Jewish Person of the Week: GatherDC’s Newest Team Member Rachel!

BIG NEWS GATHER-ERS: Boston native Rachel Nieves has just joined the GatherDC team as our Community Coordinator! This Bostonian turned University of Maryland Terrapin turned DC-ite, is eager to meet each and every one of you! Rachel’s contagious smile, friendly demeanor, zest for life, and self-proclaimed flailing skills on the dance floor — has us more excited than ever for the year ahead.

After you read this exclusive 1:1 interview, send her an email at racheln@gatherdc.org to say hi, welcome her to the team, or arrange a coffee date!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Rachel: I went to University of Maryland, so I’ve been in the area for a while. A lot of my friends moved to DC after we graduated, and I’ve always loved this city, so I figured it would be a great move for me!

Allie: So, what are you most excited about in your new role as GatherDC’s Community Coordinator?

Rachel: A big part of my job will be meeting people who are new – or new(ish) to DC, and helping them navigate the city, and then hopefully find their people, their place, or their path in Jewish DC. I’m excited about all of it! I really love people. I genuinely love talking to people and learning about their lives, what they like, who they are, their personal story. Everyone has something to say and a story to tell, and I’m so excited to get to know all the wonderful people already in the GatherDC community, and those new to DC. I know how intimidating it can be to be in a new, unfamiliar space so I’m really looking forward to being a resource for anyone who wants it.

Allie: What would be your dream Sunday in DC – if money and logistics were no object?

Rachel: First I would wake up at my leisure, then get ready for brunch at 801 in Shaw (my new favorite bottomless brunch place). The waiter/waitress would really like my friends and I, and would waive the 2-hour limit so we could stay there all day. It would be a really sunny and warm day, so we’d be on the rooftop. After brunch, my friends and I would go bar-hopping along U St/Shaw, and we’d have a ball. It would be pretty late by then, so I’d treat myself to McDonalds for dinner (it is Sunday and I deserve it, after all). I’d go home with my McDonalds, hang out with my roommate/best friend and watch some amazing Bravo TV.

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

Rachel: Call me crazy, but I LOVE Yom Kippur. Every year I legitimately look forward to my fast, because I don’t dread it, but really revel in its meaning. Regardless of fasting, I think the holiday is extraordinary in that it sets aside an entire day to challenge you to think about the past year and how you feel about it – and how it made you feel about yourself. I don’t typically really spend time reflecting like that, and I think however that reflection and atonement manifests itself can be really powerful. Also, Break Fast, obviously.

Allie: Favorite show to binge watch right now?

Rachel: “Game of Thrones” – I know I’m so late on this but WOW. The other night I had a dream I was Khaleesi and it was the best night sleep I’ve gotten in a while.

Allie: What’s your best piece of life advice?

Rachel: Life goes by fast. Enjoy it, calm down, it’s all funny.

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

Rachel: it’s party time!!!

 

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.

Healthy Latkes?! AND not-so-healthy Hanukkah treats to satisfy your cravings for the next 8 nights!

Latkes and donuts, and gelt, oh my! Hanukkah is here, and with it comes eight days of gut-filling, artery-clogging, and dangerously delicious food. While the Miracle of Light may not refer to a miracle calorie-free feast, there are easy ways to enjoy all the latkes your heart desires without packing on too many pounds before your New Year’s resolutions begin. Don’t worry, we’ll still enjoy our traditional fried versions as well!

A classic latke is typically made from potatoes, which are grated and then deep-fried to get that crispy exterior you dream about each year (save the nightmares for the soggy ones). On top of that, they get loaded up with sour cream, applesauce, or my father’s favorite, a tablespoon of sugar!

So, here are a few ways to cut back on the calories without cutting back on the crisp:

  1. Simply swap out the sour cream for non-fat Greek yogurt. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try out some other toppings like hummus, guacamole, or make your own sugar-free applesauce that will have your house smelling like the holidays.
  2. While potatoes are “grate” (get it?), you can get in some extra vitamins by adding in other vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes, or parsnips. Try these beet latkes, which incorporate the beet greens into the potato-beet mixture before pan- frying. Beet greens are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, giving your latkes that extra nutritious punch, not to mention a bright purple hue!
  3. If you want to go oil-free this year (save it for the sufganiyot – fried donuts – at dessert), think about baking your latkes instead of frying them. You can still get a good crisp in the oven, just be sure to really squeeze out as much moisture as possible – you’ll get a workout while making dinner – and make them as thin as you can without falling apart. This recipe is a good one to start with, but feel free swap some of the potatoes with other root vegetables or add in some different spices (e.g. carrot + curry powder or sweet potato + chili powder).

Now if calorie cutting is not what you’re looking for, here are some drool-worthy ways to take your latke game to the next level:

  1. Potatoes and cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly, so why not add a handful to your latkes to make them ooze with every bite.
  2. If latkes eight nights a week aren’t enough, try these Latke Benedicts for breakfast! Poach an egg, whip up some hollandaise sauce and heat up last night’s leftover latkes for a quick and easy Hanukkah breakfast.

If you’ve managed to save room for dessert after all these recipes, here are some delectable treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.

  1. Why let potatoes have all the fried glory, when apples taste just as good, if not better, fried and caramelized? This recipe puts your scraps to good use, turning the fresh apple juice into a caramel sauce to drizzle on top of your apple latkes.
  2. If you can’t fathom a dessert without chocolate, then fry up some Mexican Chocolate Latkes for a sweet and spicy end to your latke party. Top with some ice cream, perhaps a donut hole, and you’ll be spinning in circles alongside the dreidel all night long!

You’re now ready and prepared to have eight nights of Hanukkah glory this year. With healthy twists and some not-so- healthy recipes worth indulging over, you won’t be bored with the plain old potato.

Let each night be a new miracle as you discover new tastes, perhaps make some new friends, and get ready to make some New Year’s resolutions that will most likely involve a lot sweating.

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.

JUDITH VS. DONUTS: The DC Donut Taste-Test

8 Days of Hanukkah means the PERFECT excuse to take advantage of eight chances to indulge in some of the best, most delectable, most fried, most well frosted, most heavily sprinkled, most — ugh, we’re getting so hungry right now — donuts throughout DC. This week, we highly encourage you to go have fun tasting the best donuts across the city as you explore new neighborhoods, surprise your friends with exciting flavors (sweet and savory), and get in as much fried food as possible before the New Year!

We did some preliminary “research” to help steer you to the tastiest treats, and away from those not worth the calories — we took a few caloric hits for the team. Use our highly scientific Donut Deliciousness Meter (out of 4 ✡) to decipher which donuts are worth the splurge. You’re welcome!

Dunkin’ Donuts

While these donuts are great for a cheap office treat, looks are very much deceiving as we encountered tasty looking but…we hate to say it…stale donuts! We tried both a classic glazed (very dry) and an apple-filled (more like one bite of filling in the corner of a very dry donut), throwing out both donuts after one bite. 🙁 But, we did pick these donuts up in the afternoon, so perhaps they are best enjoyed with your morning Dunkin’ coffee run.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡

B. Doughnut

Due to the overwhelming popularity of these particular fried and frosted circles, we were unable to quench our B.Doughnut taste buds. These donuts sold out by 11am! (DC donut lovers – we’re impressed.) Although I cannot speak from personal experience, we’ve heard these are definitely ones to have on your list…along with an alarm clock set for sunrise. Using a Hawaiian style Malasada recipe instead of the traditional fried fritter (making for an eggy, yeast dough), these doughnuts are filled with pastry crème or cream cheese. With a pop-up shop at Union Market, you can swing by on the weekend and grab a LOX bagel doughnut! Yes, that is a real thing.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: Too late to tell!

202 Donuts

You can find these handmade donuts at Bold Bite in Downtown DC. While deceptively small, these donuts pack a punch of flavor – and were one of our favorite bites of all! The donut itself has a strong yeast flavor and isn’t very sweet, which actually pairs miraculously well with the sugary toppings and fillings. Go for the Dulce de Leche for a creamy caramel treat or the Samoa if you’re missing your favorite Girl Scout cookie.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡✡✡✡

District Doughnut

With drool-worthy flavors like Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, Brown Butter, and Cannoli, this local donut shop (started in Union Kitchen) spreads happiness through its mouthwatering, handcrafted donuts in a wide variety of flavors. They have a special strawberry jam filled Sufganiyot for Hanukkah, and are one of the few places that serve cake donuts in addition to the classic yeasted variety.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡✡✡

Image courtesy of Astro Doughnuts,  Scott Suchman

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken

Founded by two Jews who met while playing hockey (they were the first native Washingtonians to play for the Capitals), this donut shop fries up sweet treats AND crispy chicken! Combining their two childhood comfort foods, Jeff Halpern and Elliot Spaisman brought the very first chicken and donut sandwich to DC. You can get classic donuts with or without the chicken, or a special box of sufganiyot donuts for Hanukkah (traditional jelly-filled, crème brulee topped with gelt, and Hanukkah cookie!). These flavors will be available from 12/12 – 12/20/17, so stop by this week to give ‘em a try!

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡✡✡✡

Honorable Mentions:

Shake Shack, Donuts Are Forever Concrete: Milkshake heaven made of Astro Doughnut’s coconut flavored doughnut, Vanilla custard, strawberry jam, and rainbow sprinkles.

Munch Ice Cream Donut Sandwich

Chocolate Frosted Entenmann’s Donut

 

 

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.

18+ Ways to Volunteer in DC this Holiday Season!

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and holiday parties, funky Hanukkah sweaters and even funkier Hanukkah gifts from your great aunt or your office secret snowflake. Even though everyone loves socks, scarves, and Starbucks gift cards, why not consider making this time of year more about giving gifts instead of getting them? Here are 18+ amazing opportunities to give back this winter – which one will you choose?

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

For foodies:

For those great with Bubbes:

  • D25 Day of Service: Monday, December 25th
    • Spend your Christmas Day with the EDCJCC giving back to the local DC community before hitting the movie theater and eating Chinese food.YP EVENT: There’s a special Columbia Heights-based session for young professionals through EntryPointDC that you can find here. These YPs will be visiting low-income and food insecure seniors through We Are Family DC. If this D25 activity doesn’t sound like you, be sure to check out the other D25 volunteering options including the Cookie Drive going on now through December 23rd!

For the super crafty:

For animal lovers:

For Northern Virginians:

For those with really busy schedules:

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

  • Coat Drive with ThriveDC: Drop off between January 8th and January 11th
    • ThriveDC helps those facing homeless across DC. You can contribute anytime by providing a warm coat to a person in need through their winter coat drive.
  • Capital Area Food Bank at Giant
    • Headed to Giant to buy canned beans for your famous chili? Buy an extra can for the food bank and drop it off in the collection cart on your way out of the store.
    • A loyal Safeway customer instead? Make a small donation at the register to help provide food for residents in need.

For those with volunteering in their New Year’s Resolutions:

Consider becoming a committed volunteer in 2018 at one of the organizations below.

For those who live through their phone calendars (I’m right there with ya), here’s a list fit for that “Add to Calendar” button:

December 13th, 6:30-8 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 16th, 8-11 am: Wreath Laying at the Arlington National Cemetery

December 17th, 8:45 am-12 pm or later: DC Central Kitchen Volunteering and Brunch with Moishe House Capitol Hill

December 17th, 11:45 am-1:30 pm: Doing Good with JFE at N Street Village

December 17th, 1:30-3:30 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 17th, 6:30-8:45 pm: Patricia Handy Place for Women Volunteering with YP@AI

December 20th, 5-8 pm: Wrap gifts with We Are Family

December 25th, 10 am-2:30 pm: D25 Day of Service with EntryPointDC

January 4th, 7-9 pm: Hunger Action for DC Central Kitchen at EDCJCC

 

About the Author: Shira Cohen is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! When not writing about volunteer opportunities in DC, she works in student life and disability services at a local law school. Originally from Charleston, SC, Shira loves DC Library $1 book sales and District Taco.

 

 

 

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: Solid State Books Holiday Pop-Up

Not to brag or anything, but, this week, we’ve kind of discovered the Hanukkah gift shop mother-load. The Solid State Books pop-up (the evergreen bookstore is slated to open in early 2018) has everything and anything you’ll ever need to impress your best friend, sister, mom, partner, or coworker with your on point gift giving skills. Meet the nice Jewish bookshop owner who started it all (alongside Scott Abel) – cofounder, Jake Cumsky-Whitlock.

After you read our 1:1 interview with Jake, go check out the shop at 600 H St NE in time for the holidays…which means ASAP…because, welp, Hanukkah started yesterday!

GatherDC-ers Rachel and Allie with co-founder, Jake!

How did Solid State Books come into existence?

I’ve always loved books, which led me to get a master’s degree in creative writing, and then go on to work at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle. Scott Abel (Solid State Books co-founder) and I met while working together at Kramerbooks, where we were for almost a dozen years. We talked about opening a business together, and decided bookselling was our long-term career choice. 

Where did the name come from?

It’s threefold: 1) A throwback to solid state technology – which was a term used to describe modern technology in the ‘50s and ‘60s. 2) It references the physical book that you can hold in your hand. A book that doesn’t exist in the cloud, that you scan hold, put down, and lend to people. 3) It’s a pitch for DC statehood. We think this name is definitely going to push us over the top in terms of DC becoming a state. 😉

Why shop local versus buying books on Amazon?

Well, we can’t compete with Amazon on price. But, we don’t believe books should be discounted, because we think it lessens their inherent value. Also, we offer a curated selection of books, and the ability to talk to someone about those books.

Most of all, we provide a community. We have an actual space people can come to that’s not their home, or their work, but they can connect with other people, whether that’s by meeting new people, discovering new books, hearing authors, or getting intellectual stimulation.

When does Solid State Books actually open?

Sometime in early 2018. We’re very excited about it! We’re going to host so many amazing events at the shop – cookbook events, literary fiction talks, children’s author programs, and events that are not totally book driven, but bring community together to talk about important issues like cannabis legalization, DC school systems, etc.

– – – – –

And now, here are some on-point Hanukkah gift ideas we discovered at the Solid State Books pop-up: 

      Caticorn Greeting Card, and other way too relatable cards

 . 

      Maps of DC

      Water-Color Paint Set

      Inspiring Women, and Beer, Coasters

 .

      Books to Learn About Life: e.g. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl; Thich Nhat Hanh’s “How To” Series; “Brave Enough” by Cheryl Strayed

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 Alex: Jewish Comedian of the Week!

Warning: Florida native Alex Barbag is one of the most hilarious humans in the DC stand-up comedy scene, so be prepared to laugh out loud while reading this interview (perhaps head to a non-open office space). Also, this past year he started his own YouTube comedy series, which has potential for international greatness (according to myself) – so, you best get to know him before he makes it big and forgets the little people.

 

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Alex: I graduated from college at the height of the recession, which was the best time to graduate if you have rich parents that you want to abuse by living with them while unemployed. After a while, I decided I needed a job. I graduated with a degree in microbiology from University of Florida, and Rockville is very good for biotech jobs – so I moved here for a job in genetic testing. This was pretty much a dead-end job though, because you need a higher degree to get anywhere in this field. And since I wanted to do comedy more than go get a PhD, I switched over to computer programming which is a lot more flexible.

Alex being grilled by HR in the Safe For Work series​

Allie: I hear you fulfilled every millennial’s dream and started your own YouTube series…tell me about that.

Alex: After switching over to the computer science job, I started doing stand-up comedy, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. One of my comedian friends, who I met while doing standup in the DC-area, had an office we could shoot in at night. We made a bunch of skits in it, and one of them was an office-based skit where I played this lazy character who tries to get away with nefarious workplace antics. That evolved into  the “Safe For Work” series – the best part of which is that I actually shoot it at work.

I’m also working on a new YouTube series called “Broccoli Scientists,” which is a real job where they confirm that we should indeed be eating a food we already know we should be eating.

Alex on his wedding day.

Allie: I hear you recently got married and now work with your wife on the show!

Alex: You heard correctly. I met my wife, Amanda, on JDate, which I am very embarrassed about. I like to pretend JDate is the name of a bar. Amanda is embarrassed by my embarrassment, and so she quickly tells whoever I am talking to that what I am saying is a lie. This does not make for a good comedy duo since one person is undermining the other’s bit.

On “Safe for Work,” she stars as the HR Manager who is constantly yelling at me for mischief I get into. We film those scenes in our apartment. I like working with her since she is always around. However, I do think she regrets agreeing to be in it because now she has to work with such a tyrannical director such as myself.

Allie: How – and why – did you get started in comedy?

Alex: There’s nothing that I’m passionate enough about in this world that justifies me sitting in an office from 9-5. And I’ve always thought I was funny – although many people just thought I was weird – so that led me to want to do standup. Now that I do standup regularly, I realize it’s not a great lifestyle. It’s at night, and takes a lot of travel, it’s a lot of work. Ugh, work.

Performing at the Kennedy Center in the Terrace Theater

Allie: What’s the most challenging part about working in comedy?

Alex: Confidence has been the biggest shell I’ve had to crack in my whole comedy career. It takes a lot of that to be successful. When you’re on stage, you can’t be afraid of how you’ll be viewed. Also, the people who book stand-up rooms are the ones that really need to like you, and you have to network properly with them – which I am not good at.

Allie: Who is your favorite Jewish comedian?

Alex: I’d say Larry David. I’m actually making a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” themed episode of “Safe for Work” – so stay tuned! It’s about the water fountain at work – and those people that spend way too long filling up large water bottles, while those left waiting just want a mere sip.

Allie: What’s your best piece of life advice?

Alex: I’m very relaxed and I go with the flow, and

I think more people should be a leaf trying to float along the water, instead of a leaf trying to cling to a tree. I read that in a Buddhist book recently. I read one passage, that was the passage I read.

But really, I do think going with the flow is important. There’s way too much stress in the world and we’re all going to die one day, we’re just one tiny blip in the earth.

Allie: Favorite joke you tell?

Alex: I tell a lot of stand-up jokes about my balding. Overall I’m more thankful rather than bitter that I’m balding because I get a lot more standup jokes out of it. I think if God offered me a full head of hair – I would reject it knowing that I wouldn’t have as many stand-up jokes.

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

Alex: They should do it in front of their laptop while watching “Safe for Work.

 

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.

Rabbi Rant: The Struggle Is-real

As the great poet Kanye West once pondered: “And the weather so breezy; man, why can’t life always be this easy?”

Life is hard, and it seems to get harder the older we get. Like all great minds, Yeezy simply gives expression to our deepest desires.

It’s no wonder, then, that some people have often turned to religion looking for reassurance, the ability to transcend our daily struggles, the comfort of knowing we are doing the right thing, or the guarantee that it will all work out in the end (if not for everyone, then at least for us).

Don’t believe this is how people actually relate to religion? Ask your rabbis (or other clergy) what happened to their attendance in services after the election last year. (Not that numbers matter all that much… they clearly didn’t for the election.) This “religious” drive is why Karl Marx called religion “the opium of the people” – many people relate to it as a calm-inducing drug.

The Torah offers a very different understanding of what it means to be religious, and to be human. In the very first sentence of this week’s Torah reading, we read: “Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan” (Genesis 37:1). Nothing all that remarkable.

Yet the rabbis read into the word “settled” a deeper longing for tranquility. Jacob has had a difficult life; in his old age, he justifiably wants some peace and quiet. In direct response, God disrupts his life once again through the ensuing drama of his son Joseph (whose brothers sell him into slavery while convincing his father he was killed by wild beasts).

As the biblical commentator Rashi explains: “[When] the righteous seek to dwell in tranquility – God says: ‘Is it not enough for the righteous, what is prepared for them in the world to come, that they seek to settle in tranquility in this world?’”

Life isn’t supposed to be easy – you can rest peacefully when you’re dead.

Instead of encouraging retreat from challenge, Judaism pushes us toward it. The tough moments in life are the moments where we grow the most.

Almost 2000 years before it became a workout slogan, Rabbi Ben Hei Hei said: “According to the pain is the gain.”

It’s ironic that Jacob wanted to settle down, because his name was changed to Israel (which means, “to wrestle with God”) after wrestling with a man/angel just a few chapters earlier. Yet he still retains the name Jacob, which means “heel” and alludes to his tendency to run away, perhaps reminding us that we can never fully overcome our urge to avoid the harder moments.

This is why we need Judaism. Not to provide the easy answers, but to ask the hard questions.

We are called the children of Israel. To live up to our namesake, we must constantly choose to wrestle, instead of escape. It’s the critical first step in improving ourselves and the world around us.

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 – Indie/Folk Singer Eli Lev

Folk singer-songwriter Eli Lev was spotted at the Silver Spring Fresh Farmers Market by our very own Rachel Gildiner. The moment Eli’s soothing indie/folk music hit Rachel’s ears, she was captivated. So, to ensure all of our amazing readers can experience this mesmerizing music around DC, we’re featuring Eli’s band in this week’s #SpottedinJewishDC!

Oh, and you can go check him out in person next week on December 13th at SonyByrd for his album release party.

Allie: How did you become a musician?

Eli: Growing up I was always exposed to Jewish music especially klezmer music. I came back to DC last year to take care of my family because my dad has been going through some health issues. Before coming here, I was working as a teacher and finishing my Master’s in Language Education from Indiana University. When I came back to the area, someone asked me to play music with them at Tryst. This led to me playing at SongByrd, the Kennedy Center, and then Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton asked me to perform at The Capitol! All of a sudden – I’m a full time musician.

Allie: What type of music do you play?

Eli: Indie/Folk, Americana with a little bit of soul in there. Jack Johnson meets Johnny Cash. Smooth, laid back vocal approach with some honky tonk general.

Allie: Music heroes?

Eli: Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, all the best singer/songwriters from the 60s/70s. Vance Joy I like a lot. Mumford and Sons I have to thank for bringing folk back to people’s ears.

Allie: What are your songs about?

Eli: A lot of my songs I wrote when traveling around the world. My most recent single is “Go Down,” about a baptismal site I saw when I was living in Israel. I just made a music video based on that song.

Allie: What are the goals for your music?

Eli: My music is about bringing people together, and creating power with ourselves to identify who we are. This has a lot to do with getting back to nature, connecting to your neighbors – and understanding that we’re a part of the community we create. The folk music brings this all together because it inherently has a link to the past.

In today’s political climate, we’re at the mercy of the latest news cycle. We’re being taught to fear each other, even within the Jewish community, and it makes us weak. To be a strong person and a strong community, there has to be unity. My music speaks to that.

My next single is called “Making Space” and that is about creating space for ourselves to feel empowered, and use our voice to protest.

Allie: Any plans for the future of your music you’re particularly excited about?

Eli: I’m playing with a full folk band, and we have an album release party coming up at SongByrd. Playing with a band gives me a lot of excitement, and expands my reach. Ultimately, I’d love to do national and international touring.

 

 

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.

Happy Hanukkah: Party Themes, Pop-Up Bars, Holiday Markets, & Gift Guide

Those 8 crazy nights of Hanukkah are almost here! It’s not too late to put together a festive fete for your Jew crew and get gifts for your entire mishpacha (family). Whether you want to challenge the BFFs to a latke cook-off, find the ugliest holiday sweater, or get your boyfriend the ultimate present – we’ve got you covered with party themes, decorations, recipes, and a gift guide.

Hanukkah Party Countdown

  1.     This classy tablescape from figtree & vine makes us feel like we are living in a West Elm catalogue this holiday season. They are going out of business, so grab your discounted décor while you can!
  2.     Keep guests lit with the 8 drinking games of Hanukkah.
  3.     You will be the coolest “Jew kid on the block” when you break out this menorah-saurus  during candle lighting.
  4.     Slip on your Hanukkah suit and bring your pals to Chai-vy & Cohen-vy Hanukkah Pop-Up. Bar or the Miracle on 7th Pop-Up Bar featuring a Jewish Chinese & Movies themed room for a selfie-sesh & round from the “shot-norah”.
  5.     Take your latke game to the next level with these recipes from BuzzFeed.

A Very Jewish Christmas: Chinese & Movies

  1.     Save your gelt, grab your wok, and throw together your own veggie lo-mein with these 30 takeout dishes from Food Network Canada.
  2.    Paper lanterns make everything  pretty.
  3.     Have your guests personalize their own chopsticks while you waiting for the Chinese food to arrive.
  4.     End your meal with these cute marzipan takeout boxes, or witty Jewish fortune cookies from Modern Tribe.
  5.    A popcorn bar, because snacks. Oh, and the 100 best movies on Netflix. You’re welcome.

The Chosen Gift Guide

  1.     Did you know the first Hipster Hanukkah Holiday Market is on Wednesday, December 6th at Social Tables? Get all the gifts on your list! (Editor’s Note: If you missed this event, check out Amazon.com)
  2.     Your sister ran away to the warm weather for the holidays? Remind her of home with a Jewish Christmas scented candle from Homesick (butter popcorn + Chinese food flavor, oy).
  3.     The Happy Hanukcat sweater is a must for the future cat lady in your life.
  4.     Inspire your nephew to be the next Dr. Dreidel with this Jew Chainz tee.
  5.     You’ve probably spent more than eight nights trying to think of something to get your boyfriend – Kveller has several great present ideas.

 

 

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! She 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.

Manny Arciniega: Quartet to the End of Time

When I checked out the program of the 19th Washington Music Jewish Festival (WJMF), I noticed that the Levine Music faculty were/are performing Messiaen’s “Quartet to the End of Time,” a work composed inside a prisoner of war camp in 1940. I wondered what a piece written by a Catholic composer, and inspired by the Book of Revelations and the Apocalypse, had to do with the Jewish festival.

I got very curious and decided to attend the concert and interview one of the members of the band, percussionist Manny Arciniega. Manny explained that while inside the prisoner of war camp, Messiaen met with two other world famous musicians: violinist Jean le Boulaire and cellist Étienne Pasquier. Messiaen loved to listen to natural sounds like birds singing, and added these sounds into his composition.

The other band members presented an innovative version of the piece by re-scoring and playing it with electronic instruments and percussion. What resulted was a mesmerizing performance.

By the end, I had an answer to my question: why was this performance included into the Jewish music festival? Well, in addition to one of the three musicians who played it, Étienne Pasquier, being Jewish, the piece is a work expressing liberation and the possibility of hope — sentiments which are very close to our Jewish history.

Enjoy my interview with Manny Arciniega!

                                                                 —

Daniela: I hear you are on faculty at Levine Music. Tell us more about that!

Manny: Levine Music is a community music school that serves the area around DC for students of all ages and abilities. It provides a welcoming community for children and adults to find lifelong inspiration and joy through learning, performing, listening, and participating in music.

Daniela: Why did you decide to commemorate Messiaen’s Quartet to the end of time at this year’s WJMF?

Manny: Each year, Levine Music chooses a theme for its concert series that faculty participate in.  The theme for the 2016-2017 Levine Presents series was “The Power of Music: Protest, Propaganda, Promise” – and I immediately thought of the “Quartet for the End of Time.” The story of the piece’s conception, having been written in a Nazi prisoner of war camp during WWII, perfectly intersected with the proposed theme.  Messiaen drew his inspiration from the Book of Revelation but its message is far from Apocalyptical.  It was an offering from Messiaen to the other prisoners in the camp. The music, composed of birdsong and sounds no one in that camp had ever heard before, allowed each individual to remove themselves from the temporal and into peace.  

The work is a testament to the power of human will to overcome the darkest of circumstances.  It’s message of hope, perseverance, and love.

This seemed appropriate topics for the WJMF.  Recent political events have necessitated a fresh look at Messiaen’s timeless masterpiece.

Daniela: How do electric instruments and percussion add to/change the original piece?

Manny: I loved the “Quartet for the End of Time” since my first encounter with it as a graduate student in the UK. I used to drive around listening to it in my car and imagine what it would sound like with percussion behind it. Messiaen was an avid composer for percussion instruments, and many of his birdsong compositions use a percussion or lesser known instruments such as the Ondes Martenot.

Changing the orchestration provided a variety of challenges from an arranging standpoint.  I tried to find parallels between the original instruments and their modern counterparts. My goal was to find moments where I felt Messiaen was trying to maximize a particular timbre or sound and see if we could dial it up.

My hope was to just strike a chord with the individual. Whether that is one of contemplation over the cacophony of sound, or complete disgust for the destruction of revered music, we just want to invoke an emotional response.

After the premiere of the re-orchestration this past January, one individual just came up to me, gave me a hug and then thanked me with tears in his eyes. It’s a moment I will always remember.

Daniela: Does this piece give you an experience of oppression or liberation while you play it, knowing that it was composed and performed in a Nazi camp?

Manny: As for the history of its composition, knowing its origins strengthens its meaning of hope and liberation. Each time I play that 8th movement, I get goosebumps.

I can’t help but think about how beautiful the world is, despite all of the hatred and lack of empathy around us — music is inspiring — it’s an escape from the ‘now.’

Daniela: How has playing this piece changed the relationship between the musicians? 

Manny: If it weren’t for the other individuals in this performance, it most likely would have never been realized. As a result of this project, we have all found ourselves in vulnerable positions, both musically and emotionally, from the stress that comes with working such a challenging work and that has served to bring us closer together. Everyone has put their heart and soul into learning this music, its story, and the language of Messiaen’s unique composition style. I will admit, there have been moments of doubt that some of the tasks before us might be impossible to pull off, but in the end no one backed down from the challenge.

 

 

 

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.