Meet Anna: Jewish Peace-Maker of the Week!

Anna loves sandwiches, rainy Sundays, West Wing, and teaching Peace Corps volunteers how to facilitate transformative workshops worldwide. Get to know this super cool, peace-making lady and how fate and Bullfrog Bagels led her to a life-changing experience!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool job with Peace Corps. Tell me a little bit about that.

Anna: I am a training specialist for Peace Corps, with a focus on leadership development, diversity, and inclusion. I write and design and facilitate trainings for Peace Corps staff who then take what they learn to the volunteers.

Before starting at Peace Corps, I was a facilitator for camps and outdoor education spaces, concentrating on how we can learn outside of a traditional classroom. Then, I become a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia and fell in love with the organization. As a volunteer, I did a lot of trainings in cross-cultural communication, gender empowerment, and life skills work with local community members.

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Anna: I’m from Arlington, VA originally and love the area. I moved back to DC after I returned from serving as a volunteer in Ethiopia. It’s been a hard transition coming back from the Peace Corps, and I feel like I’m still getting used to the American way of life. I sometimes wish people would slow down, look at each other more, and talk to each other more – but that’s sometimes the reality of DC. But I still love it.

Allie: How did you get involved with Gather?

Anna: A friend of mine was trying to convince me to go on Gather’s Beyond the Tent retreat (EDITOR’S NOTE: Applications are currently open for the next Beyond the Tent retreat taking place February 9-11, okay I’ll stop now). I was hesitant. But one morning I was grabbing a Bullfrog Bagel at The GreenBee, and the Beyond the Tent team was there by total coincidence. They bombarded me and wound up convincing me to go.

I went into Beyond the Tent with pretty much no expectations and it really was mind blowing. It helped me connect to my Judaism more than I ever had by learning that there are no rules to what it means to be Jewish. Rabbi Aaron Potek (GatherDC’s Community Rabbi) and I are now best friends, I’ve joined a Rosh Chodesh group through people I met on that retreat, and have been much more involved Jewishly around the city because of that weekend.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend a free Sunday in the city?

Anna: Going to brunch where I have three different kinds of beverages: a seltzer, a coffee, and a Bloody Mary. Then, I’d have a delicious sandwich, because I just really love sandwiches. Then, there’d be a sitting in the park period to digest said brunch. Suddenly, it would start to rain, which gives me a perfect excuse to go to a movie. Then, I go grocery shopping and cook for the week. I love to cook, it fights off my “Sunday scaries.” To finish the day, I’ll go back out for Sunday evening drinks with my friend at a nice wine bar, and then go hang out at home with my roommate or girlfriend.

Allie: Best piece of life advice?

Anna: One saying from the community I lived in in Ethiopia called Shambu, is that when things go wrong, you say “The rain is raining.” Yeah, it’s raining, you can’t change it. You have to manage and accept the realities and be able to move forward.

Allie: Favorite show to binge watch right now.

Anna: I’m currently rewatching “Happy Endings,” which was cut short prematurely. But my go-to is “West Wing.”

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

Anna: We unite.

 

 

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.

Spotted in Jewish DC – The EmporiYUM: Meet. Eat. Shop.

This week in #SpottedInJewishDC we checked out The EmporiYUM, a pop-up marketplace with over 100 vendors selling their best food products ranging from snacks, drinks, and even boozy ice cream! We went around with an empty stomach and an open mind, getting a taste of all the offerings and scoping out the local Jewish foodies sharing their products at the event.

With Hanukkah around the corner, we did your homework for you (you’re welcome) and have some great gift ideas for your fellow foodies. Dig in to meet some of these DC food scene changemakers, one full belly at a time!

Even if you didn’t make it to The EmporiYUM this year, don’t fret, just follow my pro-Hanukkah gifting tips to support your local Jewish foodie favorites and get some good eats along the way. You’ll be in foodie heaven, while giving the gift of eating locally made products that support the buzzing startup community here in DC.

 

NOSH BARWith “just the good stuff” inside, Nosh Bars are full of ingredients you can identify without pulling out your phone and turning to Google: nuts, fruit, oats, seeds, and spices. That’s it!

Keeping it simple is just what Nosh Bar’s owner, Michele, intended when she created them in her own home kitchen. Tired of being confused in the grocery store with all the various “health bar” products out there, she turned to the basics of eating simple foods full of clean ingredients. Her bars come in a variety of flavors, with the best-selling figstachio and something for the more adventurous with the goji berry bar (if you haven’t tried these berries yet, grab one – they are full of antioxidants and perfect for the winter sniffles). This was Michele’s first year at The EmporiYUM and she had lines throughout the whole event!

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: You can get some Nosh Bar products for your favorites online, and at local stores like TasteLab Marketplace, Steadfast Supply, and Reformation Fitness.

 

PRESCRIPTION CHICKENThe EmporiYUM was held outside on a chilly November day, so warm soup was just what we needed to keep up the energy. Luckily, the soup-slinging duo Prescription Chicken was on-site serving up shots of their chicken soup alongside mini challah braids.

This soup delivery service sends chicken soup out to cure whatever ails you, like the classic winter sniffles, to the hangover package that includes a turmeric spiced soup with a side of vitamins, tea and saltines. Started after co-founder Valerie Zweig had a rough battle with laryngitis where all she wanted was some good matzo ball soup, an idea was born and she recruited her cousin, Taryn Pellicone, to launch the business.  With the notion that soup infers comfort, their soup can be for those who are sick or just having a bad day.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Deliver a package of Grandma’s Famous Chicken Noodle Soup to those needing some extra love.

 

BUFFALO & BERGEN: Located steps from The EmporiYUM’s pop-up marketplace, Buffalo & Bergen brings the joys of New York soda shops to Washington, DC, giving a new spin on old classics.  With soda flavors ranging from Coca-Cola to Lemon Lavender to Carrot Marigold, Gina Chersevani’s mixology expertise adds an extra splash to these longtime favorites (you can also add a little booze if you choose)!

In addition to the expansive drink menu, Buffalo & Bergen serves up classic Jewish bites like knishes and bagels! Sourcing their water straight from New York, these bagels will have even the biggest critic coming back for more.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Treat your friends to brunch or cocktails at Buffalo & Bergen…or simply bring some bagels to your next Hanukkah shindig when everyone’s had enough latkes (is that a thing?!).

 

SWAPPLES: Frozen waffles are a staple in any millennial’s freezer, offering a quick breakfast option for our busy lives. Swapples provide a healthy alternative to the often sugar-loaded frozen waffle; entirely plant-based, these allergen-free waffles are made with yuca root, a starchy, nutritious tuber vegetable.

When owner Rebecca Peress was told by a doctor to cut out all sugar from her diet, she quickly felt limited by the options in her grocery store. She started making Swapples for herself, and once her co-workers kept requesting them, an idea for a business was born.

Swapples currently come in four flavors: Blueberry, Cinnamon, Tomato Pizza, and Everything (this one’s especially for bagel lovers). You can find them in grocery stores like Whole Foods, MOM’s Organic Market, and Glen’s Garden Market.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Grab a bag and try out this healthy, vegan alternative to your favorite waffle! Maybe even swap a Swapple for this year’s latkes – who knows, you may find a new holiday tradition.

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Judith  Rontal  is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! Judith hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, even if that was at 10 pm. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her blog, Aluminum Foiled Kitchen, and in her daily life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations. When not in the kitchen working on a new recipe to serve at her next dinner party, you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the Rock Creek Park trails. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

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 Melanie: Jewish Marathon Runner of the Week!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool DC job. Tell me a little bit about that.

Melanie: I’m on the digital communications team at J Street, which is the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who are diplomacy-first US foreign policy in the Middle East, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and policies that reflect our Jewish and democratic values.. I feel really fortunate to wake up everyday knowing that I’m working for an organization that I care about, and is fighting for important causes. It’s a nice combination of working both in the Jewish community, and in the political space.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Melanie: I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, and did an internship at Jewish Women International in 2011, where I learned about the RAC (Religious Action Center), and felt like it would be really amazing to work for an organization that advocates for critical issues like homelessness, hunger, minimum wage, children’s issues, and engaging the reform Jewish movement. So, in 2014, I moved down here to be Legislative Assistant at the RAC.

Allie: How did you get involved with Gather?

Melanie: I ran into Rabbi Aaron Potek as a HIAS event, and he told me about the Beyond the Tent retreat. I decided to apply, and went on it this past July. I had a fantastic experience, i met a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise have met, I got to think critically about what it means to have a Jewish identity, and how I connect to my Jewish identity in a meaningful, real way. If you go, you have to be able to ask big questions, challenge yourself, and be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable.

Allie: What do you like about DC?

Melanie: I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful jobs where i get to think critically and work with smart colleagues. I also love a lot of the people I’ve met here, many of whom I’ve through a running group call The November Project – which is a free fitness group where you show up early to work out. I ran track and cross country in college, so this was a really great way for my to get integrated into the DC running community, and meet people outside of the Jewish and political worlds. There’s really nothing better than starting your day while running past the Lincoln Memorial.

Allie: Have you ever run a marathon or have any plans to?

Melanie: Oh yes! Since getting involved in The November Project, I started training for marathons. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and the Charles River Marathon in Boston in 2017. I actually ran fast enough in the last two marathons to qualify for The Boston Marathon, which I am planning to run in 2018 and 2019. That’s been a dream of mine forever, I grew up handing out orange slices to Boston Marathon runners during the race, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Allie: Who would you say is your Jewish role model who inspires you to stay so determined?

Melanie: My mom and grandma – they are both such incredible people. My parents raised all of my siblings with very strong Jewish identities in terms of striving to be better and do better, advocating for social justice, making the world a better place (tikkun olam), learning, being a part of the Jewish community, and also in terms of family. These are also the core values that I want to ensure I pass on the my kids one day.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Melanie: Passover. I love that the root of Passover is about Jews fleeing slavery, and that the core values of Passover can be relevant to so many social justice issues that we’re currently grappling with. It’s a holiday that pushes us to help others suffering from forms of slavery, and is also a holiday I can share with my non-Jewish friends who seem to really enjoy it.

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

Melanie: The world better be ready for what’s coming next.

 

 

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.

1:1 with Simone Baron, Washington Jewish Music Festival

Simone Baron – AIR
Strathmore

I was very excited, a few days ago, to speak over the phone with Simone Baron, artist in-residence at the Washington Jewish Music Festival (WJMF), which just ended this past Sunday. Simone had a very busy Washingtonian week, with a concert every night, including three shows during the WJMF. Nevertheless, she found the time to talk with me about her life and her love for music and performance. My excitement grew after we exchanged a few greetings and Simone asked me – with a perfect accent – “Ma…sei italiana?” [Wait, are you Italian?] and explained me that her mother is Italian too! We made a promise to find time to meet and grab a coffee – an espresso, of course – together soon!

I know you want to read about Simone, so I’ll stop writing so you can get to a slightly modified version of our phone interview.

–––

Daniela: What are your current musical influences and how did you arrive at this point in your career?

Simone: I grew up listening to classical chamber music. I started playing piano seriously at age sixteen, and was given my first accordion for my bat mitzvah when I was 12. When I was finishing my degree in classical piano at Oberlin, I was in a musical rut and feeling tension in my body, so I started playing some phrases accordion and it opened up my world a lot – I was able to sing on the instrument. I listened to great accordion players who were creating all sorts of interesting things with the instrument.

My musical influences? People who inspire me and totally immerse themselves as deeply as possible. Esperanza Spalding, is someone who goes deeply into everything she does and moves freely between musical genres, yet stays true to her musical DNA. Another current influence is Tyshawn Sorey. I met him this past summer in Canada at Banff. He is a brilliant, beautiful composer, multi-instrumentalist, and conductor, and listens with every pore in his body. Making music with him was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I arrived at this point in my career through a combination of hard work, jumping into many things without thinking too much, and staying true to my constantly growing appetite and inner weirdness.

Simone Baron – AIR
Strathmore

Daniela: Do you view the accordion as a contemporary instrument, or something in need of a revival?

Simone: There is an amazing quote by Pauline Oliveros:

The accordion is my primary instrument. It’s an old friend – comfortable and expressive. Symbolically it is aligned with *the people* – working people. It is also a challenge to play an instrument that grew up after the period of classical music. The piano is centered in that period. The accordion has a life of its own.”

By the time I became interested in the accordion, the stigma tied to it has been largely washed away, replaced by a vague admiration for this eclectic thing. At the same time, due to the efforts of a few excellent musicians, there is a lot of very interesting contemporary music written – and being written 1– for the accordion: it is an instrument with infinite possibilities, the beautiful visual mechanism of breathing, and it is still evolving.

Daniela: We heard your just had your “World Premiere” concert with David Buchbinder at the WJMF. What was most exciting for you about this collaboration?

Simone: David is a Toronto based trumpeter, and as I’ve just started my masters there, so the WJMF organizer had the idea for us to collaborate on a performance together. David has assembled a fantastic band including Drew Jurecka – an amazing violinist/saxophonist, and Justin Gray, a fantastic bassist– it’s wonderful to hear our music interpreted by all of them! We were joined by DC based Lucas Ashby, a frequent collaborator of mine and a beautiful drummer.

Daniela: Let’s talk about the Bina Project, which I know is very important for you. You mixed chamber music works from women composers, madrigals from Italian–Jewish composers and multimedia effects. What is this project about and how did you managed to include all these elements?

Simone: The Bina Project (which took place this past Sunday at the WJMF) grew out of an ongoing inquiry into what the concert form can be. I’m coming from a world in which the standard model of a concert pianist is one who sits down at the piano and plays a well balanced, slightly boring repertoire, without really interacting with the audience.

Humans seek communication and direction. The concert focused on Bina, which means “understanding, knowledge” in Hebrew. It has the same root as livnot (to build) so it’s a creative concept. People in the audience created their own story out of the different disparate elements presented on stage – poems by Gertrude Stein, dance, the dialogue between spectralism and Scriabin.

Daniela: With so many active projects (the Arco Belo Ensemble, the Contra Ponte Project, and now the collaboration with Buchbinder) how do you

Simone Baron – AIR
Strathmore

manage to keep them all going while pursuing your masters?

Simone: The Contra Ponte Project, which took place this past weekend, featured regular trio of mine with Lucas Ashby and Leo Lucini on bass, as well as guests such as Rogerio Souza, a famous seven-string guitarist, and a wonderful saxophonist from Brazil. I’ve been playing a lot of concerts with these musicians over the last year. Playing with them always gives me so much energy and joy. Arco Belo is also an ensemble that I formed during my residency last year at the Strathmore. It’s a mix of chamber music with contemporary influences, and jazz with global roots.

For the last two months, I have been having concerts every weekend here, and I go back to Toronto to study during the week. It’s very rewarding and enriching: all these projects are actually related to each other and to what I am studying—they cross pollinate in fascinating ways.

Daniela: What is the role of a female Jewish musician in today’s music world?

Simone: Being Jewish means having access to an incredible wellspring of musical tradition, and is a way of being and thinking. I studied Mishnah and Talmud before becoming a musician, and I’m convinced that that culture of inquiry and philosophy translated directly into my approach as a musician. The fact that I studied with my mother, a Roman Jew, instilled a strong sense of a cultural identity as well as pride in being a Jewish woman that I try to carry in my artistic voice.

Listening for me is a very feminine characteristic and for me the most important part of being a musician. In today’s world we are struggling with regression – we’re still battling sexism among others, and often we fail to listen to each other. Ultimately, there is quite a lot of work to be done since there are not many women musicians, composers, and conductors in the world, and as one of the composers on the Bina concert, Kaija Saariaho, puts it, “You know, half of humanity has something to say, also.”

 

 

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.

Spotted in Jewish DC – 1831 Bar & Lounge

This week in #SpottedinJewishDC, we’ve discovered an awesome bar steps away from our favorite soup-spot (what up Soupergirl). Some reasons this bar is worthy of the highly revered “Spotted in Jewish DC” title: 1) Really inexpensive happy hour prices; 2) Steampunk inspired ambiance; 3) The owners are three Jewish brothers who are natives of the DC suburbs. Read this exclusive interview with 1831 Bar & Lounge’s Co-Founder and Owner Sean Chreky – and then go say hi in person!

Allie: How did you wind up opening the bar?

Sean: I come from an entrepreneurial family. My mom had her own dance school, my dad started his own hair salon, and many of my extended family members were hairstylists. I was meant to be a hairstylist (ie: Don’t Mess with the Zohan). Instead of becoming a hairdresser, I got my masters in finance and was going to work in investment banking. But deep down, I wanted to own my own business and be my own boss. And my father always taught me I should follow my own dreams. When my brothers and I saw this amazing space available in DC in 2015, we jumped on this opportunity to buy the space and transform it into a bar. Now, my two brothers and I are owners of 1831 Bar & Lounge! They say doing business with family is never a good idea, and we definitely have our moments, but ultimately we’re happy to be doing it.

Allie: What sets your bar apart from the others?

Sean: Well, we have a really inexpensive happy hour menu. Since we started 1831 on a shoestring budget, we wanted to do whatever we could to create buzz around it, and figured having really cheap drinks and food -$1 beers, $4 glass of wine, $6 Tito’s – would do the trick. We also specialize in hosting events, whether it’s a birthday party, or a corporate or nonprofit event.

Ambiance-wise, we’re trying to be a steampunk-inspired bar – like in the 1800s when there was industrial steam-powered machinery, a little bit like the train time machine in Back to the Future Part 3. We’re looking forward to eventually having our staff wear steampunk outfits.

In the future, we will keep the bar & lounge as is and start a nightclub by taking over three more levels of the building.

Allie: What advice do you have for someone dreaming of opening up their own business?

Sean: Before you do it, know that it’s really what you want. It takes a lot of work, late nights, and the bar industry can be a tough one. Make sure that whatever business you are planning to start is the industry you really want to be in. Try working in that industry before you start your own business, so you get a feel for it. And have a niche. You need to be able to carve out your own unique space and stand out from the competition. Oh, and make sure you have more than enough money saved if things don’t go as planned.

Allie: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

Sean: Well, because I invested everything in the bar, and it takes time for a bar to become profitable, I had to get another job during the day. So, my fun time is very limited. But, if I did have time to spare, I’d spend it by the water. My brothers and I love going to the beach, scuba diving, and spearfishing. I love watching football – we’re Ravens, Redskins, and Miami Dolphin fans. If you come to 1831 on Sundays, we have Redskins games playing, and are also the official DC bar for the University of Miami Hurricanes and the DC International Film Festival.

Allie: How do you connect with your Jewish identity?

Sean: I have a deep cultural connection, and care a lot about Jewish tradition. I went on Birthright Israel, and we grew up going to Congregation Har Shalom. I also love Jewish foods – Matzo ball soup has a soft spot in my heart. I used to live in New York City, and there were real, authentic Jewish diners where I had some of the best matzo ball soup of my life – like 2nd Ave Deli.

 

 

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 Ike – Jewish Journalist (and Newbie) of the Week!

Ike Swetlitz is a man of many talents. A contra-dancing aficionado, world traveler, Jewish music guru, medical journalist – just to name a few. Though he is brand new to our nation’s great capital, he seems to be taking full advantage of what DC has to offer. Get to know him, and welcome him to the city!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool job as a journalist. Tell me a little bit about that.

Ike: I’m a health and medical journalist for STAT, which is part of The Boston Globe Company. Before this, I was majoring in Physics at Yale and doing a lot of journalism on the side – trying to decide if I wanted to be a Physicist or a Journalist. In the end, I realized I prefered developing relationships with people instead of a computer, so I figured it would be a lot more enjoyable to work as a journalist. I’m still really fascinated by science, so getting to be a health/medical journalist is a wonderful opportunity for me to pursue both of these interests.

Allie:  Where is the coolest place you’ve ever traveled?

Ike: I have two: The Point Reyes National Seashore, on the coast of California, just north of San Francisco. It was such a beautiful place, and has an incredible sea lion reserve. The second is my visit to the the Jewish community in rural Ghana – Sefwi Wiawsoin. While I was spending a few weeks in Ghana working for an agricultural news radio station, I had the opportunity to travel to the Jewish community and spend a Shabbat there.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ike: I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago, and after college was looking for journalism jobs. STAT was just starting up in Boston, and I got a job there as a medical/health journalist, and moved to Boston. I started working on many journalism projects related to DC, and wound up moving down here just a few months ago to pursue these projects at STAT’s DC-office.

Allie: Being new to the city, what is your take on DC so far?

Ike: DC reminds me of when I first moved to Boston, and I’m in this period of meeting a lot people and trying to figure out where I fit into the community. It’s a different kind of city than Boston though. In Boston, every other person works for a university or health company, and in DC every other person works for the government or an organization related to the government.

Allie What are your favorite things to do in the city?

Ike: I really enjoy going to the farmer’s markets in DC, and checking out the many Jewish community programs, and folk dance communities.

Allie: Folk dancing? How did you get involved with that?

Ike: Well, I learned square dancing in ninth grade, because we were told it was was the State Dance of Illinois. Then, when I was at college, I discovered this small, nearby town that had contra dancing – which is sort of like square dancing, but more fun – and every so often, I took part in that. While living in Boston after college, there was a big dancing community, so I started doing contra dancing, and have been happy to see there are lots of those communities in DC too.

Allie: How do you connect to Judaism in your own life?

Ike: I love Jewish music, Jewish ritual, and find that Jewish communities I’ve been a part of are really welcoming. It’s refreshing to spend time with a group of people who can be intently focused on one thing at hand.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Ike: I’d say the founders of Nava Tehilah – a song-based community in Jerusalem. They’ve created this incredible group that brings people together who normally have different religious practices, and show one another the beauty of each other’s traditions.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Ike: Sweet potato latkes. They’re basically like gigantic sweet potato fries.

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

Ike: They’re surprised by who they recognize.

 

 

 

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.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Judaism

Okay, given the seemingly infinite nature of Jewish text, history, and interpretation, there may be more than 5 things you didn’t know about Judaism. But, here are 5 things you can learn more about at Federation’s ROUTES: Day of Learning on Sunday, November 5th at George Mason University! ROUTES is a full day of classes led by world-famous presenters from all walks of the Jewish world – including many from right here in the DC area. So, did you know…

“JewBarrassment” is a thing. It’s that uncomfortable feeling most of us get when we think we’ve said or done something wrong with regard to Jewish practice. It was coined by Archie Gottesman, founder of JewBelong.com and a featured speaker at Federation’s ROUTES, who will discuss her vision of making Judaism more accessible. (Search Class 1A and 3A)

You can use rhythm and movement to engage with Torah. Jewish tradition has a long history with using rhythm to evoke meaning in Torah texts through cantillation and Chassidic niggun, a form of religious song. Matisyahu Tonti will lead a ROUTES session where participants will use a classic Torah story, and musical techniques from the Orff Approach to music education, to learn and create a short performance that will be fun, kinesthetic, and intellectually stimulating. (Search Class 1B)

The Torah is green. Jewish tradition teaches us to protect the environment through a wide range of lessons about how to conserve resources and use them responsibly. Eating locally and sustainably is tied closely to a Kosher diet. In Evonne Marzouk’s ROUTES class, you can learn about what Jewish wisdom says about protecting the environment and using resources sustainably, then see pictures and learn about the “ingredients” of sustainable home improvement. (Search Class 1E)

The Statue of Liberty is totally Jewish. Kerry Brodie’s session at ROUTES will discuss the brief life and legacy of Emma Lazarus, the Jewish woman behind the words etched into The Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” (Search Class 2F)

Jewish Washingtonians held a vigil outside the Soviet embassy in DC every day for 20 years. GatherDC’s Jewish Teacher of the Week(!), Aaron Bregman, will explore the time when Soviet Jews were fleeing the Iron Curtain, American Jews in DC responded to the reports of harassment and oppression by organizing a resistance movement that included vigils, protests and more. Come ready to discuss questions like, “Was this experience the last time diaspora Jewry bonded together over such an important topic?” and, “What does it take to galvanize or unify our Jewish community?” (Search Class 1D)

Check out all the details and register here. Plus, get $20 off your registration with code GATHERDCROUTES2017. Heads up – if you use the code, lunch will not be included with your ticket (but you can BYO). Online registration closes Wednesday, November 1st, but young professionals (under 40) can show their IDs at the door to receive $20 off the door price of $54. This discounted price does not include lunch.

 

This is a sponsored 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.

Meet Sarah: Jewish Tech Startup Founder of the Week!

Sarah Hostyk is one of those people who makes you want to deactivate your Netflix account and start doing more productive things with your evenings (but Stranger Things Season 2?!). At age 13, she wrote her first business plan. At 21, she was a finalist in Virginia Tech’s regional business competition. The following year, she was the first US employee at a Tel-Aviv based mobile app. And by age 26, she founded her very own mobile app. …maybe Stranger Things can wait until I’m a super successful app-creator? Ugh, but then I’ll never know what really happened to Barb. Life choices are tough.

Sarah seems to be really good at life. Get to know her!

Allie: So, you founded and just launched a mobile app in DC and on DC college campuses. That’s pretty awesome, tell us a little about that?

Sarah: Thanks! I founded Place Tempo – a free Apple and Android app that matches remote workers, students, and travelers with the top six places nearby to work/study that best fits their selected productivity needs (quiet, great wifi, how busy, open seating, outlets, etc). It’s driven by daily real-time and recent crowd-sourced ratings from fellow users and from your ratings. The app covers cafes, coffee shops, university buildings, restaurants, libraries, transit hubs, hotel lobbies, work spaces, etc. I describe it is as a productivity focused Yelp meets real-time Waze. You can download it from my website, or on the Apple App or Android/Google Play stores! (More info on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)

Allie: How did you come up with the idea for Place Tempo?

Sarah: When I was in college, I would stay up very late every night, moving from place to place in order to find some place quiet with few distractions so I could productively study. After college, I moved to Boston where I worked as the first US employee of an early-stage mobile app startup based near Tel Aviv, and then I worked on/at other Boston startups. There was a lot of remote work involved, and I encountered the same problems: home was too distracting/comfortable, staying in a location that didn’t have what I needed and that meant I wasn’t as productive, and I’d waste valuable time searching out decent places both in Boston and while traveling to other cities.

I couldn’t find a tech solution to help, and I saw the US workforce moving more and more to remote work… so Place Tempo was born. I moved back home to the DC area to bootstrap it and get it off the ground.

Allie: What are some lessons you’ve learned about running your own tech company from launching this app?

Sarah:

    Be relentlessly determined, keep pushing through closed doors and No’s, and never give up until you get the Yes’s you need.

      Be a Jack-of-All-trades, teach yourself the basics of everything until you can bring on a specialist.

      Serendipity is real, so pitch strangers everywhere: in coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, on the metro. I’ve made amazing connections, and gotten great feedback and new users this way.

      Be creative and resourceful. I created a life-size Place Tempo smartphone costume and went to DC campuses in it to get users and attention (see photo).

      Constantly seek user feedback and build a community around your product.

      Ask for help and advice. People in the tech community are always willing to help.

      Always try to help others and pay what you know forward.

Allie: Very great advice! Besides, you know, running your own tech startup, what do you like to do for fun in DC?

Sarah: On Shabbat afternoons, I meet with friends and we walk for miles across the city and explore without any plans, randomly falling into wonderful adventures. Major highlights: coming upon an Army band concert with live cannon fire on the mall, running into hundreds of swing dancers and a swing band at Dupont Circle, a 20 foot tall wooden dragon, all kind of festivals and interesting people, walking through historic hotels and museums, across bridges and monuments, listening to talented buskers, and the list goes on.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Sarah: Shabbat (my weekly reset to factory settings)!

Running a startup is an around the clock rollercoaster ride. So to have one day to unplug, not stress about work, go to shul, be introspective and take a measure of the past week, socialize and enjoy the company of friends and family without distraction, smell the roses and see the outside world unfiltered, explore and walk around the city with friends seeing where the day takes us, reading, playing cards… is a gift.

I go to shul at DC Minyan and Rosh Pina, two independent traditional egalitarian partnership minyans that meet in the DCJCC. I also sometimes go to Ohev Sholom/The National Synagogue.

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

Sarah: We schmooze and kibitz!

 

 

 

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.

PREVIEW: Take a First Listen of the Washington Jewish Music Festival!

Good news for music lovers! The 19th edition of the Edlvatich DCJCC’s Washington Jewish Music Festival (WJMF) kicks-off on November 2nd with a concert by Tararam, the Israeli group known as “Israel’s Stomp.” If you like unconventional instruments and drumming, go check it out and be ready to enter into a world of fire drumsticks and mesmerizing sound.

Is your musical taste more oriented toward jazz and classical? Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of choices, and could even attend multiple concerts a week! For example, the Festival’s Centerpiece Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer, features pieces by fifteen composers who were survivors of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Jews at the Theresienstadt concentration camp were allowed to possess instruments – likely for propaganda purposes. Some of the best Jewish composers of the time had been deported to Theresienstadt. In the midst of brutality, pain, and death during the darkest time for humanity, these artists somehow found the inspiration to compose exceptional pieces full of depth and sentiment.

If, like me, you spend your day stuck at a desk staring at a computer and would like to shake your body, show up to dance to the rhythm of klezmer-ish international music with either Yasmin Levy and the Klezmatics or – for the closing night – Nomadica (just to name a few!).

The year’s festival features a diverse mixture of genres, composers, players and performers connected by their Jewish background and influenced by worldwide trends and rhythms. As Festival Director Ilya Tovbis said in the official press release:

The 19th Washington Jewish Music Festival’s lineup is a very exciting alchemy – it brings together some of the most prestigious, original, and boundary-pushing artists from around the world working in the Jewish space, and encourages them to experiment in the nation’s capital. Additionally, we’re doubling down on highlighting and elevating the work and artistry of local DC musicians whose output spans hip-hop, klezmer, bossa nova, and cantorial repertoires. The Jewish sound being celebrated at this year’s Festival is as eclectic, multicultural, and global as the Jewish diaspora itself.”

A tradition of the WJMF is the Day of Education on Arab Citizens of Israel. This year’s edifying day will include a performance by flutist Mais Hriesh and violinist Tal First, of the Polyphony Foundation, as well as a post-concert discussion about the importance of art in building a multicultural society.

I am planning to attend a number of shows and chat with the artists, so stay tuned on GatherDC’s blog for more news – and buy your tickets quick! My first spotlight on the Festival will be a brief interview with artist-in residence Simone Baron who will perform on November 11th with David Buchbinder at the world premiere of their concert.

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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.

Spotted in Jewish DC: Baked by Yael

Baked by Yael was founded in 2010 by recovering attorney Yael Krigman. After operating Baked by Yael as an online business for several years, Yael finally opened DC’s very first Cake-poppery® in 2015. Today, Baked by Yael has claimed the illustrious distinction of having cake pops that Washingtonian Magazine called “Best of Washington.” Side note – her bagels are truly a hidden gem of DC, and you must try them.

Now, bite into this exclusive interview with Yael as she digs into the trials and tribulations of running her very own cake pop shop in our nation’s capital.

Allie:  I heard you used to be a lawyer. So…how did you wind up opening Baked by Yael?

Yael: When I worked at a big law firm, I used to bake for fun and I’d bring in my baked goods to share with coworkers each week. People would crowd in my office to try the latest “Monday Treat.”  They would tell me I was a fine attorney… but that if it didn’t work out, I should start a bakery. I figured there was no reason to wait, so I started Baked by Yael. A part-time side gig eventually turned into a full-time passion.

Allie: When did you first start baking? Who taught you?

Yael: I remember making cookies with my family when I was little, but I started baking regularly when I was in law school. It’s amazing the skills you can develop when you’re trying to avoid studying for the bar exam!

My baking as an adult began with bagels. It was so hard to find a good bagel in DC. I finally gave up and decided to make my own. From there, I branched out to black & white cookies and rugelach, and then of course to cake pops!

Allie: How did you find the courage to take a risk and start your own business?

Yael: It wasn’t easy. I had a stable, well-paying job in the legal field. After a while, I started to realize that I had one job I worked because of the money and another job I worked because of the joy it gave me.

It was an email from the then-popular Daily Candy that really gave me the push I needed to leave my day job.  They sent an email to all of their subscribers with the subject “The best bagel we’ve ever eaten.” That really put Baked by Yael on the map. The rest, as they say, is history!

Allie: Any new treats coming out this season that you’re particularly excited about?

Yael: We had our honey cake pops for Rosh Hashanah, and we’ll be rolling out some more seasonal flavors in the coming weeks. We’re also thinking of doing a spin on “Christmas in July” with hamantaschen in November.  Stay tuned 🙂

Allie: What advice do you have for someone dreaming of opening up their own business?

Yael: Keep your eye on the prize and be prepared to develop thick skin! The journey of a small business owner is quite the emotional rollercoaster.  You need a solid plan, a great product, and a strong support network of family, friends, and customers.

Allie: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

Yael: I try to find time throughout the year for short trips or visits to the symphony. The highlight of my week is mentoring a middle school student. This is my fifth year with her. It brings me such joy to watch her grow and to know that I’m playing a small role in the life of an extraordinary young girl.

Allie: How are are you involved in DC’s local Jewish community?

Yael: I’m a member of Adas Israel, which is only a few blocks from Baked by Yael, and I’ve helped support the Edlavitch DCJCC by catering several fundraising events. I’m proud to provide one of the only options for fresh kosher food in DC.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Yael: Oh man, that’s like asking a mother to choose between her children. If I had to pick one, I would probably say the black & white cookie. I used to only like the chocolate side, then I switched to preferring vanilla, and now I love both sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baked by Yael is located at 3000 Connecticut Avenue (directly across from the National Zoo) or online at bestcakepopever.com. Baked by Yael offers curbside pickup at their bakery, as well as local delivery and nationwide shipping. You can also find Baked by Yael on weekends at the Cleveland Park and Palisades farmers’ markets in DC and the Old Town and Del Ray farmers’ markets in Alexandria. Baked by Yael’s products are nut-free and kosher, and have lots of gluten-free and vegan options as well. Kids and kids at heart can hold cake pop parties in Baked by Yael’s kitchen, offering all the fun of rolling, dipping, and decorating without the usual mess.

 

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.