Jewish Drag Brunch

Every once in awhile, we all need a Sunday Funday.  

A time to sit back and be entertained with a drink in one hand, and your crew spilling over to the next table, dishing out the latest in their lives.

A popular Sunday afternoon activity that has long been a DC tradition is drag brunch. Favorite drag brunch spots like Nellie’s and Perry’s provide awesome entertainment, but are missing one of our favorite elements – a Jewish shtick.

Luckily, this Sunday, April 22, the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC), located in your favorite DC neighborhood – Dupont Circle – will be hosting the fabulous  Not Your Bubbe’s Bingo: Drag Brunch and Games presented by EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program and GLOE, the LGBTQ outreach and engagement program of the EDCJCC.

There is drag brunch, and then there is JEWISH drag brunch. We thought you might want to know some of the extra elements you will encounter at this entertaining event (drag queens, schvitzing, and glitter may or may not be included).

Bagels, Blintzes, & Many a Mazel Mimosa

There is no better way to start your morning than with Jewish staples like bagel, lox and schmear, challah French toast casserole, blintzes, an unlimited mimosa bar, and coffee and juices for those that may be feeling less “mazel-ous”.

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B-I-N-G-O  (with prizes!)

Perhaps instead of getting an X or four corners on a board, you can win a round of bingo with the shape of a star of David or a Chai? Let us know if you can help us figure that one out!

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Drag Queen Yentas

What is a drag queen yenta you ask? Someone who can simultaneously channel Barbra Streisand, tell you about the hottest hunk in the room, all while calling bingo numbers.

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Mah Jongg,  Canasta, & Jewish Apples to Apples  #FTW

We would love to help you impress Bubbe when you join her at her weekly mahjong game. Learn why a Chinese tile-based game became popular among our female family in Florida and the basics of the classics.

 

Sunday may be some people’s day of rest, but we plan on ending our weekend having more fun than the time we got lifted in our chairs at our bar and bat mitzvahs.

Get tickets here for Not Your Bubbe’s Bingo: Drag Brunch & Games on Sunday, April 22.

 

 

About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Call Me by Your (Jewish) Name

My love of the Oscar-nominated “Call Me by Your Name” may be a bit biased. The movie is set in a wonderful villa in the northern part of my home country, Italy, and the Director, Luca Guadagnino, is from my home town of Palermo. What was most exciting about the movie, though, went far beyond the bucolic setting, and the level of Italian nostalgia.

The story is about – don’t worry, no spoilers – two men who fall desperately in love during a summer in the ‘80s. Elio Perlman, a precocious half-Italian, half-American, Jew of only 17 years old, falls in love with Oliver, a 31-year-old Jewish graduate student from the States who travels to Italy to help his professor (Elio’s father) for the summer. I’ll keep silent about the rest – apart from highly recommending you see it.

Something about the movie has stayed with me for the few weeks since I watched it. In one of the main scenes, Oliver, looking intensely at Elio, tells him: “Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.” Oliver’s request may certainly sound weird: why would someone call somebody else by their own name?

After watching, I found myself thinking about the importance of names and nouns in general, and about the role that our names play in our lives. We all have at least one given name. Sometimes, our names are random, chosen because our parents love how they sound. Other times, we are named after specific people. In Italy, like in Judaism, it’s quite common to name a baby after a grandparent. Whether we like it or not, we are stuck with our given name for our entire life, and there is not a lot we can do about it…or maybe there is!

Every name has a meaning, a power within itself. If we truly grasp onto the name and make it our own, then our behavior may shift a little bit to better fit into our name. Even a nickname is something we are given, and accompanies us for parts of our life. Nicknames often depict some of our characteristics, and grow into us, or – sometimes – we may change a bit under the influence of our nicknames.

So, what is the meaning of calling someone else by your own name? To do that seems almost like giving that other person your personality, your story, yourself. That, in essence, is what the two protagonists of “Call Me By Your Name” were doing during the essential scene referenced earlier: they were giving themselves to one another without restriction, exchanging their own given names. Through this exchange, Oliver and Elio nullify the differences between themselves, give each other their entire selves, and transform two separate selves into one. As lovers, the most intimate thing that they can give one another that goes beyond their bodies is, in fact, their names.

The Hebrew word “davar” illuminates the relationship between names and objects. “Davar” means both thing and word, as if to underline the idea that there is no difference between a thing, and the word that defines it. The noun gives meaning to the thing, and the most direct way we relate to a thing is through its name – to the point where the two become indistinguishable. Think, for example, about how and why God named the first man. God named the first man Adam, because he was made from the earth, “adama.” This makes a connection between the creature and what it was made from – it’s essence. We quickly discover more about the power of calling something by a name when God gives Adam the responsibility of naming all of the animals which He had created.

As Genesis 2:20 relays, “And the Lord God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name.”

What happens, though, when we have to choose a name for ourselves? How do we choose it among thousands?

Converting to another religion is never an easy choice, and was something I thought about for several years before making the big step to convert to Judaism. When I started my conversion path in 2012, I never thought that one of the most challenging aspects of it would have been calling myself by a new name.

When my conversion Rabbi told me that I had to pick a Jewish name for myself, at first, I found that odd: my name was already a Jewish name. I was named Daniela after my Jewish paternal grandfather, (nonno Daniele – whom I had never met because he passed away when my father was a child) but my name has a very beautiful Jewish meaning: Dan-i-El, “God is my judge”. I’ve tried to make this name my own throughout my entire life. I interpreted it as a pearl of wisdom to follow every single day, to inspire me to not care so much about the judgements of others, because only “God is my judge”.

When I explained this to my Rabbi, he stated that I had to pick a new Jewish name because I was going to start a new life as a Jew. Yes, people would continue to call me by my given name, but I needed a new Jewish name to remind me of my path. Having expected such an answer, I went to our next meeting prepared and told the Rabbi that I had picked “Laila” as my Jewish name. I liked “Laila” because it means night in Hebrew and Arabic, and I love the sound of it. Smiling, the Rabbi told me: “You should pick a name that has a meaning for you, not just a word whose sound you like.”

By that point, I was frustrated. It isn’t easy to pick a name. We are so used to being “given” names that, when we have the opportunity to pick one, we feel the big responsibility of the choice. After spending several days thinking about what my new name should be, I finally understood that the way to go was to follow my parents’ example and to name myself after someone who had meaningful importance in my life. That’s how I decided on the name Orly.

During a formative year studying in Israel, I met two important women named Orly. The first “Orly” was my Hebrew teacher at the Hebrew University, whose teaching helped me fall in love with that wonderful language. The second was an Orthodox Italian student from the University dorm. We connected immediately, and, despite our different ways of being Jewish, I considered her an example of how to be a “good Jew.” And then, of course, the name Orly literally translated to “light for me.” I loved the idea of a light to “light up” my new path in life. And hey: the Rabbi was satisfied too!

I know why “Call My By Your Name”, and that specific scene, struck such a chord in my heart. It made me wonder about who, among the people in my life, I would call by my own name. To whom would I give my name’s power and strength?

And what about you? Who would you call by your name?

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Daniela is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! She is a “retired philosopher” who works as an executive assistant and loves to write about Italian and Jewish events happening in DC. She was born and raised in Sicily (Italy) in an interfaith family and moved to D.C. with her husband after studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where they met. They have a wonderful Siberian cat named Rambam! Daniela loves going to work while listening to Leonard Cohen’s songs and sometimes performs in a West African Dance group

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Israel’s 70th Birthday Playlist

Israel’s 70th Birthday Playlist

Hello friends.

I am delighted to be writing about one of my favorite topics – Israeli music!

I recently moved to DC to  join the wonderful GatherDC staff after three years of living in Jerusalem.  

As a young girl, I learned about the founding of the state of Israel, and the amazing history motivated me to move to Israel to experience what it would be like to live there. I spent three years living, learning, and working in Israel at the Shalom Hartman Institute. I made wonderful friends and a created a new surrogate family. The incredible feeling I had while living in Israel can be broken down to this one story: when 100+ college students were about to descend my office in Jerusalem for a week-long learning program, I was immediately stressed out. My colleague turned to me and said, “what is there to worry about – we are family! We are all in this together!”

This Thursday marks Yom Haatzmaut – Israel Independence Day.

This is an especially significant year because Israel is 70 years old! 70 in the Torah is when one is considered an “elder.”  70 years ago on this day (5th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar), the Provisional Government read and signed the Declaration of Independence – now called the “Independence Hall” in Tel Aviv.  If you’ve traveled to Israel on Birthright – or most other organized trips – this is usually one of the first stops on the tour.

David Ben-Gurion and the Provisional Government Reading the signed Declaration of Independence, May 14th 1948

A few months earlier, on November 29th, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted in favor to create a Jewish State in the British Mandate of Palestine. 33 Voted in Favor, 13 Voted against, and 10 abstained. Here is footage of the vote.

Learning about these incredible moments of Israeli history is part of what motivated me to move to Israel and experience what it was like to live there. I spent three years living, learning, and working in Israel. I made wonderful friends and a created a new surrogate family.

After moving back to the United States (and starting work at GatherDC), people have asked me “what do you miss the most about Israel?” My immediate answer is always the Machane Yehuda Shuk – the market in Jerusalem. Why? In the morning, it looks like a typical market with beautiful fruits and vegetables – and there are lots of negotiations on how much things are. But, at night, it becomes the #1 nightlife spot for young Jerusalem-ites and tourists.

Machane Yehuda Market by Day

Machane Yehuda By Night

To mark the occasion of Israel’s 70th birthday, I have created a playlist with lots of fun music to help you imagine yourself dancing to the beat amidst a sea of thousands of people our age in the narrow streets in Machane Yehuda Shuk. Time to, literally, turn it up!

Israel’s 70th Birthday Playlist!

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Mollie Sharfman, GatherDC Community Manager

Mollie is an experiential Jewish educator and facilitator committed to creating empowering learning spaces, and motivating you to dream BIG about what is possible for you on your Jewish journey.  Throughout her career, she has created vibrant Jewish experiences for all types of Jewish communities, and led Muslim-Jewish Dialogues across the globe. When she’s not working, Mollie loves to travel and actually spent the past three years living in Israel! Fun fact: Mollie is a part of Hazon’s JOFEE Fellowship, which seeks to invigorate the Jewish educational landscape by seeding Jewish communities with outstanding professional educators. Reach out to Mollie to say hey!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Valerie: Jewish Woman (International) of the Week!

Meet Valerie and other Jewish People of the Week at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

Get to know Valerie Brown – lover of “brinner”, The New Yorker, re-runs of The Office, and empowering women and girls nationwide. Read on for our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Valerie: I was living in France, and a bunch of my college friends had all moved to DC. It seemed like they were having a fun time out here, and I was having a lot of FOMO. So, on my way back from France, I stopped in DC and wound up getting a job here doing design work.

Allie: Why did you transition from design work to the nonprofit organization you’re at now?

Valerie: After the 2016 election, I really wanted to see my work affecting people and feel like I was making a positive difference. I wanted to be at a company that had specific goals to improve the world. JWI (Jewish Women International) – an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering women and preventing domestic violence – was a perfect fit.

Allie: What has most inspired you at JWI?

Valerie: Women to Watch, which happens annually in December, is when we honor 10 Jewish women in our community who are leaders in their field. Getting to interact with them was incredible. They have so much good advice and insight, and are so successful in both the business world and in life. Rabbi Dana Saroken was really amazing; she runs The Soul Center in Baltimore, and I just really connected with what she had to say.

I also admire the Mother’s Day Flower Project that JWI does every year. People donate $25 and JWI sends a Mother’s Day card to whoever you choose. The donation helps send bouquets and financial literacy resources to domestic violence shelters across the country. A lot of time, women who have experienced domestic violence have never received flowers with love, and this shows them that we hear you, we are here for you, and we support you. This year, it feels more relevant than ever. Also, I also designed some cool shirts, sweatshirts, and tank tops to benefit the project.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Valerie: With my good friends (and past “Jewish People of the Week”!) Molly Cram and Jackie Zais. We rotate hosting and making dinner for our friends. Recently I made “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) for everyone. This is one of the reasons we put together the upcoming Reclaiming Ritual Retreat – we love spending Friday nights celebrating Shabbat together, and we want to explore Jewish rituals like this with others.

Allie: What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Valerie: Go to a cozy coffee shop and read a book! I’m plagued by “New Yorkers” stacking up every week and would also love a chance to read those.

Allie: What’s a quote that motivates you?

Valerie: “This too shall pass.” It’s reminds me to lean into those moments when you’re feeling really down, and just be present – feel all the feelings. Being able to embrace the painful feelings ultimately helps inform who you are.

Allie: What is your favorite Disney movie?

Valerie: “Moana”, definitely because of the song ‘You’re Welcome’ – I just really identify with that.

Allie: Who is the coolest Jew you know?

Valerie: My brother/future rabbi, Timmy. He inspires me to be a better Jew every day.

Allie: How do you like to relax and destress?

Valerie: When I’m not out at a Jewish happy hour, I’m probably watching Netflix and crocheting on my couch. Right now, I’m rewatching “The Office”.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Valerie: I want to quote my pal Liz Lemon and say “I want to go to there.”

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Mini Gatherings Spring 2018: New to DC

Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? Looking to explore questions that matter to Jewish 20s and 30s? Like drinking? Afraid of commitment?

GatherDC is excited to open applications for the 12th round of Mini Gatherings. We are looking for Jews in their early 20s who have just moved to the area and are looking to connect with others over meaningful discussions!

Applications are now closed. Email Rachel Nieves if you are interested in applying to a future Mini Gatherings cohort.

What: Mini Gatherings is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together ~15 diverse Jews to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions and laughed at least twice.

Who: This Mini Gatherings cohort is for Jewish adults who are new to DC (“new” meaning in the past year or so) and looking to explore Judaism and meet new friends in a small, personal setting.

When: 6:30 – 8 pm on Tuesdays, April 17th, April 24th, May 1st, and a Friday night dinner, April 27th, at the home of Rabbi Aaron

Where: Madhatter in Dupont

Questions: Email racheln@gatherdc.org

DEADLINE TO APPLY: Applications are closed. Email Rachel N. to express interested in a future cohort.

Meet Jess and Sophie: Jewish Do-Gooders of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Sophie and Jess are Do-Gooders. In their spare time, they do things like volunteer at local soup kitchens, give back to Jewish non-profit organizations, and plan community-wide days of service. Get to know these two mensches as we chat about french fries, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and giving back.

From left: Jess Sher and Sophie Buslik

Allie: Describe each other in one word.

Jess: Radiant, giving off good, positive vibes. Sorry, that’s more than one word!

Sophie: Dedicated, driven.

Allie: Where does your passion for volunteering come from?

Jess: Volunteering – whether serving on a board or helping with a one time event – was really important in my household growing up. Learning this from my grandparents and parents is what led me into the social action world.  Community service is for others, but it also feels really good to make small changes and small positive impacts.

So, when I moved to DC, I started volunteering for The Jewish Federation and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). I also enjoy volunteering at places like N Street Village, or helping build homes where you can get your hands dirty and know that you’re making someone’s home a happy place.

Sophie: I love being a part of making our community better and engaging other people to do that. When I started working after college, I felt like I had a lot of free time outside of work so I started volunteering with my company (Booz Allen Hamilton) at places like SOME and Miriam’s KitchenLater on, my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to Federation, and I wound up getting involved with the volunteer aspects of the organization. I love the idea that even if you don’t have money to give, you can give in other ways to help those who can’t help themselves.

Allie: I hear that you’re volunteering to make Good Deeds Day happen this year. Tell me about that!

Sophie: Good Deeds Day (which is Sunday, April 29) is DC-area’s day to give back, and is part of the global day of service where millions around the world volunteer to help their community.

Allie: What Good Deeds Day service project should our GatherDC readers sign up for?

Jess: I’d say the project with N Street Village, to prepare/serve meals to homeless and low-income women. There’s also an opportunity to make meals for those facing homelessness at DC Central Kitchen.

Sophie: There’s a service project specifically for young adults to help out at Covenant House, which provides resources to homeless, disconnected, and exploited youth.

Allie: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Sophie: “Be where your feet are.”

Jess: I really like that! So important to be present, be in the moment.

Allie: If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be?

Jess: Taylor Kitsch, but only if he came as his character Tim Riggins from “Friday Night Lights”.

Sophie: JTT. Jonathan Taylor Thomas circa 1997.

Allie: If you could eat only 3 things for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Jess: My mom’s challah. Summer strawberries. Chicago Giordano’s deep dish pizza.

Sophie: Crabs. French fries. I really only have two.

Allie: Who is the biggest Do-Gooder you know?

Sophie: Jose Andres – I always see him giving back locally and around the world. I love how he uses his work and passion for food to help others.

Jess: My parents. They give a lot of their time, talents, and treasures to make an impact in St. Petersburg, FL (where I grew up). I’d be lucky if I could make just part of the impact that they’ve made.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Sophie/Jess: They Do Good!

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Memorial Day Weekend Plan: Camp Nai Nai Nai

This Memorial Day weekend, why not trade in your BBQ for a full weekend adventure at Camp Nai Nai Nai, the ultimate Jewish summer camp with a big twist- it’s for ADULTS!  At camp, what you do for a living doesn’t define you, and spontaneous adventures await around every corner! Run in the mud, dance in an animal onesie!  No judgements.

WHERE: Waynesboro, PA (just 80 miles from Washington DC)

WHEN: Memorial Day Weekend | May 25-28, 2018

HOW: Register today at campnainainai.org

WHO: You!

via GIPHY

Whether you’re artsy, sporty or more of the sit-at-home-and-binge-Stranger-Things type, Camp Nai Nai Nai has something for you! Camp has tons of activities including a custom Escape Room, interactive art installations, flying trapeze, yoga, meditation, bubble soccer, and of course Shabbat, Color War, and a camp dance! Your adventure is entirely up to you.

And guess what? This epic weekend is all-inclusive. Accommodations, meals and activities – we’ve got you covered! First time campers can register for only $275 for the whole weekend! Not a first time camper? No worries! Sign up by April 10th and you’ll get our Early Bird discount and register for only $300! Want to save even more? Bring friends! Register as a group of 4+ and you’ll get an additional $25 off per person!

Sign up and find out more info. 

RSVP on Facebook and share with your friends.

At Nai Nai Nai, you may not know the words to the song, but that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t sing along. Instead of hitting the “continue watching” button on Netflix, why not hit Register on campnainainai.org and book your adventure today!

Learn more and register for camp now.

 

QUESTIONS? CONTACT US: seeyou@campnainainai.org | (858) 367-3684

 

The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Your Guide to DC’s Hottest New Restaurant – Wawa

You heard it here first. The hottest, most in-demand, high quality restaurant has recently opened its shining metal doors to DC’s public.

It’s fast, yet doesn’t feel rushed.

It’s casual, yet sophisticated.

It’s delicious, and boasts $1 coffee.

You’re probably thinking, what glorious eatery could encompass everything you could ever want in a food establishment? Founding Farmers? Nope. Cava? Guess again. McDonalds? No. But, they do make a mean hashbrown.

The answer, my coffee-drinking, sandwich-eating, snack-loving friends, is simple, and just four letters long (the same number of letters in the word love). Wawa.

For all of you snarkily scoffing at your computer, thinking how ridiculous it is that I have the audacity to compare Wawa to DC institutions like Le Diplomate and The Hamilton, you clearly haven’t been to the newest, biggest Wawa in the country (you read that right). Or, maybe they were just out of Hot Cheetos that day.

Well, lucky for you,I’m here to help you make the most of your visit and understand the best way to navigate Wawa’s magic. This is your exclusive must-see, must-have, must-eat guide to DC’s newest, hottest restaurant – Wawa.

1. The beverages. Wawa literally has the best water. And it’s FREE. Make sure you get the 44 oz size, because hydration, and also – it is the most delicious tasting water ever. You may think I’m exaggerating, but ask Jackie (my boss), and she’ll vouch for me. Jackie – feel free to comment below. If the best water in the world isn’t enough for you (sorry, Fiji), Wawa also has $1 coffee every day. Every. Single. Day.

2. The food. Not only is Wawa living in 2055 with their touch screen ordering system, but they also have every type of food you can think of (besides, like sushi – it is still a convenience store people). Seriously, any type of food you could find yourself wanting, I guarantee Wawa has it or something like it. They even have salads and vegetables, for all you wacky health nuts.  My personal favorites are the mac and cheese, meatballs, mashed potatoes, pretzels, pre-made sandwiches, make-your-own sandwiches, smoothies, and if I’m feeling really crazy, the hot dogs – basically anything besides the salads.

3. The staff. Not only is their food phenomenal, in addition to the water, but the staff also couldn’t be nicer. The first time I went there, the staff literally said “Wa-Welcome!” I mean…. I rest my case.

If all of this hasn’t convinced you that Wawa is not only DC’s newest hot-spot, but also the best place on the planet, I’ve compiled a series of testimonials from fellow Wawa enthusiasts that will hopefully convince you of Wawa’s magic.

“Oh my gosh…where do I even start? I don’t think words can fully express everything that Wawa is and has to offer. Hold on, I need a moment.”  – Julie, 25, Clarksville MD

“I love Wawa because they make great sandwiches, Mac and cheese, and coffee while offering a ton of selection for food and drink at convenient locations for an affordable price.” – Andrew, 24, Bucks County PA

“I love Wawa because their food is always amazing quality and no other place has as large of a selection!” – Halle, 23, Cherry Hill NJ

“I love Wawa because it’s convenient, high quality, and affordable and meets my needs for everything from a quick coffee run to a full meal. It’s much higher quality in terms of service and product then comparable convenience stores and, let’s be real, the branding is on point.” – Ben, 24, Moorestown NJ

I like to think that if Leslie Knope grew up in Southern New Jersey or Pennsylvania she’d be Wawa’s biggest fan. Wawa….Wa-ffles…it fits right in. If that doesn’t convince you…I really don’t know what will.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your co-workers, take your dog for a walk, gather your closest friends, and check out the best new restaurant in the District. You’re Wa-Welcome.

Oh, and also, there’s FREE coffee at Wawa tomorrow – Thursday, April 12. Yes, free. Meaning you can slurp up all the caffeine you could dream of, while saving your change for a bag full of Hot Cheetos.

 

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, this blog post was NOT sponsored by Wawa. Although, Wawa – if you’re reading this – I am on Instagram, and would gladly be your go-to social media hype woman (I mean, if you’re looking).

 

About the Author: Rachel Nieves

As GatherDC’s New-to-DC Community Coordinator, Rachel helps connect those new or new(ish) to Jewish DC. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 2016, she has been on the hunt for ways to better engage with the DC Jewish community. She loves meeting new people, and connecting them with each other to build thriving friendships. When she’s not in the GatherDC office or grabbing coffee with community members, you can find her dancing (more like flailing) to the nearest live cover band, admiring dogs that aren’t hers in Meridian Hill Park, watching reality television, and laughing with her friends. Reach out to Rachel to grab a $1 Wawa coffee.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet the Israeli Bringing His Culture to DC

Meet Tzachi Levy. He is a Sabra through and through. (Sabra refers to a Jewish person born anywhere in Israel.)

He can trace his roots in Israel back 13 generations, and has lived on several kibbutzim. He loves Israel so much that he has devoted his career to sharing his appreciation of Israel–the history, the culture and people–around the world. Last year, Tzachi convinced his family to pick up and move to Washington, DC to serve as Senior Shaliach (Israeli emissary) at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

In this position, he wears many hats, all of them focused on bringing Israel to the DMV by educating American Jews all-thing-Israel through first-hand perspectives.

We sat down with Tzachi to learn more about what he’s doing to connect Washingtonians to Israel, and which American items took some getting used to!  

Kendra: Why are you passionate about bringing Israel to the DC community?

Tzachi: I’ve worked for almost 20 years with Jewish communities around the world and in Israel, from the Ukraine to South Africa to Pittsburgh. I find it fascinating that no matter where you are, you can find common ground with any community on the basis of Israel. Any Jewish person can find a way to connect to the Jewish homeland, whether it be through religion, culture, etc. Specifically in Washington, people are so politically minded and sometimes forget that the news only tells one story.  When it comes to Israel, I’m so excited to share an Israel that people can find a connection to, whether it be through food, culture, or social justice issues.

Kendra: So, you help run Federation’s Imagine Israel. Can you tell us more about that and how our readers can get involved?

Tzachi: Sure! Imagine Israel is Federation’s initiative to engage Washingtonians with Israel and Israelis through a variety programs. For example, Federation’s Changemakers Series brings dynamic Israeli agents of change to DC to lead conversations about how they influence and challenge Israel’s status quo and affect social change in Israeli society.

The next Israeli Changemakers event is April 24th and 25th. On the 24th there’s a FREE special night just for young professionals with the Changemaker, Joseph Gitler. He’s the CEO and Founder of Leket Israel, Israel’s largest food bank and food rescue network. I’m excited about this because food waste is becoming an issue many Washingtonians are starting to view seriously so it will be interesting to hear the Israeli perspective.

Also, our Imagine Israel Podcast connects listeners to a modern Israel through stories from Israeli influencers in the fields of social justice and civil society. It’s covered subjects like HIV, Food Waste, Education, Diversity, and much more. There are other programs under Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative, but…how much time do you have!?  

Kendra: What is the wildest difference between Israeli and American culture?

Tzachi: I see a LOT of differences between Israel and America.  I guess if I had to pick the most wild, it would be the differences in the driving culture. First of all, I don’t really understand why traffic lights need to stay on red when the junction is completely empty. There is no reason. Also, I now realize that a 4-way stop would never work in Israel… there would be lots of car accidents and shouts of “I was here first!”. Also, the concept of turning right on red doesn’t exist in Israel. I’m thinking it would probably increase the number of people in the hospital.

Kendra: What is something about Israel that you wish was in America?

Tzachi: This sounds weird, but I really miss the dish sponges in Israel called Scotches. Seriously. Every time that a friend from Israel visits the states, the only thing I ask them to bring is the sponges (see picture below).  I don’t understand how Americans, who care about germs, can stand to use the cheap, turbid sponges that mush the leftovers on the plate and do not actually clean anything.  

Kendra: Are there any funny stories from the Shlichim Program so far this year you’d like to share?

Tzachi: I don’t really understand why every time the shlichim are invited to an event, we are served falafel and Israeli salad. I really like American burgers. Why can’t we have burgers? BTW—all the shlichim feel this way, I’m speaking on their behalf.

Kendra: Any closing words?

Tzachi: Yes! Whether you have never been to Israel and want to learn more, or have been and miss it, Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative is designed for you. Come learn more about Israel, it’s culture and people. Hey, you may even get a new sponge!

Learn more about Tzachi Levy, Federation’s Imagine Israel’s initiative, and its upcoming programs here. You can get register for the upcoming Federation Young Leadership event with Israeli Changemaker, Joseph Gitler here. It’s free!

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The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Levine Music: Education, Performance, Community

While covering the Edlavitch DCJCC’s Washington Jewish Music Festival (WJMF) over the past few months, I had the opportunity to speak with several musicians from Levine Music, and see their performances. After listening to their music and talking with them, I became curious about the institution they belong to. So, I decided to speak with Ms. Lois Narvey, head of performance at Levine Music, to figure out what makes Levine Music so successful, and better understand their connection to the WJMF.

Daniela: This year’s WJMF featured several concerts and shows by the Levine Music School. Tell us about the 2018 Levine performance series and the collaboration with the WJMF.

Lois: For a number of years, Levine has had a very unusual concert series of its own. It presents only our faculty, who are both teachers and performers. The series covers all of our genres: classical music, jazz, rock, and musical theater. We develop a central theme each year, and arrange the performance around that. Last year was a slightly political theme, called “The protest propaganda and promise. The power of music”. This year is an anniversary year for Leonard Bernstein, so the theme is about him and his iconic influence. It makes for a very interesting, eclectic but unified series.  

A few years ago, we started to partner with the EDCJCC. This started as a very small partnership, but when Ilya Tovbis – Director of the WJMF – took over, he revitalized it. Ilya was very interested in having some of our concerts presented under the umbrella of the WJMF. I give him choices that I think he may be interested in, and he choose them. I thought he would have definitely been interested in the “Quartet to the end of time”, and “Strange Fruit”, which was performed twice as part of the WJMF.

Daniela: What’s the story behind the Levine Music school? When and why was it created?

Lois: I can definitely tell you about that since I’ve been at Levine for 30 years! It’s about 42 years old, and started in 1976 by three women from New York who came here with their husbands and young families, and couldn’t find music schools for their kids in DC. Around that time, a woman, who was a good friend of theirs, a prominent lawyer, and amateur chamber musician, was tragically killed in an automobile crash. Her friends decided to create a music school in DC named it after their lost friend, Selma Levine. It started very humbly, in a church basement, with volunteer teachers. Today, we have five campuses, ~3,500 students, and 160 faculty.

The founders had a very particular idea about what this school would be. They wanted to have the most excellent teachers, and to bebe absolutely welcoming to anybody who wanted to study music. You didn’t need to be “good” – there were no auditions.We have continued with this mission, which we call “excellence and opportunity.” Today, two of the three school founders are still on the Board, and everybody can study at Levine Music school in any part of the city because we have five campuses, like this wonderful venue [I’m at now] in Southeast DC called The Arc. We have a very strong tuition assistance program, and age doesn’t matter. Our youngest student is – believe it or not – a 4 month-old, and the oldest just turned 100.

Daniela: You are part of the Levine Music faculty. What is the educational goal of the school, and how has your experience been so far?

Lois: We have a core of very talented students for whom we provide a conservatory form of education. The majority of our students will always be amateur, and that is fine with us. My experience with Levine Music has been varied. I came on as a faculty member teaching harpsichord and piano. Then, I became head of the Piano Department, then acting Dean, then Director of Programs and Admission. I’ve done pretty much everything, but I’ve never stopped teaching. I teach as much as I can. I love being part of the faculty and part of the school.

Daniela: In addition to education, the other two principles of the Levine school are performance and community. What does the Levine Music community look like, and who is part of it?

Lois: A few years ago, we realized that we do so much more than just teach. We do a lot of performing: our teachers perform, our students perform, we have master classes, competitions, and workshops. We want to offer our faculty the chance to perform and we want our students to be inspired by them and perform too.

Community is part of our mission. We want to reach out to our musical community, welcome everybody and shape ourselves around it. We talk a lot about how we can make people feel welcome here.

Daniela: Is there an event during your years teaching at Levine that you remember in particular?

Lois: One of the most memorable moments for me was when Yo-Yo Ma came to visit. The reason it was memorable, beside the fact that he is a very famous musician, is that, like other musicians that came to visit us, he just came and mingled with the students and made them feel comfortable. What visitors like Yo-Yo Ma offer is life changing for these kids. To see them interacting with the visiting artists is, for me, the best part of the job.

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN08 – Yo-Yo Ma, Cellist, USA plays the cello during the ‘Presentation of the Crystal Award’ at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2008.
Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch/Photo by Andy Mettler
+++No resale, no archive+++

 

 

About the Author: Daniela is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! She is a “retired philosopher” who works as an executive assistant and loves to write about Italian and Jewish events happening in DC. She was born and raised in Sicily (Italy) in an interfaith family and moved to D.C. with her husband after studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where they met. They have a wonderful Siberian cat named Rambam! Daniela loves going to work while listening to Leonard Cohen’s songs and sometimes performs in a West African Dance group

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.