Posts

Community Gone Missing

community

The line I hear most when getting coffee with Jewish 20s and 30s around the city is: “I want to get more involved in the Jewish community.”

Let’s set aside, for now, the disquieting reality that “the Jewish community” doesn’t exist. Our organization’s name, Gather the Jews, might fuel this misconception by implying that there is a central place where ALL the Jews gather – spoiler alert: there isn’t. (If you’re interested in reading more about a variety of issues related to “the Jewish community,” check out the most recent issue of Sh’ma Now, for which I wrote the introductory essay.) And let’s also shelve the questions of what “getting involved” in a Jewish community looks like and why that is so important to Jews.

Before we can have those important conversations, we first need to address a more basic issue that is not unique to being Jewish: We have lost the concept of community. So what is a community? I’ve heard the word used to describe people at a concert, a yoga class, a local coffee shop, and fellow commuters on the Metro. When it is used to describe any gathering of people, it loses its meaning and we lose the aspiration to belong to one.

Parker Palmer, the Quaker elder and activist, recently shared: “I went to Washington, D.C. and became a community organizer working on issues of racial justice. Five years later, I realized that I was trying to lead people towards something that I had never really experienced for myself, namely community.”

What components are critical to help create an authentic community? I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts, but here are four criteria of mine:

1) A community is more than a feeling – you need to actually communicate with each other, learn about each other holistically, and know what is going on in each others’ lives. That you recognize the same 15 people at your spin class each week is not enough.

2) A community is not limited to a particular time. Of course communities can dissolve, but they don’t form instantly and shouldn’t have a pre-set expiration date. Something that happens once or twice – like High Holiday services – constitutes only an isolated experience or program and is not the basis for an ongoing community.

3) A community is also not limited to a particular place. There needs to be a way for people within the community to encounter each other regularly, and a particular location can help facilitate that. But a community cannot be defined by any one place. Sorry, Birthright bus, but if you don’t stay connected after returning to the States, then that community has ceased to exist.

4) A community is more than a group of friends – it brings people together for a larger purpose. That purpose can be artistic, political, or intellectual (to name a few) but it must be more than social.

Few of us, if any, have experienced a community that meets all of these criteria. These types of communities are hard to find and difficult to build. But our tendency to put the label community on any gathering of people might reflect a desire to belong to something deeper. And acknowledging this need might provide us with the motivation to start exploring ways to fulfill it.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization Gather the Jews, the Gather the Jews staff, the Gather the Jews board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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!

Diverse Experiences bring Diverse Rewards

tiffanyI was honored to be a member of the first cohort of Fellows in Gather The Jews Open Doors Fellowship. Getting to know the other Fellows was rewarding and it was clear that Gather put an incredible amount of time and effort into finding a diverse body of driven young professionals. I feel very active and connected within DC’s Jewish community, so I was surprised that all of the other Fellows were new faces whom would become new friends!

Going on coffee dates also exposed me to new community members. I felt very special to be among the first people that a person first arriving in DC would meet. The coffee dates also helped me discover not just the special nuances in our community, but also some of the needs and shortcomings. I was able to plan and implement a unique project that will have a positive effect on the lives of Jewish community members in DC and around the U.S.

I gained a number of skills through this experience, but if I had to pinpoint one skill, it would be the experience I gained planning a large Jewish event for a diverse audience. As part of my capstone project I brought an Asian Jewish scholar to speak at an event at a federal agency. The event was a success, but took months of planning and coordination. Gather provided support from start to finish and I feel confident that I can plan other similar informative events in the future remembering the leadership training, guidance, and advice given to me from Gather the Jews!

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.

___________________________________

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.


unnamed

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.

Going the Distance for PresenTense

andRunning is an entrepreneurial sport.  You do not need a whole lot to get started, basically a good pair of shoes and a desire to go the distance.  When you start your race, you cannot see the finish and often are not familiar with the course.  For entrepreneurs, it is not all that different.  They do not start with much more than an idea of where they will end up and the drive to see that idea launched.  There is no set formula to finish, other than stay the course and keep going until the finish line.

PresenTense is one organization that has successfully drawn out the course map for entrepreneurs to take their ideas and run with them.  PresenTense programs provide the framework for passionate people to address communal challenges.  Over 1000 people have been touched directly by the organization and the ventures started as a result have exponentially been able to reach thousands more.  PresenTense itself was just an idea several years ago, and today it is a start-up of good people helping to launch start-ups that do good things.  All the while, PresenTense continues to challenge the conversation around what it means to make social change in communities around the world.

That is why on October 13th, I am running the Chicago Marathon to benefit PresenTense (www.100reasonstowin.com/marathon).  I hope others will join me in supporting the organization.  This race is about raising resources and awareness that will allow PresenTense to continue to position itself as a premier organization for social entrepreneurship and organizational development.  I hope others are inspired, as I have been, to give to PresenTense by donating money, giving their time to support a local program or mustering up the courage to put their idea out there and apply to be a Fellow.

Over 400 innovators (www.presentense.org/fellows) with ventures that benefit their local communities have been a part of a PresenTense Fellowship.  For example, Jill Zenoff of The Gan Project was a PresenTense Fellow in 2012, providing a source for sustainable agriculture in Chicago.  Elizabeth Weingarten from Washington, DC, launched Tribelle in 2013 to help female Israeli artisans gain access to a broader market for selling their Jewelry.  PresenTense has also provided direct support to organizations seeking to awaken the entrepreneurial spirit within their leaders, through consulting, training and partnership.

While working at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, I coordinated the launch of the DC PresenTense Fellowship in 2012.  Currently I train new Fellows, as a PresenTense Social Start Trainer.  I have experienced first-hand how PresenTense programs empower individuals with new ideas for social change to make a difference in their local communities.  PresenTense invests in people: innovators, entrepreneurs, community leaders, educators, and thinkers.  They support and are supported by hundreds of volunteers and community members around the world, and they rely on donations to make those investments possible.

Running has become more than a hobby and piece of my identity. Similarly, PresenTense is more than a job for me.  It informs how I approach challenges in my life and community.  For me, being a runner is about taking steps to get farther and faster in life.  The blood, sweat and tears I put into the sport push me to accomplish more in my day to day life.  PresenTense is offering the same opportunity for passionate people with bright ideas for communal change, and I am willing to go the distance this fall to support it!

To donate to Andy”s Marathon to Benefit PresenTense join him for a Happy Hour at Thomas Foolery this Monday, September 16th from 5:30-8:30 (http://www.gatherdc.org/event/marathon-happy-hour-to-benefit-presentense/)   You can also donate directly atwww.100reasonstowin.com/marathon.

How a Stranger Learned to Welcome the Stranger

Citizenship-Graduates2-1024x719I am a most unlikely representative of the Jewish community. To say the least. I am the child of a Christmas baby. We have five boxes of Santa Claus-esque paraphernalia, gleaned over many decades, that we haul out every year in the same way you probably haul out your great-grandma’s menorah. But of course, we stop short of having a tree… because we’re Jewish. 😉 Once in my student teaching, I was asked to lead a lesson on Hannukah; I turned to the Internet. I never had a Bat Mitzvah. I’m pretty sure I knew more about Ramadan than Yom Kippur growing up…

Yep. Most. Unlikely. Representative.

Needless to say, HIAS did not attract me because it was a Jewish organization. It attracted me because of my shared passion for immigrants, refugees and underrepresented populations who need a voice. And according to the publicity I’d seen for that year’s HIAS Government Advocacy mission, this would provide a new way to explore and express that passion. Could’ve been Catholics, or Baha’i or anyone… just happened to be Jews!

But here I am, more than five years into one of the best—albeit biggest fluke—decisions I’ve ever made: joining HIAS Young Leaders! Five years into retooling my belief of what it means to—and all the different ways one can—be a Jew. Of understanding that it’s social justice, it’s welcoming the stranger, it’s forging friendships with those of my own religion, and it’s the opportunity to stand as one with them in our common ideal that we can, indeed, repair the world. And those beliefs I always held anyway happen to align very naturally with Jewish values in ways I’d never realized. For a basically secular Jew, it’s the first time in my life I’ve discovered such an outlet. (Funny what you find when you’re not even looking for it…)

And thus I have adopted this role as a HIAS Young Leader and embraced it more intensely as time goes on. This has meant opening my mind and taking stock of me. Or, frankly, allowing myself to let go of my own prejudices and perceived alienation from the Judaism I thought I knew and didn’t really like. And my reward has been the kind of inclusion and acceptance of a living, breathing Jewish community that I knew I was supposed to feel allegiance to before, yet never could begin to until now. And for this—my HYL friends and experiences that continue to “evolve” me—I am deeply grateful.

So how exactly does a Christmas-celebrating, disconnected 30-something Jew wander back to her flock?

Largely thanks to some wonderful Latinos. One of the HIAS-inspired activities I’m most proud of is a long-standing relationship with CARECEN (Central American Resource Center), an essentially one-stop-shop for social, legal and educational services for Latinos in DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. Our Young Leaders have been tutoring its ESL/Citizenship class bi-weekly for the last 4 years. Our work with CARECEN is primarily conversation exchange. It is informal but serves a crucial need for students hoping to pass their exams and become more confident in English overall. For many, class is their only chance to learn and practice English. We as native speakers (other than their teachers) allow them to put names and faces to “American culture.” Students are native Spanish-speaking adults, most of whom have been in the US for years. They are hard-working and motivated and appreciate everything we do. (“Me encanta when you come!” one woman declared).

For our part, tutors see in the trenches what it is to have to work for citizenship later in life, and appreciate the mere twist of fate that absolves us of this daunting task ourselves. Those students may appreciate us, but I have the utmost respect for them.

What does this have to do with promoting Judaism in particular? By serving immigrants through a HIAS-inspired endeavor, I directly represent the Jewish community. We make it very clear to the CARECEN population that we are a Jewish community who wants to build a bridge with them. We have hosted cultural exchange parties where kugel and falafel take their rightful places next to pupusas and tamales. The bond is not lost on anyone…

In general, I have the sense I’m personally carrying out a core HIAS (and Jewish) mandate to welcome the stranger. Except that somewhere along the way, these are no longer strangers. They become our friends, our extended community… people we care about and check up on in the weeks we’re not there. Whose accomplishments we celebrate first-hand.

The fact that we make the effort also draws other Jewish organizations to partner with us. A local Jewish fraternity has sent brothers to complete their community service requirement by joining us at CARECEN. In addition, a Jewish philanthropic organization funds us to subsidize the often prohibitive cost of citizenship tests for select students. We are supporting today’s new generation of immigrants as someone supported our grandparents or great-grandparents before us, completing a cycle and paying it forward. And we are the catalyst for connecting Jews to each other. And building bridges and educating non-Jews who tutor with us about Jewish core values. It is completely win-win!

So indeed… for this unlikely representative of the Jews, I have found myself in the place I am most likely to be. Yes, I’m keeping my Santa collection, but at least I’ve started to balance the equation of who I am.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Rachel

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

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Rachel: I was actually born in DC!  I grew up in the DC suburbs- in Potomac, Maryland and attended the Jewish Day School in Rockville.  I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!) and graduated with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.  After graduation, I moved back to DC and landed my dream job as an Online Strategist for a global PR agency.  I am now living in the Dupont area!

Aaron: What’s your favorite thing about the DC Jewish community?
Rachel: My favorite thing about the DC Jewish community is that there are always so many different events to choose from and new people to meet.  Just last week I went to Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill, the Lone Soldier Happy Hour, and the Matisyahu concert.  No matter what your interests are, there are 100+ ways to meet other young Jews in DC.

Aaron: Any Jewish events you recommend?
Rachel: I am on the Communications Membership Committee for 2239.  2239 sponsors events year round for DC-area Jews ages 22-39.  Whether rebuilding a house in Birmingham, Alabama after a massive tornado, sharing Shabbat dinners along pic 3the Metro line, outings to the National’s games, or enjoying Happy Hours- there are plenty of events to choose from!  Everyone should check out the Facebook page and join us anytime.  Next? I’m looking forward to the annual Christmas Eve festivities for young Jews in DC!

Aaron: When was the last time you were in Israel?
Rachel: I’ve been to Israel 4 times in the last 7 years and I can’t wait to go back.  My last visit was in March to celebrate my best friend’s wedding.  She met her husband when he tried to sell her a hair straightener at Tysons Corner- he was living in DC after his IDF service.  You never know when or where you might meet someone!

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Rachel: This is a tough one.  Coolest Jew of the moment is definitely Carly Rose Sonenclar.  Crossing my fingers she wins ‘The X Factor’ this week!

 

How You Can Help with Hurricane Sandy Response

News reports, Facebook posts, and tweets continue to show the havoc Hurricane Sandy left behind.  Individuals and organizations responded to help the victims of the massive and powerful superstorm, which cut a deadly and destructive path across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States.

The storm packed high winds and incredible sea surges as it took lives, downed trees, destroyed property, and cut power to about six million people along the most densely packed portion of the country- including casting a large shadow over New York and New Jersey (my home state).  Recovery is underway.  Progress is slow but steady.  For those of us in the D.C. area, the October Gather the Jews event at Ping Pong Dim Sum is being rescheduled .  But a return to everyday life for those directly impacted by the hurricane will take  time.

B’nai B’rith International, the most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights. and advocacy organization, sprang to action (as did many other groups such as The American Red Cross ) to help as soon as Sandy had passed.

“Even with detailed advance warnings, the destruction Hurricane Sandy has left behind is extraordinary.  B’nai B’rith has helped disaster victims since 1865.  Each disaster we help with has its own unique challenges,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
On Thursday, November 8, B’nai B’rith will host a Hurricane Sandy Fundraiser:  An Evening of Art and the Community to support those in need and complement its Disaster Relief Fund efforts.  Register today!

The program will include a special exhibit and viewing featuring the works of local artists Lisa K. Rosenstein and Lauren Kotkin, who will be there to meet guests and discuss their works.  “Life is chaotic, complex, noisy, and at times painfully full,” says Rosenstein.  Her work uses nothing but white paint and found objects to create a Zen-like space for contemplation.  Kotkin is an artist; she exhibits and volunteers for Artomatic, the annual month-long art festival in D.C.  Also on view will be highlights from B’nai B’rith’s collection of Judaica.

As recovery efforts continue, please consider how you can assist in the hurricane response.  Numerous celebrities and artists performed on November 3 for The American Red Cross and NBCUniversal “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” live  broadcast, raising $23 million,  but you don’t need to be a celebrity or a millionaire to make a difference.  Whether it is making a $10 donation, attending a fundraiser, giving blood, helping a neighbor, or donating clothing or food items to those cold and hungry,  you too can help with the recovery efforts.