Masa Israel Featured Internship: Emergency Medical Services Internship

Interns will treat patients in all types of emergency situations and receive full intensive training in order to do so. Interns will become first responders on ambulances and mobile intensive care units, under the supervision of senior medics and paramedics.

Magen David Adom provides emergency medical and ambulance services throughout Israel.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Seth

1063836_10151683552975100_814205239_oWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Seth: I did a program in DC the summer after my junior year of college and just really loved the city.  I knew I wanted to end up back here after graduation and, fortunately, I was able to get a job in DC.

Rachel: You work for B’nai B’rith. Can you tell us more about that?
Seth: B’nai B’rith has a quarterly magazine—coincidentally called B’nai B’rith Magazine—that I work for.  My role mostly involves editing articles and working with our freelance writers, but I get to do some writing for the magazine as well, which I really enjoy.  It’s a general Jewish interest publication, so I get to write on a variety of subjects and talk to a lot of people who are doing interesting things.  And B’nai B’rith does a lot of great work as well, and I get to use the magazine to convey the organization’s activities to our readership.

Rachel: Are you involved in any other DC Jewish organizations?
Seth: I’m active in DC Minyan and I’m also involved with the Young Professionals at Adas Israel.  Both offer wonderful services and programs and are just great communities to be a part of.

67029_484738330099_5910866_nRachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Seth: First and foremost, the Jewish community in DC is fantastic, especially for young professionals.  There are so many different options available to Jews of any background, whether you’re looking for services, Jewish programs, social events or some mixture of all three.  The community in DC is incredibly vibrant and diverse and welcoming.  Secondly, DC, with all the memorials and iconic landmarks, really makes you feel connected to history—both real history and the stuff that happened in The West Wing.

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Seth: An ideal Shabbas for me would probably entail going somewhere for Friday night and Saturday morning services.  Then maybe having some people over for cholent Saturday afternoon.  I’d probably work in a nap somewhere in there if I’m feeling particularly crazy.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Seth: Definitely the aforementioned cholent.  It’s easy to make—just throw anything in a crockpot—and somehow you have a magical, stew-like concoction waiting for you to devour.  Additional benefits of cholent include waking up to the delightful aroma wafting throughout your apartment and ample leftovers that’ll last for days.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Seth: Bob Dylan (aka Robert Zimmerman) is pretty awesome, if you don’t count that whole Christian phase.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Seth: There are a lot of happy Jewish mothers.

Tips for Dating Bliss in 2014 – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 81)

snow heartTime sure does fly, doesn’t it?  It’s a new year, and with that comes a new outlook, maybe some new clothes, and, of course, some new people on all of the online dating sites.  (And don’t forget about all of the new single people after the turkey drop and holiday season break-ups.)

As we enter a new year of dating, with first dates abounding, it’s important to remember some helpful tips for achieving dating bliss in 2014:

1. Remain optimistic and happy.

Have you ever been on a date where your date walks in, and he or she just looks miserable?  Or maybe you were the one on your fourth JDate in a week, and you’re just jaded by the whole process.  That aura of negativity really sucks the life out of a date.  If you’re not ready to be dating, say after a break-up, that’s A-ok.  But when you are ready, it’s best to go in with a smile.

2. Focus on the big picture, not the small stuff.

Your date tells you that he’s into some obscure indie band that you heard once and hated.  Is your potential relationship doomed?  Of course not, but sadly, a lot of people take tastes and hobbies more into account than what’s really important – values.  I’d rather know whether someone is close to his family than whether he reads only historical fiction.  It’s obviously nice to have hobbies in common (though I’m glad no one I ever dated played Mahjong like I do!), but in the end, small differences in tastes likely don’t amount to the demise of a relationship.

3. Ask questions.

No one wants to go on a date where one person is talking the entire time.  In order to encourage a healthy back-and-forth, the best thing you can do is to ask your date some questions.  (Hopefully he or she will do the same in return and not take that as a cue to ramble on for an hour straight!)  The questions that have the most luck require more than a simple one-word answer.  You want to get the person thinking.  For example, rather than asking, “What do you do?” (perhaps the most boring question in the book), you could ask, “What made you decide to get into medicine?” or “How do you enjoy your job as a pediatrician?  I imagine it must be very rewarding.”  The first question allows your date to simply say, “I’m a doctor,” but the other two require a bit of introspection, leading to a more thoughtful conversation… and perhaps a second date.

4. Have confidence.

A little confidence goes a long way.  Be decisive, be proud of who you are, have the courage of your convictions, and tell someone how you feel.  These pointers can carry over into other aspects of life as well.  Sometimes you have to talk the talk and walk the walk of confidence for a while, but eventually it’ll catch up to you.

So go out there and have some fun in 2014, and remember these pointers to give your dating life a boost.  Happy New Year!

erika ettin-49334smallErika 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 Special Relationship: Why the Iran deal makes me miss my father-in-law

Jerusalem-Day-celebrating-Kotel-13The opinions reflected in this article are that of the author and do not represent the views of Gather the Jews or its staff.

There are plenty of questions to ask about the temporary nuclear agreement with Iran, but the one dominating my thoughts is personal: What would my father-in-law say?

He would be troubled, I’m sure — possibly even furious — though he would maintain his outward cool.  Almost certainly, I would receive an email encouraging me to read an article, probably including a note to establish the author’s credentials.  Sorting through the first wave of reactions, I wondered which article he would choose.  Maybe “Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Still Growing, and America’s Fist Is Shrinking,” by the Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff, whom he admired.  Or the Wall Street Journal editorial headlined “Iran’s Nuclear Triumph.”  I’m only guessing, but former UN Ambassador John Bolton’s column bemoaning the “Abject Surrender by the United States” in The Weekly Standard probably would be too hysterical.

I would see the email and my heart would start pounding before I even opened it.  It would take me a few moments to overcome the initial panic, and then I would read carefully and consider my response.  “Thanks for sending,” I might write and leave it there.  Maybe I would share a less negative assessment from a pro-Israel writer, such as Jeffrey Goldberg, and say I am inclined to agree.  And then I would be distracted and anxious for the rest of the day.

In March 2012, he sent me a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Bret Stephens titled “The ‘Jewish’ President” (subhead: “Don’t believe Obama when he says he has Israel’s back”) and asked for my thoughts.  The title referred to a chapter in The Crisis of Zionism, the controversial book by Peter Beinart, whose evolution from hawkish editor of The New Republic to vocal critic of Israeli policies had caused an uproar in the Jewish community.  In the book, Beinart explored how President Obama’s views about Israel and the Middle East were influenced by the circle of Jewish friends he made in Chicago.  To Beinart, those relationships proved that Obama understood Jewish attitudes.  To Stephens, those friends’ associations with dovish groups such as J Street and New Israel Fund made them radicals — and, if he really developed his views about Israel by talking to them, then clearly Obama was, too.

My impression of Stephens was formed about a year earlier, in the wake of a foreign policy speech in which Obama declared that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”  I had watched the speech at my desk and followed the reactions online, which initially included a surprising amount of gloating from conservatives saying that Obama was shifting toward their worldview.  On Twitter, Emergency Committee for Israel executive director Noah Pollak said, “I don’t think there’s anything in this speech that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will find surprising or even disagreeable.”  But the narrative quickly changed; Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus” by endorsing a return to the 1967 lines, or “Auschwitz borders.”  The part about “mutually agreed swaps” all but disappeared.

I was confused and angry, so I called my father-in-law at work.  He had not yet watched the speech, but he had received several emails and calls about it.  He said that Obama’s statement, if it included the key words about land swaps, did not represent a meaningful policy shift, though he questioned the wisdom of saying anything at all.  I hung up feeling both reassured about Obama’s position and dismayed by the narrative taking hold.  That weekend, I sat beside my father-in-law at the AIPAC Policy Conference as Obama recited the steps his administration had taken to bolster Israel’s security and delivered an unqualified defense, with more than a hint of condescension, of “what I said — not what I was reported to have said” on the subject of borders.  Immediately following the speech, Stephens took the stage for a panel discussion with former Ambassador Martin Indyk and dismissed Obama’s entire case.  Despite pushback from Indyk, Stephens insisted that Obama’s comments represented a “sea change” in U.S. policy.  Two days later, he published a scathing op-ed titled “An Anti-Israel President.”

It was still relatively early in my education on the issue, but I was becoming deeply dispirited by the way we talk about Israel, even within much of the Jewish community.  In the following months, the progressive advocacy organization where I worked, along with one at which I previously interned, would be accused of anti-Semitism for criticizing Israeli policies.  Although the attacks were directed at a small handful of individuals, the entire organizations became targets, and there were calls for Jewish donors to stop supporting them.  I had colleagues who did not understand the Jewish experience or grasp what Israel means to an overwhelming number of Jews, but they were far from anti-Semites and did not work on issues related to Israel anyway.  Still, the idea that I could be associated with anything anti-Semitic, even wrongly, was painful and terrifying.

With all of this in mind, I crafted my response to the email, focusing on why I did not believe Stephens was arguing in good faith.  I reminded him of the performance at AIPAC, which he had acknowledged disagreeing with, and of the subsequent op-ed.  “I know he’s not stupid,” I wrote, “so I concluded that he was being purposefully dishonest.”  I danced around the substance of the column, saying I was less interested in Obama’s friends than his record and argued that the president’s public clashes with the Israeli prime minister had been unfairly exaggerated by people who were “trying to turn Israel into a political wedge issue.”  The next morning, I received an email thanking me for my “thoughtful and purposeful response” and revisiting certain details of Obama’s earlier speech — namely that it did not rule out a Palestinian right of return, an objection that was largely ignored in all the outrage over “Auschwitz borders.”

By the time that email arrived, however, I was putting the finishing touches on a follow-up elaborating on what I really thought.  My problem with the column was not that I believed Obama’s friends were irrelevant; rather, I was offended by the notion that holding dovish views somehow disqualified them from representing Jewish thinking.  “On a personal level,” I admitted, “I always feel more anxious than I let on about being at AIPAC because I feel like the questions and doubts I have are not welcome — though I appreciate that you always treat them as legitimate,” which he did.  “That doesn’t mean I agree with those other organizations,” I added, “but the campaign to delegitimize opposing points of view, instead of engaging with them, is a powerful turn-off.”

Finally, I let it all out: “I strongly identify as Jewish and care deeply about Israel’s future — I hope you don’t doubt either of those things.  Unfortunately, I suspect that Stephens would lump me in with Beinart as a ‘liberal scourge of present-day Israel and mainstream Zionism.’  Others, like those at the Emergency Committee for Israel, would outright label me ‘anti-Israel,’ maybe even a ‘self-hating Jew.’  And that’s what is really so troubling to me: Many of the people who claim to be arbiters of what is really ‘pro-Israel’ are telling me that I’m not, and encouraging me to stop caring or risk being labeled an outcast.”

Hitting the send button was cathartic, but I worried about what he would think, so I gave him a call.  He told me that he appreciated my honesty and hoped that I never felt pressured by him.  He also reminded me of what he said at my wedding — that when I married his daughter I became his son — and that nothing I believed would ever change how much he loved me.  And he said that he wanted to discuss it further and better understand my views, but that we should do it in person when he was feeling better.

We never had that conversation.  I was riding the Metro to work one morning in June when my wife called and told me to get on the first plane to Chicago.  The next few hours were a blur.  When I arrived at the hospital, I made a beeline for my wife and hugged her for I don’t how long before I even noticed the rest of the room.  Her mom and sister were sitting next to the bed, where her dad was lying unconscious.  We waited for hours, as a parade of extended family members broke down and said their goodbyes.  It took a while, but I found the nerve to say mine, too.  I threw up twice.  His best friend — who was also his doctor and one of the few people to know he was battling cancer for twenty years — came in around midnight and whispered something to the nurse.  A few minutes later, he was breathing, and then he stopped.

People called him a hero.  He was intensely committed to the causes he believed in and the people he loved, unfailingly generous with his time and energy.  As the rabbi told me before our wedding, he was the “moral compass” of his community.  On the day of his funeral, the synagogue was overflowing with people who came to pay their respects, including two members of Congress, one of whom later memorialized him on the House floor.  Everybody had a story of how he had helped them. “If there was a God in my life,” one of his nephews said, “it was him.”

For a son-in-law — or a son — the universal reverence could be uncomfortable, especially because we often disagreed.  But it was those disagreements that truly made him a hero, at least to me.  Not because he was right, but because he wanted to understand why I thought he might be wrong.  Because even though most people deferred to his judgment, and even though he spent years immersed in issues I was just beginning to study, he was open to the possibility that he could learn from me — that learning from each other could make both of us better.  Because people listened to him, and he was interested in listening to me.

Bret Stephens says the Iran deal is “worse than Munich.”  I have some thoughts about that, but mostly I just miss my father-in-law.

Matt Finkelstein works for a political organization in Washington, DC. His writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, Esquire,, and several other outlets. He is a native of Baltimore, MD.

Masa Israel Featured Internship: Events Management Internship

The International Convention Center is looking for an intern to assist with all aspects of planning and executing events that take place at the facility. Events range in size and purpose, from family gatherings, to product launchesm to fashion fairs, as well as international conferences and art exhibitions.

The International Convention Center, commonly known as Binyenei Ha’Uma, is the largest convention center and concert hall in the Middle East.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Arielle

arielleWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Brian: What brought you to DC?
Arielle: Could be my desire to meet politically ambitious alpha males.

Brian: So you are that friendly, engaging, passionate, young professional from New York who has taken the DC Jewish scene by storm?
Arielle: Sure (blushes)…why yes, indeed I am… next question?  …

Brian: What made you choose your profession?  Teaching 2nd Grade Special Education must be challenging?  Plus you are a full time Master’s student in Teaching English as a Second Language!  When do you sleep?!
Arielle: After teaching English in Tel Aviv for a semester, I knew it was for me.  My students are hilarious…especially when dancing to this video during a brain break.  Not many people can say that they look forward to going to work and smile throughout their entire workday.  It was raining during dismissal this afternoon and an adorable kindergartener told me how this is a great day because he gets to drink from the sky.  Sleep…what’s that?

Brian: It’s great to see you at Moishe House events and Shabbat services at Sixth and I and Adas Israel, but what else do you do that’s Jewish?
Arielle: Wait, there’s more to being Jewish than Jewish Girl of the Week?

Brian: Who is the coolest Jew?
Arielle: The Chabad rabbi in Alaska.  It’s cold up there.

Brian: We heard you played on the Gather the Jews kickball team?
Arielle: Yes, that’s true.  We won two games.  One was by default since the other team was a no-show, and the other was because we argued the rules on a close play.  We negotiated our victory and are still collecting legal fees.  Do you care to know our definition of “fair vs. foul”?

Brian: So you dance your Sunday nights away at Rikud DC?
Arielle: Belly dancing classes were booked for this year, so I looked around and found the next best thing… but that was cancelled too. S o I decided to sign up for Rikud.  (Joking aside: It’s my favorite part of the week!  Good people, good music, good near-collisions!)

Arielle teachingBrian: Besides Friendship Circle Young Adults Division and Midnight Mitzvahs, are you involved in any other organizations?
Arielle: Yes, but it’s a secret.  It’s three initials, beginning with C and ending with A, and I can’t tell you the middle letter… but it deals with intelligence.  Oh, and that one on the dollar bill too.

Brian: What’s the coolest event you’ve done this far?
Arielle: Did I mention to you my trip to Alaska?  One of my politically ambitious alpha male friends wanted to see if he could see Russia from there, so I went with him.  And we are Jewish, so it was a Jewish event.

Brian: What’s your favorite Jewish dish that your mother makes?
Arielle: Brisket!  But we both know that I didn’t come here to be Jewish Girl of the Week to talk about brisket.

Brian: Closing argument for why you are DC’s most eligible Jewish bachelorette?
Arielle: I can sail, I can bike, I can cook, I can laugh at all kinds of silly stories, jokes ,and humor.  So don’t be shy.  Come over and say shalom at the next happy hour!


Jewish Guy of the Week – Sayyad

crop 2Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Sayyad: I’m getting my Master’s in Biomedical Science in a program between Georgetown and George Mason while applying to medical school — I hope to end up here afterwards!

Rachel: How did you end up with the name ‘Sayyad’?
Sayyad: My mom thought it was prudent to make sure that I blended in when I was born in Azerbaijan.  It worked for three years.  Then we ended up in the US and now I stick out in a shul like the sign language translator at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Rachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Sayyad: The monuments at night.  Hands down.  Also, I still think it’s so awesome that we live in the nation’s capital.  Other than that, the fact that it’s a big city in a small geographic area!  There’s so much to do, so many awesome food choices, and a plethora of fantastic bars (not to mention the happy hours), and yet the city is small and completely devoid of skyscrapers!  Oh and the Bikeshare and the parks are pretty cool too.

1460015_10201135135206168_2113860224_nDid you know that, allegedly (I only heard this via word of mouth, so it may be entirely false), the color of liquor dominantly consumed in DC varies based on who’s in office? (Dark liquors — whiskey, spiced rum, etc. — with republicans and clear liquors — vodka, gin, etc. — with democrats)

Rachel: Have you been to Israel?  What’s a favorite memory?
Sayyad: Yes. Favorite memory?  Hmm…I’m torn between spending my first Shabbat in Israel in the old city of Jerusalem (that was unforgettable, truly) and stargazing with friends when I hiked from the Kineret to the Mediterranean on Yam le Yam.  Though schwarmma and falafel make me happier than a camel on hump day, and the enormous bungee-cable ball that launches you way higher than anything in Eilat was pretty fun too.

profRachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Sayyad: Getting together with my camp friends for dinner and whiskey gingers.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Sayyad: My mom makes better brisket than your mom (an intrinsic debate between all Jewish guys), my grandma’s matzah ball soup cures at least three different ailments, and cholent is pretty remarkable. In short, those three.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
SayyadMordechai Anielewicz.  All day, every day.  And if you don’t know, now you know…

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Sayyad: …you only get one guy in the room named Sayyad!