Together At the Table

This weekend, the world–and specifically our neighboring state of Virginia–witnessed a violent display of hatred, racism, and anti-Semitism from a group of neo-Nazis. It is hard to see, hear, and think about these deplorable acts that are happening so close to home. We must continue to work towards understanding one another and showing love and kindness to all, despite our differences.

This Shabbat, join in opposing bigotry and celebrating diversity by creating welcoming, inclusive Shabbat dinners. Be a host. Be a guest. Take your seat at the table.

Shabbat has the power to unite, to elevate conversations, to deepen community.

Together at the Table is a celebration of unity and diversity in the face of fear and division. #TogetherAtTheTable

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, OneTable, Repair the World, and many other partners (including GatherDC) have made it as easy as possible for you to get started. These organizations are working to bring people together through Shabbat dinner this week – Friday, August 18th. If you do or don’t decide to host or attend a Shabbat this week, the partners working to present #TogetherAtTheTable have compiled resources on the web page to having important, meaningful conversations about all of this.

We asked a few people to share why they think this opportunity is important for the DC Jewish community.

Marina, the DC Hub Manager for OneTable explained, “I feel blessed to be able to bring the community a resource that is so important in the world we live in, especially here in DC, and I feel lucky during times like these to be able to see so tangibly how we come together and bring out the very best in each other. OneTable aims to facilitate this by providing a space for the community to come together and heal over the Shabbat dinner table. In the face of hatred, our community will become stronger by embracing diversity and ensuring that each and every one of us has a seat.”

Alyssa, Moishe House Columbia Heights resident, reiterates the importance by stating, “We (Moishe House Columbia Heights) felt that it was important to create our Shabbat dinner into a space that could be a #TogetherAtTheTable meal because as community builders, we wanted our house to be seen as a safe space for all those looking for some solidarity and understanding. Shabbat is one time in the week that, regardless of what is going on in the world, the traditions, smells, tastes, and celebrations stay the same. This is not only a time to seek solidarity in our community, but to find a time to celebrate the Jewish communities and traditions that we foster and are a part of!” Join their dinner.

Ruth, one of the hosts for this Friday, says she believes that “#TogetherAtTheTable is a great way to foster conversations around justice. They don’t begin and end at the Shabbat table, but rather they should inspire us to act in the face of bigotry and hatred. As we take action for our community as self-advocates, may we never forget to act as allies in the fight for shared liberation for all.”

Host your own dinner now – open or closed – to bring people together against hate.

Tyber Creek Happy Hour

Red, white, or rosé: when life hands you grapes, you make wine. And then you bring the community together.

Jordan Stahl was given grapes, and she turned the fruit into vino. Just a few months ago, she opened Tyber Creek Wine Bar & Kitchen with her husband, Jonathan. Warm and welcoming on the nose and with a pleasant finish, the restaurant sits on the corner of Rhode Island and First St NW, in booming Bloomingdale. Having uncorked its doors on May 4, it focuses on food prepared in its centerpiece wood-fired oven – and of course, wine.   Jordan previously worked at Virginia-based Blenheim Vineyards, so wine is in her background – and on her palate. After a stint at LivingSocial, Jordan realized it was time to realize her dream of opening a wine bar.

Curious as to what that all actually means? Get to taste the product of grape genius on August 23, when The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Young Leadership is teaming up with Federation’s Jewish Food Experience®(JFE) to put on an exciting event: a Tantalizing Happy Hour, featuring the restaurant’s fantastic food and drink.

At the event, young professionals will come together to chat, mingle, and enjoy a relaxed evening in a vibrant space. Jordan and Jonathan will host the evening, and everyone will be able to speak with Chef Kerry Tate, who helms the aforementioned wood-fired oven, around which the restaurant’s menu is based.

In my opinion, with the Rose Flight, a specially curated set by wine expert Jordan, is going to make this event especially exciting. The restaurant’s lengthy wine list draws from all over the world, but the rose is the shining jewel. There’s even an option that’s on tap. The six options available at the Happy Hour include Adega Rosé Lago from Portugal, Âme du Vin from France, Jelu Estate Malbec from Argentina, Rosemont Unfiltered from Argentina, Silvermyn Cab Franc from South Africa, and the French Camarey Cinsault Rose, which is poured from the tap, as fresh as ever.

Jonathan and Jordan say they are thrilled to be part of Federation… and of the Jewish food community. They’re excited to share in this with folks – so come on out an celebrate!

Jordan said that “we wanted to create a cozy space, a completely non-corporate space. Whether it’s after work, a birthday, a family gathering, it has to be focused on community.”  To up the fun factor, two wines are always on tap. There are also two cocktails on tap, which can be tasted a t the Happy Hour as well.

It being a neighborhood restaurant means that its signature wine program is thoughtful, but not overly serious. “Instead of cult or popular national wines, we use only small, independent, and boutique producers with exciting, original wine at a good value,” said Jordan.

Finally, the food menu is also approachable and straightforward. It’s American, with a touch of French. The event includes thoughtfully plated small bites, like crudités, endive, and fresh house-baked flatbread served with hummus and healthful Green Goddess dressing. You’ll also get to try seasonal flatbread bites of squash blossoms and creamy burrata, as well as a roasted veggie and goat cheese bruschetta.

About her restaurant, Jordan said, “We are bringing old friends and new together over great food and good wine.”

Proceeds from the happy hour will be donated by Jordan and Jonathan to support JFE’s ongoing volunteer initiative at N Street Village.

Tyber Creek Wine Bar & Kitchen is not a kosher restaurant. All of the appetizers included in the ticket price are vegetarian. Additional fare and refreshments can be purchased individually by attendees.

Sponsored by Jewish Food Experience from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

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.

What it’s Like to Throw the First Pitch

Any Rookie of the Year fan can relate to the intense desire to step up on a pitcher’s mound and throw a fastball into the catcher’s mitt at a professional baseball game. Last year Ben Shlesinger of Silver Spring, fulfilled that childhood fantasy and threw the first pitch at a Nationals game during The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Grand Slam Sunday: Jewish Community Day at Nationals Park. He was selected to do the honors because of his longtime volunteer work with The Jewish Federation.


As Federation’s third annual Grand Slam Sunday approaches on Sunday, August 27, bringing together over 1,500 community members, we thought we’d talk to Ben about his unforgettable experience at last year’s Grand Slam Sunday and what he’s most looking forward to at this year’s game against The Mets.

GatherDC Staff: Let’s get right to the question we’re dying to know. What did the field feel like?

Ben: Ha! The field felt, for the lack of a better term, professional. It was all soft grass and the mound had a nice sturdiness to it. Much nicer than the fields and mounds I used to practice on.

GatherDC Staff: What does it sound like on the field? Can you hear distinct voices or is it all muffled? Is it super loud?

Ben: I could definitely hear distinct voices while on the field. I could also hear the announcer well. But you tune out the sort of background noise from the crowd. I totally know now that a player could hear me if I heckled them from up close.

GatherDC Staff: How did you prepare to throw the pitch?

Ben: It actually took a ton of practice. I went out to a field nearby my house and practiced a lot, throwing ball after ball. I was less concerned about speed and was just focusing on accuracy and getting the ball far enough to reach the catcher.

GatherDC Staff: When you threw the pitch, how did it go?

Ben: Well, it turns out the field I practiced on was a lot smaller than the real thing. So I don’t think they’re going to recruit me to their bullpen. But, honestly, just being out on the field and seeing the players was the best part.

GatherDC Staff: Did you meet any players?

Ben: I got to meet Blake Teinin, who caught the ball I threw. He then signed it and let me keep it which was a big deal since I’m an avid autograph collector.

GatherDC Staff: Do you think there is something inherently Jewish about baseball?

Ben: This is difficult to say. I don’t know if there’s anything inherently Jewish about baseball, but I feel like Jews inherently like baseball. To me baseball and Jews are just two things that go together naturally.

GatherDC Staff: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s game?

Ben: I love the community feel of the event. There’s a lot of pride in the air both for our home team and for our Jewish community. People are mingling and enjoying the game and it’s just a really fun day where all feel welcome.

If you’re interested in joining the excitement at this year’s Grand Slam Sunday, individual tickets are available now starting at the discounted group price of $25 and include access to pre-game fun.

Sponsored by Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

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.

Exploring Jewish Identity Through Documentaries

The set up couldn’t be more Jewish.

The audience watches an introspective documentary film about a woman’s search for her “Jewish soul,”and then they give their honest feedback about how to make it better.

This scenario will take place on Sunday, August 6th as part of the launch of Docs In Progress’ newest NEA-funded program, Docs in the City. Docs in the City builds on Docs In Progress’ strong record of programming aimed at mentoring emerging documentary filmmakers while connecting them with enthusiastic audiences are interested in documentary film, the creative process, and the film topics.

The August 6th event, co-hosted by The Washington Jewish Film Festival, will kick-off with the screening of local filmmaker Bonnie Rich’s work-in-progress, Searching for My Jewish Soul. An audience feedback session will follow, moderated by Docs In Progress’ Erica Ginsberg. After that, the program continues with the screening of a completed documentary, 51 Birch Street, by a well-known New York (and Jewish) filmmaker, Doug Block. A Q&A with Block will follow.

In “Searching for My Jewish Soul,” Bonnie Rich takes a light-hearted approach to a serious matter—convincing her millennial daughters to raise her unborn grandchildren Jewish. Her daughters see little need for religion as they navigate adulthood. Bonnie is undeterred and pursues meaning in Judaism beyond matzo ball soup as she: goes on a 40-day diet of prayer, embraces Bubbie and Zaydie wisdom, sings Jewish songs off-key, and drags the girls to meet with rabbis. But will she convince her daughters that Judaism is relevant?

We had the chance to speak with Rich’s twenty-something year-old daughters, Leah and Rebecca, to learn more about what it was like to be the subject of this documentary. Leah lives in San Diego and is in the fitness industry, and Rebecca is a baker at the Wydown Coffee Bar in DC. You may also know Rebecca as an attendee at one of our Mini Gatherings and Happy Hours.

What did you think when she told you she was going to make the film?

Leah and Rebecca: We don’t think her idea for the movie came to be over night. It was a combination of several conversations we had with her about the millennial perspective of life and religion, not so wonderful synagogue experiences, and reconnecting with our family history.

What do you make of the process? Did you like being interviewed?

Leah and Rebecca: Our mom has been documenting our lives since we were children. Sometimes we were scripted, wearing silly clothing or singing…but we always played along.

We were good sports until she made us redo the shot three times, and then we’d max out on patience (which is still the case)… but we have never thought twice about our mom’s projects and we actually enjoy being on camera! Our mom is the most supportive and caring woman we know, and we were happy to support her along her process.

Was it hard sharing with your family that you weren’t going to raise your children Jewish?

Leah and Rebecca: Our entire family is extremely supportive of the life decisions we make. They all agree that as long as the person we choose treats us well, they don’t care if they are Jewish. However, our mom has obviously made a point that she wants our children to be raised Jewish. Neither of us has children yet, so we will all just have to wait and see what happens. She has put very loving pressure on us to raise our children Jewish, and we intend to continue the family traditions.

Has your perspective on your Jewishness evolved in the process of your mother making this film?

Rebecca: My perspective on Judaism has changed in the sense that I feel more open-minded to joining young adult Jewish groups and events and having the occasional Shabbat dinner with friends. However, I still don’t have any interest in learning the Torah, morning service, or more ritual than I learned in Hebrew school. I have a strong love and appreciation for the family traditions during high holidays and Passover, and I plan to continue those in the future. Every time I mention the documentary to anyone, it strikes a very interesting conversation about religion. She’s definitely provoking my generation to think about faith and spirituality.

We also spoke with Erica Ginsberg, Executive Director of Docs In Progress about how she connects with her Jewishness and her programming decisions.

Tell us a bit more about this new program, Docs in the City.

This new program, Docs In The City, combines Docs In Progress’ vision of fostering a supportive community for documentary filmmakers and deepening the public’s appreciation for the artform. It does this by connecting a seasoned filmmaker with an emerging filmmaker in a way that provides professional development to the emerging filmmaker while also providing a different kind of screening experience for the broader public. By selecting two films which have commonalities in genre or theme, we revisit both an iconic film of that genre while also helping to workshop a film in development. The audience becomes an active participant in that process rather than just viewing the film passively or just asking questions about how it was made. Thus, the screening becomes more of an experience than just an afternoon at the movies.

What made you choose these films for August 6th?

We knew that we wanted to bring Doug Block to Washington DC as part of this program. He is an award-winning filmmaker who is best known for some of the best personal documentaries of the past decade, including The Kids Grow Up, 112 Weddings, and the film we will be spotlighting, 51 Birch Street. As soon as we knew that we wanted to bring Doug, we started to put out feelers for another film which was also personal in nature. We didn’t have to look far. Bonnie Rich had been part of our Fellowship program and had started to develop the film which has become Searching for My Jewish Soul. I knew that the films had some overlapping themes in terms of the relationships between parents and children, but they were also different enough that we could create a really interesting juxtaposition program between them.

While we look at this more as a personal documentary themed program rather than a specifically Jewish-themed program, there is no question that both films deal in different ways with aspects of contemporary Jewish-American life. That is why we approached the Washington Jewish Film Festival (who we had partnered with on several other work-in-progress screenings) to co-host the screening. They are an incredible partner.

You’re Jewish. How do you connect with your Jewishness?

In many ways, I connect with Bonnie’s daughters.

I wasn’t raised particularly religiously. I never belonged to a synagogue growing up (though we would occasionally go to the University of Maryland for the High Holy Days). I never had a bat mitzvah. I’ve never been to Israel. The first time I ever really felt I connected with my Jewishness was when I studied abroad as an undergraduate in Dublin, Ireland, and got to know a little bit about the city’s tiny Jewish community. Later I worked for the Washington Jewish Film Festival while I was studying film in grad school, and I kept a copy of Judaism for Dummies in my drawer…which I would consult regularly when I didn’t understand something I encountered, such as why donors would write checks in amounts like $18 and $36. I still don’t consider myself particularly religious, but I do feel a strong connection to being culturally Jewish. I have a great appreciation for Jewish humor which I think comes through in both of these films.
You can catch this programming on Sunday, August 6th at the DCJCC. Tickets are $13.50/screening or $25/both. Searching for My Jewish Soul starts at 2:00pm and 51 Birch Street starts at 4:00pm. Got to for more info and for tickets.

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.

High Holiday Guide 2017 (5778)

We are constantly updating this document. Don’t see yours? Submit them here.

When a service/event is crossed out, it’s sold out.

Erev Rosh Hashanah – Wednesday, September 20th

6:30 pm – Sixth & I, Traditional Service Erev Rosh Hashanah

6:45 pm – Adas Israel, Erev Rosh Hashanah Community Sunset Service

7:00 pm – Sixth & I, MesorahDC Guided Service Erev Rosh Hashanah

7:00 pm – Sixth & I, 6th in the City Good Soul Erev Rosh Hashanah

7:00 pm – Sephardic Jews in DC, Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Dinner

7:30 pm – Temple Rodef Shalom, High Holy Day Alternative Service

7:45 pm – 2239, Erev Rosh Hashanah

8:00 pm – Next Dor, Erev Rosh Hashanah

8:30 pm – Sixth & I, Reform Erev Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, Day 1 – Thursday, September 21st

8:15 am – Adas Israel, Rosh Hashanah Day 1

9:00 am – Sixth & I, Traditional Rosh Hashanah Day 1

9:00 am – 2239, Rosh Hashanah Day

9:30 am – Sixth & I, 6th in the City Progressive Rosh Hashanah

10:00 am – Sixth & I, Reform Rosh Hashanah

10:00 am – Sixth & I, 6th in the City Good Soul Rosh Hashanah

10:30 am – Sixth & I, MesorahDC Guided Service Rosh Hashanah Day 1

1:00 pm – Sixth & I, Taste of the New Year: Rosh Hashanah Lunch

5:30 pm – Sixth & I, Rosh Hashanah Express

Rosh Hashanah, Day 2 – Friday, September 22nd

8:15 am – Adas Israel, Rosh Hashanah Day 2

9:00 am – Sixth & I, Traditional Rosh Hashanah Day 2

10:00 am – Sixth & I, Rooted in Nature: An Outdoor Rosh Hashanah Experience

10:30 am – Sixth & I, MesorahDC Guided Service Rosh Hashanah Day 2

Kol Nidre – Friday, September 29th

6:00 pm – Sixth & I, 6th in the City Good Soul Kol Nidre

6:00 pm – Sixth & I, 6th in the City Progressive Kol Nidre

6:30 pm – Adas Israel, Kol Nidre

6:30 pm – Sixth & I, MesorahDC Guided Service Kol Nidre

6:30 pm – Sixth & I, Traditional Kol Nidre

7:30 pm – Adas Israel, “Return Again” Kol Nidre

7:30 pm – Temple Rodef Shalom, High Holy Day Alternative Service

7:45 pm – 2239, Kol Nidre

8:00 pm – Next Dor, Kol Nidre

8:30 pm – Sixth & I, Reform Kol Nidre

Yom Kippur – Saturday, September 30th

8:45 am – Adas Israel, Yom Kippur

9:00 am – 2239, Yom Kippur Day

9:00 am – Sixth & I, Traditional Yom Kippur

9:30 am – Sixth & I, 6th in the City Progressive Yom Kippur

10:00 am – Sixth & I, Reform Yom Kippur

10:30 am – Sixth & I, MesorahDC Guided Service Yom Kippur

10:30 am – Sixth & I, 6th in the City Good Soul Yom Kippur

11:00 am – GatherDC, Alternative Yom Kippur Experience

Neilah/Breakfast – Saturday, September 30th

4:00 pm – 2239, Yom Kippur Afternoon & Break Fast

4:30 pm – Sixth & I, Reform Evening Services/Neilah

4:45 pm – Adas Israel, Preparing Body & Soul Through Meditation and Song

6:15 pm – Sixth & I, MesorahDC Guided Evening Services/Neilah

6:30 pm – Sixth & I, Combined Traditional and 6th in the City Evening Services/Neilah

8:00 pm – Adas Israel, YP Break the Fast

Events/Other Resources

We are constantly updating this document. Don’t see yours? Submit them here.

Stay Tuned for…

Sukkot – Wednesday, October 4th-Wednesday, October 11th

Simchat Torah – Thursday, October 12th-Friday, October 13th

Rabbi Rant: On Jewish Values

Do you consider “Jewish values” to be a core part of your Jewish identity?

If so, try this fun activity in six easy steps! Warning: may bring about existential crisis.

Step 1: Write down a list of your “Jewish values.”

Yes, actually spell out what they are, instead of letting “Jewish values” be a catchall phrase, like saying “we hooked up.” I want details.

Step 2: Now, cross out any value that is universal (ex. being a good person).

If it’s a universal value, then by definition it can’t be a Jewish one. Judaism can reaffirm these values, but if Judaism were to go away, you’d still have them. In fact, calling them Jewish values might even be dangerous, because it could imply that they are held by only Jews – leading to a false sense of moral superiority.

Step 3: Next, cross out any value that is also American (ex. democracy).

Of course, America has been deeply influenced by Judaism. And, of course, we don’t all agree on which values are American values. But if you can find the source for any of your values in the Constitution faster than you can in the Torah, it’s probably more rooted in your being American than your being Jewish.

Step 4: Next, cross off any value that isn’t actually Jewish (ex. freedom of speech).

I sometimes hear people talk about a value that they have as being a Jewish value, as if the fact that they are Jewish and have that value makes it Jewish. Not only are some of them not in Judaism but often Judaism is actually against these values. Wearing whatever you want, marrying who you like, enjoying the foods of different cultures… these values run directly counter to many traditional Jewish texts. And if you’re thinking, “I suppose some of these values might not be explicitly Jewish, but surely it’s a Jewish value to live out my own values” – sorry, the Torah is against that too: “Perchance there is among you some man or woman… who thinks ‘I am safe, because I follow my own heart’… the Lord’s anger will rage against that person.” (Deut. 29:17-19).

Step 5: Almost there. Now, cross off any value that you don’t act upon in your everyday life (ex. Tikkun Olam/repairing the world).

The Talmud raises the question: what is better, Torah, or action? It concludes: Torah, for it leads to action. Judaism is action-based, and our values must lead to action. If you have values on your list that you don’t act on (like, hypothetically, justice), then that’s not a value of yours. And talking about it a bunch won’t change that.

Step 6: Finally, cross off any value that isn’t actually a value (ex. Jewish food) but rather is a way to feel Jewish. Yes, things like matzah ball soup are yummy, and yes, they make you feel nice and warm and Jewy. But while it may have value to you, it is, alas, not a value.

So, anything left on your list?

If yes – congratulations! I’d love to see them – feel free to post them in the comments below.

If not – don’t worry. This isn’t meant to suggest that Judaism doesn’t matter. But if finding something uniquely Jewish is important to you, values might not be the way to go. We have unique rituals, unique perspectives, unique wisdom – but values? In my opinion – not so much.

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.