Gather the Jews Announces Rachel Gildiner as New Director

GTJ Logo Slogan square white-bgNew Model to Usher in Innovative New Phase for Jewish Life in DC.

Washington, September 5, 2014: Gather the Jews (GTJ) announces today the hiring of Rachel Gildiner as its new Director.  Under Rachel’s leadership and funding from a transformative grant from a funding collaborative that includes The Morningstar Foundation, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies, and the The Jewish Federation’sUnited Jewish Endowment Fund, GTJ will revolutionize the future of Jewish young adult life in the Washington, D.C. area.

This new phase for GTJ will be centered in an engagement model, recognizing the individual and communal story of our young adult population.  GTJ will pivot to a focus on  1:1 relationship building, the cultivation of an engagement fellowship program, and a renewed emphasis on innovative Jewish learning, revolutionizing the way in which the Jewish community embraces and empowers its young adult population.  Through meaningful dialogue and a strengthened communal model, every Jewish young adult in the DC region will feel that she or he has a key personalized resource to activate the next chapter of his or her Jewish journey.

Steven A. Rakitt of The Jewish Federation said “The UJEF is thrilled to welcome Rachel into this role.  This is a cutting edge model in the Jewish community, and we believe that Rachel is well-positioned to work with the many aspects of our local community.”

Rachel Gildiner comes to GTJ with over seven years of experience in relationship-building and facilitating engagement trainings for young adults and Jewish communities across the country.   Through her years at Hillel International as the Director of Learning and Assistant Director of Student Engagement, and her own Jewish experiences, Gildiner says “I understand first-hand the need for authentic relationship building as a key platform to engage the complex and multifaceted young adult community.  I look forward to advancing DCs efforts toward creating inclusive and vibrant Jewish opportunities for each and every Jewish young adult in the city and surrounding areas.”

The grant, given over the course of the next three years, will enable the additional hiring of the GTJ Educator.  Together with Rachel, the new team will work in tandem to launch this new model and serve as a key resource to the wider DC Jewish community.

Susie and Michael Gelman, directors of The Morningstar Foundation, said, “We are excited at the prospect of giving young adults in our community the ability to make Jewish life more meaningful and accessible.  We believe that this is a great opportunity for Jewish  organizations in our area to enhance the range of offerings for young adults.”

GTJ remains committed to supporting the wider fabric of young adult life in DC. and our weekly newsletter will continue to remain a hub of information online, GTJ Happy Hours will remain a real-time meeting place for the community, and GTJ professionals will work closely with the talented array of Jewish professionals already committed to communal programming in the DC community.

Simone Friedman Rones of Emanuel J Friedman Philanthropies said, “We are thrilled to continue our relationship with Gather the Jews in partnership with GW Hillel, The Morningstar Foundation, and UJEF.  We believe that collaboration is the key to effective grant making, and we think that this GTJ initiative has the potential to be a model for collaboration in Jewish communities across the United States.”

About GW Hillel & GTJ:
GTJ found a new home under the auspices of GW Hillel in April 2013.  This transition has enabled GW Hillel to expand its demographic reach while maintaining its mission of supporting emerging Jewish adults write the next chapter of their Jewish journeys.  GW Hillel continues to recognize that one’s Jewish growth does not end after four years in college; GTJ is a natural extension of GW Hillel’s desire to provide identity building and growth to the next generation of Jews.


Rachel Gildiner,
Director – Gather the Jews

Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth
Executive Director – GW Hillel

Adina Dubin Barkinskiy
The Morningstar Foundation

(S)he Likes Me For Me – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 94)

followIt’s kind of scary to stare at a blank profile box, whether it’s on JDate, OkCupid, or J-Swipe, and imagine that in a minute, an hour, a day, or a week, your online dating profile will be “live,” isn’t it?  Even if you write for a living, when it comes to putting pen to paper about yourself (or fingers to keyboard or screen), that’s where things get a bit hairier.

Many people, when they sit down to write their profile, immediately think one thing: “I want to write what I think everyone will want to hear.  That way, I’m not limiting the pool at all.”  While at first glance, this may seem like a good strategy, I want to share why it’s not.

It’s, of course, nice to be liked, but you don’t want to lose yourself in the process of trying to fit into some arbitrary mold that you think others want to see.  Take for example the lines, “I’m just as comfortable in a little black dress and heels as I am in a t-shirt and flip flops,” or “I’m just as happy out on the town as I am at home with a movie and a glass of wine.”  Besides being really boring, do these lines actually tell us anything about the person writing them?  Nope.  They simply cover all the bases.  To me, they read, “I am trying to show you that I’m versatile so you don’t pass me by.”

While it may seem counterintuitive, I’ll come right out and say it: It’s okay to turn people off in your profile!  It’s more important to be the real you… not the version of yourself you think people want to see, and certainly not the version of yourself who attempts to appeal to everyone.  Just be yourself, quirks and all.  That way, you know when someone shows interest, it’s because he or she likes the actual things you said, not just that fact that you were being inclusive.

A sample profile for me on a dating app, where you want to keep things on the short side, might read something like this:

Things I love: Dogs (especially mine), Scotch and bourbon, “That’s what she said” jokes, puns, karaoke, grammar, silliness, board games, and push-ups (I’m a weirdo ;)).

It’s more than okay that I don’t run marathons, read War & Peace for giggles, or go from sweatpants to a ball gown in t-minus two minutes.  Instead, people will get a sense of the real me.  As another example, a client of mine recently wrote about her odd obsession with Post-its and Sharpies.  And you know what?  Men loved her uniqueness and confidence to share it!

I have a challenge for you: If you’re currently on an online dating site, and your profile contains one of the “all-inclusive” lines, change it into something that better represents who you really are.  And if you’re thinking about joining an online dating site, remember that it’s okay to share your interests in bird-watching, chess-playing, wine-making, and whatever else you do for fun.  Yes, you will probably turn some people off.  But you may also turn just exactly the right people on.

erika e-1405-4Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people navigate the world of online dating, and author of Love at First SiteWant to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.




Sela Public Charter School Immerses Students in Hebrew

selaAt Sela Public Charter School, we are beginning our second year of operations at the end of this month with students in pre-k through second grade. We will have about 90 students who come from all wards of the city and from a diverse set of backgrounds. Sela is located on Chillum Place NE and is very fortunate to have an amazing, light-filled long term space.

Sela offers children of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds in DC, from pre-k through fifth grade, the opportunities to achieve academic excellence, in a safe nurturing environment that focuses on Hebrew language immersion, promotes the value of diversity, and provides the skills for taking action in the world.

Sela is excited to announce that we have hired a new Head of School, who has extensive experience in DC charter schools, as an instructional coach and teacher. Natalie Arthurs is bringing her skills, expertise, knowledge and deep DC connections to Sela.

As Sela is a very diverse community, we want to ensure that all of our students, regardless of income or background have access to the same opportunities. We are in the process of designing a robust aftercare program for homework help, Hebrew instruction, and enrichment and are planning to raise enough money to keep this program at a very low cost for busy working Sela families. We know that after school hours are a critical time for students to have fun, extend their learning and stay out of trouble…if they have access to quality programming.  We are able to keep the costs low for this program through a generous grant from the Sidney M. & Phyllis O. Bresler Foundation. This grant is a matching grant and we are asking the greater DC community to help double our money, up to $5,000.00. This is an opportunity for even a small gift to go a long way.  You can make a gift here that will ensure quality after school programming for students of all backgrounds here.

We welcome visitors to Sela, are always looking for extra hands, and extra school supplies as well.  Please stay in touch by signing up for our newsletters.

Erika E. is releasing her first book!

erika ettin-49253-3 NewResident GTJ dating blogger, who just celebrated her 3rd year of blogging for us, is now celebrating releasing her first book!

Her book, Love at First Site, gives “tips and tales for online dating success from a modern-day matchmaker.”

Join Erika (and bring a friend…or 10!) as she celebrates at the Book Release Party!

Here is the event on Facebook as well.

Kol HaKavod, Erika!





How Deal Breakers Hinder Dating Success – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 93)

How many deal breakers is it appropriate to have when searching online for a partner?  One, five, fifteen?  There is no magic number, of course, and Patti Stanger of The Millionaire Matchmaker says that five is a good choice… I tend to agree.  If there’s one thing I know from both my own dating experience and from being a dating coach, though, it’s that 125 is too many!  Where did I get that crazy number, you ask?

A woman recently posted on Tumblr a section of a guy’s profile on OkCupid that I’ll just say was pretty limiting.  And when I say “pretty limiting,” I actually mean ridiculously and obsessively rude and off-putting.  Below is just a small sample of his “do not message me if…” section.  (For the record, OkCupid actually has a section called “You should message me if…”  This means that he actually added this new section to his profile.  Classy.)


After reading the entire list, I counted, and I have 20 of his 125 “don’t message me if” qualities.  Most notable were:

  • You consider yourself a happy person.  (Umm… guilty as charged.)
  • You wear uncomfortable clothing and/or shoes for the sake of feminine style.  (We all know that women dress for other women!)
  • You use the term “foodie.”  (I’m a foodie, all right, and I’m not sorry about it.  I’m just well fed.)

Even if I did fit everything (which I’m pretty sure no one possibly could), I would be so turned off by the negativity that I wouldn’t want to date him anyway!  A question I would pose to him is, “Why do some of these things even matter?”

In talking with Sarah Gooding, the resident Dating Coach at PlentyOfFish, she and I agreed that one should create and live by a few key dating deal breakers.  Most singles have established certain rules when it comes to dating, but they don’t know that they may have too many unnecessary deal breakers that are preventing them from finding a great relationship.  To ensure the right person isn’t being overlooked, let’s look at these five dating deal breaker rules, courtesy of Sarah and elaborated on by yours truly:

1. Deal breakers should be qualities, values, or beliefs that won’t change.

A lot of clients have said things to me like, “I can’t date him.  He’s between jobs.”  Does this mean he can’t get a job in the future?  Of course not!  Income can change; employment status can change; ambition probably can’t.

2. Create no more than five deal breakers/must haves.

Sit down and really think about what’s important to you.  Maybe it’s religious beliefs or level of education.  Stick to your guns on those things, but beyond that, explore.  As an exercise, picture that perfect person with or without each “deal breaker” and see if it matters.  If not, then it’s time to reevaluate your list.

3. Do not mention your deal breakers in the text of your online dating profile.

Most online dating sites have many check-box questions, such as age, religion, children, etc.  This is where the deal breakers will come out.  If you want kids, then check that box accurately.  No need to then state, “Don’t write to me if you don’t want to have children.”

4. Don’t use your previous relationship to create future deal breakers.

It’s easy after a relationship ends to want to find the exact opposite type of person, isn’t it?  We go through all of the things we loathed about our ex and list those as our new deal breakers.  I encourage everyone not to do this because 1) it comes off as fairly bitter and 2) there must have been some good quality in that person if you dated in the first place.  Using what you learned from your last relationship, make your list, but don’t make it solely based on what didn’t work the last time.

Also, as a side note, everything that may be a trait that you don’t want in a partner can likely be turned into a trait that you do want.  For example:

Negative: I’m not looking for players or serial daters.
Positive: I’m looking for someone who is ready for a committed relationship.

5. Be open-minded if someone meets all of your criteria.  However, if he or she doesn’t, decide if it’s worth giving it a shot.

If someone meets all of the criteria you’ve set for yourself, then it can’t hurt to give it a try.  On the one hand, perfect on paper doesn’t equal perfect in real life, so you’ll still have to assess chemistry, but at least you’ll know that you’re off to a good start.  On the other hand, if you know that someone has one of your deal breakers (let’s say religion), then perhaps it’s best not to “try that person on” if you know in the long run it’s not something you can live with.

Remember that in the end, what’s often the most important is how someone treats you.  Is he or she kind, generous, and giving?  How about trustworthy and honest?  That’s what matters in life.

A final note to the guy on OkCupid: I wear yoga pants when I’m not engaging in yoga, and I have participated in a flash mob. We are obviously not meant to be.

In other exciting news, our very own resident GTJ dating columnist has written a book!  Turns out we’re not the only ones she writes for!  Here is the info for the release party if you’d like to join:

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

High Holidays 2014

Ishofar squaret’s that time of year again- do you know where you’re attending services?  To make it easier, we’re compiling High Holiday service options in one place.  Anything sold out has a strikethrough. If you know of a service we haven’t included, or see one on the list that is sold out, please email We’ll be continuing to update this page, so check back often. Looking for discounted YP tickets? Buy them through EPDC!

Erev Rosh Hashana – Wednesday, September 24th:

Rosh Hashana (1st day) – Thursday September 25th:

Rosh Hashana (2nd day) – Friday, September 26th:

Kol Nidre – October 3rd:

Yom Kippur, October 4th:

Evening/Neilah, October 4th:

Mensches of Motown: Rebuilding Detroit

5305_753954927979874_822597788960443057_nAt Freedom House Detroit, a temporary residence for asylum seekers from the most violent or oppressive parts of the world, I was curious about the inhabitants’ transition.

“How do you like Detroit so far?” I asked a Nigerian refugee, one who grew up in a country plagued by bloody ethnic conflict, AIDS epidemics, water shortages, sanitation crises, and terror organizations like Boko Haram.

“Man, Detroit is a damn warzone.”

A warzone.

Detroit, factory-forged from sweat, steel, and the American entrepreneurial spirit to become the one-time pride of our nation, is now being called a warzone from a man escaping Boko Haram.

The onslaught of crime, corruption, economic depression, and abandonment in the postindustrial era clearly took its toll on the American paragon.  Each passing Michigan winter, conditions degraded for Detroit until that Motown rhythm was blunted to a complete halt.  The city is now littered with abandoned buildings and blight.

But if our group of young professionals learned anything from the weekend volunteer trip, it’s that the spirit of Detroit, the spirit of big dreams and bigger community, hasn’t broken.

The 25 of us young professionals from Washington Hebrew Congregation in DC gathered this right off the bat from our first morning with Ben Falik and his team from Repair the World.  Within minutes of meeting the passionate, ambitious troop of staffers, it was clear that Falik and his crew could be living extravagantly in Manhattan, employed at any given corporate acronym with lavish expense accounts.  Instead, the Repair the World crew is taking disadvantaged inner city Detroit youth to museums.  RTW paired us with rambunctious grade school boys and girls to guide through the Michigan Science Center as they witnessed the wonders of engineering and air pressure via 4D movie theaters and trashcan wind cannons.  At the proceeding barbecue and ultimate Frisbee game, the thoroughly caffeinated, curly haired Falik detailed all of the other work the organization does with healthcare, education, and nutrition within the struggling city.

That night, we attended services at the Isaac Agree Downtown synagogue, the last surviving synagogue inside Detroit, resilient to the exodus of Jews.  The small congregation with no rabbi embraced our group with open arms, excited to share their beautiful 80-year old shul with young travelers to welcome in the Sabbath together.

The following morning, we had a breakfast meeting with Jon Koller who has been organizing volunteers to renovate and revitalize a once abandoned 100-year old housing complex.  We then drove to the B’nai David Cemetery, a graveyard entirely enveloped in the weeds of long neglect.  Our trip Rabbi, the tirelessly passionate Aaron Miller, told us that, in Judaism, there is no greater deed than charity for the dead because the deceased can never repay.  With that in mind, we terraformed the veritable jungle throughout the day to salvage the integrity of our buried Jewish brethren.  Trees were trimmed, grass was cut, and dozens upon dozens of garbage bins full of shrubbery surrounding the tombstones were removed.

We spent Saturday night at the aforementioned Freedom house, playing volleyball and sharing stories with the asylum seekers stuck in limbo, their true homes an entire world away.  We prepared a massive dinner together with fresh, local ingredients procured from Detroit’s bustling Eastern Market.  Before leaving, we were serenaded with the Detroit Freedom House song written by a former resident, repeating “G-d bless America” throughout the refrain.

We split up on our final day.  Some toured the city by bike with Falik, some were blindsided by the stunning collections at the Detroit Institute of Art, and myself and a few others joined John George of Motor City Blight Busters in a tour of the almost 700 properties his organization has cleaned up.  Almost all of us slopped up some Slow’s BBQ.

The volunteer weekend of the young professionals of 2239 is a drop in the bucket in terms of what Detroit needs.  But that drop meant so much to Ben Falik, John George, Jon Koller, Freedom House, Downtown Synagogue, and all the people of Motor City that we met.

We somberly left Detroit back to fight its own battle, but Detroit will never leave us.  That sense of community, volunteerism, and service will inspire us forever.

And one thing is for sure: that Motown rhythm is picking back up.

DC Live! A Special Evening of Comedy

live bannerSeven organizations within the Jewish Community: Friendship CircleJewish Foundation for Group HomesJewish Social Service AgencyMatanRespectAbilitySulam, and Sunflower Bakery will all join together again on Thursday, August 7th, 2014 at Sixth & I to host DC Live! A Special Evening of Comedy.  This event was first held in Montgomery County in May, and the feedback was so positive that we decided to bring it to the District!  Proceeds from the event will benefit each organization, who all share a common passion for providing a quality of life to individuals with disabilities. Together these organizations provide services to kids, young adults, and seniors with special needs. If you’re looking to become more involved in the community; have a friend or loved one that could benefit from our programs; or would just like a fun night out, DC Live! is perfect for you!!

Below are more event details.  There will be an open bar reception with beer and wine and heavy hors d’oeuvres followed by an entertaining comedian line-up! Group Tickets and Sponsorship Opportunities are available! Visit the website to learn more!

Event: DC Live! A Special Evening of Comedy
Date/Time: Thursday, August 7th 2014
Reception: 6:30pm-7:30pm
Comedians take the stage at 7:30pm
Location: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (600 I St., NW, Washington, DC 20001)
Presented By and Supporting: The Friendship Circle, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, Jewish Social Service Agency, Matan, RespectAbility, Sulam, and Sunflower Bakery
Buy Tickets

For any questions, contact Tie Smith, JFGH Events Coordinator, at or 240-283-6053.

We hope to see you there!

Let’s Go Shopping… For a Date? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 92)

shopping heartI mentioned once that I felt a bit like Carrie Bradshaw when I sat down to write my first ever dating column many years ago.  Just as Carrie would have shopped for clothes on Sex and the City, I want to talk about how online dating is a bit like clothes shopping.  (I know the analogy is slightly cringe-worthy, but bear with me for a minute.)

When most of us go shopping, we fall in love with an article of clothing, say some black pin-striped pants that look like they’d sit perfectly on our waist, and then we look for our size.  Sadly, it’s not there—what a disappointment.  But that’s not how I shop.  I’m very petite and on the shorter side (a whopping 5’1… good things come in small packages, as they say), so I have to do the reverse; I blindly shop for my size and then decide if I like what I find.  And sometimes I’ll even learn to love something in my size (I can think of a red dress offhand) because it fits so well, even though it’s not initially what I set out to buy.

Online dating is surprisingly similar.  People have a tendency to look through the whole universe of people online for that perfect-looking garment, or person, who on the outside looks like a match made in heaven.  But as you dig deeper, you learn that the fit just isn’t right for one reason or another—he wants children and you don’t, she is not yet divorced, he doesn’t feel the same way you do about higher education, etc.  But you want to make it work so badly.  I can’t tell you the number of times I loved a pair of pants at Banana Republic, and I tried on a “regular” (rather than “petite”—aka “short”), somehow hoping that the sizing would miraculously be a bit off and they would fit that day.  Pants we can hem, but people we can’t.

Think about this for a moment.  Search instead for people who fit the objective things you’re looking for (your size requirements, or your non-negotiables), then send an email to a wide range of people who fit those criteria.  Try to keep the non-negotiable list short, perhaps to a handful of things you either can’t live with or can’t live without.  Beyond that, cast a wide net.  You never know until you try on the pants, or the person, whether it’ll be a good fit, so you might as well search through everything in your size and try some things on.  Maybe the person who didn’t seem to be your type turns into the red dress.  It’s a match you weren’t even expecting.  This method is much better than looking through people’s exterior qualities and then finding that nothing is your size.  You’re more likely to get a better fit in the end.

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.




Learn more about the Jeremiah Fellowship!

The 2012-2013 Fellows

The 2012-2013 Fellows

Join the next cohort of Jewish social justice change-makers in DC! Jews United for Justice’s Jeremiah Fellowship trains a select group of young adults (~ ages 25-35) to become the next generation of Jewish social justice activists.

Over the course of eight months, beginning in October, Jeremiah Fellows meet 2-3 times a month and go on two weekend retreats as they learn directly from DC’s leading activists and Jewish teachers about the history of the region and its current struggles for economic, racial and social justice.

Jeremiah Fellows are:

– Dynamic and engaged young Jews (approximately ages 25-35)
– Already volunteer leaders or have leadership potential
– Passionate about making our community better by learning about and acting on local justice issues
– Actively interested in building community
– Committed to using skills gained through the Fellowship

Past Jeremiah Fellows call the experience “transformative” and “life-changing,” saying it connects them to the DC region in a totally new way and helps them understand hot-button issues at a level far deeper than what we hear in the news. It’s also a space for participants to explore their relationship to Judaism and their desire to make the world more just…and see how the two connect. Participants leave the Fellowship with good friends, substantial leadership and activist skills, and an expanding network of likeminded changemakers.

Learn more about the Jeremiah Fellowship and download the application.
here. Applications are being accepted through July 23.

Have questions? Contact Rabbi Elizabeth Richman at