Moishe House featured in The Economist

Like Moishe House?  Like British accents?  Like The Economist?  If you answered “YES” to at least two of the three of these, then you should check out this video report on Moishe House from The Economist.

The brief video explains how Moishe House has grown rapidly since its genesis in Oakland, California in 2006.  Moishe House brings together Jews of different religious stripes, challenging denominational notions and simply encouraging young adults to connect with Judaism in whatever manner feels comfortable to them.

Although the Washington, DC area is home to two Moishe Houses (Adams Morgan and Montgomery County), the British-based Economist perhaps understandably ignored the awesomness of the houses run by our peers and intead focused on the Moishe House in London.

This video is part of a larger series that The Economist is for some reason running on Judaism and Jews.  Here are some of the articles/reports they’ve recently run:

Be sure to look for Moishe House (DC and MoCo) events on our new calendar!



GTJ Former Featured Entertainer Keeps Wowing Audiences

As readers know, we at GTJ like to keep up with our former Jewish People of the Week. Last year, we interviewed Adam Ruben, a multi-talented area resident who, in addition to being a practicing molecular biologist, is a successful stand-up comedian and comic author.

GTJ president Stephen Richer and GTJ blog editor Noa Levanon enjoyed watching him last year in his Capital Fringe Festival one-man show, Please Don’t Beat Me Up. (Ruben will be performing this material later this year on Sunday, November 4 at the United Solo Festival — Theatre ROW / Stage Door, 407 W. 41st St., New York, NY.)

Ruben didn’t disappoint at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival, which took place last week. The comedian-and-molecular-biologist put on six packed shows of Dr. Science’s Science Time Science-va-ganza!  For reviews of this awesome show, which many attendees said was their favorite show of the festival, click here and here. Ruben will also be performing this show at the Wilmington Fringe Festival in Delaware (times and dates TBD).

Check out his hilarious book, Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision To Go To Grad School and/or click here for recent videos of his stand-up.

From Bad to Worse, 2nd Edition — GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 46)

Get excited… today I’m sharing the second edition of the “From Bad to Worse” series, showing actual photos, profiles, or e-mails from various online dating sites that are too good (as in, too awful) not to show.

In online dating, making a good first impression is the key.  For this reason, it’s important to always put your best foot forward, especially when it comes to your photos.

As a reminder, below are the five rules of thumb for your online dating photos:

  1. Less is more: 3-5 good pictures are better than 10 mediocre pictures.
  2. Have at least one clear “face” photo: Since you first come up just as a thumbnail, you want to make sure that you give someone a reason to click.
  3. Be by yourself in the shot: No need to allow someone to compare you to someone else in your own profile.
  4. Have one photo where you’re doing something interesting: Give someone an excuse to e-mail you… to ask what you’re doing in that picture.
  5. Be accurate: You won’t win someone over by lying about your looks.

Even if you don’t follow the rules above, some photos should never make it onto your online dating profile.  All of the photos below miss the mark.

I get being afraid to reveal too much online, but come on!

Has anyone heard of cropping?

Is it true?  Yet another fanny pack!

Seriously?  She’s showing a picture of herself from her first wedding!  So wrong!

This was the only picture he had.

If you’d like to contribute any photos/profiles you find or e-mails you (or friends) receive to “From Bad to Worse,” please e-mail

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

Upcoming Deadline for Jeremiah Fellowship

The following is a guest post by Rachel Cohen, a 2011-12 Jeremiah Fellow for Jews United For Justice.

Last fall, I was sitting in Ben’s Chili Bowl with a group of friends and colleagues when a prominent DC historian posed the question: “Gentrification, good or bad?” As I sat there thoughtfully composing a list of pros & cons in my head, several of my friends soundly rejected the premise of the question itself. It’s not that simple. You can’t ask us to make that sort of decision. Who are we to say?

This scene took place during the Jeremiah Fellowship, a leadership program run by local community organization Jews United for Justice. The Jeremiah Fellowship challenged me this way for nine months, and continues to do so. It has also given me the skills and knowledge to build my organizer and activist toolbox.

During our semi-monthly evening meetings, we had the chance to learn with seasoned activists and advocates from the immigration, labor and affordable housing movements. We brought each other up to speed on the most pressing social and economic justice issues facing our DC community, from the drastic drop in affordable housing over the last decade to attempted enforcement of the so-called “Secure Communities” immigration program.

But we didn’t just study current issues. We delved into Jewish texts that relate to these issues and we explored how to take action to make a difference. We learned, for example, about “cutting an issue,” a community organizing term for defining the goal of a campaign strategically to maximize your group’s power in the long term. We also analyzed campaigns from concept to execution by mapping the powerful people and players working on an issue. We practiced the vital skill of fundraising and strategized to build a network of active supporters.

However, perhaps more important than the hands-on skills training, Jeremiah introduced me to a network of activists and advocates who connect me to local issues and politics in DC. My fellow Fellows and our guest speakers are an invaluable resource – and source of inspiration – for my work moving forward, as I participate in grassroots campaigns and events to make our city and region a better place. I am already working with one of these groups, a local volunteer-run grantmaking fund called the Diverse City Fund, which nurtures and supports community leaders and grassroots projects that are transforming DC into a more just, vibrant place to live.

For me, it was important that the Fellowship addressed the challenges of a life-long commitment to activism and organizing, which is a potentially exhausting line of work, whether you get paid for it or not. Many of our speakers and facilitators spoke about how to sustain a life of activism, avoiding burn-out by balancing professional and volunteer work with family and social life, and building a strong network of support. These lessons will stick with me as I consider graduate school, delve more deeply into activist work outside of my “day job,” and think seriously about how I prioritize the activities and the relationships in my own life.

That moment at Ben’s Chili Bowl set the tone for our year – we saw time and again that the big questions about our city and society have no easy answers. My Fellowship experience was, and still is, full of challenges. That constant questioning is, of course, part of what makes Jeremiah a Jewish experience. In the asking, we begin to build community, and that community leads eventually to positive change.

“Seek the well-being of the city in which you dwell,” says the prophet Jeremiah, the Fellowship’s namesake, “for in its peace, you shall find peace.” That well-being will not be easy to achieve, but now I know better how to seek it. Now that our year with the program  has ended, I am carrying forward the need to continue challenging myself, my peers and my city, striving not for absolute answers but for the right questions, the difficult conversations, and for the moments when we do find ways – big and small – to make our city and our world just a little bit better.

The Jeremiah Fellowship is a nine-month program for young Jews in the greater DC area. Fellows come together twice monthly to learn different models of community organizing, to meet with Jewish and activist leaders, and to study Jewish texts and traditions. Participants leave the Fellowship with leadership experience, concrete skills, a deepened connection to our city and region, and a valuable network of peers and mentors. For more information email Monica Kamen at or see the application and qualifications at Applications are due August 5th.

Giving Time – 60 Seconds, One Day, and Many Years of Terror

While watching the Olympics in the upcoming days, read this piece by community member Jason Langsner on the IOC’s decision not to honor the massacred Israeli athletes and on recent and upcoming ADL efforts to combat anti-Semitism and terror worldwide.

A couple of weeks ago, I started my day by joining nearly 100,000 other individuals in signing the petition that asked for one minute of silence in the ’12 London Olympics to honor the victims of the ’72 Munich Olympics.  11 athletes and officials were slain by Black September for being Israeli and Jewish forty years ago.  The minute is an appeal by Ankie Spitzer, widow of one of the athletes, to honor the fallen.

I spent my afternoon following news reports about the Bulgarian terrorist bombing that took the lives of at least five Israelis and wounded 30 more. This act was perpetrated on the 18th anniversary of the attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association Jewish Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds.

I concluded my day by joining 100+ like minded young professionals that want to end this violence.  They want to end the terror.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), now entering its 100th year, is the largest non-governmental body that partners with law enforcement to combat terror, anti-semitism, and all forms of hate.  They help train every new FBI agent and hosted the off-the-record evening program on July 18th to educate the DC, Maryland, and Virginia young professional community.

The ADL encouraged attendees to be vigilant in this era of Terror 2.0.  We all have a role to play to combat extremism and the expert speakers shared real world examples of how social media and the web are being used for hate.  They discussed the changing culture of law enforcement and the tactics that they take to combat the threat.  You can learn more about fighting all forms of terror — domestic and international — at the FBI webpage dedicated to partnerships and outreach and the ADL website’s terrorism landing page.

For young professionals interested in giving more than 60 seconds or attending a two-hour event, the ADL’s Glass Leadership Institute is now accepting applications for their 10 month fellowship program.  Apply by August 10th for consideration or attend an information session meet-and-greet with Glass Alumni on August 1st at Tabaq Bistro.

On this fateful day in history…

The one, the only, the WOLFF… … Photo courtesy of … Aaron Wolff’s camera.

On this fateful day in history…

No.  We’re not talking about Tisha B’Av.

We’re talking about one of DC Jewry’s finest who turned 28 today.

Some of you know him as “the man with the hat.”  Some of you know him as “The WOLFF.”  And some of you know him as the far most handsome of the Gather the Jews cofounders (true).  A quaint few know him as Aaron.

But even if you don’t know him that well, know that Aaron works tirelessly to make the Jewish community of Washington, DC a better place.  Seriously.  Aaron has a very full time job, but in addition to this, he puts in loads of hours into to the GTJ project for zero financial gain.

To thank him for his hundreds of hours of community service, I suggested that we all pitch in and buy him his finest fedora yet.

But he told him he would prefer thanks be given to him through Gather the Jews.  So if you want to show Aaron a little bit of love, either:




Your Guide to Tisha B’Av 2012

With more than 5,000 years of history under our belt, we the Jewish people have collected quite a few holidays and days of significance.

This Saturday nightfall marks the beginning of Tisha B’Av — a 25 hour fast period that commemorates the destruction of the first (586 BCE) and second (70 CE) temples.  The fast begins at 8:23 p.m. on Saturday and ends at 8:55 p.m on Sunday.

For more on the origin of the day, I refer you to the eminently useful and intelligible Wikipedia (Tisha B’Av page), to Harpaul’s essay below on Tisha B’Av, and for more information on the observance of the day, I’ve pasted at the bottom of this post a handy list created by Rabbi Freundel of the Kesher Israel Synagogue— Stephen

Update 7/27/2012: Rabbi Joshua Maroof of Magen David writes about Tisha B’Av.


Harpaul Kohli is a local economist, musician, and frequent attendant of Kesher Israel and TheSHUL.

Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) is one of the two big fast days in the Jewish calendar, along with Yom Kippur. But whereas Yom Kippur can be seen as a happy fast, as it represents forgiveness, purity, renewal, and new beginnings, Tisha B’Av is a sad fast, focused on mourning.

Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples. The Second Temple was destroyed (more specifically, set on fire) on Tisha B’Av itself in the year 70 CE. And 655 years earlier (though there are disagreements over whether the calendar omitted years), the First Temple was destroyed on Tisha B’Av.

But the tragedies extend beyond that. Each of the following happened on Tisha B’Av:

  • The Romans defeated the Jewish Bar Kochba rebellion, and Bar Kochba died in 135 CE (100,000 Jews also died around then).
  • King Edward I signed the edict expelling all Jews from England in 1290.
  • The Alhambra Decree expeled all Jews from Spain (Jews had to leave Spanish territories by July 31, 1492).
  • World War I began (Germany declared war on Russia in 1914).
  • Himmler presented the “Final Solution” plan to the Nazi Party in 1940.
  • The Nazis began deporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.

In short, over more than two millennia, Tisha B’Av has been the date for the two biggest tragedies in Jewish history (the two Temples’ destruction) and many of the other great tragedies. It is for these reasons that it has been set aside as the calendar’s day of mourning above all others.

Tisha B’Av’s status has led to debates over the centuries on how to commemorate other tragedies. Namely, there is a strongly held view that the mourning for all great tragedies should be incorporated into Tisha B’Av.

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), for example, was opposed by many; they said that as Tisha B’Av is the great day of mourning, mourning for the Holocaust should be subsumed under Tisha B’Av.

The aftermath of the Crusades led to a similar debate. Before the Crusades, Jewish life in Franco-Germany was comparatively good. Most Christians were illiterate serfs living difficult lives under the command of their lords. In contrast, Jews were traders and men of commerce; nearly all Jewish men enjoyed basic literacy. But in the Crusades, the Christian soldiers destroyed Jewish cities and killed many Jews. This conflict was seen as a war of religions; many Christians and Jews at the time saw the conflict as one representing whose God who correct, and the Jews were constantly losing, with their lives shattered by the attacks.

The debate following each Crusade was whether to commemorate these sufferings only through Tisha B’Av or to designate Crusade-specific days of commemoration. Over time, the former view mostly won out.

The manner in which the agony of the post-Crusades Jewish community was incorporated into Tisha B’Av is incisively captured by a passage from a Kinnah. Kinnot are the liturgical poems that are read as part of Tisha B’Av services after the reading of the Book of Jeremiah on Tisha B’Av eve and after the Haftarah reading in the morning, and many kinnot said to this day were added to memorialize the Crusades. One kinnah, written by Rabbi Meir of Rotenberg, contains the following passage:

And I will shed tears until they flow like a river that reaches to the
gravesites of your two most noble princes.
They are Moses and Aaron [who were] on Mount Hor.
And I will ask them if there is perhaps a new Torah,
therefore your scrolls have been burnt!

You can see the echo of the “whose God is correct?” debate, expressing “doubts” by the greatest rabbi of his time. This also shows how profound was the suffering of Jews after the Crusades. But despite this, nowadays, we do not have any tangible mourning for the Crusades except as related to Tisha B’Av. (There is the idea that Jewish suffering during the Crusades was especially bad during Sefirah, the period between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot, but except for one prayer nothing concrete is done during that time on account of the Crusades.)

The subsuming of mourning for the Crusades into Tisha B’Av is not limited to the day itself. There is a fast three weeks before (one of the four minor fasts of the year), which commemorates the Romans breaching the walls of Jerusalem, and the period of time between these two fasts is known as the “Three Weeks” in English and Bain Hamitsarim (“Between the Straights”) in Hebrew. It is a lead-up to Tisha B’Av, with mourning increasing as the time period progresses.

The European Jewish community added commemorations for the calamities of the Crusades by adding new restrictions and mourning practices into this three-week period. Originally, and as still practiced by most Sephardim, almost all restrictions and mourning practices are restricted to the week of Tisha B’Av (eg, not cutting hair, shaving, wearing freshly laundered clothes, not bathing for pleasure) or to the nine days before Tisha B’Av (not eating meat or drinking wine). But to commemorate the Crusades, because they ended up not commemorating them elsewhere in the calendar, the European Jews extended most of the week-of-Tisha B’av restrictions (which originally lasted only 1 to 6 days, and still do for Sephardim, who never experienced the Crusades’ persecutions) to last the entire three weeks, and also added further restrictions.

So this reinforces the status of Tisha B’Av as the fundamental day of mourning of the calendar, so central that mourning for even the worst other periods of Jewish history were subsumed into it. This year, as we observe Tisha B’Av we can reflect on how our mourning ties us together with that of persecuted Jews through the millennia, and afterwards Tisha B’Av, with our shared mourning complete, we can be further grateful for the much better fortunate lives we lead in twenty-first century America.


From Rabbi Freundel of the Kesher Israel Synagogue.

Laws of Tisha B’Av for 2012

Below are some laws of Tisha B’Av for this year. Note: The following laws are based on Ashkenazi tradition.


  • No eating or drinking from Saturday evening until nightfall the following evening.
  • Pregnant and nursing women are also required to fast. If one suspects it could be harmful to the baby or mother, a rabbi should be consulted.
  • A woman within 30 days after birth need not fast.
  • Others who are old, weak, or ill should consult with a rabbi. (MB 554:11)

Bathing and Washing:

  • Any bathing or washing, except for removing specific dirt — e.g. gook in the eyes is prohibited.
  • Upon rising in the morning, before prayers, or after using the bathroom, one washes only the fingers.
  • Anointing oneself for pleasure is prohibited. (Deodorant is permitted.)

Other Prohibitions:

  • Having marital relations is prohibited.
  • Wearing leather shoes is prohibited. (Leather belts may be worn).
  • Learning Torah is prohibited, since this is a joyful activity. It is permitted to learn texts relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning — e.g. the Book of Lamentations, Book of Job, parts of Tractate Moed Katan, Gittin 56-58, Sanhedrin 104, Yerushalmi end of Ta’anis, and the Laws of Mourning. In-depth study should be avoided.

Other mourning practices include:

  • Sitting no higher than a foot off the ground. After midday, one may sit on a chair.
  • Not engaging in business or other distracting labors, unless refraining will result in a substantial loss.
  • Refraining from greeting others or offering gifts.
  • Avoiding idle chatter or leisure activities.
  • Following Tisha B’Av, all normal activities may be resumed.

Prayer on Tisha B’Av:

  • Lights in the synagogue are dimmed, candles are lit, and the curtain is removed from the Ark. The cantor leads the prayers in a low, mournful voice.
  • The Book of Eicha (Lamentations), Jeremiah’s poetic lament over the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple, is read at night.
  • Following both the night and day service, special “Kinot” (elegies) are recited.
  • Since Tallis and Tefillin represent glory and decoration, they are not worn at Shacharit. Rather, they are worn at Mincha, as certain mourning restrictions are lifted.
  • Birkat Kohanim is said only at Mincha, not at Shacharit.
  • Prayers for comforting Zion and “Aneinu” are inserted into the Amidah prayer at Mincha.
  • Shortly after the fast is broken, it is customary to say Kiddush Lavana.

When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat:

When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, as it does this year, the following applies:


  • The fast is postponed until Sunday.
  • There is no special Seuda Hamafseket before the fast.


  • Tzidkas’cha is not said at Mincha.
  • Pirkei Avot is not said at Mincha.

Kiddush, Shabbat Meals, Seuda Shlishit:

  • Regarding a shul Kiddush, if the kiddush can be held on a different Shabbat, it is preferable to defer it. If the Kiddush cannot be held on a different Shabbat — e.g. for an aufruff (groom prior to his wedding), it is permitted.
  • One may eat meat and drink wine at all the Shabbat meals. One may invite guests to the Shabbat meals.
  • However, one should not invite guests for Seuda Shlishit unless he does so regularly.
  • One may sing zemirot at the Shabbat meals.
  • A communal Seuda Shlishit is not held in shul.
  • One must stop eating and drinking before sunset, since the fast begins at  this time. People should be reminded about this, as it is unlike a regular Shabbat.
  • One May say Grace After Meals after sunset.

Marital Relations:

  • Marital relations are forbidden on Friday night unless Friday night is Mikvah night and women do immerse on that night.

Havdalah / After Shabbat:

  • Havdalah is postponed until Sunday night.
  • All the prohibitions except wearing shoes and sitting on a chair commence at sunset. These two activities are permitted until nightfall.
  • Non-leather shoes should be brought to Shul Friday before Shabbat. One  may not prepare on Shabbat for after Shabbat so soft shoes should not  be brought to shul on Shabbat. It is also forbidden to change one’s  shoes before going to shul, since this is disgracing the Shabbat.
  • At Ma’ariv Saturday night all should say “baruch hamavdil bein kodesh lechol,” the Chazzan removes his shoes, and then say “barchu.” The congregation should respond to “barchu” and then remove their shoes. Care must be taken not to touch one’s shoes when removing them. The Shabbat clothes are not removed until one returns home after Ma’ariv.
  • It is forbidden to smell spices Saturday night, since a person must refrain from such a pleasure on Tisha B’Av.
  • A blessing is recited over a Havdalah candle before the reading of Lamentations.
  • It is forbidden to eat or drink anything before Havdalah after the fast.
  • Only the two blessings “borei p’ri hagafen” and “hamavdil” are recited. The introductory verses are omitted, as are the blessings over the spices and candle.





290 gather for Jewnity … Pictures!

Shooting hoops at Jewnity

On Sunday at 5:00 PM, approximately 290 local Jews gathered together at the North Hall of Eastern Market to sample beer, wine, cheese, and 16 different Jewish organizations.  Pictures, courtesy of GTJ’s Aaron Wolff, can be found on Facebook.


Joe Brophy is an Avodah participant in Washington, DC. 

You could feel Jewnity pulsing before you even heard the music.

This past Sunday afternoon, Eastern Market’s main hall was briefly transformed into a bustling shuk for Jewish organizations, a bazaar where those interested in Jewish connections could discover more about a diverse spread of Jewish organizations.  It was all there — from volunteering with the elderly to Israel activism, West Virginia service retreats to JCC young adult events. The second annual event brought Jews from all sides of the spectrum together with organizations looking to serve them, and made connections that will extend well beyond additional e-mail addresses on a listserv.

More pictures can be seen at:!/media/set/?set=a.10151311629348709.559489.353081553708&type=1

“It’s been a success!” exclaimed Sarah A. of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, one of the event’s organizers, who continued by stating that the event definitely “met our goal in terms of attendance!” She explained that the new venue’s larger space allowed Jewnity to provide a diversity and depth in Jewish community that many had not previously experienced. Attendees were met with ten drink and food tickets, a raffle ticket, and a tote bag to use as they sampled beer, wine, and cheeses, and munched on free bags of PopChips.

The 16 amazing Jewish organizations, schmoozing, drinks and snacks, and GTJ’s Stephen Richer’s legendary dance moves (editor’s note: “legendary” can be a pejorative) were all definite highlights for many attendees. Though for one person in particular that I spoke with, Jewnity was a perfect next step in discovering the DC Jewish scene:

Steven G. is a civil engineer and moved just three days ago to the DC area from southern Virginia. After going on Birthright last year, he knew that he wanted to further explore the Jewish community — and what better place than in an active community like DC? Jewnity made it “a lot easier to get connected” and made him want to “get more involved.”

More pictures can be seen at:!/media/set/?set=a.10151311629348709.559489.353081553708&type=1

And Steven was definitely not the only one that felt that Jewnity provided him with the tools to become more engaged. The relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere helped young Jewish adults new to the area (as well as those that have been around a while) find a common ground with whichever Jewish organization spoke to their passions.

Overall, the second annual Jewnity was a great success. The crowded and energetic room allowed people to ”mingle and get to know each other,” explained David G. (Sixth and I), another one of the organizers. Another David once wrote something similar – “Hineh mah tov u’mah nayim” – “How good and beautiful it is, when brothers dwell together.” I don’t think that anyone in the room would have disagreed.

The 16 sponsoring organizations:

  1. AJC Washington/ACCESS DC
  2. B’nai B’rith International
  3. DCJCC – EntryPointDC
  4. Embassy of Israel
  6. Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  7. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington 
  8. Jewish Foundation for Group Homes
  9. The Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA)
  10. Jews United for Justice
  11. J Street DC Metro
  12. NOVA Tribe Series
  13. Sixth & I
  14. Washington Hebrew’s 2239
  15. YACHAD
  16. Young Professionals @ Adas Israel




Guy of the Week – Jordon

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
A bus ticket from New Jersey that cost me $1. Literally.  The ads don’t lie! Currently, I am working as a Research Assistant at a small non-profit called the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.  We are all ecstatic to watch the first-ever Saudi women compete in the London 2012 Olympics over the coming weeks.

Aaron: How does the DC biking fare to that of New York?
In New York, the bike lanes are essential, but cars still tend to neglect your existence.  Thus far, I’ve only had one minor duel with a DC taxi driver.  I was riding along a one-way street and this guy drove up awfully close to me, causing me to lose my balance and fall into the window of a parked car on my right.  I ended up bouncing off the window, while losing a decent amount of skin near my right elbow.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Jordon: I am very new in this community so my approach has been to seek out a different Jewish crowd every week.  I have yet to pin myself down to any specific scene and I try my hardest not to do repeats, so if anybody has any ideas that fall outside the following list please let me know: 6th and I, Metro Minyan, Chabad GW, Swann House, some bearded dude named Jeff’s basement…

Aaron: What happens when Jews Gather?
Phish shows.

Aaron: So you’re a Phish Phan.  Which scene in DC are you fanatical about?
Definitely U Street on a Saturday night: the dancing at El Centro, the bass amps at Patty Boom Boom, and the hipster crowd at the U Street Music Hall. And Wild Nothing has been the soundtrack to my summer.  I have actually had their song “Live in Dreams” on loop for weeks.

Aaron: What are your favorite DC Jewish activities?
Jordon: The free ones (I’m on a student budget).  Recently, I participated in a thought-provoking, discussion-based class entitled “Jewish Philosophy After the Holocaust” at the JCC.  In the latter class of the two-part series, we focused on issues of memory in its role of “recreating” the Holocaust.  We explored whether the mass-producing of Holocaust memories (think “Schindler’s List,” the Holocaust Museum) trivializes, or cheapens the Holocaust.  As with many things in life, we are faced with the perpetual challenge between sustaining the original quality of something, and disseminating it to as many people as possible.  Yes, we should opt for both, but one is eventually going to have to budge.  In this case, I believe that the imperative to educate as many people as possible outweighs the secondary concern of trivialization.  I also love walking to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on Shabbat afternoons, and driving up to Rockville on Wednesday nights only to discover that the sushi chef is sick (hopefully not from his own sushi).

Aaron: Who was the first DC Jew that you met and what did they tell you?
Recent Jewish Girl of the Week Shoshana Weider.  I was at Chabad DuPont for my first Shabbat, and Shoshanna told me “I looked lonely” and then proceeded to gather me in.

Aaron: What makes your Jewish mother proud?
Jordon: My mother is very proud that I’ve made a great group/groups of friends down here in such a short amount of time.  I have also picked up a great degree of her culinary expertise.

Aaron: So your mother is a gourmet chef. How come you are in such great shape?
See answers to questions #2 and #3.

Aaron: Any chance of you following in her footsteps, career wise?
Jordon: Maybe.  I love to cook, but, ever since I was a little boy, I have had this dream to become Executive Director for Gather the Jews.  I could see myself pursuing both careers at some point in the near future.

Mitzvah Maker – Malka

Malka Phillips has been the Young Professional Coordinator at The Shul (Chabad) for the last two years.

Join Malka at TheSHUL’s Young Professional dinner for her last Shabbat in DC

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Actually, it was the M Street bridge over Rock Creek Park. When I was teaching in Austin in 2009, I received an award from the Grinspoon-Steinhardt foundation, and as a result I was invited to participate in that year’s GA… which happened to be in DC. At the time I was looking to move further east to be closer to my family, and during the taxi ride from the airport to my hotel, I became completely enamored with the fall colors and beautiful stone bridges in Rock Creek Park. So I decided to move to DC. True story.

Aaron: What is your favorite thing to do in DC?
That’s actually a hard question to answer, because I’m forever stumbling across cool things and saying to myself/friends/random passers-by, “This is awesome/gorgeous/fascinating! I’m totally going to come back here a dozen/hundred/thousand times and spend hours/days/the rest of my life exploring/sitting/doing tai chi here!” And then I never go back. Oops.

But my favorite place in DC is the World War II memorial at night. Absolutely mesmerizing.

Nope, not my cousins - my siblings!Aaron: We heard you keep Shabbat and kosher…why?
[Laughing] I keep a bit more than that!

Seriously speaking, though, when people ask me if I was raised religious or chose to be religious, I always answer, “both”. My upbringing and therefore de facto lifestyle was Chabad, but when I was nineteen I sat down and very seriously thought about what type of life I wanted to lead, and how much, if any, religious observance it would include. Have you ever seen those toy balls that have a string attached to a wrist band? You throw them as far as you can, and they always bounce right back to you. Well, I envisioned dozens of different paths that my life could take, but every single one eventually led back to a Torah lifestyle. I realized then that my Judaism is the most integral and precious part of my life, and moving away from it would be trying to run from myself. I also realized then that Judaism and my relationship with G-d imbues my life with an irreplaceable purpose and meaning that I’d be a fool to throw away. So yes, I’ve always been religious – but I also chose to be so.

Aaron: What is the best part about being Jewish?
Everything has meaning. Judaism teaches that nothing is random, nothing “just is”. If the world came to be through a bang, then maybe it’s all one cosmic accident. But if G-d created the world, there’s a significance to every leaf on the tree and a purpose for every ant on the sidewalk. And then there’s our part in it – the words we choose to say, the food we choose to eat, the places we choose to go, the lives we choose to live – we’re given the ability to literally change the world by imbuing it with goodness and holiness.

Aaron: What was your favorite DC Shabbat?
Sophie’s Choice?!

Aaron: What is your favorite quote?
“I don’t say we all ought to misbehave. But we ought to look as if we could.” – Oscar Wilde

I get a kick out of shattering people’s preconceptions of what my Chassidic life is like – the inevitable “Wait, you do that?!” moment when I mention NHL games, the firing range, or backpacking Ireland. Yes, it’s possible to live a fun and adventurous life while following all the rules! And no, we don’t have arranged marriages.

Aaron: If you could spend the day anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to visit the northernmost edge of Scotland. It must be stunning up there, all rugged natural formations, desolate hamlets, and blustery wind… and according to the O2 map, excellent cell phone service.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
I’ve actually only got one more Friday night left in DC… but it’s going to be an amazing one! Chabad is having a Young Professional Shabbat Dinner on August 3rd – whether you’re a regular or if you’ve never been, it’s a great week to go! Think four courses of delicious home-cooked food, dozens of fascinating young Jews (like yourself!), a warm and inviting environment, inspiring words by Rabbi Shemtov… you definitely want to be there. Seriously, go sign up now.

Aaron: Where are you headed to now?
Well, I spun a globe, and it landed on London! I’m going to spend a few months there drinking tea, minding the gap, and starting queues in random places. If I have any time left over, I may also visit the various Chabad institutions and Jewish communities and decide whether I’d like to settle there.

Aaron: Finish this sentence.  The Jews of DC…
 …are awesome. It was amazing to be a part of such a warm, welcoming, and involved community of young Jews. Stay wonderful, and remember – there’s a full Kiddush lunch at Chabad every Shabbos after davening! You know you want to be there!