You can see the WOLFF's white hat...

Jewnity hit Public Bar today.  It felt a bit weird to be dancing and drinking in broad daylight on Sunday, but…  I had fun!

I didn’t feel the need to take more than one picture on my iPhone because some super pleasant guy from the Washington Jewish Week was working away with an impressive camera.  That being said, if you have pictures, email them to us (, and we’ll post them to this blog or to our facebook page.   We’ll also link to the Washington Jewish Week story as soon as it’s up.

As for the actual event…  LOTS of people. Maybe 250?  I’ll get the official count from Marissa (Federation), Allison (Sixth & I), and Stacey (Washington Hebrew Congregation) soon enough.  Perhaps another overly-crowded happy hour (reference to last Gather the Jews happy hour), but, again, may this be the worst of our problems.  I assure that we’ll work to fix this at the next GTJ happy hour (late August!).

I did manage to get a little space on the rooftop, however, and Danny F. and I busted out small, restricted versions of our “much celebrated” dance moves.  Shout out to Sara, Karen, Gideon, and Steffanie for joining in a bit… and shout out to Nicole (sp?) just because I said I would.

Lots of Jewish group representatives attended, so I hope you got to learn something new about a group.  If you didn’t, just email us, and we can put you in touch with any group you want to know more about.  If you met a tall GTJ ambassador with a hat, you met Aaron; if you met a small GTJ ambassador, you met Noa; and if you met one in between, you met Josh S.

I hope you also got some of the food.  It looked good.  Falafel style stuff (I didn’t get to it).

Oh.  And if you were one of the few that got a GTJ wristband tonight (see below), consider yourself lucky — we didn’t give out many this time.

More Jewnity updates to come.  Stay tuned!









Upcoming AJC Happy Hour

ACCESS DC, AJC’s young professional program, is teaming up with Indian-American partners to host a happy hour at Bar Pilar, followed by a performance of “The Ramayana”, an ancient Hindu epic.

When: Thursday, August 4, Happy hour: 6 p.m., Performance: 8 p.m.

Where: Bar Pilar, 1833 14th St. NW

Please let Jorie ( know if you would like to attend the performance and/or happy hour.  To get a taste of what a contemporary Ramayana will be like, click here.

Being a Signpost

The great Torah scholar, Maimonides writes that in the times of ancient Israel when the Temple stood, there were signposts all over the country proclaiming “Refuge! Refuge!” These signs were pointing to the six ‘cities of refuge’ discussed in this week’s parsha, Parshas Masei. These cities of refuge were meant to provide asylum to those who had accidentally taken a life (through negligence) and protect them from blood relatives of the deceased who may wish to avenge the ‘murder.’ Maimonides explains that it was the responsibility of every community in Israel to make sure that there were no impediments to finding and reaching a city of refuge. Bridges and roads had to be built and maintained over all natural barriers and directions to the cities of refuge had to be clearly demarcated with signs. Every community was obligated to make sure nothing delayed a person who was seeking a city of refuge. A deeper, more mystical analysis of this subject will reveal that this obligation has not disappeared.[1]

On a mystical level every transgression is a subtle form of murder. The Baal HaTanya, also known as Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, explains that every transgression, no matter how minor, obscures and further exiles the Divine Presence. Sins hinder the illumination of G-dly light into our world.[2] It is for this reason that our Sages have referred to the words of Torah as ‘cities of refuge’ for the destroyer of spiritual life.[3]

However, what use is a haven if it is not well-known? The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that today’s world is filled with ‘spiritual’ refugees. It is the duty of every Jew who knows even a little bit of Torah to stand at the crossroads and act as a living signpost calling out “Refuge Refuge” and pointing in the direction of Torah.[4]

I know what some of you are thinking. I can’t be ‘signpost.’ My knowledge about Judaism is insufficient even for myself – let alone to qualify me to teach others. Perhaps you may know enough to teach, but don’t feel capable to rise to the occasion – “I’m not a rabbi,” you might say, or “I’ve never been very good at public speaking.” In response to such concerns, it’s important to remember the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching that if one knows the Hebrew letter alef,  one should teach alef. In other words one should teach – or perhaps a better word is share – whatever one knows with another.

Hold on a second! Aren’t I hypocrite if I start teaching others about Jewish concepts or ideals to which I myself do not always able to live up by? A quick story addresses this concern. A man was once walking to the city of Lubavitch where he was planning to study in yeshiva. On the way he passed a signpost that read ‘Lubavitch’ with an arrow pointing toward his intended destination. Many years later he left Lubavitch and during his returning journey he passed by the same sign. He remarked: “I have learned and changed so much since I last walked by this sign, but it remains here the same as it was before.” Even if you don’t feel comfortable sharing Judaism you have the power and responsibility to direct others to those who do. You can host Torah lectures and classes in your home or publicize Torah classes and Jewish events via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter etc. You could bring a friend to a Shabbat service or meal, or even slip an interesting thing you learned about the weekly parsha into a conversation with a friend or relative. The possibilities are endless! You, yes you, have the power in your hands to make the world a brighter, friendlier, and more G-dly place. May you be successful in your efforts!


[2] Tanya. Daily portion for the 27th of Tamuz, 5771 Igeret HaTashuva Chapter 7


[4] Ibid.


Pictures from Israel Embassy's Intern Event

A couple of weeks ago, the embassy held one of its semi-annual intern events, to help acquaint DC interns with the various cultural and political facets of the State of Israel.

An embassy statement provides details:

The Ambassador started his briefing with a short anecdote about his relationship with newly appointed American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, and mentioned the advantages and personal benefits of working for the public sector.  He then opened the floor for questions, which ranged from the current status of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to the domestic challenges that Israel faces with its growing Haredi population. When he was asked about Israel’s identity as a Jewish nation, Ambassador Oren responded by stating “Israel is affirmative action for Jews living stateless for 2000 years.”

Following the briefing, there was traditional Israeli food including pita, shawarma, and falafel. Upon exiting, everyone received a gift bag with traditional Israeli candy, and a “Did you know?” card with an interesting fact about the Jewish state. There is no question that everyone left the event well fed, and with a greater understanding of Israel.

Thanks to the embassy for providing the following pictures:




















Shakespeare on inter-religious marriages

As I noted two weeks ago, the Washington Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) recently wrapped up its performance of Merchant of Venice – the only Shakespeare play to prominently feature a Jewish character (Shylock).

I’d seen this play twice before, and I’d performed in it once (as Portia), but in none of these performances could my Jewish identification could considered above “moderate.”  Now, as a very proud and active Jew, I wanted to see if I would respond differently.

My experience did change.  I found myself rooting for Shylock more than ever, wincing at the derogatory statements made against Jews, bemoaning Shylock’s portrayal of some not-so-nice Jewish stereotypes, gripping the edge of my chair when Shylock’s kippah is stolen and mockingly thrown, truly feeling pain when Shylock is forced to convert as the last measure of his punishment, and (unfairly?) resenting Shylock for converting to save his life.

But the most interesting dimension that previously escaped my assessment was the commentary on inter-religious marriage.  Shylock’s daughter Jessica runs off with the Christian Lorenzo.  I remembered this, but I had forgotten that Jessica and Lorenzo are already quarreling by the end of the play.  Rabbi Teitelbaum might use this scene to point to one his favorite books – Why Marry Jewish? – and remind us that inter-religious marriages fail at much higher rates.  Did Shakespeare intuit this fact 400 years in advance?

The argument between Jessica and Lorenzo also evinces the collapse of support staffs in an inter-religious relationship.  Lorenzo doesn’t turn to his friends because they wouldn’t understand;  they’re useless in Jessica-related matters.  When Lorenzo does mention Jessica, his friends usually laugh and say something about her being the daughter of a mad, money-loving Jew.  Jessica, meanwhile, is estranged from her father and friends and  has nobody to turn to.  Compare this to the play’s parallel Christian weddings (Bassanio/Portia and Gratiano/Nerissa), all of whom have a ready friend who is experiencing the same challenges.

Finally, the play also points out the sense of abandonment that comes from inter-religious marriage.  The audience should presumably leave the theater happy – Antonio is saved; they’re all rich; and there’s a bunch of marriages.  But in this rendition, the director concludes by showing Jessica sitting alone, then briefly looking back to see – just for a flash – Shylock standing behind her.  The lights are killed, the play ends, and we’re filled with sadness.  Clearly, according to the director, not all is well with Jessica.  She regrets leaving her father behind, and with him, her family’s faith and history.

All told, it’s still an excellent play despite forcing me into deeper thought (something I normally avoid).  I am glad, however, that I took former Jewish Guy of the Week Eric as my date and not one of the two Christian girls that I had first asked.


***  The next show at the Shakespeare Theatre Company is Julias Caesar, and it’s FREE!  For all other plays at the STC, you can get young professional tickets the day of the performance for $15.00.



Talk by Local Author

Alicia Oltuski, a DC-area writer, will be reading from and signing her new book, Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life,

WHEN: Sunday, July 31, 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Barnes and Noble, 4801 Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda, MD (metro accessible)

Precious Objects was selected as a Fall 2011 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick.  This semi-autobiographical narrative tells the story of the New York diamond industry, offering an insider’s look at the history, business, and society behind one of the world’s most coveted natural resources.

Wardrobe Malfunction? What not to wear on the first date — GTJ dating series with Erika E. (week 4)

Ah, the age-old question of what to wear on the first date…

Now, I’m not saying we should all be fashion mavens (I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but my store of choice is Wet Seal, and as long as it still fits, I’ll be shopping there ‘til I’m 80. ;)), but for the first date, it’s important to put yourself together nicely.

Some first dates are right after work (a happy hour drink), so that’s easy – just go in your work clothes.  But some aren’t.  I always have to laugh because on my first date with Jeremy, I wore a very heavy sweater dress because I had actually made plans afterwards to go to this après-ski party in case he was a dud.  (Luckily, he wasn’t, and I ditched the party.)  But that was not a good first date outfit, and we still joke about it because it was so not representative of my clothes.  (I recently donated it, so hopefully some girl out there will have good luck in it too.)

For women, if you’re coming from work, a nice business casual outfit works well.  Try not to look too “business” and no fun, but a nice pair of pants or skirt and a top that shows off your shape but isn’t too revealing works well.  Save the low-cut, curve-hugging stuff for going dancing Saturday night.  I know it’s not the right season for it, but when it’s cold, try not to wear anything like a huge turtleneck (or the dress I wore) because it makes you look very closed off from the guy’s point of view, like he’d need a lock and key just to get to your neck.  And in the winter, a good pair of tall boots is very sexy.

Irons are a man's best friend?

For men, all I can say is that the iron is your friend.  I can’t think of anything worse than a guy showing up in clothes that are completely wrinkled.  Heck – I’m not even saying you need to iron anything yourself.  I often bring my shirts to get dry-cleaned because I really just want them pressed.  Don’t tell!  Other than that, just go with your style.  Check your teeth, make sure there are no stains on your shirt, and you’re good to go.

One final note: If you go on a date with someone you consider a bad dresser, remember that while their personality may not change, their clothes can, so don’t let it be a deal breaker.  Although Jeremy and I like most of each other’s clothes, there’s a certain blue striped sweater that I subtly (or maybe not so subtly) mentioned wasn’t my favorite.  Oddly enough, I haven’t seen it since.

So, go get dressed and enjoy your date!


Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, helping people find success in online dating and getting them excited about its possibilities. “Like” A Little Nudge on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.

Got burning questions you want answered in a future post?  E-mail

Past dating articles by Erika E:

1) Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
2) Extra Cheese, Please!
3) Getting Hot Hot Hot


Miracles in Our Day and Age

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

Question of the Week:

Why don’t we see miracles today like the Jews saw in the stories of Chanuka and Passover? And don’t tell me that every day is a miracle, childbirth is a miracle, the sunrise is a miracle, blah blah blah. I am talking about splitting seas, dead people coming alive, voices from heaven type of miracles. The really supernatural stuff. What happened to that? Why did the people of biblical times get all the special effects and we don’t? Has G-d retired?


Have you ever wished you were a child again? Don’t kids have it made? Their parents do everything for them. The child is hungry and amazingly food appears in front of them. They hurt themselves and the parent is immediately there to kiss them better. They are lovingly put to sleep at night, and taken out of bed in the morning. It is a comforting and secure existence. But it doesn’t last for long.

As the child develops and grows, the parents gradually withdraw. Babies becomes toddlers, they can walk on their own two feet, feed themselves, and look after some of their own needs. Eventually they will grow to be young children, and can even go out of the house for the day, without their parents, and go to school. Then they become teenagers, when they assert their independence even more. Teenagers often brush off their parents’ advice, because they have to find their own way, and they think that they know best. As difficult as it is, the parents have to accept this as a part of their child’s maturation process, and to some extent allow the teenager to make some silly mistakes. Otherwise they will never grow up.

The parents have to let go, because only then can the child finally grow up, and become an adult. Then, as a developed and mature adult, they can relate to their parents with respect and understanding. They don’t need their parents to clothe and feed them anymore, they can do that themselves. But they can enjoy a relationship that is even deeper and more real, because now, as an adult, they have grown to appreciate what their parents have done for them. That they are the person that they are due to the love and attention that their parents devoted to them.

Humanity has taken a similar course. In the early days, G-d was like a loving parent, very apparent and obviously looking after us. He spoke to people to give them directions, He intervened by doing miracles to save His children from harm. The wicked were punished immediately, and the righteous rewarded. That was the era of humanity’s infancy. We had yet to develop the spiritual tools to relate to G-d in any subtle or sublime way, so He spoon-fed us with open miracles.

As humanity developed spiritually, so G-d withdrew His open manifestations in our lives. As a parent allows their child more and more freedom, so G-d removed His open interference in world affairs. But of course, while the parent may not interfere, they never really withdraw their love and attention. They oversee every move their growing child makes, and quietly influence their child’s life direction, albeit from the sidelines. Similarly, as time has moved on, G-d is just as present as before, pulling the strings of history and human destiny this way and that, but not in such an obvious and obtrusive way as through a miracle. He hides behind the coincidences and daily occurrences that seem on the surface to be quite normal. But on reflection, they are not. The hand of G-d is clearly there.

Over the last couple of centuries, humanity went through an adolescent rebellion. We threw off the yoke of our Heavenly Parent and sought independence. Belief in G-d was seen as a childish crutch and an immature myth. But our generation, having learned from the adolescent mistakes of modern history, is starting to mature. We are realising that our Divine Parent’s values are not so bad after all. And we as a generation are seeking to reconnect with G-d and true spirituality, not as children who need miracles to convince us, but as spiritual adults, who can discern the magic behind the everyday, and the Divine within the mundane. We are finally coming of age.

Perhaps this new thirst for G-d is the greatest miracle of all.


Rabbi Moss

JINSA Seeking Office Manager

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is looking to hire an office manager/book keeper to begin immediately.

JINSA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan, and non-sectarian educational organization committed to explaining the need for a prudent national security policy for the United States, addressing the security requirements of both the United States and the State of Israel, and strengthening the strategic cooperation relationship between these two great democracies.

Job description:

  • Manage annual audit and coordinate with professional auditing firm to prepare audit and form 990 tax filing
  • Administer employee benefits and payroll, process employee new hires/terminations, and maintain employee files
  • Prepare monthly financial reports and budget comparisons for management
  • Prepare yearly operating budget and track revenues and expenses throughout year
  • Monitor bank account balances and cash flow between checking, money market, and investment accounts
  • Manage office bookkeeping, including accounts receivable/payable, and act as a liaison with professional account


  • Excellent organization and time-management skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Ability to manage tasks and meet deadlines independently
  • Strong communication skills
  • Experience with bookkeeping and QuickBooks
  • Ability to manage procedures and create new procedures as needed

UPDATE: This position has been filled

Watch PresenTense's 2011 Innovation Fellowship Launch

PresenTense – a community of innovators, entrepreneurs, leaders, and educators from around the world, investing their ideas and energy to revitalize the established Jewish community – is ready to introduce their 2011 Global Summer Institute Fellows.  These 16 social entrepreneurs will launch their ventures at a ceremony in Jerusalem, sharing their visions for the transformation of the Jewish community, Israel, and the world, today, July 28, at noon (EST).

One of the fellows is DC-area resident Rachel Brody.  She came to DC in 2007 with the Teach for America program. She has since helped found and worked for the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) DC: Promise Academy, in various roles. Her project at PresenTense aims to ensure equality in educational opportunity and help advocate for people with intellectual disabilities.

Click here to watch the launch event LIVE, share your ideas and suggestions with fellows, and join PresenTense community members from around the world: