Jewish Guy of the Week – Matthew

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

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Matt: I’ve always been here!  My family has been in DC for three generations (native Washingtonians DO exist!).  One of my grandmothers grew up in the house where she still lives off Connecticut Ave and my other grandmother grew up in Alexandria, Virginia.  I have built a very strong professional network in DC as well through my career in the insurance and benefits business; between that and my strong family ties, there seems to be a strong magnet that keeps me here.

Rachel: Are you involved in any Jewish organizations?
Matt: I have become very involved with The Jewish Federation over the past few years.  I have participated in various volunteer activities, Reverse Mifgash (reverse birthright), and philanthropic ventures.  In fact, I am going on the NEXT DC Alumni Leadership Mission with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington this November.  It will be a great way to experience the scope of international programming that The Federation actively funds throughout Israel and the world.  I could not be more excited!

impact 2012Rachel: You’re chairing Impact DC.  What is Impact DC?
Matt: Ah, indeed I am!  Impact DC is Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s signature fundraising gala that brings together 300-400 young adults (those in their 20s and 30s) for a celebration of the our generation’s dedication to leadership, charitable giving, and volunteerism.  It is truly the event of the year for Jewish young professionals.

This year’s event is on October 17th at the Howard Theater (and you should visit RIGHT NOW to register!).

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Matt: Cliché I know, but it’s definitely lox and whitefish.  It’s in my blood and I am predisposed… I can’t help it!  I don’t need the bagel and cream cheese…. I just need lox and whitefish!

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Matt: This is a hard one.  At first blush I would answer Einstein, Dylan, Spielberg… But the more I think about it, I have been very fortunate to personally know a great number of “cool” or more accurately characterized as interesting, passionate, and inspiring Jews in my life… many of whom are here in our community in DC.  Ok ok- I’ll pick one (well three)…. my three beautiful nieces- Emerson, Riley and Dahlia.

LinkedIn or Out? 5 Helpful Hints to Optimize Your LinkedIn Presence

linkFacebook. Twitter.  LinkedIn.  Instagram.  Whether it’s trying to get your (photo) tags up at GTJ’s upcoming happy hour in October, or ‘gramming your favorite food dishes with the #instafood hashtag,  we are all opting in and tuning into social media channels these days.  Out of all these social media channels, which one do you think is the oldest?

Most people would intuitively think Facebook is the oldest because of its social dominance.  However, “most people” would be wrong.

In fact, LinkedIn precedes them all with its conception in December 2002, while Facebook was launched by Zuckerberg in February 2004.  That’s right; LinkedIn is the oldest of all the social media siblings (Facebook is now the legal guardian of Instagram after its acquisition in April 2012 for about $1 billion; Twitter has beef with Instagram after Facebook adopted it; and well, LinkedIn is that one sibling that keeps away from the family – you know the one who moved to NYC and has a hot-shot job).  Anyways, here are 5 helpful hints on the optimizing your presence on LinkedIn:

1. Connect with your contacts: Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, I always find it hard to remember to connect my real life to my digital one.  Rather than opting into your Gmail account from LinkedIn and inviting all of your contacts, especially those who you do not want to add, first add your mentors from school and past job/internships.  Yes, now that you are a washed-up graduate, it’s time to think back to your favorite professors in college and connect with them on LinkedIn if they have them.  After all, they can be a great resource.

2) Upload a headshot: LinkedIn users are 7 times more likely to be viewed by others when they added a profile picture.  So whether you have a iPhone or you are borrowing your friend’s SLR camera, get a headshot of yourself wearing a nice shirt…you don’t even have to be wearing pants.

3) Add a project/publication: This is my favorite feature of LinkedIn thus far.  There’s a lot of talk about creating a digital resume/infographics to stand out from other applicants, but who needs that when you can showcase your hard work in front of all your peers?  LinkedIn allows its users to insert a “Project URL” that links your work from previous experiences.  Don’t have it online?  Upload it to a public Google doc and insert that URL so all your contacts (and HR reps) can see.

4) Join groups in your industry: Similar to connecting with your contacts, pretty self-explanatory.  Do a simple search for groups in your specialize industry.  Make sure to find active ones that host happy hours and other networking events.

5) Endorse/Recommend your connections: Leaving a job on good terms?  Similar to the “Like” button on Facebook, you can publicly endorse your managers and colleagues with skills they have.  Don’t be creepy and endorse the VP’s skills unless you have experienced his or her skills first hand.  Also, instead of asking a letter recommendation at the end of a job or internship, ask them to write one for you on LinkedIn.  That way you don’t have to go through the trouble of finding it the next time you land an interview.

Zach Schoengold is a public relations consultant in DC, specializing in the evolving field of digital communications. A recent graduate of Univ. of Maryland, outside of work he enjoys writing, golfing and hanging out with friends. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Bring Smiles and Supplies to the Homeless with Midnight Mitzvahs

Midnight MitzvahsHave you ever walked past a homeless person and thought, “I’m too busy right now” or “I wish I knew how to help.”  Well look no further!  Join Gather the Jews to kick off Midnight Mitzvahs on October 1st and we hit the streets to give out smiles and supplies to some of the 6,500 homeless people of DC.  We will start with a brief training and sandwich making session at GWU Hillel at 7:30 and will hit the streets by 8:15. Register here!

There is a $5 cost to participate. Your $5 will go towards purchasing the supplies we will hand out during the night.

Things we will be handing out (feel free to bring some to donate):

  • Cold Water
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Sunscreen
  • Socks (in the winter)
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Homeless Resource Cards

Register Here!

Jewish Girl of the Week – Molly

MG4Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Molly: I have always loved DC- I think of it as my version of Disney World.  I grew up in Gainesville, GA, a small town about an hour north of Atlanta.  Being the only Jewish kid in my school, I spent a lot of time educating and explaining Judaism to my classmates and teachers.  This mainly consisted of bringing in food on major holidays.  After I graduated from the University of Georgia, I took an Education Fellowship with the Goldring/ Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.  I spent two years traveling around the South, eating good food, meeting nice people, and helping small Jewish congregations with their programming and religious schools.  We were based in Jackson, MS and while the small Jewish population (only 1500 in the whole state) was new to my cohort of Fellows, it was familiar and comforting to me.  My work at the ISJL introduced me to the possibility of being a Jewish Educator and that led me to pursue my Masters in Jewish Education, which I’m finishing as I work at my current job at Washington Hebrew.   I have only been in DC for a short time but I already know it is the perfect place for me.  Good food and nice people seem to be what makes me feel at home in a new place, and there is A LOT of good food!  And a lot of great people, of course.

MG3Rachel: So you work at Washington Hebrew Congregation. What do you do?
Molly: I am the Lead Educator in our Religious School.  I oversee the Kindergarten- 6th Grade programs, write curriculums, manage teachers, and connect with families.  WHC is a large congregation and there are around 900 kids in our religious school.  This is my first year and I am excited to get started!  I have always worked with small congregations so it is very different to work with such a large school.  We are a 3,000 family congregation, so it is like having all of the Jews in Mississippi under the same roof and then doubled and doubled again.  The clergy and staff are incredible, so I am lucky to have the opportunity to learn from and work with them.

Rachel: Have you been to Israel? What was your favorite memory?
Molly: I have!  I went on the UGA Hillel trip with a few of my good friends from college.  We had an incredible time and I will never forget it.  My favorite memory is actually from going to a mall in Tel Aviv.  My friend Rachel lost all of her luggage and was living out of my suitcase and this small complementary bag from El Al.  Our trip leader took us to the mall so that she could buy some sneakers and we had the best time.  Of course ,I loved seeing the incredible history and being in Israel, but wondering around a mall and trying to speak Hebrew will always stand out in my mind.

MGRachel: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Molly: Purim.  I don’t think this is a particularly original answer, but I absolutely love Purim.  I think it is because I also love Halloween.  And carnivals.  Any time I can dress up like Esther and have the opportunity to win a beta fish is a pretty great day in my book.  The theme for the WHC carnival is going to be a luau/ surf party so I am practicing my hula hooping and ring tossing skills.  And who doesn’t love it when Vashti walks out on the king?  Props to Vashti.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Molly: Emily Yoffe from Dear Prudence.  And I am not just saying that because I heard her speak at Sixth & I recently.  OK, she is on my mind, but she is super cool.  I would definitely sit next to her at High Holiday services.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Molly: They must compare camp stories.  I went to Camp Coleman, so I probably know your camp best friend’s big sister.

ACCESS DC To Highlight Migration at 13th Annual Young Diplomats Reception

logo_ajcIlana Ron Levey is a Co-Chair of ACCESS DC, the young professionals initiative of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in the Washington D.C. area, and a member of the Global ACCESS Steering Committee (GASC).  

For over 100 years, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has considered issues of immigration- particularly to the United States and to Israel- as part of its core mission. Virtually all American Jews today are intimately familiar with the immigration experience, and its positive prospects for new beginnings and social mobility and its negative challenges of dislocation. Today, the AJC is a leader amongst American Jewish organizations in advocating for a comprehensive immigration reform vision that supports American growth by welcoming skilled and talented foreigners to our shore, and protects the rights of individuals fleeing persecution and oppression.

Likewise, through the AJC and our young-generation program, ACCESS, we are deeply committed to engaging with diplomats across the world and to building enduring relationships borne out of mutual respect, common interest, and shared responsibility. Our annual ACCESS DC Young Diplomats event honors this commitment by bringing young diplomats from over 60 countries together with talented young Jewish leaders to connect over a topic of mutual interest and importance.

On October 10th, we will come together at our annual Young Diplomats Event to speak about the challenges and opportunities of international migration. While the United States remains the most popular destination for migrants worldwide, with more than 45 million of the 232 million people defined by the United Nations as living abroad, diverse countries such as Germany, France, England, China, and South Africa are also experiencing major waves of migration. The topic of international immigration also includes the challenges posed by forced migration of millions from war torn areas, including the more than two million recently forced out of Syria- more than 10 percent of the population.

We should ask ourselves important questions about migration and its impact. What attracts or repels people from one country or another? What are the challenges and opportunities afforded by immigrant populations? Do democratic nations have the moral obligation to take in refugees in times of crisis? What do global populations look like in the 21st century?

There is no doubt that long term migration can change societies and how countries interact with one another. For example, the largest source of foreign income for countries like Russia or Mexico today is from migrant remittances. Today, there are 37 million Americans of Irish descent- and just under four million Irishmen in Ireland. These migrants changed the face of our country in the past, just as the faces of other countries around the world are changing today.

Please join us on October 10th  at 1777 F Street to discuss this complex, timely, and important topic, together with young diplomats from around the world. We are honored to host three expert and diverse speakers, who approach this issue from the perspectives of American foreign policy, international advocacy, and trans-national policy. The panel will feature Manuel Orozco, Senior Associate at Inter-American Dialogue, Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration at U.S. Department of State and Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress.

For more information and to purchase a ticket, please visit

Who Will Be Waiting In Line to Get the New iPhone on Release Day?

iphomOn Friday, September 20, Apple will be releasing an unprecedented two new iPhones— the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C.   With pre-orders limited to only the 5C, experts predict massive lines outside Apple retail stores—with some lunatic Apple fans who have already been in line for weeks.

And due to massive supply shortages, many more would-be iPhone buyers will be getting in line in the wee hours of Thursday night and Friday morning to ensure they will have the device by the weekend.

At the same time, many Apple stalwarts will be refraining from waiting in line for the smartphone. We surveyed 1,000 people as to weather they will be waiting in line on the new iPhone release day, and here is what some had to say:

“I WILL wait on line for the new iPhone on release day because…”

  • …it will be a fun reunion for all the friends I made at the iPhone 5 release last year.”
  • “…I’ve been dying to take a fake-sick day.”
  • “…it will be the closest I will ever get to taking a camping trip.”
  • “…a gold iPhone will be the missing piece to the puzzle of losing my virginity by Friday.”
  • “…I have nothing better to do thanks to government furloughs.”
  • “…I have yet to reach my annual Apple spending quota of $1500 per year.”
  • “…sitting outside in the dark of night while playing with my electronics, what can possibly go wrong?”
  • “…I thoroughly enjoy complaining about how tired I am.”
  • “…with a fingerprint-scanner to unlock the thing, I no longer will have to worry about the cops snooping my text messages with my drug dealer.”

“I will NOT wait on line for the new iPhone on release day because…”

  • “…I will be spending my hard-earned $400 at the strip club, thank you very much.”
  • “…my carphone is still alive and kicking it.”
  • “…there’s a new iPhone coming out?  I bought an iPhone 5 yesterday.  Goddammit.”
  • “…I’m still a bit busy occupying Wall Street.”
  • “…I know I will just leave it in a cab like I did with the last one.”
  • “…I have a job, a life, and self-respect.”
  • “…I will probably lose my place in line when I make a dash to the nearest Starbucks bathroom at sunrise.”
  • “…hold on, I’m texting. Will tell you in uno…………..momento. So… What was the question?”

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  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.

Masa Featured Internship: Organizational Development Associate, Beit Dror Temporary Home for GLBT Youth

As an Organizational Development Associate, you will work alongside the Beit Dror staff to ensure smooth daily functioning of the shelter. You will also help with fundraising and public relations in order to help build partnerships with organizations outside of Israel.

Beit Dror is the first therapeutic emergency center for GLBT youth in Israel“Dror” is a temporary shelter for adolescents, both male and female. Besides offering a safe home, a warm bed and meals, it also provides psychological and moral/social support, direction in finding long-term solutions, as well as enrichment and educational activities.

A Break with Tradition: Over 1,200 High Holiday Visitors Flood the Outdoor, Musical Worship Experience at Adas Israel

Kol Nidre at Adas IsraelOver 1,200 eager Jewish High Holiday visitors descended on the outdoor plaza at Adas Israel Congregation, the oldest and largest conservative synagogue in Washington, DC,  to experience an innovative and free Kol Nidre (Yom Kippur evening) service this past Friday. It was led entirely by Adas clergy-member Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt – an increasingly popular and dynamic young woman Rabbi. Accompanied by a professional live band, this unique High Holiday service boasted reflective eastern music, a pattern of dancing lights in the plaza trees, a fully-lit moon, and over a thousand voices singing and chanting reflectively in unison. This alternative Yom Kippur service drew both synagogue members and non-members alike, and was particularly well attended by DC area Young Professionals, as well as unaffiliated Jews seeking a “less conventional” worship experience for the Jewish High Holidays.

The service reflected a major break with the more traditional High Holiday services most have come to expect from the Conservative Jewish movement – which traditionally charges a great deal of money for High Holiday tickets and wouldn’t permit musical instruments to play on Sabbaths and Holidays. The many guest and visitors (which included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, among others), as well as synagogue members described it as one of the most unique and powerful evenings in the life of the 144 year old synagogue.

Adas Israel Congregation, a historically traditional American synagogue, has just completed a major synagogue renovation and rejuvenation project known as the Vision of Renewal. This Renewal Initiative included the fifteen million dollar renovation of the synagogue’s building and facilities – the major premise of which was to change the “feeling” in the building by creating warm, welcoming, natural worship and gathering spaces flooded by natural light. The initiative also includes the creation of new and innovative programs and learning opportunities designed to meet the needs of an ever-evolving 21st century religious landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASenior Rabbi Gil Steinlauf says “innovative new programs and worship experiences like this exciting new Kol Nidre service are exactly the tools we need to change the way we experience ‘synagogue.’ By meeting people right where they’re at spiritually, as well as creating an open-minded, non-judgmental atmosphere that is open to everyone, regardless of their relationship to God, we are confidently meeting an ongoing “Customer Service Problem” many American churches, synagogues and other religious institutions are facing today.”

Adas Israel billed this enormous outdoor worship gathering as “Return Again to Kol Nidre, and it was co-sponsored by the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington at Adas Israel, which offers programs and workshops designed to help deepen the Jewish experience of the “spiritual” through Jewish meditation, yoga, chanting, mindful learning, and spirited Shabbat & Holiday programs, all within a uniquely Jewish context. The synagogue also offered a more “traditional” Yom Kippur service inside its new newly renovated Charles E. Smith Sanctuary, which also drew close to 1500 members and families.

Shortly before the service began, Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt announced to the growing crowd as they eagerly anticipated the start of the music and chanting, “Let this be a sacred space, a safe space, a space of dynamism and welcome. Let this be a space where we can all raise our voices in prayer and song before the sky, before the earth, before God, and before each other.”

Despite uneasiness from the more traditional sects of Conservative Judaism, the clergy and leadership at Adas Israel are confident that these new approaches to Jewish life and ritual are exactly the ingredients needed to revitalize the increasingly dwindling movement. Through these renewal initiatives, Adas is betting future generations of Jews  – who aren’t Orthodox, and therefore not bound to show up at a synagogue  –  but are genuinely interested in embracing modern Judaism, are free to meet and explore their innermost beliefs and ideas.

Rabbi Steinlauf says, “Today’s Jews are looking to meet other like-minded people and find an authentic Jewish identity. They are open to sharing new ideas, and they want ‘the real thing.’”

This wildly successful, alternative High Holiday experience represents the next step in the ongoing evolution of this traditional American synagogue, which has played host to the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Israeli prime ministers, US presidents and vice-presidents, and more recently, the Dalai Lama.

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, creator of the “Return Again” service, says, “After experiencing this past Yom Kippur service, I don’t believe it’s an overstatement to say it may well represent the next step in reviving the Conservative movement of Judaism and synagogue life as a whole.”

Jerusalem next year? Israel entices today!


Hanging out with IDF stationed in Hebron’s Avinu Avraham neighborhood.

My heart trembled for a week in anticipation of Yom Kippur’s last shofar blast on Saturday night.  No, I didn’t fear being indicted as irredeemably wicked despite plenty of missteps in the past year.  My worry was that the “almost in Israel” feeling I had brought back to DC after Elul would disappear upon the shuttering of the high holy day gates.

Turns out my concerns were unwarranted as I spent the better part of Havdalah last night gushing over my recent backpacking trip with friends old and new at Mesorah DC which held services again this year at Sixth & I synagogue.

Indeed, I could barely eat as we broke the fast, thanking Rabbi Teitelbaum instead for invoking the moving image of Masada at daybreak in preparing the congregants to make our final Viduy.  It is, in fact, my most cherished memory from the first visit to our spiritual homeland I just completed.  My only regret at Masada being that I didn’t think to bring my Siddur as other pre-dawn hikers had done; instead, I prayed selfishly not to lose my footing during the steep climb along the Snake Trail and that I reach the summit before sunrise.

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Pitbull concert at the fairgrounds across from Tel Aviv University

Thankfully, both of those pleas were amply answered, as well as the desire to increase my observance of mitzvot going forward.  While I don’t foresee becoming a perfect tzaddik after just 20 days trekking between hostels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Tzfat and Haifa at roughly 90 shekels per night, the solo journey was as easy and inspiring to undertake as every insider whom I pestered in advance for advice had promised.

Besides the many souvenirs I mailed home to myself, some other keepsakes from my wanderings include: improving my fluency in Hebrew on the fly and habituating myself to incorporate more berachot throughout each day.  I also did some research afterward and secured a fellowship in Jerusalem next Spring, working to reverse the anti-Israel propaganda I witnessed on my stop in Hebron.

So, far from extinguished with last night’s final call to redemption for the new year, my newfound personal connection to Israel only promises to flourish with the ushering in of 5774. I wrote this post to urge you, too, reader, to listen to your heart and follow when it calls. Israel’s buses are easy, the food is delicious, and the people are warm, friendly, and helpful.  Don’t wait until next year to see Jerusalem!  If you haven’t already, you owe it to yourself to start saving and planning to embark on such a soul-transforming adventure today.

More pictures:


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The prayer I lodged at the kotel is the lavender scroll at the bottom center of the pack.

Lunch fresh from the Kinneret in Tiberias.

Lunch fresh from the Kinneret in Tiberias.

Roman ruins at Bet She'an.

Roman ruins at Bet She’an.

Havdalah on the rooftop of Ascent in Tzfat.

Havdalah on the rooftop of Ascent in Tzfat.

In the belly of a steel whale at Akko.

In the belly of a steel whale at Akko.

Toes in the surf after climbing Rosh Haniqra.

Toes in the surf after climbing Rosh Haniqra.

Lisette Garcia is earning a master’s degree in political management from The George Washington University.  She anticipates putting her additional skills as a Freedom of Information Act attorney to work for NGO Monitor in Jerusalem from May through July 2014.

Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 74)

walkI still remember that in high school, when the entire calculus class looked clueless about the necessity of integrals in our lives, our teacher, Mr. Opre, told us to “talk the talk and walk the walk” until we started to actually understand how this newfangled way of calculating the area actually worked.  At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about, but what he meant was that we needed to go through the motions (as in, just follow the mathematical steps) until it started to feel like we actually knew what we were doing.  And slowly but surely, his advice worked, and I was calculating the area under a curve like it was my one job in life.

What does all of this have to do with dating?  Some of us are jaded by the dating process, and some of us are feeling insecure about getting back out there.  Some of us may feel like we lost a sense of ourselves in our last relationship, so we need to get back into the things we love to do… but what were they?  If anything here sounds like it might be true, then I’m going to give the same advice that the wise Mr. Opre once gave: Talk the talk and walk the walk.  Eventually, things will start to catch up with you.

There was an article in Scientific American in 2011 called, “Smile!  It Could Make You Happier.”  Doesn’t this seem counterintuitive?  Don’t you smile because you feel happy, and not the other way around?  Maybe not.  Psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose ability to frown is diminished by cosmetic botox inject­ions are happier, on average, than people who can frown.  The researchers gave a questionnaire to 25 women, half of whom had received frown-inhibiting botox injections.  The botox recipients reported feeling happier; more importantly, they did not report feeling any more attractive, suggesting that the emotional effects were not driven by a psychological boost that could come from the treatment’s cosmetic nature.

So, if smiling can make you happier, can talking the talk and walking the walk make you more confident in your dating life?  I’d venture to say yes.  Most things in life are all about framing.  Let’s say someone asks, “What do you like to do for fun?”  You have two options: You could look down on yourself, saying something like, “Oh, I don’t know.  I guess I like to do my daily crossword puzzle and play Words with Friends.  That’s about all.”  Or, you could own it and talk the talk of confidence, even if you’re not feeling it quite yet.  “I’m trying to get into some new activities, but for now, I’ve rediscovered my love for crossword puzzles and word games.  I love challenging my brain!”  Which person would you rather date?

If you feel jaded or insecure, when you get to that date, it’s important that you exude some level of confidence.  Rather than the person across the table thinking, “Ugh – she really doesn’t think very highly of herself,” or, “She must have been on one too many bad dates recently,” he’ll instead think, “Wow – I can’t believe she made time for me tonight!”

So, talk the talk, walk the walk, and calculate some integrals.  (Ok, that last one is optional.)  Thanks, Mr. Opre!

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.