I had doubts that I would make it, but Hanukkah teaches us that miracles do happen, and like the oil lighting the candles, I survived an intense 8 nights in Jewish Washington DC.
Here are the highlights from a Hanukkah Week in the Life of Stephen Richer:
First night. Wednesday, December 1.
One of the best times of my life? Quite possibly (sorry to any ex girlfriends reading this). Not only did I get to dress up in an amazing costume and dance in front of hundreds of Jews (unfortunately the Rabbi didn’t permit me my normal range of teenage girl dance moves). But I also got to chat with Itzhak Perlman and OMB director and ceremonial menorah lighter Jack Lew. This more than made up for the slight nausea I was feeling from the approximately 500 spins I performed for Perlman’s grandkids who never seemed to tire of asking, “Can I spin you Dreidelman?”
The best part of the evening was that I smiled for the first 40 pictures I took before realizing that nobody would be able to see my face.
Thanks so much to Rabbi Shemtov for this amazing opportunity, and thanks to everyone at the event that indulged my performance. Missed my dancing? Check out this film clip.
Concert with Ivri Lider at Sixth & I.
Although I’d never heard of Lider before (my Pandora station doesn’t leave Taio Cruz, Usher, and Akon), I still enjoyed jumping up and down with those better-informed audience members who knew that Lider is kinda a big deal.
But the best part of the evening was watching Ambassador Oren rocking his head back and forth in the thick of the crowd. Cool. But in a dignified way.
Second night. Thursday, December 2.
Republican Jewish Coalition Hanukkah Party
The few (but growing). The proud (and increasingly so). The Republican Jews.
A whole bunch of people turned out. I’ll pretend that this is because they knew I was giving the introduction speech. But it probably had more to do with 1) the fact that Rs rocked the recent elections, and 2) the keynote speaker, David Frum.
Quick Demo Dance Lesson
Fellow DC Jew, Deborah Joy Block of Back To Basics offered me a quick demo dance lesson. Tons of fun. But for those of you who have seen me dance recently, don’t blame Deborah for my shortcomings.
Third night. Friday, December 3.
Adas Israel Shabbat Dinner
This marked the third mega Shabbat and free dinner hosted by Elie Greenberg and Adas YP. Huge turnout again. Probably about 250 people. I couldn’t stay for the dinner, but I did spend enough time at the pre-services social hour to eat a few donuts (I call them donuts because I only eat their donut qualities – the glazed outside) and make a few socially awkward comments. I was told services and dinner were excellent. Adas hosts these once a month, so look out for the next one.
Mesorah DC Shabbat at Sixth & I
So as to not violate Shabbat, I eschewed both metro and taxi, instead taking my magical (carbon free) unicorn from Cleveland Park to Chinatown. I got there just in time to be seated at the coolest table for dinner – one that included Noah Pollak, a columnist that I enjoy reading in Commentary.
For some reason, Rabbi Berkman let me emcee the dinner (win), and this time I managed to not offend anyone (unlike last Mesorah dinner when I was asked to name which famous movie character I would be).
Scott Weinberg won the raffle for the Giants vs. Redskins tickets.
Shabbat House Party
Pop bottles. Lasted a bit longer than expected, causing me to miss:
Moishe House D.C. Party
I heard this was awesome. Tons and tons of people. Good music.
A Jewmongous Hanukkah Party at Sixth & I Synagogue
I had to go into work early on Saturday morning, so I slept in the later afternoon. I overslept. So I went in my sweatpants. Yes. Sometimes I’m so damn stylish it hurts.
This was an amazing event. Sean Altman (of Where in the World is Carman San Diego fame), now of Jewmongous sang some hilarious and eyebrow-raising Jewish songs. I definitely bought two of his CDs after the show.
Thanks to Aaron Weintraub of Sixth & I, Jodi Tirengel (official Hanukkah candle lighter), and the rest of the gang (mostly Sixth & I and Federation people) that made this event possible. Lots of people. Plenty of drinks. A seriously amazing performer. And dancing after the performance.
Favorite part of the evening: A man on man dance-off with Josh. At some point I dropped my beer on the dance floor, and I used my tear-away pants to mop it up (yes, I had shorts on underneath).
Then jumped over to hang out with some other members of the J-Squad (term coined by Hannah L.), celebrate Sarah’s birthday, and play very very very poorly in pool.
Fifth Night. Sunday, December 5.
DC Minyan Hanukkah Party
Ok. I’m getting tired writing about this, and I absolutely love talking about myself, so you have to be tired from reading. We’ll make it fast.
Fun event at the social hall of the Chastleton. About 50 people. Lots of nice snacks and desserts. I bid on four charity auction items, including an email cleanup service—to manage all this friggin’ GTJ emails—and a Jewish grab bag. But the coolest item was a hand made Chuppah. I didn’t bid though because I thought it was bit premature.
Sixth Night. Monday, December 6.
Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill
Hats off to Sara Smith of DC JCC for coordinating one of the biggest Jewish events of year. More than 600 Jews showed up to the Pour House for this one. I only swung by briefly because I had to go watch the Capitals lose to the Maple Leaves in a shootout. But from the GTJ members that reported back, it sounded like a phenomenal time.
Seventh Night. Tuesday, December 7.
I wasn’t the only one who found it hilarious that my office party was held on the “day of infamy” in American history. But we survived. No candles were lit. But there was karaoke after… but that had nothing to do with my office or Hanukkah. That was just me, another friend, and my burning desire to sing Britney Spears.
Eighth Night. Wednesday, December 8.
Met up with a few people at Gazuza to bemoan the departure of two of Jewish DC’s finest (Rachel and Ben … off to Israel). And we heard about a couple new Jewish initiatives (ConnectGen and Alma Links) from Jason Langser. They both sounded neat, but this lunch break is over, so if you want to know what they’re about, click on the links.
And so, dear reader, you have seen what these eyes saw, while at the same time being spared from actually seeing these eyes. Till next time… When we hopefully beat the Greeks again.