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Aaron and Brian share about their experience on the DC Community Birthright Trip…and how you can go too!

Shorashim Bus 153 January 2014 091The second to last night of our Birthright trip, 40 of our new best friends were packed into a tiny hotel room in Jerusalem, reminiscing about everything we had done in the past 24 hours: all sleeping under the same Bedouin tent, riding camels through the Negev desert, floating in the Dead Sea, and fine-tuning our impersonations of our Israeli tour guide. We never expected to feel so close with people with whom only 10 days ago we were playing the name game.

Immediately upon landing in Ben Gurion airport when our trip began, we were greeted by our seven new Israeli friends who would accompany us for all 10 days of our trip. Though we were all exhausted from traveling, we immediately boarded the bus we would call home for the next 10 days and headed north for the Golan Heights. The next 10 days took us to places we’d dreamed of visiting: the Western Wall, Independence Hall, Yav Veshem, Tel Aviv,  and Masada. The days brought us experiences we never could have anticipated: being welcomed into Israeli homes and temples,  volunteering in Washington DC’s partnership city – Beit Shemesh, hiking through a desert canyon,  experiencing Israeli live comedy theater, and even meeting the Prime Minister of the country.

Shorashim Bus 153 January 2014 055We experienced the wonders of Israel as a group, and we also took time to reflect and discuss our feelings on what those experiences meant to us personally. Facilitated by our skilled and knowledgeable tour guide, Tzach, our group engaged in meaningful and personal discussions on what we were seeing, and how these experiences affected our spiritual and cultural identities. One of our favorite discussions asked us to select the most personally important aspects of what it means to be a Jew. Coming up with our answers, and hearing the perspectives of our American and Israeli friends made us more confident in our own Jewish identity, and reignited our intellectual curiosity around the Jewish faith and culture.

Going on a Taglit Birthright trip revitalized our passion for living a Jewish life. After being challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally during the trip, we feel a deeper bond with our culture and with each other. As we  look back on our Birthright experience, we realize that choosing Shorashim and the DC Community Trip has given us a continuing community in which we can grow and flourish. We feel a renewed pride in Jewish culture, and we strongly encourage our peers in the DC area to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover a deep, meaningful connection to Israel and the Jewish community.

Want to have an experience like Aaron and Brian’s? Birthright has expanded eligibility! Learn more about the DC trip by visiting www.shalomdc.org/birthright. Returning applicants are able to apply on February 18th  and new applicants on February 19th here.  Please contact Sara Weiner at sara.weiner@shalomdc.org or (301) 230-7266 with questions.

Elise Feldman discusses her amazing journey on a Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip and how to sign up for your own!

Untitled“AAAAAAAAAACHIM, ACHIM, ACHIM, ACHIM. SIMCHA, SIMCHA, SIMCHA, SIMCHA, SIMCHA!!!!!”

These were the words chanted together at Ben Gurion International Airport as 48 jet-lagged American Taglit-Birthright members met the seven Israeli participants and Israeli guide they would be traveling with for the next 10 days. The chant echoed through the airport as we all held each other and jumped around in a circle. I could feel all of our exhaustion from the flight fade quickly into excitement. We were ready to start our 10-day journey in Israel – little did we know that each day would bring a new understanding and emotion to the words, “Achim Simcha,” which means “Brotherhood and Happiness.”

That night, we each explained why we decided to embark on Birthright. Each of us came from a different Jewish background. Some formally practiced Judaism, others explained that while culturally Jewish, they did not celebrate the holidays or rituals, yet identified with being Jewish. These descriptions also applied when we learned more about the seven Israelis that were on the trip. All were young adults like us who had either finished serving in the IDF, or were still in the IDF.

We traveled to Jerusalem on Shabbat. Before we entered the passage to the Western Wall, our guide, Iftah, stated that some of us were probably the first in our families to reach the Wall. I am not religious, and I am fortunate to say that I did not lose any of my immediate family in the Holocaust. However, going to the Western Wall for the first time brought out emotions that I had no idea ever existed inside of me. As I stepped away from the wall with uncontrollable tears coming out of my eyes, my Israeli friend wrapped her arms around me and said, “You are home.”

Towards the end of our trip, we sat looking out at Har Herzl’s monument. Iftah said to us, “I know all of you have different ways of being Jewish. Some of you say you are ‘half Jewish’, culturally Jewish, you barely identify with being a Jew – but whatever ‘Jewish’ you are, hold on to it.”

After my Bat Mitzvah, I completely stopped practicing Judaism. I stopped going to services or celebrating the High Holidays. It wasn’t until this last year that I decided to reconnect with my Jewish roots and take this trip. I have never been more physically, emotionally or mentally challenged in my entire life than I was in Israel. I don’t think I have ever cried and laughed so much in 10 days.

Israel answered a lot of questions I had, but I left with three times as many. So, I am now excited to try and answer these questions. The trip made me think about my own country in a different way and appreciate some aspects a little more than I had before. It certainly made me appreciate Israel in ways that I never thought I could.

I now have a brand new family of 57 members, and we already have plans to celebrate Shabbat together soon. I also can’t wait to celebrate the High Holidays this year and feel the love and happiness that I remember feeling as a child. That is what Israel means to me. I will never be the same because of this trip.

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Want to have an experience with peers from DC like Elise? Then sign up for the DC Community Trip!

This winter, travel to Israel FOR FREE with fellow Washingtonians on the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Am I eligible?

  • Age 22-26 at the time of application (If you’re under the age of 22, visit www.birthrightisrael.com to find a trip that’s right for you!)
  • Have not previously participated in a peer-orientated Israel trip
  • Local or ties with the Greater Washington area

Important Dates:

There will be trips in November, January and February. Exact dates will be confirmed soon. Registration for the trip opens…

  • Monday, September 9 at noon for returning applicants
  • Tuesday, September 10 at 10:00 a.m. for new applicants

How do I register?
To register, please visit www.israelwithisraelis.com and choose the “DC Community trip.” From there, you will begin to prepare for an unforgettable experience.

Please know that the registration process can be very competitive and only remains open for about a week, so it’s very important to register on the opening date and pay your security deposit as soon as possible. Once Shorashim receives your application, they will move forward with processing it and scheduling an interview. Once this is complete, you will find out the dates of your trip and further details.

Have questions?
To find out more about the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip (sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington), contact Sara Weiner at 301-230-7266 or sara.weiner@shalomdc.org.

 

Converge with Our Community

Adrianne and the Spring 2013 NeXus cohort at the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes on Good Deeds Day.

Adrianne and the Spring 2013 NeXus cohort at the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes on Good Deeds Day.

Last fall, I got an itch to get more involved in the young Jewish community life of DC, but I really didn’t know where to start.  I asked friends about organizations that they are involved in, went to various events ranging from social to intellectual, and did some research on what I call the “alphabet soup” of Jewish organizations in DC.  A friend told me about NeXus, a program run by Young Leadership by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and that it would give me a window into the Jewish community. He said it would show me how to build a role for myself, and I decided to go ahead and sign up.

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but NeXus is an amazing program!  Not only did I meet about 20 other similarly excited and motivated young Jewish adults, but I learned about how I could make a difference and rise into a leadership role in any organization that I chose to put my efforts towards.  We learned about how to tell our story to get others engaged and interested.  In one of my favorite sessions, we worked with adults with special needs on Good Deeds Day in March, doing arts and crafts and helping to make their day a little brighter.  We also heard from young leaders who are involved in Federation, a local Hillel, a social entrepreneur who started her own organization, and the CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.  They all urged us to be smart and engaged young leaders, and reminded us of the importance of being involved and active in our communities.

Because of what I learned, heard and experienced in NeXus, I decided to apply for and was selected to be a board member of a Jewish organization’s DC Young Professional Chapter where I will help lead my peers in support of Israel and Jewish relations with members of other faiths and ethnicities.  Without that push from NeXus, I may not have made that leap to apply in the first place. In addition to taking this step forward in my life, I also met 20 awesome new friends who I look forward to continuing to build relationships with!

Young adults in the Washington, DC Jewish community, have the opportunity to make an impact. NeXus is an interactive program that will teach you about the work of The Jewish Federation, further develop your leadership skills and introduce you to other leaders in the DC Jewish community. For more information and to register, visit shalomdc.org/NeXus. Spaces are limited and people have already started registering! Have specific questions? Need more information? Contact Jaclyn Gurwitz at 301-348-7354.

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The DC Alumni Leadership Mission and Why I Decided to Go

b1Applications for the NEXT DC Alumni Leadership Mission are now open.  Space is limited so apply here today.  Check out pictures from last year’s trip here.

I applied to the trip on a whim.  An acquaintance of a friend who I ran into on the metro one night mentioned in passing that the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington sponsored a trip for Birthright alumni to return to Israel.  The trip was solely for young professionals living in the DC area who had been on Birthright before and had an interest in impacting the DC Jewish community in some way.  At the time, I was on the cusp of connecting in a more meaningful way to my Judaism and felt pretty removed socially from the Jewish scene in DC.  I had just been on Birthright the year before and welcomed the chance to return to Israel, but I didn’t really know what the Federation was or what my impact in the community here might be.  That night though, when I got home and thought some more about the chance encounter, I decided to apply for the trip.

B2When I was accepted, I was shocked and slightly terrified.  I went to the first in-person, pre-trip meeting with hesitation and a little bit of anxiety – everyone but me seemed to know at least one other person well enough to be sharing inside jokes, referencing the same mutual friends and being involved in the same Jewish programs.  But once we got through the first awkward ice breaker, my trepidation was quite quickly replaced with awe.  I was sitting in a room with 25 people in their 20s and 30s, who were Jewish, and all within them some core connection to their faith that in turn drove them outward to connect with other young people and enrich the community that brought them together in the first place.

Before applying for the trip, I knew not a single one of them.  Now, we’ve carved out our own little sub-community, sharing Shabbats together, celebrating each other’s birthdays, and supporting each other’s work.  The beauty of the trip is that the end result leaves you with a solid group of friends and supporters who share the same interest in leadership and community and who live in the same city as you.  Upon returning from the trip, you create an “impact project” that does just that; impacts the DC Jewish community based on something you experienced or were inspired by in Israel.  In our group alone, we have a diverse mix of projects in the works ranging from a comedy show that fosters coexistence dialogue through shared humor to an online forum to recognize the vibrancy of community influencers.b3

The trip itself is also its own humbling and enriching experience – on our trip, we attended a conference hosted by the President of Israel, planted fruit-bearing trees alongside the families whose yards they were growing in, and helped open a bomb shelter turned youth center for an Ethiopian Jewish community.  We spoke to young Muslim, Jewish, and Christian girls involved in a soccer program together and heard from the leaders of a nonprofit aimed at fostering social entrepreneurship.  We rang in Shabbat outside overlooking the hills of Jerusalem, we visited an Israeli micro-brewery, and we engaged in a rich dialogue about coexistence and tolerance in Beit Shemesh with members of the Haredi community that I still remember as vividly as if it happened yesterday.  In short, we experienced Israel through the lens of the people who live, work, and lead there, and we were challenged to find new connections between who we met and what we can bring back to DC.

I was asked to co-lead this year’s alumni mission trip as a lay leader, an opportunity that this time last year I would not have even known existed, and one I am honored to take on.  I hope the words I write here and my experience of coming in somewhat as an outsider will encourage you all to apply for this year’s trip, which takes place in November and coincides with the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly.b4

Whether you went to Birthright in college, last year, or last month, apply.  Whether you feel disconnected from the young leadership network and aren’t sure how you’d fit in or whether you are already immersed in Jewish programs and activities, apply.  Whether you’ve been to Israel a dozen times since Birthright or none, apply.  And if you don’t really know what’s intriguing you about the trip but you sense something is missing from the way you’re currently experiencing the DC Jewish community, apply.

I went into the trip last year feeling very much like an outsider and not quite sure what I wanted to get out of it, and I emerged with a renewed appreciation for the community we’re in here in DC, and with a clearer vision of how I might play a part in it.  I hope you’ll find the same by taking a chance and applying to go on this year’s leadership mission.  You’ll have a whole community of people ready to welcome you.

Go to Israel for FREE this summer or fall with the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Two American Jews on his back... The camel don't care. He don't give...

Two American Jews on his back… The camel don’t care. He don’t give…

 

This summer or fall, travel to Israel FOR FREE with fellow Washingtonians on the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Am I eligible?

  • Age 22-26 at the time of application (If you’re under the age of 22, visit www.birthrightisrael.com to find the trip that’s right for you!)
  • Have not previously participated in a peer-orientated Israel trip
  • Local to or ties with the Greater Washington area

image002What are the perks?

  • Get on our VIP list for priority registration processing!
  • Greater chance of being accepted!
  • Enjoy exclusive pre-trip events!
  • Have direct access to your DC-based Birthright Israel staff!
  • Expand your local network!
  • Travel through Israel with Israeli peers during the ENTIRE trip!
  • Receive personalized follow-up upon your return!
  • The trip is FREE.

Important Dates:

There will be trips in June, August, and November. Registration for the trips opens…

  • Monday, February 11 at noon for returning applicants
  • Wednesday, February 13 at 10 AM for new applicants

image003How do I register?

To register, please visit www.israelwithisraelis.com and choose the “DC Community trip.”  From there, you will begin to prepare for an unforgettable experience.

Please know that the registration process can be very competitive and only remains open for about a week, so it’s very important to register on the opening date and pay your security deposit as soon as possible.  Once Shorashim receives your application, they will move forward with processing it and scheduling an interview.  Once this is complete, you will find out the dates of your trip and further details.

Have questions?

Interested in learning more? Join us Monday, January 28 at 6:30 at Drafting Table for a Birthright Recruitment Happy Hour!

To find out more about the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip (sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington) and get on our pre-registration VIP list, contact me at 301-230-7266 or at sara.weiner@shalomdc.org.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Max

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

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Max: My amazing mother, she gets the credit.  I was born at Columbia Hospital for Women at 2425 L Street, and haven’t left since.  I grew up near Rock Creek Park and now I live in Logan Circle.  I’m a 3rd generation Washingtonian as well, so lots of love for The District.

Aaron: How did you get involved in the Jewish community?
Max: I was very uninvolved in the Jewish community growing up, outside of Jewish summer camp that is.  I had friends telling me left and right how amazing Birthright is, but I always figured I wasn’t religious enough or wouldn’t have anything in common with people on the trip.  Finally around thanksgiving 2011, I begrudgingly signed up for a Shorashim DC Community trip.  I figured I would just cancel the trip a week before once I figured out something better to do with those ten days.  I ended up going on the trip and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  There’s not enough room here for me to gush about how much I loved that trip.  Anyways, about 6 or 7 minutes after I landed, I got a call from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (JFGW),asking if I would be interested in getting involved in the Young Leadership Community.  Well, almost a year later I’m Jewish Guy of the Week, so I guess I’m doing something right.

Aaron: What types of organizations are you involved with?
Max: As I said, when I returned from Birthright, I sat down with some folks from the Young Leadership at JFGW to get involved.  A quick side note on how amazing everyone at the JFGW is, especially Sarah, Sara, and Avital, and how grateful I am to have gotten involved with them.  So, from there the first thing I really got involved with was the planning for  the Reverse Mifgash.  From there, I’ve worked on several committees with the JFGW, and a couple of others.  However, what I have spent most of my time on is The Survivor Initiative…

Aaron: Survivor Initiative? Didn’t you guys just have a happy hour? How did that go?
Max: So, The Survivor Initiative was born when Rachel Gerrol came to me way back in the beginning of the year and told me she found out that there are over 200 Holocaust survivors in the DC metro area alone that are living under the federal poverty line and some of whom cant even afford to eat every meal.  Well needless to say, we decided we had a responsibility to do something about it.  A little while down the road, we had a fantastic committee of folks, who I cant say enough good things about, and a plan to raise awareness and some shekels.  Our inaugural event at the beginning of the summer brought together close to 200 people to hear from a survivor as well as some of our amazing partners at JSSA.  We raised $15,000 for local survivors and picked up a new slew of people to get involved with us.  From there, we helped organize training sessions for survivor volunteering and then recently put together a happy hour at Local 16 where over 180 people came out to show their support.  I heard from several people that they thought it was best happy hour of the year, so I think it went pretty darn well.  We are planning several big things in the near future and are super excited for whats to come!

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Max: According to you guys, this week, its me. Seriously though, I would say my dad and grandfathers.

Aaron: What are you most excited for during Chanukah?
Max: Mom, if your reading this, I’m most excited for my eight presents.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Max: Why, at a Gather the Jews event, of course.

 

Jewish Girl of the Week – Deena

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

Aaron:  Where did you grow up?
Deena: I’m a Washington DC native, born and raised.

Aaron:  Where do you live?
Deena: Aside from a 4 year hiatus in Philadelphia when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, I have lived on the red line my entire life (Van Ness, Tenleytown, Dupont Circle).  A year and a half ago, I moved to Columbia Heights.  It’s been great exploring different neighborhoods throughout the city.

Aaron: What was the last Jewish event that you attended?
Deena: I attended The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Charles E. Smith Leadership Retreat at Capital Camps.  It was an inspirational weekend where community members celebrated Shabbat together, learned about each other’s passions and philanthropic interests, and strategized how to create a vibrant Jewish community full of meaningful experiences for people with diverse interests and backgrounds.  I also just went to my cousin’s bar mitzvah in New York.  With 17 cousins under the age of 13, I dusted off the ole’ Coke and Pepsi shoes, which I’ll be using for many more celebrations.

Aaron:  What is your current job/passion project?
Deena: I’m a certified Project Management Professional Consultant by day and a Jewish community organizer by night.  I am passionate about social justice and I love helping people find their connections to others with shared values.  I am involved in a number of organizations, so let me know if you are looking for a group to get involved with.  Currently, I’m volunteering with the following:

  • Holocaust Survivor Initiative to raise critical funds for holocaust survivors in the metropolitan area.
  • ConnectGens Fellowship to transform Jewish social innovators’ ideas into ventures that engage, inspire, and support the Jewish community locally, in Israel, and overseas.
  • Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) Abraham Joshua Heschel Vision Awards to honor local social justice activists and raise funds to continue our critical work in the region.

Aaron: What is a fact that few people know about you?
Deena: My exposure to football was pretty limited during my ten years at an all girls school so, in an attempt to learn new things and connect with the football lovers in my life, I joined a fantasy football league this year.  I’m in 5th place so far!!

Aaron:  What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Deena:

  1. I co-founded the DC Rape Crisis Center’s Young Professional Circle, a group of local young professionals supporting critical services of the DC Rape Crisis Center through community building, education, and philanthropy.
  2. I directed the Baker Tilly Casino Classic fundraiser after only six months at the company.  This event was so successful that firm leadership decided to host the event as an annual tradition, showcasing our commitment to stewardship in the community.
  3. After participating in Jews United for Justice (JUJF)’s Jeremiah Fellowship, I applied the community organizing skills I learned towards chairing the Heschel Awards.  With great support from other JUFJ volunteers, we raised over 25% more than the previous year!  I’m even more excited for this year’s event.  If there’s one thing I can leave you with today, I’d encourage you to join me next Sunday, November 18!  JUFJ’s Heschel Vision Awards honor local leaders who follow in Rabbi Heschel’s footsteps, including Maryland Governor O’Malley and 3 others, for their work on Marriage Equality, Maryland Dream Act, workers rights, and other progressive issues.  I highly recommend what promises to be a fun and exciting night where you can meet leaders who you not only admire, but also can actually work with in our fight for social, economic, and political justice in the DC metropolitan region!

Make an Impact with the Second Annual Impact DC!

The second annual Impact DC is on Thursday, November 15, 2012, 8:00 p.m. at The Howard Theatre, 620 T Street NW, Washington, DC.  A $50 couvert and a $100 minimum gift to The Federation’s 2012 Annual Campaign and can be bought at shalomdc.org/impactdc.  Cocktail attire.

Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is hosting a night that celebrates the next generation’s dedication to leadership, charitable giving and, volunteerism.  This is a generation of leaders who are shaping the future of our Jewish community.  Individually they make an impact; together they will change the world.

At this second annual event, Impact DC’s hundreds of attendees will have the opportunity to show how they make an impact in the community and will network and engage with other young adults who are making a difference in the Greater Washington area’s Jewish community.

Impact DC Co-Chair Andrew Friedson said, “An effective Jewish Federation is integral to a thriving Jewish community, and engaging young leadership is key to sustaining that strength. I’m honored to co-chair this event to celebrate our generation’s impact on the community today and to inspire continued and increased involvement tomorrow.”

“Impact DC serves as a platform to showcase our generation’s young leaders who are passionate about leaving a strong Jewish legacy. As co-chair, my hope is that through this year’s event, which will be held at the historic and newly renovated Howard Theatre, Federation will be able to embrace and inspire Jewish professionals with fresh ideas looking to strengthen their connection to our community,”  stated Impact DC Co-Chair Ariana Heideman.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington cares for those in need, deepens engagement in Jewish life and strengthens the bonds among Jews in the Greater Washington area, in Israel and around the world. With more than 42 local partner agencies, The Federation offers opportunities to make an impact in our community – whatever inspires you, the Federation has a program to help you make the world a better place.

Impact DC Co-Chair Jessica Sher concludes, “November 15th will be a night to celebrate what we, as a community of Jewish young professionals, have accomplished so far and challenge one another to continue to make an even greater impact. IMPACT DC recognizes those in our community committed to building a vibrant Jewish community through philanthropy.”

Minyan of Thinkers and the ConnectGens Fellowship

The deadline to apply for the 2013 ConnectGens Fellowship, powered by PresenTense, is Sunday, November 4th.  To learn more about getting involved as a Fellow, mentor or coach, attend the ConnectGens Fellowship Open House on October 24th at 7pm.  For more details about the Open House or to apply online visit www.shalomdc.org/fellowship.

A piece of paper with some ideas jotted down: that’s a scrap of paper.  Too many scraps of paper you’re bound to lose some.  To keep your ideas organized you need a notepad.  And when you want to feel like your ideas matter, you put that notepad in a portfolio.  That’s the symbolism of the new portfolio The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington gave me as part of the ConnectGens fellowship.  It’s symbolizes what the ConnectGens fellowship did for my ideas. And for me.

And I definitely have some ideas.  Crazy ideas.  That being a part of a faith community does not mean leaving your brain at the door.  That we can be logically consistent in everything we do.  That we can say prayers we mean, and practice rituals in a way that makes sense in our contemporary lives.  That challenging our religious traditions and practices through genuine intellectual inquiry only makes our community stronger.

I have been thinking these ideas for a long time now, and a lot of scraps of paper accumulated over the years.  I want to create a community of Jewish thinkers who could have critical, thoughtful discussions about major contemporary Jewish issues such as rationality and faith, intermarriage and assimilation, Jewish rituals and modernity, spirituality and Jewish prayer, Zionism and liberalism.  The community could confer on inter-denominational harmony, halachah and feminism, Israel as a Jewish state, the inclusivity vs. exclusivity of kashrut, etc.  I am calling it the Minyan of Thinkers.  A traditional minyan harnesses the power of ten individuals for Jewish public prayer.  I want to harness the brainpower of ten bright, young Jews in the DC area to dialogue on a monthly basis about our community’s challenging issues.  We will write reflection pieces that synthesize our arguments for others to use as a way to approach a topic they might otherwise find too overwhelming, complex, or contentious.

One year ago these were just ideas on scraps of paper.  Being a part of the ConnectGens fellowship gave me a system of resources and support to turn those ideas into a reality.  The resources and support came in many forms.  First, the fellowship gave me a group of peers who were also committed to using their entrepreneurial spirit to give back to the Jewish community.  They are all very special to me, and I enjoyed being on this journey with them.  Second, I was matched with a caring, creative mentor, Esther Safron Foer, who took time to guide me along the way and help me refine my vision for the group.  PresenTense also matched me with a sharp, business-savvy coach, Jeff Chod, who helped me come up with an executable plan of attack for every task related to the minyan.  I am incredibly grateful for their encouragement and guidance as the Minyan of Thinkers came into existence.  Third, the leadership team from PresenTense and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington taught me an unbelievable amount about starting a business and making it grow.  The fellowship was really a jump start to my venture; I went from having an idea to having a name, website, logo, business cards, business plan, etc.  This was my first experience with both PresenTense as an organization and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and I made meaningful connections with the leadership team from both organizations.  They are good people as well as being competent professionals.

Being a part of the fellowship affirmed that my voice matters and my ideas can make a positive difference in our community.  At launch night this year, each of the fellows received a portfolio but I did not think about the symbolism until today.  It is not a perfect analogy, but I think it makes my point.  I really appreciate the new portfolio, and everything that came along with it.

 

 

I Scream, You Scream, the DC Jewish Community Screams for Ice Cream

Forget ice breakers.  The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington held a networking event with ice cream breakers on Wednesday, November 16.

JFGW’s The Network Event brought 300 business and civic leaders together to celebrate our DC Jewish community.  It featured a keynote by Jerry Greenfeld, of Ben & Jerry’s fame, who shared his company’s business philosophy and story.  Two friends that grew up together, took a risk to start a small business, and have turned it into a $300M enterprise.  This corporation that serves desserts has certainly sweetened communities.

The Federation sure knows how to throw a great party — offering ice cream as both an appetizer and as a dessert.  I like the way they think!

Coming into this week, I was excited for The Network Event for more than Cherry Garcia and Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream.  Last year, I attended The Network Kick-off and it was the best DC Jewish event I’ve ever been to.  This year held up that same level of energy and excitement.  The event connects generations and makes connections in our Jewish community — like the ConnectGens program some friends and I helped found last year after returning from the Birthright Leadership Mission.  Before Jerry shared his remarks, it was great seeing Nathan Bortnick up on the stage highlighting the ConnectGens Fellowship powered by Presentense (NOTE — Applications are still available to become a part of this exciting program!).  Eva, Nate, and the steering committee are doing a great job and I’m excited about becoming a coach for the program.

The Network brings us together — no matter whether we’re a young or established professional, secular or orthodox, MD/VA/DCer, etc.  It introduced me to a new business partner, mentor, and friend in Bob London.  It helped make me a GTJ Guy of the Week.  And over the last year, it has helped inspire me to continue to stay involved by hearing stories from some incredible speakers: such as David Falk (Michael Jordan’s agent), the Ambassador of Morrocco, Bill Kristol from the Weekly Standard, a co-founder of sweetgreen, and IDF officers who have transitioned from the battlefield to the boardroom.

JFGW’s The Network program has many more great events scheduled for 2012 including Lunch and Learns with the Co-founder and Managing Director of The Carlye Group, the President of The Economist Group, President of Hillel International, and the Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition.  I hope to see you there!

If you missed out on The Network Event, check out the photos below or at this page. If you’re interested in getting involved, let me know or visit www.shalomdc.org/TheNetwork.

Jerry Greenfeld speaks to DC area Jews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry Greenfeld with event organizer Eva Davis and former Jewish Guy of the Week, Spencer Gerrol

GTJ's President Stephen Richer, Guy of the Year Uri Manor, and Executive Director Aaron Wolff