Posts

Jewish Professional of the Week – Abby

abby-headshot

If you have spent some time at Sixth and I, you will recognize this week’s Jew of the Week. Abby joined the Sixth & I team this past summer as their Jewish Programming Event Planner. She comes to DC with an MSW and a passion for performing. Learn more about Abby in our interview with the Jewish Professional of the Week!

Jackie: You are a new arrival to DC. How are you liking the city so far?

Abby: I came to DC from St. Louis this summer after completing my MSW at Wash U and spending five months working with Rick Recht at Jewish Rock Radio. I am thrilled about my decision to move to DC. It is such an awesome, welcoming city with so many options for great areas to explore and numerous ways to stay active. Since moving here I have developed a never-ending list of amazing restaurants, joined a new rock climbing gym, and I live walking distance to Whole Foods and Trader Joes. What more could you want?

Jackie: What led you to become a Jewish professional?

Abby: I grew up actively involved in the St. Louis Jewish community because my mom worked for the JCC and later for Jewish Federation. I went to JCC Day Camps and Camp Sabra, was active in BBYO and Hillel at Indiana University. I have a passion for working with children with disabilities – especially youth theater – and didn’t necessarily plan to work in the Jewish community. I now realize that it is inspiring to be part of a work environment where I share values with colleagues, and the entire staff is amazingly accepting and supportive.

shabbat-centerpiecesJackie: You have already helped plan some amazing events at Sixth & I including Shabbat dinners, parties, and celebrations. What do you believe is central to create a warm inviting place?

Abby: You have to start with being consistently friendly to everyone who walks through the door. Everyone wants to feel comfortable and accepted for who they are. I also enjoy paying attention to details from the food options, room set-up, and decorations. It’s important to use our Event Assistants and volunteer Ambassadors to help create the desired culture.

Jackie: What has been your favorite event so far?

Abby: High Holidays actually stand out to me as one of my favorite events to have organized so far. This was my first huge event to tackle at Sixth & I. It was fulfilling to see the hard work put in by ALL the Sixth & I staff and incredible to have created meaningful services and programming for over 4,000 community members.

Jackie What makes Sixth & I different?

sanctuary1Abby: First, the magnificent sanctuary certainly makes events at Sixth & I uniquely special. Sixth & I is also a place of never-ending innovation. We are constantly developing inspiring programming, responding quickly to needs in the community and seeking new ways to elevate and design events that keep participants involved and curious to see what’s next. We’re also very clear on our mission of inclusiveness and prioritizing ways for young adults to feel connected to Jewish life.

Jackie: Any exciting behind-the-scene secrets you can share with us?

Abby: Taking risks and being flexible towards change are both key when creating inventive and exciting events.

Jackie: You have always had a passion for performing arts. How do you pursue that passion outside of work?

Abby: Currently, my main outlet for the performing arts is attending and seeing shows. I am still figuring out the best way to stay connected to theater and music in DC. I love dance and choreography and working with kids and teens. Also, I look forward to using my theater background for some future Sixth & I Events. In the meantime, I am planning to take some dance classes and make new connections in the DC art world. If you know anyone looking for a choreographer…you know where to find me.

pantsuit-flashmob

Jackie: I noticed you front and center in the Pantsuit Flash Mob. How did you end up in that great YouTube video?

Abby: My mom actually sent me a Facebook post about the flash mob because my former neighbor from St. Louis was the organizer. I decided to go ahead and jump at the opportunity to do something fun and uplifting during the craziness of the election. This was actually my third flash mob experience and each previous time had been a blast and I thought it would be fun to dance in my new city. I just ended up being the lead dancer because of all of my show choir experience. I am very happy with how it all came together and applaud the incredible team behind the production.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…relationships develop, meaningful conversations ensue and memorable experiences are shared.

James Vincent McMorrow: The Irish Bard Plays the Bimah

James+Vincent+McMorrow+JVM18I’m Jewish and a DC native, but this was my first time visiting Sixth & I.  The historic synagogue opened in 1908 and spent 51 years as a Methodist church before being restored and reopened as a 21st century Jewish community center of sorts in 2004.  Today, it plays host to comedians, musicians, and other performers, as often gentile as they are Jewish.

I decided to make my first trip for purely non-religious reasons.  James Vincent McMorrow was playing, an artist described by more than one publication as “the Irish Bon Iver,” and I’m a big fan.  McMorrow went to New York and then Coachella in the days after playing Sixth & I, but on a warm April night, a friend and I saw him in a show more intimate than those could ever be.

Stepping into the building from I street, it felt as though I’d entered any other religious or civic center with a small and uninteresting reception area distinguished only by the presence of a makeshift beer and wine bar.  My friend and I grabbed a drink and walked up the flight of stairs into the main sanctuary.  Stained glass windows lined one wall, and an eerie, hazy light filtered through them into the auditorium from the street.  Numbered pews faced a raised stage with balcony seating providing the feel of a concert venue, but a large menorah flickering to the side refusing to fully complete the image.

Glen Hansard, best known from the movie Once, wouldn’t be a bad superficial comparison for James Vincent McMorrow.  They’re both bearded Irishmen with a deeply emotional, lyrics-driven catalogue.  However, McMorrow’s voice is a tool entirely his own.  Like Justin Vernon, McMorrow lives within the falsetto, but he pushes his voice and volume further than Vernon to both his detriment and his triumph.  In many ways, he reminds me of the other geniuses of the falsetto who have been among my lasting favorites: Jeff Buckley, Andrew Bird, and Freddie Mercury come to mind.

When McMorrow and his three countrymen stepped on stage after a stirring acoustic culmination to opener Aidan Knight’s set, they seemed nervous.  They didn’t go right for their most popular songs.  The house was packed with a young crowd, many of whom had clearly never been to Sixth & I either.  Most concerning of all, the band didn’t seem like they had played together for long or formed much chemistry – a suspicion I later had confirmed.

But then they got a feel for the place.  A light show kicked in behind them.  It grabbed attention, with a textured screen and series of amorphous, slowly pulsing video projections.  The band picked up their pace, and McMorrow began to unleash.  He started hitting his best material, and reminded fans that it’s unbelievable how many solid songs he has on only two albums.  The audience had clearly been won over as well, finally getting in a groove with the alternating pattern of material from Post Tropical, McMorrow’s most recent album, and his first, Early in the Morning.

The band closed out their main set with “Cavalier,” a highlight and personal favorite from Post Tropical, before leaving McMorrow to break out a soulful solo cover of Steve Winwood’s 80’s jam, “Higher Love.”  Applause rained in, McMorrow took his bow, and then performed the shortest encore break in history, barely letting the doors close behind him.  He came back by himself and played “And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop,” bringing his voice louder with each chorus.  The soft-spoken guy, who described himself as doing “a poor job of looking like a lumberjack,” then told a story about feeling guilty for sleeping in and not getting to see much of DC.

The rest of the band came trotting out shortly after for their finale.  They hit their stride immediately, carrying over from where they left off before the intermission, and nailed the Mumford and Sons style build-up on “If I Had a Boat.”  The house (of worship) erupted in applause, and the band said their goodbyes.

I was left behind with images of “eight crazy, happy Irishmen” cruising the monuments on bright red Capital Bikeshares, as McMorrow triumphantly decided on stage they would be doing after the show.  Though he may not be the best at counting — there were only three other people in the band — there’s no doubt he can play, and with a few more albums as quality as his first two, I’ll be there to see him.

Listen to a clip Max recorded from the show:

 

10 Reasons to Come to Black Tie Trivia Night on June 20

On Thursday, June 20, we’re puttin’ on the ritz and pulling out all the stops for 6th in the City Black Tie Trivia Night.  Why is this trivia night different from all other trivia nights, you ask?  Well, it’s our first-ever young professional fundraiser, and there’s a lot more than meets the tie.

Here are 10 reasons to team up for Black Tie Trivia Night:

1. The last time you got this dressed up was your senior prom.

1

2. By coming to Black Tie Trivia Night, you’ll have more of everything… mo’ prizes, mo’ food, and Mo Mandel!

2

 

3. You’ve been looking for a way to use your vast knowledge of trivia subjects for a good cause: to support your favorite 6th in the City programs (like Trivia Night, for instance). Seriously, these things don’t run themselves.

3

4. You’ve been practicing this pose…and finally have a reason to show it off!

4

5. This is your chance to suit up to win a birthday card signed by Josh Radnor in our silent auction! Other items include VIP Tickets to a Wizards and Capitals game, tickets to Tracy Morgan’s show at the Warner Theater, and more. 

5

 

6. You’ll finally have a reason to sing Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” while actually wearing a suit and tie.

6

 

7. You want to compete for the ultimate grand prize: a year of FREE Sixth & I events. You heard us—A YEAR.

7

8. Wine and beer! (This time, it’s unlimited. No drink tickets required.)

8

9. It’s sure to be one of our better parties.

9

 

10. It’s time you treated yo’ self to a classy evening.

10

Now that you’re convinced, here’s the link to buy tickets.

 

We Gathered Idan Raichel!

That's right. She brought him a shirt.

Last week, Idan Raichel, the Israeli singer well known around the world thanks to his international music, was in DC. As a staff member of GTJ, I followed his stay in the nation’s capital and obtained an exclusive interview for the GTJ website.

Idan’s experience in Washington started at the AIPAC Policy Conference, where he performed at the Monday night Gala event. Preceded by Rick Recht and the Maccabeats, The Idan Raichel Project played several songs before a diverse audience ranging from young students to veteran AIPAC donors. However, their most heartfelt performance was later in the night when IRP member Maya Avraham sang Hatikva—accompanied only by the poignant notes of Idan’s keyboard and the over 13,000 people in attendance.

After the concert, Raichel had an entire pavilion in the AIPAC village to himself where he spoke with fans and signed the group’s newest CD Traveling Home. Of course, I was there ready with my brand new CD and an extra copy for dad 😉

In spite of his hectic schedule, which included a backstage meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a small concert and Q&A with students at American University, Idan agreed to be interviewed by GTJ.

And here is what he had to say!

DE: Your new CD, Traveling Home, is a great success and is also the group’s first album to be recorded live. Were the concerts on the new CD recorded in Israel or around the world? How did you choose the title? It seems like Israel is the point of beginning and the point of return.

IR: It’s called Traveling Home because while we are traveling around the world we are actually [always] traveling back home—because the last destination is always Tel Aviv. So even if we go around the world, at the end of the day we are always traveling home.

DE: One of your most recent international collaborations is with the African musician Ali Farka Touré, with whom you founded The Touré Raichel Collective. Is this a totally new project or can it be considered to be an extension of the Idan Raichel philosophy?

IR: I always continue to work with the Idan Raichel Project on the road, but it’s important for me to do things that will move me, and interesting things career-wise and music-wise. So I started this album with the Collective, with Ali Farka Touré. It is a totally new collaboration.
[It is important to me] especially because I share the stage and the studio with a great musician that I believe in [Ali Farka Touré]. Also, in the past year I was touring with the Grammy award winning India Arie. [All of these] are just extensions of what I do with the Idan Raichel Project.

DE: I was just going to ask you about India Arie! What did it mean to perform with her at the Nobel Prize concert? How was it to collaborate with this extraordinary African American soul singer and to tour with her for the Open Door Project?

IR: It was a great honor to perform with such a great, very spiritual poet and composer. It was called the Open Door Project. People that came to see us live saw a beautiful collaboration which was based on the spirituality of two worlds: the Jewish/Hebrew world and the Afro/American world of India [Arie].

DE: India Arie and Ali Farka Touré are just two of the hundreds of international musicians you have played with. Among all of these, who is the artist you enjoyed collaborating with the most? Who is the artist you would like to collaborate with and haven’t yet?

IR: I have no specific dream to collaborate with a particular artist or another. I just like to be surprised by the doors that the world opens. I didn’t plan to work with Ali Farka Touré or the Colombian singer Marta Gomez or India Arie. It is just when you don’t expect it that the world sends you surprises.

Idan confessed that sometimes the ideas for new collaborations come from advice that his fans write on his  Facebook and Twitter pages [idanraichel1]. Visiting those pages can serve as a daily resource for information about the Israeli social and musical scene.

DE: Your songs are written in a wide range of languages — Hebrew, Spanish, English, Amharic, and Hindi just to name a few. How do you choose the language of any particular song? How do you understand which language is right for a particular song?

IR: It is just some instinct. Sometimes there are jokes that can be understood only in Spanish and love songs that sound better in Arabic. Sometimes it’s just the color of the song.

In spite of his reluctance to answer political questions, when it came to talk about Israel Idan showed the same openness and forthcoming spirit as when we spoke about his music and collaborations. I asked him about the changes that are happening in Israel, its current President, as well as its two main cities—both of which I discovered have a place in the singer’s heart.

DE: Israel is changing. Which of these changes do you like and which don’t you like? What should continue to change?

IR: Our country always changes. There is a social movement these days, the youth of Israel is rising up demanding more of what they think should be obvious in our country. I think time will tell what will happen—but it’s all a positive movement.

Speaking about Israeli president Shimon Peres, who just few days before gave an emotional speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference, Idan said: “I think we have an amazing president in Israel. Shimon Peres is the greatest president ever. I hope that all the other presidents of Israel will be as loyal and representative as him.”

DE: While living in Israel there was a question that I used to ask all Israelis—each time receiving a different answer. Do you prefer Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?

IR: I can’t say what I prefer. Tel Aviv is my home and Jerusalem is one of the most spiritual places in the world. If you live in Israel you don’t really need to choose—it’s just 45 minutes of distance. Lucky for us, you don’t need to choose.

Talking with Idan in the morning was as amazing an experience as going to listen to his concert that evening at Sixth & I. The Synagogue was transformed into a temple of music. After the first song, during which some of the band members wore Purim masks, all the audience stood up, singing and dancing to the engaging rhythm of the music. People were happy to hear both old hits and new songs in the mix of languages that always accompanies the band’s concerts. I met Idan again after the concert and presented him with an official gift from his GTJ fans: our super-cool GTJ t-shirt! He was happy and thanked the GTJ team and all of you for the great interest demonstrated and, of course, for the t-shirt!

There was nothing left to say but, “Idan…Lehitra’ot be qarov!”.

Adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah Course starts TOMORROW

Those community members who have never been bar/bat mitzvahed, or those who had this ceremony but would like a refresher, are invited to participate in a comprehensive course offered by Sixth & I Synagogue.

Participants will spend 30 weeks learning about Jewish approaches to prayer, spirituality, and G-d, as well as the ins and outs of Friday night and Shabbat morning services. At the end of the course, participants can choose to become bar/bar mitzvah on the Sixth & I bimah.

The class will be taught by Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, who graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary and worked at the Slifka Center, Yale Hillel, before moving to DC.

Basic Hebrew reading skills are required, but comprehension is not necessary. If interested, email Allison Adges.

WHEN: Tuesdays, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: 600 I St. NW

September Trivia Night THURSDAY

Now that the summer is over, we are happy to remind you that Trivia Night is, once again, taking place every month! This event, co-sponsored by Sixth & I and B’nai Brith, is always a crowd favorite.

WHEN: Thursday, September 15, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Sixth & I, 600 I St. NW

This month’s Trivia Night will feature new rounds, prizes, and surprises.

Registration is $15 in advance or $18 at the door and includes dinner, two drink tickets for wine and beer, and unlimited soft drinks.  Due to overwhelming interest, advance registration is required to guarantee you and your team’s spot.  Teams can be made up of 5 – 7 people. Click here to buy tickets.

Sweater Set Sideshow

Check out former Jewish Girl of the Week, Katie Balloons, this week as she performs in the Sweater Set Sideshow.

This Sixth & I event is a circus-themed extravaganza. In addition to Katie, attendees will see multi-instrumental duo The Sweater Set, Austin-based swing band Shotgun Party, and DC’s own Mab Just Mab.

WHEN: Wednesday, September 7, 8:00 p.m. (doors open at 7:00)

WHERE: Sixth & I, 600 I St. NW

Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door and can be purchased here.  Seating is limited so advance registration is encouraged.

Basic Judaism Classes – Starting Soon

Starting next week, Sixth & I will be offering basic Judaism classes, intended for Jews and non-Jews alike.  This 7-part series provides an overview of the Bible, Shabbat ritual and observances, how to observe kashrut (kosher dietary laws), and the Jewish laws of death and mourning.

This comprehensive program will be led by Bernice K. Weiss, author of Converting to Judaism – Choosing to be Chosen: Personal Stories. Rabbi Weiss, who has been in the field for almost two decades, is a forerunner in the field of conversion and teaching interfaith couples.

WHEN: Begins Tuesday, September 6th. Class time: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: 600 I St. NW

The cost of the course is $118, plus a $10 registration fee.

To register, click here.

How I Won the Pickle Eating Contest — by Max Bluestein

The Champ. Max Bluestein

Tonight is the Fifth Annual Sixth & I Pickle Eating Contest.  Check back next week to see the report.  In the meantime, here’s a description of the event from last year’s winner Max Bluestein.

…………………..

I showed up for trivia at Sixth & I last Thursday and 4 beers and 15 botched history questions later, I found myself in front of 100 people and a 5 pound bowl of dill pickles.

Go!

The dozen competitors across the long table gorged the pickles with me as the crowd roared.  However, what we competitors thought were “oos” and “ahs” were probably more like “eeew”s and “that’s absolutely disgusting”s.

I was determined to win this thing. The pickles, provided by the corned beef purveying food truck Sixth and Rye, were delicious, but unfortunately the 5 minute contest didn’t allow time to appreciate the taste.

I glanced up and down the battlefield at the bowls of my enemies. My left flank was faltering and the right side had completely given in. Cowards. The only competition remaining was the man in the blue shirt next to me. He was technical, dedicated,and intense. I only knew him from the chants emanating from the blood-thirsty crowd… “Alex! Alex! Alex!”

His methods were calculated and deliberate. The systematic delivery method, the corn on the cobb bite-and-turn, the strategic water dunks. By comparison, all I had was the brute force of my lower jaw and the matter obliterating blades twisting in my stomach.

But I am Max Bluestein. The Max Bluestein that can go through an entire herd of cattle in a single sitting at Fogo de Chao. My very name sends chills down the spine of restaurateurs daring enough to offer a buffet in the tri-state area.

The battle raged.

Style vs. stamina, intensity vs. insatiability, technique vs. freakish monster stomach.

Time!

3 pounds of pickles in 5 minutes yielded me free movie tickets, gift cards, tickets to see Bobby Flay, and my name on a plaque (alias included).

Oh, and eternal glory.

Thank you Sixth & I for launching my competitive eating career. You’re next, Kobayashi.

Jobs, Internships, and Housing (oh my!)

Be sure to check our Bulletin Board for more job and housing postings.  Also, stay tuned for the new GTJ job site.

Contact stephen@gatherdc.org if you are interested in any of these positions.

AIPAC (Hiring 2 full time positions)

  • Campus Outreach Director.  The Campus Outreach Director works to develop relationships with and mobilize student leaders and pro-Israel political activists at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Christ Centered Campuses and Hispanic Serving Institutions.
  • National Field Organizer. Identifies, engages, trains and coordinates pro-Israel political activists on major college campuses, integrating them into the national pro-Israel political movement.

JCRC (Seeks two interns)

  • Details to be posted soon.

Moishe House Montgomery County (Room available)

  • Want to live in a fun group house with 4 cute ladies, a bonfire pit and a hammock? Vacancy beginning in September or October!

Sixth & I Synagogue (Multiple positions)

  • Full time and part time event coordinators/planners.

  • If your idea of a night out is to interview a source or cover a news event. If the idea of getting beaten on a story makes you so sick to your stomach that it motivates you to never let it happen. We’re looking for you.