Sephardic Shabbat Dinner to Benefit Refugees

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

Tu B’Shevat Guide 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mini Gatherings: Late 20s/Early 30s

Feel like events in DC are catered to a younger crowd? Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? Looking to explore questions that matter to Jewish 20s and 30s? Like drinking? Afraid of commitment?

GatherDC is excited to open applications for the next round of Mini Gatherings, taking place at the end of this month. GatherDC is dedicating this offering to those who are in their late 20s and early 30s (26 – 35).

What is Mini Gatherings, you ask? It is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together about 15 diverse Jews in similar life stages or with similar interests to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions and laughed at least twice. Guaranteed or your money back!

Cost: FREE

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

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

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

Application: Closed.

Want more information? Email Aaron.

Reflections on Giving Circle

Where and how we give reflects who we are and what we value.

This is true for every individual, but it’s also true for communities.

Just over a month ago, GatherDC finished its first ever “Gather Giving Circle,” which brought together seven Jewish 20s and 30s to discuss Jewish perspectives on giving and to decide where to donate their pooled money.

The motivation for this giving circle came from members of the DC Jewish community expressing the desire to make a difference. Not just as individuals but also as Jews. They wanted their actions to be shaped by and to reflect their Jewish values and their Jewish identity.

Throughout the four meetings, participants from this first Gather Giving Circle explored some of the different tensions that our sages wrote about – local vs. global, Jewish vs. non-Jewish, and immediate need vs. root cause, to name a few. Through a collaborative decision-making process, they ended up contributing $880 to the Free Minds Book Club, a local organization that works with incarcerated youth.

If the idea of a giving circle interests you, here are three different suggestions to amplify your charitable impact:

1) Start your own giving circle! It’s as easy as getting a few friends together and deciding to have a couple of intentional conversations about where you’d like to collectively donate. (We used resources from AJWS and Amplifier, and I’m more than happy to help you prepare some discussion materials.)

2) Join the other Jewish 20s and 30s of DC who have already contributed to HIAS, a Jewish organization that supports refugees from all across the world, through GatherDC’s campaign, ending Friday, February 10 at noon.

3) If you’re not interested in leading a giving circle but would like to join one, email me at aaronp@gatherdc.org, and I’ll connect you to other Jewish 20s and 30s who are similarly interested.

And if you’d like to read more about the first Gather Giving Circle, here are three participants’ reflections on their experiences and on the importance of collective giving.

Yoni BuckmanYoni Buckman:

I joined the Gather Giving Circle because I wanted to learn about intentional giving and to learn from a group of inspired people. Not only would our contribution’s impact be magnified by pooling money together, but I also hoped that the meaning behind the gift would also be amplified as a result of the process of enthusiastically learning together.

The act of giving as part of a group was not always easy. Donating money that we feel is our own can be highly personal, as it was in my experience. Meditating on and sharing my personal values with the group, bringing organizations to the table for our consideration, and ultimately placing a vote strengthened my feelings of personal investment in the process. So finding the balance between feeling personally invested and being part of a larger group was sometimes challenging.

That said, taking the time to ask and discuss fundamental questions about values-based decision making was incredibly rewarding, both as an introspective process as well as an opportunity to learn from others.

I found the giving circle experience to be deeply meaningful and interesting. I learned more about myself, tzedakah in general, and organizations doing great work in the DC area through the conversations we had as a group. Many of my new favorite organizations to support were pitched by other people in our group rather than through my own research. Spending time with such a passionate, insightful, and loving group of people was often the highlight of my week. I would recommend joining a giving circle to others and I would love to do it all over again in the future!

Laura HuronLaura Herron:

In the current political climate, so many of us feel anxious, angry, and worried about what will happen in our country and the world over the next four years.  Such a profound threat to the progressive reforms that help move us toward a more just society has so many asking what we as individuals, and as a collective, can do to support the causes that we care about deeply.  While I was reflecting on this question, Rabbi Aaron sent out a call for participants for a giving circle, asking those interested to each pledge at least 100 dollars for an act of group tzedakah.  

In our first session, we discussed Jewish values around charitable giving, including the Talmudic notion that “tzedakah is equal to all the other commandments combined,” and the Rambam’s assertion that one should give up to 20 percent of her possessions.  Our group grappled with the gravity of these statements, and I left thinking hard about the imperative to give away a substantial amount of my income.  Yet, whenever I actually consider what it would take to create a more just world, I repeatedly come to the conclusion that those with more simply need to distribute some of what they have to others in need.

Certainly, there are other important avenues to social justice; but there is something about tzedakah—giving one’s own, (often) hard earned resources to someone less fortunate—that forces us to keep our egos in check. Tzedakah reminds us of our blessings (i.e. that we actually have something to give) and urges us to remember our own vulnerability to misfortune, our interdependence, and our responsibility to take care of one another. We are living an age in which too many people consider it radical to put the interests of others ahead of, or even in line with, self-interest. In contrast, those of us who have access to wealth and privilege and are committed to Tikkun have an opportunity, and a duty to give. Contributing tzedakah in a thoughtful and collective way through a giving circle was, for me, a meaningful way to take action.

emily dorfmanEmily Dorfman:

I participated in the inaugural Gather Giving Circle in November/December 2016, and it was a phenomenal experience.  It was only a few days after the election when I found the opportunity, and it could not have come at a better time for me.  I was devastated by the election results (and had been actively fundraising for Hillary).  I was seeking a new path for funding my values.

I have never taken the time to deliberately plan what organizations I donate to.  I usually give where I have a personal connection or a friend asks me to, and I don’t give enough because I haven’t included Tzedakah in my budget.  This year will be different.

In my experience, it is very difficult to talk about money and to assign it value over volunteering time or expertise.  I think that’s all the more reason to create a designated space to engage in this topic—money is important.  It was challenging for our group to define Tzedakah and to choose which organization to support.  Even with the framework of our Jewish texts and discussions of our shared values, these decisions are not straightforward.

In our giving circle, the time we spent discussing, debating and learning about Tzedakah was inspiring for me and I will use the experience to inform where and how much I donate in the future.

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

Girl of the Week – Stacy #WayBackWednesday

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Stacy was a Jewish Girl of the Week 6 years ago when the feature first began. She even competed in the first-ever Jewish Girl of the Year competition. Stacy is still an integral part of the DC Jewish community, but now in a professional capacity.

Read our updates on Stacy and her original article (including a poem) below!

 

  • I am not in the field of education anymore (I sooo miss recess and the kiddos), but before I left teaching I started an after-school cooking program for kids called Snack Attack Cooking. My favorite session was when we had an Iron Chef competition and the judges tried one group’s creation that looked like a dessert pizza.  But, the kids had used garlic instead of sugar! The looks on the judges faces when they tasted it was priceless.
  • About a year after the original article was published, I founded an organization that hosts events for Jewish young professionals in Northern Virginia called NOVA Tribe Series. Since 2011, I have hosted over 150 programs, engaged thousands of peers in the community, and helped orchestrate countless numbers of friendships – and even 2 marriages!
  • Last fall I started working for the Edlavitch DCJCC as their manager of EntryPointDC, a program for 20s and 30s. I have helped revamp the Shabbat Clusters program, started the B’Shert 2.0 Modern Jewish Love Series and am looking forward to our next big event, Schmooze & Snooze Fest on Saturday, February 25th. The event will be an “all-night” type party with a 90’s cover band, Bar Mitzvah DJ dance party, moonbounce, Havdalah, drinks, carnival snacks, Ted Talks and more! Tickets go on sale today.
  • One signature program I created that I look forward to hosting every year is Lox Meets Bagel. It has become one of the largest speed dating & mixer events in the DC area for 20s and 30s. The 6th Lox Meets Bagel is next Tuesday, February 7th, and you can register here!
  • I am still a Virginia girl, but I now live in Arlington instead of Fairfax. My favorite things to do in the neighborhood are people watch at Northside Social, catch a comedy show or movie at Arlington Drafthouse, and take long walks to Georgetown.

Read her original article below!

Stacy on why she should be Jewish Girl of the Year:

There once was a girl from VA

Who taught her students to say

“I flip my latkes in the air”

She spent $157.23 on metro fare

To get to Jewish events last year

Her Hebrew name

is a video game

She works with Jnet

Your vote she needs to get

Editor’s note: Stacy raised the bar for Jewish Girl of the Week by submitting a Youtube video as part of the application process. If you think you or someone you know has what it takes to be a Person of the Week, shoot us an email and tell us why. We encourage creativity in nominations!

How long have you been teaching?

This is my sixth year teaching. I have taught students from grades K-7 over the years, but right now I teach 1st-3rd grade at a Montessori school. These kids are awesome. The Montessori philosophy emphasizes learning practical life skills, so my kids cook me lunch every Wednesday, do the dishes and laundry every day and take field trips out of the classroom at least once or twice every few weeks. I want to take them home with me to clean my house!

Stacy, so many people ask: “What do you do?” The GTJ staff likes look deeper into the Jewish soul, so we ask, “What is your passion?!”

My biggest passion is helping others. Besides teaching, I also work with autistic kids once a week leading social skill groups. My first day at social group went something like this (and I knew from then on I was in the right place) Me: Ben, we have something in common, we both like to celebrate Hanukkah  Ben: You are Jewish Ms. Stacy? I am so glad you joined group! (He runs around the room singing the dreidel song)  Nate: You must be Israeli then because you are Jewish  Me: Actually, I am not.  Nate: Aww man, I really like Israeli women, can’t you be Israeli for me?  Dan: I know someone that is Jewish, but I don’t like her very much.  Me: Why is that?  Dan: She is a very bossy Jewish girl.

Are there really Jews that live out in Virginia?

Yes, there are and we rock.  I am on the committee of Jnet. We plan happy hours, BBQ’s, and other great events; our next BIG gathering will be a philanthropic event for the JCC of NOVA special needs department. You can find us on facebook if you add JnetVA as a friend. I promise if you come find me at an event I will make sure you have a great time!

Can we share the video of your kids with all our readers?!

Of course you can share the video! I love being Jewish, and I want to share my love of my religion and culture with everyone; the video explains it all.  You can see the enthusiasm in my students’ faces as they sing this song (and my amazing dancing skills and “latke” flipping tools as well). I spent a whole day reading Hanukkah stories, playing dreidel, sharing latkes, and taught them all the words to Candlelight and I have never seen them more excited, or in other words, equally excited to sing about/celebrate Hanukkah as Christmas.  Since you and the Maccabeats are BFF’s, can you send the video to them as well?

What has been your most memorable Jewish moment?

Hmmm that’s a hard one. I think I have had many, but one that sticks out actually occurred this week. We had a Celebration of Light ceremony with our class in which all the families came together to share their winter month traditions that involve light. I have 23 students in my class and only 1 is Jewish. After the presentation, the one Jewish family came up to me and gave me a big hug. They thanked me for teaching the students the Candlelight song and told me their daughter finally feels included and everyone is now just as excited about Hanukkah as any other winter holiday. It really touched me because I have always made it my personal mission to bring Jews together from smaller communities, whether it’s making my one Jewish student in my class feel more comfortable talking about her religion to her classmates to planning events for my alma maters’ Hillel that included only about 400 Jewish students out of 15,000.

You can only eat one Jewish food for the rest of your life, what is it and why?

It would be my mom’s challah. She started making using this recipe when I was about 10, it’s a sweet version that I can’t get enough of. It totally satisfies my sweet tooth.

Is it Chanukah, Hanukkah, or Hannukah?

Is this a trick question? I have not seen the double N’s before or if I did it was way back in the day; spell check does not like it either. Actually prefer the double K’s, Hanukkah is where it’s at. My students know 3 ways to spell it and are very proud of that fact.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?

I usually check out the services at Adas Israel and Sixth & I and then go out in the city. I have gone to Shir Delight the past few months and always have a good time with my friends and meet a lot of new people. You never know who you are going to run into, last week I saw my babysitter whom I have not seen in 20 years!

What’s the next big Gathering you will be at?

I am on the committee of Jnet. We plan happy hours, BBQ’s, and other great events; our next BIG gathering will be a philanthropic event for the JCC of NOVA special needs department.  See facebook page here.

Rabbi Rant: Moving Past the Past

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When I say “Jewish History,” what’s the first word that comes to mind?

I asked this question at Gather’s Beyond the Tent Retreat last weekend. Not surprisingly, the most recurring responses were “Holocaust,” “sad,” “oppression” and “depressing.” I half-joked that this makes Judaism sound like a tough sell for those on the fence about getting more involved.

This very same weekend, the newest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend featured a song that conveyed a similar sense about our past and the way we relate to it. The song – “Remember That We Suffered” – is a minute and half, and it’s worth a watch/listen. Similar to my one-word exercise, the half-joke behind the song is that it’s hard to move beyond our depressing history.

That history, both ancient and modern, is certainly filled with terrible persecution. This Shabbat, Jews will recount our first collective experience of oppression – slavery in Egypt – as we begin reading from the book of Exodus. And though we’ve come a long way since then, anti-semitism is certainly not going anywhere. Just today, at least 25 Jewish institutions received bomb threats.

Nevertheless, I’m concerned that this negative history has become the primary way that many Jews relate to their Jewish identity.

This presents two serious challenges.

First, it can lead to a focus on our own self-interests. When a person or group is in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight, it’s impossible to think of others. Yet the Torah makes it clear – our suffering should sensitize us to the suffering of others. “You are to love the stranger, for you yourselves were strangers in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).

Second, our negative history eclipses the more positive aspects of our identity. Even our history is more expansive than a chronicling of our suffering; Judaism has stood for more than self-preservation and resilience. Besides, there are other ways to connect to Judaism outside of our history. It’s easy to dismiss or make fun of Judaism by defining it negatively; it’s harder to explore the ways that Judaism can be more positive, active and meaningful in our lives.

This weekend, our Beyond the Tent participants did exactly that. The more we can commit to this endeavor, the more we can move past our past and into a more hopeful future.

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

Mini Gatherings – Early 20s

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Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? New to DC and looking to make new connections? Looking to explore questions that matter to Jewish 20s and 30s? Going through a lot of changes recently?Afraid of commitment?

Gather the Jews is excited to open applications for the next round of Mini Gatherings. Gather is looking to create a space for those who are in their early 20s to who are looking to explore their Jewish identity as it relates to challenges of being in your early 20s.

What is Mini Gatherings, you ask? It is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together about 15 diverse Jews in their early 20s to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions and laughed at least twice. Guaranteed or your money back!

Cost: FREE

What: The three gatherings will be held from 6:30 – 8:00 pm on Wednesday, February 8th, 15th and 22nd. Each session will involve some schmoozing, drinking, and an open conversation facilitated by Gather Staff about questions relevant to Jewish 20s and 30s, such as “Are Jews different?” “What are the unique challenges to being Jewish today?” and “Does Judaism have any deal-breakers?”

No background or knowledge necessary – everyone is welcome. In addition, we will host a Shabbat meal on Friday, February 24th. Must commit to attending all three sessions and the dinner.

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

Application: Applications closed.

Want more information? Email Jackie