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Does the Jewish vote even matter?

In celebration of the upcoming Presidential election, GTJ is featuring a weekly column on Jewish voters, and something to do with the local Jewish community.   See below for this week’s column, and click here to take a survey so that we can learn more about the politics of our community.

If you have interest in writing this column in coming weeks, please email noa@gatherdc.org

See week 1 of this feature.

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Stephen Richer is the President of Gather the Jews.

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Does the American Jewish vote even matter in United States Presidential Elections?

As with many Jewish questions, the answer is “maybe.”

The most obvious factor working against the importance of the Jewish vote is simply the small size of the American Jewish population.  Jews account for only 2 percent of the total population of the United States and approximately 3 to 4 percent of the electorate (Haaretz).  Comparatively, the victory margins in presidential elections since 1980 have been 10 percent, 19, 8, 5, 8, 0, 3, and 7 percent (The New York Times).  This means that even if the Jews voted as one block – 100% for one candidate – they could have tipped the popular vote in only potentially 2 of the past 8 elections.

But American elections are not determined by popular vote.  Instead, electoral votes are distributed to each of the states, and the states give the entirety (in almost all cases) of their votes to the candidate that wins the most votes in the state.

This bears on the importance of the Jewish vote.  In New York and New Jersey – the states with the two proportionally largest Jewish populations – the Jewish vote likely doesn’t matter because both states are Democratic bastions where a slight change in a small segment of the population has no chance of tipping the vote.  But in swing states – states that could be won by either the Republican or Democratic candidate – where the Jewish population is particularly large, the Jewish vote could be a deciding factor.

Consider the famous case of Florida in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.  In that election, 35 percent of Floridian Jews voted for Bush.  Had the Florida Jewish vote reflected the national Jewish vote – in which only 21 percent of Jews voted for Bush – then Bush would have lost Florida and, accordingly, Al Gore would have been the 43rd President of The United States.

This phenomenon is not specific to Florida in 2000.  Jews make up approximately 3 percent of the voting population of Pennsylvania, a state that John Kerry won in 2004 by fewer than 200,000 votes.  The Jewish population of Philadelphia alone is approximately 254,000.   A third state that makes the Jewish vote interesting is Ohio; celebrated Jewish-politics commentator Nathan Guttman agrees by noting in Moment Magazine that, “Ohio is also a state where Jewish voters could play a role in a close race.”

With only 6.5 million Jews in the United States, the Jewish vote is hardly a dominant factor in U.S. Presidential Elections (perhaps in contrast to Jewish money – see next month’s column!).  But in certain closely contested states, the Jewish vote could be the deciding factor.  I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so – look at this recent campaign launched by the Republican Jewish Coalition centered on Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  You can be sure President Obama and the Democrats have something similar planned for these critical, and Jewish-heavy, states!

….  Chart below from the Jewish Virtual Library (December, 2011) ….

State

Estimated Jewish Population

Total Population

Jewish Percentage

Alabama

8,850

4,779,736

0.2%

Alaska

6,150

710,231

0.9%

Arizona

106,400

6,392,017

1.7%

Arkansas

1,725

2,915,918

0.1%

California

1,219,740

37,253,956

3.3%

Colorado

91,070

5,029,196

1.8%

Connecticut

116,050

3,574,097

3.2%

Delaware

15,100

897,934

1.7%

District   of Columbia

28,000

601,723

4.7%

Florida

638,635

18,801,310

3.4%

Georgia

127,670

9,687,653

1.3%

Hawaii

7,280

1,360,301

0.5%

Idaho

1,525

1,567,582

0.1%

Illinois

297,935

12,830,632

2.3%

Indiana

17,470

6,483,802

0.3%

Iowa

6,240

3,046,355

0.2%

Kansas

17,775

2,853,118

0.6%

Kentucky

11,300

4,339,367

0.3%

Louisiana

10,675

4,533,372

0.2%

Maine

13,890

1,328,361

1.0%

Maryland

238,000

5,773,552

4.1%

Massachusetts

277,980

6,547,629

4.2%

Michigan

82,270

9,883,640

0.8%

Minnesota

45,635

5,303,925

0.9%

Mississippi

1,575

2,967,297

0.1%

Missouri

59,175

5,988,927

1.0%

Montana

1,350

989,415

0.1%

Nebraska

6,100

1,826,341

0.3%

Nevada

74,400

2,700,551

2.8%

New   Hampshire

10,120

1,316,470

0.8%

New   Jersey

504,450

8,791,894

5.7%

New   Mexico

12,175

2,059,179

0.6%

New York

1,635,020

19,378,102

8.4%

North   Carolina

30,675

9,535,483

0.3%

North   Dakota

400

672,591

0.1%

Ohio

148,380

11,536,504

1.3%

Oklahoma

4,700

3,751,351

0.1%

Oregon

40,650

3,831,074

1.1%

Pennsylvania

294,925

12,702,379

2.3%

Rhode Island

18,750

1,052,567

1.8%

South   Carolina

12,545

4,625,364

0.3%

Goodbye DC

GTJ’s President Stephen Richer, Guy of the Year Uri Manor, and Vice President Aaron Wolff

The famous Twelfth Century Spanish Jewish poet, philosopher, and statesman Judah Halevi once wrote, “My heart is in the East, but I am in the West.”

Though I’ve only been west of DC for four days, Halevi’s words have already come to my mind.  No city has been better to me than DC, and the excellence of these past four years is due in no small part to the city’s young adult Jewish community.

…..

Four years ago I was a bit lost.  I had just deferred the continuation of my political science studies, and I chose almost carelessly between two destinations that could provide one year for me to collect my thoughts:  Washington, DC or Bogota, Colombia.  The scale eventually tipped in favor of DC, not because of any visit that proved the city’s merit, but simply because an attractive girl who routinely kicked my butt in Scrabble, and who was my superior in policy debates, had told me she would spend the summer in DC.

The courtship amounted to very little (not surprising for those of you who know my ideas of appropriate dress and what constitutes an ideal date).  So within three weeks of moving to DC, I was friendless.

George Washington University had lots of Jews.  I knew that because my Dad routinely informed me about Jewish populations of different campuses.  So seeing as how I was Jewish and 22, I didn’t think it would be too outlandish to hang out on the campus and attend undergraduate events (including debate club!) Oddly enough, this strategy worked, and it especially worked with the Jewish community.  GWU’s Jew world eventually led me to Mesorah DC, which led me to Sixth & I, which soon opened my eyes to the enormous tapestry of Jewish life in Washington, DC.

And – atheist though I was (and remain) – the Jewish community, more than any other community, made me immediately and routinely feel like I was valued, that my company was wanted, and that I had a place where I could make good friends who would grow in DC with me.

Before I knew it, I was a Jewish Jockey or “Super Jew.”  On a bad week, I hit three Jewish events.  Good weeks had upper limits of seven or eight.

I developed a reputation among my friends as the person who knew the Jewish scene, so I – without too much prompting from my friends (you guys know I love writing emails) – started sending a weekly email to friends that listed the week’s best Jewish events.  So was born my version of Gather the Jews.

Fast forward to two weeks ago:  I’d just sent out the 130th Gather the Jews newsletter, and I’d logged what was probably my 2,000th hour on the Gather the Jews project.  Total dollars earned = $0.

So why’d I do it?  Because the Jewish community of Washington, DC, never lost the feel it had during my first months in DC.  It still was my home; it still was the place where I could be with tons of my friends; it still was the place where I could learn; it still was the place where I could laugh and be goofy; it still was the place I could go for support; it still was the place where I knew that I could out-dance almost every male (maybe not Josh Stevens!).

That’s why I did it, and that’s why, even after the time spent on GTJ, I owe the DC Jewish community so much.

I promise to continue making this payment from afar, and to the greatest extent that I can, while in law school.  But the day-to-day show will no longer be the Stephen Richer show.  This is my last newsletter (hopefully!); I’ll appear on the blog less frequently; and you won’t see me at Jewish events until winter and summer breaks.

But GTJ is in good hands:  co-founder and vice president Aaron Wolff will still be in town; Rachel G. is starting as our first true staff member next week; and volunteer stalwarts such as Mike W., Jodi T., Noa L., and Sara S. are still putting in hours on the website late at night.

As confident as I am in their abilities, if I could make one request of you the Jewish young adult community of DC, it’s this:  Help us keep making GTJ better.  It’s a true labor of love, but the project is supposed to be an awesome resource for the community, so if we ever cease be this, kindly let us know, and we’ll try to fix it.

It’s been a real pleasure.  See you over Winter Break (and Summer Break… and once I’ve graduated…)

Stephen

 

P.S.  Starships were meant to fly.

P.P.S.  If you’re bizarrely saddened by the fact that you’ll be hearing less from me on this blog and you want to subscribe to my non-GTJ writings listserve, let me know (stephen@gatherdc.org)

AIPAC Policy Conference: Four years, four conferences

From "The Times of Israel" ... yes, the same one that I mention in point 11

Stephen Richer is President of Gather the Jews.  To see two other pieces on AIPAC Policy Conference — on President Obama’s Speech — please click here.

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Since moving to DC, I’m 4/4 on AIPAC Policy Conference.  That adds up to 12 days, approximately 40,000 Israel supporters, 5,000 media members, 20,000 Ivy League degrees, and 50,000 Prada bags.  It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’ve done my best to do it all:

  1. I’ve heard Obama speak;
  2. I’ve heard Netanyahu speak (twice);
  3. I’ve heard over 25 members of Congress speak;
  4. I’ve gone to breakout sessions on China  led by Marvin Feuer (father of Danny, The Hero);
  5. I’ve scored a record-setting 12 points on my self-invented “Iran Game” (Game rules:  go to a breakout session, stay until one speaker says Iran.  Then can go to another breakout session.  Repeat.  Try to get to as many sessions as you can in one hour);
  6. I’ve gone to at least five speeches by three Makovskys (David) (Michael) (Alan);
  7. I’ve discussed Israel with the outside protesters;
  8. I’ve sung Hebrew songs loudly at the outside protesters;
  9. I’ve run through big groups of protesters and been punched at while stealing their biggest “Israeli Apartheid” flags… only to feel bad later about property theft (asinine protesters have property rights too!  My apologies.)
  10. I’ve been the guy who tried to ask speakers “the question” in breakout sessions;
  11. I’ve sat in the media section and pretended that not only did I know The Times of Israel existed, but that I read it on a regular basis;
  12. I’ve tried to look “unassailably qualified” when checking into the media registration without a pen or laptop;
  13. I’ve learned what a hashtag is and used it (#IAmProIsrael this year);
  14. I’ve live-tweeted speeches to keep me awake (e.g. Harry Reid);
  15. I’ve sat through the abysmally long “roll call” just to cheer for Utah’s congressmen (there are no female Representatives or Senators from Utah);
  16. I’ve paid $5 for a bagel.
  17. I’ve eaten six sumptuous free banquet dinners (AIPAC served dinners in 2009, 2010, and 2011 …  It got too crowded in 2012 … But at each of the three previous dinners there was always somebody at my table who didn’t feel like eating, and the food eventually made its way to me).
  18. I’ve gone to receptions meant for Floridians and Californians, two states I’ve never lived in;
  19. I’ve gone to college parties and told people I was still a student at University of Chicago (but haven’t done since I was 23!);
  20. I’ve seen the Maccabeats perform live at AIPAC twice, but I’m still looking for the guys that sang this Candelight song – they can’t be the same Maccabeats;
  21. I’ve sparked an AIPAC romance;
  22. I’ve made up with an ex-girlfriend over pro-Israel stuff;
  23. I’ve outdanced 90% of a bar’s attendants… At an AIPAC young professional after party (Park, 2010);
  24. I’ve counted out the 5:1 male/female ratio at the Lux afterparty the past two years;
  25. I’ve said “Oh hey man!  How’s it going?” only to walk past somebody at least 100 times;
  26. Etc.

Seeming chaos. But brilliantly ordered actually.

Have I done it all?  No.  Of course not.   AIPAC is so huge and it’s such a flurry of activity that it’s impossible to capture its entirety in 26 simple bullet points (and that’s about all my brain can manage).

But that’s why you have to go.  At least once.  No matter what you think of AIPAC’s policies.   It will maybe be the largest Gathering of Jews under one roof that you ever witness (13,000 attendees this year, probably at least 9,000 Jews), and AIPAC does such a phenomenal job creating its own world inside the Convention Center that by the time you leave hours later, you feel like you’ve just left a casino or opium den, and you have to, disappointingly, step back into reality.

If you missed this year’s event, then check out any major newspaper.  Or check out the writings of community members such as Adam Kredo, Alana Goodman, Phil Klein, etc.  But like I said, you can’t really be told what Policy Conference is – you have to see it for yourself.

This may be my last Policy Conference for a while — leaving DC 🙁 — but it’s been a wonderful run.  Exhausting, certainly, but well worth it.  Thanks to the good people at AIPAC for strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship; thanks to Lynn Schusterman for paying for some of my conferences; and thanks to Gather the Jews and Forbes for giving me the media gravitas needed to get me in at later conferences.

Haters gonna hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The broken Jewish engagement model

An article on the “The broken Jewish engagement model” by GTJ’s president Stephen Richer is featured in this week’s Washington Jewish Week.  The article’s not bad, but we wish they could expand the picture a bit…

Favorite part of the article:

But the Jewish nonprofit market is not an efficient market. Especially in the young professional world, supply is not directed by the consumer (the young professional service goer), but instead by the donor. Donors — who tend to be older — give money to what they know: the synagogue, rabbi, Torah-centric Judaism. It’s a bit like a Soviet system where the government dictates what types of cars should be produced — rather than letting consumers choose — and then acts surprised at slumping consumer interest.

Go here to read the rest.

DC Jewish blog round up

Kids from Be'chol Lashon Summer Camp (at InTheMoment)

In case you weren’t able to read the other local Jewish blogs this week, here are a few of my favorite articles:

Shalomnova.org:

  • Keeping the Faith: Samantha branches out a bit from her usual dating shtick and encourages us to fight casual anti-Semitism.  Oh, and she reminds us to marry Jewish.

The Blog at 16th and Q:

InTheMoment (Moment Magazine):

Jewish Policy Center:

  • Qaddafi’s Creepy Crush: Samara Greenberg offers a few more details on the unfolding fixation that Qaddafi had for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  Also, Qadaffi apparently isn’t the only famous national political leader to have a soft spot for Secretary Rice…

 

Want to recommend a DC Jewish blog that we should be reading? Email Stephen.richer@gmail.com

Kosher Frozen Yogurt?

If YogiCastle was just another Dupont frozen yogurt store (we’re up to 8 by my count), it wouldn’t merit mentioning on this blog.  But YogiCastle has a kosher twist.

The store opened about four weeks ago, and during the first weeks of its operation, its colorful flavor guides bore the OU kosher marker ().  OU is the symbol of the New York-based Orthodox Union – the biggest, and one of the most respected, kosher certifying organizations in the country.

Delicious frozen yogurt – great!  Kosher – all the better!

But as of yesterday, the OU had been removed from the flavor cards.

According to Grace Jung – YogiCastle’s marketing manager – there had been some confusion over the OU symbol.  YogiCastle receives all of its yogurt from a kosher certified organization that uses only kosher ingredients and produces a completely kosher product.  Knowing this, YogiCastle thought it would be OK (not circle K) to label its flavors with the OU.  They later learned that to use the OU marker, the Orthodox Union would have to certify not just the product, but the store.

Rabbi Sanders – kosher expert and managing Rabbi of the Vaad (the organization that certifies Eli’s, DistriKt Bistro, etc.) – offered a similar explanation.  “I think that what the manager meant was that the OU (and every other certification) only certify the mix as it is in the sealed carton from the factory.  Once it is open and being served to customers, the OU can’t take responsibility anymore.”

When asked what it would take for a store like YogiCastle to make the leap to kosher certified, Rabbi Sanders offered a brief description that did not seem overly onerous.  However, specific details and costs cannot be offered until the Vaad examines the store and its situation.

Will this happen?  Will YogiCastle become kosher?  Ms. Jung states that the store “is still considering the possibility of kosher certification.”

The kasherization costs as estimated by Rabbi Sanders certainly seem like something YogiCastle can handle, but kosher certification would also require closing for Shabbat, something that YogiCastle will probably not accept  (**Correction.  Closing on Shabbat might not be necessary.  See comments.)

End assessment: YogiCastle offers tasty, self-serve frozen yogurt for a good price, but though it uses kosher yogurt, I wouldn’t bet on it becoming officially kosher any time soon.

 

Dupont Frozen Yogurt Options:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Real and Lasting Source of Jewish Pride

Recently Gather the Jews co-founder and president, Stephen Richer, declared that Jewish pride is not a sin. He is correct. Not only does Jewish pride lack sinfulness, but it is a seminal and necessary ingredient in bringing a Jewish person to involve him/herself in communal Jewish life. But, what is Jewish pride and how can we foster a real and lasting pride in being Jewish?

The answer can be summed up in one word: Torah. If we desire to see subsequent generations of Jews not only survive, but flourish, we need to make sure they are educated about Judaism. After all, it is Judaism, which unites us as a people and in which most of our cultural traditions, quirks, humor, and even success are rooted. The Torah is the foundation stone of Judaism, and its study and observance is what has sustained Jews as a cohesive group with a strong identity for thousands of years.  The Torah has kept us alive against the backdrop of both violent persecution and times of encouraged assimilation and apathy. It is what makes us a nation and unique entity. Its values have enabled us to make the world a better place.

The problem American Jewry faces right now is apathy and a disturbingly high rate of intermarriage. Studies have shown that children of interfaith families are far less likely to actively participate in Jewish life when they reach adulthood. Yes, Holocaust remembrance and support for the Jewish state of Israel are very important and noble activities, but more is needed to ensure that Jewish young people marry Jewish and raise committed Jewish children. A person who has incorporated such things as kosher and Shabbat – to whatever degree they choose – will naturally want a marital partner with whom to share such things. ‘After-the-fact’ discussions about how to get Jews to marry within the faith or stay connected are not nearly as effective as the vaccination of Jewish education and observance.

A lot of us in this age of high-speed internet and smart phones, so used to the instant gratification these things provide for us, would like a ‘quick-fix’ or an easy solution to the problem of Jewish assimilation and disintegration. Unfortunately there isn’t one. Jewish education is the key to ensuring a Jewish future. To learn or teach Judaism is a gratifying and pleasurable experience, but it is one that takes time, dedication, and most of all hard work. Flashy advertisements and t-shirts or other programs that seek to make Judaism seem ‘hip’ or cool, but are devoid of substance, will not make a lasting impression on young people as evidenced by the recent collapse of J-Dub and Jewcy. A Jewish communal life that is only focused on social justice or tikkun olam, as Joel Alperson pointed out, will also end in failure.

We live in a changing world, and the spirituality, healthy family structure, and intellectual stimulation that a Torah observant lifestyle provides is the only way to effectively combat all the sterile alternatives that the mainstream established Jewish community has thus far offered.  Our ancestors survived for thousands of years by studying and observing the Torah and transmitting that knowledge of Judaism to subsequent generations. Today there must be a renewed effort at enhancing and promoting Jewish education. Thank G-d, there are many organizations that provide children, teenagers and adults with Torah classes. Obviously more has to be done, but a positive trend is emerging. A substantial number of Jews are reclaiming their tradition and raising their children with a love and passion for Torah, mitzvot, and acts of kindness.  There is truly no better buffer against the rising tides of assimilation. Many young American Jews are tired of the fluffy and the superficial. Young people today need something real if they are going to continue to identify as Jews.

Social events such as Gather the Jews happy hours and Israel trips such as Birthright are excellent for bringing Jews together and fostering that basic Jewish pride, but it’s what we do with that pride that matters and will ultimately determine the Jewish future. It is one thing to be inspired to want to do something a little more Jewish, but temporary political causes and social events fade. Torah is eternal.

Some will undoubtedly not like this answer to the problem of Jewish continuity, but they should consider the following. The study of Torah has sharpened Jewish brains for millennia and this devotion to education has carried over into the secular realm with Jews earning a disproportionate amount of college degrees, wealth, and Nobel Peace prizes. We are foolish if our ‘pride’ is based on false beliefs that somehow Jewish people are naturally ‘better’ or ‘smarter’ than the rest of the population. Such assertions are foolhardy at best and down-right racist at worst.

We are successful, because our roots are in the Torah and its observance. When a plant is severed from its roots it will continue to live for a little while longer, but eventually it will begin to whither and decay. As American Jews we must ask ourselves why we should continue to be Jewish. We need to know what to tell our children who may one day ask us this question. We need to have a better reason than ‘because they tried to kill us’ or bagels and lox. Torah and G-d are eternal. By investing in G-d and His Torah we too will remain eternally.

We would do well to consider the following words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “At a collective level [Torah Judaism] is the ultimate path to the unity of the Jewish people. We are one because we are part of the Torah. The Torah is one because it is the word of G-d. That is the truth which our ancestors carried with them from generation to generation, enlarging not only themselves but the moral horizons of mankind.” We owe it not only to ourselves, but to all of humanity to stay connected to Jewish tradition.

Jewish pride is not a sin

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  Fortunately, that septet is a Christian invention.  And I’m a Jew.  A proud Jew.  And I’m proud to be a proud Jew.  To be a proud Jew isn’t wrong – as Halley C. at the DC JCC suggests.  Rather, pride in Judaism is the only way we can save American Judaism.

On July 27, Joel Alperson wrote at the JTA that “the non-Orthodox way of life is falling by just about every metric we have at our disposal.  … We’re losing Jews and the commitment of Jews far too quickly.”  Mr. Alperson’s remarks are disturbingly familiar; the number of Americans identifying as Jewish has been on the decline for a long time – between 1990 and 2000, the number of self-identified American Jews fell by five percent.

The only way to reverse this trend is through more Jewish pride.  We proud Jews must share the smart, funny, great, cool, innovative, and powerful Judaism with our children, friends, and colleagues.  Otherwise they will not join.  They will not join because of Torah – sacred texts are no longer sacred in America.  Nor will they will join through stories of the holocaust – pity and sympathy are not club-joining adjectives.   We can only win the allegiance of tomorrow’s Jews by showing them that they are members of an impressive club with an illustrious history.

That this strategy works cannot be doubted.  Sociologists tell us that emotions are contagious: pride will beget pride.  Marketers tell us that people want elite products: Mercedes cars, expensive wines, and Ivy League degrees.  And Washington, DC tells us that people like winning teams: Capitals hockey games are sold out; Nationals baseball tickets are $5 after six losing seasons.  We Jews have a winning team, but nobody will know our record if we never tell a newspaper.

This marketing should of course be done in good taste, and the majority of the marketing should take place within the private Jewish community.  And marketing shouldn’t be put ahead of the product.  Our first responsibility as communal Jews must be to continue to succeed in all dimensions we can.

But we can no longer afford to raise American Jews who are afraid or embarrassed to admit they’re Jewish.  These Jews don’t know that Judaism is a shared bond with many of the smartest, richest, and most successful in the country.  And it’s these Jews that walk away from Judaism.

Pride is not a sin.  If we accomplish great things, then let us share our accomplishments, and let it be incentive to keep pushing.  A Rabbi once praised the biblical David because “where he walked, the ground shook.”  We Jews need to shake the ground and make some tracks.  In doing so, the next generation will know where to follow us.

Stephen Richer is co-founder and president of Gather the Jews.  This blogs reflects only the opinions of Stephen.

Have something you want to write on?  Email Noa at Noa@gatherdc.org

 

 


Goodbye (to Lani and Marisa)… And hello (to Casey and Andy)!

Isn't there a song about this?

One of the worst things about living in DC is that with each summer, some of my favorite people leave.

I had planned on beating the system by staying here just one or two years – I would be the person who left, not the person left behind.

That plan failed.

But the silver-lining of this is that with each outgoing batch of friends, a new – potentially great – group of friends enters.  True, these newbies require a bit of training, and it is a hassle, but the rewards outstrip these costs (see, e.g. GTJ leadership and friends Aaron and Noa).

This DC cycle is perhaps best embodied by the recent turnover at the Jewish Federation for Greater Washington.  Lani Hart and Marisa Saltzman – two of the community’s best friends and most active participants – are leaving DC in a matter of days.  Lani served as Assistant Director, and Marisa as Director, for Young Leadership at the Federation.  NeXus, Shabbat Hoppin’, Jewnity, Sukkah Hop, Afikomen Scavenger Hunt, if you participated in any of these events (and many others), then you benefitted from the hard work of Lani and Marisa.

My personal debt goes much deeper.  Lani is one of my longest-standing Jewish DC friends:  She’s seen me make a fool of myself (multiple occasions?); she’s encouraged my involvement in many Jewish programs (e.g. Israel Diplomacy Fellowship); and she’s never once missed a chance to flag me down on 17th street, at Adas Israel, or at Sixth & I to give me a big hello and a smile.  Lani also featured as Jewish Girl of the Week for this website!

Similarly, Marisa oversaw my participation in NeXus and really encouraged my increased Jewish participation.  In one of the first NeXus classes, she asked me, in particular, to tell the group about my Jewish journey.  I’d never really considered my Jewish journey that noteworthy before; growing up in  Utah, I barely knew what a Jew was…  But Marisa helped changed that.

Finally, it MUST be said that Gather the Jews could not be where it is today without the help of Lani, Marisa, and the other Young Leadership people at the Federation (Sarah Arenstein, Avital Ingber).  They’ve been very supportive and have encouraged us to stay at it.  For this, thank you on behalf of all of GTJ!

Lani and Marisa are both leaving DC, but they are not leaving the Jewish community, and they’re not even leaving the world of Federation.  Lani will start a dual degree program at NYU that will allow her to continue her work with the Federation, and Marisa will soon start work for the Federation of Los Angeles.  I know that NYC and LA have NOTHING on DC, but I’m sure these lesser-cities will be getting some major Jewish assistance.

As alluded to at the beginning of this article, for every exit, there is a similarly fantastic entrance.  Former Jewish girl of the week Casey will take over as Director of Young Leadership at the Federation, and though I don’t know him, I’m sure – Andy, who is joining the team to bring the Presentense Fellowship to Jewish DC – is similarly great.  We at GTJ look forward to working with Casey and Andy, but we also won’t forget, and we hope to stay in touch with, Lani and Marisa (GTJ in NYC and LA!!!!)

Thanks for everything Lani and Marisa,

Stephen
Gather the Jews

 

To become a part of Young Leadership at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, email Casey and Andy at:  youngleadership@shalomdc.org

 

How to fight the proposed San Francisco circumcision ban

I mentioned in the past that I have some philosophical questions about the practice of circumcision, but I also mentioned that I’m adamantly opposed to the San Francisco measure to ban circumcision because:

1) It has links to anti-Semitism (see our post here).

2) It’s a harmless — maybe even salubrious — procedure that leaves no obvious mark on the child and in no way impairs the child’s future life.  Therefore, there’s no reason to proscribe this religious act.

So if you want to take action against the San Francisco, then see the following JCRC blurb about what you can do:

Fight the proposed San Francisco circumcision ban

A blatant attack on the fundamental, centuries old Jewish ritual of circumcision is taking place in San Francisco. The proponents of this ban, fueled by anti-Semitism, are offering this extreme measure that would criminalize circumcision. A political action committee has been formed, the Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom, that is sponsored by the JCRC of San Francisco. Make a donation to this effort at www.stopcircban.com. While this assault  on religious freedom and Judaism is taking place in San Francisco, it is up to the entire American Jewish community to provide the resources to help.

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (July 21, Newsletter)