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Jewish, Under 40, and Love Theater? Join the Club.

In the movie “Mean Girls, new kid Cady Heron has to navigate the complex, fragmented society that is her high school cafeteria. Each table is filled with new faces, representative of different clubs and cliques. None of them invites her to sit. Rejected and lost, she eats lunch alone in a bathroom stall—which we can all agree is both disgusting and sad.

Spoiler alert: Cady soon finds her people, or rather, they find her. Which, happens to be exactly what GatherDC and its Open Doors Fellowship aims to do.

I was a member of the spring 2017 Open Doors Fellowship cohort, a group of self proclaimed “people persons” who love building connections and community, especially in a Jewish context. We spent months reaching out to newcomers and not-so-newcomers to DC, buying coffees, and schmoozing our way through GatherDC happy hours. [Editor’s note: applications are NOW open for the 2018 Open Doors Fellowship.]

At the end of the program, each fellow organized a capstone project. The goal was to create a space for Jewish community, though the events didn’t have to be explicitly Jewish or religiously oriented. For example, a previous Open Doors Fellow started the popular Jews on Bikes group. A member of my cohort hosted a “Vodka, Babka, and Board Games” Shabbat dinner.

As a theater lover, I often find myself interested in watching local productions, without any idea who to see them with. I’ve been to a few shows solo, but the experience isn’t quite the same as seeing it with friends. Surely, I thought, I can’t be alone here.

For my capstone project, I elected to create a club for Jewish young professionals to attend plays together. I called it Oy The World’s A Stage, and immediately began organizing our first outing. In July, nine of us saw Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass, a psychological drama set in Brooklyn during 1938. As horrors unfolded in Europe, a Jewish couple struggled with morality, health, and marital issues – as well as their own Jewish identity.

The event was a huge success, helped in part by funding from Moishe House Without Walls. Theater is an expensive hobby, which may be why the average audience has more white hairs in it than a home with a Persian cat. Thankfully, numerous DC-area theaters offer discounts for people under 35. Between this option and the beloved “Pay What You Can” nights, theater can be as affordable as your weekend brunch habit.

By creating a space for people to talk about current and upcoming productions, plan outings, and share information on ticket discount programs, I hope to build an accessible and welcoming community for local Jews in their 20’s and 30s to bond over a shared love of theater.

Members don’t need to be new to town—I’ve been in DC for nearly a decade. They also don’t have to be Jewish or under 40, though the club was created with that population in mind. For Hanukkah, female “Oy” members went to see “Pajama Game at Arena Stage alongside women over 50. It was our first intergenerational event, evidence that this club need not be an exclusionary venture.

Half a year after creating the “Oy” Facebook group, I found myself at Char Bar with a group of ten “Oy” members, ready and eager to finish dinner and head to The National Theatre for the world premiere of “Mean Girls: The Musical.

It was a sold out performance, and we laughed along with the packed audience as actors threw out classic lines like “She doesn’t even go here!” and cast members turned favorite scenes into songs. We watched as Cady navigated the cafeteria on her first day. From my seat, I imagined “Oy The World’s A Stage” as a table where local Jewish theater lovers can find their people.

We’re already busy planning our next outing, a joint event with Moishe House Bethesda. We’ll be seeing “Everything Is Illuminated at the Edlavtich DCJCC on Thursday, January 11. Oh, and you can totally sit with us! You just have to buy a ticket.

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Editor’s Note: Roundup of upcoming chances to see live theater with new friends.

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About the Author: Lauren Landau (@laurenmlandau) lives in Silver Spring, MD with her roommate and a more-or-less alive houseplant. She is a producer for NPR, where she works on fundraising projects. She was a regular contributor to DCist’s Arts & Entertainment Desk until the publication’s recent demise. When she isn’t thinking about raising money for public radio, she is planning her next weekend getaway or theater outing. Following her participation in Cohort 3 of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, Lauren founded Oy The World’s A Stage, a club for D.C. area Jewish theater lovers in their 20s and 30s.

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

Become an Open Doors Fellow!

The Open Doors Fellowship deepens social connections and provides concierge services for Jewish life in DC to those in their 20s & 30s.

Right now, we’re looking for the next diverse cohort of Jewish connectors!

Apply today.

As an Open Doors Fellow, you will:

  • RetreatPicConnect and build relationships with young Jews across the DC area
  • Build inclusive and welcoming community
  • Create innovative Jewish experiences
  • Explore Jewish DC + further your own Jewish connections
  • Impact the landscape of DC’s Jewish life
  • Receive financial support for your initiatives, personal and professional development, mentorship, skill-building, and more

Here’s what past Fellows had to say about their experience

“The Fellowship allowed me to affect the Jewish Community by encouraging me to listen to the community’s needs, and providing me resources to create positive change.”

“The Open Doors Fellowship helped me remember what I love about my Judaism, as well as learn how to work with others to create a Jewish community that speaks more deeply to more of us.” 

“As fellows, we are hubs of the networks of relationships in the DC Jewish community. It was amazing to see how the connections we help facilitate between individuals in the community could quickly multiply into so many new connections.” 

Benefits of becoming a Fellow:

  • Open Doors FellowshipImmersive training in a retreat setting outside of the city – professional skills, team building, resource mapping, and more
  • Access to human and financial resources to support your relationship and community building
  • Jewish learning opportunities and resources (all backgrounds encouraged to apply!)
  • capstone experience or trip at the conclusion of the Fellowship
  • Follow-through after the Fellowship has concluded

Here’s all it takes:

  • The Fellowship will begin the final week of January 2017 with bi-weekly meetings until May
  • One weekend of immersive training March 24th – 26th
  • Approximately 5 – 6 hours per week including
    • Fellows meetings 2x per month
    • Relationship building with diverse range of young Jewish adults in DC
    • Relationship Management
    • Serve as a Greeters for new arrivals to DC
    • Create personally relevant Jewish initiatives around a topic or issue that matters to your community
APPLY TODAY or share with a friend!

Jewish Mensch of the Week – Josh

1913734_1524321174533721_5696876135623580384_nJackie: What made you initially wary of being featured for Gather the Jews?
Josh: I think every person in our community should be featured by Gather the Jews. There are so many people doing amazing and impressive work our there that should be featured before me. I tend to like to be a behind the scenes guy and do what I do without any public recognition. However, since I got a Jewish Guy of the Week t-shirt before I was every featured on Gather the Jews, I felt compelled to earn the shirt. It would not have been right for me to wear it in public without being featured.

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?
Josh: I came to DC back in August of 2009 to start my year of service with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. I then left for a year to work at The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and then came back to DC once again to work for AVODAH starting in October of 2011.

Jackie: Do you have a favorite story from your work with Housing Unlimited, Inc?
Josh: Anytime I sign a lease with someone who has been on our wait list is a favorite story for me. We have a wait list of over 200 individuals in mental health recovery in need of affordable housing up in Montgomery County. So when I get to hand over the keys to someone who has been homeless or living in substandard housing and see that smile on their face, it reminds me how important and needed the work is that we do.

11704888_781452161855_3791433005746740942_nJackie: Anyone who runs into you knows you are a Bernie Sanders fan. Have you always been politically interested/active?
Josh: I have ever since my failed run for class president my senior year of high school and my political career came to a sudden and tragic end. But in all seriousness I have been politically active since high school. I was a delegate for Howard Dean at my state Democratic caucus where I was the youngest representative from my town. I have participated in environmental protests in front of the Israeli Supreme Court to being interviewed outside of an NRA press conference for holding a ‘Down With The NRA’ sign while trying to get Congress to act on sensible gun reform legislation. These days I focus my political energy on the Bernie Sanders campaign as he resonates with where I stand politically.

Jackie: I hear you have some interesting things in your backpack, what are they?
Josh: I always like to keep myself grounded and remind myself of where I came from. One thing I have is a little pocket blessing on a little fabric scroll that reads, “Seek Peace And Pursue It.” I got that after my year of services with AVODAH. I also have a Morgan Silver Dollar from 1884 that was a graduation gift from my high school shop teacher (yes, we had shop class up in Vermont). And lastly I have a tiny hand stone that is of the world made by Danforth Pewter which I got from the Environmental Studies Department at The University of Vermont. It always reminds me that I have the world in the palm of my hand.

Jackie: You’re involved with a lot of organizations around DC, do you have some recommendations for events that we should be attending this month (January)?
Josh: On January 28th at 7pm I’ll be going to the Masa Israel Journey will be hosting its Winter Shalom U’Lehitraot Party at Moishe House Columbia Heights where Masa Israel Alumni are invited to welcome back recent returnees and send off the next class of Masa Israel participants. Just RSVP to Jenn at Jrheuban@shalomdc.org. And who can forget the Gather the Jews’ January Happy Hour on Tuesday, January 26th at Redline.

Jackie: What is your favorite part of the Open Doors Fellowship so far?
Josh: Meeting all of the people who make up this amazing and dynamic young professional community in Washington, DC. And also Rabbi Aaron Potek’s improv skills and getting to know other amazing people in my cohort. If they have reached out to you for coffee you should definitely take them up on the offer!

IMG_2515Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?
Josh: I’m changing the questions to Jews because I can, right? I would go with my Bubbie who I talk with almost daily. She reminds me of where my family came from and the importance of connecting to Judaism in whatever way is most important to you. I would also be amiss if I did not mention my parents who always taught me that the best things in life aren’t things and to always stand up for what is right.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…
at least one of seven reasons that Jews might be there: National Identity, Spirituality, Jewish Values, Community, Shared Memory, Religious Practice, and Ancestry.