wish – my friends here in D.C. are the best Shabbos company there can be.