Posts

Girl of the Week – Stacy #WayBackWednesday

11702661_10102494419270659_7499895892967291569_n

Stacy was a Jewish Girl of the Week 6 years ago when the feature first began. She even competed in the first-ever Jewish Girl of the Year competition. Stacy is still an integral part of the DC Jewish community, but now in a professional capacity.

Read our updates on Stacy and her original article (including a poem) below!

 

  • I am not in the field of education anymore (I sooo miss recess and the kiddos), but before I left teaching I started an after-school cooking program for kids called Snack Attack Cooking. My favorite session was when we had an Iron Chef competition and the judges tried one group’s creation that looked like a dessert pizza.  But, the kids had used garlic instead of sugar! The looks on the judges faces when they tasted it was priceless.
  • About a year after the original article was published, I founded an organization that hosts events for Jewish young professionals in Northern Virginia called NOVA Tribe Series. Since 2011, I have hosted over 150 programs, engaged thousands of peers in the community, and helped orchestrate countless numbers of friendships – and even 2 marriages!
  • Last fall I started working for the Edlavitch DCJCC as their manager of EntryPointDC, a program for 20s and 30s. I have helped revamp the Shabbat Clusters program, started the B’Shert 2.0 Modern Jewish Love Series and am looking forward to our next big event, Schmooze & Snooze Fest on Saturday, February 25th. The event will be an “all-night” type party with a 90’s cover band, Bar Mitzvah DJ dance party, moonbounce, Havdalah, drinks, carnival snacks, Ted Talks and more! Tickets go on sale today.
  • One signature program I created that I look forward to hosting every year is Lox Meets Bagel. It has become one of the largest speed dating & mixer events in the DC area for 20s and 30s. The 6th Lox Meets Bagel is next Tuesday, February 7th, and you can register here!
  • I am still a Virginia girl, but I now live in Arlington instead of Fairfax. My favorite things to do in the neighborhood are people watch at Northside Social, catch a comedy show or movie at Arlington Drafthouse, and take long walks to Georgetown.

Read her original article below!

Stacy on why she should be Jewish Girl of the Year:

There once was a girl from VA

Who taught her students to say

“I flip my latkes in the air”

She spent $157.23 on metro fare

To get to Jewish events last year

Her Hebrew name

is a video game

She works with Jnet

Your vote she needs to get

Editor’s note: Stacy raised the bar for Jewish Girl of the Week by submitting a Youtube video as part of the application process. If you think you or someone you know has what it takes to be a Person of the Week, shoot us an email and tell us why. We encourage creativity in nominations!

How long have you been teaching?

This is my sixth year teaching. I have taught students from grades K-7 over the years, but right now I teach 1st-3rd grade at a Montessori school. These kids are awesome. The Montessori philosophy emphasizes learning practical life skills, so my kids cook me lunch every Wednesday, do the dishes and laundry every day and take field trips out of the classroom at least once or twice every few weeks. I want to take them home with me to clean my house!

Stacy, so many people ask: “What do you do?” The GTJ staff likes look deeper into the Jewish soul, so we ask, “What is your passion?!”

My biggest passion is helping others. Besides teaching, I also work with autistic kids once a week leading social skill groups. My first day at social group went something like this (and I knew from then on I was in the right place) Me: Ben, we have something in common, we both like to celebrate Hanukkah  Ben: You are Jewish Ms. Stacy? I am so glad you joined group! (He runs around the room singing the dreidel song)  Nate: You must be Israeli then because you are Jewish  Me: Actually, I am not.  Nate: Aww man, I really like Israeli women, can’t you be Israeli for me?  Dan: I know someone that is Jewish, but I don’t like her very much.  Me: Why is that?  Dan: She is a very bossy Jewish girl.

Are there really Jews that live out in Virginia?

Yes, there are and we rock.  I am on the committee of Jnet. We plan happy hours, BBQ’s, and other great events; our next BIG gathering will be a philanthropic event for the JCC of NOVA special needs department. You can find us on facebook if you add JnetVA as a friend. I promise if you come find me at an event I will make sure you have a great time!

Can we share the video of your kids with all our readers?!

Of course you can share the video! I love being Jewish, and I want to share my love of my religion and culture with everyone; the video explains it all.  You can see the enthusiasm in my students’ faces as they sing this song (and my amazing dancing skills and “latke” flipping tools as well). I spent a whole day reading Hanukkah stories, playing dreidel, sharing latkes, and taught them all the words to Candlelight and I have never seen them more excited, or in other words, equally excited to sing about/celebrate Hanukkah as Christmas.  Since you and the Maccabeats are BFF’s, can you send the video to them as well?

What has been your most memorable Jewish moment?

Hmmm that’s a hard one. I think I have had many, but one that sticks out actually occurred this week. We had a Celebration of Light ceremony with our class in which all the families came together to share their winter month traditions that involve light. I have 23 students in my class and only 1 is Jewish. After the presentation, the one Jewish family came up to me and gave me a big hug. They thanked me for teaching the students the Candlelight song and told me their daughter finally feels included and everyone is now just as excited about Hanukkah as any other winter holiday. It really touched me because I have always made it my personal mission to bring Jews together from smaller communities, whether it’s making my one Jewish student in my class feel more comfortable talking about her religion to her classmates to planning events for my alma maters’ Hillel that included only about 400 Jewish students out of 15,000.

You can only eat one Jewish food for the rest of your life, what is it and why?

It would be my mom’s challah. She started making using this recipe when I was about 10, it’s a sweet version that I can’t get enough of. It totally satisfies my sweet tooth.

Is it Chanukah, Hanukkah, or Hannukah?

Is this a trick question? I have not seen the double N’s before or if I did it was way back in the day; spell check does not like it either. Actually prefer the double K’s, Hanukkah is where it’s at. My students know 3 ways to spell it and are very proud of that fact.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?

I usually check out the services at Adas Israel and Sixth & I and then go out in the city. I have gone to Shir Delight the past few months and always have a good time with my friends and meet a lot of new people. You never know who you are going to run into, last week I saw my babysitter whom I have not seen in 20 years!

What’s the next big Gathering you will be at?

I am on the committee of Jnet. We plan happy hours, BBQ’s, and other great events; our next BIG gathering will be a philanthropic event for the JCC of NOVA special needs department.  See facebook page here.

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…

20160210_093754

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.

Can We Now Take Marriage for Granted?

There is an old joke that all of our parents have told at some point about how when they were young, they had to walk to school, in the snow, uphill both ways. Though, I never believed it was exactly true, I do remember always being amazed at the types of things my parents really didn’t have that I always took for granted. Color TV, seat belts in cars, and microwave ovens are all things that I have taken for granted my entire life.

image-29-06-15-10-02

In a roundabout way, I was reminded of this last Friday, when the Supreme Court announced its decision to guarantee marriage as a right for all citizens. I have a one year old son, and it occurred to me, that along with things like smart phones, electric cars and social media my son will never know a world without marriage equality in the United States. As many have been saying already, for him there will be no Gay-Marriage because there will just simply be marriage for everyone.

As my Facebook feed turned to rainbows last Friday, I also found more challenging posts reminding me that there is still more work to be done for GLBT equality and many other minorities as well. Really, I thought, can’t we just celebrate this moment and take the week off from beating the drums for social justice?

image-29-06-15-10-02-1

After thinking about it more over the weekend, as a father, an American and of course a Jew, the answer must be yes and no. In fact, in the same moment that thousands of celebrations erupted all over the country after the announcement on the steps of the Supreme Court, thousands of people were in mourning as Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was being eulogized in South Carolina. Neither action was any less wrong or appropriate, given the context.

Judaism has a special blessing that is said for the types of celebrations that don’t happen every day. Most Jewish Holidays include this prayer and I have also heard it said at weddings and bar mitzvahs. It is called the Shehecheyanu and in English the prayer translates to mean:

Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.

image-29-06-15-10-02-3When we lit our Shabbat candles last Friday, next to a rainbow flag we that we waved at Pride Parade, we added the Shehecheyanu to mark the occasion of marriage equality.

There is also a quote in Judaism from one of the ancient Rabbis that says:

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.

While there are many things that my son will take for granted, there are many injustices in the world things that have yet to be resolved. Working through organizations like Jews United for Justice and American Jewish World Service, to name a couple, I will continue to work on them. I hope he follows that example and works to bring about change for the causes for which he cares most. I also hope he gets to celebrate many moments of Shehecheyanu along the way.

Andy Kirschner is a life coach at 100 Reasons to Win, helping professionals take action in order to achieve their health and/or career goals. He’s been in the DC area for 4 years. When he isn’t coaching individuals or facilitating groups, he can be found running long distances through Rock Creek Park, volunteering for social justice minded organizations or spending time with his wife and one year old son. 

World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner to take place in Tel Aviv

 

The Most Interesting Jew in the World - Screenshot of fundraising clip for White City Shabbat's Guinness World's Largest Shabbat Dinner in theme of Dos Equis beer commercial. Photo credit: courtesy of White City Shabbat

The Most Interesting Jew in the World – Screenshot of fundraising clip for White City Shabbat’s Guinness World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner in theme of Dos Equis beer commercial. Photo credit: courtesy of White City Shabbat

White City Shabbat has announced that it will be setting the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner set to take place in the Spring of 2014 at the Tel Aviv Port.

In order to break the record, over 1,000 Israelis and new immigrants must attend the dinner.  The guest list will also include notable Israelis including Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, former chief rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Eli Ben-Dahan.  In keeping with White City Shabbat’s mission statement of “Shabbat for all,” the dinner will be free of charge.  This week, White City Shabbat launched a creative Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign – mimicking the theme of Dos Equis commercials – to raise the $25,000 needed to cover the costs of this historic event.

A non-profit organization entirely run by volunteers, White City Shabbat is hoping that the Guinness title will encourage Jews worldwide to celebrate Shabbat in their own communities.  “While White City Shabbat is going to be the first organization to attempt this record, our hope is that in years to come communities around the world will come together to try and surpass the standard we set this year,” said Jay Shultz,  one of the event’s organizers who is often dubbed “the international mayor of Tel Aviv.”

Tel Aviv is known as being the economic and cultural epicenter of Israel, but the event organizers are hoping the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner will showcase another side to Tel Aviv, its spiritual side.  “With more and more immigrants choosing to make Tel Aviv their home, celebrating the first ever World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner with Guinness will further establish Tel Aviv as one of the most important cities for the Jewish people today,” said Eytan White, co-director of White City Shabbat.  White’s partner, Deborah Danan, agrees.  “Shabbat is the cornerstone of the Jewish faith and as such has the power to bring people together,” said Danan.  “Tel Aviv has a unique demography of mainly young professionals.  Couple that with its mix of immigrants and natives who are both religious and secular and its overarching atmosphere of openness and inclusivity, makes Tel Aviv the perfect city to host an event of this magnitude.”

Over 10,000 people have already attended White City Shabbat’s monthly meals and each one is packed to capacity with over 200 people in attendance and another 100 plus on waiting lists.  “At any given White City Shabbat dinner, you’ll hear about ten languages spoken and World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner will be no exception.  We’d like to see Jews from all over the globe take part in this event, either to come and enjoy this spectacular demonstration of Jewish peoplehood in person or by donating to our fundraising efforts.  After all, Shabbat is the soul of the Jewish people and Tel Aviv is a focal point of the Jewish world,” says Natalie Solomon, a new immigrant from Birmingham, Alabama and another of the event’s organizers.

To make a contribution to White City Shabbat’s World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner, please click here.

UK Toremet is the fiscal sponsor of the World’s Largest Shabbat Dinner. Partial sponsors include the City of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Hanger 11, Golan Heights Winery and NakedSea Salt.

For more information, pictures or media inquiries, contact deborah@whitecityshabbat.com

WCS logoAbout White City Shabbat:

White City Shabbat is the premiere portal of Jewish Life in Tel Aviv.  Bringing the concept of Shabbat dinner parties to a wider community, the organization hosts its own private, warm, welcoming, all-inclusive Shabbat meals every month.  White City Shabbat also hosts holiday celebrations and meals, Jewish learning series, beginners learning minyan, and inter-community programming.  To learn more about White City Shabbat visit www.WhiteCityShabbat.com and to read more about the campaign or to make a donation, visit www.igg.me/at/WorldsLargestShabbat.

The Neverending Craigslist Shabbat Story

board-gamesRECAP: There was an ad titled “Seven Single White Jewish males Looking to Host Seven Single Women for Shabbat Dinner.”  I responded.  The ad went viral. I got picked.  I became a “chosen one.”  I went.  It was fun(ny).  Since this first dinner an entirely different group of mystery men invited the “Sensation Six” women (six because one girl didn’t show) to join them in a second Shabbat dinner.  Here is my account of Part II Craigslist Shabbat.  Read Part I here.

The “unofficial” invitation:

“All,

It is very humbling to email the Sensational Six, the amazing group selected to attend the infamous Craiglist Sabbath Dinner.  It is pretty awesome that you now have definitive proof that you are the 6 coolest girls in DC…

Given that, it would be an honor to invite you to a SECOND dinner. It will be tough to live up to the first one, but there will be some key differences:

  1. I don’t know how to cook. Nor do my friends. Thus, the meal will be catered.
  2. There will be 6 guys instead of 5. The guys will be pre-vetted by one of your own– and the guys will be in suits (subject to change).
  3. There will be board games.  And ping pong.”

Upon receiving this email, a feeling of ultimate satisfaction washes over me.  I had moved to the East Coast only months ago, not knowing a soul.  Now I was bell of the ball.  Had I suddenly become a DC Jewish socialite?  Would I be receiving a string of fancy dinner invites from mystery men from now until the end of time?  Hey, a Jewish girl can dream a Jewish dream, can’t she?

In preparation for dinner, each girl was instructed to answer a few questions: Three adjectives to describe themselves (my answer: Jew, Jewy and Jewess), two songs to add to the dinner mix (Prince – “Purple Rain” and Hall and Oates – “I Can’t Go for That”…pure groove, please).  On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your singing voice (–googleplex).  Entrance to the soiree would be denied without our “official” printed ticket.

Friday night.  7:30pm.  I am parked in front of said mystery apartment, crumpled ticket buried in the depths of my bag.  In my $15 Forever 21 dress and my $5 Forever 21 necklace, I feel…what’s the word?  ABFAB.  This is the second time I am putting myself in this type of situation, so my social anxiety is only revved up to half (instead of full) speed, but I still have to sit in my car for an extra ten minutes to mentally prepare.

I make my way to the door and someone is waiting with a list of names.  I present her with my golden ticket, and she leads me up the apartment and announces, “Please welcome Sarah the Jew, Jewy Jewess!”  Like good kosher hams, the boys are wearing matching black jackets with red shirts underneath.  A beautiful table is set, and a waiter (yes, a waiter) takes my coat.  I sit down, introductions are made, and there is a quick game of Taboo as the other girls trickle in.  I am happy to see their familiar faces and we know that we are in for a second night of pure hilarity.

“Dinner is served!”  Let the ridiculousness ensue.

The dinner is catered and the host has planned the play-by-play for the evening.  We sing the Shabbat prayers while Miley Cyrus parties in the USA in the background.  We make a toast to the host, who then pulls out a drawing that one of his friends created as a representation of The Sensational Six Sabbath 2013.  Yes, now this night has an artwork dedicated to it.

We go around the table and play two truths and a lie— list two true facts about yourself and one lie.  Let the group guess which is the lie.  Mine: I took swing dance classes with the Olsen twins; I hung out with the Wu Tang Clan one night; I have had a jam session with Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.  Hint: the one you want to be true is true.

The game is interrupted when the host says, “Sorry, BUT the magician is here.”  Wait, what?  There is a magician, and suddenly this is the most magical night of all time.

The magician is wearing a black jacket and red shirt to match the boys.  He comes, does amazing things, leaves.  We open our Justin Bieber goodie bags to find special treats, including a custom wrapped chapstick labeled, “Soiree with The Sensational Six.”

Chattiness and smiles all around, and the raspberry lady cocktails don’t hurt.  I talk to some of the boys, and as usual (when I am nervous) I list every embarrassing/strange thing about myself in a row.

  1. I have face blindness.
  2. I like torture (What I MEANT to say was, I like a genre of campy gore horror movies.  EX. The Saw series…but I might have just stopped at…I like torture).

The Karaoke comes out.  One of the guys is a Shaggy impersonator.  ‘Nuff said.  Ping pong is played, and then a game of poker.  I win everything.  And by “win,” I mean “lose.”

And so the night winds down and we thank the host for having us.  I had a great time and the memories of these unique experiences will always stay with me.  Hopefully we will all meet again and the Craigslist Shabbat invites will keep rollin’ in, but mostly I hope to stay in touch with the other “Sensational Six” women because they are, what’s the word?….SENSATIONAL!

GTJ Satirist Brian F. – US Postal Service to Become Shomer Shabbos

mailWASHINGTON, DC – (@The Comedy News) – John Goodman’s Jewish character in the cult classic film,”The Big Lebowski” refused to go bowling with his pals on Friday nights and Saturdays because he was “shomer [flipping] shabbos”.

Well move over, John Goodman, because the United States Postal Service (USPS) has gone Shomer Shabbos as well.

As of this week, the USPS has decided that it will no longer deliver mail on Saturdays due to its observance of Shabbat from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday.

“This brings us mailmen and mailwomen so much nachas,” announced the Postmaster General. “Our mail-carriers will finally be able to attend their first Bar and Bat Mitzvahs—after years of suffering the indignity of delivering thousands of obnoxiously large gaudy invitations to these simchas each week—- yet never being able to attend one themselves.”

The USPS is clearly excited about this opportunity to observe the sabbath day and sanctify it. As a side bonus, the USPS hopes that the extra day of rest and unpaid wages will help the United States Government balance their stupid [flipping] budget.

Brian Fishbach is a comedian, writer, political satirist, former GTJ JGOTW, and musician specializing in social and political commentary.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes atwww.BrianFishbach.com.  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

What in the World is That Noise? – Rabbi B. on this Week’s Torah Portion

EPSON scanner imageAn unassuming villager, who had never before seen or even heard of a train, once wandered out of town all the way to the edge of a large city.  In the village, people traveled on donkeys, and farmers used cows to plow their fields.  The very idea of large machines for transport or work was absolutely foreign.

As the villager came close to the city, he came across long rows of steel rods.  He couldn’t see the beginning nor the end of the rows.  Even more strange,  every couple of fee, there were these boards laying across the steel rods with these hug nails stuck into them.

The fellow stood for a moment to ponder his discovery, then, being tired from his journey, he decided to take a brief rest on these boards before returning home.  The man fell asleep.

After a short while a train was coming down the tracks.  As the train approached, the conductor noticed a person resting on the tracks and began to send warning signals.  He blew his whistle, rang his bell, and sounded any alarm he could possibly reach.  Finally, all the noise awoke the poor villager who was now perplexed as to where all of these sounds were coming from.  “Bells, whistles” he thought, “it sounds like a band.”  Then the man looked up and saw lots of lights coming at him from a distance.  The whole scene reminded the fellow of the village band and the special carriage used to escort a bride and groom on their wedding day.  “There must be a wedding coming my way” and our villager friend stood up and began to dance in the middle of the tracks.
Imagine the thoughts of a bystander watching the scene: Is this guy deaf?  Maybe he can’t hear the train coming his way?  The truth, is that he heard very well, he just didn’t know what he was listening too!

This week’s Torah portion tells us that Yitro heard all that happened to the Jews as they were leaving Egypt.  He was so inspired that he came to join the nation.  Why do we have to be told that Yitro heard?  He was not the only one that heard, in fact the whole world heard.  Yitro was just the only one who reacted.  Why?

The Torah is teaching us that even though the whole world heard about the miracles that had occurred, Yitro was the only person who was impacted because he was the only one listening and open to what he was hearing.  Yitro was a seeker of truth and when he heard it, he internalized the message and responded accordingly.

What a powerful message.  Every day of our lives we encounter “messages.”  God is constantly involved in our lives, and sometimes makes it loud and clear.  Sometimes the bells and whistles are even sounded.  Often though, we don’t even realize.  We go on with our lives as if nothing had happened at all.

The messages are loud and clear.  The question is: are we listening?