Adas Israel Renews!

Renovation rendering of the new sanctuary.

Adas Israel Congregation, home of the legendary Shir Delight Young Professional’s Shabbat service (averaging roughly 300 YPs per Shabbat!), announces the imminent launch of an exciting renovation and modernization project for its landmark building in Cleveland Park – all part of a wider “Vision of Renewal” initiative to bring Adas even further into the 21st century.  At the heart of the renewal is the creation of MakomDC (Place DC).

MakomDC is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on – it’s basically a ‘Jewish Politics and Prose!’” says Adas Israel Senior Rabbi Gil Steinlauf.  “It will feature comfortable seating and tables for lively discussion, books and technology, coffee and snacks, speaker jams, art, engaging sessions, and even interactive prayer services.  It will be the place where people, ideas, and Jewish experiences collide.”

The heroic architectural design for the new structure includes a complete overhaul of four worship and gathering spaces within the current 2850 Quebec Street address.  There will be new light-filled spaces used for worship, meals, celebrations, school programs, classes, meetings and other happenings.  Also, an expanded, super-modern entrance foyer will provide an open area to gather and will lead directly to MakomDC, the new and unique space at the heart of the building to serve as a bustling learning and engagement center for the 21st century.

The Charles E. Smith Sanctuary (also known as the Beit Tefillah, or House of Prayer) is the building’s largest worship space.  It will sport a more intimate seating arrangement, a stunning sculptured eastern wall, and a large circular skylight that will saturate the worship space with natural light, consistent with Jewish tradition.

“The landscape of Jewish life is changing rapidly and Adas sits at the crossroads,” says Rabbi  Steinlauf.  “With this renovation, we are poised to engage Jews from many different backgrounds and ages, and create an exhilarating, immersive opportunity for DC-area Jews to find true, personal spirituality for the modern world.”

Renovation rendering of the “MakomDC.”

Founded in 1869 by a group of European immigrants, Adas has been at its landmark location, one block east of the Cleveland Park Metro, since 1951.  The building has played host to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and, more recently, the Dalai Lama.  So it’s no small fry. However, the Jewish world (in particular, the young Jewish world) is evolving and so the congregation and its historic building must as well.

The Adas clergy and leadership worked closely with renowned architect Hugh Hardy and H3 Collaboration Architecture, who recently completed a reinvention of the Lincoln Center Theater in New York.  Construction at Adas will take place in three phases over the next year to allow continuation of all synagogue activities in the building.

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled for some time before the High Holidays next year, is sure to feature musical presentations, food, booze, and schmoozing!  And the word on the street is that it’s all going to be free for YPs, so follow all the latest developments at or on

The Modern-Day Dating Lemon Law — GTJ dating series with Erika E. (week 7)

You’re on a date.  It’s going just ok.  Actually, no it’s not.  You’re bored.  He lied in his profile.  Her jokes are offensive.  You got into an argument over some spilled wine.  He was rude to the waiter.  She thought it was polite to spit out her gum and keep it behind her ear for later.  He started talking about a potential Martian invasion and possible future wars between humans and aliens.  Whatever the reason, you want out.

And herein lies the question: Is there a polite, socially acceptable way to end a bad date and extricate yourself quickly and gracefully?

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about Barney Stinson’s Lemon Law.  (In case you don’t watch How I Met Your Mother, see:  I’m just talking about a courteous gesture that indicates that the date is over.

I once went on a JDate to play ping pong.  (If you know me at all, you know I’m a ping pong fiend.)  When I got there, I couldn’t find him.  Why, you might ask?  Well, he was about 50 pounds heavier than his JDate picture and stated weight indicated.  I could talk for hours about the reasons not to lie online, but I’ll save that for later.  I wasn’t happy that my date lied, but I was already there, so I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.  But it soon became clear that he was exceedingly boring (like, pulling teeth boring) and a poor sport at losing to me in ping pong.  Three strikes for him, and I was outta there.  I told him that my workout earlier in the day had really taken it out of me and that I had to go home.

Did I do the right thing?  Maybe.  In hindsight, it might have been more appropriate to say that I was disappointed that he had misrepresented his appearance.  But what’s done is done.

When it comes to a bad date, first determine the nature of “bad.”  Is it “creepy” bad or just “no sparks” bad?  If it’s the latter, then your best bet is to stick it out (at least for one drink or a cup of coffee).  A drink can’t hurt either… It may actually loosen you both up.  Who knows?  You might even start to like each other.  Plus, the worst that happens is you might get a funny story out of it.  “Remember that time when I went out with a guy from JDate who had taken me out six years prior, but I didn’t recognize him?  I didn’t like him then, and I certainly didn’t like him now!”  Yep – happened to yours truly.  I’m glad I stuck that one out since I’m still telling the story.

For the “creepy” bad date (other variants are “scary” bad, “offensive” bad, “mean” bad – you get the picture), the best bet is to (gulp!) be honest.  This is definitely the most awkward choice, but it’s also the most mature. “You know, I just don’t think we’re clicking.  It was nice to meet you, but I don’t want either of us to waste our time, so I thought I’d say that to give us the option to go do something else fun tonight.”

Telling a white lie (you’re not feeling well, you ate some bad cheese, you forgot about a work function you have to attend, you’re really tired, etc.) to get out of a date, like I did, isn’t usually the smartest move.  You may cross paths with this person again, which actually makes this choice pretty awkward too.  Your date may not have gotten the hint and may try to ask you out again, and the lie will become apparent by your present lack of interest.  No, a little white lie never killed anyone, but if you’re comfortable enough to use the, “I just don’t think we’re clicking” line, it’s a better, more honest approach.

So, while there’s no modern-day dating Lemon Law, if your date starts discussing the pros of dogfighting, or coughing in your face without any regard for your personal space, it’s ok to admit you’re not a match and move on.  Even Oprah agrees!

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, and helps people find success in online dating and gets them excited about its possibilities. “Like” A Little Nudge on Facebook, or follow on Twitter. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.

Have questions you want answered in a future post?  E-mail


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



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,

Gather the Jews


To become a part of Young Leadership at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, email Casey and Andy at:


GTJ welcomes new blog editor: Noa Levanon

Gather the Jews is pleased to welcome Noa Levanon to her new position as co-editor of the GTJ blog (along with Stephen Richer).

Noa’s involvement will add both editing expertise and a knowledge of Israel to the GTJ blog.  After receiving a BA from Princeton University, Noa moved to Israel where she served in the Israel Defense Forces for three years.  Noa extended her to stay in Israel as both a masters student at Hebrew University and as an editor at Ynet, an Israeli news website.  Noa is now pursuing a doctorate in conflict management at the John Hopkins School for Advanced and International Studies (SAIS).

Although Noa has been part of the GTJ staff for several months now, we are still extremely pleased and excited to welcome her to her new role as co-editor of the blog.

If you have any story ideas, or if you would like write for the Gather the Jews blog, please contact

Submitted articles should be no more than 600 words (preferably around 400 words) and should focus on issues pertaining to the Jewish community of Washington, DC.

Gather the Jews now serves over 2,000 young professional Jews in the DC area and receives approximately 2,400 visits per week.

Foreskin Frenzy! Russell Crowe, San Francisco, and alleged anti-Semitism!

Peculiar controversies are by no means to peculiar to San Francisco.  But this one may take the cake for 2011.  The subject?  Foreskin rights.  As the SF Gate reported:

There’s only one ballot measure San Franciscans are sure to be voting on this November: a ban on circumcision.

Department of Elections officials today certified that the fellows who call themselves “intactivists” did indeed persuade enough city voters to sign their petition making circumcision on anybody under 18 a misdemeanor, even for religious reasons. It would be punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

The petitioners cleared the cut-off point by inches. (Consider yourself warned: We’ll be making these jokes for months.) They needed 7,168 signatures and got 7,743.

Supporters of a ban say it’s a cruel, unnecessary practice akin to cutting off a baby’s ear or nose. Opponents say the ban, even if passed by voters, would never hold up in court.

Sadly, not all participating opponents of circumcision were philoderms (my made up word for “lover of skin”). Pajams Media unhooded the ugly head of anti-Semitism amid the debate:

As you may have heard by now, San Francisco will be voting this November on whether or not to ban circumcision in the city.

Defenders of the measure say it’s all about “human rights” and “protecting babies” from unnecessary procedures.

But critics suspected there was something vaguely anti-Semitic about the whole proposal, since among Jews (and Muslims, as well) circumcising male babies is a religious duty, not just a mistaken medical procedure.

Ban proponents insisted their proposal had nothing to do with Jews — really, it’s all about the rights of children.

Well, any doubt that they were lying have now been dispelled, with the publication of new campaign literature for the upcoming circumcision ban. The campaign comic book, called “Foreskin Man,” after its baby-saving superhero, features a litany of evil Jews doing battle with blond Nordic saviors.

Yes, really.

(Oh, and did I mention the artist’s last name is Hess? A relative of Rudolf, perhaps?)

Below you will find a selection of images taken from Foreskin Man, the campaign brochure for San Francisco’s anti-circumcision ballot measure. You tell me: anti-Semitic or not?

Go here to see the comic book pictures (I’ve posted some on at the bottom of this page).  Pretty disgusting.

Thanks to Pajamas Media and other Hebrew Hammers (defenders of Jews) the leader of the anti-circumcision cut short her legislative efforts, fearful that the movement had become too anti-Semitic. Fox News Reports.

A few days elapsed without comment.  But Russell Crowe blew the cap off the issue today by calling circumcision “barbaric” and comparing it to human sacrifice.

The Daily Telegraphy reports:

The Oscar-winning actor laballed the practice “barbaric and stupid” during a row with his Twitter followers, telling them to “f— off” if they disagreed with him.

The 47-year-old engaged in an angry exchange with one follower, whom he branded a “moron”, before imploring Jewish people to “stop cutting your babies”.

I’m sure there’s more to come.  We’ll cover it periodically.  Major h/t to Cory Andrews for his tips on these stories.






National mall to get new grass!

Wish that playing softball/kickball on the National Mall felt more like playing on a field than hardtop pavement?  Then you’re in luck because the National Mall is about to get a makeover, complete with new, lush grass.

The renewal process could cause some interruptions, but I think this is a major win for DC.  And the best part about it is that it’s being funded almost entirely by a private foundation — not by federal taxing and spending.

Click here to see the USA Today article on the subject.



Liberation from Hate

Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld

Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld

Noa Levanon is a GTJ staff member.

During Passover, a popular theoretical exercise aims to examine the way the concept of liberation applies to the world today.  As I attempted to modernize this concept vis-à-vis the Jewish people, I considered a form of oppression that is, unfortunately, all too topical for Jews today.  It is an experience from which the Jewish people, after emerging brutalized from the Holocaust over 60 years ago, had hoped finally to be liberated – they had hoped that, in the dawn of international awakening about the dangers of rampant racism that followed the genocide against their people, they would finally be able to shake off the fetters of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism remains pervasive today.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of witnessing an endeavor to combat the oppressive weight of this ongoing prejudice.  From April 2 to 5, I attended the inaugural conference of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism, at Indiana University.  Here, scholars from across the United States, Europe, and Israel gathered to discuss and analyze incidents and patterns of modern (post-Holocaust) anti-Semitism.  Both the conference and the institute itself were conceived by Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a renowned Holocaust scholar and former head of IU’s Borns Jewish Studies Department.  He discovered that, although the Holocaust itself and pre-Holocaust anti-Semitism had been widely studied, there was no systematic or academic analysis of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in recent decades.  The formation of the institute was his answer to this academic gap.

The inaugural event, held at Indiana University, was kicked off with a DC twist: Hannah Rosenthal, the US State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, gave a keynote address.  In it, she talked about her various activities to prevent anti-Jewish rhetoric and behavior by increasing awareness of its presence and potential danger.  In this capacity, she described one of her chief projects to date:  a trip of several imams, some of them previously Holocaust deniers, to visit Auschwitz in August, 2010.

The lecture sequence of the conference was launched the next morning.  Dr. Rosenfeld, in his opening remarks, cited a message from Judea Pearl, whose journalist son, Daniel, was forced to confess to being a Jew before being beheaded, argued that the murder “has come to symbolize the horrors and inescapable reality of resurgent Anti-Semitism.”  He urged conference participants to channel their expertise and passion to try and “[roll] back the hatred that took [his son’s] life and the tsunami of dehumanization currently sweeping our planet.”  His call to “map its undercurrents, analyze its anatomy, and understand its circuitry in scientific details” evokes the institute’s academic approach.

Pearl’s exhortation was complimented with a wide range of presentations, studying trends in various regions and among different ideological groups.  Scholars discussed topics from government-sanctioned anti-Semitism in the Arab world to growing anti-Jewish rhetoric in Europe, among international and non-governmental organizations, and even on American campuses (for a full conference program, click here).  One ubiquitous discussion was the link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Scholars were quick to note that criticism of Israel did not necessarily connote anti-Semitism, but also noted that anti-Zionism frequently served as a mask for more insidious prejudice.  As such, they sought to highlight specific and unfair double standards against Jews and Israel, and define the conditions under which such criticism crossed the line into anti-Semitism.  Frequently, scholars found that modern anti-Semitism manifested itself in the creation of jarring political coalitions between progressive and fundamentalist groups whose only ideological connection appeared to be the desire for a one-sided focus on Jewish groups or the Jewish State.  More disturbingly, scholars found that such coalitions, by appropriating the language of human rights and liberal democracy, lent the imprimatur of legitimacy and righteousness to biased campaigns that focused – often without substantiation – only on Israel while ignoring or even enabling egregious abuses around the globe.

Hoping to build off of the momentum from the conference, Dr. Rosenfeld intends to publish a collection of essays based on the conference presentations in an edited volume.

As we eat the ‘bread of affliction’ this week, let us remember that oppression and brutalization of Jews – whether through openly and tacitly sanctioned violence or whether through pernicious and discriminatory political rhetoric – unfortunately continues.  May a heightened awareness of the increasing Jewish challenges in the post-Holocaust era lead us to confront the troubling trends with courage and wit, and perhaps, finally, succeed in liberating ourselves from anti-Semitism.

For general information about the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism, click here.

The next version of GTJ. Input requested!

Thank you for supporting Gather the Jews over the past 60 weeks!  We hope you’ve found the site and newsletter useful.

It’s now time for the next version of Gather the Jews.  And in the spirit of bureaucratic Washington, DC, we’re requesting public comments on our proposed improvements.

We really appreciate your help.  Please feel free to comment on what is written below, or you can suggest something unrelated.

Comments can be made on this blog post or by emailing

Please make comments by Friday, April 22, 2011 (this is when we have to get back in touch with web developers).

Redevelopment to start in May.



  • Gather the Jews hope to be in three additional cities by July 2011.  The cities we are currently looking at include:  Philadelphia, Detroit, Tucson, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Tampa, and Miami.


  • The calendar will be easier to read and navigate.
  • Users will be allowed to input events.
  • Users will be allowed to search events by category (religious, social, educational, athletic, etc. – Seek comments on what categories we should have).
  • Users will be allowed to register for event reminders through email (is this a feature people will appreciate or…?)


  • The newsletter will be divided into cities.
  • Otherwise, the newsletter will remain fairly similar (how’s the newsletter working for everyone?).


  • There will be one national blog and one blog for each city.
  • The national blog will cover national events and speak to things that pertain to the entire American Jewish community.
  • The local blogs will function as the local section of a small town newspaper.  They will comment on the news, past events, and upcoming events in the young professional scene of the particular city. (Are people interested in reading about local events such as this report on the Scavenger Hunt, this report on the a cappella concert, or this report on an event.)

Jewish Guy/Girl of the Week

  • This will be a national feature.  There will be one Jewish Guy and one Jewish Girl each week chosen from one of our cities.

Deal of the Week

  • Each week, Gather the Jews will feature a discounted deal for a product or service that is of particular interest to the young professional Jewish community.

Link of the Day

  • This feature will link to a fun or important new video or article each day that is of particular interest to the young professional Jewish community.

Jewish White Pages (Is it this something people want and would use?  Or is this too Facebook redundant?  By contrast, would people prefer a fully-fledged Jewish Facebook?)

  • This feature will allow to Jews to connect and network.
  • Registration will be required.
  • Mini profile (does not require disclosure of name).
  • Divided by profession, industry, field.
  • Message system to contact people of shared professional interests.

Thanks again for your input!


GTJ Wants YOU!

Gather the Jews is recruiting for the following positions:

– Chief Financial Officer

– Bloggers (create content for the GTJ blog)

– Sales (selling advertisements)

– Assessment (find out how people are using GTJ and how they are liking it)

– Expansion (be part of the team that helps GTJ expand).

– Tech (we could always use!)

If you’re interested in any of the positions, email

Be part of the team that gets over 2,000 hits a week as part of our efforts to make being Jewish in DC easier!