DC Jewish World Weighs In On “Having It All”

Princeton professor and former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter, has made virtual waves with her recent article, published in the DC-based Atlantic Magazine and entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Needless to say, the article made the rounds in the young professional Jewish community, judging by recent Facebook feeds. Moreover, some prominent DC Jews (to be fair, not all them young professionals) have decided to contribute to the conversation.

DC-area columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, a well-known member of Adas Israel, pondered about the work-life balance — for both women and men — in an online article for Bloomberg. In this piece, he also followed up with Slaughter, asking how she felt about the way her piece had been received and exploring the way in which her article ties into one of her pet policy issues — trying to make the advancement of women’s issues more prominent in US foreign policy.

Coming from a different angle, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld wrote a Huffington Post piece on changing women’s roles in Orthodox Judaism, specifically citing his congregation, Ohev Shalom, as an example. ” (Rabbi Herzfeld frequently writes on issues of women in Jewish Orthodoxy. For more information on this, see here.) He describes the distinction between progressive and egalitarian practice, as manifested in his synagogue:

“From a traditional Orthodox perspective our synagogue is relatively progressive as it relates to women’s direct spiritual involvement in the synagogue in areas traditionally reserved for men. […] With all that, we do not have an egalitarian prayer service because we are an Orthodox synagogue. Being an Orthodox synagogue means that we embrace halakhah, Jewish law, for we believe it must be a guidepost to our lives. This guidepost can be strict, and sometimes we may not understand its ways. But we submit ourselves to the tradition and to the law.”

Want us to cite other DC Jews who are weighing in on this issue? Write to noa@gatherdc.org.

Jews, Judaism, and Obamacare

The following is an opinion piece, and it should not be construed to reflect the ideas or position of GTJ as an organization.

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Stephen Richer is the President of Gather the Jews. 

In honor of today’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) by one of our local courts (The U.S. Supreme Court found the law constitutional, 5-4), I thought it might be fun to ask a couple community members to assess Obamacare through the lens of Judaism.  But almost as soon as I sent the email request for papers I recognized the request as fruitless, inconsistent, and inappropriate.

Fruitless:  Rabbi Shira of Sixth & I mentioned to me the other day that Jewish religious text can be used to support or evince seemingly anything.  I agree.  Completely.  I’m always astounded by the number of seemingly incongruent arguments raised through religious text.  Jewish text is especially guilty of this because there is simply so much of it (Talmud).   You don’t even have to step outside this healthcare debate to see how Jewish text can allegedly support both sides of the argument:  Here’s Julie Schonfeld (Washington Post) and Elliot Dorff (JewishJounal.com) writing in support of Obamacare, and here’s David Klinghoffer (Beliefnet) writing in opposition to universal health care.

Inconsisent:  If we locate text that seemingly speaks to health care, what of it?  Non-fundamentalists (and here I stand) reject the idea that religious text is 100% true.  The Torah also says that the world was created in seven days — we’ve dismissed that pretty summarily.  Why shouldn’t we similarly dismiss any text that speaks to health care?  And even Jewish fundamentalists — those who take the text as gospel — are able to dance around seemingly straightforward text such as “stoning a wayward/disobedient son,” a line that has seemingly been overturned by the oral law.   How do we know if the Jewish text on health care is a time when we’re supposed to dance?  And if we dance, which commentator or interpreter determines how we dance (problem 1)?

Inappropriate:  Even if we are able to discern Judaism’s ruling on Obamacare, what does this matter?  The laws of Judaism have no place in the governance of our society — bacon is still widely enjoyed in America.  And the idea of invoking religion to support a political position is an idea that, if transferred to another religion, is distasteful (to say the least) to most of us Jews.  American society would not take well to anyone trying to shape society according to Islamic law.  And we Jews are especially hostile to any seeming blurring between zealous Christianity and civic law.

Since any straightforward application of Jewish text to Obamcare is seemingly pointless, a better approach is perhaps an application of the general Jewish ethos toward health care.  I’ve spent the past few days reading as much as I can on this subject, but, again, I failed to find any sort of straightforward answer.   The Talmud very clearly states that Jews have the responsibility of attending to the sick and the poor in their community, and this mentality has been a hallmark of Jewish communities since Jewish history began (see, e.g., the Dorff article).  But this philosophy does not help us answer the questions:  How do we define the community?  Is the American public of 300+ million Jews and gentiles the same type of community that was envisioned in the Talmud? (Klinghoffer argues that it’s not).  And what about the individual mandate?  The Talmud might be seemingly clear that we’re supposed to help the poor and the sick, but are we supposed to force seemingly healthy people to plan for the future?

Then there’s the thoroughly Jewish notion of self-determination and free will — the Jewish individual is free to make good decisions and bad decisions.  And through this model, the measure of the man’s righteousness is measured.  If his life is controlled by God, and his hands bound (the only Biblical instance of which I know of is when God compels the action of Pharoah in Exodus), then he has no agency and cannot take credit for being good.   Similarly, can man take credit for making a wise personal decision (buying healthcare) or a magnanimous decision (helping others buy healthcare) if he is compelled?

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If it’s hard to discern what Jewish text says about Obamacare, it’s not hard to uncover what the Jewish people think about Obamcare:  They overwhelmingly support it.

In the most recent major poll of Jewish political beliefs, 72% of Jews said they prefer Obama’s healthcare vision to Romney’s; 19% prefer Romney’s; 9% undecided.  (American Jewish Committee — April 30, 2012).  Multiple umbrella Jewish organizations (including, e.g., United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Union for Reform Judaism, and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) have signed letters in support of universal healthcare or Obamacare.

But this is hardly surprising given the liberal bent of American Jews and their oft cited interest in issues of “social justice.”

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To close this little report on Jews, Judaism, and Obamacare, I’ve pasted (below) articles written by two community members on the topic.  If you want still further reading, I suggest the articles I linked above, or else go to this page to get a Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox opinion on whether “Jewish law mandates universal health care?” (Jewish Values Online)

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Affordable Care Act Reflects Jewish Values

Madison Arent is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the social justice and public policy arm of the Reform Movement. This post originally appeared on RACblog.

Jewish tradition has long advocated broad access to health services. Maimonides, the revered medieval Jewish physician and scholar, listed health care first on his list of the 10 most important communal services that a city should offer its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23). Almost all self-governing Jewish communities throughout history set up systems to ensure that all their citizens had access to health care. Doctors were required to reduce their rates for poor patients, and when that was not sufficient, communal subsidies were established (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 249:16; Responsa Ramat Rahel of Rabbi Eliezer Waldernberg, sections 24-25).

Guided by our tradition and these texts, the Reform Jewish Movement has long advocated for more accessible health coverage and passed numerous resolutions on the importance of an affordable and inclusive health care system.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism was a leading voice in the faith community advocating for the passage of the Affordable Care Act; in the two years since it was passed, we have worked to educate our community about the new law and defend it against legislative attacks. In advance of the Supreme Court’s consideration of the law, the Union for Reform Judaism proudly signed on to two briefs: one arguing for the constitutionality of the individual mandate and another arguing in favor of the law’s expansion of Medicaid, which helps more low-income individuals get the health care they deserve and speaks directly to the practice of reducing rates for the poor and providing communal subsidies for health care when necessary. Moreover, the bold efforts of our congregations around the country have demonstrated solidarity around the improvements the Affordable Care Act can make to our health care system.

Access to affordable health care, including preventative and emergency care, is a fundamental human right. A mother should not have to choose between preventative health services and rent payment. A senior should not have to pay for costly prescription drugs and worry about depleting his or her savings. Lack of insurance should not prevent a child from maturing into a healthy adult. The Affordable Care Act helps ensure that 32 million fewer Americans will have to sacrifice their health because of circumstances out of their control. We acknowledge that this expansion of coverage is not universal, but it is a significant improvement over the system we have now, where insurers and money too often dictate the care we receive.

Our tradition teaches us that human life is of infinite value and that the preservation of life supersedes almost all other considerations. We, as Jews, believe that God endowed humanity with the understanding and ability to become partners with God in improving our world. The use of our wisdom to cure illnesses and formulate policies to provide health care has always been a central theme in Jewish thought and history, and the Affordable Care Act is a modern expression of that theme.

When I recall the words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers made very clear that one of the primary purposes of government is to promote the general welfare of its citizens. The Affordable Care Act is a law that does just that, serving the best interests of all by ensuring that no one has to suffer or go bankrupt because of lack of insurance. Not only is promoting the general welfare the responsibility of a government to its people, but it is also a moral imperative grounded in Jewish tradition.

The Reform Movement remains steadfast in its support of the Affordable Care Act and all of its provisions. Regardless of Thursday’s Supreme Court decision, we will continue to advocate for further improvements to our nation’s health care system to transform it into one that reflects the Jewish values that guide our advocacy—preserving life and caring for all people, including the most vulnerable.

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Honest Weights, Honest Measures and Obamacare

Noah Silverman is the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Congressional Affairs Director.  This piece first appeared at the RJC blog.

It surely goes against the grain of the prevailing stereotype, but in the health-care-reform debate, the “Religious Left” — supporters of a government takeover of health care — are far more likely than religious conservatives to cite Scripture in making their case.  This is especially evident in the Jewish sector of American religious life, where most public advocacy is heavily tilted toward the left. (In fact, RJC is the only national Jewish organization standing with the majority of Americans who oppose the Obama health care plan.)

Have a look at this speech featuring a bullet-pointed list of “words of the Jewish tradition on health care,” delivered by Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), and a leading voice of the Jewish Left, at a “progressive faith groups” rally for Obamacare Tuesday on Capitol Hill:

To those who would say that religion has no place in the health care reform debate, that this has become too much a partisan political issue, we insist that this is a quintessentially religious issue. The failure to provide universal health care coverage challenges the simplest and clearest biblical command expressed by Ezekiel, that “Every living thing shall be healed.”

As uncompromising as this prophetic mandate sounds when marshaled to indict our current health-care arrangements, it mellows into something much more accommodating when it comes to assessing congressional Democrat reform proposals.

Every version of the Obama plan congressional Democrats put forth leaves millions of Americans uninsured.  Yet this does not prevent Rabbi Saperstein from enthusiastically urging the Senate to pass it.  In doing so, he and his allies decline the option of holding out for a straightforward (presumably government-run) universal health care program – while maintaining that such a program would be the most direct way to fulfill the alleged biblical mandate to provide universal health care coverage.

This is not necessarily evidence of hypocrisy or even proof that RAC’s official position in favor of mandatory universal government-run health care is insincerely held.  Religious Left advocates who mobilize for the Massachusetts-like mandate-plus-taxes/subsidy scheme that Obamacare has evolved into can rationalize acceptance of a watered-down compromise as morally justified. Prudence and pragmatism are both virtues for anyone pursuing a political venture, at least some of the time.

If only Religious Left folk would be as understanding when someone else’s prudent and pragmatic attempt to apply his faith’s ethical principles to a contemporary dilemma leads him to adopt a different policy preference.

Here’s a Torah principle that seems to me to pose a rather stark challenge to current Democrat health legislation: it’s from the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 19 [a chapter known as the “Holiness Code”], verses 35 and 36: “You shall not falsify measures of length, weight, or capacity. You shall have an honest balance, an honest weight, an honest ephah, and an honest hin.”

Talmudic and modern commentaries on these verses rightly emphasize their application to private-sector business ethics.  But is there anyone prepared to disagree that the imperative for honest measurement surely applies to the business of government as much as to other businesses?

How well do the current Democrat health-care-reform bills affirm the spirit of the commandment to use honest measures?  Not very well.

A persistent temptation to which governments at every level have fallen prey is the tendency to use funds deemed to apply to a different fiscal year’s budget to pay for current expenditures.  But usually such budgetary gimmicks are acknowledged by policymakers to be a necessary evil.

By contrast, Obamacare relies on such gimmickry to game the scorekeeping process.  In other words, the White House and its congressional partners are using gimmicks with the specific aim of rendering the official cost assessments provided to Congress by the Congressional Budget Office dishonest measures.

At a time when public concern about the risks associated with a burgeoning national debt is intense, Obamacare’s backers feel an acute need to be able to claim that their bill does not worsen the problem.  Most famously, President Obama included this line in his September address to Congress: “I will not sign [a health-care bill] if it adds one dime to the deficit now or in the future. Period.”

The Reid bill pays cynical respect to Americans’ fiscal concerns by delaying the onset of benefits while immediately instituting tax hikes.  Because of this fiscal sleight of hand, the CBO’s determination that the bill will not add to the deficit over the ten-year period covered by its cost assessment obscures, rather than clarifies, the bill’s true fiscal impact.

The practical result is a bill that collects revenues in the first four years after enactment — before paying out almost all the benefits in the remaining years.

Wednesday, the Senate debated — and Senate Democrats (Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh excepted) defeated — an amendment to make the effective date for benefits provisions the same as the effective date for taxing provisions.

This tactic of making Americans wait to enjoy the bill’s benefits to get a better CBO score looks particularly indefensible when subjected to the unforgiving terms of the biblical mandate Rabbi Saperstein delineated –  obeying Ezekiel’s “simplest and clearest biblical command” by requiring that every uninsured American get coverage.  Now we’re not just employing dishonest measures to ease passage of a health-reform bill; we’re leaving people uninsured for years for no better reason than to facilitate the dishonesty.

Another gimmick to front-load revenues and deprive the American people of an honest measure of proposed expenditures’ cost is the inclusion of a new entitlement program for long-term care that will collect more in revenues during the years that fall within the parameters of the ten-year CBO score than it expends in benefits — only to become a huge unfunded liability in later years.

And yet another: Cato Institute researcher Michael Cannon demonstrates how the architects of Obamacare learned from the failures of the 1993-4 Hillarycare how to ensure that the costs of universal coverage will not be reflected as federal expenditures in the CBO score.

Can someone please explain how anyone claiming to hew to a tradition that includes Lev. 19: 35-36 could support this bill now that its backers have specifically rejected an amendment to bring it into alignment with the commandment to use honest measures?

 

 

 


My Costa Rican Jewish Adventure!

Abby, a former Jewish Girl of the Week (and author of Secrets of Shiksa Appeal) writes a guest post about the DC-planned Jewish young professionals trip to Costa Rica.

I recently returned from the Costa Rica Caribbean Experience trip.  I hadn’t been out of the country since college, so I thought this would be a fun break before working this summer and an opportunity to work on my Spanglish.  The group was a total of eight people, a mix of DC (Courtney, Jenn, and Faina), NYC (me, Julie, Steph, and Josh), and LA (Isobel).  The group was all female except for our one pimp, Josh.  We immediately decided that our trip would be a real-life Bachelor, and we’d all fight to the death for the final rose.  Pulling a “Brad Womack,” Josh ended up giving the final rose to no one.

San Jose:  Most of us arrived in San Jose on Friday and spent Shabbat with the Reform Jewish community of San Jose. The service that night was led by the sisterhood. The interesting part was that most of the men were American and their wives were Costa Rican women who had converted to Judaism.  On Saturday morning, a few people opted to take a day-trip to the crater of the active Poas volcano. I kinda did the whole volcano thing when I was 15 in Costa Rica, so I decided to walk around San Jose looking for tchochkes for my niece and nephew.

Poas Volcano hike

On Sunday morning we left for a day of white-water rafting on the Pacuare river. We were lucky enough to have a very-attractive river-guide, Berto, who had no faith that a boat of six women and one guy would make it down the rapids without anyone falling out. Our boat was appropriately named “Berto’s Bitches.”  Despite Josh’s large size, Berto demoted Josh from lead paddler to the back of the raft because “he’s a bad listener.”  Ouch!

Pacuare River Rafting

Puerto Viejo:  Our tour next took us to Puerto Viejo, a Rastafarian surfer town on the Caribbean coast (the locals’ ancestors came over from Jamaica in the 19th century to work in the banana plantations).  This portion of the tour was lead by Junior, a chef whose mother supposedly runs the most famous restaurant in Puerto Viejo.  I’m pretty sure Ami and Junior were gay lovers at some point, because every-other word out of Ami’s mouth was “Junior-this” and “Junior-that…”  During our stay, we went to the beach, walked around town, ziplined through the jungle, visited a native village and made chocolate, took a kosher-style Caribbean cooking class, and went on a nature walk to the Gandoca Manzanillo wildlife refuge.  A few dogs began following our group on the nature walk.  Since there were no guys on the trip, I decided the cutest of the dogs, Pinto, would be my new boyfriend. He was very loyal, kept quiet, and followed our group the whole way on the trail.

On the Tortuguerro canal

Tortuguerro: After Puerto Viejo, we loaded our suitcases on a tiny boat to get to Tortaguerro. (Ami told us to pack light, but of course he forgot he was talking to a group of Jewish girls.) To get there, we took a three-hour boat-ride though a crocodile-infested canal and got about as close as 10 feet away.  Unfortunately I was on the shore-side of the boat and cuddled with Courtney so she would keep me safe from the massive crocs.  The next morning, I opted out of the 6am boat ride to the Tortuguero National Park and met up with the group for the nature walk after breakfast. The girls and I soon learned that the neighboring resort offered couples massages for $40 for 1 hr including boat transportation!  So Courtney, Jenn, Julie and I took advantage of this.  Not gonna lie, it was a little unsettling to be naked next to another girl during the couples massage, but anything for a $40 massage!  At night, Willis, a local guide, took us on a night walk along the beach to try and spot the massive sea turtles coming in to lay their eggs. To our surprise, after 5 minutes we came upon a Hawksbill turtle, one of the most endangered of the sea turtles – truly an amazing sight!

Horseback riding in Finca Rio Perla

The Farm (Finca Rio Perla):  The final stop on our trip was a Jewish-owned farm, and these were by far the most rustic of the accommodations.  There were a number of cute dogs on the farm, one who even resembled Pinto. So I decided to replace my boyfriend, Pinto, with another dog, Toby.  On the farm some of us milked cows (Isobel was fearless!), rode on horses, made cheese, made ice cream, swam in some amazing waterfalls, caught our own red-snapper dinner, and watched Superbad.  It was a great 9 days away from the craziness of NYC with a fascinating and outgoing group of people.  Ami always had every aspect of the trip well-organized, and we always felt like we were in good hands.  To see more pictures from our adventure, check out the trip’s fan-page.

Swimming in Fincal Rio Perla

The next Costa Rica Caribbean Experience for Young Jewish Professionals will take place from August 11 – 19, 2012!  

There is a special deal for GTJ fans: Use the code ‘GTJCosta8’ while registering to take $180 off the cost of the trip if you register for the August trip by July 5!

For more info as well as the full itinerary, check out the trip’s website here

For questions contact Ami at ami@costaribbean.com  or at 202-599-0655

About the trip: This trip offers a diverse adventure that combines the Caribbean Highlands of Costa Rica – with its breathtaking tropical beaches.  It begins with a whitewater rafting run down to the Caribbean Lowlands, with their beaches, unique flora and fauna, active nightlife, and indigenous culture – where we will also participate in a day of service benefiting one of the communities; it continues with a visit to Tortuguero National Park, with its majestic jungle canals and the late-night ritual of endangered turtle nesting on its beach; and it ends in the highlands, with their lush mountainous rainforest, waterfalls, freshwater pools and serenity – spending Shabbat while based at a cool Jewish owned eco-farm on the slopes of Volcan Turrialba. You can also add on an optional Shabbat experience with the San Jose Jewish Community before the trip begins.

The Pre-Date Method

Is it love? Try a low-risk coffee first, if you’re not sure.

Erika‘s off this week but worry not. Plenty people want to weigh in on dating for GTJ, including Mr. Sharon, the author of this post.

How many awful first dates have you been on?  Lots?  Have you been on one where your date is more concerned with her smartphone than your company?  How many minutes did you spend in awkward silence on your most recent first date?  Or worse, how much tedious small talk did you have to put up with?  Do you really care to learn the names of all of her cousins followed by the names of all of her dogs?

Whatever the problem may be, I have a simple solution:  Don’t go on first dates.

Rather, don’t go on one immediately. Go on a pre-date first. A pre-date is an informal affair that loosely alleges a purpose for the meeting other than the formal date.

Some of the best pre-dates are those across industry and interests: “You work in consulting?  So do I!  Would you want to grab lunch some time to talk about the field’s best practices?”  But it doesn’t have to be so concrete.  I’ve heard of people who have blurred the date line through incredibly simple means: “You work in Georgetown? I work in Georgetown. Let’s have coffee next week.”

Pick some innocuous time and activity, sit down with your interest, and take a test drive.  Don’t go right into date mode – remember, you’re there for an alleged other purpose! – but have casual talk without all the pressure of a date.  Then, see if you’re interested, and, at the end, start testing the date waters.    The connection should be an informal affair that straddles the line between friendly and flirtatious.

If your pre-date goes well, ask your interest out on a proper first date just before you part. This method has the following advantages:

  • The pressure is off! Your pre-date conversations form the basis of your first “real date” conversations.  By having the pre-date under your belt, you can better plan and prepare for the real thing.
  • By asking her out after the pre-date, it shows that you’re not just interested in your date’s appearance or a free meal – you’re interested in her personality.
  • If you and your pre-date don’t hit it off, then cut loose!  This way, you didn’t have to spend a tedious evening trying to force chemistry; you didn’t have to pay for two; and you don’t have an awkward “I think we’re better suited as friends” conversation.  Get on with your (pre-)dating life.

The pre-date is the best way around that awkward first date.  So get out there, and start looking for those connections that can lead to a nice pre-date lunch.

Ben vs. Max — yogurt eating contest.

Ben def. Max — 2012 Sixth & I Pickle Eating Contest

Ladies and gentlemen…  You’re in for a treat!

The two eating titans of the DC Jewish world are going head to head at this Saturday’s Mr. Yogato Fourth Birthday Party and Yogurt Eating Contest.

The last time Ben and Max faced each other, Ben emerged as the champion of the Fifth Annual Sixth & I Pickle Contest.

But Max had claimed victory the year before that.

Now, to settle the score, or to throw it into greater confusion, Ben and Max are taking the battle to yogurt.

Come one, come all, and witness the true eating power of these two.  Saturday, 3:00 pm.  Mr. Yogato (17 + P, NW)

Max — 2011 Sixth & I Pickle Eating Champion

Or, if you think you have what it takes to compete with the top Jewish eaters, email steve@mryogato.com to enter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anti-Semitic Elmo? — News of the Week (Jewish Style) — 6/27

Not a very happy Jewish news week — Muslim Brotherhood, sex scandals, gun laws causing the Holocaust…   But I have to report it as I read it!

From Jewcy

Thanks, as always, to our partners on this project, Moment Magazine.

“Joe the Plumber” — From The Washington Post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VENUE CHANGE – Lone Soldiers Event Tonight!

The Bonds of Bravery: Israeli Wine Tasting to Toast Lone Soldiers is taking place TONIGHT! However, due to unforeseen circumstances, it will no longer take place at the Embassy of Israel.

Keynote Speakers include Counselor Galit Baram and former Lone Soldier (and GTJ’s most recent Jewish Guy of the Year) Lazar Berman.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 27, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

WHERE: Now in the Consulate Ballroom of the Embassy Row Hotel, 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Advanced registration has been extended until doors open, so click here to register.  For more information about this event or about the Lone Soldier project, read GTJ’s articles on the topic (here and here) or contact ricki@israelforever.org.

Girl of the Week – Shoshana

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Shoshana: A spaceship.  I would have said an aeroplane (that’s the correct spelling, by the way), but spaceship is actually, almost, true.  I got a job at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, working on a NASA mission called MESSENGER, which is the first satellite to go into orbit around Mercury — it’s been there since March last year and is still going strong.

Aaron: We heard you love rocks. Tell us more.
Shoshana: Yeah!  Geology rocks!  Rocks are pretty amazing, sometimes even pretty.  You can use them as book ends, paper weights, weapons, romantic aids when trying to wake your beau/belle by gently tapping at their window… but seriously, us geologists can learn all kinds of things about both Earth and the solar system by studying them.  As a planetary geologist (meaning I study the geology of planets other than Earth, namely Mercury and the Moon) I don’t get to play with the rocks themselves so often, but I do get to be one of the first people to work with the data from some cool space missions.  So that makes me a rock star and a space geek. (Attached is a picture of my freakishly small hand holding a particularly large bit of Moon rock; small hands make it look even bigger.)

Aaron: What is it like being Jewish in America?
Shoshana: To be honest, I don’t think it’s much different from being Jewish anywhere else.  Jewish life is always centred (again, correct spelling) around family and the community. It just so happens that there are quite a few of both in America.  I will say, however, that being part of a Jewish community makes a move across the Atlantic, to a country where I have no family, and to a city where I knew no-one at the beginning of 2011, much easier and less lonely.

Aaron: Do you have an accent?
Shoshana: Well, I don’t think so.  However, one of the most common questions I get here is “where are you from?,” so perhaps I do.  I’m often mistaken for an Australian, but I am, in fact, a very proud Londoner.  Between last week’s Jewish Girl of the Week and me, the Brits seem to be taking over, which is kind of apt seeing as though the 4th of July is coming up…

Aaron: What does the American accent sound like?
Shoshana: Which American accent would that be?  Well, I suppose they’re all full of funny ‘r’s and ‘t’s pronounced as ‘d’s, as well as the short ‘a’s instead of long ones.  You all sound like movie stars to me!

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew in DC?
Shoshana: I refrain from answering this one; it’s not nice to have favourites.  However, in an emergency, I would definitely pick someone who has a good selection of hats.

Aaron: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Shoshana: A country singer.  Or a baker.  Or maybe a country-singing baker.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Shoshana: When I’m not being paid to travel the world, you’ll find me somewhere in NW DC: Chabad/ Kesher/ Sixth & I/ DC Minyan/ having a Friday night meal somewhere with friends.

Guy of the Week – Matt

Aaron: What brought you to to DC? 
Matt: I grew up in the DC Metro area for most of my life, but from 2004-2011 I was living in NYC.  What ultimately brought me home was wanting to be closer to most of family and close friends.  I always knew I would move back to the area, but I needed a few things, including my job, to line up at the right time.

Aaron: What is the coolest thing that you have done in DC thus far?
Matt: I got involved with the group 2239 with Washington Hebrew Congregation and they planned a service trip where we helped rebuild a family home in Birmingham, Alabama, after it was destroyed in a tornado.  It was great to be able to give something back as well as make a ton of new friends in the area.

Aaron: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? 
Matt: At this point in my life, I would say the DC Metro area, but for the purposes of playing this game I would say London, Chicago, or Buenos Aires.  I just got back from Buenos Aires so that city moved onto my list in the last day or so.

Aaron: Who is the coolest Israeli you know?  
Matt: Lirone Segal. She is a personal trainer down in Richmond.  She is an extremely optimistic person and is always looking to bring the best out of people to improve their lives.

Aaron: Finish this sentence: DC Jewish life is like …..
Matt: a box of chocolates??..kidding… So far my experience is that it is a huge community of people who come together to enrich their lives socially and culturally.  I didn’t grow up around this community so much, but ever since I got back to the area, I’ve never met so many people doing such positive things.  We all have different methods to how we go about this, but the overall goal seems to be very similar.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Matt: The kid in me would say Hanukkah because who didn’t love getting presents eight days in a row, but I would have to say Passover.  This is the one holiday that seems to bring the most family into town and it’s also a great time to reflect on all the blessings we have in our daily lives.

DC Rabbi Takes On Israeli Police

DC Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, leader of the Orthodox Ohev Shalom congregation, came out swinging against Israeli police today. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

In an article for Huffington Post, Herzfeld excoriated security forces for arresting women who had come to the Western Wall to pray… for the crime of wearing a tallit.  According to Rabbi Herzfeld:

“…women were denied the right by the Israeli government to practice Jewish law in a manner that is permitted by many great traditional rabbinic authorities. In essence, the Jewish State denied them their right to practice Judaism […] The decision of the Israeli police to arrest a woman for the crime of wearing a tallit is a colossal disgrace.”

For the full text of the article, click here.

This is not the first time that Herzfeld has articulated his views on the issue of women praying at the Western Wall. Two years ago, he clashed with the Israeli Embassy in Washington, following his protest of another woman’s arrest under similar circumstances.