And the winner of the second Jewish a cappella contest is…

The repeat champions, Tizmoret, of Queens College

Tizmoret!

For the second year in a row, the group “Tizmoret” of Queens College won the Annual Kol HaOlam National Jewish A Cappella Contest at Adas Israel.

“Kol Sasson” of University of Maryland also matched its previous year’s performance by placing second.  “Jewop” of University of Wisconsin grabbed third.  Ten Jewish a cappella groups in total competed.

The rankings were, in my humble opinion, spot on.  My two apartment-mates and I all agreed that Tizmoret was clearly the best group this year.  I also gave second place to Kol Sasson.

Wisconsin Party Rocking

But while Tizmoret and Kol Sasson wowed me for the second year in a row, I’m not sure the groups — in total — lived up to last year’s performances (see all of last year’s performances here).  Kol Sasson’s (UMaryland) first song from last year is still my all-time favorite from Kol HaOlam, and I think the best pop-song parody still belongs to Brandeis for last year’s “Today I am a Man” (Although I did greatly appreciate Wisconsin’s Jewish rendition of LMFAO’s “Party Rock” and Mezumenet’s Jewish parody of NSync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye”).

Elie Greenberg, head of Adas YP, rocking the Kol HaOlam t-shirt

 

 

The audience and costumes, however, met and surpassed last year’s performance.  Approximately 1,200 poured into Adas Israel’s main auditorium on Saturday night.  Elie Greenberg and the rest of the staff managed the crowd with seeming ease.  And I must also give a shoutout to volunteer ushers Steve Davis and Yang Ku for the part they played.  As for the costumes, groups seem to have gotten the memo from last year that black shirts with matching blue or red ties and/or suspenders can look pretty awesome, especially during coordinated movement sequences.

The Adas staff also made sure we were duly entertained while waiting for the judge’s results.  Jewish musician “Orthobox” treated me to the best beatboxing I’ve seen in my life (and I’ve live in New Orleans, Chicago … and Utah! … so I’ve seen some good beatboxing!)  And we were also treated to a beatbox performance from one member of University of Rochester’s much-celebrated “Yellowjackets” a cappella group.

Orthobox

I’m afraid I didn’t tape all of the performances as I did last year.  My iPhone had very little battery left, and because GTJ co-sponsored the event, we had such close seats that I wouldn’t have been able to capture the full stage as last year.  I have, however, tracked down some videos that others have posted, and I will continue to look for more.  Additionally, Adas Israel is going to release a more professional tape from the evening, and I will see about getting it up  here.  Please let me know if you know of other videos.  (stephen@gatherdc.org)

All in all, a really excellent night.  Definitely made me put karaoke on my calendar.  Who’s in?!

  • Tizmoret, Queens College (song)
  • Tizmoret, Queens College (song 2)
  • Hooshir, Indiana University (song)
  • Kol Sasson, Maryland (first song)
  • Kol Sasson, Maryland (song)
  • Staam, Washington University in St. Louis (song)

All the groups together at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Idan Raichel a Question…

As we wrote last week, Israeli music sensation Idan Raichel will be playing at Sixth & I next Wednesday. In possibly even more exciting news, GTJ Staff Writer Daniela Enriquez has managed to secure an interview with him!

Have a question you’ve always wished you could ask him about his music? Well now you can. Let us know (email noa at gatherdc.org) by March 5 and Daniela will pass it along.

 

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with the Next Generation

Ricki Meyer is a ConnectGens fellow.

……..

It is striking how often similar conversations arise among Jews.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that Jews talk – a lot – and can’t remember what they’ve said to whom.  Or maybe as a Jewish young professional, my generation and I are starting to realize our responsibility in defining the future of Judaism.  How do we find meaningful involvement in our community? How do we grapple with the ever-present social and political issues while maintaining our love for and commitment to sustaining the Jewish state of Israel?  These questions pose a fundamental shift from those asked by our grandparents’ and parents’ generations, a shift from how do we form a Jewish state to how do we keep it flourishing as a democratic society within the confines of the Jewish religion (this could take a blog post of its own).

Politics aside, I want to delve into this concept of identity and how it continues to reappear in my own life.  If you scroll back up to my third sentence, you’ll see that I defined myself as a Jewish young professional.  The order of these three words is intentional.  In the second NeXus seminar, we explored with Dr. Erica Brown how we each define our identity.  As the Jewish people – based on a relatively homogeneous sample of 40 young professionals in DC, so not your ideal test group – we tend to attribute our identities to two things: parents and religion.  What is it about these two significant factors – albeit one more obvious than the other – that influence our upbringing and the ways we continue to self-identify once we enter the ‘real world’?

For me, all directions point to the notion of tikkun olam.  My parents have led by example, ultimately inspiring me to find my own path of repairing the world at each stage of my life thus far.  My sister and I have chosen professional paths that on the surface level seem quite different, though we ultimately each identified a population for which we want to dedicate our lives and efforts to impact in a positive way.  See, it really does come back to tikkun olam as it passes along the generations.

As a fellow in the ConnectGens Fellowship Program powered by PresenTense, I am privileged to meet with like-minded individuals who are driven to create change.  Each fellow has been accepted to the program in order to develop a venture into a reality, utilizing assets of the community – and most of all each other – to work through the challenges involved with social entrepreneurship.  The ventures range from activities to spur thought-provoking conversations in DC to providing an innovative lens through which the world can view the story of Israel today, capturing stories of anyone who is willing to share (keep reading for a personal plug below…). Though we don’t have all the answers, we are taking the opportunity to collaborate with one another and more importantly to challenge each other to think in different ways and ask difficult questions.

Though fellows and ventures vary across age, geographic location, and target audience, they all stem from the same foundation of closing a gap that exists in the broad Jewish community, in turn repairing the world in our own way.  Would it be fair to say that the desire to create positive change is part of our identities, of who we are as social entrepreneur fellows and as Jews, and from where we come? I am confident to say yes, as some of this year’s fellows have their own children and are rightfully setting the example of creating the change they long to see in the communities around them.

So yes, Jews talk – but we also listen. We listen to the needs of our community and the actions of those who came before us, and make the conscious decision to act in a way that will help others.  It is my hope that this is the example my generation continues to follow, and that we continue to talk – as we are already leading the path for others.

As promised, a few words about my venture. I am working with two friends – both participants of the 2011 Alumni Leadership Mission – to create the infrastructure to have agencies and organizations send packages to Lone Soldiers who serve in the Israeli army.  About 2,800 Lone Soldiers leave their homes and families all over the world to serve in the Israeli army each year.  Some of them have relatives on the ground in Israel, but most do not.  Our venture also includes a community building aspect to foster relationships between local Jewish communities and the Lone Soldiers in Israel. Please contact thelonesoldierproject@gmail.com or @lonesoldierproj if you are interested in learning more about the project!

 

 

 

Girl of the Week – Morgan

Given you’re a DC boomerang (grew up in the area, left for school, and are now back), what do you love about this city?
Tons. DC is a wonderful city so long as you appreciate it for what it is and avoid comparing it to other cities. Along with a burgeoning creative economy come interesting, motivated and inspired people for whom I’m very appreciative. I also love the museums and proximity to world politics and history. Given my interest in architecture/space/design, I have an odd love for the experience of standing on Pennsylvania Ave looking at the Capitol in the distance. There is something about the combination of being on the wide, boulevard-like street, surrounded by soaring, neoclassical architecture and among so much history that I find amazing.

What is verdeHOUSE?
VerdeHOUSE activates unoccupied real estate by connecting temporary users and events with vacant property.  We find unique, unused space throughout the city and temporarily turn the vacancy into a venue. Think of us as DC’s space matchmaker. There’s nothing we love more than a good shidduch between an event and vacant property.

Do you have a favorite event?
The Jewish Federation luncheon in one of our first Dupont spaces, of course! Uncurbed, the traveling food truck restaurant, has also been a vH team favorite. We help DC’s best food trucks set up shop in vacant properties to create a truly unique (and mobile!) pop-up restaurant experience. I’m also very excited for an event we’re hosting to show off one of our newest properties. We’re having a complimentary scotch bar, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and an incredible jazz ensemble. Who wouldn’t love that?!

What is it like being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur has got to be one of the most dynamic experiences. Excitement, freedom, empowerment, and fun primarily come to mind. There are so many ups and downs, but you know you’re in your element when you start to embrace and appreciate the negatives. It’s cliched but true: mistakes and hardships make for the best learning and growth opportunities.

What inspires you?
Truthfully, I’m amazed by the diverse and unexpected ways I find inspiration. The people I work with, the architecture around me, the opportunities that come our way are just a sampling. I think that the challenges that come along with developing a new concept and building a company have a powerful way of inspiring.

Besides building a company, if you could do anything, regardless of pay, what would you do?
That’s easy, I’d ski all the time.

 

Want to contact Morgan?  Email info@gatherdc.org

Guy of the Week – Simcha

We heard you are getting your PhD.  What topic?
I’m getting my PhD in physics. I work on quantum simulation with trapped ions. I’m basically part of an effort to develop a new kind of computer that uses lasers and charged atoms trapped in an electromagnetic field instead of the traditional silicon transistors.

This may seem unnecessarily complicated, but it promises great computational abilities not available to us today.

Umm… You sound really smart, what do you do for fun?
I’m out with friends enjoying Shabbat with wonderful DC Jews.  I love attending MesorahDC events. Besides that, I enjoy biking, running, and outdoors activities.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
On a Friday night you will find me at Mesorah at Sixth and I or Chabad.

Who is your favorite DC Rabbi?
My favorite DC rabbi is Rav Teitelbaum. He was the first rabbi to really appeal to me.

We heard you’re Israeli, what Israeli dish do you love to eat?
Burekas. Probably of the potato filling variety.

We heard you have loooong walks to shul, what’s up with that?
Well, I live in Fort Totten.  Unless Shabbat starts late and I can take the metro before it starts, I don’t have any other options.

What is your favorite part about the DC Jewish community?
My favorite part about the DC Jewish community are the Baali Teshuva, who are very energetic and warm people excited about Judaism.

 

Want to get in touch with Simcha?  Email info@gatherdc.org

 

 

 

Take Your Time… and Proofread! GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 29)

When you’re putting yourself out there in the vast online dating pool, it’s important to take the time to read and re-read your profile to make sure that “your” not messing up easy words and hurting your chance to find the perfect match.  Robert Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the authors of the book “Nudge” (which has nothing to do with my business), point out that it’s often the important decisions – the 401(k) and the health care plan – that get the shaft, while we spend more time and energy doing the much smaller tasks.  As they observe, “… 58 percent [of those in a survey] spent less than one hour determining both their contribution rate and investment decisions [for their 401(k)].  Most people spend more time than that picking a new tennis racket or television set.”  They also note that once the investment decision is made, the choices are rarely, if ever, looked at again.

The same is true for online dating.  Most people think that writing an online dating profile is a one-time affair, and they rarely change it based on its success (or lack thereof).  They also try to write it as quickly as humanly possible.  But this is one thing that you really should spend your time on.  You’re putting yourself out there for the world to see, so you might as well put your best foot forward.  When was the last time you even read what you wrote in your profile that fateful day when you signed up for JDate?  If you can’t remember, or if you have to look back at your profile when someone sends an e-mail referencing something in it, it’s been too long.

When you’re finally done writing your profile – having spent the appropriate amount of time on it, of course – I can’t stress enough the importance of getting yourself an “unpaid intern” (a.k.a. a friend, brother, mother, etc.) to read through it just in case you missed anything.  Oftentimes, the language of online dating gets mangled.  It’s like we have a new vocabulary, one that wouldn’t make our high school English teachers proud.  I don’t know about you, but I probably wouldn’t go out with a reformed “cereal dater” (I prefer oatmeal), someone who rides the “stationery” bike (to write notes?), or someone who wants an “intellagent” partner (hmm…).

A final word: As I said earlier, no one is perfect.  Maybe your new beau or babe will be a terrible speller but great at storytelling, identifying different kinds of butterflies based on their wingspan, or doing calculus.  Everyone is smart in a different way, so it’s important to decide if some initial “flaw” is really a deal-breaker for you.  Either way, give your profile the final once-over just in case, because no one wants to go out with someone who is “humerus” – arms just aren’t that funny.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she offers services from online dating profile-writing to e-mailing potential matches to planning dates. 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.

Daniela – Writer

Daniela is Italian and comes from the only Jewish family in Palermo (population: slightly higher than DC). Things she likes about America include: the price of clothing, Internet coffee houses and ice rinks. Among the less desirable things are: the obsession with air conditioning, American “espresso,” and root beer. Feel free to contact her for advice on real Italian food in DC!

See GTJ staff list.

Why Giving Truly is Receiving

An old Christian proverb proclaims that it is “better to give than to receive.” By contrast, in Judaism, we believe that to give is to receive! This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Terumah, inspires us with this timeless and important message.

Parshat Terumah begins with G-d instructing Moshe (Moses) to tell the Israelites to contribute something to the construction of the Tabernacle where the tablets of the Ten Commandments will be kept and G-d’s presence will dwell. G-d’s word-choice in saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take Me a donation” is curious. Our rabbis ask why the verse says to take for me a donation. Why not simply instruct the Jewish people to give a donation? Sforno comments that this command was directed to the tribal leaders, who were expected to take or collect voluntary donations rather than levy a tax on the populace.[1]

However, there is another interpretation that demonstrates how this verse is meant to illustrate the Torah’s view of giving. The Midrash (Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 34) teaches that: “More than the benefactor benefits the pauper, the pauper benefits the benefactor.”[2] Expanding on this idea, MeAm Lo’ez explains that “when one gives a poor person a gift, he is not really giving, but taking. What the donor gives the beggar is limited and temporary, and it eventually vanishes. The reward for giving the charity, however, is infinite and unlimited. It is something spiritual that endures forever in the world-to-come.”[3]

This concept fundamentally shapes how we view charitable giving. In Judaism giving charity or tzedaka is a mitzvah (Torah commandment). G-d created a world in which there are enough resources for everyone, but their distribution is in the hands of humanity. The Talmud (Baba Basra 10a) relates that the wicked Turnus Rufus once asked Rabbi Akiva, “If your God loves the poor so much, why then doesn’t He provide for them?” Rabbi Akiva responded that G-d could easily provide personally for the poor, but He chose to give us the merit of giving tzedaka (charity) to save us from Gehinnom (netherworld).[4] With this understanding we can see why charity is in fact, an inaccurate translation of the word, tzedaka.

Tzedaka actually means justice. Charity denotes giving when one is feeling inspired, generous, or ‘in the mood’ to give. Tzedeka, on the other hand, is an opportunity and an obligation to assist G-d in repairing a world fractured by economic disparity and strife. While a poor person and a worthy cause or institution certainly benefits from the generosity of the giver, the giver is actually gaining infinitely more by connecting with G-d through performing the mitzvah of tzedaka and thereby making the world a more G-dly place.

That’s not all. A recent study discussed in the journal, Science has shown that people are actually happier when spending money on gifts for others and/or making charitable contributions than they are when they are spending money on themselves! Unfortunately, many spend a disproportionately small amount of their income on things that benefit others.[5] By using the word take rather than give, the Torah is teaching us that giving is the gift that keeps on giving. The merit we earn for helping others will continue to accumulate interest for eternity so go on and be selfish…Give more!

[1] The Stone Edition Chumash, Artscroll, 445

[2] “Do You Get Charity?” Naftali Silberberg, Chabad.org

[3] The Torah Anthology. Me’Am Lo’ez “The Tabernacle” Exodus VI vol. 9, page 9

[4] “Supporting the Supporter” Aish.com

[5] “Do You Get Charity” Naftali Silberberg, Chabad.org

2012 Purim Events

Hamentashen > Latkes

We think we’ve got all of ’em, but if you know of something that’s not on here, let Stephen know (stephen@gatherdc.org)

The Fast of Esther is observed on Wednesday, 3/7.  The fast begins at 5:19 a.m. and ends at 6:47 p.m.

Have an amazing Purim and make sure to wear costumes!