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State of Mourning

For many millennial DC Jews, an intersection of three extremely liberal subsets of the population (and around 95% of whom most likely voted for Hillary Clinton), now may feel like a time for shiva. Today we mourn the loss of the America we thought we lived in, the loss of the misplaced optimism that we had, and the loss of feeling safe and secure about our present and our future.

Many of us are too broken, too hurt, too angry to do anything but weep, and the wisdom of shiva is that we need to make space for that. But the deeper wisdom of shiva is that we then must leave our home and re-enter the world. We must confront this new reality, if not today, then soon. We cannot fall back on escapism.

The Jewish response to brokenness is twofold – to learn and to hope. Religion will not solve our problems, but it can provide a space for us to come together, reflect and, when the time is right, move forward.

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.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Jenny

imageWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.

Aaron: How long have you been in DC? Where were you before DC?
Jenny: After finishing an awesome four years at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), I spent 11 months in Israel before I moved here in September for a job.

Aaron: What’s your favorite thing about the DC Jewish community?
Jenny: I love how involved the DC Jewish community is and how welcoming everyone has been.  I’ve had a really easy transition to life in DC because everyone has been so nice and inclusive.  There’s always something to do in the community – happy hours, volunteer opportunities, gatherings of Jews, interesting speakers, and concerts – which make life in the District extra fun and exciting!

Aaron: We heard you took a gap year in Israel. What was that like?
Jenny: It was amazing!  Being in Israel for such a long time allowed me to really get a sense for the country.  I volunteered with Magen David Adom on their ambulances in Tel Aviv and interned in their overseas office (a serious plug for Career Israel, a Masa program!).  During my year there, I also tutored children in Jaffa and worked at the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin.  My favorite part of being in Israel for a year was celebrating all the holidays (Israeli style!) and feeling integrated in Israeli culture (I have developed a true sense of chutzpah!).  I can’t wait to go back for Pesach this year!

image (1)Aaron: Are you involved in any Jewish organizations here in DC?
Jenny: I recently joined the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Young Leadership Chapter here in DC. FIDF is a great organization that raises money to support the educational and recreational needs of soldiers serving in the IDF. We are having a happy hour on January 16 at Lost Society on 14th St which I’m really looking forward to!

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Jenny: My man, Shimon (Peres). Everyone wants to be his friend!

Aaron: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Jenny: …they sing to each other Les Mis style (well at least that’s what I’ve been doing all week!)

 

AIPAC Policy Conference: Four years, four conferences

From "The Times of Israel" ... yes, the same one that I mention in point 11

Stephen Richer is President of Gather the Jews.  To see two other pieces on AIPAC Policy Conference — on President Obama’s Speech — please click here.

………………………….

Since moving to DC, I’m 4/4 on AIPAC Policy Conference.  That adds up to 12 days, approximately 40,000 Israel supporters, 5,000 media members, 20,000 Ivy League degrees, and 50,000 Prada bags.  It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’ve done my best to do it all:

  1. I’ve heard Obama speak;
  2. I’ve heard Netanyahu speak (twice);
  3. I’ve heard over 25 members of Congress speak;
  4. I’ve gone to breakout sessions on China  led by Marvin Feuer (father of Danny, The Hero);
  5. I’ve scored a record-setting 12 points on my self-invented “Iran Game” (Game rules:  go to a breakout session, stay until one speaker says Iran.  Then can go to another breakout session.  Repeat.  Try to get to as many sessions as you can in one hour);
  6. I’ve gone to at least five speeches by three Makovskys (David) (Michael) (Alan);
  7. I’ve discussed Israel with the outside protesters;
  8. I’ve sung Hebrew songs loudly at the outside protesters;
  9. I’ve run through big groups of protesters and been punched at while stealing their biggest “Israeli Apartheid” flags… only to feel bad later about property theft (asinine protesters have property rights too!  My apologies.)
  10. I’ve been the guy who tried to ask speakers “the question” in breakout sessions;
  11. I’ve sat in the media section and pretended that not only did I know The Times of Israel existed, but that I read it on a regular basis;
  12. I’ve tried to look “unassailably qualified” when checking into the media registration without a pen or laptop;
  13. I’ve learned what a hashtag is and used it (#IAmProIsrael this year);
  14. I’ve live-tweeted speeches to keep me awake (e.g. Harry Reid);
  15. I’ve sat through the abysmally long “roll call” just to cheer for Utah’s congressmen (there are no female Representatives or Senators from Utah);
  16. I’ve paid $5 for a bagel.
  17. I’ve eaten six sumptuous free banquet dinners (AIPAC served dinners in 2009, 2010, and 2011 …  It got too crowded in 2012 … But at each of the three previous dinners there was always somebody at my table who didn’t feel like eating, and the food eventually made its way to me).
  18. I’ve gone to receptions meant for Floridians and Californians, two states I’ve never lived in;
  19. I’ve gone to college parties and told people I was still a student at University of Chicago (but haven’t done since I was 23!);
  20. I’ve seen the Maccabeats perform live at AIPAC twice, but I’m still looking for the guys that sang this Candelight song – they can’t be the same Maccabeats;
  21. I’ve sparked an AIPAC romance;
  22. I’ve made up with an ex-girlfriend over pro-Israel stuff;
  23. I’ve outdanced 90% of a bar’s attendants… At an AIPAC young professional after party (Park, 2010);
  24. I’ve counted out the 5:1 male/female ratio at the Lux afterparty the past two years;
  25. I’ve said “Oh hey man!  How’s it going?” only to walk past somebody at least 100 times;
  26. Etc.

Seeming chaos. But brilliantly ordered actually.

Have I done it all?  No.  Of course not.   AIPAC is so huge and it’s such a flurry of activity that it’s impossible to capture its entirety in 26 simple bullet points (and that’s about all my brain can manage).

But that’s why you have to go.  At least once.  No matter what you think of AIPAC’s policies.   It will maybe be the largest Gathering of Jews under one roof that you ever witness (13,000 attendees this year, probably at least 9,000 Jews), and AIPAC does such a phenomenal job creating its own world inside the Convention Center that by the time you leave hours later, you feel like you’ve just left a casino or opium den, and you have to, disappointingly, step back into reality.

If you missed this year’s event, then check out any major newspaper.  Or check out the writings of community members such as Adam Kredo, Alana Goodman, Phil Klein, etc.  But like I said, you can’t really be told what Policy Conference is – you have to see it for yourself.

This may be my last Policy Conference for a while — leaving DC 🙁 — but it’s been a wonderful run.  Exhausting, certainly, but well worth it.  Thanks to the good people at AIPAC for strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship; thanks to Lynn Schusterman for paying for some of my conferences; and thanks to Gather the Jews and Forbes for giving me the media gravitas needed to get me in at later conferences.

Haters gonna hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star & Shamrock — A restaurant that unites my peoples! (redheads and Jews)*

All mediocre photography is the fault of Stephen I. Richer.

The number of meals I have at Jewish-themed restaurants is sometimes overwhelming (2 in the past 55 days…).

On November 30, 2011, I took my Canadian date to a sumptuous meal at DISTRIKT Bistro — DC’s newest kosher restaurant (see my review here).

Unfazed by this Jewish culinary outing, I lunched on Sunday at Star and Shamrock Tavern and Deli, 1341 H Street, NE.

I’ve been meaning to try Star and Shamrock for a long time.  It opened in early 2011, but my interest was really piqued when the Washington Post mentioned both Star and Shamrock and GTJ in this December article on young DC Jews.

Better late than never!

……..

From the outside, Star and Shamrock could not be better.  A tavern-style sign bears a giant Star of David with an Irish clover in the middle.  If that doesn’t draw your attention, then the restaurant’s storefront title surely will:  “Star” — written in what looks like Irish characters — and “Shamrock” — written in what looks like Hebrew characters.  So great.

Almost by definition, the inside couldn’t be as good as the outside, but it was still pretty solid.  The restaurant features a Jewish-style deli and an Irish-style pub.  All of your favorite deli sandwiches are there: Corned beef, pastrami, beef brisket, liverwurst, etc.  Other Jewish staples also make appearances throughout the menu: Latkes, reubens, Hebrew National franks, Jewish rye bread, etc.  (see the menu here)

Lame as I am, I went with a tuna sandwich, but my date — a tall brunette (**) with an obsession for yogurt, tennis, and model rockets — was a bit more adventuresome and ordered the Latke Madness: “3 potato pancakes, hot corned beef, griddle sauerkraut, swiss.”

I finished my sandwich quickly in the hopes of trying a bit of the Latke Madness.  It worked.  I got to try it.  “And it was good.”  (Genesis 1:31)  My date, admittedly a picky eater, praised the food in less divine terms, but still gave it a thumbs up.

……

Beyond the deli sandwiches, Star and Shamrock is also a place to drink (drink menu), watch sports (lots of TVs), and socialize.  On Monday nights, S&S hosts a trivia night; Tuesday night is kids eat free night (defined by age, not maturity level… damn!); and Thursday night has live music (see full “Happenings” list).

……

You may not be able to see it, but trust me, it's a picture of a menorah on a mantel.

I would have liked a stronger Jewish theme to the restaurant.  As it is, Judaism is limited to the exterior, the menu, and the menorahs on the mantel.  Perhaps this is best for attracting the non-Jewish customer, but I was definitely disappointed when I got a “no” upon asking the waiter if I could answer Jewish trivia for a discount (I guess that’s the Mr. Yogato in me).   There’s also the fact that the restaurant is NOT kosher, which of course detracts from the Jewishness of the place, though I can hardly blame the owners given my own experience with the Kosher process.  (Speaking of kosher food… Maoz recently closed, so we’re back to just two NW kosher restaurants)

The other problem is the obvious one: location.  I can count the number of times I’ve been to NE on two hands, and most GTJ readers are similarly ensconced in NW.  I haven’t explored how to get around the metro limitation — I would imagine Mike Weinberg knows of a bus that goes to H Street, NE — so for now, the only times I’ll go to S&S are when I can bum a ride.

But overall, the restaurant is very solid and definitely worth checking out if you’re on H Street, NE.

……

Souvenir S&S t-shirts.

Our meal, with tip, wound up costing $30 — probably about average for a $10 sandwich shop.

In true Twenty First Century fashion, we split the bill.

……….

To learn more about the restaurant and the owners Jewish/Irish background, see this Washington Post review.

I emailed the owner to get more information on the restaurant and to see if GTJ readers can have a discount, but I am impatient and didn’t want to wait to post this.  I will update the post when he replies.

(*) Though I am a redheaded Jew, I’m only 1/8 Irish, and the red hair probably doesn’t come from that side of the family…

(**) My date’s self-described hair color:  “A luxurious blend of mahogany and chestnut.”

 

 

Yom Kippur Events — Full listing!

YOM KIPPUR
Please note that many of these events require tickets/registration.

Kol Nidre — Friday, October 7

Yom Kippur — Saturday, October 8

Evening/Neilah — Saturday, October 8

Any options you think should be on our list but aren’t? Email Noa (Noa@gatherdc.org) or Stephen (Stephen@gatherdc.org)

 

DC Jewish Blog Round Up

Moment magazine names the top 10 Jewish apps.

In case you weren’t able to read the other local Jewish blogs this week, here are a few of my favorite articles:

The Blog at 16th and Q:

  • Is G-d Important?: Halley Cohen asks if God is still (or ever was) central to Judaism – a question that the J will explore on September 21.

Moment Magazine:

  • Top Ten Jewish Apps: Moment Magazine’s just-released September/October issue features a story on the top ten Jewish Apps.  My favorite is Jew Booth: “Sure, that photo of you at cousin Jake’s wedding looks nice, but does it need a little Jewish je ne sais quoi? Jew Booth is here to help. Take any photo and make it distinctly Jewish by adding a kippah, a Star of David necklace or other Jewish accouterments. Your Facebook friends will think you’ve undergone a religious transformation when they see photos of you wearing a black fedora; whether or not you clue them in to Jew Booth’s photographic trickery is up to you.”

Jewish Policy Center:

  • Remembering 9/11 in the U.S. – and Afghanistan? Samara Greenberg points out that it’s a bit hard for Afghanis to commemorate 9/11 when “only 8 percent of the Afghan men surveyed… said they know of ‘this event which the foreigners call 9/11.”  GTJ recently logged a couple hits from Afghanistan… perhaps we’re up to 8 percent there now too…

Want to recommend a DC Jewish blog that we should be reading? Email Stephen.richer@gmail.com

 

Shakespeare on inter-religious marriages

As I noted two weeks ago, the Washington Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) recently wrapped up its performance of Merchant of Venice – the only Shakespeare play to prominently feature a Jewish character (Shylock).

I’d seen this play twice before, and I’d performed in it once (as Portia), but in none of these performances could my Jewish identification could considered above “moderate.”  Now, as a very proud and active Jew, I wanted to see if I would respond differently.

My experience did change.  I found myself rooting for Shylock more than ever, wincing at the derogatory statements made against Jews, bemoaning Shylock’s portrayal of some not-so-nice Jewish stereotypes, gripping the edge of my chair when Shylock’s kippah is stolen and mockingly thrown, truly feeling pain when Shylock is forced to convert as the last measure of his punishment, and (unfairly?) resenting Shylock for converting to save his life.

But the most interesting dimension that previously escaped my assessment was the commentary on inter-religious marriage.  Shylock’s daughter Jessica runs off with the Christian Lorenzo.  I remembered this, but I had forgotten that Jessica and Lorenzo are already quarreling by the end of the play.  Rabbi Teitelbaum might use this scene to point to one his favorite books – Why Marry Jewish? – and remind us that inter-religious marriages fail at much higher rates.  Did Shakespeare intuit this fact 400 years in advance?

The argument between Jessica and Lorenzo also evinces the collapse of support staffs in an inter-religious relationship.  Lorenzo doesn’t turn to his friends because they wouldn’t understand;  they’re useless in Jessica-related matters.  When Lorenzo does mention Jessica, his friends usually laugh and say something about her being the daughter of a mad, money-loving Jew.  Jessica, meanwhile, is estranged from her father and friends and  has nobody to turn to.  Compare this to the play’s parallel Christian weddings (Bassanio/Portia and Gratiano/Nerissa), all of whom have a ready friend who is experiencing the same challenges.

Finally, the play also points out the sense of abandonment that comes from inter-religious marriage.  The audience should presumably leave the theater happy – Antonio is saved; they’re all rich; and there’s a bunch of marriages.  But in this rendition, the director concludes by showing Jessica sitting alone, then briefly looking back to see – just for a flash – Shylock standing behind her.  The lights are killed, the play ends, and we’re filled with sadness.  Clearly, according to the director, not all is well with Jessica.  She regrets leaving her father behind, and with him, her family’s faith and history.

All told, it’s still an excellent play despite forcing me into deeper thought (something I normally avoid).  I am glad, however, that I took former Jewish Guy of the Week Eric as my date and not one of the two Christian girls that I had first asked.

 

***  The next show at the Shakespeare Theatre Company is Julias Caesar, and it’s FREE!  For all other plays at the STC, you can get young professional tickets the day of the performance for $15.00.

 

 

Micha Weinblatt is an "entrepreneur to watch" (CNN Money)

Photo from the CNN Money article. Taken by Keith Barraclough Photography

“Micha Weinblatt is not your average T-shirt designer.”

You’re darn straight Micha’s not average — he’s a former Jewish Guy of the Week!

But aside from this unnecessary factoid, the CNN Money article on Micha and his college-started T-shirt store “Crooked Monkey” is quite good.

My favorite part is the last paragraph:

Weinblatt’s startup capital included $25,000 from initial sales, personal savings and four maxed-out credit cards. Today, Potomac, Md.-based Crooked Monkey brings in $750,000 in revenue and has 10 employees.

The shirts sell at Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Kitson, Fred Segal and over 550 other retailers worldwide. Asked if he still has plans to run for office, Weinblatt said, ”Not after the T-shirts I’ve made.”

Click here to read the entire article.

 

 

Extra cheese, please! — GTJ dating series with Erika E. (week 2)

Kosher cheese pizza... yumm...

I’d like a large pizza with extra cheese, mushrooms, sausage, and broccoli.  But make sure the cheese is covering the whole pizza because I don’t like baldness, and actually, why don’t you hold the sausage?  I’d like someone who keeps kosher.  And while you’re there, make sure those mushrooms are well-educated, like maybe with a master’s or PhD.  And as for the broccoli, can you make sure it’s a certain height because I only want it if it’s tall.  Could I get that to go?  Thanks.

Someone recently told me that online dating was like ordering a pizza.  At first I laughed at that analogy, then I cringed, and then I realized that he was right.  We are all looking for that on-paper perfect mate.  And since online dating sites give so much choice in the matter, we think it’s our right to have everything we’re looking for.  Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting certain things – I did – but what if someone out there looks good but doesn’t necessarily fit all of those objective criteria.  What’s a single in DC to do?  I’d venture to say – try ‘em out anyway.

When we walk into a bar (or trivia night, as the case may be) and see someone we like, that guy or girl doesn’t have a chart attached to his or her forehead full of credentials, stats, and dislikes.  (Wouldn’t that be a pretty funny sight?!)  We trust our instincts; we go with chemistry.  But online, we have so much information that it’s almost too easy to discard someone simply because he is only 5’5 or she has a fondness for US Weekly rather than the latest issue of The Economist.  (I’m not saying I know anyone like that. ;))

I was chatting with someone recently who met her boyfriend at a climbing wall.  They had known each other for a while, and ironically enough, when they eventually started dating, he came up as one of her matches on OkCupid that week.  She looked at his profile and said, “I would have never gone out with him after reading this.”  I guess she thought she was in the mood for a Hawaiian pizza, but in reality, what she wanted was much simpler – plain cheese.

So, go ahead, order whatever you want for dinner tonight, but when it comes to dating, there’s no check-box order to place.  Give people the benefit of the doubt because in the end after meeting in person, chemistry may trump all to give you the slice of your life.

…….

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, helping people find success in online dating and getting them excited about its possibilities. “Like” A Little Nudge on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.

Got burning questions you want answered in a future post?  E-mail date411@alittlenudge.com

Past dating articles by Erika E:

1) Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

 

 

RJ Brodsky rocks

As noted at GTJ last week, the DC Jewish community’s very own RJ Brodsky — and his band: Paul Pfau & the Dimestore Band — earned the chance to headline at the 9:30 club this past Friday.

The event exceeded even the high standards of the 9:30 club — a huge crowd, a great performance, and a bunch of young professional Jews.  As RJ put it, “The show was unbelievable!  Nothing beats getting on stage and moving people with the power of an original song played with all heart.”

Here’s a few pictures from the event along with a video clip of one of their songs from the night.