Does the Jewish vote even matter?

In celebration of the upcoming Presidential election, GTJ is featuring a weekly column on Jewish voters, and something to do with the local Jewish community.   See below for this week’s column, and click here to take a survey so that we can learn more about the politics of our community.

If you have interest in writing this column in coming weeks, please email

See week 1 of this feature.


Stephen Richer is the President of Gather the Jews.


Does the American Jewish vote even matter in United States Presidential Elections?

As with many Jewish questions, the answer is “maybe.”

The most obvious factor working against the importance of the Jewish vote is simply the small size of the American Jewish population.  Jews account for only 2 percent of the total population of the United States and approximately 3 to 4 percent of the electorate (Haaretz).  Comparatively, the victory margins in presidential elections since 1980 have been 10 percent, 19, 8, 5, 8, 0, 3, and 7 percent (The New York Times).  This means that even if the Jews voted as one block – 100% for one candidate – they could have tipped the popular vote in only potentially 2 of the past 8 elections.

But American elections are not determined by popular vote.  Instead, electoral votes are distributed to each of the states, and the states give the entirety (in almost all cases) of their votes to the candidate that wins the most votes in the state.

This bears on the importance of the Jewish vote.  In New York and New Jersey – the states with the two proportionally largest Jewish populations – the Jewish vote likely doesn’t matter because both states are Democratic bastions where a slight change in a small segment of the population has no chance of tipping the vote.  But in swing states – states that could be won by either the Republican or Democratic candidate – where the Jewish population is particularly large, the Jewish vote could be a deciding factor.

Consider the famous case of Florida in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.  In that election, 35 percent of Floridian Jews voted for Bush.  Had the Florida Jewish vote reflected the national Jewish vote – in which only 21 percent of Jews voted for Bush – then Bush would have lost Florida and, accordingly, Al Gore would have been the 43rd President of The United States.

This phenomenon is not specific to Florida in 2000.  Jews make up approximately 3 percent of the voting population of Pennsylvania, a state that John Kerry won in 2004 by fewer than 200,000 votes.  The Jewish population of Philadelphia alone is approximately 254,000.   A third state that makes the Jewish vote interesting is Ohio; celebrated Jewish-politics commentator Nathan Guttman agrees by noting in Moment Magazine that, “Ohio is also a state where Jewish voters could play a role in a close race.”

With only 6.5 million Jews in the United States, the Jewish vote is hardly a dominant factor in U.S. Presidential Elections (perhaps in contrast to Jewish money – see next month’s column!).  But in certain closely contested states, the Jewish vote could be the deciding factor.  I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so – look at this recent campaign launched by the Republican Jewish Coalition centered on Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  You can be sure President Obama and the Democrats have something similar planned for these critical, and Jewish-heavy, states!

….  Chart below from the Jewish Virtual Library (December, 2011) ….


Estimated Jewish Population

Total Population

Jewish Percentage

































District   of Columbia




















































































New   Hampshire




New   Jersey




New   Mexico




New York




North   Carolina




North   Dakota




















Rhode Island




South   Carolina




Goodbye DC

GTJ’s President Stephen Richer, Guy of the Year Uri Manor, and Vice President Aaron Wolff

The famous Twelfth Century Spanish Jewish poet, philosopher, and statesman Judah Halevi once wrote, “My heart is in the East, but I am in the West.”

Though I’ve only been west of DC for four days, Halevi’s words have already come to my mind.  No city has been better to me than DC, and the excellence of these past four years is due in no small part to the city’s young adult Jewish community.


Four years ago I was a bit lost.  I had just deferred the continuation of my political science studies, and I chose almost carelessly between two destinations that could provide one year for me to collect my thoughts:  Washington, DC or Bogota, Colombia.  The scale eventually tipped in favor of DC, not because of any visit that proved the city’s merit, but simply because an attractive girl who routinely kicked my butt in Scrabble, and who was my superior in policy debates, had told me she would spend the summer in DC.

The courtship amounted to very little (not surprising for those of you who know my ideas of appropriate dress and what constitutes an ideal date).  So within three weeks of moving to DC, I was friendless.

George Washington University had lots of Jews.  I knew that because my Dad routinely informed me about Jewish populations of different campuses.  So seeing as how I was Jewish and 22, I didn’t think it would be too outlandish to hang out on the campus and attend undergraduate events (including debate club!) Oddly enough, this strategy worked, and it especially worked with the Jewish community.  GWU’s Jew world eventually led me to Mesorah DC, which led me to Sixth & I, which soon opened my eyes to the enormous tapestry of Jewish life in Washington, DC.

And – atheist though I was (and remain) – the Jewish community, more than any other community, made me immediately and routinely feel like I was valued, that my company was wanted, and that I had a place where I could make good friends who would grow in DC with me.

Before I knew it, I was a Jewish Jockey or “Super Jew.”  On a bad week, I hit three Jewish events.  Good weeks had upper limits of seven or eight.

I developed a reputation among my friends as the person who knew the Jewish scene, so I – without too much prompting from my friends (you guys know I love writing emails) – started sending a weekly email to friends that listed the week’s best Jewish events.  So was born my version of Gather the Jews.

Fast forward to two weeks ago:  I’d just sent out the 130th Gather the Jews newsletter, and I’d logged what was probably my 2,000th hour on the Gather the Jews project.  Total dollars earned = $0.

So why’d I do it?  Because the Jewish community of Washington, DC, never lost the feel it had during my first months in DC.  It still was my home; it still was the place where I could be with tons of my friends; it still was the place where I could learn; it still was the place where I could laugh and be goofy; it still was the place I could go for support; it still was the place where I knew that I could out-dance almost every male (maybe not Josh Stevens!).

That’s why I did it, and that’s why, even after the time spent on GTJ, I owe the DC Jewish community so much.

I promise to continue making this payment from afar, and to the greatest extent that I can, while in law school.  But the day-to-day show will no longer be the Stephen Richer show.  This is my last newsletter (hopefully!); I’ll appear on the blog less frequently; and you won’t see me at Jewish events until winter and summer breaks.

But GTJ is in good hands:  co-founder and vice president Aaron Wolff will still be in town; Rachel G. is starting as our first true staff member next week; and volunteer stalwarts such as Mike W., Jodi T., Noa L., and Sara S. are still putting in hours on the website late at night.

As confident as I am in their abilities, if I could make one request of you the Jewish young adult community of DC, it’s this:  Help us keep making GTJ better.  It’s a true labor of love, but the project is supposed to be an awesome resource for the community, so if we ever cease be this, kindly let us know, and we’ll try to fix it.

It’s been a real pleasure.  See you over Winter Break (and Summer Break… and once I’ve graduated…)



P.S.  Starships were meant to fly.

P.P.S.  If you’re bizarrely saddened by the fact that you’ll be hearing less from me on this blog and you want to subscribe to my non-GTJ writings listserve, let me know (

Guy of the Week – Yoni

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Yoni: I was born and raised in Chicago.  I graduated law school in the midwest in 2010, and shortly thereafter got a job with the United States Patent Office so moved here for the job.  The cool summers are also great.

Aaron: We heard you are an engineer and lawyer, what is that like?
Yoni: It’s a great combination where you get to stay up to date on technology and see it from the legal perspective.  It’s a really fascinating field.

Aaron: Aren’t your parents are Israeli?
Yoni: Yeah both of my parents are from Israel, so I grew up around a lot of Israeli folks in Chicago.  The community there is very tight knit, and I also am usually able to get along in other Israeli groups because of my fluency in Hebrew.

Aaron: What’s your favorite part about living in DC?
Yoni: I think the Jewish community here is phenomenal and I think it’s very easy to meet people in DC.  The city is a little smaller than Chicago so it’s actually a bit easier to get around also.  People are from all over which also makes it interesting.
Aaron: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Yoni: Either a police man, construction worker, cowboy, or a patent lawyer. We’ll see.  Working at the patent office is probably most relevant for being a cowboy.

Aaron: When is the next time you go to Israel?
Yoni: I’m hoping to be there for a good vacation this year. I haven’t seen all my family in a while and being in Israel is always a good experience.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night? 
Yoni: I usually go to Chabad, as well as Kesher and find both communities to be very warm, welcoming and easy to get along in.  I also really enjoy cooking and frequently host dinners or lunches.

Girl of the Week – Elizabeth

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Elizabeth: My car!  No seriously, I heard there were eligible bachelors.  If my grandma is reading this, my real answer is my family.  It didn’t hurt that I had a job here.

Aaron: Why have you decided to stay?
Elizabeth: I moved here to be closer to my extended family and now I can’t imagine living far away again.  It helps that I love my job (elementary school teacher) and friends. Being 3 hours from the beach isn’t bad either.
Aaron: What’s it like living in the same city as your sister?  Do your parents visit more often?
Elizabeth: Like childhood, we can play more. I get to “borrow” her make-up again, and we get to watch Kentucky basketball together!  Since we haven’t lived in the same city for years, I forgot what it was like to be referred to as Pamela’s little sister.  We look alike and people confuse us often and think we’re ignoring them.  As for the parents, they are here frequently.  My mom spent more time here this summer than in KY.  Now we need to convince our parents and brother to move here!
Aaron: Tell us about your dog?
Elizabeth: I went furniture shopping in Atlanta 4 ½ years ago and came home with a new dog!  Although she’s not furniture, I still believe that day was a successful shopping day.  She was homeless and I was dog-less; it was Fate.  Fate thinks she’s a person – loves to snuggle in bed, sleep under the covers and is currently trying to type my “girl of the week” interview questions.
Aaron: What is the coolest Jewish event that you have attended recently?
Elizabeth: My favorite event was the Jewish Federation for Group Homes (JFGH) Future Leaders’ zoo scavenger hunt.  I am partial, seeing how I am on the board; however, we had a chance to meet some of the residents of JFGH, meet other young professionals, and run all over the zoo.  A very close runner up would be the Giant Happy Hour at Bar Louie.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Elizabeth: In my bed, isn’t Shabbat a time to rest?!?!  If I am not sleeping/resting, I love going to my aunt and uncle’s for Shabbat or spending it with my friends.
Aaron: Where are you for the High Holidays?
Elizabeth: Depends on the holiday. If it’s a weekend, I am in Kentucky.  There’s no place like home, right?  Otherwise, I spend it with my extended family at their synagogues in DC.

Love and Money… In Sync or At Odds? GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 48)

As a dating coach, I get many questions about love and money.  Today, I’d like to tackle one of the biggest:

What if my partner spends money differently than I do?

Your approach to finances, if it differs from your partner’s, can put tremendous strain on a relationship.  So whatever your views are on spending money, it’s important that you and your partner are comfortable with the other’s approach.

Are you the type of person who would cut coupons all day to save a few dollars?  Does cable TV just seem so unnecessary when you can watch your favorite shows online a few days later?  Or maybe you order one fewer drink than you want when out with friends for dinner?

On the other hand, perhaps you’re the type of person who likes to take extravagant vacations every year and blow your whole December paycheck?  Is it imperative that you’re walking around with the latest iPhone and iPad?  Maybe you buy new clothes whenever you feel a little sad?

Neither of these methods is wrong, or even mutually exclusive.  But they are different, and that can cause tension in a relationship.

About six years ago, I dated someone for a year and a half who viewed money differently than I did.  He wasn’t Jewish, and I thought that might be the biggest obstacle in our relationship, but when it came down to it, it was our difference in spending habits that led to our demise.  I work hard, and I like to reward myself.  I’m not talking about Tiffany bracelets and Louis Vuitton bags, but small conveniences.  For example, we used to argue all the time over valet parking.  If it’s cold out, and there is no street parking available, I think it’s worth the $10 or $15 for the convenience of walking right into the restaurant.  He, on the other hand, would rather drive around for 20 minutes, make us late, and walk a mile to avoid the cost.  Again, neither belief is right or wrong; they are just different.  But making sure that you’re compatible with your partner’s approach to money can save you from an endless tug-of-war over what’s important and what isn’t.

When it comes down to it, how you decide to spend your hard-earned money is a very personal decision.  Just like your values on politics and religion, your values on money will likely play a large role in your relationship, so it’s best to address these issues before they become overwhelming.  Rather than letting a monetary issue fester, bring it up to your partner before you become resentful of the other’s spending habits.  (In fact, this is a healthy way to handle most large issues that arise in a relationship.)  Some things you’ll be able to compromise on and perhaps overlook, and some you won’t.  For your relationship to go the distance, though, it’s important that you and your partner are on board with the other’s approach to money… and you’re both willing invest yourselves completely!

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.  Check out her interview on NPR here. 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

Jews and Presidential Elections

Every four years we American Jews are honor-bound to write countless articles dissecting the Jewish vote in U.S. Presidential Elections.  This vote is almost invariably given to the Democratic candidate at around 78 percent, but had it gone otherwise in any past election, somebody surely would have predicted it in a pithy 700 word article filled with inside jokes such as “Whoever says ‘two Jews three opinions’ surely hasn’t witnessed American elections.”


Some of us at Gather the Jews are just obsessed with the potential miniscule movements of the Jewish vote, and, accordingly, we will join the chorus of Jewish American political commentators and election seers.  But we’ll do so with a local twist.  Each week (to the best of our ability) starting today and ending in November, we will write one Jewish political article that talks about 1) Local Jewish political activity or opportunities for involvement Jewishly, and 2) The broader Jewish vote question.

If you have any information you think should be included in #1, or if you want to write something for #2, please let me know at



Over 100 gathered for the RJC’s July happy hour at Current Sushi in Dupont.

Democrat — The Democratic National Committee (DNC) will host an “Obama Shabbat” this Friday.  Speakers include Sixth & I’s Rabbi Shira Stutman Obama Campaign’s National Jewish Outreach Director Ira ForemanClick here to see how you can attend.

RepublicanThe Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) hosted a happy hour at Current Sushi in late July that attracted over 100 attendants.  The RJC is now encouraging local Jewish Republicans to participate in its September 9 + 10 Jewish outreach campaign in PA, FL, and OH.


American Jewish Voter:  A Democratic Bloc
Stephen Richer

(A variation of this article appeared in the August edition of Italy’s pagine ebraiche).

It’s often said that “American Jews earn like Episcopalians, and vote like Puerto Ricans.” (Milton Himmelfarb)  Translated to more concrete terms, Jews are the highest earning religious group in the United States – 47 percent of Reform Jewish households earn over $100,000 per year; second place goes to Hindus at 43 percent.  (Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life)  Statistically speaking, wealthier voters tend to favor the Republican Party.  In almost every national election since 1988, voters with family incomes over $100,000 have favored the Republican Party. (The New York Times, Paul Krugman)

This is not the case for American Jews.  Despite their high earnings, American Jews vote like Puerto Ricans; that is to say they consistently, and overwhelmingly, favor the Democrats – the party of the American left.  Dating back to every Presidential Election since at least 1928, more American Jews have voted for the Democratic candidate than the Republican:  78 percent of Jews voted for President Obama in 2008; 76 voted for John Kerry in 2004; and 79 percent voted for Al Gore (and his Jewish running mate, Joe Lieberman) in 2000.  The lowest that Jewish Democratic support has dropped in recent years was in 1980, when only 45 percent of Jews voted for Jimmy Carter in his reelection bid.  However, this still outstripped Jewish support for the Republican candidate – Ronald Reagan – who won 39 percent of the Jewish vote that year.  (See Jewish voting chart, Jewish Virtual Library)

So how do we explain the Jewish voter’s Democratic disposition?  We’ll go into this in more detail in future columns, but here are a few simple explanations:

  1. Fear of the religious right.  Jewish voters still have a visceral fear of Christian zealots and the religious right, and these Christians are typically found in the Republican Party.
  2. Civil Rights.  American Jews played an important role in the 1960s and 1970s Civil Rights movement, and the Democratic Party was widely seen as more hospitable to this movement. 
  3. Social liberalism.  Jews are one of the most—if not the most—socially liberal groups in the country.  According to a study conducted in 2000, 88 percent of Jews are pro-choice.  In May, 2012, The New York Jewish Week reported that 81 percent of Jews support gay marriage.
  4. Secularism.  American Jews are highly secular.  A 2003 Harris Poll found that only 16 percent of American Jews go to synagogue at least once a month; 42 percent go between one and 11 times a year; and 42 percent go less than once a year. Secular Americans tend to favor the Democratic Party. (Gallup)

Reasons for Jewish Democratic support can be disputed.  So too can the likelihood of future Democratic support.  But what cannot be challenged is the Jewish voter’s steadfast historical support of the Democratic Party.

Year Candidate % of Jewish Vote
Hoover (R) 28
Smith (D) 72
Hoover (R) 18
Roosevelt (D) 82
Landon (R) 15
Roosevelt (D) 85
Wilkie (R) 10
Roosevelt (D) 90
Dewey (R) 10
Roosevelt (D) 90
Dewey (R) 10
Truman (D) 75
Wallace   (Progressive) 15
Eisenhower (R) 36
Stevenson (D) 64
Eisenhower (R) 40
Stevenson (D) 60
Nixon (R) 18
Kennedy (D) 82
Goldwater (R) 10
Johnson (D) 90
Nixon (R) 17
Humphrey (D) 81
Wallace (I) 2
Nixon (R) 35
McGovern (D) 65
Ford (R) 27
Carter (D) 71
McCarthy (I) 2
Reagan (R) 39
Carter (D) 45
Anderson (I) 14
Reagan (R) 31
Mondale (D) 67
Bush (R) 35
Dukakis (D) 64
Bush (R) 11
Clinton (D) 80
Perot (I) 9
Dole (R) 16
Clinton (D) 78
Perot (I) 3
Bush (R) 19
Gore (D) 79
Nader (G) 1
Bush (R) 24
Kerry (D) 76
Nader (G) <1
McCain (R) 22
Obama (D) 78






“Buttermilk” Fried Chicken

I just returned from a road trip through the Deep South, where even the vegetables have pork in them.  You’ll probably see a few trip-inspired recipes over the next few months, but for this week, I wanted to do one that fit with the last few weeks of summer/picnic weather.  Traditional Southern fried chicken is soaked in buttermilk to keep the chicken juicy.  That’s obviously a non-starter kosher-wise.  To get the same effect — while keeping Kosher — I made my own buttermilk using soy milk and followed a recipe from “Country Living” magazine for the rest.  The chicken turned out moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, with not a taste of soy to be found!

Total time: 45 min. active, plus 2-12 hours unattended

Yield: 8 servings

Level: Moderate*


  • 2 cups minus 2 tbsp unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil


  1. Combine vinegar and soy milk and let rest for 5-10 minutes, until it begins to look curdled.  Stir in Dijon mustard, 1 tsp salt, dry mustard, cayenne, and black pepper. Place chicken pieces in a gallon-size zip-top bag, and pour the buttermilk mixture over them.  Turn pieces to coat.  Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. In a 13-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch pan, whisk together flour, baking powder, dry garlic, and ½ tsp salt. Add chicken pieces and turn to coat thickly. Let the chicken stand 10 minutes, turning occasionally to recoat with flour. Shake off excess flour before frying.
  3. Add ¾-1” oil to a 12” heavy-gauge, non non-stick skillet, fitted with a thermometer.  Heat over medium-high heat to 360 degrees.  Add the chicken and fry for about 10 minutes per side, turning with tongs.  Keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust to keep it 350-360 degrees.
  4. Transfer to a wire rack on a baking sheet and place in 150 degree oven or tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat the procedure for the remaining batches. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*The steps of this recipe are not too difficult for a cook with reasonable skills, but you do need some equipment not everyone has: 1) a thermometer; 2) a non-nonstick skillet or deep, wide pot; 3) a wire rack to drain the oil (paper towels alone won’t work); 4) a splatter shield (not strictly necessary, but speaking as someone prone to burns, it’s useful).

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.




Go to Israel for FREE this winter with the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Two American Jews on his back… The camel don’t care.  He don’t give…

Sara Weiner is the Melvin Cohen Young Leadership Associate at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.


This winter, travel to Israel FOR FREE with fellow Washingtonians on the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Am I eligible?

  • Age 22-26 at the time of application (If you’re under the age of 22, visit to find the trip that’s right for you!)
  • Have not previously participated in a peer-orientated Israel trip
  • Local to or ties with the Greater Washington area

What are the perks?

  • Get on our VIP list for priority registration processing!
  • Greater chance of being accepted!
  • Enjoy exclusive pre-trip events!
  • Have direct access to your DC-based Birthright Israel staff!
  • Expand your local network!
  • Travel through Israel with Israeli peers during the ENTIRE trip!
  • Receive personalized follow-up upon your return!
  • The trip is FREE.

Important Dates:

There will be trips in late January and February. Exact dates will be confirmed in September. Registration for the trip opens…

  • Monday, September 10 at noon for returning applicants
  • Wednesday, September 12 at 10 AM for new applicants

How do I register?
To register, please visit  and choose the “DC Community trip.” From there, you will begin to prepare for an unforgettable experience.

Please know that the registration process can be very competitive and only remains open for about a week, so it’s very important to register on the opening date and pay your security deposit as soon as possible. Once Shorashim receives your application, they will move forward with processing it and scheduling an interview. Once this is complete, you will find out the dates of your trip and further details.

Have questions?
To find out more about the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip (sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington) and get on our pre-registration VIP list, contact me at 301-230-7266 or at













GTJ’s Director of Operations – Rachel

GTJ is excited to announce its newest member and Director of Operations

Rachel starts work with GTJ on September 4.

Aaron+Stephen: What three things are you most excited about with GTJ:
1. Meeting everyone in the DC Jewish community/making new friends.
2. Attending zillions of awesome Jewish events.
3. Being in a position to have a positive impact on the Jewish community.

Aaron+Stephen: How did you first hear about GTJ?
Rachel: On a Friday evening last November, I was at the University of Delaware’s Chabad for Shabbat dinner. As a Chabad regular, I recognized pretty much everyone who came except one guy wearing an interesting hat. As fate would have it, I ended up sitting across from Aaron Wolff, the guy with the interesting hat, during dinner and he told me about Gather the Jews.

Aaron+Stephen: So you’re from Delaware?
Rachel: Yup, I lived in Delaware for most of my life. Being from a small state, though, is like being from a small town, everyone knows everyone else. I think there are only two degrees of separation in Delaware. That’s why I love to travel. I love seeing new places, meeting new people, and getting new perspectives on life. So far I’ve been to Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan. One of my life goals is to visit all seven continents.

Aaron+Stephen: How did you first get involved in the Jewish community?
Rachel: When I was in high school, my mom decided I needed Jewish friends and made me go to BBYO (a Jewish youth group). While at first I wasn’t crazy about the idea, I ended up loving it, holding leadership positions, and making friends that I’m still close with today. When I went on to the University of Delaware and had to say goodbye to BBYO, I looked for a new way to connect to Judaism and the Jewish community. I found that connection sophomore year at the Chabad house which became like a second home for me.

Aaron+Stephen: What is your favorite part about being Jewish?
Rachel: My favorite part of being Jewish is being part of a diverse community. No two Jews are the same, yet in the end we are all Jewish. I love the feeling of meeting another Jew and feeling that connection. It’s one of the reasons why I am so excited to be working for GTJ. GTJ facilitates those connections, no matter what your Jewish background or identity.

Aaron+Stephen: Who is your favorite Jew?
Rachel: I LOVE Natalie Portman. Not only has she made some awesome movies like V for Vendetta (editor’s note:  Remember, remember, the fifth of November) and Star Wars (though the originals were better), she’s also smart. She attended Harvard and is actively involved in causes she supports. She serves as an Ambassador of Hope for FINCA International which promotes micro-lending for women in developing countries, a cause I am also interested in. She is quite the power woman.

Aaron+Stephen: Most impactful words of wisdom from my dad:
Rachel: My dad always says, “It is what it is.” I’m definitely a perfectionist and can be very demanding of myself. My dad always tells me that as long as I tried my best, that’s what mattered. No matter how hard you try, there are certain things in life that you have to accept as they are. The trick is it to figure out what you have the power to change, and when you just have to say, “It is what it is.”

Aaron+Stephen: What is your favorite Jewish Holiday?
Rachel: Shabbat. No matter what, it comes every week and it’s an opportunity to take a step back from the hectic-ness (I don’t think that’s a real word…) of the rest of the week. I like the idea of disconnecting from the world for a little while, even if it’s only during Shabbat dinner, and taking that time to truly be in the moment with the people around you and reflecting on the past week.

Aaron+Stephen: If you aren’t Gathering…what will you be doing in DC?
Rachel: You’ll find me at a few different places. I love international relations and the Middle East, so you’ll find me sitting in on free lectures and events held by think tanks and universities in the area. Also, I like to stay active so you will see me running through the streets of DC. I’ve been reading up on Rock Creek Park, so I’m hoping to find some people interested in going there with me. I’m also a huge nerd, and can’t wait to fully explore all the Smithsonian museums.

Aaron: Finish this sentence: I love Gather the Jews because
Rachel: It provides young adults with the opportunities and resources to build their own Jewish connection, no matter what form that connection takes.

Stephen:  Finish this sentence: One part of Gather the Jews that is mediocre and I would like to change is…
Rachel: I would like to see the housing/bulletin board expand.  For housing it’s great, but I think it could be a great way for people in the Jewish community to ask each other questions. For example, I wanted advice for which high holiday services to go to. Or maybe I’m trying to start a kickball team and want to find players. I think it would be great if the bulletin board could be used like that.