Courtney wins Sixth & I Cooking Competition

Courtney's victory apron

As one who has never turned on an oven, I view cooking in the same light as rocket launching:  Both regularly occur, but I have no idea how.

And so it’s with considerable awe that I proudly present the recent winner of Sixth & I’s Third Annual Holy Chef: Battle of the Spuds competition:  GTJ’s very own food columnist Courtney Weiner!

Courtney cooked against 11 other chefs in the Sunday night competition.  Each chef had bring a kosher dish — dairy or pareve — to be sampled by the approximately 40 taste-testing guests.

Courtney made “Coconut Sweet Potato Flan.”  Her inspiration was simple:  “I knew I wanted some sort of sweet potato dessert.  I had made sweet potatoes with coconut before, so I thought they might combine well in a dessert.  As for the recipe, I looked up a sweet potato flan recipe and a coconut flan recipe that morning and figured out way to combine them.”

With her victory, Courtney established a perfect competitive cooking record:   She is now 1-0.  When asked if she was nervous for her first outing, Courtney replied, “I was concerned because I had never made flan before and had just made up this dish (meant to do a trial run, but I didn’t have time).  I tasted it before I left and was happy with it, but I had no idea what other people would think.”

As a prize for winning, Courtney received a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card and an apron that reads “Holy Chef, Sixth & I Champion.”

Check back in a week or so to see the recipe for Courtney’s award-winning dish.  In the meantime, you can check out some of Courtney’s past kosher creations (see below).

Debra Pearlstein finished second in this year’s competition

GTJ’s dating columnist, Erika Ettin, won the first year competition.

Congratulations to all chefs.


If you have any local Jewish young adult stories that you’d like to see covered, please email Stephen at













Chanukah Events in DC!

There’s a lot of great parties this season (below).  I’ll be updating this page regularly so make sure to check back.

Here’s a few things to help get you in the festive mood:

Hanukkah Parties:

Holiday volunteer opportunities:


Let me know (in the comments) what I’ve missed, and I will add.



Mesorah DC Dreidel Championship – and the winner is…


Live music, Open bar and….dreidels? This past Saturday night over 300 of D.C.’s finest young professionals joined Mesorah DC at Sixth & I for the first DC Dreidel Championship. Competition was fierce yet friendly, as the masses competed to become our nation’s capital’s top spinner.

While not competing, participants enjoyed an open bar and fresh latkes from the first ever “Latke Bar.”  Mesorah’s own Master Chef, Malka, treated partygoers to a choice — either “specialty” or traditional latkes expertly fried on the spot.

A spectacular evening came to a close as Josh “Spinner” Stern hoisted the championship cup and was crowned DC’s first Dreidel Champion.

Think you can spin? Start practicing for next year, and please join us at another great Mesorah DC event soon.

Check out pics here.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Alanna

What brought you to DC?
I studied government in graduate school and when we graduated, my entire class migrated to DC to find jobs. I joined the crew and started working for the government in 2009. DC is obviously a great place to work in public service, but I have also been impressed by its creative scene and the Jewish scene. But I am not impressed with the fresh juice scene, for all you entrepreneurs…

Where will we find you on a typical Shabbat?
I like to mix it up on Friday nights, so you can find me at Sixth & I, Adas Israel, Tikkun Leil Shabbat, or once in a blue moon hosting a Shabbat dinner featuring loaves of my dad’s homemade challah imported from Kansas.

You’ve considered writing a book. Tell us about that.
My grandmother is originally from Greece and I grew up around a lot of Sephardic traditions and delicious food. There is something about the Sephardic affection, treats, superstitions, and sayings that is such a unique and beautiful part of Jewish culture. Last year, I spent several months in Greece, and I was impressed by the history of the Jews there and how vibrant the community once was. I want to tell a story of this place and about the Sephardic culture that thrives there. Plus my grandma and her sisters were businesswomen – one owned a beauty shop, one was a hat maker and another was a dressmaker – and I love the fact that these women were doing awesome things and were probably completely oblivious to the feminist movement going on across the pond. So now I just need to learn how to write…

You were the center for your high school basketball team-a great feat for someone who is 5’3″! What was that like? 
Let’s just say we did not win a lot of games. But we had a lot of fun.

You work in citizenship and immigration services. What do most people not understand about the immigration process?
Most people still think that that the agency is called the INS, which
hasn’t been its name since 2003 (its US Citizenship and Immigration
Services). For more info on the process, check out our website!

DC Deports Italian Jew – Rossella

Why do you deserve to be Jewish Girl of the Year?

See #

  1. I love DC and I can’t wait to return with the status of Jewish Girl of the Year.
  2. I won money at “Who wants to be a millionaire” and I used the money to come to DC.
  3. When I was in DC, I took part in every Jewish event I could, from inspiring classes to fun gatherings. But my favorites have always been Shabbat dinners, the warm atmosphere, and amazing company (I am still trying to figure out why Jews in DC all lead such interesting lives), every week in a different location. I spent only four Shabbats in my own place in four months (and only to throw my own dinners…)
  4. I am the only Jew in DC who buys half gallon tubs of Haagen Daaz ice cream — a compromise because the only real ice cream is Italian gelato. Oh, I also introduced the DC Jewish Community to authentic pasta, cooked by yours truly. I am sorry to tell you, my dear American friends, otherwise you wouldn’t have any idea of what real pasta tastes like.
  5. The reason I couldn’t be at the kick off party is because I attended a very important meeting of the Milan Jewish Community Council to report about it for the Jewish magazine I work for.
  6. While I was in DC I reported about the awesome DC Jewish Community for the above-mentioned magazine
  7. I heard a rumour that GTJ prefers to award Jewish Guy/Girl of the Year to Jews with piercing blue eyes – well, I have the eyes you are looking for (see picture).

    See #7

  8. I am hospitable to every DC Jew who comes to Italy — ask Rachel Briksssss for confirmation
  9. I can sing Disney songs (both in Italian and English) better than anyone else, including GTJ president Stephen Richer
  10. If I win, I will fly all the way from Milan to DC for the Award Party. After having the opportunity of wearing Aaron Wolff’s hat, I can’t miss the experience of wearing a GTJ tiara.

What does it mean that you have been officially deported?
It means eating real ice cream and real food…  But I am also leaving the most wonderful people that I have met. In fact, they are also the most wonderful Jewish people that I have ever met.

So you are saying that American Jews are better than Italian Jews?
I cannot answer this question because I need to be politically correct, which is something I learned here in DC.

OK, so let’s get to the point. Who is your favorite DC Jew?
Well, that is a tough question.  There are two, actually…

The tall guy who wears a hat and the tall red head?
No… My roommates.

When will you come back to the US?
Soon hopefully.

Editor’s note: Rosella did not actually get deported.  She had to go back to finish law school.  GTJ and the DC Jewish community wish her much success and hope that she will bring some Italian ice cream the next time she comes to the US.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Jason

You’re a tax accountant. Is it as boring as people think?
Yes and no; contrary to popular belief there is almost zero math involved in accounting. The work I do is more like doing a complex puzzle. I’m not saying it’s all fun and games because I do spend most of my day in front of a computer screen entering data and such, but the other part is much more interactive and client-oriented.

You’re from Maryland and live there now. What are the hidden treasures that the DC area folk may not know about?
This is definitely a hike if you live in the district, but in Montgomery County there are two restaurants that are a must try.  The first is Dogfish Head Alehouse, which has amazing beer and food.  Dogfish is great if you have a group of friends that want to get together for dinner/lunch (just make sure you designate a DD ahead of time). The other is Cava in Rockville. This place has, in my opinion, the best tapas in the area. It’s a Greek restaurant and a perfect place to take a date.

You like to bowl. Where are your favorite spots?
My favorite spot has to be the bowling alley on the Navy Medical Campus in Bethesda. It is by no means the nicest, but the crowd is really relaxed and you are bound to meet someone who is friendly and easy to talk to. Bar-type alleys like the one in Chinatown are great when you’re just out with friends having a good time, but Navy Medical is good for the actual bowling.

You’ve planned events. What was your best and why?
Ah, tough question. I have to go with my most recent. Two weekends ago I planned a ’20s-themed party and it went beyond my expectations. Everyone dressed up and got really into the theme which made it that much more enjoyable. 18th Street Lounge hosted and the venue was perfect because you get that speakeasy feel there. Judging by the pictures, you can just tell everyone was having a good time and that’s what makes an event successful.

Your dream is to build a sustainable greenhouse. Tell us about that.
I can’t say this dream is mine alone because my brother is the plant science major, but I have 100 percent bought into it. I have just come to believe that there are too many things I take for granted when it comes to general consumption. The way I see it, growing your own food (as much as possible) has so many advantages. For one, you greatly reduce your carbon footprint. Second, in the long run, you’re going to save money and resources.

Why Attend the Falafel Frenzy?

The following opinions do not reflect the opinions of Gather the Jews.  They are written by three of the Falafel Frenzy’s hosts.

Five reasons you should go to the Falafel Frenzy.
  1. All proceeds go to charity!  Money is tight for everyone this year, so get the most bang for your buck by allowing your party entrance fee to do double duty.  For only $20 in advance or $25 at the door, you get to have a great time at an awesome party AND you’ll also be giving to charity!  Last year, this event raised over $10,000 toward hunger programs in DC.  Help us raise even more this year!
  2. It promotes the Jewish values of giving back.  Spend Christmas Eve with other MOTs and be a part of a meaningful event for the Jewish community.
  3. It’s a grassroots event that needs YOU.  The Falafel Frenzy was created by Jewish young professionals just like you who were fed up with the other for profit options on a night that is supposed to promote giving. This event is a grassroots effort created by members of the DC Jewish community, not sponsored by any organization, and we need YOUR support to make it a success!  
  4. Great music, hotter people, and signature drink specials. Lima Lounge generously donated the space and a popular Jewish DJ, and we’ll have DC’s best mix of the 80s, 90s, and 2011.   We’ll have drink specials including Latke Shots, Falafel Baltinis, and Holy Moses, along with hundreds of people for you to meet.  Last year, in our first year, this event had more than 500 guests, and we expect it to be even bigger this year!  Looking to meet that special someone or just hang out with hundreds of new and old friends?  You’ve come to the right place!
  5. Doesn’t everyone love falafel balls?  The falafel itself will be attending in spirit this year, but you can still show your love by making a difference with your falafel balls!

For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.  To buy tickets, click here.

How to Navigate Chanukah in DC

Editor’s Note: To discover more Hannukah events, see our hand-edited Chanukah events page, the events list to the right, and the events we have posted on our Facebook wall.

Chanukah week is a prime week for making connections in D.C., particularly if you’re still new to the scene. You won’t find a better week with more diverse socializing opportunities, be it volunteer, organization related, or just for complete fun.

The great part about is that the holiday theme means there is less pressure to wear your suit and tie, be well-stocked with business cards, or have an elevator speech ready at these types of gatherings.

But whether you’re hitting up the Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill this Tuesday, or gorging on falafel at the Second Annual Falafel Frenzy on Dec. 24, don’t totally slack off. There are a few easy ways to keep yourself in check and still make the most of these events that could reap longer-term benefits, be it socially, educationally, or professionally. Because you never do know who you’ll meet at these Chanukah functions. Everybody loves a good party, and more people are likely to turn out this week than any other.

Here are just a few tips to safeguard your Chanukah-week outings:

  • Inform your guest. If you’re bringing a guest with you to an event, make sure they’re in the know about the event you’re attending.  Also, debrief them on proper decorum and attire, if necessary. Your guest can reflect directly on you should you run into a potential connection, and your guest’s behavior, positive or negative, can be a factor for your reputation.
  • Make the most of first impressions. How you introduce yourself to people is fairly important. It can be a little difficult to navigate gracefully through an introduction when your face is stuffed with latkes or you’re double-fisting for the night, so keep in mind that you may need to shake some hands and compose yourself with poise.
  • Read the news. Or something. There’s nothing worse than uncomfortable silences. So do your due diligence and have a few conversation topics ready in case you need to quash the awkward silence. It’s worth it to read up on the latest news (totally not a ploy to assert validity of my job), and generally topics like the economy or foreign affairs will get you scooting around conversationally in D.C. Of course, if you’re still new to the city, you’ll soon learn that it’s nearly impossible to evade the political discussions. And probably religious ones as well, since at least 90 percent of the crowds you’ll see during Chanukah events are Jewish. So pick a topic or two and master it. It will pay to have something to contribute to the conversation.
  • Give yourself some down time this week. With so many events going on, you don’t want to burn yourself out with all the socializing. Feeling over-socialized could hinder your maximum networking abilities or drive you to write blog posts recounting your Chanukah overdose.

And most of all, have fun. It’s a great time of the year and it should be enjoyable for you, whether you stay in D.C. or head elsewhere. So stay warm, be surrounded by good company, and have a happy Chanukah.

Jews and Sports… Stop Laughing: Chanukah Wish List

My Chanukah wish list for Jews and sports:

  • That Tim Tebow wins the Super Bowl.  What does the Denver Broncos quarterback have to do with Jews and sports? I love Tebowing, the celebration the religious Tebow does by dropping to one knee and bowing his head.  It turns out that the whole Tebowing phenomenon was started by Jared Kleinstein, a 24-year-old Jewish real-estate marketer born in Denver and living in New York.  Kleinstein created the Tebowing website, where people submit pictures Tebowing from all corners of the globe.  “People found hope through a gesture,” Kleinstein recently told the Wall Street Journal.  The picture of a little boy who posted “I’m Tebowing while Chemoing!” is pretty inspiring.  For those of you who stay long enough on Yom Kippur, Tebowing is a little reminiscent of the avodah service.
  • That the positive performance-enhancing drug test by recent Jewish National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun be overturned on appeal.  The questionable character and billions of dollars in today’s professional sports has made people cynical about a cultural phenomenon that has historically bound the United States and been a symbol for social advancement and national pride.  Braun was proud of his Jewish faith and his character as a young player trying to help baseball eliminate its steroid stigma.  “I realize,” he told the New York Times, “all these things are a result of me having success on the baseball field, carrying myself the right way and staying out of trouble off the field.”  Braun maintains his innocence and insists his positive drug test was the result of improper testing mechanisms.

The contrast between the feel-good Tebow victories and the disappointing Braun drug test is indicative of a schism in sports.  For better or worse, American athletes are revered like Babylonian Talmudic scholars.  Should Babe Ruth have been paid more than the president of the United States?  “I had a better year than he did,” Ruth said.

When athletes show character—like Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax not playing baseball on Yom Kippur—they can have tremendous positive inspiration.  When sports stars do not—felonies, infidelity—they leave us with a sour taste at a time when we could all use some encouragement.  Maybe sports fans are overly nostalgic, like the protagonist in this year’s Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris” was about his literary legends.  But it seems like the athletes in Washington have just as much impact, if not more, than the politicians in the city.  Tebow’s Broncos lost to the New England Patriots on Sunday, but he’s still the biggest winner to this point in the NFL season.  And hopefully we’ll have more to Tebow about—or maybe even one day to Braun about.  Happy Chanukah.

Gather the Jews member Jonathan Horowitz ( is the horse race announcer at Arapahoe Park and host of the show “A Day at the Races” on Altitude Sports TV in Denver. He also has authored The ONE and ONLY: A Sports Quiz Deck of Definitive Games, Teams, Players, and Events that will be published by Pomegranate Publishers in January 2012. If you would like to purchase a personal copy ($9.95), please contact him at for details.

On the Eight Nights of Chanukah, My Dating Coach Said to Me… GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (week 22)

As the year comes to a close, I want to provide a summary of the top eight tips from 2011.  Feel free to sing along!

On the 1st night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

In online dating, differentiating yourself is key.  You want someone to be able to paint a picture of you in his or her mind rather than painting a generic person who could be just about anyone.

On the 2nd night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Try to avoid making online dating like ordering a pizza.  We are all looking for that on-paper perfect mate.  And since online dating sites give so much choice in the matter, we think it’s our right to have everything we’re looking for.  Go ahead, order whatever you want for dinner, but when it comes to dating, there’s no check-box order to place.  Give people the benefit of the doubt because in the end, after meeting in person, chemistry may trump all to give you the slice of your life.

On the 3rd night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Don’t use a spur-of-the-moment Groupon/Living Social Deal on the first date.  If you’ve planned the outing in advance because of the Groupon, then you’re good to go.

On the 4th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Online dating isn’t easy, which many people don’t realize. They think they can just throw a profile up there and wait.  No way, Jose.  That’s like walking into a bar and just plopping yourself on a stool without even trying to make conversation with anyone.  It’s just not going to work.  Yes – online dating takes work.  But then again, so do most things in life that are worth the outcome.

On the 5th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

There’s no modern-day dating Lemon Law, so for the “creepy” bad date (other variants are “scary” bad, “offensive” bad, “mean” bad), the best bet is to be honest.  “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 tonight.”

On the 6th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

On a first date, you can always add dinner, but you can’t take it back.  Enough said.

On the 7th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

In online dating, non-response does not equal rejection.  In other words, the absence of a positive reply (an e-mail back) is not the same as someone turning you down.  Just forget about it and move on.  Remember – for all you know, they just didn’t like your hair.

On the 8th night of Chanukah, my dating coach said to me:

Don’t commit any of the four Dins – 1) The last-minute cancel and never reschedule, 2) The no interest make-out, 3) Canceling via text, and 4) Deciding you’re not interested and never telling the other person.

And a partridge in a pear tree. 

Have a wonderful holiday from Erika at A Little Nudge, your GTJ dating blogger.

If only there were eight more nights to write about.  In case you want more, an archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.