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Jewish Connector of the Week – Tammy!

Jackie: What first brought you to DC? FullSizeRender

Tammy: I first came to DC for undergrad to immerse myself in the politics, cultural events and diversity of the city. I apparently like this city a lot because I’ve been here for almost 9 years?! Being an Arizona girl at heart, I’m not sure I will ever get used to winter, but I love being surrounded by so many opportunities to engage in the community.

Jackie: You currently work as a School Counselor at a DC Public School. Can you tell us a little bit about your work? 

Tammy: Sure, I work at a preschool-8th grade education campus. When I say I’m a school counselor, many people assume I work with high schoolers. They are so intrigued to learn that my main focus is advocating for the youngest students. Yes, many of us didn’t have school counselors in elementary school, but my position was created to serve some of the neediest students in the district. Besides meeting with students individually and in groups to improve self regulation, social skills and academic achievement, I’ve helped create programs such as the school’s inaugural career day and an elite scholar’s program. I also took some students who were too young to actually attend a scheduled college tour to college for a visit!

Jackie: I hear you like cooking with CSA ingredients in your free time. What’s your favorite dish to cook? 

Tammy: Yes, I had a CSA during the summer months. I loved being creative with whatever fruits and vegetables came in the share and adding fresh garlic or spicy peppers to almost anything. (My least favorite dish I made was a bitter melon stir fry).

Jackie: Do you have a favorite Jewish food? 

Tammy: My favorite food would have to be matzo ball soup on a cold day. Also, anything with tehini! I just bought tehini and made hummus and (gluten free) tehini cookies. I also love being creative with food. Last Rosh Hashanah, I made a charoset ice cream!

Jackie: You’re an Open Doors Fellow for Gather the Jews. What is your favorite part of the Fellowship so far?

Tammy: My favorite part of the fellowship has been meeting various people around the city. I have loved rediscovering different events, neighborhoods and groups through of lense of making these spaces more welcoming for all. I have also enjoyed getting to know the other fellows, spending our Tuesday evenings discussing how to make the DC Jewish community a smaller, more connected, more inclusive space for the unaffiliated to the most observant.

Jackie: What else do you like to do in your free time?

Tammy: I have joined an intramural basketball team and I like  to flamenco dance. After a long day I enjoy a good workout and  de-stressing in the steam room.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat? 

Tammy: My favorite Shabbat would be spent in Israel, walking around the shuk and buying fresh ingredients and the best rugelach in the world. I love how it seems like the whole world stops for 24 hours in Jerusalem and you are “forced” to relax and be mindful for a day. Since that hasn’t happened in a few years, a close 2nd would be spending Shabbat with friends in DC in a smaller setting. Anything that involves good friends, good food and some relaxation.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…a Jewish geography game and twice as much as necessary 🙂

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!

Do Good this Chanukah and Winter Season: Ways to Give Back

Know of more opportunities to help out in DC this season?  Or looking to organize a group to do service together? E-mail RGildiner@gatherdc.org. 

images-2In this season of Chanukah, winter cheer, and rededicating ourselves to what we care most about, here are some ways to consider giving back to those who could use some warmth, kindness, and extra blessings in their own lives:

Coats for Kids:  Help provide new winter coats to more than 6,500 children from (30) thirty local charities and community organizations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 

Volunteer on Christmas Day:   NOVA Tribe Series is working with The Holiday Project this year and visiting patients at the Washington Hospital Center in DC. We will sing songs, pass out presents, and visit with patients.

D25: Join the DCJCC Day of Service on Christmas Day. Projects range from 2-4 hours in length and include serving meals, preparing food for the homeless, visiting seniors, painting and throwing Christmas parties.

Donate Blood and Give the Gift of Life:  There is always a need for blood and platelet donations, but there is an increase during the holiday season.  Find the closest donation site to give or to volunteer your time.

JScreen: JScreen at Emory University is a public health initiative dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases through carrier screening.

MLK DayAs the DC Commission on National and Community Service and the Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism, Serve DC commemorates the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service each year by supporting and promoting service and civic engagement across the city.

House of Ruth:  Make a financial contribution to help end homelessness and life-long abuse.

Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse:  Help support victims of domestic abuse to become empowered and obtain safe environments. 

Eat and Party!:  Check out these culinary organizations and benefit parties that do good in their community:

Sunflower Bakery: They prepare individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities for employment in baking and related industries through skilled, on-the-job training.

Falafel Frenzy: Proceeds of the event will go to support hunger action programs, local Holocaust survivors living below the poverty line and many other community programs through the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Know of more opportunities to help out in DC this season?  Or looking to organize a group to do service together? E-mail RGildiner@gatherdc.org. 

Press Release: GTJ named by Slingshot as one of Most Innovative DC Jewish Non-Profits!

GATHER THE JEWS (GTJ) NAMED ONE OF WASHINGTON, DC’S MOST INNOVATIVE JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS 

Slingshot Guide Highlights the Best of the Thriving Jewish Nonprofit World

Washington, DC – Gather the Jews (GTJ) has been named one of 18 leading Jewish organizations in the Greater Washington, DC area in the first-ever DC Edition of Slingshot: A Resource Guide for Jewish Innovation. The DC Edition was released today, alongside the tenth annual Slingshot Guide (Slingshot 2014-15), a Midwest Edition, and a supplement highlighting Jewish organizations that impact the lives of women and girls. The Slingshot DC Edition will help the selected organizations carry out their missions, as well as expand the resources available to volunteers, activists and donors looking for new opportunities and projects. 

More than 100 professionals with expertise in grant-making and Jewish communal life reviewed a competitive pool of proposals in order for to select the Slingshot to select the recipients. The DC Guide praises Gather the Jews: “With no denominational or political agenda, GTJ has emerged as the agreed-upon atlas for the DC Jewish community.” Organizations included in this year’s Washington, DC Edition were evaluated on their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results. 

“Gather the Jews is honored to be among the 18 organizations included in this brand new edition,” said Rachel Gildiner, Gather the Jews’ new director. “The organizations highlighted in Slingshot’s Washington, DC Edition represent the many ways that Jewish life in DC is thriving. Gather the Jews, which began as a local grassroots effort and maintains its grassroots mission, is thrilled that Slingshot has chosen to highlight the amazing work of organizations in the Washington, DC area. We are proud to now be part of the community of innovative organizations that have benefited from the Slingshot Guide over the last ten years.” 

The DC Edition was supported through a generous partnership with the Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies.  Simone Friedman Rones, Executive Director of the Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies, said, “One of our goals was to highlight the exciting Jewish projects happening here in the Washington, DC region. Without a doubt, DC is one of the centers of gravity for Jewish innovation. The Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies is providing a grant for every program in the guide this year, and our hope is that our friends in the community will join us in supporting those programs that speak to them.” 

To increase the impact of the Guide, the Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies is sponsoring several launch events in Washington, DC. These events, happening October 19th to October 22nd, engage DC area Jewish professionals, college students, and young adults in workshops about innovation and philanthropy. Event participants will have the opportunity to allocate grants of approximately $500-$1,000 to organizations featured in the Washington, DC edition of Slingshot.

Julie Finkelstein, Associate Director of Slingshot, said, “While innovative organizations based in DC have been listed in the national Slingshot guide before, we are excited to publish a resource that better demonstrates the depth and breadth of DC’s Jewish innovation. Our upcoming events are a way to engage the many stakeholders in DC Jewish life that may not yet know about the amazing things happening in the community.”   

Being listed in the Guide is often a critical step for organizations to attain funding and expand their work. Selected organizations are eligible for grants from various DC-based networks of young donors. These donors, who represent the next generation of philanthropists, are focused on identifying and advancing causes that resonate with their peers. The Guide is a frequently used resource for donors seeking to support organizations transforming the world in novel and interesting ways.

About the Slingshot Guide

The Slingshot Guide, now in its tenth year, was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios to include the most innovative and effective organizations, programs and projects in North America. The Guide contains information about each organization’s origin, mission, strategy, impact and budget, as well as details about its unique character. The Slingshot Guide has proven to be a catalyst for next generation funding and offers a telling snapshot of shifting trends in North America’s Jewish community – and how nonprofits are meeting new needs and reaching new audiences. The book, published annually, is available in hard copy and as a free download at www.slingshotfund.org.

About Gather the Jews

Gather the Jews (GTJ) facilitates Jewish life in Washington, DC for singles and couples (in their 20s and 30s) by serving as a portal for up-to-date and accurate information about the city’s robust offerings of Jewish social, religious, and learning opportunities. GTJ connects Jews to organizations, organizations to Jews, and Jews to one another. GTJ has been the preeminent resource for young adults seeking a connection to DC Jewish life through information provided on its website, a 4,500+ person listserv, and monthly happy hours. GTJ emphasizes its role as a resource and partner to communal organizations and individuals.  

This year, GTJ will usher in a bold new phase for DC Jewish young adults by creating a relationship-based model to enable individuals to further explore their Jewish connections and create community within the robust offerings of DC. Using relationship-based engagement, GTJ will expand its platform through which individuals can connect to each other, connect with Jewish institutions, and create their own Jewish lives based on personal interests and desires. GTJ will provide high-quality training and professional development for young Jewish adults, with the intention of enhancing the social fabric of Jewish life in DC and helping DC become an exceptionally dynamic and inclusive city for Jewish life.   

Gathering Voices: Free Coffee for a Sweet New Year

rosh hashanahDear Friends,

From Gather the Jews (GTJ), I wish you a happy, healthy and sweet new year ahead.  May it be filled with good friends, personal growth, and new DC adventures!

And I hope GTJ can be a part of it.

To start the Jewish new year with some extra sweetness, let me treat you to a new years coffee on me in your neighborhood!  Just e-mail me at RGildiner@GathertheJews.com or sign up HERE.  Feel free to sign up with friends as a group, too.

As part of GTJ’s listening tour (Gathering Voices), I am excited to meet you, hear your story, and learn from your DC experiences.  I hope you’ll add your voice to these conversations!

Warmly,
Rachel Gildiner at Gather the Jews

10 Reasons Why You Should Come to the Gather the Jews April Happy Hour

jtgThe GTJ April Happy Hour is on April 29th from 6 to 9 pm at Penn Social. RSVP on Facebook today! Check out photos from the last happy hour here.

10. Awesome drink specials!

9. We’re raffling off a $50 Amazon gift card.

8. The last happy hour had 450 Jews– a GTJ record!

7. You might see some of Brian F.’s 21 People that You’ll meet at a Jewish Happy Hour.

6. The cover goes towards supporting your favorite hyperlocal Jewish news source (we can’t gather without your support!).

5. What else do you have to do on Monday night when it’s not football season?

4. You’ll have a chance to meet other Jewish Young Professionals.

3. You can vote for the new Jewish Guy and Girl of the Year!

2. Penn Social is located only a few blocks from all five metro lines, so it’s easy to get to.

1. It’s going to be amazing!

See you there!

See you there!

 

On this fateful day in history…

The one, the only, the WOLFF… … Photo courtesy of … Aaron Wolff’s camera.

On this fateful day in history…

No.  We’re not talking about Tisha B’Av.

We’re talking about one of DC Jewry’s finest who turned 28 today.

Some of you know him as “the man with the hat.”  Some of you know him as “The WOLFF.”  And some of you know him as the far most handsome of the Gather the Jews cofounders (true).  A quaint few know him as Aaron.

But even if you don’t know him that well, know that Aaron works tirelessly to make the Jewish community of Washington, DC a better place.  Seriously.  Aaron has a very full time job, but in addition to this, he puts in loads of hours into to the GTJ project for zero financial gain.

To thank him for his hundreds of hours of community service, I suggested that we all pitch in and buy him his finest fedora yet.

But he told him he would prefer thanks be given to him through Gather the Jews.  So if you want to show Aaron a little bit of love, either:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AARON!!!!!

 

 

Jewish Guy of the Week – RJ

Your Facebook profile says “RJ Matt Brodsky”…  Is Matt your real first name and RJ a nickname?  What’s the deal?  I’ve always wondered…
Good question and one I’m frequently asked. My real first name is Matthew but really, only my Mother calls me that and usually, because I did something wrong. “RJ” is a nickname a friend gave to me when I switched schools when I was younger. He thought it would be amusing to introduce me as “RJ” instead of “Matt” and so the nickname stuck with me. Or, at least that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Funny thing is when I was living in Israel, many Israelis had trouble pronouncing it because there is no “J” sound in Hebrew. They would pronounce it as a Yud instead and call me Aryeh, which means “lion” in Hebrew. And yes, I still have met people in the U.S. who will ask me how to spell my name. In most cases, my inner-smartass can’t resist answering it’s “Are-Jay.”


As long we’re talking about names, the name of your band — “Paul Pfau & The Dimestore Band” — also confuses me.  Explain?
As a band, Dimestore has been around for several years and there have been many versions of the band before this line-up. Paul came along after the last lead singer spontaneously combusted and the rest is history. With his writing, singing, and playing capabilities, we have a newer sound. We are also called, “PPDB” or “Dimestore” for short, but Paul has really brought the band to the next level. Come see a show and you’ll understand why.

How did you get involved with the band?  How long have you been playing keyboard?
Interestingly enough, the story of how I became involved in the band revolves around the Jewish community here. Over a year ago, I met Amy, Stacy, and Becky at a young professional BBQ at Adas Israel. We quickly became great friends and that summer we ended up going to most of the Screen on the Green movies. On one of those Mondays, I went to pick up Amy and she had invited another friend, Michael, to join. She introduced me to him and he mentioned that he played the electric cello for an original funk rock band. I told him that I play the keys and used to sing for an original funk rock band. They were looking for keys; I was looking for artistic expression. The fit was natural.

I’ve been playing keyboards since I was around nine or ten years old. Like many kids, my parents had me taking violin lessons from first through third grade but I didn’t enjoy it. We took a family trip—my first trip to DC—when I was probably around eight years old. As I recall, we ended up staying at the Marriott in Woodley Park in a suite that happened to have a piano. I remember plucking out some notes and deciding then that the piano was meant to be my instrument. I played professionally for many years after college where I double-majored in Music Marketing and Middle Eastern Studies.

Tell us about some of the stuff the band has coming up.
This has been an unbelievable summer for us musically and we have had and continue to have a tremendous amount going on. On Thursday, August 25, we are returning to play at the 9:30 Club for the second month in a row. That is an honor by itself as the venue has recently been rated as one of the most influential clubs in America. But this Thursday show is the finals in California Tortilla’s Battle to Break Out. Our band is in the final three from a wide pool of talent from DC, Maryland, and Virginia. There will be judges there and the winner will play at this year’s HFStival in September at the Merriweather Post Pavillion. So it will be a huge night for us, win or lose. We could use all the support we can get from our fans so I hope to see many people there. We are playing at 9pm. Also, the following Friday, September 2, we are having our CD release show for our new album, “7” at the Rock & Roll Hotel. We continue to tour the region on weekends and still have several outdoor festivals coming up where we are headlining. The most up to date information is on our website at www.funkyrockandroll.com

Remember how we all had to choose personal theme songs for our high school graduation publications?  I (Stephen) chose “Damn It Feels Good To Be a Gangster.”  Fitting.  As a musician, is it something you take a bit more seriously?  What are some of the songs that have best described you over the past few years?  YouTube links please!
Hmmmmmm. I’m having visions of that super cheesy pseudo-uplifting song from the original Karate Kid. I think it was called, “You’re the Best Around,” by Joe Esposito. Okay, not really—but that was an insanely bad song that would get stuck in my mind for hours. In fact, I think new kinds of cheese were invented just to describe that tune. Back then, anything from U2 was getting heavy play on my stereo in addition to REM—hmmmm, I think I’m starting to see a pattern pertaining to my apparent love of abbreviations. As far as songs that best describe me? That’s a tough call. I have written many songs over the years so they all describe me better than anything commercially available on the radio. And sometimes words can get in the way of music that genuinely expresses something real and deep.

You write songs too?!  Do you want to write GTJ’s theme song?  What would it be like?
Yes, I am a songwriter as well. A GTJ theme song? Count me in. Off the top of my head I’m hearing something over the top—a positive harmonic convergence like the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it Be Nice.” There are many directions we could go here. I’d be happy to explore.

When you’re not rocking out, you work for the Jewish Policy Center, correct?  What goes on there and what do you do?|
Ah yes. I definitely have two sides. I am the director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center. It is a 501(c)3 think tank that focuses primarily on the Middle East and issues of great importance to the Jewish community. I write op-eds, give speeches, talk to important people, and generally seek to positively affect U.S. foreign policy. Our organization has a journal, inFOCUS Quarterly, that I edit with brilliant contributors. Our upcoming issue is on the current Palestinian push for a unilateral declaration of statehood. We also have had the Palestinian Rocket Report and that will soon be expanded into GazaWatch, a program spearheaded by Samara G. And we have conferences and forums across the country. Our next one is on September 8th in New York. Michael Medved is the moderator and Ari Fleischer, Donald Rumsfeld, and Michael Mukasey will be on the panel. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting panel or event within several days of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

Ok.  Top three issues facing Israel today are:
1) The “Arab Spring.” No one knows how this will turn out and each Arab state is different. History will record how monumental these events are. Getting this wrong would be devastating to American and Jewish interests.

2) While the “Arab Spring” is unfolding and we hope it doesn’t become winter, Iran is still pursuing a nuclear program and developing the missiles to deliver it as a weapon. The regime in Tehran doesn’t mix words when they say that they would prefer that Israel not exist. This issue should be #1 but events on the ground have shifted our attention. At the moment, Iran is bolstering the Asad regime in Syria as they slaughter their own citizens, and they together control Hezbollah in Lebanon. At the same time, they support Hamas in Gaza. There may be many sides in the Middle East, but a region where Khameni from Iran, Asad from Syria, Nasrallah from Lebanon/Hezbollah, and Haniyeh or Mishal from Hamas are making gains is bad for the U.S. and very bad for Jewish people.

3) This one is equally important. The Jewish identification with Israel has been fading. Israel is the center of Judaism. Rebuilding Jerusalem is central in Jewish prayer. You can’t Bench or do the Birkat Ha’Mazon, without paying homage to the Jewish center in Jerusalem or recalling the Exodus from Egypt to Israel. This should be central but it fades for many reasons. As young professionals, we are not our parents’ or grandparents’ generation. We are not the Holocaust generation. We appear comfortable in the United States—as we should anywhere as Jews. But governments, people, and many organizations think Israel should not exist at all, and the slope has proven slippery when it comes to the line between anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic. There is no shortage of pet-causes to support. Today, it is fashionable to bash Israel. American Jews don’t know enough history to respond in campuses across the United States. I don’t think young professional Jews in the United States fully appreciate how hard it was for them to have this opportunity. This was never a given. As Jews we should appreciate this. That’s why I love programs like Birthright Israel or summer camps such as Ramah, or GTJ. I say, Gather the Jews! Let’s talk; let’s bond; let’s reflect; let’s go on.

Ok.  Top three issues facing you today are:
I see.

So is one of these personal questions here where I’m supposed to tear up?

I really love where I am at in life and I see the future as endless possibilities. I’m not sure if ‘issues’ best describes what I’m facing but every day I wake up and think “how can I affect Jewish thinking?” I also think, “how can I reach someone through music and connect through art?”   I’m also looking for a special woman that is so unbelievably cool, rare, honest, beautiful, loving, that I would marry her. I suppose websites were invented for this task. I guess I want it all.

My eyes are open.

If you could change one thing about the young professional DC Jewish community, it would be:?
It would be that new arrivals to the DC area would stay longer. At the same time, there is a constant influx of new young professional Jews, and it seems that just as many are leaving.  Only three years have passed but I’m feeling the roots are already established.

As far as changing anything else in the Jewish community? I have honestly not been a part of a better, more widespread, and diverse Jewish community in any place I’ve lived. When I moved here in August of 2008, I didn’t know anyone. I went to young Jewish professional events to meet people. I’ve met some of my best friends by doing this.

I really see DC as a model for other cities. It’s a big community here. Look at New York. Very many Jews, but the Jewish identity aspect loses out. In DC there are so many options. I wouldn’t change much about the young Jewish professional DC Jewish community. I would simply say, gather more Jews more frequently.

Let’s build this community!

 

GTJ idea competition

Gather the Jews invites you to participate in its first ever IDEA COMPETITION.

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The competition prompt is simple:  Improve Gather the Jews.

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Gather the Jews aims to facilitate Judaism as an event aggregator, news service, and social rallying point for young professional Jews in DC.

We’ve had some success in doing this.  Over 2,000 young professional DC Jews subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and our website receives 3,000 visitors per week.

But we want to keep growing and improving.  And that’s why we’re asking for your help.

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What you must do to compete:

To help us, please submit an idea for how GTJ can improve.  Your entry should be fewer than 200 words and must be submitted by Wednesday, September 7 at 11:59 PM EST.   You can submit as many ideas as you like.

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The prize:

The winning idea will receive $100.  The second and third best ideas will get $50 each.

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The judging process:

All ideas will be reviewed by a committee of GTJ staff members.  Ideas will be judged based on:

1)      Their ability to improve GTJ
2)      Their ability to help the Jewish DC community
3)      The ease with which they can implemented
4)      The cost (lower the better) with which they can be implemented

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The GTJ committee will select the best five ideas by September 21.

These five ideas will then be posted on the GTJ website and GTJ viewers will be given one week to vote on their favorite idea.  Final standings will be determined based on number of votes.

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Submit your idea: Email info@gatherdc.org