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The Oldest New Way to Do Friday Night in DC

OneTablephotox1My partner and I applied to be OneTable hosts in New York when they were first arriving on the scene; we love hosting our friends for dinners and both find that hosting in our home is the most fulfilling way to celebrate Shabbat. Going to a synagogue where we don’t know anyone and leaving immediately after services can feel cold, uninviting, and distant. A home-cooked meal feels like the Shabbats we both knew growing up, however cost and time are both factors that keep us from hosting more often.

After applying to be hosts, we were contacted by Rabbi Jess Minnen to set up an appointment.  We grabbed coffee in midtown and talked about the kind of atmosphere we hoped to create at our first dinner.  We talked about our commitment to ethically-sourced ingredients and intentional conversation.  We don’t serve kosher food or follow observant laws on Shabbat, but we try to bring the intention of mindful food choices and a present attitude to our Fridays.  Jess was very supportive of any way we wanted to observe Shabbat, and told us she was our personal on-call Rabbi if we had any questions! I must admit, the online platform where hosts posted their meals was intimidating at first; I was afraid random New Yorkers would show up at our apartment!  So we decided to attend a few programs and meals before posting out first Shabbat.

We attended a mixology workshop just for hosts where we learned how to make three fun cocktails and discussed the Jewish value of welcoming guests into our home. We also delved into the meaning behind L’Chayim, and spent the night making many toasts. There were great people there who had hosted OneTable Shabbats all over the city.  We talked about how to select attendees, whether to post an event as open, open but password protected, or invite only, and all our fears were alleviated.  We ended up going to a Shabbat at the home of an amazing couple that we met at the mixology event.  Kate and Jason’s Shabbat confirmed that OneTable was right for us.  It felt unlike any awkward Jewish singles mixer I’d been dragged to in the past.  People were there to enjoy the company, appreciate the food and have an engaging Shabbat experience.

We hosted several Shabbats after that, inviting other guests and hosts we had met through the OneTable network along with our friends and family.  I even incorporated values-driven discussions from our OneTable workshops into our events. The “nourishment options” are unlike any of the Shabbat reimbursement programs I’ve used before.  Instead of creating more work for the host by requiring receipts and follow-up reports, OneTable offers a variety of accessible delivery options for busy millennials.  Having groceries or alcohol delivered on my schedule helped alleviate the cost of hosting a large group and at the same time checked one task off my list for the event.  The options OneTable has include apps like Drizzly, Etsy, and Seamless.  It honestly couldn’t be easier to be a Shabbat host.

As newcomers to DC, we’re so happy to introduce OneTable to this community! OneTable has stepped into the home-hosted DIY Shabbat scene in thoughtful ways, effectively creating small communities within big cities. For young Jews who want an in-home Shabbat experience that is DIY and tailored to your taste, OneTable is it.  I especially love that OneTable collaborated with the JCC and Repair the World in New York.  It’s incredible that these organizations are working together to make points of access for everyone’s preference.  I can’t wait until the OneTable community in DC is up and thriving the way it is in New York. I loved scrolling through my list of options for Friday night, and feeling connected to the other hosts in my community every week.  Sign up to host a OneTable Shabbat today, or come to our next meal–we’d love to have you.

 

Shabbat Guide

Something really incredible happened in DC. At some point in the history of Jewish DC, three major organizations in the city who are the primary providers of Shabbat experiences got together. They came up with a Shabbat schedule that does not overlap, allowing young adults to attend the different options in a month without having to choose one over the other. Not only is this an amazing model of Jewish organizational partnership and collaboration (one that doesn’t exist in many other cities), but it also encourages us to experience a different kind of Shabbat each week.

These are four distinct Shabbat experiences, across denominations, in different parts of the city, with different styles of prayers, but all with some social component to help you meet new people. Maybe this month you want to hit up all four, or you are deciding where to spend your first Shabbat in DC. Below we have compiled a run down of these four Shabbat options. They are based on subjective experiences that community members have had at these places and we hope they paint a bit of a picture of what to expect there. (Full disclosure, we know some people enjoy Shabbat services and for others, it’s just not your thing. That is so totally ok and there are lots of other ways to do Shabbat or to do Jewish. We hope the GatherDC website and newsletter can connect you to the full range of Jewish options in the city.) But if you are looking for a Shabbat service and meal option, here is a little guide that can get you started…


shir-delight-newFirst Friday of the Month: Adas YP’s Shir Delight

Where: Adas Israel Congregation in Cleveland Park

On the First Friday of each month, hundreds of Jews gather in Cleveland Park for drinks and services – and it’s not at the Quebec House, an apartment building near Adas Israel that somehow manages to maintain a 50% Jewish population of residents! It is for Shir Delight, Adas Israel’s young professional Shabbat. This predominantly lay-led (no Rabbi’s in the house till the sermon, although recently they’re experimenting with using their awesome rabbis to lead) Conservative service is kicked off with just the thing to loosen you up to a night of praying and eating: a happy hour. With a great selection of beer, wine, hard cider and hors d’oeuvres, you can mingle and make friends or just try to get as much of the crudité on your plate as you can. The service, usually led by one or two of your peers as you journey through Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, flows from one prayer to the other with the only interruption being someone calling out the page numbers to keep everyone on track. After services everyone (all 200+ people) shuffles into dinner where you take your seat and meet your new 8-10 best friends to share a yummy kosher meal. The room is usually still packed with people when they start ushering people out at the end of the night. And for many people, the night doesn’t end once Adas locks the doors; many continue the festivities informally at a local bar in Cleveland Park.

6thintheCityShabbatWEB59-300x215Second Friday of the Month: 6th in the City Shabbat

Location: Sixth & I in Gallery Place

Rabbi Shira Stutman’s 6th in the City Shabbat begins Sixth & I’s consecutive weekend YP Shabbat circuit. Like all of the Shabbat options, we warm up with a drink downstairs where you can leave your jacket and bag because this is also the place you will be having dinner. Also for the yogis out there, you can start your night with Shabbasana™: Pre-Shabbat Yoga that often links the weeks Torah portion to your movements. Your dreams may come true if you happen to be there when Rick Recht is performing Cantor duties. If you haven’t been to this Shabbat yet make sure that you bring a friend who went to a Jewish summer camp that Recht played at and you can see your friend literally lose their mind with excitement during the service. (This is not an actual prerequisite to attend.) Make sure to get up and dance during the Lecha Dodi and always try to go for a spot on the bimah (stage), because some of us haven’t been there since our Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This is an accessible Shabbat experience where Rabbi Shira guides everyone through the evening. After the meal, you can join your fellow congregants downstairs for a meal and some more prayers.

GoodSoulLogoSLIDERThird Friday of the Month: Good Soul Shabbat

Location: Sixth & I in Gallery Place

We have now hit the third Friday of the month and that means jamming in a spiritual sojourn lead by the brave and fearless Rabbi Scott Perlo and the great guy killing it on the drums. This journey also includes a “choose-your-own-adventure” element. You can start your night with either 45 minutes of meditation or a happy hour, whichever will get you in the right spiritual headspace for Shabbat. In this service, they really aren’t kidding with the name. Throughout the service Rabbi Scott continually calls attention to the meaning of the prayers that you might have just been going through the motions of without his guidance. He is usually accompanied by several musicians, which makes this one of the most musically focused of the Shabbat options. And once you are done singing your heart out, you, of course, eat dinner and you can join the jam session if you are so inclined.

2239s-Metro-Minyan---goldFourth Friday of the Month: Metro Minyan hosted by 2239

Location: Calvary Baptist Church in Gallery Place

If you live in Gallery Place, you are in a solid spot for the final Shabbat of the month. Rabbi Aaron Miller leads Metro Minyan (named so because this service takes place off-site of Washington Hebrew Congregation and brings it to a much more metro accessible location). Make sure to get there early for Shot of Torah (named such since there are drinks available) – an interactive round-table discussion in English about the Torah portion of the week, led by the fabulous and enthusiastic Rabbi Miller. You then transition to the service that makes those of you who grew up in Reform temples, summer camps, or youth groups feel right at home – with a guitar, Debbie Friedman tunes, and a Reform prayerbook. In addition to the Shot of Torah before services, two things really make this service special, especially for newbies. Rabbi Aaron asks people to stand up and introduce themselves if you’re attending Metro Minyan for the first time. If you are really shy, there’s no pressure, but it is an opportunity for you to be welcomed by the community. Speaking of first-timers, if you showed up with no one, no problem! At the end of the service, you can find someone on the welcoming committee to sit with and introduce you around. Another great part of the service is the chance to share your Simchas (literally means celebrations, your good news from the last month) and accomplishments with the community. Whether it be big or small this is your chance to share what you have been excited about.


So there you have it – here are four great options for spending your Friday night with the Tribe. It is, after all, the holiest day of the week for our people. I haven’t lived in other major cities but DC seems to have a pretty special and amazing Shabbat culture. And remember, there are many wonderful ways to spend your Shabbat praying or not praying if that’s not how you roll. The four Shabbats mentioned tend to be large (between 100 – 300 people) but there are many smaller scale Shabbat options, independent Shabbat options, pluralistic, vegetarian… the list goes on!

Check out our Shabbat page to learn more.

What are other ways you connect on Friday nights? Share in the comments below!

 

If Traditional Shabbat Just Isn’t Your Thing…

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If a more formal Shabbat experience or service just isn’t your thing but you still want to do something to mark the day, here are some ideas to get you started…

5 alternative approaches to doing Shabbat:

1) Mark the day. The name for each day of the week in Judaism is in relation to Shabbat. Sunday is day one, Monday day two, etc., all the way until day 7 which is just called Shabbat. Shabbat is how Jews mark linear time. Days, weeks and months can all blend together without a regular break. By stopping to acknowledge the passing of a week, we are able to consistently assess our growth. I’ve found that a ritual is the easiest way to do this – whether it’s lighting the candles on Friday night, starting one’s Friday night meal with a blessing over wine, or wearing a different style of clothing. Do something unique at some point during the day to make it distinct.

2) Loosen the reigns. “Life goes wrong when the control of space becomes our sole concern”, writes Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Shabbat is a time to let go and put our illusion of control into perspective. There is a lot of brokenness in ourselves and in the world that needs repair, but stepping back from the role of “fixer” allows us to appreciate the world as it is and to acknowledge the aspects of our lives that are out of our control.

3) Reflect. We’re always busy, especially here in DC – too busy to think and reflect. Shabbat can and should be a time to pull ourselves out of the day-to-day and ask ourselves the bigger questions. It’s a time to focus on what’s important, not what’s urgent. Whether you prefer meditating, journaling, or going on a walk, find 30-45 minutes at some point during the day to set aside the checklist and turn inward.

4) Rest from work. Rabbinic Judaism defines work as any creative act, but feel free to define work in a way that is meaningful to you. It could be the thing you are paid to do, it could be the things that make you stressed out, it could be the things that distract you, etc. Once you have your definition, though, try to commit to refraining from those activities for the full day, or even for a few hours. See what enters your mind when you free it from those concerns.

5) Connect to others. Shabbat is also about being present with others. Many of the laws of Shabbat restrict mobility to keep you close to the people in your community (back then, and for some today, community was mostly determined by geography). Have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone. This could be over a meal, over tea, or just on a couch. It could be a group or just one-on-one. But allow yourself the pleasure of seeing and being seen.

Do you have other ideas or suggestions for how to do Shabbat outside of formal options? Please share them in the comments below!

Shabbat Clusters Revamped: Bonding Over A Friday Night Meal

4385237204_8961b01dca_zA few weeks ago my friend (and neighbor) texted me on Friday and said she wanted to host Shabbat dinner. We decided I would bring the veggies and she would make the main dish and then I got to messaging people to join us. I had to think carefully about who to invite because at the time, Snowzilla was gearing up to take over Arlington and I was not quite sure how people would be able to get to us. I messaged two friends who lived in Clarendon and Ballston, my Jewish and non-Jewish roommate, and an acquaintance who wanted to get involved in the community. After everyone had dusted off their snow boots and sat down at the table, my acquaintance became oh-so-curious as to how everyone knew me, the only common denominator in the room.

We laughed as everyone shared their stories of how we met. One guy friend explained how he thought he was going on a “date” with our mutual friend but wound up crashing my huge Shabbat dinner party. My roommate talked about how she came out to Lox Meets Bagel, a dating event I hosted, looking for a guy and I wound up “picking her up” as she needed to find a place to live and I had a spot open in my apartment. Another guy friend teased me about how we met six years ago at a speed dating event and have kept the friendship going ever since (Anyone else noticing a theme here?)

Was it a little uncomfortable mixing my friend groups and bringing together a room full of strangers? Yes. There were moments of awkward silence, but we quickly bonded over our love of the same TV shows and that most of us did not know the blessing for hand-washing that our host graciously printed out and placed near her bathroom sink. (Wait, there is a hand-washing blessing?) Overall the night was a success- people became friends on Facebook and one person even wanted do a set-up between one of my guests and one of their friends. Snowzilla Shabbat brought this motley crew together for a meal and it got me thinking about the concept of Shabbat Clusters, the program I am currently revamping for work and participated in off and on for the past eight years.

Shabbat Clusters is a program the DCJCC runs twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Each session 150-200 young professionals sign up to be placed in a “Shabbat Cluster,” a group of 10-14 people that come together for monthly potluck style Shabbat dinners. Groups are for singles and couples and are formed based on location, age, and sometimes observance level and interests.

Sometimes the groups became BFFs and other times the groups fizzled after meeting twice. I wondered, did everyone in the room get along at Snowzilla Shabbat because I held the group together? Was it because we had similar interests or knowledge of Shabbat rituals? Maybe because we all lived in the same general neighborhood? Would anyone from the dinner organize a second Shabbat meal without me taking the lead?

One addition to the program this season is a Shabbat Cluster Committee. Each committee member will lead a cluster and help members decide when and where monthly dinners take place. They will make sure the group gels, and help guide dinner conversations when needed. I asked some of our new committee members to tell me more about their experiences with Shabbat Clusters and their thoughts regarding how the Shabbat Clusters program will be different this season.

Stacy: How long have you been involved with Shabbat clusters and why have you continued joining a cluster?

Geno: I’ve honestly lost track of how many clusters I’ve attended.  I think it’s in the 6-7 range.  I mostly keep going because they are fun, a good way to meet new people and make friends.  I’m not very plugged into the Jewish community, so this is a great way to get a foot in that door without a huge commitment.  I’m also single, and Clusters are great ways to meet other Jewish singles without the pressure of being at a dating/singles event.  They are best when you go with a friend, having a wingman never hurts. I am looking forward to being on the committee. In college I was very involved in Hillel, student government, a business fraternity, etc, but since I’ve moved to DC, I haven’t really given much of my time back.  I want to help the program succeed and grow since it’s been a big part of my Jewish identity here in DC.

Stacy: Josh, at the Mid-Season Shabbat Cluster Mixer we talked about your love of biking and you were excited when I told you we were going to be adding interest specific  Shabbat Clusters to our program this year. What aspect of the updated Shabbat Cluster program appeals to you the most?

Josh: I’ve always loved the idea of the Shabbat Clusters program, but none of my clusters have ever really worked out. It seems everyone has their own motivations for joining a Shabbat Cluster. If the cluster itself ceases to align with those expectations or motivations, participants abandon the group rather than attempt to find common ground. In some ways, I believe this is a reflection on the local culture here in Washington, DC. Stereotypically, we are ambitious, outspoken, highly motivated, moderately conceited, and extremely busy, which is a terrible recipe for encouraging any degree of flexibility in a social setting. Introducing very specific “Interest Clusters” is a pragmatic step toward resolving this problem because it establishes a meaningful common ground between the members of each cluster before they even meet for the first time. For example, a Shabbat Cluster catered toward outdoor enthusiasts could include hikers, climbers, cyclists, urban explorers, skiers/snowboarders, laser tag enthusiasts, etc., which means the members have activities they can always fall back on. Perhaps more importantly, hobbies like these are usually indicative of significant lifestyle choices and personality types, which are also likely to improve the chances of creating a meaningful and lasting rapport between participants. Interest Clusters are also then enabled to vary their gatherings and include activities other than or in addition to the actual Shabbat meal.

Stacy: Rachel, we recently met for the first time. I was so impressed with your friendly demeanor and willingness to get involved with the community that I invited you to be a part of not one, but two EntryPointDC programs (Rachel and other comedians with perform stand-up and improv at our Kiss and Kvell comedy show)  Why did you want to sign up for Shabbat Clusters program and join the Shabbat Cluster committee?

Rachel: I believe there is no better way to get to know people than over food! I grew up with weekly Shabbat dinners, and can’t wait to share this tradition with new friends.  I’m looking forward to meeting people I otherwise wouldn’t and I can’t wait to learn more about the DC Jewish Community since I recently graduated from school.

Stacy: Sarah, an option for Shabbat Clusters is to be part of a singles or couples cluster.  This year you signed up for clusters with your boyfriend. Tell me about why you wanted him to be involved in the program with you.

Sarah: My boyfriend and I signed up together so we can participate in an activity we can share. It’s always awesome when we find something we both want to do. Who doesn’t like potlucks and schmoozing?  Also, we will both be meeting new couples through the cluster, which is great. I’m looking forward to being on the committee and hoping I can help to keep our cluster motivated and active for the whole session.

You can learn more about Shabbat Clusters on the EntryPointDC website and register. Registration closes March 4th. The cluster season begins with a Kick-off Shabbat Dinner for all participants on Friday, March 11th at the DCJCC.

Featured image and article image taken from flikr.

Monthly Mussar: The Limits of Gratitude

Gather writer Joelle has been exploring different Mussar Principles. These Jewish Principles are based on finding and cultivating the characteristics of the divine that are imbued within ourselves with the goal of eventually projecting them outward, to reach our fullest potential, as we were created to by the divine. For each trait, there is a spectrum, and the goal is to find the middle path, between either extreme. Join her on her monthly journey.

There was something bothering me about gratitude, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The books and the media, to name a few, tell us that we can be happier if only we would be more grateful. It makes sense that if we can choose to dwell on the abundance in our lives rather than the lack thereof, that we will see the world as a brighter place.

Indeed, this month I focused on gratitude – noticing it when I experienced it and practicing expressing it to others.

And in fact, this month, I did have a very cute gratitude experience. The phone at my office rang at 4:30 PM on a Friday, and since I was the only one left in the office, even though it’s not most of my job, I answered the call. It was a data user in need of assistance, and I did my best to help him and be friendly despite longing for the impending weekend. This data user was apparently so impressed at having an interaction with a government employee that was both competent and pleasant, he insisted that he tell my boss what an excellent job I had done. While on the one hand, I didn’t feel like my assistance merited such enthusiastic praise, I also was very touched by his gesture. And it made me think about how easy it could really be to make the extra effort to express gratitude to the people in our lives, whether they be people we are in intimate relationships with or those we’ll talk on the phone with for 10 minutes and never hear from again.

Upside (1)

On my part, for my month of gratitude, I did make efforts to express gratitude to some individuals who had a big impact on my life, but to whom I never expressed that before. I did find that it was difficult to do. And while I expected there to be a warm fuzzy feeling going along with that expression, what I found was that it was more mixed. It does feel good to tell someone how grateful you are to have had them in your life and to have them reciprocate that feeling. But it feels less great when what meant a lot to you didn’t mean so much to the person it came from, and that happened. And it feels a lot less great to not get any response, and that also happened. But I feel that, despite the potential awkwardness, it’s better to say it, because it might lead to a moment of great connection. And also because it’s impossible to know how something grateful you say today can touch someone, even if they don’t know it then or express it to you in the moment. Like my data user interaction.

So with all of those good take-aways, what could be bothersome about the idea of gratitude? As I sit here writing this, in a pretty good mood, it seems like a no-brainer, focusing on the positive and in turn feeling grateful makes logical sense. But in my own experience, the times when I’ve felt so awful, being implored to be grateful produced more harm than benefit. I have, after all, struggled with depression and anxiety to varying degrees throughout my life. And what I’ve found is that trying to ignore the negative just doesn’t work. And for someone to disregard your feelings by telling you to be grateful can feel like a slap in the face.

I remember in particular one time during a depressed episode when I went to Friday night shabbat services. I had always enjoyed participating in services, and I appreciated spending that time as an end to the week. But that particular week, as I sat by myself in services and read through the prayers we say, expressing such gratitude and joy, and I couldn’t help but feel completely left out, because it was not how I felt at all. And as I looked around and saw what felt like every couple embracing each other and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes, channeling in that moment the love and gratitude embodied in the prayers, I felt even more alone.

Downside (1)Having someone tell me to be grateful wasn’t going to fix my problem, nor was saying grateful words I didn’t feel. What I needed was someone to listen and be supportive, and it didn’t seem like there was anyone in my life that was going to be able to provide that for me, nor was it something I was going to find in that institution.

And so I conclude with a mixed message, that gratitude is worth pursuing to the extent that it can connect us with our feelings and with others, but overemphasizing the pursuit of gratitude can distance ourselves from others and isolate them.

So I think we can do better. I think we can do better in the Jewish community to create spaces where everyone feels welcomed and valued. I think we can do better to share with others how much we value them. And I think we can do better in acknowledging where people are at rather than telling them to look on the bright side because it is easier for us.

On that note, this coming month I will focus on compassion. I’ve found that in trying to be more patient and in exploring the limits of gratitude, the empathy that comes from being compassionate is key, so I am excited to see what I discover as I pursue it specifically this month. When have you had to summon compassion? When do you wish someone would have acted more compassionately toward you? Let me know below in the comments.

All comics drawn by Becky Schwartz.

High Holidays 2013

Charlton-Heston-Moses-10-commandmentsThis is the guide from 2013! Be sure to check out the one from 2017 here.

It’s that time of year again- do you know where you’re attending services?  To make it easier, we’re compiling High Holiday service options in one place.  Anything sold out has a strikethrough. If you know of a service we haven’t included, or see one on the list that is sold out, please email rachelg@gatherdc.org. We’ll be continuing to update this page, so check back often.

Monday, August 26th:

Erev Rosh Hashana – Wednesday, September 4th:

Rosh Hashana (1st day) – Thursday September 5th:

Rosh Hashana (2nd day) – Friday, September 6th:

Kol Nidre – Friday, September 13th

Yom Kippur, Saturday, September 14th

Evening/Neilah, Saturday, September 14th

Looking for discounted tickets? The JCC can help!

Shabbat: Pure and Simple: An Interview with Rabbi Scott About Upcoming Events at Sixth&I

Shabbat: Pure and Simple will debut on December 15th. Click here for more information.
Rachel: How long have you been in DC now?
Rabbi Scott: I’ve been in DC four months now. I love it. In L.A., walking 15 minutes gets you to your mailbox.  Here, you can enjoy the entire city.
Rachel: What is your favorite part of DC/the DC Jewish community?
Rabbi Scott: Right now it’s a tossup between my amazing job at Sixth & I (not to mention having concerts and authors in house) and the Dupont Farmers Market. Dolcezza is a close third.
Rachel: What programs/events/services do you provide?
Rabbi Scott: You can expect more from me in the coming months, but we’re starting a series called What It Takes- short term, high intensity classes with friends, designed to get practical, useful Jewish knowledge so that you can connect to services, holidays, life cycles,  and learning -and feel comfortable in them all.  With Sarah Lawson and Josh Cogan’s help, Sixth & I is starting Havdallah with the Three Star Collective- a chance to hear great music and poetry inside Havdallah (the service separating Shabbat and the rest of the week).  It’ll be the perfect way to start a Saturday night.  Jamming is encouraged. We’ll be relaunching the Sixth Street Minyan in February.  The details aren’t out yet, but expect an extraordinary new Friday night opportunity.
Rachel: Your service is called, “Shabbat: Pure and Simple.”  What do you mean by “pure and simple”?
Rabbi Scott: It’s hard to step in Judaism cold.  Our kind of prayer is thick and rich, moves quickly, and assumes a lot of knowledge.  I know people who’ve been coming to Shabbat every week for 30 years, and still don’t know the service.  It’s not easy to learn by osmosis.  Shabbat Pure and Simple does two things: it slows the service down so that participants can focus more deeply on what they’re doing and saying, learn to understand why things are, and, even for the pro’s, simply have enough time to concentrate; it also provides an important opportunity for those who’ve never experienced Shabbat morning to come in, know what’s going on, even help lead the service if they want to.

Rachel: This is Sixth and I’s first Saturday service.  Why did you choose to lead a Saturday service?
Rabbi Scott: We created a Shabbat morning service because of demand.  After reaching out, our people told us that they were looking for a morning experience.