Elise Feldman discusses her amazing journey on a Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip and how to sign up for your own!


These were the words chanted together at Ben Gurion International Airport as 48 jet-lagged American Taglit-Birthright members met the seven Israeli participants and Israeli guide they would be traveling with for the next 10 days. The chant echoed through the airport as we all held each other and jumped around in a circle. I could feel all of our exhaustion from the flight fade quickly into excitement. We were ready to start our 10-day journey in Israel – little did we know that each day would bring a new understanding and emotion to the words, “Achim Simcha,” which means “Brotherhood and Happiness.”

That night, we each explained why we decided to embark on Birthright. Each of us came from a different Jewish background. Some formally practiced Judaism, others explained that while culturally Jewish, they did not celebrate the holidays or rituals, yet identified with being Jewish. These descriptions also applied when we learned more about the seven Israelis that were on the trip. All were young adults like us who had either finished serving in the IDF, or were still in the IDF.

We traveled to Jerusalem on Shabbat. Before we entered the passage to the Western Wall, our guide, Iftah, stated that some of us were probably the first in our families to reach the Wall. I am not religious, and I am fortunate to say that I did not lose any of my immediate family in the Holocaust. However, going to the Western Wall for the first time brought out emotions that I had no idea ever existed inside of me. As I stepped away from the wall with uncontrollable tears coming out of my eyes, my Israeli friend wrapped her arms around me and said, “You are home.”

Towards the end of our trip, we sat looking out at Har Herzl’s monument. Iftah said to us, “I know all of you have different ways of being Jewish. Some of you say you are ‘half Jewish’, culturally Jewish, you barely identify with being a Jew – but whatever ‘Jewish’ you are, hold on to it.”

After my Bat Mitzvah, I completely stopped practicing Judaism. I stopped going to services or celebrating the High Holidays. It wasn’t until this last year that I decided to reconnect with my Jewish roots and take this trip. I have never been more physically, emotionally or mentally challenged in my entire life than I was in Israel. I don’t think I have ever cried and laughed so much in 10 days.

Israel answered a lot of questions I had, but I left with three times as many. So, I am now excited to try and answer these questions. The trip made me think about my own country in a different way and appreciate some aspects a little more than I had before. It certainly made me appreciate Israel in ways that I never thought I could.

I now have a brand new family of 57 members, and we already have plans to celebrate Shabbat together soon. I also can’t wait to celebrate the High Holidays this year and feel the love and happiness that I remember feeling as a child. That is what Israel means to me. I will never be the same because of this trip.


Want to have an experience with peers from DC like Elise? Then sign up for the DC Community Trip!

This winter, travel to Israel FOR FREE with fellow Washingtonians on the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Am I eligible?

  • Age 22-26 at the time of application (If you’re under the age of 22, visit www.birthrightisrael.com to find a trip that’s right for you!)
  • Have not previously participated in a peer-orientated Israel trip
  • Local or ties with the Greater Washington area

Important Dates:

There will be trips in November, January and February. Exact dates will be confirmed soon. Registration for the trip opens…

  • Monday, September 9 at noon for returning applicants
  • Tuesday, September 10 at 10:00 a.m. for new applicants

How do I register?
To register, please visit www.israelwithisraelis.com and choose the “DC Community trip.” From there, you will begin to prepare for an unforgettable experience.

Please know that the registration process can be very competitive and only remains open for about a week, so it’s very important to register on the opening date and pay your security deposit as soon as possible. Once Shorashim receives your application, they will move forward with processing it and scheduling an interview. Once this is complete, you will find out the dates of your trip and further details.

Have questions?
To find out more about the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip (sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington), contact Sara Weiner at 301-230-7266 or sara.weiner@shalomdc.org.


Is it Kosher to Date on Rosh Hashanah? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 73)

apples and honeyAs the weather turns from sweltering hot to a little cooler, and with the High Holidays upon us, it’s time to deal with a question that might arise: Is it kosher to date on Rosh Hashanah?

Now, I don’t mean that you should analyze whether it’s unkosher (perhaps literally) to grab some moo goo gai pan at the Chinese restaurant next door after Rosh Hashanah services if your stomach is growling during the shofar blowing.  What I mean is: What if you see a good-looking gal (or guy) at services?  Would it be sacrilegious to start a conversation and potentially ask for her contact information?  I’d venture to say no… but use plenty of caution and respect.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a new year after all, and we’re supposed to fill it with sweet things, like apples and honey.  While common wisdom would have us believe that said honey should be viscous and come from a bee, what if there’s another form of something sweet at services, and instead she’s about 5’3 with honey brown hair, freckles on her face, and cherry red lipstick.  Should we deprive ourselves of one type of sweet new year to maintain respect for the other?

I used to have a friend (we’ll call her Diana) who moved to Baltimore and didn’t know anyone there.  Rather than driving down to DC to join me at services, she decided to attend services there by herself.  She was on the seat second from the end.  Just as the service started, a guy (we’ll call him Joey) sat down next to her, also by himself.  They exchanged pleasantries – name, job, the usual – and that was that.  Joey wanted to ask Diana out, but he was afraid that it went against all social and religious norms to do it in the synagogue, and on the holiest of holy days (this time Yom Kippur) at that.  So he waited a week, got creative, looked her up (these were pre-Facebook days!), and asked her out.  They are now married with a baby boy.

Now, I’m no religious guru, but my thought is: Would G-d want us to stop ourselves from “going for it” on the holiday?  While no one could ever know the answer to this question, what I recommend is that if you think someone might be worth talking to after services, it doesn’t hurt to strike up a conversation and end with some form of, “I really enjoyed talking to you.  Let’s definitely be in touch after the holidays.  May I get your number?”  A lighter alternative would be to ask for the other person’s business card… an easy peasy way to exchange information without using the line, “What’s your number?”

As we internalize the spirit of the High Holidays and try to enjoy the year 5774, remember that it’s ok to start off on a bold and exciting foot.  L’Shanah Tova!  I’ll be at the 6th in the City New Year’s Eve Party  tonight.  Hope to see you there!

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

The Jewish Version of “Girls” Exists

Taken from the "Dude, Where's My Chutzbah" Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DudeWheresMyChutzpah).

Taken from the “Dude, Where’s My Chutzbah” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DudeWheresMyChutzpah).

Dude, where’s my chutzpah?” has been compared to the HBO series Girls by Jewcy.  The web series, created by Jessie Kahnweiler, follows the story of Jessie who must live a Jewish life for one year in order to receive her inheritance from her recently deceased Bubbe.  In the second episode, you learn that Jessie’s idea of living a Jewish life includes haggling at a sample sale, shopping at Bloomingdales, going on a date with a Jewish doctor, eating Chinese food, and dancing the Macarena.

Take note, this series is not for the easily offended Jew (at least not at he beginning).  Jessie plays off all the typical Jewish stereotypes and jokes on her path to Jewish discovery.

Beneath the crude humor and Jew jokes, there is a level of seriousness to the series.  On the series’ website, Jessie posts podcasts of interviews she’s done with members of the Jewish community, including rabbis, concerning their own Jewish journeys.  According to a Huffington Post article about the series, we can expect some interesting moments on the show.

Only three episodes have been posted so far, though according to Jessie’s blog the next episode – “Going Ortho”- will be up in the next 24 hours.

GTJ Satirist Brian F. – Meteorologists: DC Interns Are the Cause of DC Humidity

intInflux of Unpaid, Obnoxious Interns Found to Attract Sweltering Summer Weather 

WASHINGTON, DC – (@TheComedyNews) – Meteorologists at the National Weather Service have released a study finding that the sweltering summer humidity in Washington, DC is due to the influx of unpaid summer interns.

“We have analyzed data dating back to 1799, when the first summer interns were commissioned to help with the labor of governing the United States,” according to Dr. Roger Patrick, the lead meteorologist on the study.  “Interns were originally the children of only Congressmen,  clergymen, and bankers, and their parents wanted them to come to town to learn about running the government before any of the other general public did.”

The study notes that before 1799, the District of Columbia had very mild summers with average temperatures rarely exceeding 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and virtually no humidity at all.

Over the years, as the size of the federal government expanded, more and more interns came to DC to spend their summers working at unpaid jobs—and have thus caused the humidity that engulfs the nation’s capital from May until September.

Today’s interns attract more atmospheric moisture than ever.  Interns are seen in droves crowding the Metro train, dancing obnoxiously at the worst bars in town,  boasting about Fraternity and Sorority obligations, and are overheard in the hallways having the most arrogant conversations amongst each other.  When these unfortunate things happen, there is a hormone released when such human smugness reaches astronomic levels.  That hormone, called arrogantimone, is then released into the atmosphere and lingers in the form of humidity for six to eight weeks.

Even as this article is being composed, two interns exchanged in typical humidity-causing banter:

“Hey Lisa, we need to go to McFaddens tonight, I hear it’s a really fancy place so no wearing any of your polarbear Midwestern cardigans.”

“Oh you wish you were Midwestern, Brynn.  You don’t have college football on your campus.”

“Tufts University has football, but no one cares about it.  Also, Tufts is in Boston, that’s the same place where Harvard is.  Besides, you’re not Midwestern, you’re from Miami.” 

“I go to Michigan, and Michigan’s in the Midwest, so therefore I’m Midwestern.  Michigan also has the largest football stadium in America.”

“Well, you work at a non-profit, that’s gotta be lame.  My intern coordinator at the House of Representatives says that I get to take a picture with the Congressman at the end of the summer.”

“How many more stops until Foggy Bottom/GWU subway station?”

As this conversation went on, the windows of the Metro train began to slightly fog up.  An entire DC Summer interns blog has been set up to document such incidents.

Some estimates say that the 110,000 or so interns that will come to DC in the summer of 2013 will make this year one of the most humid on record.

One of the more intriguing findings during the National Weather Service’s research of the correlation between unpaid interns and DC summer humidity was the emergence of America’s first intern.

George Washington had who is now known as the first intern in the history of the United States.  His name was Jebbediah McMonica and he was a “Generals Apprentice”, a civilian servant tasked with drawing copies of maps, making lists, and preparing morning coffee for President Washington.

According to primary sources, many of these Generals Apprentices often complained of a wet, murky undergarment defect they would get in their clothing after working long unpaid hours.  In the late 1700s, this was known as “Foggy Bottom”.  Today, this aliment is now known as “swamp ass”.

Obstacles to the First Date – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 66)

We all know what an obstacle is.  According to good ol’ Merriam-Webster, an obstacle is, “something that impedes progress or achievement.”  Now, what if that “something” is you?

In dating, there are so many potential obstacles to that first date:

  1. Emailing someone online
  2. Talking on the phone (I actually never recommend this… article coming on the topic soon.)
  3. Text messaging before the date

Each of the obstacles listed above is a potential rejection point for your date to decide not to go out with you (and vice versa).  Now, I know I’m a former economist and all, but you don’t need to be a math whiz to know that by removing one of these potential rejection points, your chances of getting to the date are greater.

Let’s look at a few scenarios below:

Obstacles to the first date


At each point, the date is presumed to have messed up in some way, but there may be an explanation for all of it.  For Endless Emailer Eddie, perhaps he just doesn’t know how online dating works.  Give him the benefit of the doubt and (gasp!) even suggest meeting him.  For Chatty Cathy on the phone, perhaps she just gets nervous and talks too much, but as she gets to know you, she’ll calm down a bit and actually breathe between talking about her precious cockatoo and her trip to Iceland last year.  And for Texting Tommy, maybe he’s just excited to go out with a great catch like you.  It’s better than the alternative – not contacting you at all.  Simply saying, “I’m not really a huge texter,” should do the trick.

Do Eddie, Cathy, and Tommy hit a bit close to home?  Or maybe you’ve dismissed one of them in your dating days.  My advice?  Remove the obstacles to the first date.  You never know if you’ll have chemistry until you meet in person, so don’t get in your own way by setting up all of these rejection points.  A couple of emails back and forth should do the trick, and then get right to the date.  As a client just emailed me this morning, “What came across in emails was not there in person.  I guess that happens quite a bit and the more experience I get at this, the sooner I will try to get to a meeting so I don’t have to [spend] my time emailing.”  Obviously, this can go either way – better in person or worse – but you have to actually meet to find out.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Susan

Susan1Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Susan: The love of cold weather.  Not quite.  Being from Atlanta, I had no plans to move up north.  However, after staffing a trip to Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Israel…BBYO Passport, the travel arm of BBYO, offered me a full time position in DC.  After getting back to the states, I packed my car and drove up to DC.  A large U-haul followed a few months later.

Rachel: So what exactly do you do for BBYO Passport?
Susan: I work as a Program Manager with the BBYO Passport team.  What is BBYO Passport?  Glad you asked, its the leader for Jewish teen travel.  This year, I focused on March of the Living, a Holocaust Remembrance journey.  Right now, we’re gearing up for our summer programs that span 16 countries.  I’m excited that I’ll be staffing one of our Europe programs traveling to England, France, Holland, and Belgium.  PUMPED to say the least.

Rachel: So you’ve traveled a lot.  What was your favorite country?Susan4
Susan: Traveling is definitely a passion of mine.  Can’t say I have a favorite country, but a few of my favorite experiences have included living in Italy for a summer, backpacking in Australia & Fiji, being in the most intense traffic jam in India, and spending a month on an Eco-farm in Costa Rica.

Rachel: We heard you attend a lot of music festivals.  Which ones are you looking forward to?
Susan: LOVE MUSIC!  I’ve been to a bunch of one day festivals and weekend ones… Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores BAMA (3 times), Bonnaroo in TN, Chicago’s Lollapalooza, Atlanta’s Music Midtown (4 times), and Governors Ball in NY to name a few.  On my list in the future is: Coachella in CA, Sasquatch in Washington State, and Electric Forest in Michigan.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Susan: There’s two: my Bubbie’s salt & pepper kugel AND Mama Sloan’s Coca-Cola Brisket!

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Susan: Who isn’t the coolest being a Jew?  We are the chosen people.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Susan: There’s a line for the buffet.

GTJ Satirist Brian F. – ‘Creepy Guy on Subway’ Upgraded to ‘Guy I’m Interested In’ After He Backhandedly Reveals He’s Jewish

metNEW YORK, NY – (@The Comedy News) – Today on the morning rail commute, a tall, dark-haired guy sitting across from Anna Silverman began to stare at her for a good fifteen seconds.

Anna thought to herself, “he’s kinda cute, I give him a seven-point-five out of ten.  But… aww no, he’s still staring, now I give him a seven.  No, six.”  A moment later Anna’s inner monologue evaluated the guy again, “Four.  He’s a four.  Cute but a creeper.”  Anna sighed.

In an instant, the creepy guy stood up and walked towards Anna.

Oh no, please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me,” Anna thought.

“Hi I’m Benji,” the creep began as he sat down next to Anna.

“Oh no!”  Anna screamed internally.

“I was just wondering,” continued Benji,  “Does this jacket smell like cabbage?”

“Eww, what?” Anna responded as she reached for her pepper spray.

“You see,” Bejji said.  “I bought this jacket last month when I was in Israel, and last Friday, I left it hanging at coat check at a Shul in Yonkers, and I’m convinced that the jacket smells like cabbage now.”

Anna put her pepper spray back in her purse.

“Were you on Birthright?”  Anna asked Benji as she began to re-evaluate him.  “Jewish, bold, self-conscious.  That’s kinda cute.  Six-point-five…”

Benji eagerly answered, “Yeah, most inspiring trip ever!  Have you been?”

“Yes! Twice last year!” Anna rejoiced.

“That’s hot, I’ve been meaning to go back to Israel all year, but I have been doing so much traveling to visit my brother who just became a Rabbi in Paris.”

“Oh my God, eight.  I’m interested!  Wait…NINE!” Anna made her final evaluation.

Benji and Anna exchanged contact information.  They will be expecting their first child at the end of February 2014.

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

Jewish Girl of the Week – Jenny

jWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Jenny: I was lured to DC by promises of fame, fortune, and power. 🙂

Actually it was a natural progression.  After getting a masters in policy and working in consulting for a couple of years in Austin, I was ready to branch out.  I came up to DC for a friends bridal shower/bachelorette party and decided that his was the city I need to be in.   Low and behold two months later I had a job and moved to DC, and haven’t looked back.

Rachel: What is your favorite thing about DC?
Jenny: There is ALWAYS something to do here, something happening, or someone incredibly impressive speaking at one of a number of various different events.  The cultural opportunities here rival those of NYC and perhaps other European cities, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find another city in the US with the wealth of the population and the engagement found here.  I play on a softball team and it always boggles my mind that I play on a field (The National Mall) right next to monuments that I only saw in textbooks growing up.  Gives me chills every time!

j1Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Jenny: It’s a tie between Tu B’Shavat and Purim.  I was born on earth day and have an affinity towards all things earthy, plus fruit is one of my favorite things to eat so it works out well.  Purim on the other hand is a little more exciting for obvious reasons.  Like every other little girl out there, I have fond memories of dressing like Esther year after year.  Finally had to retire that costume last year due to the fact that it didn’t fit after 25 years 🙂 (jk).

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Jenny: Such an easy question, obviously fresh challah right out of the oven.  Growing up I had a hard time waiting for shabbos to eat my moms fresh baked challah, so often I would start sneaking challah by pulling pieces from the bottom, hoping no one would notice.  It always became incredibly obvious I had hollowed out the challah when my parents went to cut into it and the middle was hollow.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Jenny: I see Jews as a collective group, therefore I am going to have to say the community as a whole.  It’s the incredible diversity and complexity that make us “cool”.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Jenny: ruckus ensues!

Jewish Guy of the Week – Marc

MKWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Marc: I grew up in NJ (Exit 9) and went to the University of Maryland (go Terps).  I liked the area so much I decided to stay.

Rachel: What is your favorite thing about the DC Jewish community?
Marc: I like going to Mesorah at 6th & I.  They make everyone feel very welcome and it’s a great place to meet other DC Jews.  Every Monday night they have Café night, where I can go to learn some Hebrew, eat sushi and pizza, and learn some Torah.  They also have services there every other Friday night.  I believe they are taking a hiatus for the summer, but feel free to check out the website http://mesorahdc.org/.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Marc: Yom Kippur , I like how the whole day is devoted to bettering yourself with no other distractions, other than the occasional stomach growl.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Marc: Schwarma with a lot of חריף.friends

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Marc: Eric Shapiro, ladies he is 6ft tall, single, kosher and is going to be a doctor.  He loves kids and recently volunteered in Haiti to help those that needed medical care.  He is the lighter skinned guy on the left in the attached picture, in the middle is Dan who is equally as awesome and the coolest Israeli you will ever meet.

Rachel:  Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Marc: …the goyim scatter.

B’nai B’rith International Opens Disaster Relief Fund to Aid Victims of Oklahoma Tornado

Severe Weather(Washington, D.C., May 21, 2013)—B’nai B’rith International has opened its Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund in the wake of the devastating tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on May 20, killing at least 24, injuring many more and flattening much of the town.  The death toll is still expected to rise.

The funds raised will be used to help the victims of the tornado as they look to rebuild their town, which has been described by many as now resembling a war zone.

The tornado moved across a 20-mile stretch with winds of at least 200 mph. In the path of the deadly storm were a hospital and an elementary school, both of which were destroyed. Rescue workers labored throughout the night searching for survivors amongst the wreckage.

This is the third major tornado to devastate the area in the last 15 years.

“No amount of advanced warning could have prepared the people of Moore for the horrors this storm has brought.  We’re going to do our best to help these people get back on their feet,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.  “B’nai B’rith has helped disaster victims since 1865.  Each disaster we help with has its own unique challenges.  As always, we will carefully evaluate needs and provide assistance to address immediate needs and longer term rebuilding efforts.”

The B’nai B’rith Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund aided victims of Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012, as well as the victims of tornadoes in the South and Midwest. B’nai B’rith disaster relief funds have  also provided aid to victims of the famine in East Africa, the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti; and provided humanitarian assistance to the Somali refugees fleeing violent conflict to Kenya.

“The images of Moore are absolutely gut-wrenching.  But as bleak as things look right now, we need to press on and help our fellow citizens rebuild their lives,” B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.  “We will work with representatives of agencies and our members on the ground to provide assistance where it is needed in the wake of this tornado.”

To help, donate online at our secure website by clicking here.<https://secure3.convio.net/bbi/site/Donation2?df_id=1415&1415.donation=form1&JServSessionIdr004=dopd8dr7be.app331b>

You can also call 800-573-9057 to make a credit card contribution over the phone. Or, you can send a check payable to the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund to:

B’nai B’rith International
Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund
2020 K Street NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20006

B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights and advocacy organization. Since 1843—now in our 170th year—B’nai B’rith International has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity and tolerance.  Visit www.bnaibrith.org.