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Your Jewish Wedding Registry Guide!

MAZEL TOV! You’re engaged. Or, you know someone who recently got engaged over the winter holidays, one of the most popular times of the year for proposals.

The next step for couples, post engagement and social media posting, is usually building a registry. (Followed by the much more arduous process of figuring out how to actually fit all of the amazing presents into your tiny DC apartment.) But, if you want to include a few Judaica items on your registry and have no idea where to start, I’m here to help!

After getting engaged last summer, I found it impossible to find a good resource for Judaica registry items. Everything I found seemed kitschy, cheap, or just plain ugly. So I did the work for you, and found some of the best Jewish registry ideas for you and your spouse-to-be. So, without further ado, I present to you, Your Jewish Registry Guide!

Bloomingdales: for the couple who wants everything in one place

Bloomingdales carries literally everything your household could ever dream of. Plus, they display most of their Judaica items in-store. This means, you can go in person to check them out, feel them, and imagine them in your home before you register for them — a huge plus. Bloomingdales carries a large variety of beautiful menorahs, seder plates, mezuzahs, and kiddush cups – sometimes, even in matching sets. #RegistryWin

Jonathan Adler: for the funky and modern couple

Lucky for us DC-ites, Jonathan Adler has storefront in the middle of Georgetown. So, you and your fiance can experience a more fun, intimate registry-creation afternoon than you can get at any department store. This awesome store carries funky furnishings and unique Jewish pieces that you can check out, before rewarding yourself with a Georgetown Cupcake.

Target: for the no-frills couple

Con – the only Jewish items that Target carries are menorahs. Pro – they are seriously the most affordable, and adorable, menorahs around. If you’re registering at Target anyway (which, you definitely should), this could be the perfect add-on item to complete your home decor.

Etsy: for the artsy and creative couple

Rejoice! You can now add handmade items to your wedding registry thanks to the wonderment that is Etsy. Try Etsy’s StudioArmadillo shop to find modern kiddush cups and beautiful shabbat candlesticks, or check out the EnnyMosaic shop, where you can make a mezuzah out of your wedding glass shards.

Etsy has two options for engaged couples seeking unique, homemade items for their registry: 1) Create an Etsy-specific registry or 2) Pick an item or two from Etsy, and add it to your wedding registry with companies like Zola, MyRegistry, and Amazon.

The Jewish Museum: for the couple who wants ALL the best Judaica

If you’re looking to go beyond the Jewish basics, think honey dipper, challah board, or tzedakah box, look no further than The Jewish Museum. This online museum shop has an extraordinary collection of tasteful, modern items for your Jewish home. Bonus: they also have their own registry option and an actual brick and mortar shop in New York City.

Bed Bath and Beyond: for the couple who values simplicity

Bed Bath and Beyond is everyone’s go-to place for wedding registries because of its seemingly endless selection of household items, reasonable prices, and amazing return policies. While it’s hard to find their Judaica stocked in-store, they do have a wide selection of Jewish items online that you may not find elsewhere. Check out this Nambe challah board or this modern Reed & Barton seder plate.

Wishing you lots of luck on your registry-hunting, or wedding-gift buying, adventures ahead! May the sales be ever in your favor.

 

 

About the Author: Daniela Murch is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Daniela grew up between the DC suburbs and Leeds, England, before landing in the District permanently in 2009, where she has lived ever since. As a “tourist of Judaism” she loves exploring different Jewish practices and cultures, both locally and abroad. She works as a lawyer by day, sings in a semi-professional a cappella group by night, and enjoys traveling and exploring the local music and food scenes with her new husband, Jeremy.

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.

Introducing Cohort II Open Doors Fellows!

We are thrilled to announce this year’s Open Doors Fellows Cohort II! Hopefully you’ll see these faces all around town. Please use them as resources to help connect you to the DC Jewish life you’re looking for!

For information about the Open Doors Fellowship email us.

Want to grab coffee with a fellow and talk about DC Jewish life? Sign up!

FinalLindsay Goldman is a transplant to DC, originally from New York she is an East Coast girl at heart who loves talking about how homesick she is for a decent bagel and walking with a purpose. She graduated NYU with a bachelor’s in education and Judaic Studies. She now works at Maryland Hillel in College Park as the Jewish Experience Associate where she plans Shabbat and holiday programming for young adults and talks about pluralism, a lot. An alumna of Mechon Hadar, The Conservative Yeshiva and The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies she has a passion for Jewish learning and for teaching and hopes to create more local opportunities for learning this year. Dedicated to egalitarianism in the Jewish and secular world she loves chatting about women’s issues and looks forward to introducing volunteer programming about these issues this year. Lindsay loves traveling abroad and around DC as she continues to explore her new city. She is an avid member of DC Minyan where you can find her praying and socializing any Shabbat she is not staffing at UMD. She is excited to start making new connections!

 

HillelHillel Goldschein moved to the Greater Washington area (Silver Spring, Maryland) last year and has been happily occupied with experiencing many of the components that the wonderful area has to offer, such as making all types of friends, visiting many of the area’s wonderful sites, with the possibly unique distinction of never having been to a museum (the stuff inside doesn’t talk back!), and taking advantage of Jewish-related events. He works for Measuring Success, a consulting firm located in downtown DC that provides strategic direction for non-profit organizations and went for his Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. He is from NY (just ask him to pronounce”coughie”) and proudly incorporates his “big-city” tendencies  to his social life, such as inviting many people  to join him in all types of events and outings, stirring up fun “controversy” and making sure there is never a dull moment in a gathering, and not getting enough sleep. He enjoys and plays sports, learning about himself and others, studying biblical and prayer texts, writing, and physical activity.

 

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Michele Grossman is an organizer by nature. Leave her alone in your kitchen for ten minutes, and your spice rack will be re-positioned by type of spice, and then in alphabetical order. (Cinnamon should never be next to pepper. Never.) She also organizes events for people and is the community leader for Moishe House Without Walls DC, facilitates a havurah called Shabbat Schmooze, and runs such events as SHABBATNIC (do Shabbat outside!) and Sunday School (think: Hebrew School for adults meets peer-to-peer learning). In the spare time she pretends to have, she paints, illustrates the thoughts she has while falling asleep, and writes poems about people she sees in the subway. Additionally, she is a freelance writer and bookkeeper, which is how she pays the bills. Michele is the daughter of two D.C. natives, and seems to take after the community organizing streak in all four of her grandparents who helped found Olam Tikvah in Fairfax, VA in the 1960s.

 

Henderson PictureBorn in London, Joshua Henderson moved to Washington D.C. when he was 16 years old. After two years in the nation’s capital, Joshua went to the University of Michigan where he studied History and Political Science. While a student, he grew more interested in foreign policy. After graduation in 2014, he was an Israel Government Fellow and interned at the Ministry of Justice in Tel Aviv. Joshua is a frequent runner and ran the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem half-marathons earlier this year. He also took Krav Maga for several months and is looking forward to the Rugby World Cup this Fall.

 

Josh N. PicJosh Neirman grew up in rolling hills of Vermont where he graduated with a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont (UVM) when flip phones were still a thing. Josh has lived in Washington, DC  for over 4.5 years and works in Montgomery County, MD for Housing Unlimited, Inc. as a property manager where he provides independent and affordable housing for adults in mental health recovery.  When Josh is not busy with his day job he enjoys his challah french toast with copious amounts of Vermont maple syrup as well as serving on the leadership committee for the North American Arava Alumni Network, the DC Jews on Bikes Planning Committee, volunteering for UVM Admissions, and co-chairing the DC Masa Israel Alumni Board among many other things.  He’s also a huge Bernie Sanders fan!

 

Tammy ScwartzTammy Schwartz is excited to be an Open Doors Fellow and hopes to welcome more Jews to the local community. A native of Scottsdale, AZ, Tammy moved to the District 8 years ago to attend American University. She was involved in Hillel, pro-Israel activism and exploring the array of cultural events in the city. Combining her passion for social justice and education, Tammy pursued a master’s degree in School Counseling at George Washington University. She currently works as a School Counselor at a DC Public School, promoting the academic, personal/social and career development of all students. Previously, Tammy worked at the DCJCC as a Preschool Teacher. She enjoys cooking with CSA ingredients, hiking, playing basketball and exploring new corners of DC.

 

JSUBAR_128_153Jackie Subar is a native Texan and recent graduate from the Bush School at Texas A&M University where she received her Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. During graduate school, she worked in development for Hillel at Texas A&M and was very involved in the Chabad on campus. Before graduate school, Jackie spent a year in the Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem while interning for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. She returned to Israel last summer to work with NGO Monitor in Jerusalem. Jackie has been an active advocate for Israel and an involved member of the Jewish community in different capacities. Currently Jackie is serving as the Goldman Bridge Fellow for ACCESS, the young professionals arm of the American Jewish Community. Jackie loves being active and trying anything anything new; she really wants to take up paddle boarding. In her spare time Jackie loves reading new books, hanging with friends, and going on adventures. She is also down for a good chat, some chai tea, and good music (especially country).

 

Naomi pictureNaomi Yinuo Tao is a MBA candidate at The George Washington University School of Business. Before she moved to DC, she lived in Beijing and Toronto. Naomi holds a BA in Communications from York University (Toronto, Canada), and had managed an import and export company she co-founded for three years before going back to school. Naomi spent her summer between first and second year of MBA program interning for Ford Motor Company’s HR department in Michigan. She enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, traveling, and taking long walks. Naomi lives in DC with her husband, Gabriel, and they are both members of Temple Micah.

What Does an Open Doors Fellow Actually Do?

Sasha“So, what does an Open Doors Fellow actually do?”

That was a question that I was frequently asked, but could rarely come up with an answer that could adequately portray what it did for me and for others in the DC Jewish community. “We are nice to people and take them to coffee!” was my most typical answer. However, now that the fellowship is complete, I have a real answer for you: An Open Doors Fellow is a social individual who is not only interested in being a connector for Jews in the community, but also consistently interested in learning more about how to better the community. Open Doors Fellows explore the needs and interests of Jews in their 20’s and 30’s and strategize how to make life as a young Jewish professional more enriching and rewarding.

The Open Doors Fellowship was a successful and necessary next step for Gather the Jews. They have the events that cater to the interests of the community, but what was missing was connectors, people who would go with interested members of community to events that they were too nervous to attend alone; people who were trained to feel comfortable openly engaging in conversation at any size event. Gather needed individuals to help community members feel special, unique, and welcomed to an event. It is such a different experience to show up to a large event when you see a familiar face. If you have that, your comfort level can be immediately changed.

11391708_10205534827584549_6810332930038366459_nMy Capstone project was an active way to engage a small group of young Jews and allow for meaningful conversation while exploring Washington D.C. Most of my coffee conversations were with Jews who had recently moved to D.C. and were looking for a group of people to do fun activities with. That’s exactly what my Capstone was all about; participants were able to do something fun with a great group of individuals. Attendees were split into teams and asked to take a picture doing ridiculous tasks. The tasks included: making a Jewish star with your bodies in front of the Capitol building, making a pyramid with strangers, doing the Beatles walk across the street, taking a ride on the carousel, and more. They also got to know a bit about each other by finding their home states in the WWII memorial. Following the scavenger hunt, I hosted a picnic in Meridian Hill Park so that people could continue their conversations, as well as meet members of the other team. I received wonderful feedback from participants who all felt like this was a great way to get to know the city more, as well as make some great connections.11407172_10205534801183889_3892936613167266185_n

If there is one thing I would take away from this Capstone, I would say, “don’t wait, just do.” You want to go up and talk to someone, but you are scared; you want to go to this event, but maybe it’s too far. JUST GO. I always leave events, dinners, happy hours and more, feeling happy that I did it. Whether I made a new friend, tried a new food, or just felt happy to be surrounded by peers, I’ve always made the most of every experience. Stop worrying, have fun, and you never know how much a simple smile or hello could make someone’s day.

Learn more about applying to be a 2017 Open Doors Fellow HERE!

My Soul Story: Building Community one Bike Ride at a Time

lisaI learned a new term during the Open Doors Fellowship: “Soul Story.”

The way I understand it, a soul story is the one that’s a level deeper than the narrative that one would tell at a happy hour amongst acquaintances. It’s a bit less polished. It’s the one that isn’t influenced by the expectations of others. It’s the one that makes you more vulnerable. For me, it’s the one a step closer to the truth.

This is mine.

I missed the deadline to apply for the Open Doors Fellowship. I had the application written, but I didn’t know if it was the right time, or if it was right for me at all. What I did know was that after years of being frustrated and ostensibly powerless to make any impact on the Jewish Community – my Community – I had the chance to do something. To make a difference. To stop sitting on the sidelines.

So I hit send and hoped it wasn’t too late.

I determined that my goal for the Fellowship was to find disconnected, apathetic, and/or unengaged Jews and inspire them to connect, care, and engage. I wanted to “bubble up the Jews.” If it was easy as standing on the corner of 14th and U St. and singing, “Come out, come out wherever you are,” I would have done it. But, what I found instead through conversations and observations was that one or two bad experiences at a Jewish event was all someone needed to write off Jewish life for good. And, it’d be pretty hard to get ‘em back.

I called this my challenge.

A Jewish event full of Jews wasn’t going to be good enough to attract the disenfranchised. My hypothesis was that a Jewish event full of likeminded Jews with similar interests is what they wanted – a micro-community.

This resonated with me and was pretty validating, actually. My mom would send me articles all the time about this Jewish event or that happy hour. “Mom,” I’d say, “being Jewish isn’t a hobby of mine. I don’t want to just stand around with other Jews being Jewish together.”

So when it was time to think about my Fellowship capstone project, I held that micro-community concept tightly. I’m a Jew. I love Jewish rituals. And I like to ride bikes. I wonder if anyone else would be into riding bikes around the city with me, stopping for Havdallah, and then grabbing a drink? Surely there would be a few people.

As it turns out, there are many.

With the confidence, connections, and community building skills I received through my Fellowship, and supported by Gather the Jews and Sixth & I, I organized a Community Havdallah Bike Ride. And then another. Nearly 70 Jewish Young Professionals attended each of our first two rides, and we’re not slowing down. Now, we a have a planning committee full of dedicated lay leaders. We have people coming to ride that haven’t done Havdallah in years. We have committed Jews riding who haven’t been on their bike in years. I’m literally kvelling.

Out of a desire for connection, a community was born: DC Jews on Bikes. On August 15th, 2015 we’ll ride again, and I hope you’ll join us.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that Jewish Community isn’t something that you join, it’s something that you build. My community is comprised of seekers, pray-ers, and, now, riders. I learned we are each empowered to build the community that we want, where we fit in. And we do it by walking through open doors.

Learn more about applying to be a 2015 Open Doors Fellow HERE!

Why Open Doors is What I’m Bringing with Me When I Move

kelleyI am currently preparing to move to the other side of the country. The people close to me, including those with whom I shared my Open Doors Fellowship experience, have been hearing a lot about this recently. It comes with a good deal of stressors, and an even greater deal of reflection about my 6 years in DC. I’ve been particularly grappling with my most recent year, which has been tumultuous and full of change and confusion in a lot of areas in my life and my relationship to DC. However, as I was talking with my housemate about the things I experienced in DC over the last year, I was able to speak with unmatched gratitude and appreciation for my experience in the Open Doors Fellowship.

Being an Open Doors fellow provided me with an impressive array of resources, information, and skills. As the Communications and Engagement Fellow at Temple Micah, I found myself in many ways struggling know how to make the most of my time and do the best I could for the community I served in my work. The Fellowship taught me what engagement could mean—I learned how to leverage my networks in order to reach people who might not be Jewishly connected, how to have meaningful and connecting conversations that let me better connect people to resources, and how to derive enormous meaning from those connections. As the Fellowship progressed, I came to look forward to my coffee dates and drinks with the people I met, and I made enormous strides in my work.

However, to focus primarily on the professional and logistical benefits of the Open Doors Fellowship would be to do it a disservice. Those benefits were enormous and innumerable, but they were also secondary. The real beauty of the Open Doors Fellowship was that as I built a community around me, I also found myself woven into it. My cohort was a group of people I always looked forward to spending time with, and having a diverse, supportive team of people in pursuit of a mission alongside me was endlessly inspiring. The Fellowship gave me a space to deeply explore my Judaism and explore Judaism with the people I met in DC, and I made incredible connections with fascinating people through those conversations. The Fellowship left me with a network of genuine friends who were entirely new to me, and I hope that it brought new friends to the people I met as well.

As I move forward to a new place, the way I felt in the Open Doors Fellowship shapes the decisions I am making about how to build my new life. Having the conversations this fellowship empowered me to have demonstrated how powerful they can be in my life and in the lives of others. Being supported by the Gather team led me to realize that powerful, beautiful Jewish experiences can be created by anyone, including me. This experience left me with new thoughts that can be gained only from learning with others, and showed me that I can participate in building a Jewish community that allows me to do that, even if I don’t do so professionally. I am endlessly grateful to Rachel and Jackie for giving me this opportunity, and to my cohort for laughing, thinking, and creating with me. As I pack my bag and say my good-byes, I know this experience will come across the country with me.

Learn more about applying to be a 2015 Open Doors Fellow HERE!

Making New Friends… or Really Awkward Metro Rides

17025_10153738756338709_8563020704545973706_nMy first thought when I was accepted into the Gather the Jews Open Doors Fellowship was ‘I don’t really know what I’ll be doing.’ My closing thought after I presented my capstone project at the culmination of the Fellowship was ‘I don’t know where I’d be in DC if I hadn’t become a fellow.’ And in between, I thought ‘I can’t wait for our Tuesday night meetings’, ‘which Shabbat should I go to this week’, and ‘I’ve never peeled so many potatoes before!’

In the past six months, I feel like I’ve found my place in the District, met some of my best friends, hosted a Passover Seder (hence the potatoes), and got more in tune with my own Jewish identity. Who would have thought that simple conversations, group meetings with the other fellows, cheesy team bonding exercises, and, of course, inspiration from our two leaders Rachel and Jackie, could have done all that?

The goals of the Fellowship were clear: make the DC Jewish community smaller and act as a resource for people wanting to get more involved and connected. Our personal goal and capstone project – address a need or something missing in the Jewish community – was an evolutionary process that took a lot of thought and reflection. We had direct guidance and all the resources at our fingertips, but were free to explore and research on our own terms, through our individual relationships and meaningful conversations we had with other members of the Jewish community.

What I found: gaps within our community among those with different levels of observance, especially between those who identify as orthodox and those who identify as non-orthodox. My capstone project: a conversation event between those two groups facilitated by meaningful and contentious questions about Judaism. My hope was for people to gain perspective on why someone with a different level of observance thinks the way they do and practices the way they do. I worried that the participants would get frustrated or offended because, well, let’s be honest, no one likes being told that what he/she does is wrong or, on the other side, extreme. Luckily that wasn’t the case. Most of the participants became a bit more educated on different aspects of Judaism and left a bit more open minded. There were even requests for a follow-up event to gain more perspectives and talk about even more heated topics. Success!

So what’s next for me? I will be participating in much more discussion about Jewish thought and identity that seems to be erupting in our community right now. As a newly initiated Moishe House Without Walls host, I want to create more educational events like my capstone project. So keep an eye out for them, DC!

Most importantly, being an Open Doors Fellow, I learned to be that “awkward person” who talks to everyone without being awkward. I’ll sit next to a stranger at a bar and introduce myself, I’ll ask the person in line behind me in Starbucks what song they’re listening to on their iPhone, and I’ll run up to a person on the street wearing a kippah to invite them to an event I’m planning. Nine times out of 10, that encounter will turn into a new friend, a coffee date, or just a great conversation. That one time can turn into, well, a really awkward metro ride…

It may sound small, but I’ve developed a worthy skill that I will carry with me the rest of my life. Put me in front of my friends and family and I’ll be flustered. But put me in a room filled with random Jewish strangers, and I’ll never feel more comfortable.

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Learn More about Applying to be a 2015 Open Doors Fellow HERE!

 

Rediscovering and Reinventing Judaism

kelleyWhen I began my time as an Open Doors Fellow, I was drawn in two directions. I wanted to create space in DC’s Jewish community where Jewish people could do any of the various things they loved together. My dream was for there to be a Jewish community engaging in the incredible diversity of activities and learning opportunities that DC has to offer. Whether or not their engagement explicitly centered itself in Judaism was irrelevant to me. I wanted a Jewish community where Jews were able to engage other elements of their identity, but do so together. I also wanted to allow for the possibility of in depth Jewish learning for those who had not had access to it in their earlier Jewish life, or who did not feel at home in learning spaces that exist now. Early on in my Fellowship, I discovered Minyan of Thinkers, which allowed me to explore more deeply why these things matter to me and how they’re connected. Minyan of Thinkers provided a spark of hope for my Judaism when I didn’t know where to turn to rejuvenate it.

The Minyan of Thinkers is a dialogue-based group that creates an intellectually open and safe space that allows us, the ten members, to come up with new approaches to challenges facing the Jewish community. Just as traditional Judaism uses a quorum of ten for public prayer, we build on the collective spiritual and intellectual energy of our members to create positive social change. We meet monthly to grapple with scholarly articles on a major Jewish topic and develop new ideas that we share with the larger community via written reflection pieces and public events. This year, Minyan of Thinkers has been discussing the Pew Study, Jewish identity, and the future of the Jewish Community. In that conversation, I have been given the opportunity to explore why I think it matters that Jews be able to connect about the multi-faceted elements of their identity and also deeply engage their Judaism so that it is as fulfilling and meaningful as they want it to be.


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We have spent a good deal of time considering what it actually means for the Jewish community that intermarriage is on the rise while birth rates decline, and affiliation with Jews and Jewish organization become less numerically prevalent. We discussed the fact that this must be viewed in the larger context of American religious affiliation in general, as well as American “melting pot” culture. We also acknowledged that our anecdotal evidence, while anecdotal, leads us to believe that the PEW study data at best overstates the problem, and at worst fails to grasp the complexity of modern Jewish identity. This led us towards discussion of what does constitute a modern and American Jewish identity. Perhaps, we posited, one element of the problem is that the metrics used by the PEW study are the structures in Jewish life that are no longer practical or resonant, so to measure them will show us that what we have lost is what we know is no longer working. How, then, do we construct metrics that measure for the quiet, internal, less institutional and traditional elements of Jewish identity–the personal but deeply important ways that people view their lives through a Jewish lens? And, perhaps more important than measuring, how do we create Jewish life that speaks to those pieces in new ways?

There exist structures–camp, day school, Hillel–that get it right, but how do we create those opportunities for people who are older and still in search of their Jewish identity? How do we continue to excite people in the way that those institutions do? How do we transform what does exist to meet these new needs, and expand the lens of Judaism’s meaning outward into the modern, complex, busy lives of the modern day Jew? How do we allow Jews to connect to one another in a way that includes both meaningful Judaism and also allows for the importance of other pieces of who we are?

Minyan of Thinkers has allowed me to really dig into these questions, and Open Doors has allowed us to act on them. On May 31, Minyan of Thinkers and Open Doors Fellow David Miller will present a public opportunity to explore Jewish Identity in a new way. Inspired by what it feels like to exist on the margins of Judaism in any way, this event invites participants to explore the edges of Judaism and discover and engage more deeply with the ways they do connect. Senior Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel will be an educator and facilitator in our discussion.
Later, on June 20, Open Doors Fellow Kelley Kidd will partner with Minyan of Thinkers and Next Dor present an opportunity for people to specifically delve into their relationship to Shabbat, and build a deeper, more personal one. It is thrilling to see the way that partnership, growth, and learning can emerge when we gather together to discover what we’re all looking for.

The Minyan of Thinkers is a sustained Jewish learning group that meets monthly to grapple with scholarly articles on a major Jewish topic. Contact them to learn more or get involved.

To learn more about the Open Doors Fellows and their projects email Gather the Jews.