Jewish Girl of the Week – Natalie

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.39.11 PMWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Natalie: The George Washington University!  I graduated in May 2012, and stayed here looking for new opportunities.

Aaron: When was the last time you were in Israel?
Natalie: Too long!  My freshman year at GW I participated on a 3 week trip to Israel with Meor.  I was actually born in Israel and lived there until I was 11 years old, and this trip at 18 was my first time back.  It was honestly one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in a while.  I still have family there and my best friend is studying in Jerusalem so I would love to go back in the near future.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Natalie: It’s a three-way tie between Hannukah, Purim, and Shavout!  For Hannukah, I love watching the candles being lit and eating too many sufganiyot.  For Purim, I probably have the best childhood memories growing up in Israel and making/receiving mishloach manot.  And for Shavout… I love dairy products.  Any holiday that revolves around cheesecakes and stuffed pasta shells is my favorite!Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 12.07.47 PM

Aaron: Are you involved in any Jewish organizations?
Natalie: I was really involved with the Jewish community at GW, so I wanted to find organizations to stay involved with as a post grad.  I recently joined the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Young Leadership chapter in DC.  FIDF is a great organization that raises money to support the educational and recreational needs of soldiers serving in the IDF.  Actually, our DC chapter has a fundraiser coming up: A Night in Tel Aviv, March 9 at Washington Square in Dupont.  There will be an open bar, Israeli food, and to top it off, we are flying in DJ Itay Galo from Israel!  I am very excited for some Tel Aviv in DC!

Aaron: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Natalie: …don’t forget to invite me!



GTJ’s Response to, “All but Observant Welcome”

GTJ_Logo+Slogan-squareThe opinion expressed in the article, “All but Observant Welcome,” expresses the opinion of the author and does not represent the opinion of Gather the Jews.  GTJ’s mission is to bridge the gap between young adults and the DC Jewish community. The article is simply meant to start a dialogue about a practice in the DC Jewish community that concerns a subsection of the community.

Gather the Jews does not support a boycott against organizations mentioned in the article and thanks the AJC, the RJC, and J Street for the continued support they have shown Gather the Jews and the DC Jewish community.  Gather the Jews looks forward to continuing to work with these organizations to build the DC Jewish community.

If you want to address this issue further, please contact Aaron Wolff at or

Jewish Guy of the Week – Mikey

184373_2169216637464_1018341482_nWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Mikey: I moved to DC to participate in a one-year fellowship with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), where I am an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant.

Aaron: So you work at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.  What kinds of things do they do?
Mikey: The RAC is the social justice and political arm of the Reform Movement, and represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in Washington politics.  My work at the RAC covers a broad swath of political areas, including but not limited to gun violence prevention, civil rights, Israel and the peace process, D.C. voting rights, and the prevention of hate crimes.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?DSCN1426
Mikey: My favorite Jewish holiday has to be Hanukkah, mostly because I love any excuse for fried food.  And let’s be honest, the Hanukah tunes for the blessings are the best.

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Mikey: The coolest Jew?  That’s a harder one.  I’d probably have to go with Sarah Silverman.

Aaron: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Mikey: When Jews gather Chinese takeout is almost always involved.

A Letter to DC

wash-dome-obeliskDear Washington DC,

I moved to you two months ago from LA.  I have no family or friends in you, and I feel that you are consistently trying to defeat me with your nonsensical roundabouts and one-way streets that magically become two-way streets.  The differently timed traffic lights that face the same direction on Rhode Island and 1st is a nice touch.  One light is green and the one directly behind it is red????
Despite your best efforts to kill me on the road, I survive.  No, I THRIVE.  Here’s how:

Moving into you might have been scary were it not for my “Nobody knows me here….I’ll do what I want” attitude.  will fake it till I make it.  I have confidence in my step.  Treat yo’self 2013.  Oh ya oh ya.  These mantras liberate me, and I will take to your streets by foot and metro since you hate my car so much.  I will experience and love you till you love me back.  I will be whoever I want to be, I will go to bars and parties alone until I have friends, and even Beyonce will be proud of what an independent single lady I am.

I will walk from Bloomingdale to the H street Corridor.  I won’t care that it is snowing and I’ll ignore my Los Angelean soul screaming, “I need Vitamin D!  You, know the kind you get from the sun?”  How often did I even actually go to the beach in LA anyway?  Let’s be honest.  Not that often.

Through chattering teeth, I say, “Maybe I should buy a jacket, or something.”  Or something.  The East Coast really isn’t kidding around when it comes to winter, and when a co-worker tells me 2013 has been mild so far, a part of me dies.

My car is frozen in a sheet of ice.  I scrape it off with my “scraper.”  I have a scraper.  “Scrapin’ my car, scrapin’ my car,” I sing to myself, smiling, because the novelty of having to do the chore is fun this first time, but I later learn, it was fun ONLY that time.  DC, ya whateva.  I got this.

There’s nothing like discovering you on foot.  I get a real sense of your neighborhoods and people, and your architecture is eye candy, to say the least.  People are surprised that I will walk from to Dupont to Adam’s Morgan.  It’s honestly not that far, you guys!  I appreciate your residents’ pride and dedication to their respective hoods.  It makes for multiple communities, and the more references I can make to brunch, bottomless mimosas, the green line, and how I think Arlington is weird, the more accepted I feel.  And when I say, “I live in Bloomingdale. It is an up-and-coming city, much like a blooming flower,” I am golden.

My new roommates in my new DC group house are the best, and they even let me get away with never ever talking about politics.  They have lots of friends, so, by association, I do too.

So in the end, I feel cradled by you, DC.  I feel accepted and happy in you.  But most of all, I appreciate how you consistently flag and remove the Craigslist Ads I write pretending to be Obama looking for a roommate to split the cost of rent in the White House.



All but Observant Welcome

not kosh

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect the opinions of Gather the Jews. Read GTJ’s response here.

By profession, I am an officer in the United States Army.  My job has brought me all around the world.  I have both kept kosher and helped arrange Jewish servicemember events, always kosher, in locations as diverse as Seoul, Korea, Schweinfurt (Pig’s Crossing), Germany, and Baghdad, Iraq.  It perplexes me then why some Jewish organizations, which tout their inclusiveness, insist on the exclusion of observant Jews by serving non-kosher food.  At a time when far too many Jews are completely unaffiliated and totally disengaged from American Jewish communal life, Jewish organizations which have non-kosher events send a unmistakable “We don’t want you” message to observant Jews – a group which tends towards the most engagement, affiliation, and participation.   Jewish organizations of every ideological stripe, which claim to welcome the entire community, act in this exclusionary fashion.  A few examples:

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is dedicated to “to work(ing) towards a world in which all peoples (are) accorded respect and dignity” by promoting “pluralistic and democratic societies.”  Apparently, observant Jews aren’t a part of this “pluralism,” or necessarily in line for “respect and dignity.”  Last month, the AJC held a Winter Access DC party at which it served non-kosher food and wine.  I asked Jason Harris, the Assistant Director of AJC’s Washington Office, why the AJC holds non-kosher events.  He responded by stating that the AJC serves “’kosher-style’ (food) when we host events at any bars or reception halls…” and that it is just too hard to find kosher food or catering in Washington.

J-Street claims that it is “rooted in commitment to Jewish values.”  Evidentially, kashrut isn’t a part of the “Jewish values” in which J-Street is rooted.  The 2011 J-Street National Conference featured only non-kosher food.  Google “J-Street kosher” and you can read about the experiences of observant participants who had nothing to eat for three days.  Benjamin Silverstein, New Media Associate with J-Street, states “the food at our events is at a minimum kosher style” and J-Street will “accomodate (sic) for specific needs.”  At least if the blogosphere is accurate, at the 2011 National Conference, BLTs and Turkey and Cheese sandwiches qualify as “kosher-style” and “accommodation” in J-Street parlance.

I went to a Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Hanukah party and found waitresses strolling with (non-kosher) lamb appetizers and butter sauce.  I find this conduct distasteful, and stopped attending RJC functions.  Just recently, I got an email from an RJC staffer, asking me and other Jewish Republicans to come back to the organization.  I asked the RJC’s staffer whether the RJC had changed its practices.  She stated that the RJC tries “to keep our events as kosher (or kosher-style) as possible.”

“Too hard.”  “Accommodation.” “As kosher-style as possible.” Really?  To be clear, “kosher style” food is not kosher and has the same status under halacha (Jewish law) as bacon.  Observant Jews do not and cannot eat it.  Anyone who organizes a Jewish event is or should be completely conscious of the fact that he or she excludes a portion of our community by serving “kosher-style (ie non-kosher) food.   Why, then, do it?

Some argue “well, it is just too difficult” or “it costs too much” to have a kosher event.  I am unmoved by tepid demurrer concerning the logistical difficulties of obedience to basic Jewish law.  During my military career, adherence to Jewish law has not always been easy.  Sometimes, when organizing Jewish events, loyalty to Jewish standards has meant serving potato chips and soda.  Throwing hands-in-air, exclaiming “O well, too hard/too expensive,” and serving non-kosher food was never a thought – not for me, and not for the other participants, many of whom were not necessarily religious and did not keep kosher.  Such surrender would be to the collective denial of Judaism and to the individual exclusion of the observant members of the community who would be unable to participate (and yes, there are observant Jews in the American military).  If Jewish events can be kosher in Korea and Iraq- in the middle of a war- why not here, in Washington, where there are kosher caterers, kosher restaurants, and even non-Jewish venues with kosher kitchens?

There is no reason and no excuse for a non-kosher Jewish community event.  It can be done here, and can be done with relative ease.
DC-based Jewish organizations of both local and national reach, including The Jewish Federation of Washington, the DCJCC, Hillel, AIPAC, and Gather the Jews only sponsor events which are kosher and have policies against serving non-kosher food.  If these groups can do it, all can do it.

Others may ask “So you don’t eat… So what?”  I doubt very seriously that anyone in community leadership would dare organize a joint event with Muslims which featured a beer/wine guzzle, or propose a Catholic-Jewish symposium centered around a beef barbeque on Friday during Lent.  A liquor-based event would show profound disrespect to the sacred traditions of Islam.  A meat-centric event during Lent would send a highly offensive message to Catholics.  In both examples, Catholics or Muslims are consigned second-class status because they cannot fully participate and cannot eat.  The same leaders, however, are perfectly content to send the same offensive, exclusionary and disrespectful message to observant Jews when their organizations serve non-kosher food – the message that the religious traditions of our people are unimportant and may be whimsically disregarded.

I, and many others who are observant, decline the exclusionary attitude and second-class status offered by Jewish community organizations which serve non-kosher food at their events.  Members of these organizations should insist on change.  It can be “kosher-style” or it can be “inclusive,” but it can’t be both and we, the observant members of the community, will not participate in your organizations so long as your dismissive posture remains.

Note from the RJC: The author of this piece references an incident that occurred several years ago and the author is no longer affiliated with or involved with the RJC.  We would like to highlight a point omitted by the author that all the major events that the organization has hosted, including the Presidential Candidates Forum and events at the GOP convention in Tampa, were strictly kosher.

GTJ Satirist Brian F. – 21 People You Meet at a Jewish Singles Happy Hour

jew hhThe Serial J-Daters:
Dressed in their bar/bat mitzvah best.  They haven’t seen your profile before, so they approach you and refuse to walk away until they find something in common so they can turn it into a date.  For example: “Oh so you’re drinking beer?  I like to drink beer, I know a great place where I can take you for a beer.”

The Harem of Girls Who Stand at the Bar in a Circle and Refuse to Mingle:
You know the group of girls who all go out together to meet guys, yet just complain amongst their friends about how they never meet any guys?  Yeah, its because they’re at the bar talking to each other with their arms crossed and their attitude full throttle.  Save the drama for your momma, and mingle with something single.

The Gaggle of Dudes Who Stand by the Bar and Refuse to Mingle:
Sour grapes who are certain that there is no one of quality to hit on at the bar.  After about two hours of this, they end up at an Irish Bar with the dudes they showed up with.

The Matchmaker:
Matchmaker, matchmaker, we just met, but you’re quite intent on setting me up with someone: “Oh my god, I have a friend who would be perfect for you.  He/she is single, and Jewish, and their dad and my dad were roommates at Brandeis!  Small world!  Just Facebook him/her, oh, and just be yourself.”

The Shark:
Doesn’t talk to anyone, just walks in circles and stalks his would-be prey like a balding Jaws in Gap khakis.  Harmless.

The “You Should Come Over To Shabbos” Guy:
World record holder for pushiness.  Just to throw him off, ask him if Shabbos is this Wednesday or next Tuesday.

The State School Booster:
Go team go!  Newsflash pal, being a devoted college football fan is not a major.  And how do you know so many people here tonight?

The Private School Elitist:
It takes four questions to find out where this un-humble snot went to college.
“What was your major?”
“I studied economics.”
“Oh where?
“What part?”
“Oh really? Which school?”
“Never heard of it.”

The AEPi Recent Alumnus:
Drinks?  Drinks?  Anyone want a drink?  He is actually more interested in getting drunk than hitting on you tonight, so you’ve been warned.  For an interesting conversation, ask him about the brand of dogfood he had to eat during hell week.  At least he won’t give you a dead-fish handshake.

The AEPhi/SDT/Alphabet Soup Sorority Alumnus:
“Well on MY campus, your sorority is blah blah blah blah fat chicks and coke!”

Join my Kickball/Softball/Bocce Ball Guy:
“I think they’re hitting on me…wait no, they actually are serious about getting me to join their recreational sports team.”

The Jewish Geographer:
All of the matches end in one of three ways: I hate them, I haven’t seen them in 10 years, or endless drivel about some innocuous Bar Mitzvah/summer camp/shiva story.

The Consultant:
They work for Accenture/Booz Allen/Deloitte.  They can’t explain in less than five paragraphs what it is they do by day.  They swear they never go on Facebook because it’s blocked at work, yet post endless pictures from every vacation they won’t shut up about.  And you have got to be kidding.  You’re 22 and you are a consultant?  You are only qualified to audit my deliverables in the beer pong department.

The Hill Rat:
Works for a Senator.  Works for a Representative.  You know this because they mentioned it to you before formally introducing themselves.  To find out whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican, just say “Obama” and see if they scowl or start skipping.

The Intern:
Don’t worry, if they’re in the bar, they’re not under 21.  But they certainly don’t act like it.  They are likely not being compensated at work, so buy ’em a drink.  Consider letting them crash on your futon.

The First-Year-Out-Of-Law School Lawyer:
Ah yes, what would be a Jewish singles event without a nice Jewish lawyer?  Acts as if the two greatest pick-up lines in the world are, “I have so little time these days” and “I hate my job.”

The Offensive New Yorker:
They act as if there is something seriously wrong with you if you are a Jew that did not grow up in Manhattan.  Likely complaining that there is no decent place in Washington, DC to get a perfect bagel and pastrami sandwich.

The West Coast Jew:
If you run out of things to say to them, just mention In-N-Out.  That’ll get them swooning.

Jersey Jew:
Not nearly as awful as MTV would like you to think.

The Just Back from Birthright-ers:
Inside jokes galore.  Be on the look-out for grievances about hiking Masada, Discotheque, Bombas, Schwarma, and trysts with furloughed IDF soldiers.

Your Bashert:
Somewhere in the list above.

Brian Fishbach is a comedian, writer, political satirist, former GTJ JGOTW, and musician specializing in social and political commentary.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at, and enjoy his late-night jokes at  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Song-Clapping at Shabbat Services All Over the Damn Place

clappBRENTWOOD, CA – (TWITTER: @The Comedy News) – The congregants at Temple Beth Raash (בית רעש) in Brentwood, California have been running into some musical mishaps for the past few Friday nights: the congregants can’t seem to clap at the right moments.

“We have tried in vain to get our audience to clap together and on time,” lamented Rabbi Steven Zembrowsky.  “I have had three different Cantors quit on us in the past year.  One even stormed out shouting about how she should have never converted from southern Baptist.”

During song sessions, congregants singing along with the Rabbi and Cantor can hardly seem to clap at any of the right moments, rather, are just making lots of white noise that drowns out the amplified service-leaders.

Typically, the Rabbi will lead the service along with a Cantor strumming a guitar.  These days, however, the Beth Raash song-leaders can barely recruit a Cantor who can mash a tambourine without becoming frustrated with a beat-illiterate audience.

Temple Beth Raash has brought in consulting firm Booz and Company to study how the songleaders can get congregants to clap at the right moments.

After a three hour study, analysts concluded that the biggest musical gaffes tend to occur towards the end of services, particularly during the chanting of “Oseh Shalom”.

“Honestly, they’ve got a long way to go,” notes a senior Booz consultant specializing in Religious Song Cohesion.  “And according to an Apollo Theater-style survey, the only people that really care about this are the Rabbi, the Cantor, and five or six posturing musical has-beens in the audience.  Everyone else is quite jolly clapping off-beat and wrong.”

Still, Rabbi Zembrowsky is quite miffed by his congregation’s musical malignity.

“These days,” scowled the Rabbi, “I can barely do the eye-cover thing during the Shemah.  I just stand with my hands on my hips, head down—-embarrassed.”

At the most recent Shabbat Service, Rabbi Zembrowsky stormed-out midway through the service yelling, “Yasher koach, you tone-deaf little shits!”

Brian Fishbach is a comedian, writer, political satirist, former GTJ JGOTW, and musician specializing in social and political commentary.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at, and enjoy his late-night jokes at  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

What I’ve Learned So Far: Gather the Jews’ February Business Leader of the Month Shares Insights

In this monthly column, Victoria Shapiro asks top young business leaders in the DC area to share their thoughts on succeeding in business and life. 


verdeHOUSE Founder and CEO Morgan Greenhouse at a Jewish Federation of Greater Washington event where she is actively involved.

Business Leader of the Month: Morgan Greenhouse, founder and CEO, verdeHOUSE
Age: 27
Relationship Status: Single
Education: University of Pennsylvania, BA
About verdeHOUSE: The company identifies and markets unique, unoccupied, underutilized and/or emerging spaces. For events, verdeHOUSE secures venues for companies and individuals in need of a venue. For real estate companies, verdeHOUSE provides a variety of marketing services and facilitates events to help showcase and brand developments. No other company in the DC area does what they do.

Victoria: Morgan, your name has come at me from all directions as a great person to profile for this column, which spotlights business leaders who have shown a sense of adventure, innovation, tenacity, and commitment to community.  It’s really nice to meet you.

Morgan: It’s very nice to meet you too, Victoria.  Thank you for this opportunity.

Victoria: I’ve checked out some of your interviews and media coverage; you have a talent for public relations. It was great how you jumped right in there in response to The Atlantic Wire’s September article calling DC “unhip” with your Twitter campaign, defending our city. You received some nice media coverage. Talk to me a little bit about that and your general public relations approach.

Morgan: In terms of PR, I feel lucky and honored to hear you say that….The Twitter campaign was a product of wanting a platform to discuss why DC is such a great city.  The key is to embrace what makes it so special; DC is simply a different brand of hip…. It is important that brands stay relevant, and we spend a lot of time considering ours.  We make sure our values are solid, and our marketing reflects a thoughtful and meaningful brand.  When engaging externally, we consider ‘What do we stand for? And, what do we want to represent?’

Victoria: How does your business model work?

Victory! The verdeHOUSE team celebrates over great press.

Victory! The verdeHOUSE team celebrates over great press.

Morgan: There are two sides of verdeHOUSE.  We have clients who constantly come to us for space for an event such as a celebration, fundraiser, or pop-up (short-term retail event).  Finding the right venue is often an onerous task for those who are not familiar with the process. It’s nice to be able to help with that.  On the other side, we work directly with real estate developers, owners, and reps to understand property goals.  We then create event concepts and marketing to project the desired brand and messaging.

Victoria:  Where does the revenue come from?

Morgan: Primarily, we receive compensation for connecting events to spaces, and consulting with real estate clients.

Victoria: How do you attract business?

Morgan: That’s the special sauce (laughs).  A lot of our business comes through word of mouth.  Events themselves provide great marketing for the company.  So, it is fairly perpetual.  Hosts, attendees, and media coverage from successful events tend to generate client leads.

Victoria: You jumped in and took a risk when you were 25.  Did you encounter any difficulties specific to being a young woman starting a business?

Morgan: To be honest, I didn’t find it to be an issue.  Perhaps I chose to ignore it, but I found the opportunity to be more exciting than feeling any threat or concern for risk… It didn’t matter who I was, there was a demand for space and the facilitation of the use of space.  I think people admire innovation and change as long as it’s done effectively while providing valuable services.  What matters is that you’re successfully addressing goals and needs…. I really admire women who are leaders and game changers, especially in real estate…. Though the question is very relevant, I don’t have a very strong response.  That’s likely reflective of my experience.

The verdeHOUSE team visualizes event possibilities on the rooftop of Union Market in Northeast, DC.

The verdeHOUSE team visualizes event possibilities on the rooftop of Union Market in Northeast, DC.

Victoria: You launched a few years ago.  From that time you’ve grown from a one-person shop to managing several people.  What has that process been like?  What have you learned?

Morgan: It’s been a remarkable learning experience.  On one hand, it has been a great exercise in identifying core values and non-negotiables, things as basic as treating people with respect, doing what is ethical, making sure everyone onboard is willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard.  I also learned how important it is that as a team we are all on the same page in regards to values… also, it’s important to have a team that both enjoys what they are doing and feels challenged.  I learned a lot of this along the way and continue to do so.

Victoria: Talk to me about taking on your business partner, Christin Martinelli.

Morgan: Christin and I met serendipitously at a Georgetown University roundtable right when she moved to DC from California to get a master’s in real estate.  Within two weeks, we were working full-time together.  Within a few months, it became clear a partnership was forming.  It has been a remarkable partnership so far.  Our vision and values are well aligned.

Victoria: That’s a very significant relationship.  I suspect you two have become good friends as well.  Can you talk a little bit more about the relationship?

Morgan: Yes, through business the relationship turned into a friendship…. Just as this is my first time starting a company, it is my first experience with this kind of relationship.  It really is quite unique.  We have tremendous admiration and respect for each another… in many ways, we feel we are raising this company together.  I do understand that to be somewhat of a female perspective, we are nurturing a concept.  And, an important bond has been a by-product of that.  It’s a great lesson and experience in growth and trust.

Morgan and business partner Christin Martinelli share a moment of laughter in a warehouse turned venue in Georgetown.

Morgan and business partner Christin Martinelli share a moment of laughter in a warehouse turned venue in Georgetown.

Victoria: What role has Judaism played in your life and in the company?

Morgan: For me, Judaism has been a strong source of values, community, and tradition.  The community has played a very supportive role to me in starting and growing this company, from referrals and business, to exceptional advice and mentorship…. In running the company, I resort to key values as well as find ways to give back to the community.

Also, the first time Christin said she was ‘kvelling’ was such a proud moment for me.  You’ll often hear an ‘oy’ from someone on the team.  Love the inadvertent Yiddish integration in the company culture (laughs)!

Victoria: That’s funny (laughs)!  What you’re doing is cool.  It was fun talking with you, and thanks for your time.

Morgan: Thank you!

We at GTJ wish Morgan and verdeHOUSE continued success and expect to keep hearing great things from the company!

Victoria headshotVictoria Shapiro is a senior account executive at Susan Davis International, a full-service communications and public affairs firm on K Street. She is also an advisor to her family’s company, The Donald J. Ross LLC, the licensing company for the 20th century golf course architect.