GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Filet-o-Matzah, Big Matzah Mac to Debut At McDonalds For One Week this Spring

mat burgBOROUGH PARK, NY (@The Comedy News) – To coincide with the Jewish holiday of Passover, McDonalds is introducing two special burgers for one week only.

The Filet-O-Matzah and the Big Matzah Mac will debut at sundown on Monday, March 25, 2013.

The main feature of the new temporary burgers will be the buns made from matzah—an unleavened, crunchy flatbrad made solely from water and flour.

For the Big Matzah Mac, the matzah buns will be in lieu of the traditional Big Mac sesame seed buns that are forbidden by Jewish law for the week-long holiday celebrating the Jews’ freedom from bondage in Egypt 5,000 years ago.

Since the traditional Special Sauce on the Big Mac will be unkosher for Passover, the Big Matzah Mac will feature a “Schpecial Schmear” between the two all-beef patties, along with lettuce, pickles, and onion.

“We are proud to introduce our latest line of kosher-for-Passover burgers that will ensure that McDonalds’ devout Jewish customers can still enjoy their favorite McDonalds meal during their holidays,” announced a McDonalds spokesman.  “From sundown March 25 through sundown April 2, McDonalds at select locations in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Boston will be ditching the chametz and pitching some matzah burgers.”

The second McDonalds Passover burger, the Filet-O-Matzah, will feature a hunk of raw matzah dough flanked by two matzah flatbread slices.

During the week of Passover, McDonalds will also be promoting the “happykomen”.  The happykomen is a McDonalds version of the traditional Passover game “afikomen”.  For the price of $3.99, children will be encouraged search for traces of the pink slime goo paste that has been forbidden from McDonalds food since late 2011.  The first child to find a trace of the pink slime goo paste gets their choice of a free Big Matzah Mac or a Fliet-O-Matzah.  All participating children will get a free dreidel.

The official celebrity spokesman for McDonalds’ new kosher-for-Passover slogan, “Ditch the Chametz, Pitch some Matzah Burgers”, will be the reclusive Baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.

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.


Key Lime Bars

photo (3)Good Passover desserts are hard to come by, especially when you try to make them with matzah meal.  I tend to avoid the matzah issue altogether and make a lot of desserts with nut flours.  I’ve made this recipe in the past as a pie but, well, my mom asked for cookies this year.  If you go the pie route, simply top with whipped cream and serve.  The crust works well for other kinds of pies, too.  Chag sameach!

Total time: 1 hour, plus chilling time

Yield: 36-64 bars (depending on how big you cut them)

Level: Moderate


  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal/flour
  • 3/8 cup powdered sugar*
  • 3 tbsp chilled butter, cut into bits
  • 2 1/4 tbsp cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 c bottled key lime juice or fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 1/3 c sugar


  1. Blend the first four ingredients in a food processor until dough clumps together.  Chill for 15 minutes. 
  2. Press dough into greased 8”x8” baking dish using wet hands.  Bake at 350 degrees on the center rack for 10 minutes or until browned lightly.  Set aside to cool.
  3. While the crust is cooling, beat the yolks, sugar, and condensed milk together in a large bowl.  Gradually beat in the lime juice on low speed.
  4. Spread the filling over the top of the cooled crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until set.
  5. Allow bars to cool a before refrigerating for 1-2 hours.  Slice and serve. 

* Regular powdered sugar is made with corn starch, which is not kosher for Passover under Ashkenazi rules.  You can buy kosher for Passover powdered sugar.  I used some that I found in the organic section that was made with tapioca starch.  You can also make your own in the food processor with granulated sugar and potato starch.

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

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

Micha accepts Crooked Monkey's award at the University of Maryland’s 2010 annual Cupid's Cup Business Competition. Not only did the company win the People’s Choice award at the competition, but they came in second overall.

Micha accepts Crooked Monkey’s award at the University of Maryland’s 2010 annual Cupid’s Cup Business Competition.

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. 

Business Leader of the Month: Micha Weinblatt, co-founder and CEO of Betterific and co-founder and CEO of Crooked Monkey
Age: 30
Relationship Status: In a relationship with Miriam Rubin, digital media supervisor at OMD Media
Education: B.A., University of Maryland, and near completion of course work for a master’s degree in public policy

About Betterific: Betterific is the digital suggestion box that allows people to suggest ways to make the products, companies, services and events they care about, better. Users tag their contributed suggestions with Betterific’s relevant categories and topics, which organize the platform’s content. The company builds a community around these suggestions, allowing users to follow one another other, vote and comment on others’ input. Additionally, Betterific is signing up companies interested in efficiently receiving customer feedback.

About Crooked Monkey: The company sells t-shirts with cheeky messages and graphics aimed at consumers ages 18 – 28 online and has been carried in over 500 retailers across the United States, including Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. Weinblatt founded the company with a best friend, Jon Mervis, while in college.

Victoria: Micha, we’re really pleased to have you as our March Business Leader of the Month.  Our selected leaders need to have demonstrated a sense of adventure, innovation, tenacity and commitment to community, which you have.  You’re a chosen, chosen person (laughs)!

Micha: Thanks Victoria! What an honor!

Victoria: Let’s jump in.  You’ve been instrumental in founding two companies: Crooked Money, when you were in college and Betterific, just last year.  The tech space is rapidly expanding, and the t-shirt market was crowded when you started and still is.  How are you making an impact?

Micha: Betterific allows consumers’ voices to be heard.  Crooked Monkey allows people to look good!  We started Crooked Monkey in 2005.  The market for t-shirts with witty sayings was crowded, but we made sure our humor was unique.… The graphics and quality of our shirts was and is great.  We focused on getting our shirts into retailers rather than selling online. We found that selling shirts in stores made more sense for us at the time than selling online.  That’s really how we infiltrated the market.

Victoria: You’re an ideas guy, and you’ve always considered how to make things better, right?  Your co-founders Jonathan Schilit (Betterific COO) and Brad Cater (Betterific CTO) are also very innovative.  Betterific is a perfect venture for you guys.

Betterific Co-founders Jonathan Schilit, Brad Cater and Micha (left to right) on the first day they dropped their day jobs to realize their vision. Jonathan and Micha have been friends since middle school. Both attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD.

Betterific Co-founders Jonathan Schilit, Brad Cater and Micha (left to right) on the first day they dropped their day jobs to realize their vision.

Micha: Yes, that’s always been one of my things.…  I remember once when I was nine, I was so passionate about Entenmann’s pound cake that I found the toll-free number on the back of the box, called them up just to tell them how much I loved their pound cake and offered some ideas on how they could do some better marketing.  Jonathan and Brad (co-founders at Betterific) are also very passionate about making things better.  In the world of the internet, most people won’t go to the lengths that I went to when I was nine to get in touch with Entenmann’s.  So, when you’ve got those ideas and you don’t know where to go, Betterific is your place.

Victoria: Betterific is still in the development phase, right? Can you give me a snapshot of what’s happening?

Micha: Betterific is a consumer-focused site with an enterprise model, meaning we are growing our user base and simultaneously getting companies involved with the site….  We are excited to announce that we recently signed Arby’s.  Their customers are participating with Betterific, using our public platform to tell Arby’s how to make Arby’s better.

… Eventually we will get to the stage where we aggregate the data for companies and connect them with people who have offered specific ideas, so the companies can learn more about the ideas…. In addition to being the platform for people to share ideas, we will also be the information curators for participating companies. The site that it is today will probably be different than the site it will be in three years.

Victoria: What lessons did you translate from your experience with Crooked Monkey to Betterific?

Micha: Being an entrepreneur is an amazing experience, fraught with challenges.  There are a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day you’re creating your own company, which makes it all worth it….  The hardest thing about starting a business is actually starting it…. I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs get into analysis paralysis where they think about what they should do rather than just trying things out….  Figure out what your first step is, and do it…. When we were starting Betterific, Jonathan and I had pages and pages of ideas….  All of the conversation was important in developing the vision, but we needed to move, get the product up and see what works.

… I always talk a lot about execution, because it all comes down to how you execute an idea….  Everything falls under that umbrella.  From Crooked Monkey I really learned how to move on an idea and execute.

Micha and his girlfriend Miriam Rubin at a friend’s wedding.

Micha and his girlfriend Miriam Rubin at a friend’s wedding.

Victoria: Lots of people say never do business with friends.  You feel differently.  Can you talk to me about doing business with friends?

Micha: As we meet with investors, often the first question they ask is: ‘how long have you known your co-founders?  What has been your relationship beforehand?’…  I agree with that mentality.  I think you want to make sure that you do go into business with friends.

… For Betterific, we focused on building a great team from the very beginning.  Jonathan and I have been friends since seventh grade at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS).  We have phenomenal chemistry . We knew we would be good business partners.  We have similar qualities and complementary strengths….  To complete the team, we interviewed a bunch of very talented engineers.  We needed to find someone who would be exceptional on the development side, but more importantly, we would want to go have a beer with.  We found that in Brad Cater.

… Friendships matter.  I founded Crooked Monkey with my friend Jon Mervis, whom I also went to CESJDS with.  When we started, we made a decision that our friendship would outlast the company.  I ended up buying him out.  When the buy-out negotiations began, we both decided that a few percentage points either way didn’t matter.  We focused on making sure that our friendship was paramount and business was secondary.

…You need to look at the bigger picture.  You are about to go through a crazy journey, and you want to have good friends with you for that journey.  If it doesn’t work out in the end, as long as you keep your priorities straight, then it will all be fine…. Starting a business is a wonderful thing to do with friends.  The experiences fortify your friendships.

Victoria: Your father is a rabbi.  What influence did your upbringing have on you as an entrepreneur?

Micha: The concept of making things better, tikkun olam, has influenced me in co-founding Betterific.  I wouldn’t say that Betterific is rabbinic, but there are roots of tikkun olam in it.  My dad has three main Jewish principles that he teaches: tikkun olam; “Kol yisrael eruvin zeh lazeh” – all of Israel is connected to one another; and ‘where there are no men, strive to be a man.’ These concepts have greatly influenced me and the way I try to live my life.  I learned a lot from both of my parents.  My mom is Sephardic, from Iraq.  She has a tremendous amount of business savvy.  She is adept at understanding relationships, personalities and how to continue looking towards the future….  Together they form a great ‘in-house’ board of advisors.

The Weinblatt family poses for a portrait. Micha’s father is   Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of the B'nai Tzedek Congregation in Potomac, Md.

The Weinblatt family poses for a portrait. Micha’s father is Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of the B’nai Tzedek Congregation in Potomac, Md.

… Morally there are truths that I live by.  My connection to Judaism is what I live… giving back to the community and trying to have an impact on the world around me….  When I was in college I had been interested in running for office, but the reason I never pursued politics is because I never thought you could actually get anything done.  Think about all the cooks in the kitchen, the executive office, senators, congressmen, their staff, lobbyists, think tanks….  I felt like I could have a bigger impact starting my own company than by working in government.

Victoria: What advice do you have for others who want to start a business?

Micha: What do you think I’m going to say?

Victoria: Start a business with friends, have fun and most importantly, just get started!

Micha: I was going to say ‘just get started,’ but I like that you added ‘start a business with friends and have fun,’ so let’s go with that too.

Victoria: (laughs). That’s getting into the column.

We at GTJ wish Micha, Jonathan Schilit and Brad Cater great success with Betterific and look forward to exciting developments!

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.






DC Rabbi Named One the Most Inspiring Rabbis in America

shiraRabbi Shira Stutman, Director of Jewish Programming at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, was named one of the most inspiring Rabbis in America by The Jewish Daily Forward.  From the Sixth & I website:

“As Sixth & I’s Director of Jewish Programming, I’m here as a resource for you. My focus is to make Jewish meaning and build Jewish community. I strive to infuse Sixth & I’s diverse programs with Jewish context and content. I support a number of boutique communities, including workshops for those interested in joining the Jewish community. I graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2007, where I was a Wexner Graduate Fellow. I also graduated from Columbia University and the Charles E Smith Jewish Day School. I was the founding rabbi of Kesher Shalom Congregation in Abington, PA. And my favorite t-shirt reads: “This is what a real rabbi looks like.”

Read GTJ’s interview with Rabbi Shira from last summer.

From everyone at GTJ, mazel tov, Rabbi Shira!

Shabbat Clusters

290px-Shabbat_CandlesI feel safe saying that when Friday night finally rolls around, most of us are more than ready for it.  We’re ready to go out, to take a nap, to eat something delicious, or to celebrate that we have two whole days off ahead of us.  For many young Jewish professionals, it’s time to be social at one of the (crowded) eight monthly Shabbat services.  For others, it’s time to be with friends, or to go out and make new ones.  In any case, it’s almost always about doing something you didn’t do during the week.  It somehow make the time special.  Personally, the days are particularly special for me when I can get together with others for dinner.  And it is a love of good food and better conversation that makes Shabbat and EntryPointDC’s (EPDC) Shabbat Clusters an awesome opportunity.

Shabbat Clusters are small groups, usually about 10-12 people, organized by EPDC.  They’re peer-led and meet once a month for a pot-luck Shabbat dinner.  Registration and new groups happen twice a year, in the spring and the fall.  Each starts with a communal Kickoff Shabbat Dinner, free to all participants, so that when you have your first dinner you’re not showing up at a complete stranger’s door. (Whew!)

Shabbat offers us a weekly chance to take a second and breathe.  It’s an opportunity to take an hour or 25 and do something you want to do, something for yourself that will make the day different.  How you choose to do that is up to you, but maybe it is taking a couple hours to have a nice meal with other Jews at the start of your weekend.  There’s nothing you have to do before, during, or after.  Your Shabbat Cluster is a place for you to create a Jewish experience that is meaningful for you with other Jews, and the opportunity to really get to know them over time.

Over the past few months I have heard just about all there is to hear about Shabbat Clusters from current and former participants, and those stories let me know  that EPDC made a difference in people’s lives.  I’ve also discovered a fantastic partnership with Birthright NEXT, they like to give Birthright alumni money to host Shabbat dinners, and EPDC likes everyone to have Shabbat dinner! Perfect! (And they’re now offering grants for pot-luck meals, which is even better.)

Registration for Spring 2013 Shabbat Clusters is open until midnight, Friday, March 22. Click here for more information and to register.

The Curse of the Empty Adjective – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 61)

adjI’m smart, funny, and attractive.

I’m humble, successful, and kind.

I’m romantic, thoughtful, and trustworthy.

I’m sexy, passionate, and fearless.

I’m compassionate, honest, and friendly.

How many times have we seen lines like these in online dating profiles?  If I had a nickel for every time I saw what I call an “empty adjective,” I’d be a very rich lady.  What is an empty adjective?  It’s a word that you use to describe yourself that can’t be proven until someone gets to know you.  For example, I might say that I’m funny, but how would you know if that’s the truth?  Maybe I’m funny to some people (the ones who love puns and wordplay) but not to others.  Or maybe my definition of honest is telling someone she has spinach in her teeth, but your definition is giving back the extra penny if they accidentally give it to you at Trader Joe’s.  A long time ago, I dated someone for six months who said in his JDate profile, “I’m really romantic.”  Was he?  Not in the least.  The curse of the empty adjective strikes again.

This is where the concept of “show, don’t tell” really comes into play.  For example, rather than saying that you’re funny, say something that you find funny.  That way, you’re not only getting your point across, but you’re differentiating yourself from everyone who simply states, “I’m funny,” or worse, “My friends tell me I’m funny.”  The latter is just a way to say the same thing while attempting to be humble.  Sadly, it doesn’t work.

Let’s think of a story for some of the adjectives above:

Friendly: I tend to walk into a room and immediately ask people’s names – the cashier at The Container Store, the doorman/woman at my building, the parking attendant at school, the baker at Safeway.  I may not remember them all, but I always ask!

Fearless: Despite my fear of flying, I knew I had to go to India as my culminating trip for business school.  I may or may not have hyperventilated a bit.  And then I realized, “I can do this!”  Since then, I’ve been to 12 countries in the last four years.

Trustworthy: It wasn’t until many years after college that I realized everyone on my dorm floor had put me down as their emergency contact.  They must have really trusted me… or knew I’d have nothing else going on. 😉

Funny: I’m a dog lover, especially when it comes to my wise old dachshund.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t enjoy dining out quite as much as I do (he likes the leftovers, though), he can’t read the subtitles of the documentaries I watch, he can’t help me with that pesky last letter of the crossword puzzle, and when it comes to dancing, well, he has two left feet… literally.

Words like attractive, sexy, young-looking, and fit don’t need to be stated at all because someone can decide that for him or herself simply from looking at your photos.

These empty adjectives will get glossed over and end up having the opposite effect of what you want – they’ll become meaningless.  Remember: Be sure to set yourself apart and not get caught in the… dun dun dun… curse of the empty adjective.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for

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.

What should I bring to Israel?

coatPassport, white coat, stethoscope, vaccines.  For most doctors/medical students going abroad on an international health initiative, these are the items that are required.  In preparation for my international medical fellowship, I collected these items and went through many standard steps.  I found a faculty sponsor, arranged for a local physician/mentor, submitted a proposal to the Office of International Activities, developed a project and aims (on improving maternal outcomes), and applied for funding.  I found local contacts, created a packing list (including my passport, white coat and stethoscope), and picked up local guidebooks. But in addition to all of these basic preparatory steps, I had additional challenges because of the location of my fellowship.

Israel is a complicated country whose history, religion, politics, and geography make it a lightning rod for conflict.  Navigating this conflict on a medical mission is challenging and my presence in Israel would require extensive planning. Back in the summer of 2012 when I was preparing for the fellowship I submitted an extensive statement of purpose with faculty sponsor and mission statement to apply for a special travel waiver from my medical school.  After I received permission, I worked with the US State Department and US Embassy in Israel to ensure proper contingencies.  At each step I was thoroughly warned about the risks and liabilities of living in Israel.

Despite the challenges of getting here, my experience in Israel has been profound and I am so grateful for the relative peace that has sustained throughout the month.  During the conflicts in November, this peace was far from assured.  In the winter, rockets arrived daily in Tel Aviv and surrounding cities from the Gaza strip.  Jeremy, a close friend from college and current medical student at Sackler in Tel Aviv, recalls his time in the hospitals then, struggling to ignore the sounds of rockets. “There was a feeling of helplessness,” he says “We often only had a minute warning before the rocket would land, and moving our patients would have been futile.”  Jeremy, like the thousands of health professionals in direct line of the Gaza missiles, felt a duty to protect and serve his patients, whether from their illnesses or the rockets.

Pedram, an Iranian-born medical student at Sackler, remembers his experience outside of the hospital.  Those that have been to Tel Aviv have warm memories of the beaches that cover the cities’ coast line.  Young couples, families, and groups of children frolic in the waves, play Frisbee, and enjoy picnics on the pristine sand.  One day in November, Pedram was walking with a friend along the beach when he heard the missile siren go off.  He and the other beachgoers snapped their heads as a rocket came into view not more than 100 yards in the air.  As it arced menacingly toward the beach, a second projectile coming from the opposite direction came into view and intercepted the first, causing a loud explosion.  This sight would be repeated an estimated 1,456 times in Tel Aviv and throughout Israel that winter as the Israeli missile defense system (Iron Dome) would intercept and destroy many incoming threats (reports cite 421 interceptions over Israel, 142 rockets which fell in Gaza, and 875 which fell harmlessly in open areas) .  Some (58), it did not.  Six Israelis were killed and hundreds injured from the rockets that made landfall in populated areas.  A commuter bus was bombed, injuring 28 Israelis on the way to work. Israel responded forcefully in Gaza.  In an incursion known as Operation Pillar of Defense, some 133 Palestinians were believed to be killed with hundreds more injured.  During the past month, I have met colleagues who cared for the injured on both sides.  They have watched as countless more have been lost.  As physicians, we are bound by an oath to do no harm, and often, in Israel, we are repairing the harm caused by others.

During the violence in November, I worked with my colleagues to develop alternative plans in case the violence continued. More importantly, I prayed for peace.  Lani, a dentist and close friend, was to be in Israel providing free dental work while I was there.  We spoke often over those weeks, sharing our fears and hopes for a resolution to the conflict.  While a tenuous ceasefire was being held, I reconfirmed my visit and mission for the fellowship.  The peace held and I arrived in Israel safely, finding purpose in my work and gratitude for peace.

Over the last week this peace has been shaken.  Protests in and around Jerusalem have led to violence with Palestinian youths throwing homemade rockets and Israeli soldiers firing back and severely injuring protesters. Last week I was at Hadassah, the premiere health care center in Jerusalem, working among those that cared for the young Palestinians who were injured.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday evening I took a long run along the Mediterranean after work.  I ran on the beach, going south towards the ancient port city of Jaffa.  As I ran in the sand, I caught the sun setting over the tranquil blue waters.  When I got home, this peace was rattled by news that a rocket had landed in Ashkelon, a small town 100 km south of Tel Aviv.  This was the first such rocket attack since the November ceasefire.

I was to meet Jeremy later in the evening and as I walked the block to his house I got lost.  It is a route I have taken at least a dozen times since arriving in Israel.  But this night, I was lost in my thoughts.  I wandered a few blocks down the busy central district of Tel Aviv as I considered the rocket attack that day, the young Palestinians at Hadassah, and the lives lost in November.  I passed happy couples walking by hand-in-hand, a group of school children enjoying ice-cream by a large colorful fountain.  I leave in 10 days.  People that know me well know that I am always optimistic and upbeat.  I leave Israel hoping for lasting peace in 10 days, months, or years.

So this all brings me back to my question: what to pack?  How did I prepare for this experience?  The standard list is vital, but so much more is needed.  Of course I need a stethoscope to help hear hearts, a white coat to identify myself, a passport to get into the country, and vaccines to keep me well.  But what should I bring with me, really?  First, I brought my stethoscope, but also my heart.  I would need it to guide me during the challenges and successes of my experience.  Second, I brought my white coat, but also brought my identity.  This is who I am, my principles, and it would serve to center me during this journey.  Third, I brought my passport, but I also brought a curiosity to learn.  This curiosity granted me entrance to places and ideas that I would never have imagined.  Lastly, yes I got vaccinated.  But despite this I was not immune to new ideas and experiences that helped me grow into the compassionate doctor I am meant to be.  During my career I will bring life into the world, will save lives, and will see lives lost.  But I don’t forget to bring along what got me here, and have an open heart and a curious mind to discover what lies ahead.

Exile No More: A New Documentary Film

exile no moreFor decades, South Tel Aviv has been the first and last stop for all types of “second-class citizens” who cannot stand on their own and have been ignored by the government for far too long.  Today, South Tel Aviv’s Israeli residents are living with over 15,000 African asylum seekers unable to care for themselves, and even worse, in fear for their safety.  In the past year, violence between Africans and Israelis in South Tel Aviv and around the country has risen and many are afraid to walk the streets.

Deep in the heart of South Tel Aviv, seen through the eyes of Israeli residents and African asylum seekers, Exile No More documents what it means to live in exile, amongst your own.  This 30-minute film follows the story of African asylum seekers in Israel.  After traveling thousands of miles, many have found themselves without status, without jobs, and without homes in the most impoverished area of Tel Aviv.  Exile No More shares the story of African asylum seekers such as Kidane Isaacs, a 24-year-old Eritrean who has lived in Israel for more than 6 years now, without any form of refugee status.  The film follows his story as an African fleeing country after country, arriving in Israel, becoming a strong political leader, and inspiring his people to demand more.  Just across the road, Shula Keshet, a veteran Israeli in South Tel Aviv is making impressive progress in her efforts to bring together conservative Israelis living with a completely new population in Israel: African refugees.  These two story lines in Exile No More come together to represent an exiled people in their own community and the struggle for real change in their government.  Filmed over the period of eight months, the characters in this film represent the key political leaders at a time when asylum seekers in Israel are facing a true crossroad.

photo-mainFilmmaker Kady Buchanan has spent the last year and a half working on the film, and is currently in post-production readying the film for release.  In asking what drew her to the film, she says it seemed like such an important topic, one that, because of Israel’s history as a nation of refugees, would only become more and more relevant.  Buchanan filmed in the summer of 2012 when protests in South Tel Aviv were breaking out almost on a weekly basis.  Buchanan also chose to follow both Israelis and Africans because she wanted to show how feeling exiled or excommunicated from your community is not only a feeling felt by non-citizens.

Buchanan had launched a Kickstarter in an effort to raise the final funds needed for the film’s release.  With only six days left to go, they still have to fund $3,000.  If all funds aren’t received by March 26th, they get nothing.  To support the finishing of the funds by donating or sharing, visit the Kickstarter page here.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Melissa

mweiss1Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Melissa: I went to college at the University of Maryland, and staying in the Washington area made the most sense. However, I got a little sidetracked, and ended up spending two years working and traveling in Asia. While there, I watched all of The West Wing, and that, I kid you not, is what convinced me to come back. Real life in Washington is a touch less dramatic than Aaron Sorkin would have you believe, but it ain’t half bad.

Aaron: We heard you work for The Israel Project. What do you there?
Melissa: I’m TIP’s Strategy and Planning Associate, which means I work across all departments to make sure we’re getting the facts out there and also letting our supporters know what we’re up to. Some days I’m working at events, other days I write releases, and every so often they let me on the Twitters. I know you’re not supposed to be this happy in your first “real” job, but I truly love what I do and the people I work with, and I genuinely look forward to going to work every day.

mweiss2Aaron: Have you been to Israel? What was your favorite memory?
Melissa: I’ve been to Israel four times now, most recently on Federation’s alumni leadership mission (which you should all apply for! #shamelessplug). I don’t know about a favorite memory, but my favorite thing about Israel is that I feel like I run into friends around every corner. For someone who grew up in a very small Jewish community and didn’t even meet an Israeli until college, that’s a pretty cool thing. Oh, and the food. The food is damn good.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Melissa: Yom Hashoah, though I guess it’s more of an Israeli holiday than a Jewish one. Is that a weird choice? That might be weird. When I was in college, the Jewish Student Union would put on a 24-hour Holocaust vigil, and hundreds of people from the UMD Jewish community would gather throughout the day and night to read names of people who’d died in the Holocaust. Even in the middle of the night, there’d be a couple dozen students braving the cold. It was that sense of solidarity and remembrance that made me appreciate both my religion and the strength of the Jewish community.

Aaron: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Melissa: The wait time to get a drink at the bar increases exponentially.

The Jewish Food Experience

JFE“Inspired by tradition.  Delivered with a twist.”

The Jewish Food Experience (JFE), a new DC-based site, provides a platform for the community to come together through food.  JFE brings Jewish food with a modern twist:  The project allows foodies, including chefs, restaurateurs, food critics and writers, to share recipes, stories, international flavors, news about the local Jewish food scene, and volunteer efforts to fight hunger.  Steven A. Rakitt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, explains, “Food is a shared experience, and we expect this new project will provide opportunities for local Jews to not only experience food with family and friends old and new, but also engage the Jewish community in a deeper way.”  In addition to online activities, JFE will create shared moments around food through events and programs such as tastings, volunteer opportunities, book signings, cooking series, films, and more.

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Chef Todd Gray giving a cooking demo at the JFE launch.

Susan Barocas, JFE Project Director, explains, “The Jewish Food Experience is the first of its kind – a project that combines an appetizing website chock full of stories, recipes, and resources with exciting programs and partnerships.  There is something so elemental and natural about exploring, discussing, cooking, tasting, and sharing food that brings people together in a way few things can do.  And food is also a way to bring memory and tradition together with innovation and creativity.  It’s exciting to think about the possibilities of connecting people through food and contributing to richer, more satisfying ways to connect to Jewish heritage and culture.”

JFE held it’s official launch party on Tuesday, March 12.  The morning began with a bit of schmoozing (in true Jewish fashion) and breakfast consisting of twists on traditional Jewish foods and new innovative recipes.  Fritatta of wild mushrooms and muenster cheese, poached salmon mousse with cucumber salad, and matzah brei with strawberry compote were some of the delicious foods that attendees munched on.  While enjoying the breakfast fare, Chef Todd Gray, co-author of The New Jewish Table and member of the JFE Advisory Council, treated us to a cooking demo.  All who attended left with satisfied bellies and excitement for the Jewish Food Experience.

Check out the The Jewish Food Experience today!