Dining at DISTRIKT Bistro… It’s Kosher!

"nee-suaz"

Sometimes I’m so good I impress even myself.  Consider my following experience last night at DISTRIKT Bistro:

The scheduled time of my dinner date:  7:30.  My arrival time:  7:35 (I was at a meeting!).  The time of my first verbal blunder:  7:42.

Salad Niçoise is pronounced “nee-suaz.”  Unfortunately, I let loose a hard c before stopping myself.

To make things worse, my date — a tall Canadian Jew with lustrous dark hair — studied French in school and immediately picked up on my (seeming?) boorishness.

Fortunately, the salad tasted better than my pronunciation sounded, and the rest of my meal at DISTRIKT Bistro tasted just as good.

….

DISTRIKT Bistro is Washington, DC’s newest kosher restaurant.  It’s inside the DC JCC, which is, conveniently for me,  on 16th street between P and Q.

My eggplant cutlet. I should have taken the picture before messing up the presentation. Did you know there are male eggplants and female eggplants? One thing my date taught me.

But DISTRIKT Bistro hasn’t completely entered the kosher food circuit yet.  Most of the kosher conversations I hear still run along the lines of:  “On Monday nights we get Maoz and then watch our TV show; Tuesday nights we eat in; on Wednesday we go to Eli’s; Thursday it’s catch as catch can; and on Fridays we do a Shabbat meal somewhere.”

Part of this is due to DISTRIKT’s novelty — it’s not a year old yet.

But the other (and bigger?) part is its price.  DISTRIKT’s prices aren’t “every night” prices.  Dinner entrees range from $18 (Portobello steak) to $34 (Dijon Roasted Lamb) with most of the other dishes falling in the 20s.  Throw in an appetizer, and you’re up to at least $30 a person — considerably more than my milk-and-cereal wallet is used to spending (thank goodness we “make bank” at GTJ — See FAQ #11).   So DISTRIKT diners are special diners.  My date led me there last night.  And the two people dining next to us were there celebrating their fifth anniversary.

Where's the money Lebowski?

True, DISTRIKT is a bit more expensive than Eli’s, but it’s also more ornate.  It’s not everywhere — kosher or non-kosher — that you can order Eggplant Cutlets as an appetizer and have it presented to you with the balsamic dressing artistically drizzled around the edge of the plate.  Nor is it everywhere that you get such good service.  There weren’t many people in the restaurant, but even so, the waitress kept up with my water-chugging habits and other idiosyncrasies as if she had known me all my life.  I haven’t been to Eli’s enough times to fairly compare the service, but judging by the fact that Eli’s owner Manny hasn’t paid GTJ for his advertisement — despite repeated requests — in 10 months, it wouldn’t surprise me if Eli’s was sometimes a bit slow on its food too.

The biggest conventional downside to DISTRIKT is its location.  Being on 16th street is great, but most people find being on the ground floor of the JCC to be a bit off putting.  How fancy does that Dijon Roasted Lamb seem when you’re watching sweaty basketball players enter and exit the building?  I personally get a kick out of it because I get to see at least four friends every time I eat there, but I can understand where the negative sentiment comes from.

As for other dishes, my date had Morroccan Harira soup and the entree special: chicken marsala and rice pilaf.  I was assured both were delicious.  I’ve also heard good things about the lunch sandwiches and desserts.

….

All in all, very good food, a bit expensive (the tragedy of kosher dining?), good service, and questionable atmosphere.  I highly recommend DISTRIKT for kosher eaters looking to treat themselves to something nice, or if you want to break out of the M/N streets mold.

….

As for my date…  Great conversationalist, very interesting, very smart, but I think we’ve both agreed that it works best as a friendship.

 

P.S.  I know it’s a bit rich for somebody with extremely bizarre eating habits to review a restaurant… But… it was fun!

 

 

 

Featured Jewish Entertainer: Benjamin Corey Feinblum

New Question:  Why do you deserve to be Jewish Guy of the Year?

I’d make a terrible Jewish girl of the year.  So, I decided to stick to my strengths!
Gather the Jews has helped me to find many programs.  Finding great people at those events motivated me to attend as many as possible.
Seeing the opportunity to engage with the community I chose to dive in full force.  Being part of the community became my focus.
From Jewish learning and shabbat with Mesorah, Six in the City, Magen David’s Yad MD group, and the young professional group at Adas Israel;  To the social events with the NOVA tribe group and Moishe House. I hit the ground running to find everything I could get involved in.
Recently, after finding the Anti-Defamation League young professionals group, the Jewish Federation, and Jewish National Fund Young Leadership Group that launched last night – I’ve hit the ground running on the charity side as well.
The description of my Jewish activities comes with the notion that while winning today may be unlikely, with so many menches around…  You might ask me about a program I mentioned, attend with me, and I’ll have the pleasure of getting to know you better!
Sincerely,
Your most humble pursuer of the Jewish Guy of the year title,
Ben Feinblum

Editor’s note: Don’t miss the video below.

Photograph by Jason Weil Event Photography

It’s not often that people meet a professional magician. So when we did, and discovered he was an active member of the Jewish community to boot, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Click to “Like” Benjamin on Facebook.

You decided at a very early age that you wanted to become a magician? How did you come to that conclusion? Was it hard having to convince people that your dream was legitimate at such a young age? Specifically, how did your Jewish parents take it that you didn’t want to go the traditional doctor/lawyer route?

I was an entertainer by age three.  I was into making people laugh and doing character voices and I was learning magic.

Getting where I am now has been a journey through various passions.  When I was young, my parents advised me not to be an aerospace engineer because they had seen vast swings in that industry.  So, I chose my other, more stable passion – Magic!

It may be surprising, but even during the last three recessions, more and more people have been hiring me for entertainment!  There is a constant demand for great memories, exciting experiences, live entertainment, and great feelings.

People today still ask me, “What is your other job?” when, I have entertained 26,000 people since September and have book-keepers, lawyers, CPA’s, graphic designers, printers, marketing professionals… about 13 people working on various projects for me – just to keep up with my work!

My parents first reacted with mass resistance.  Fundamentally, because they were concerned that I be able to support myself and that they didn’t know how to help me.  Later, they knew I was the only college student with a personal assistant and that I paid my last year and a half of college by singing and doing my magic… and they have become my biggest supporters.  We talk business daily and my father is the most active member of my road crew.  My father and I loaded in all the equipment together when I booked two shows at the National Theater.

My parents never told me which career to choose.  They just wanted me to be successful.  I had thought I was going to be a fourth generation optometrist and do magic on the side. When, I finished pre-med and considered med-school, many doctors (who hire me regularly) saw what I was earning and the positive impact on people and said – stick to magic!  One doctor literally said, “You might be the next Houdini! I’ve never seen people have so much fun!” He pointed out that, although it was not medicine, it was a different kind of healing that in some ways they couldn’t come close to.

By looking at the faces of audience members, I remember always that I am providing the one thing that motivates many of people’s choices.  People want to be happy.  They want great feelings.  They want to laugh.  They want to experience the joy and wonder that magic provides.  They are not hiring me because I’m a magician – they are hiring me because of the benefits of the experience I provide.

My challenge now is that I am weaving into the show not just comedy, magic, mentalism, and illusions, but also choreography, dance, and song, and I am synthesizing an experience based on the best, most moving elements I can find from every form of live entertainment.  And my standard is songs that create that tingle in your spine…a sense of magic.  Synthesizing that into one show is highly complex.

Photograph by Jason Weil Event Photography

There is no one route.  It is a personal and artistic journey of discovery.  My path was to surround myself with the most talented people possible and to develop as much talent and knowledge as possible.  For about 10 years, Irvin Kershner, (Director of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”) mentored me on every side of my work.  From directing my show, to showing me visual composition while going through art museums, honing my comedy, even helping me choose my classes in college, Kersh, and others – including the Magician who inspired me when I saw him on TV as a kid and another great illusionist – all help advance my show.

Some ask, “Did you go to college?” Yes!  And more than most! I studied entrepreneurial business, theater, communications, acting, and dance, became a singer, and received my degree in social-psychology (the science of human interaction – very useful on stage to understand group dynamics!).  I learned things every single day in college that I applied immediately to my career and still use today.  I then completed three years of professional acting conservatory. That totaled 10 years of education after high-school.  All I do depends on that knowledge and the experience from performing in every situation.

Every single day is a learning experience.  Some examples… last Saturday I had to consider what comedy would be best while performing at the Nigerian Embassy.  (Pssst… threatening to turn a Nigerian man into a goat… very funny.)  Also, I’m constantly shaping how I reach people who hire me for shows.  Even, (gasp) how to log receipts for tax deductions!

Who knew that my pre-med and science background was going to help me develop a niche performing at medical conferences?  Yeah – I didn’t guess that either!

It is important to remember what a magician is training for.  You can’t go into your car and get your magic.  This is about an emotional experience.  Moving the audience emotionally… like a great story… or song does.  I don’t actually do magic.  I create the feelings of magic within the audience.  The learning process of mining material for the gems that will excite, inspire, and entertain an audience is endless.

What is your favorite thing about doing magic? What has been one of your favorite shows to put on?

My favorite thing is the extraordinary communication with the audience.  I’m involved in one of the most complex interactions possible with large groups of very diverse audiences.  The audience changes all the time and I meet truly extraordinary people.  Imagine going to work and playing peek-a-boo with 130 preschoolers simultaneously before a show, then performing at a luncheon for Comcast.  A few days later levitating a bar mitzvah child into adulthood.  Then, appearing at dozens of synagogues for Hannukah shows, Purim shows… every type of audience everywhere!  That is the excitement.

I really enjoyed two sold out shows at the Eldorado Casino in Louisiana, for 1200 Vietnamese people at each show, entertaining alongside the world’s most famous Vietnamese singers.  No one in the audience had ever seen a magician before.  When I floated my wand through the air, the roar was so loud I thought the building was on fire.

I love doing corporate entertainment.  And a favorite show was for a medical association for 200 hospital CEO’s and doctors where the show was on message with their conference.  Now I am hired as a specialist for on-message, medical conference entertainment and all types of conferences.

Imagine entertaining at a hospice summer camp for kids who lost a parent and having a counselor walk up after the show and say, “See that little guy over there… he hasn’t smiled or said a word to anyone since his mother died […] and he is running around bouncing off the walls laughing, playing with the other kids.”

Or entertaining a bald eight year old boy who has an IV coming out of his arm but is joking around with me at Children’s Hospital.  Nurses come by every few minutes… “Time for your next treatment,” “Are you ready for your pills…” “We are going to have to stick you again…” And it dawns on me: this eight year old boy had been a patient for more than a year, not a child.  And in my time with him I watched all of that melt away – literally by magic.  And before I left, he looked me straight in the eye, took my hand, smiled, and gave me a hug.  He felt like a child again.

How on Earth could I pick a favorite performance?!

Judaism rejects sorcery. You are very active in the Jewish community. Why do you think shows like yours would be appropriate and good for a Jewish audience? What are some ways you can think of to make a show Jewish-themed?

Well, first, sorcery features spells cast by someone supposedly exercising supernatural powers through the aid of evil spirits.  (See dictionary.com)  Sorcery is literally synonymous with witchcraft.  I don’t exactly divine the occult forces in my show.

I am an illusionist.  I create the illusion that something is possible.  I am a comedy-magician (a great disguise for a witch).  And, beyond that, I’m not even a trickster as most people who call themselves magicians are.  As a magician, my product is to create the feeling of magic inside the audience.  Not to fool them.  Not to puzzle them.  The same feeling of magic a child has when they let go of a balloon and it flies all over the place.

Bringing adults, children, and people from around the world – sometimes at huge conferences – to that child-like sense of joy and wonder that shakes them free of the jaded mindset that many walk around in… that is my art.  Some magicians call it “greening,” because we leave a trail of people whose faces are all lit up and they remain that way and spread those feelings to others.

As a person who has led nearly every kind of Jewish service, I weave Jewish values into certain shows.  I help the audience get to the essence of what they are celebrating.  My “Magic in Disguise” Purim show reminds people to find their real selves; “The Miracles of Hannukah” show reminds people to see the miracles around them every day.  My show for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah reminds people why the moment they are celebrating is significant, no small thing when many non-Jews in attendance think a bar mitzvah is like a big sweet sixteen party.

Rabbis and synagogues hire me as a main attraction to get people to their events and to expand on the theme of the event.  Most Chabad houses and many synagogues in the region have hired me many times.

Since we’re talking about Jewish stuff, I’ll go ahead and ask one of our standard questions: Which Jewish holiday is your favorite and why?

Actually, Yom Kippur… because of how it empowers me to cut loose.  Sound a little backwards?  Well, imagine having to trust yourself entertaining tens of thousands of people a year as an improvisational comedian.  Yom Kippur allows me such an awareness of my behaviors and words that even though much of my comedy comes out so fast that I hear it for the first time with the audience, I can trust, wholeheartedly, what I will say.

It creates a filter one step before my conscious mind that keeps me to a standard I believe in – and I take Yom Kippur very seriously.  These values guide me in every business decision and personal decision.  But, most Jewish holidays including Shabbat, which helps me get into the right spirit to entertain, are of critical importance to me and always have been.

If people want to book you, how should they go about that?

First, click “like” at www.magiconfacebook.com to watch videos and see things that I post.  That page is made to be an entertaining experience for you.  People get ideas of where my show fits over time, not necessarily in the first moment they learn of my existence. Keep in touch over that Facebook page. Post on the wall.  I’d love to chat there.

If you have a job, your employer is the kind of person who hires me!  I am the secret weapon HR people use to raise morale, get people excited, show appreciation, celebrate company anniversaries, and celebrate big successes.

So, for corporate entertainment, conferences, trade shows, association events, product launches, and more visit www.yourcorporatemagic.com  I also entertain for client appreciation events, networking events, grand openings, you name it.  (Pssst… don’t tell your HR people you know a magician.  Tell them you know a corporate entertainer who would be awesome at the next event.  When people hear “magician,” they have a hard time picturing what I actually offer.  I provide entertainment… that is all they need to know before they call.)

Call me for any other family or Jewish event and I will direct you to the right materials.

[flowplayer width=480 height=360 src=’http://www.yourcorporatemagic.com/videos/BenCorey-Web.mov’ popup=’For more info, visit www.yourcorporatemagic.com‘]

Jewish Girl of the Week – Samantha

New Question:  Why do you deserve to be Jewish Girl of the Week?

Vote for the…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otherwise, well, “you won’t like me when I’m angry…”

 

 

What is the Chesed Project?
It is a new, super awesome group that has regular opportunities for Jews to do nice, meaningful things for other Jews. We have activities the first or second Sunday each month that provide seasonal or topical opportunities. In addition, we’ll also have frequent opportunities to volunteer with the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. And – at no extra cost you get to make new friends and meet young professionals. Even if you enjoy socializing with old unprofessionals you should join The Chesed Project on facebook.

When is your next event?
You are in luck, because we are hosting an event this Sunday, December 6 from 1-4pm in Dupont, making a gift box for Jewish soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, chock full of things to help them celebrate the holiday, as well as feel appreciated for their service. Check out our Facebook event page for more information on how you can help. As if you needed an incentive, a generous donor will be providing free pizza from Ben Yehuda’s.

Who is the coolest Jew in DC?
That I don’t know, but I think one of the coolest Jews in general is Rav Ovadia. You know that’s where Michael Jackson copped his sunglasses and gold embroidered jacket look.

What is it like being Jewish with red hair?
It’s pretty weird having strangers insist “are you sure?” when you tell them you aren’t Irish.

What is your favorite part about Jewish life in DC?
There is always so much to do! There are amazing classes with free food multiple nights per week, your choice services for a meaningful Shabbos experience, and just as importantly, they are about to open my fav kosher frozen dessert place, Tasti D Lite, in my hood, Columbia Heights.

We heard you used to hang out with turtles in the desert, tell us more?
I took off college for a semester and somehow convinced the U.S. Geological Survey to let me do desert tortoise research for them for six months. It was out in Las Vegas, and I may or may not have chosen that internship based on the fact I’d be turning 21 during my tenure. Anyway, you should have asked about the time I spent living on a replica 19th century schooner, that’s where the real dirt is.

What do you do when you are not Cheseding?
Riding my bike! I also started a cycling club for people who like to ride but aren’t so into the whole spandex thing – check out Chain Gang DC. We do long (50+ mi) or short (8 mi) rides that often end at a bar. Also, bird watching, and making my own clothes while listening to jazz records or classes on TorahAnytime.com.

 

Jewish Guy of the Week – Eli

Eli on why he should be Jewish guy of the Year:

Who else has the endorsement or Uri Manor, last year’s Guy of the Year? To quote Uri, “Eli would make a great Guy of the Year, especially if it keeps him from mentioning what really happened to that “missing” hiker who messed up that photo I was taking on the Outdoor Cluster hike we did together. So yeah, he is a really great guy.”

If an expert at being guy of the year like Uri isn’t enough to convince you maybe knowing I run the Outdoor Cluster for the JCC is? Leading lots of different hikes and bike rides during the year to have fun and enjoy the outdoors. I’m not saying that you have to vote for me to do any of our activities (hint, you still should), but I do try to fight the stereotype that Jews can’t be athletic by trying to get fellow Jews to do 100 mile bike rides and 10+ mile hikes. (Are you doing your part by joining the cluster?) In fact I’m so dedicated to breaking the stereotype that I’ve lead some of the events on Saturday which we all know is a very Jewish day to do athletic events on. (That is why the JCC started to complain saying I should do them on Sundays, right?) Isn’t that worth your vote? Sure, the turn out for the more hardcore events may be lower then the easier hikes so maybe there is truth to this stereotype, but its the thought that counts, right?

So if you like 30+ or even 50+ mile bike rides and 10+ mile hikes join the Outdoor Cluster and help me prove that Jews can be athletic. Also, vote for me for Guy of the year.

What’s the Great Outdoors Cluster?

The cluster I run is made up of a group of young, active Jewish guys and gals who get together to enjoy nature. We do all sorts of outdoor activities like road biking, hiking, camping, climbing, boating, and other fun stuff. We do some on our own, some with other groups like Moishe House Montgomery County, and sometimes we hook up with large events, like the 50 States Ride.

Why do you love the outdoors?
What’s not to love? Doesn’t everyone like pushing themselves and getting high off endorphins? I get to  enjoy nature with others. It’s a lot more fun going on a hike with a bunch of people you like, including some of my cluster regulars (shout out to Laura Rheinheimer, co-chair of the cluster). And I really love being out in the remote outdoors with cute athletic types.

Wait a minute, sounds like you’re using your club as a front to meet women.
Well, I do hate those elitist, DC-style happy hours as a way to meet people. You can’t really get to know someone in a crowded, loud bar. Speed dating doesn’t lend to getting to know someone, and online profiles?  Ha.  So basically I don’t like the traditional ways most people suggest.  Plus, adventurous, outdoorsy folks are way more down-to-earth and easier to connect to. Now where was I? Oh yeah, why I like to get outdoors… In computer programming, you’re kind of stuffed up in an office all day, so it’s nice to escape from computer screens and just relax, disconnected from modern technology.

Is that a GPS on your bike?  That doesn’t sound very disconnected.
Okay, I still like playing with gadgets.

Which do you like better: cold weather or warm weather?
Well, that depends. In the summer, I like to do cycling, hiking, and camping. In the winter, I like to do cycling, hiking, and camping, only with way more layers. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Why do you think the Great Outdoors Cluster has the weekly Saturday bike rides posted on the GTJ calendar?
Getting outdoors can be challenging in the winter, especially for those who get cold easily, like me. We are trying to branch out to some other winter-friendly activities, such as indoor rock-climbing, and camping later in December (with proper gear, of course).

Are you part of a bike gang?
And have the tat to prove it. Just kidding about that part but I do have some serious street cred.  We are very intimidating in our spandex bike wear.

Where do you come from?
Pikesville in Maryland, doesn’t everyone grow up in a place where the public schools are almost all Jewish?

When are you moving to Israel?
When they put in decent bike lanes.

Lots of Jewish and Israeli Films This Week

Film buffs have several opportunities to enjoy Israeli and Jewish film screenings in the DC area this week and next.

First, come enjoy the latest installment of ReelIsraelDC, which offers the best contemporary Israeli cinema the last Wednesday of every month. This month’s feature is Naomi.This award winning thriller depicts the story of Ilan Ben Natan, a 58-year-old Astrophysics professor in Haifa, who discovers his young wife, Naomi, has taken a lover.

WHEN: November 30, 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Click here for more information.

A day later, the 22nd Annual Washington Jewish Film Festival will kick off.

WHEN: December 1 – December 11

WHERE: DC JCC, 1529 16th St. NW

This event, co-sponsored by the Israeli Embassy and the Washington Jewish Week, features 47 new and award-winning Jewish films from around the world.  It will showcase special guests from around the world. including filmmakers, composers, writers, journalists and producers.

For the full schedule and to buy tickets, click here.

 

Avoid the E-lationship – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 19)

People join online dating sites for many reasons: To find an activity partner, a friend, a date, a long-term relationship, marriage, or marriage and children.  JDate is even nice enough to lay out all of these choices side-by-side for us.  All it takes is the click of a button or two to list what we’d like to find in our online dating adventure.  Curiously enough, “pen pal” is not an option.  In fact, nothing of the sort is listed – not “letter-writer,” “someone to keep me occupied at work,” or “e-mail buddy.”  Nope – it’s just not a choice.  Why?  Because people do not join online dating sites simply to e-mail back and forth.  People are looking to form a relationship, not an e-lationship.

The scenario always starts out the same.  As women, we find someone good-looking who fits the bulk of our criteria.  We send a short and sweet e-mail out into the ether just hoping for a response… and to our delight, we get one.  We write a witty response back, spell checking twice and editing a little more.  Finally, we send it off, waiting the requisite few hours or even a day  just to make sure it doesn’t look like we’ve been sitting by our computer.  Sometimes we get nothing back again (so annoying!), and sometimes we do… time to celebrate!  So, we e-mail back, sharing information about ourselves, our jobs, and our lives outside of the confines of JDate.  And lo and behold, we keep getting responses.  But response after response, nothing leads to a date request.

When it comes to online dating, the best way to play your cards is to ask someone out after just a few e-mails back and forth.  Chemistry is hard to gauge over e-mail, so a few extra e-mails won’t make or break it.  The best way to see if there’s any spark is to meet in person, and the sooner the better.  If you plan the first date quickly and like each other, that’s great – you’ll have more time to spend together!  If you don’t have that connection, you can move on without investing more of your time.  In fact, I don’t even recommend talking on the phone before a date.  Someone might be great on the phone and a dud in person or a bore on the phone and fabulous in person.  The point is that you never know whether you’ll have chemistry (which I call the “wild card”) until you actually meet, and no number of e-mails will change that.

For guys, it’s never too forward to ask someone out for a drink or coffee after one or two e-mails.  (Remember – no dinner on a first online date.)  If a woman responds to your e-mail or reaches out to you on her own, she’s probably interested enough to meet in person.  But she’ll likely get a bit restless after about the fourth or fifth e-mail with no date in sight, so it’s best to lock in the date before that happens.  E-mails are nice, but in the end, we’re looking for something real, someone real, and not just some words on a page, or an e-lationship.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for JDate.com.

How Blind Is Love?

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

Question of the Week:

I am open to being set up with girls and have been on a few blind dates. But it’s going nowhere. I’m just not attracted to the girls I’m set up with. Are there no good-looking girls around?

Answer:

You remind me of an old friend of mine. A few years back we were walking down a main street in Brooklyn talking about the dating scene. He complained, “Every girl I am set up with I find unattractive.”

Then he nodded towards a girl across the road and said, “Why can’t someone introduce me to someone like her?”

At that moment the girl crossed the street and walked straight past us.

“Oh,” my friend whispered, “I did go out with her!”

We can be so kind in our judgment of strangers on the street, while being so harsh on the person we are dating. If she doesn’t knock our socks off with her dazzling beauty, then we go into ultra-critic mode, waiting to pounce on any little flaw that we can find and say, “She’s not for me.”

I’m sure you have had the experience of meeting someone who at first didn’t seem attractive, but as their personality unfolded their beauty emerged and you became attracted. Equally, we have all met someone who at first struck you by their beauty, but as you got to know them better an ugly side of their personality surfaces, and their beauty is soured.

A person is a multi-layered being, a soul as well as a body. These layers overlap and influence each other. An inner charm can spill over into outer beauty. An attractive inside makes someone more attractive on the outside too. Allow someone to share their whole being and you may surprise yourself and find that a deeper attraction develops after all.

Of course you need to be attracted to your wife. But she doesn’t have to knock your socks off. (And by the way, she doesn’t have to pick them up after you either). Better find someone who leaves your socks right where they are, but draws your heart closer and closer as her inner self is revealed.

View your date as a soul, not just a body. Then you will find beauty is not to be found across the street, but sitting right in front of you.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

Over 250 at GTJ event

GTJ’s Most Eligible event by the numbers:

  • Day:  11/17/2011
  • In attendance:  Over 250
  • Raffled:  10 highly eligible men (stallions) and 10 high eligible women.
  • Prizes:  43 prizes given away.
  • Total worth of prizes:  $1,806.00
  • Total worth of date raffles:  You can’t quantify the type of charm and beauty we had up on stage.
  • The number of amazing emcees we had:   1 (Joshua Novikoff — thank you so much!)
  • The number of super event admins we had:   Many!  Jodi T., Sara S., Karen S., Josh Y., Jon H., Brian W.
  • The amount of our gratitude for our event sponsors:  Tons!  Please check out the organizations that made this event possible.
  • The number of pictures taken:  Over 100.  See them on the GTJ Facebook page.

Thankful for Ethiopia: A Foreign Lens on an American Holiday

I have always thought of Thanksgiving as an American holiday with a Jewish theme. Eating and giving thanks is what we Jews do best, proven by the fact that many years after graduating from Jewish day school, I can still recite the blessing of Grace after Meals by heart, without giving it a second thought. “Hakarat Hatov,” literally translated as “recognizing the good,” and usually interpreted as “giving thanks where thanks is due,” is a concept that is prevalent in the Jewish tradition. The Rabbis tell us to thank God for every little thing we have and do, a list that ranges from waking up to going to sleep and everything in between. Whether or not you are the kind of Jew who says or thinks the words of gratitude daily, we are all happy to celebrate a holiday to remind us to appreciate what we have, and gives us an excuse to eat pumpkin pie.

Every year, at my family’s Thanksgiving table, I make a foolish attempt to get my family to play the “I am thankful for…” game. As everyone else in the family becomes immediately and intentionally distracted by everything but the game, I am left thinking about my own sentimental answers: my supportive friends and family, my job, my apartment (and my roommates!), my Jewish community, etc. I never forget to voice how thankful I am for my Mother’s delicious cooking.

This year, my answers and perspective are slightly different than they have been for the last 20 or so years. For example, this year I am also thankful for every pencil I have ever laid my hands on. Why? Because I recently returned from a service trip to Ethiopia with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).  If anyone can teach you about what it means to be thankful, it would be an impoverished Ethiopian child whose face lights up just because you gave him something as simple as a pencil.

While in Ethiopia, I listened to a first-hand account of the history of JDC’S involvement in transporting Ethiopia’s Jews to Israel on massive airlifts during Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991). Committed to the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, JDC continues to engage in long-term humanitarian efforts for the poorest Ethiopians. I was privileged to contribute to their projects of construction of a rural school and medical treatment for children. I also learned about other JDC projects, including scholarships for university and nursing degrees, water well construction to provide rural villages with potable water, and life-saving heart and spinal surgeries, and treatments for curable forms of cancer. This was truly a life-changing and unforgettable opportunity.

So, some other things included on my “I am thankful for…” list this year:

  1. Thankful that…I can drink water from the tap. It may taste nasty before it runs through a Brita filter, but it doesn’t contain parasites and bacteria that make me ill. I don’t have to walk for miles to get to the water, and carry a heavy water-filled jerry can back home, only to get sick from drinking it later on. I watched some women in Ethiopia do all this with babies on their backs, at a certain stream near a village in Gondar (see picture!). I am thankful that, within the next year, JDC will build a water well in that same area, to make clean and safe water accessible to the villagers.
  2. Thankful for…living in a city where my higher education is encouraged. We met with JDC scholarship recipients, all female, most of who were the first in their family to attend university, some of who were considered rebellious because most women do not attend university in Ethiopia.
  3. Thankful for…the lack of parasites in my body. Ethiopians are chronically infected with worms, which can negatively affect health, nutrition, and cognitive development. We spent a day at a school, deworming over 150 children, many of whom had never swallowed a pill before in their lives. We then went on to distribute school supplies to those children, which were donated back in the United States, hence the excitement associated with the pencil.
  4. Thankful for…my straight back. “Zokef Kefufim,” the daily prayer said to thank God for “straightening those who are bent,” takes on a whole new meaning after spending a few days with a doctor who has made this his life’s mission. A Jewish man originally from the United States, Dr. Rick Hodes has lived in Ethiopia for over 20 years, treating patients with spine disease, as well as cardiac disease and cancer. He fundraises to save the lives of children who require surgery but cannot afford to pay for the procedure. I was privileged to meet some of his patients at a Shabbat meal at Dr. Hodes’s house. Some of his patients live in his house, while he adopts others to send them to the United States to receive a proper education. All of his patients have been inspired by him, and some have even claimed that they would like to be medical doctors when they grow up. The HBO documentary “Making the Crooked Straight” delves into Dr. Hodes’s work in Ethiopia, and the miraculous encounters of his everyday life.
  5. Thankful that…I can bring the experience home. The group of young professionals that I traveled with to Ethiopia is currently fundraising for spine surgery for three of the children who we met at Dr. Hodes’s house. If you are in the position to give, please click here to donate and learn about his patients.

Amisagenalo (thank you) and happy Thanksgiving!