Help Rescue Two Jews — Alan Gross and Gilad Shalit

GTJ does not normally feature non-community members as Jews of the Week, but we wanted to bring to your attention two opportunities to help Jews in need.

1) Alan Gross – Click here to sign a petition to help Alan

Alan Gross, a resident of Potomac Maryland, was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while working with the small Jewish community there to improve their internet access and to create an intranet for them.  He has been incarcerated ever since. He languished in prison for over a year until he was finally charged by the Cuban government.  He was convicted by a Cuban court of “actions against the integrity of the State,” and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He subsequently appealed his sentence to the Cuban Supreme Court and the court reaffirmed the sentence, exhausting all of Alan’s legal remedies. His only avenue left is commutation of his sentence by Raul Castro, President of Cuba.

Alan and his supporters have fervently rejected all accusations that he did anything, or intended to do anything, to harm the Cuban government.  Quite to the contrary, his work in Cuba was only to help to improve the Cuban Jewish community’s ability to use the internet. The President of the United States, senior Administration officials, Members of Congress, national leaders, and newspaper editorials have all called for his immediate release.

We are urging Alan’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds.  Since his incarceration, Alan’s eldest daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergone a double mastectomy, his 89-year old mother is suffering from inoperable cancer, and his wife Judy has undergone surgery for an undisclosed medical issue. Alan has lost approximately 100 pounds since his arrest and is suffering from several ailments.

(From the JCRC)

2) Gilad Shalit – Click here to sign a petition to help Gilad

Thousands of people, including many members of the DC-area Jewish community, are taking part in an all-day Facebook event to mark Gilad Shalit’s birthday today.

Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was abducted in 2006 by Hamas during a cross-border raid by the group into Israel. August 28th marks Shalit’s 25th birthday, as well as his 1890th day in Palestinian captivity. During this entire time, he has not been given access to a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross  which, as several human rights groups have noted, violates International Humanitarian Law.

The Facebook event aims to raise awareness of Shalit’s situation and conditions. Participants are encouraged to “give two minutes to Gilad” and to sign a petition to the ICRC.

To join the Facebook event, click here.

(From GTJ)











Jewish Guy of the Week — Nathan

1) We know you played baseball for John Hopkins University, but what position did you play? Batting average:? Can you link us to your player profile? Do you have any favorite Jewish baseball players? And have you been following the Jewish controversy over baseball great Ralph Branca?

I have heard of the debate about Ralph Branca. He is famous for giving up the ‘Shot heard round the world’ to Bobby Thompson of my Giants. So to be honest, I would prefer that the pitcher that gave up the biggest homerun in baseball history not be Jewish.

2) You also excel at another sport — Mario Kart 64. Which character do you play, and what are some of your favorite courses? Does your style of play say anything about your character? I remember reading a long article about how Donald Rumsfeld’s squash strategy really spoke to his general character…

My freshman year RA was a world record holder on some of the time trials, so I was able to train with the best. I race exclusively with Princess Peach, and I think that she embodies my character quite accurately. On one hand, she is a royal princess, who I am sure has many servants and more wealth than she knows what to do with. However, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty and grind it out on the race track, putting herself in danger each and every day. Even with all the riches in the world, she is still gritty and comes with a little attitude on the side. I would like to hope that if one day I am able to reach her social status, I will be equally determined, hard working, and thirsty for competition as she it.

3) Simple enough… What makes you a Jewish rockstar? How are you involved in the Jewish community here in DC?

I am a member of the Birthright Israel NEXT Alumni Committee as well as a recent participant on the Birthright Alumni Leadership Mission, which was co-chaired by the newest employee of the Federation, Casey Girard, and Jeremy Rosen. I believe GTJ said that one more reference to Jeremy would result in re-naming the site “Jeremy’s Jews” so I look forward to the name change (Editor’s note: Darn you!). I am currently working with Ricki Meyer on starting an organization to deliver care packages to Lone Soldiers serving in the IDF. If anyone is interested in adopting a solider or a group of soldiers in this year’s November draft class, please let me know.

4) You’re from the Bay Area… Is the West Coast the best coast or have you been won over by DC? What two things would you import from California to DC if you could?

Although I am having a great time in DC, there is no doubt that the left coast is the best coast. It’s a progressive, open minded area that is on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, not to mention it’s typically about 65 degrees in the winter time. The two things I miss the most from Norcal, besides my Mom, is the sourdough bread and the weather.

5) Say you have a free Sunday afternoon in your hood (a straight up thug town called Arlington) — how would you spend it?

I would start the day at the Gold’s gym in Ballston, also known as the ‘butcher shop’ because of all the meat on display. I would get lunch at El Pollo Rico which is right down the street from me, which may have the best chicken in the country. I would then proceed to the Ballston Barber shop, cause you can’t beat a fresh haircut and massage for just $16. I’d finish the day by the pool relaxing with my friends.












Jewish Girl of the Week – Jordy

NEW QUESTION:  “Why should you be Jewish Girl of the Year?”
To the  tune of ” Fresh Prince of Bel Air”

Now this is the story all about how
I should be GTJ’s Jewish girl of the year
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I’ll become the girl of the year in your game called Ga-Ther

In the Moishe House is where I reside,
Here On the weekends and evenings I show my Jewish pride,
chillin out maxin relaxin all cool
And making some shabbos onegs and delicious gruel
When a couple of community members who are lookin around
For a place to chill out, meet Jews and just hang out
Come to Moishe House in my neighborhood
I had one little event and Aaron Wolf was proud,
He said “You’re building community and that’s awe-some, you should be crowned girl of the year cuz you’re number one”

I work at JPDS to teach little kids
Science class is “fresh” and I teach the Jews a lot of cool things
If anything, I could say that this job was great
But I thought yeah thats right, enriching Jewish minds is what I like

I teach at Adas Israel for the fifth grade,
And I daven with all the minyans around DC
Looked at DC, I am really proud
That’s why for next year, I decided to stick around

You have openings for your house?  What are the requirements to live in Moishe House?
Yup! We have two openings at Moishe House Montgomery County ( To be a Moishketeer, you should want to live in a Kosher group house with creative and outgoing people, and be excited to engage and get funding to create/lead programs. All applicants (and everyone else who is reading this–thanks, Uncle Bob) is encouraged to come and visit our spacious, warm home. We’ll even give you tea, a beer, and a spot in our hammock (if I’m not currently occupying it).

What are your favorite Moishe House events?
Moishe House is great because we can host all types of fun things both in our house and around the area while getting to hang out with great people. Usually my favorite types of events involve free [kosher] food or are at our house (because afterward I can just go to bed) — like our Shabbat dinners, sukkot mysticism discussions, or challah baking and Rosh Hashana greeting card making.  I have to say my favorite event was a Sunday afternoon picnic on the national mall during the Cherry Blossom festival. The lumberjack event at our house last winter was a also huge hit — people came in flannels and ‘Tims’ and chopped wood to be used in our Moishe House for an eternity of fires.

If you could add an 11th commandment, what would it be?
Thou shall do something spontaneous spontaneously.

Who is your favorite roommate?!
Can a  mother say which of her children is her favorite? Not out loud anyway. But really, I love all of my roommates and am so lucky to have the chance to  live and laugh with Uri, Rachael, Shelly, and Leana and excited to see who will occupy our two open spots.

Where’s Waldo?

Lost in Dupont Circle, because like the rest of us, he is not accustomed to traffic circles.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Exploring the Jewish DC scene, but usually at Moishe House, Tikkun Leil Shabbat, or Adas Israel.

Your favorite misperception as a kid?
I used to think that when someone crossed their eyes, that their eyeballs were switching places behind their brain.





Mazel Tov to Esti and Shua Hecht

Mazel Tov to Esti and Shua Hecht on their marriage!

Last night hundreds of Jews gathered to celebrate the wedding of Esti Shemtov and Shua Hecht.

Esti, the daughter of Rabbi Shemtov of DC’s Chabad, has been a pillar of the DC Jewish community throughout her time here.  Most recently, she has been leading online and group learning classes for women, organizing Shabbat dinners for hundreds of local young professional Jews, and much more.

Rabbi Shua Hecht, from Nice, France,  has been learning and teaching in the US for the past few years.  With his black hat, he is quite possibly the tallest Jew in DC, even towering over Steve Davis, Stephen Richer, and Aaron Wolff.

We wish Esti and Shua the best, and hope that they will come visit us in DC!

Aaron Wolff is co-founder Gather the Jews.  This blog reflects only the opinions of Aaron.


Lentil Moussaka

In keeping with the fresh produce theme, this week’s dish features eggplant.  Moussaka, a layered casserole that traditionally involves eggplant, lamb, and a custard top, is among the best that Greek food has to offer.  This version is both a bit lighter than traditional versions, which often call for frying the eggplant, and, of course, vegetarian.

Lentil Moussaka Recipe

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

Total time: 2 hours 40 min.

Yield: 12 servings

Level: Difficult


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 4 ½ cups vegetarian beef-flavored broth or vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 large or 3 medium eggplants
  • cooking spray, olive oil if possible
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper


In a large frying pan, sauté onions in olive oil 3-4 min. until translucent over medium heat.  Add lentils through tomato paste to onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are relatively soft and mixture is mostly dry.

While lentils are cooking, preheat oven to 425.  Peel and slice eggplants into ½” rounds.  Layer slices in a colander and sprinkle salt over each layer.  Allow to rest for about 15 minutes.  Cover baking sheet(s) large enough to fit all of the slices with foil (or work in batches) and spray with cooking spray.  Pat slices dry and place in a single layer on the foil.  Spray the top side of the eggplant with cooking spray.  Cook in oven for 12 minutes.  Flip eggplant slices, spraying each side again with cooking spray.  Cook for another 12 minutes.   When eggplant is finished cooking, reduce oven heat to 350.

While the last batch of eggplant is cooking, heat butter over medium-low heat in a large saucepan.  When it has melted, whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly add milk, whisking constantly.  Increase heat to medium and cook until thick (it should coat a spoon), whisking frequently.  In a small bowl, beat the eggs.  Whisk a small amount of the milk mixture into the eggs.  Add the egg mixture to the milk mixture and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.  Remove from heat and whisk in half of the cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Grease a 13x9x2” glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Arrange a layer of half of the eggplant slices on the bottom.  Spread lentil mixture on top.  Arrange the remaining eggplant slices on top.  Pour the custard mixture over the top and spread evenly.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.  Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the pan loosely.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

JCRC's Day on the Hill – Register NOW

There is only a limited time remaining to register for the Jewish Community Relations Council‘s Day on Capitol Hill.  This event will allow local Jews to meet with their Senators and Representatives and hear expert panels on issues relevant to the Jewish community. Topics include: protecting health and human services, defending a strong US-Israel relationship, the Iranian nuclear threat, and more.

WHEN: September 15, 10:00 a.m. to approximately 3:00 p.m.

WHERE: House and Senate Offices

For the full agenda, click here.

Those interested must register by September 1. To do so, click here. Cost is $20

Kosher lunch will be provided.


DC Jewish blog round up

Kids from Be'chol Lashon Summer Camp (at InTheMoment)

In case you weren’t able to read the other local Jewish blogs this week, here are a few of my favorite articles:

  • Keeping the Faith: Samantha branches out a bit from her usual dating shtick and encourages us to fight casual anti-Semitism.  Oh, and she reminds us to marry Jewish.

The Blog at 16th and Q:

InTheMoment (Moment Magazine):

Jewish Policy Center:

  • Qaddafi’s Creepy Crush: Samara Greenberg offers a few more details on the unfolding fixation that Qaddafi had for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  Also, Qadaffi apparently isn’t the only famous national political leader to have a soft spot for Secretary Rice…


Want to recommend a DC Jewish blog that we should be reading? Email

GTJ's Summer Happy Hour

It was another successful Gathering. Thanks to all who attended GTJ’s Summer Happy Hour, co-sponsored by Down4Lunch, last Thursday. Even though it was a rainy evening, 200 of DC’s finest joined us and Midtown had enough space for everyone!

If you have a suggestion for a venue for our next happy hour, please email Looking forward to the next Gathering!

Below: Pictures of the fun!  (For more pictures, check out the album on our Facebook page.)

Happy hour crew

Great turnout!


See the Jews gather

GTJ co-founders Stephen and Aaron

GTJ staff Maya, Tila, and Sheryl

Aaron is super interested in DC Jews


For more pictures, check out the album on our Facebook page.



2239 BBQ Brings Post-Irene Entertainment

2239. A great way to unwind, post-hurricane.

The after effects of Hurricane Irene – thousands of power outages, metro delays, fallen trees, and boredom – didn’t stop 120+ Jewish young professionals from gathering at the annual 2239 Beer, Bands, & BBQ held at Washington Hebrew Congregation on Sunday, August 28th.

With the great turnout, the event had a larger crowd than expected, but there was still plenty of space in the backyard behind the synagogue. Attendees listened to the stylings of DC native DJ Micah Vellian, one of the hottest local DJs and music producers, while snacking on hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and more. I met new friends and old friends, but more importantly, enjoyed having another community to connect with in the DC area.

If you missed this Sunday’s barbecue, be sure to attend one of the upcoming Shabbat dinners or Havdallahs. Check out upcoming events here.

More information on 2239

2239 is a group of young Jewish professionals (22–39 years old) who come together monthly for events that include socializing, networking, religious observance, and volunteering. This community welcomes new members throughout the year, with both Temple members and non-members encouraged to join. Past events have included happy hours, trips to Israel and Cuba, wine tasting, whitewater tubing, and much more!

Stacey Black, Assistant Director of Youth & Young Adult programs of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, leads this dynamic group. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about 2239, email her and/or join 2239’s Facebook group.


Basic Judaism Classes – Starting Soon

Starting next week, Sixth & I will be offering basic Judaism classes, intended for Jews and non-Jews alike.  This 7-part series provides an overview of the Bible, Shabbat ritual and observances, how to observe kashrut (kosher dietary laws), and the Jewish laws of death and mourning.

This comprehensive program will be led by Bernice K. Weiss, author of Converting to Judaism – Choosing to be Chosen: Personal Stories. Rabbi Weiss, who has been in the field for almost two decades, is a forerunner in the field of conversion and teaching interfaith couples.

WHEN: Begins Tuesday, September 6th. Class time: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: 600 I St. NW

The cost of the course is $118, plus a $10 registration fee.

To register, click here.