February 1, 2016 marked my third anniversary of living in DC.
Looking back on the friendships I’ve created and home I’ve built here, I’ve realized that I have the Jewish DC scene, specifically DCJCC Shabbat Clusters to thank for most of it.
Like a lot of people here in DC, I am not from here originally. I grew up in the NW suburbs of Chicago and there was never a shortage of Jewish peers around. In DC, after moving here on a gut feeling and a need for change, I was no longer surrounded by people I knew. In fact, I could count on one hand how many people I knew in this city. For some, starting over can be a paralyzing feeling. For me, I found a new start was just what I needed. I took solace in knowing that there was a Jewish population here, and being the outgoing person that I am, I would be ok. It’s that instant connection and bond that I feel when I meet a fellow jew, that comforted me.
After having been set up on a lady-date from a mutual friend (not a Member of the Tribe) who said, “You’re both Jewish with similar relationship stories, be friends,” we hit it off and together, decided to check out Shabbat Clusters through the DCJCC.
We walked into the April 2013 Kickoff Dinner in the basement gym of the JCC and randomly chose a table towards the side. As the table slowly began to fill, we chatted it up with our table-mates. As luck would have it, a girl who sat at that table was also assigned to our cluster.
I realize I got extremely lucky with my group, because we all got along and continued to meet once a month for Shabbat dinners over the course of the year. We bonded over food, you know, as Jews do. Our dinners included Mexican tacos, Thai, Chinese food, healthy wraps and more. As the year progressed, we gathered for more than just Shabbat. We hosted Hanukkah parties, Passover seders, and Yom Kippur break fasts. Even when the Clusters program was over, we continued to meet and our social circles all began to merge.
Soon our cluster expanded beyond just our group and began to include friends of friends and significant others until it was just a group of friends gathering together – as it is today.
Shabbat Clusters introduced me to some of my closest friends, Jewish life in DC, and helped this new kid in town feel at home in a new city. For as small as DC is and how much smaller our Jewish population is, it is rare that I go out and don’t see someone I know on the streets.
DC is a transient city and many people come and go. Three years later, it’s because of the Jewish community that I felt welcome here and was able to make a life here. I have found a stronger Jewish identity here in DC than I did back in Chicago.
Shabbat Clusters creates community by gathering people by their interests and neighborhoods to eat and celebrate Jewish life together. Come out to the Shabbat Clusters & Friends Mid-Season Happy Hour on July 13 or email Stacy Miller, Manager of EntryPointDC, at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more! Shabbat Clusters is hosted by EntryPointDC, a social network for Jews in their 20’s and 30’s at the DCJCC.