Staying Warm with Jewish Fun

So after Saturday’s nice little snow shower here in D.C., I’m ready for some indoor activities. Never mind that it may be 60-some degrees this week.  But if you’re also ready to cozy up with some fellow Jews in the District, there are great events going on this week that will keep you nice and warm.

Sixth & I will have a learning session and crash course in Hebrew reading Monday, Oct. 31 Learning will be followed by a light dinner (and coffee!), as well as more learning well into the night.  For more information, check out Mesorah DC’s website here.

Tuesday night, as one of the final events in the Jewish Literary Festival, the DC JCC will host a panel on “Israel: Loose Nukes and the End of the World.” If interested, tickets for the event at 7:30 p.m. are available here.

Those with a more active political interest may be interested in the Republican Jewish Coalition’s dinner Wednesday, featuring a discussion on President  Obama and Israel. That’ll be a sure-fire way to get warm: with dinner, lively discussion, and being indoors. RSVP to Alex Siegel. (Tickets range from $20 to $30, and payment is required in advance to attend.)

If you prefer to do something less politically charged in the middle of the week, Adas Israel also has a number of Wednesday options, including a learning session on the Siddur: Translation as Commentary. You’ll find out how to use English translations in a Conservative prayerbook, among other texts and commentary on prayers. The class is $55 for members, $75 for non-members and starts at 7:00 p.m.

As the week winds down, Washington Hebrew Congregation‘s Jewish young professional organization, 2239, will feature a happy hour at BlackFinn Saloon on Thursday. To find out more about the socializing, networking, volunteering-focused group and the happy hour event, click here.

Also, this may be the week of the Dupont Circle Shabbat gathering that I mentioned last week! I’m optimistic there will be considerably less snow and treacherous weather conditions so that we can hold the inaugural event.  Watch this space for updates on the event.

Stay warm this week!

Occupy Bamba Comedy Tour – Here This Week!

Sick of hearing bad news about Israel all the time? Then come out to hear about the lighter side of the Middle East and watch Israeli-American comedian Benji Lovitt in the Occupy Bamba Comedy Tour.

He will be at George Mason University (Johnson Center Dewberry Hall North) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1 and at the University of Maryland at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 3.

Lovitt, whose tagline and justification for his stand-up act are that “the Middle East is funny,” sees the tour as “a great opportunity to … make people laugh instead of stress about [Israel].”

“It’s a shame that too many American Jews only associate Israel with what they see on CNN.  Everyone who’s visited knows that it’s a ridiculous portrayal,” he told GTJ.

Lovitt has been performing comedy for over a decade. In addition to doing stand-up, he leads an English-speaking Israeli comedy troupe called HaHafuch. (See there YouTube channel here.)

See below to see Benji in action:

For more videos of Lovitt’s stand-up, click here.

Widening the Sukkah: the Occupy Wall Street Movement and Shared Monetary Governance

Sukkot is known as a holiday during which guests from all over are welcome to sit together.  As such, it is especially inclusive, and brings to mind ideals of participatory democracy.

Recent demands to abolish the Federal Reserve may hearken back to a more populist and participatory, if not also more chaotic era in the history of monetary governance, as noted monetary historians M. N. Rothbard and P. L. Rousseau call the pre-Fed era.  Nevertheless, demands to reform the Fed are firmly rooted in a crucial right, taken for granted in every democracy.  That is: the right of citizens to participate meaningfully in the key decision-making processes associated with the communities in which they live.

J. Huber and M. Kennedy, economists analyzing the debt-based creation of our modern money supply and inflation, agree that the private ownership of the Fed and its share in the seigniorage revenues associated with the Fractional Reserve Banking System present problems for both social justice and long-term financial stability.  Nevertheless, economic historian K. Polanyi´s work showed that the gold standard, which would perforce be necessary without The Fed, upheld a system of currency monopoly  which was just as prohibitive of fully egalitarian economic participation.  One potential set of solutions involves a multi-layered approach which can allow greater flexibility for both local communities and multi-national or large-scale investors.

As Western economies began the first processes of globalization, revered economist J. M. Keynes´ “General Theory” showed that governments must force circulation of the medium of exchange (MOE), preferably by spending into the public sector, through borrowing if need be.  This is the key benefit of fiat money, created from nothing.  Yet, Keynes agreed with monetary reformer S. Gesell that modern money´s MOE function of conflicts with the Storage of Value (SOV) function, also filled by modern money, but previously filled by separate currencies, before modern national monetary monopoly became standard.

Prominent economist I. Fisher likewise advocated different currencies for the MOE and SOV functions, allowing local communities to be insulated from the financial instability of the global monetary supply while simultaneously allowing access to both international and local economic participation.  MOEs like Stamp Scrip and Ithaca Hours have worked as “multipliers” in local economies, while SOV currencies like Time Dollars, issued by community-based currency advocate Dr. E. Cahn´s Time Banks, allow local storage of work energy without inflation concerns.  Such community currencies also allow for greater access by local citizens to monetary decision-making processes, thus allowing more citizens into the Monetary Governance sukkah.

A. Fung, in his work on Participatory Governance, suggests creating links between institutions at various levels.  A similarly linked three-tiered financial system arises as a logical policy recommendation that could potentially allow all monetary stakeholders a significantly increased level of access to monetary decision-making.

First, each community having its own community-based MOE currency as well as multiple community Time Banks would allow more direct input from currency users, and more direct control over local economies.  Those community currencies may need to be regionally connected to the national currency or to the currencies of neighbouring communities, allowing greater flexibility for local communities while coordinating financial concerns across several regions.  At a second level, national currencies can continue to allow independent but connected financial structure across national and international boundaries.  At a third level, the creation of a truly international currency, separate from any domestically used national currency, would provide international money users with a neutral and coordinated financial system for travel and international business needs.

Participation in currency decision-making is important from several standpoints: economic, social and ethical.  From an economic perspective, the more participation in decision-making and hence buy-in, a currency has, the more circulation, and the more support from users of that currency.  From a social point of view, Huber´s “Constitutional Consensus” mandates sharing the benefits of common resources, including money, throughout all levels of society.  Jewish tradition relates both the holiday of Sukkot to sharing of Torah with the 70 nations of the world, and this Season of Repentance to sharing of economic resources through Tzedakah.

Readers familiar with economic sociologist V. Zelizer´s “Pin Money” will recall her contention that money is a shared social construction.  As such, money  belongs within a shared set of social-economic spheres, and clearly the political sphere as well.  In a democratic society, this entwining of the social with the economic and political implies an inherent right to meaningful economic as well as social and political participation in decisions which affect all members of society.  Since money so deeply affects both society as a whole, and individual members of society, Nobel Prize-winning international development expert A. Sen´s assertion that communities have a right to control their own development means that communities must participate in monetary decision-making.

Shared Monetary Governance, by devolving more economic decision-making to local levels, widens the Sukkah, increasing that buy-in and social good which is not only the consensus in democratic societies, but also a basic human right.

JCC’s Arts Center Benefit, with Melba Moore

The Washington DC JCC will be hosting a benefit for its Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts, featuring actress Melba Moore.

Moore gained popularity on Broadway with leads in Hair and Purlie—for which she won a Tony Award. She then launched a highly successful recording career with over a dozen albums, multiple Grammy nominations and hits like: “This Is It,” “You Stepped Into My Life” and “Lean on Me.” In addition to headlining engagements at the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, Moore returned to Broadway to take over the role of Fantine in Les Miserables.

When: Tuesday, November 8,

Where: 1529 16th St. NW

The MCCA Benefit supports all arts programming at the DC JCC.  Tickets are on sale at the DC JCC website.

Yet More Fun With Jewish Authors

Can’t make it to the Jewish Literary Festival? Well, there are two more opportunities to engage with Jewish authors next week.

Renowned Israeli author, Amos Oz, will be autographing copies of his latest novel, Scenes from Village Life, which will be sold at the event.  The book, comprised of different stories from a young Israeli village, has been called “a brilliant, unsettling glimpse of what goes on beneath the surface of everyday life.” This event is open to the public and free of charge.

WHEN: Sunday, October 30, 5:00 p.m.

WHERE: Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW

For more information, click here.

Looking for something a bit lighter? Meir Shalev will speak about his book, My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner: A Family Memoir. This lighthearted tale of family ties and over-the-top housekeeping recounts the author’s grandmother’s experiences in a the emerging state of Israel as she wrestles with the family’s biggest enemy in their adoptive land: dirt..  The talk will be followed by a book signing.

WHEN: Wednesday, November 2, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW

For more information, click here.

Hear Rabbi T’s Take on Beginning Anew…

Now that the High Holidays are over, we go back to the start of the Bible, the first chapters of Genesis.

Want an interpretation of  what happened “in the beginning?” Listen to this interpretation of the week’s parsha by Rabbi Teitelbaum of Mesorah DC.


(Bereishis from vitaly on Vimeo.)

For an archive of previous weekly portions, see Rabbi T’s video archive here.

Want to hear Rabbi T in person? Come to Mesorah DC services at Sixth & I, followed by a “Shabbat International” Dinner, on Friday, November 4th.

Gather the Jews is hiring.

We are looking for someone to fill positions as part time interns or part time paid staff.   We are looking to work with charismatic, motivated, and professional individuals who are eager to apply his/her knowledge and are eager to gain even more business and marketing experience in the non-profit sector. We would like to work with those who have a passion for journalism, communications, web development, and/or marketing. We are a non-profit that provides hyperlocal news and events to young professionals in the DC area, and we are looking for motivated people who will help us expand nationally.

This position can be developed and may include the following:

  • Monitoring and tracking website analytics and our calendar of events
  • Fundraising
  • Event planning
  • Writing/editing our weekly newletter that is sent to over 2,100 young professionals
  • Writing for and editing our blog
  • Expanding our blog and network to a national level
  • Launching our site in other cities around the US

We are looking for interns who are adaptable, flexible, and eager to progress personally and professionally.  You will be working with a team of over 20 people who live and work in DC. For more information, visit or email

Please send your resume and CV to

Positions are currently designed for part time work being 5-15 hours/week.



What Are Tefillin For?

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:

I was looking through my closet at my parents’ place and found my old pair of Tefillin. I haven’t worn them since we left school. I know that we put these black boxes on our head and our arm next to our heart, but other than that, I have no idea what they are about. Do you have an explanation for what Tefillin are?


Our personality has three layers to it – intellect, emotion and action; what we think, what we feel and what we do.

  • Intellect: My opinions on issues, philosophies on life and attitudes to myself and others.
  • Emotion: My moods, desires and passions; what I love and what I hate, what I am scared of and what attracts me.
  • Action: Not my beliefs or feelings, but what I actually do, how I live my life, and how I spend my time and energy.

Ideally, these three faculties should be in sync. My beliefs and ideals should direct my passions and ambitions, which should in turn be translated into my lifestyle. But so often we find this is not the case. What I know is right doesn’t always feel right, and what I feel like doing is not necessarily what I do.

  • I know I should go and help my mother bring in the shopping, but I feel like staying on the couch eating chips. Then I hear my phone ring, and jump up to answer it.
  • I know I shouldn’t lie to cover up my mistakes, and I feel guilty about it, but I do it anyway.
  • My mind tells me that I am in a damaging relationship, but my heart is too scared to leave. I act as if everything’s fine.

One of the greatest challenges in life is to try to overcome this mind-heart-body disconnect – to develop the right attitude in the mind, positive desires in the heart and to then live up to it and do the right thing. This isn’t easy.

That’s where Tefillin come in. The Tefillin help to achieve a spiritual alignment of mind, heart and body; uniting our thoughts, feelings and actions towards a power higher than all three.

These black boxes are holy objects, tiny treasure chests charged with immense divine power. We place one box on the head – the home of intellect, with its straps dangling down over the heart – the seat of emotion. Then the other box rests on the forearm next to the heart, with its straps wrapped around the arm and hand – the tools of action.

The head Tefillin binds our minds to the divine will, that we should know what’s right and wrong. The straps dangle down so that this knowledge should flow into our heart and become a passion and excitement for goodness. And the passion resting in our heart should in turn be translated into action, that we live a life of meaning and purpose, based on clear morals and pure passions.

Could you do with some mind-heart-body alignment? I need it every day.

All the best,

Rabbi Moss

The Rule of Two – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 16)

Give it some time...

I have been on some bad dates, some less “bad” than others, of course.  Back in 2005, I went on a first date to a Mexican restaurant in D.C. for dinner.  (That was the first mistake, if you recall from a previous post.)  At any rate, my date was… how shall I put this… B-O-R-I-N-G.  I consider myself to be an engaging, spunky person who can talk to just about anyone.  But there were silences, and awkward ones at that.  As I chomped away on my fajitas, I was planning in my head what I would say for the next at least half an hour.  Finally, the date came to a close.  I thought to myself, “Nice enough guy, but that’s it.”

The next day, in usual Erika-style, I sent my standard “thank you” e-mail.  (What we did in the olden days before texting became the norm)  He did pay for my meal, after all.  I figured this would be the end of our communication.  But then, lo and behold, he responded saying that he had a good time and then wrote something funny at the end of his e-mail.  I thought to myself, “Hmm… this guy wasn’t funny at all on our date.  Interesting.”  And so, the e-mails continued, and they became wittier as the hours passed.  And then they got pretty darn cute… until he asked me out again.  What was a girl to do?  While I didn’t have a good time on the date, this guy seemed interested, I knew he could at least communicate in written form, and well, I was free the night he asked.  Oh, and I love baseball.  (He asked me to go to a Nationals game with some friends.)  Why not?

The day of the second date rolled around, and I remember sitting at my apartment’s pool studying for the GMAT with a friend.  I kept telling her that I was not looking forward to this date.  The hours passed, I finally decided to get ready, and off I went.  We met in the metro, and he wasn’t as bad as I had remembered.  In fact, he was kind of cute.  When we got to the game, his friends were really friendly and inclusive of me.  Two points.  And then – against all odds – this guy was funny!  It was as if I was on a date with a different person.  We had a great night and even went out for drinks after the game.  I liked this guy.

I found out many months later that he was nervous – very nervous – on the first date.  We ended up dating for a year and a half.  While he wasn’t the right guy for me in the end, I was so glad that I had gone out on the second date, hence the Rule of Two.  Many people get nervous, or as I used to affectionately call myself on dates where I was trying to impress someone, “Weird Erika.”

The moral?  Unless someone spits on you, picks his or her nose, offends you in some unforgivable way, or something made it undeniably clear that you are not meant to be, it can’t hurt to go on the second date.  You never know what comes after the first unless you try.

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. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.

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