Is This Weed Kosher?

Last evening, about thirty alumni of select GatherDC experiences convened at the Takoma Wellness Center – a medical marijuana dispensary owned and run by a rabbi, Jeff Kahn. It is one of only 5 dispensaries in the District, and the only dispensary in the country run by a rabbi.

Why You Should Party Like It’s 1997 This Weekend

Realizing that 1997 was twenty years ago might make you feel old, but you can get in touch with your inner child this weekend! Here are 5 Reasons you should party like it’s 1997!

  1. You are curious how long it takes to run across a room and propel yourself onto someone’s lap during a game of Coke & Pepsi now that you are beyond Bar/Bat Mitzvah age and can barely climb 5 flights of stairs without getting winded
  1. You want a reason to wear your newly purchased flannel shirt or Delia’s style choker necklace while bopping your head to the Spice Girls

 

  1. You miss the taste of Fruit by the Foot and other childhood snacks and no longer want to eat them in secret

 

  1. You want to practice your Macarena skills while bouncing in the air

  1. You are living a Semi-Charmed kind of Life and Wannabe rocking out with 90s cover band Make More Animals

 

Ready to party all night? Come out to EntryPointDC’s Schmooze & Snooze Fest this Saturday, February 25th at the Edlavitch DCJCC. Tickets include 3 drinks, snacks, swag, and entertainment including 90’s cover band Make More Animals, Bar Mitzvah DJ Dance party, moon bounce, Ted Talks, “nap” lounge and more. Doors open at 9:00 pm, Havdalah is at 9:30 pm and the band starts at 10:00 pm.

Listen to these tunes to get ready!

How to Do Your Taxes on the Cheap

Tax season is upon us! You have until Tuesday, April 18th to file your taxes. If you’re living or working outside of the US, you have until Thursday, June 15th to file. I recommend getting an early start so you can avoid the stress of rushing against a deadline. However, if you think you’ll need to file for an extension, you need to postmark the extension request by April 18th.

Now that you’re ready to file your taxes (early!), you shouldn’t spend a bunch of money doing so. Here are some ways to do your taxes for free (or cheaply).

1. Turbo Tax

Turbo Tax is the program that I usually use. The user experience is good (except for them trying to upsell you the whole time), and the process isn’t confusing. You can file your federal and state taxes for free (using Turbo Tax Absolute Zero). There are several other paid options, where you can get more support and advice while filing. I found out this year that it costs $89.99 to file business taxes using Turbo Tax, which makes me sad.

2. H&R Block

H&R Block is very similar to Turbo Tax. In fact, sometimes I fill in my information in both programs to see if one will get me a better refund. (That happened once, but usually the numbers are the same.) There is a free federal and state filing option (H&R Block More Zero), but they can also charge you for more premium features. According to their website, you can also meet with a tax pro in person and file your federal taxes, for free.

3. Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma is known for providing your credit score for free. And if you’re not already using it for that, you should! (Credit Sesame is another option.) This year, Credit Karma unveiled its brand new tax filing program. Credit Karma Tax has free federal and state e-filing. According to them, there is no paid option – it is all free, and there’s no annoying upselling! I’m excited to try it out.

4. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

This program is offered through the IRS. You qualify if you earn under $54,000, are disabled, or aren’t a fluent English speaker. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. So not only can you file for free, but you also get free support and guidance while completing your taxes.

5. Free File Alliance

This software is available to taxpayers who earn under $64,000 (which is 70% of us). The IRS has partnered with more than a dozen tax software companies to offer this program. You can search through the participating companies and choose which will work the best for you.

6. My Free Taxes

United Way has partnered with H&R Block to offer My Free Taxes. This program is also available to those who earn under $64,000 a year. According to their website, 80% of taxpayers who used this program finished filing their taxes in under an hour.

For even more options, visit here. Happy filing!

This post originally appeared on Maggie Germano Financial Coaching. Want to read more? Check out maggiegermano.com/blog

 

Embracing Loneliness

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day – a time to appreciate a partner if you have one, or a time to feel lonely if you don’t.

Feeling lonely is, ironically, something we’ve all experienced, if not this Valentine’s Day then at some point in our lives. It’s a hard feeling to sit with – in fact, the first statement God makes about humans in the Torah is that it is not good to be alone (Genesis 2:18). At our very core, we crave connection.

But while God was able to solve this problem by creating another person, we don’t have that ability. To avoid our loneliness, we’re left to our own devices.

Literally.

Our phones, our TVs, and our computers have become an easy way feel connected to others. Yet that can actually make us feel more alone, according to a few studies highlighted in a New Yorker article on this subject. One such study: “In 1998, Robert Kraut, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, found that the more people used the Web, the lonelier and more depressed they felt. After people went online for the first time, their sense of happiness and social connectedness dropped, over one to two years, as a function of how often they used the Internet.”

In addition to technology, we also turn to sex, which should, in theory, make us feel less alone. Yet, as psychologist Eric Fromm points out in his book The Art of Loving, this too can make us feel more alone.The search for the sexual orgasm assumes a function which makes it not very different from alcoholism and drug addiction. It becomes a desperate attempt to escape the anxiety engendered by separateness, and it results in an ever increasing sense of separateness since the sexual act without love never bridges the gap between two human beings, except momentarily.”

This desire to escape through sex is captured perfectly in the surprisingly self-aware chorus of the new, aptly titled track Scared to be Lonely: “Do we need somebody just to feel like we’re alright? Is the only reason you’re holding me tonight cuz we’re scared to be lonely?”

In lieu of deep relationships, for which there are no real substitutes, perhaps it’s better to embrace this void than to run away from it or to try to fill it with a quick-fix. Our tradition, in a prayer typically recited after eating, reminds us that to lack is to be human: “Blessed are You God… Creator of many living beings and their lackings…”.

It’s scary to not have what you want. But within that empty space, we can connect to what remains – ourselves. And learning to embrace that empty space is, paradoxically, how we ultimately allow others in.

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 Gather the Jews, the Gather the Jews staff, the Gather the Jews board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Sephardic Shabbat Dinner to Benefit Refugees

This year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was different and far more traumatic for many Jewish Americans. On the same day that Jews across the country were remembering and mourning the Holocaust, an Executive Order was issued to temporarily suspended the nation’s refugee program, as well as travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Tu B’Shevat Guide 2017

Tu B’Shevat is Jewish Earth Day! It’s a day that many celebrate by eating fruits, going outside, and being more environmentally conscious. Find out how you can celebrate in DC below!

While the actual holiday is this Sunday, February 11th, make sure to take advantage of all the amazing events happening around the holiday.

Thursday, February 9th – Moishe House Capitol Hill, Tu B’Shevat Ice Cream Seder

Friday, February 10th – Moishe House Columbia Heights, Tu B’Shevat Shabbat Dinner

Saturday, February 11th – GatherDC, New B’Shvat: Pop Up Shabbat Lunch

Sunday, February 12th – Adas Israel, Tu B’Shevat Experience Led by the Climate Action Team

Saturday, February 18th – GLOE, Tu B’Shpot: The Jewish Case for Medical Cannabis

Mini Gatherings: Late 20s/Early 30s

Feel like events in DC are catered to a younger crowd? 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 next round of Mini Gatherings, taking place at the end of this month. GatherDC is dedicating this offering to those who are in their late 20s and early 30s (26 – 35).

What is Mini Gatherings, you ask? It is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together about 15 diverse Jews in similar life stages or with similar interests 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. Guaranteed or your money back!

Cost: FREE

What: The three gatherings will be held from 6:30 – 8:00 pm on Tuesday, February 28th, March 7th and March 14th. Each session will involve some schmoozing, drinking, and an open conversation facilitated by Community Rabbi Aaron about questions relevant to Jewish 20s and 30s, such as “Are Jews different?” “What are the unique challenges to being Jewish today?” and “Does Judaism have any deal-breakers?”

No background or knowledge necessary – everyone is welcome. In addition, Aaron will host a Shabbat meal on Friday, March 10th at his apartment in Dupont. You must commit to attending all three sessions and the dinner.

Who: People who do not feel connected to a Jewish community in the DC area and are looking to meet other Jews in a smaller, more personal way in their late 20s/early 30s.

Application: Closed.

Want more information? Email Aaron.