Happy Rosh Hashanah from GTJ!

We at Gather the Jews are pumped for the Jewish New Year.  To spread the excitement, we’ve:

  • Compiled lists of local holiday services (including ticket-free options);
  • Compiled lists of High Holiday videos;
  • Thought about how to choose a shul for the holidays;
  • Written about some special holiday dishes: cakes, tortes, challah, and parve sides;
  • Considered how dating relates to the New Year;
  • Opened a whole bunch of Rosh Hashanah ECards;
  • And we’ve even decided on our favorite Facebook Rosh Hashanah status post:  “Rosh Hashanah in the houuuussse tonight.  Shana Tova, it’s holiday time.”  (Just because I like the song.  H/T Lauren W.)

So with that done, we’re going to take a short break and celebrate the incoming year! (The blog will be back on Sunday, after the holiday/Shabbat.)

We thank all of you for your wonderful support in 5771, and we wish you all a happy and healthy 5772, in which we hope to keep gathering together a wonderful DC community.

L’Shana Tova U’Metukah!


The GTJ Staff

Girl of the Week – Avital

How has the DC Jewish community grown over the years?
I joined the professional staff of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington nearly seven years ago because I was a young adult in the DC Jewish community that felt completely disconnected from any sort of community.  Having grown up in a vibrant Jewish community, I was certain that there must be hundreds of young Jews who were also lacking this connection.  I made a choice to help build a vibrant, engaging, and innovative Jewish community for young adults.  The Jewish community today is more exciting and collaborative with hundreds if not thousands more people involved.  The opportunities for young adults to connect and take on leadership roles is cutting-edge and a model for other Jewish communities across the nation.

ImpactDC was an incredible celebration of philanthropy, volunteerism, and leadership.  It never would have happened five years ago because our community wasn’t ready for it then.  Today we embrace new ideas and opportunities to allow people to connect to their Jewish identity through community.

Partnership and collaboration are felt more today than ever before! We have so many wonderful local and national organizations in DC that are working collaboratively to offer opportunities for young adults to connect to the Jewish community. Jewnity is also a great example!

What is the best part of the DC Jewish community?
The inter-generational connections! I don’t know any other community that links together every generation as much as the DC Jewish community does. We have young leaders at the table making decisions in our community, which demonstrates the impact and role young leaders play in our community.  Through ConnectGens, a program of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, young leaders are matched with experienced business leaders as mentors in both the business world and Jewish community and philanthropy.  The seasoned leaders of the community incorporate ideas from the next generation, fostering continued growth and creation of a vibrant Jewish community.  I feel very lucky to be part of the DC Jewish community!

What was the best part of working at The Jewish Federation?
Some might say the 7 Birthright trips, 2 missions to Moscow, 2 Alumni Leadership Missions, and so many other trips to Israel, but for me it is really all about the people!  The meaningful relationships I have built with colleagues and lay leaders have been tremendously rewarding.  It takes a village to build community and every person that I have had the privilege to work with over the last seven years has made a lasting impact on me.  Thank you all for helping me find my community!

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Friday night is my favorite time of the week.  You can almost always find me at a Shabbat dinner on Friday night, and I am often hosting.  I believe in building community through Shabbat dinner gatherings in my home.  It is a wonderful way to connect people and feel part of a Jewish community.

Growing up, we had Shabbat together as a family every week. My father was a Hillel Rabbi for 32 years, so every Friday night we would have Shabbat services and dinner together with my immediate family and our larger Hillel family.  Sometimes it was 25 people and sometimes 125, but I knew that everyone around the table was family.  My favorite tradition is going around the room on Friday night and sharing a highlight of the week.  It is a chance to reflect on all that was good during the past week and let go of the things that were stressful or not as good.  It’s a tradition that I continue in my home when I host Shabbat dinners.

What will the DC Jewish community be like in the next 10 years?
The face of the Jewish community will be completely different in ten years because of the investment in young adults today.  Programs like Birthright and Birthright NEXT and organizations like Sixth and I are changing the DC Jewish community for the future.  The investment in cutting-edge programming, education, and leadership development for young adults in their 20s and 30s is going change the face of the Jewish community in 10 years.  We will have more people feeling connected to their Jewish identity and having a desire to be a part of the Jewish community.  I predict that more Jewish children will be enrolled in Jewish preschools, day schools, and summer camps; a greater percentage of Jews will have a strong connection to Israel most specifically because of Birthright and MASA; and hopefully this will yield increased philanthropic resources to the Jewish community which in turn could help lower the high-costs of being Jewish (i.e. day school tuition, synagogue membership dues, etc). Today’s young leaders will be paying it forward and allowing for a continued investment in the next generation of young adults. If 250 young adults can contribute $24,000 to The Jewish Federation today through ImpactDC, imagine what this group will be contributing in 10 years!

You’ve spent the last seven years working for The Jewish Federation, what are you doing next?
Professionally, I will be joining the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as the Vice President of Development. Check it out; it’s a great organization, www.defenddemocracy.org. If you work in the field of counterterrorism or national security or are interested in pursuing a career in one of these fields, apply for the National Security Trip to Israel, www.fddisraeltrip.org.

But don’t worry; it’s not goodbye to Federation or the community.  I will be transitioning from professional to lay leader in the Jewish community by joining the Board of Directors of American University Hillel. In addition, I am joining the Executive Committee of the new ConnectGens Fellowship, powered by PresenTense, as a co-chair for Venture Development. I believe the ConnectGens Fellowship is the hottest new initiative in our community and I am excited to be a part of it! Learn more at http://www.shalomdc.org/fellowship.

What is the next event that people will not want to miss?
There are lots of exciting events before November such as the Sukkkah Hop or Mitzvah Hoppin, but if I had to pick one not to miss, it would be the Network Kickoff sponsored by The Jewish Federation. On November 16th, come out to hear Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s. It promises to be a great event that you won’t want to miss. Check it out and register today, www.shalomdc.org/kickoff.


Jewish Guy of the Week – Niv

So what makes you a special DC Jew? I wouldn’t say I’m any more special than other DC Jews; I actually have a lot in common with them. Many of my Jewish friends in the city are politically involved, have strong feelings about Israel (one way or another), have traveled and spent time abroad, and have some involvement with Jewish life. So I think I fit right in to that community.

Can you tell us about this “involvement with Jewish life?”
You know, occasional Moishe House dinners, meeting with my former colleagues from AIPAC, watching Kol Nidre on YouTube…  I guess working for a Jewish Magazine helps (Moment Magazine).

What’s the best piece you’ve ever written?  Link us to it.
Oh that’s tough. I think it might be a tie between a Washington Post “On Faith” piece about religious groups lobbying for progressive policies based on their faith, and an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor about the use of mockery and humor in politics (it was right around the Jon Stewart rally).

I should also say that I’m really excited for my story on human rights coming up in the November issue of Moment.

Writing for a Jewish magazine — plumbing the depths of Judaism — has made you like Jews less or more?
Funny question!  Well, the truth is both. It’s reminded me how much depth there is to Judaism, and how interesting and thoughtful it can be. That said, the same themes keep coming up (as my lovely colleagues can attest), and at a certain point you sort of get over the excitement of discovering that some celebrity is Jewish or hearing the latest finding about the Holocaust. But I’m moving to Israel, so the Jewish thing is clearly not out of my system yet!

There are celebrities that are Jewish?!?!  Kidding.  I think the Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) Jewish revelation is still my favorite.  Speaking of your Moment colleagues… why don’t you tell us a bit about Moment and some of its quirks.
Moment is a very special place. On the one hand, you could wear pajamas to work, but on the other hand you might be up all night at the office before a deadline. That makes for a lot of office bonding. Then you have random Jewish celebrities show up to say hi or get interviewed.  It’s pretty entertaining.

Which authors/columnists/poets have most inspired/formed your style of writing?
To be honest, I don’t think of myself as a writer. Writing is just the medium for exploring hidden truths or expounding discussions or revealing knowledge, which are the aspects of journalism that turn me on. Claiming inspiration from a writer would require me to acknowledge some set personal style, which I think I’m still developing.

Can you share any of the hidden truths you’ve found?
If I did they wouldn’t be hidden!  In my upcoming story, for example, I think that people’s politics very much color how they perceive current events and important trends, which reinforces their political views. It’s this interesting circular behavior.

What’s next?
I’m off to Tel Aviv!  I’ll be a breaking news editor for the Jerusalem Post, which I’m really excited about, and relishing the fact that I’ll be living in a city on the beach. I also have dear friends and relatives there, including my grandparents. (There’s one fun “interesting Jew” fact actually; my grandfather blew up the King David Hotel when it was a British military headquarters in mandatory Palestine.  How many people can claim that?)

Woah.  Amazing.  Is that why you’re in the States now?  Because your grandfather had to hightail it out of Israel following the incident?  What distinguishes this act from the acts of violence we see in Israel today?
On the contrary, he’s considered a hero, and still lives there with my grandmother. I think an important difference is that it was a military target, and they tried to avoid civilian casualty, but in many ways it is characteristic of the violence that has plagues the region for a century.

***Bemoan the departure of Niv at the next Moment Magazine happy hour on Tuesday, October 11 at Iron Horse.



Top New Videos for 2011/5772


It’s the Jewish new year, so time for a new crop of holiday-themed videos! Feel free to share with others, as well as to post your favorites in the comments below!  

We have a special page with high holiday upcoming events, but for the latest, make sure that you’ve subscribed to our weekly email and friended us on Facebook!


Book of Good Life– The Maccabeats are back with their parody of “Good Life” by OneRepublic. For more info about them, see our interview with The Maccabeats.

Blow Shofar– Oy, oh-Let’s Blow!

Dip Your Apple– An entirely a cappella musical parody by The Ein Prat Fountainheads, graduates and students of Midreshet Ein Prat, Israel.

Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem– Aish presents a Rosh Hashana Rock Anthem, parody of Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.

High Holiday Bloopers– Chabad.org presents a message from Rabbi Itche Kadoozy.

How To Celebrate Rosh Hashanah– Don’t know about Rosh Hashanah? Howcast explains!

DC-oriented Videos

Sixth and I Synagogue Fall Events Preview– An overview of the Sixth and I Synagogue’s exciting fall events.

L’Shana Tova from Rabbi Aaron Miller– The Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation and 2239 discusses how we can tie up the loose ends in our lives.

Mesorah Minute by Rabbi Teitelbaum– The Rabbi at Mesorah DC explains why Rosh Hashanah is a holiday.

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What will you do to make a difference?– An interactive message from Steve Rakitt, CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Will you get involved, volunteer, or donate? Plus, find out about the upcoming ice cream event with a cofounder of Ben and Jerry’s.

DC Jewish Blog Round Up

So perhaps none of these posts are specifically about Rosh H, but it was the first picture I came across...

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

The Blog at 16th and Q:


  • Technology: A Relationship Breaker or Maker?: Samantha asks whether technological developments are good, or whether we yearn for the days “when [we] were in elementary school and [we would] sit by the phone after school waiting to see if [our] crush was going to call?”  Woah.  I definitely wasn’t dating in elementary school, and as for whether technology is a good thing, my answer is a “definite yes.”  Without text messages, I don’t think I could have ever gone on a date.  (As it is, my grand total is probably below 5).

Jewish Policy Center:

  • What the Palestinian Street Wants: Samara Greenberg shares a recent poll from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion:  “more Arab East Jerusalemites prefer to become citizens of Israel than citizens of a future Palestinian state, with 35 percent choosing Israel and 30 percent choosing the future state. The remaining 35 percent either declined to answer or said they didn’t know.”  Shocking that they should prefer to live in a country of economic prosperity and individual liberty…

Washington Jewish Week:

  • White House to get new Jewish liaison, sources say. Adam Kredo keeps us updated on the White House’s latest shuffles in Jewish outreach.  This must be further evidence that the White House is totally unconcerned about losing the Jewish vote.
  • Putting Israel in present tents. Meredith Jacobs says Jewish students and parents now have one more thing to consider when selecting a college:  “Is it friendly to Israel.”  Certainly local campuses UMD and GW are, but The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) is looking to expand this list.

Mesorah DC’s “A Pondering Jew’s Blog”:

  • Tickets for the big event: Rabbi Berkman tells a story about the difficulty of finding high holiday tickets.  He also questions whether we should have high holiday tickets.

Capital J blog (JTA):

  • Mr. President, Jew say janitor?: Ron Kampeas shares this humorous Jewish slip from President Obama.  Poor guy… he’s probably been thinking about Jews since NY-9, and he’s speaking all the time… It’s no surprise then that Jew accidentally got substituted for janitor.


Want to recommend a DC Jewish blog that we should be reading? Email Stephen.richer@gmail.com

Local Jewish blogs we’re reading:



Honey Cake for the New Year

Hi, Gather the Jews readers! I’m Dani from yellebellyboo, my blog where I review recipes while cooking in my tiny galley kitchen here in DC. I love encouraging others to step into the kitchen and try something new, even if they’re not usually comfortable cooking. I’m excited to be collaborating with Gather the Jews to bring you a fantastic, parve dessert this Rosh Hashanah. I hope it gives you the extra push to try to make your own dessert this New Year.

Like many DC-ers, DC has been one of several stops on my journey. I was born just north of Boston and graduated from the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!). Being away from home on Rosh Hashanah has always been difficult, as I love enjoying a nice meal with my family and celebrating the new year. My freshman year at Michigan, I was invited home with a friend to spend the holiday with her family. Soon, many of our other out-of-state friends wanted a family Rosh Hashana and her family pulled out an extra leaf for the table. By senior year, there was a whole group of us, her “Rosh Hashanah family”, enjoying the apples, honey, and chopped liver.

After moving to DC, I knew I immediately needed to find a nice Jewish family to take me in for Rosh Hashanah. Lucky for me, one of my close friends is from Baltimore and invited me home with her family this year. And what’s the best way to get a family to love you like one of their own? Feed them. Better yet, feed them dessert. Which is exactly what I plan to do with this honey cake. It’s moist, with just the right amount of spice (plus a little liquor), and baked with loads of love.

This Rosh Hashanah, I hope you are able to gather with family, or your friend’s family, or even just a nice group of DC friends, and enjoy a sweet welcome to the New Year. If you are bringing a housewarming gift, I definitely recommend you step into the kitchen – even if it isn’t your comfort zone – and try to bring a homemade treat. Even if it doesn’t come out perfect, the love and care you put into it will make your host and hostess know just how much you appreciate them letting you be part of their Rosh Hashanah family. If you’re fresh out of ideas, you can try this honey cake or other Rosh Hashanah recipes I’ll be featuring this week at yellebellyboo. L’shana tova!

Majestic and Moist Honey Cake

from Smitten Kitchen


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup rye or whiskey (optional)
  • 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease 2 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. (For extra protection, you can put a piece of lightly greased parchment at the bottom, too.)

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)

3. Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.

4. Spoon batter into the prepared cake pans. Sprinkle top of cakes evenly with almonds, if using. Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).

5. Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center, about 45 minutes.

6. Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.

"Creamed" Spinach

For those of you whose holiday meals will feature brisket or some other hearty meat, I adapted this classic steakhouse side dish to make it kosher-friendly.

One note about non-dairy cream—make sure you get the unsweetened/unflavored kind.  I used coconut in my test recipe, but soy is also available.  The flavor may be slightly different, but as long as you get the unsweetened kind, either one will work.

Non-Dairy Creamed Spinach Recipe

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

Total time: 20 min.

Yield: 2 servings

Level: Easy


  • 1 lb. frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tbsp. Earth Balance margarine
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp.  minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup non-dairy cream
  • 3 tbsp. tofu sour cream
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice


Defrost the spinach and drain excess water.  Set aside.

Melt the margarine in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, just until the liquid is released.  Add the non-dairy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook until the cream is reduced by half, about 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the tofu sour cream and lemon juice, and salt to taste.  Serve.


How to Choose a High Holidays Venue

So, moving to D.C. this time of year definitely is an interesting experience. It’s the beginning of the new academic year, the end of summer internships, and most of all, the beginning of the high holidays. Luckily, D.C.’s Jewish community provides all sorts of venues for partying like it’s 5772. How you figure out where to go for services when you’re brand new is a whole other debacle, though. And it could inspire you to find the right shul to attend for holidays, the rest of the year, and even the rest of your time in D.C.

Finding the right place to gather your thoughts and connect with God and others depends largely on what you want to get out of the shul-going experience. The month of Elul, a rather reflective month in the Jewish calendar year, gives way to that sort of self-discovery and decision-making for personal growth.

Decide if you want to hear music, how much singing you feel comfortable with, and how much English and/or Hebrew you want your service to include. Would you prefer a large congregation, or a smaller, more intimate one?

For example, Tikkun Leil Shabbat incorporates music and singing into its service as a focus, and service is accompanied by acoustic guitar and percussion. The services are egalitarian as well. TLS meets on Friday night once every three weeks, but the synagogue offers “Shabbat to go” supplies so you can celebrate even if there isn’t a meeting.

The Washington Hebrew Congregation has cantors, a full choir, and a live instrumental band to give congregants a more musical service for Shabbat services. “Contemporary” services are also held about once a month by Rabbi Fabricant or Rabbi Miller to incorporate folk and contemporary guitar music to lead the congregation.

Does it matter to you whether there’s a mechitzah or not? Would female involvement in the service pique your interest? There’s a shul in D.C. to fulfill every one of these options, and egalitarianism has become a hot topic to make synagogues a little more varied. DC Minyan in Dupont, while it has female involvement, still has separate seating without a mechitzah. Kesher Israel in Georgetown’s separated seating is a bit more prominent, in that the women’s section is a balcony above the men’s services.

At Rosh Pina, a woman leads Kabbalat Shabbat services for Friday night, while the men take the lead on mincha and ma’ariv.  On Shabbos morning, men lead shacharit and musaf, and a woman leads pesukei d’zimra. Both women and men receive aliyot and lein from the Torah. There is still a mechitzah at Rosh Pina to separate seating.

Many synagogues, while trying to bring women into the services more, are still finding the balance between egalitarian and halachically-correct. Trying out different services may prove to be a good experiment to find out where your comfort level is on the issue.

And you’ll need to decide if you prefer a more open format for services, or a traditional one, like the Chabad in Dupont. Keep in mind, that Orthodox services tend to go long on holidays, so if you’re not one to sit and pray from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a shorter service might be more ideal.

Rachel Bernstein is a new Gather the Jews columnist who will be writing a weekly post about her experiences as a newcomer to the DC Jewish scene.

Building Bridges, Not Fences

Can art bring people together?  The Strathmore Center is trying to prove that it can, with an exhibit that uses traditional photography and digital media to creative narratives and stimulate discussions about unfamiliar culture.

The second floor galleries will feature the stirring artwork of Israeli photojournalists Shay Aloni and Ammar Younis, as well as Cubans Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Enrique de la Uz, Pedro Abascal and Nestor Hernandez. It will also showcase the work of photography master Bruce Barnbaum, along with Dean Kessmann and Bruce McKaig in the first floor galleries.

Opening Reception
Tuesday, September 27 from 7–9PM.
Exhibition Hours
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday – 10AM-4PM
Wednesday – 10AM-9PM
Saturday – 10AM-3PM
Closed Sunday

Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda, MD

For more information, please visit http://www.strathmore.org/fineartexhibitions/exhibitions.asp#20294011

Film Screening: Seven Minutes in Heaven

Come enjoy the latest installment of ReelIsraelDC, which offers the best contemporary Israeli cinema one evening at the end of every month. This month’s feature will take place on a Tuesday instead of the regular Wednesday.  This month’s feature is Seven Minutes in Heaven.

The film tells the story of  a couple, Galia and Oren.  When the bus they are on explodes in a terror attack, Oren is left in a coma and Galia is left with severe burns and memory lost of the attack and the days leading up to it. The film begins one year after the attack, upon Oren’s death. As Galia undergoes physical and mental therapy, she attempts to stitch together the shattered fragments of her life. A necklace sent to her from an unidentified source sets her off on a journey to find the missing pieces of the puzzle from that horrific day.

WHEN: September 27, 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Avenue, NW