Open Doors Fellowship FAQ

1. Who are we looking for?

Social connectors – If you love meeting new people, helping others find and create community, and are interested in creating diverse opportunities for Jewish life, this is for you!  Must be open to learning new skills, growing personally, and being part of a team.

2. How much of a time commitment is this?

Time will differ depending on the week, but on average we expect 5-6 hours per week plus a Fellows meeting every 2 weeks.

3. What if I can’t attend the scheduled Fellows meetings?

Once the group of Fellows is hired we will plan meetings around individual’s schedules.  You may miss no more than one meeting over the course of the Fellowship.  The immersive training and capstone trip are both required, as they are key aspects of the Fellowship experience.

4. Where will the Fellows meetings be held?

We will base locations on convenience for the group once we know where people live and work.

5. What is Immersive training and what will it entail?

Immersive training will take place from a Friday – Sunday in the winter at an off-site location outside of the city.  It will include team building, professional skills, and a deeper review of the Fellowship.

6. What will success look like?

The goals of this Fellowship are to foster a pro-sumer model meaningful Jewish life, where individuals are a part of creating catered experiences for themselves and their community.  This may happen through existing events and opportunities, or new initiatives that emerge from within your community.  Success will be achieved through a relationship-based approach to Jewish life.  There are many models of success depending on each Fellow and their community.

7. Do I need specific Jewish background to participate?

No! There will be no assumption of previous Jewish knowledge as a part of this fellowship

E-mail with additional questions.


The Top Five Online Dating Findings from 2014

Do you like to travel?  Me, too.  Apparently so does everyone else on  How do I know this? just came out with its 2014 Year in Review report, and below are the top five highlights:

  1. The most common word people used in profiles in 2014 was “travel.”  It showed up in more than one million profiles—1,005,346, to be exact.  That’s a lot of planes, trains, and automobiles.
  2. Words that made big jumps in popularity this year were Zumba, electrician, welcoming, warmhearted, crochet, quickest, cosmetology, ladies, and sewing… with Zumba being #1.  Now, what percentage of the people who list going to Zumba actually go to Zumba?  The world may never know.
  3. The most common phrase people used was “down to earth.”  Almost a quarter of a million people describe themselves that way.  Yep, 232,348 people consider themselves to be down to earth.  This is why we shouldn’t use “empty adjectives.”  They can’t be proven until you get to know someone.  And even then, it’s pretty subjective.
  4. “Frozen” was listed as 5,501 people’s favorite movie this year, which is well above any other movie.  How many times can a person actually listen to “Let it Go” on repeat?  Actually, I don’t think I want to know!
  5. One person used a whopping… wait for it… 44 hashtags in his profile! #toomuchtimeonyourhands

In writing a fictitious profile that encompasses all five highlights, let’s see what we have here:

I’m a down to earth gal (because my dad was an electrician) who loves to go to Zumba class, travel, and crochet.  I like to sew, too, but I’m not old enough to do that too often!  #notagrandmayet  I’m also pretty warmhearted, especially since I LOVE watching Frozen.  That Elsa is such a strong woman, just like me.

What’s the moral here?  Dare to be different!  The profile above kind of looks like one of the most annoying person who ever existed.  People don’t want to date one of the masses.  They want to date you, even (especially?) if you don’t watch Frozen or go to Zumba.



Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of Love at First Site, available on Amazon.  Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more.  To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.







The Miracle of Journeys

IMG_0533No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me…no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process. It was my choice. My journey: to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality—not through books but through real life. At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity…to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth. I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission. Get ready for an amazing year filled with music of rebirth.” – Matisyahu, December 2011

On the seventh night of Chanukah I saw Matisyahu[1] perform at the 9:30 Club.  I had seen Matisyahu two other times, each six or seven years ago.  I remember a Chassidic Jew who literally bounced around the stage while wearing payes, a long black jacket, and a black hat.  The way he wove Hebrew and prayer into his music was incredible moving.  I had never seen Judaism and pop culture come together in this way.

Last night Matisyahu, formerly Matthew Paul Miller, looked like any other musician.  The lyrics were the same and the music was still great.  But it was clear to me that he was at a very different point in his life from when I saw him last.  During the concert, I began to wonder, What does it mean to say the same words, sing the same songs, and elicit the same emotions from your audience, while being in a very different place on your own personal journey?

The idea of journeys, or Jewish journeys, is discussed a lot these days.  Lately, I had been wondering if this concept of journey had lost its meaning.  But last night, seeing someone on a very unique, very public Jewish journey, gave the idea new resonance for me.  As I prepare to light the candles for the final night of Channukah, I find myself asking, Where am I on my journey?  What about me has changed, and why does it matter?

I, and many Jews I know, continually seek different ways to express an authentic connection to Judaism and Jewish life.  Unlike Matisyahu, however, we engage in these experiments in relative privacy.  Ideally, our family and friends give us space to try different personas and forms of expression as we explore our Jewish journeys.

Because Matisyahu’s Jewish journey has been so public, some have questioned his authenticity.  They have said that his more observant persona was an act to sell records.  But I have to say, watching him schlep out a huge channukiah and light candles on stage gave me a deep sense of pride and gratitude that he has the courage and strength to let us bear witness to this part of his journey.  I hope it will inspire me and others to embrace the messiness of Jewish exploration, and to never feel stuck or pigeonholed into our current form of expression.

So, here’s to Jewish experiments, to Jewish journeys, to Jewish life.  L’chaim.

Happy Chanukah!

[1]Matisyahu is the Hebrew name of Mattathias, who led the Maccabbes’ revolt against King Antiochus in the 2nd century BC.

Open Doors DC Fellowship

Impact the landscape of DC’s Jewish life.
Connect and build relationships with young Jews across the DC area.
Build inclusive and welcoming community that is meaningful to you Ÿ
Create innovative Jewish experiences Ÿ
Explore Jewish DC + further your own Jewish connections Ÿ
Receive financial support for your initiatives, personal and professional development, mentorship, skill-building, and more.  Apply Now.

Join a volunteer cohort of 10 – 12 Fellows to serve in a 5 month Fellowship from February – June 2015.  This inaugural fellowship is an innovative experiment to help deepen social connections and provide concierge services for Jewish life in DC to those in their 20s & 30s. You will pilot a relationship-based and concierge-model approach to building Jewish community.

Fellows will build 1:1 relationships, create community, and help connect those individuals to the Jewish opportunities and meaning they are looking for, creating your own innovative project where none exist.  These projects can include social justice, learning, outdoors, politics, or any other topic all depending on the needs and interests of those you’re meeting.

We are looking for social connectors from diverse backgrounds and experiences who care about Jewish life in DC and want to help others connect to Jewish experiences that matter to them.

Fellows will receive:

  • Immersive professional training in a retreat setting outside of the city – skill training, team building, resource mapping, and more
  • Access to human and financial resources to support your relationship and community building
  • Jewish learning opportunities and resources (all backgrounds encouraged to apply!)
  • A capstone experience or trip at the conclusion of the Fellowship
  • Follow-through after the Fellowship has concluded

Expectations of Fellowship:

  • One weekend of immersive training
  • Approximately 5 – 6 hours per week including:
    –  Fellows meetings 2x per month
    – Relationship building with diverse range of young Jewish adults in DC and Relationship Management
    – Serve as a Greeters for new arrivals to DC
    – Create personally relevant Jewish initiatives around a topic or issue that matters to your community
    – Help design and launch DC’s only online DIY (Do It Yourself) Jewish Experience Portal

A Gift for the Future


Thousands of years ago, when the Maccabees beat the Greeks,
No one could’ve imagined we’d have such advanced genetic screening techniques.
Although the Jews had an incredible and miraculous victory,
Genetic makeup and DNA was still a great mystery.
Witnessing enough oil for one day last for eight was a great achievement,
And a long ways down the road their offspring would have further scientific ascent.

For several years genetic screening tests have been improving
And now the ability to identify carriers of genetic diseases is outstanding!
Since JScreen came along in the Fall of last year,
The modernization of genetic screening has become quite clear.
Drastically revolutionizing the screening market
JScreen sends people an at home, do it yourself spit kit.

With the goal of helping couples plan for healthy babies,
When it comes to the decision to be screened there should be no maybes.
Also hoping to help people who desire to have children make educated decisions
JScreen is devoted to using technology that has incredible precision.
Although usually extremely expensive and difficult to come by,
JScreen makes genetic testing available to anyone who wants to buy.

Headquartered in Atlanta at Emory University’s School of Medicine,
After lots of hard work there are few states where JScreen hasn’t been.
Receiving impressive news coverage from reporters everywhere,
JScreen is an important program that you should definitely share!
Chanukkah is the perfect time to share the gift of love and joy,
So help friends and family bring to life a healthy girl or boy.

JScreen offers testing for diseases that are most common
Allowing future parents to have different options.
The test screens for the 40 most common genetic diseases in the Jewish population,
As well as 47 others seen in people from other ancestral nations.
Using JScreen’s easy to use saliva spit test before having children
Couples can learn about their genetic makeup that’s unprecedented.

Only 24% of Jews have been genetically screened before having kids,
Meaning a significant amount of Jews don’t know what their risk is.
Even if a couple has no known family history of genetic disease,
Genetic screening is still important and will help put parents at ease.
Early education is key so parents can discover their risk early
And learn about different options to continue their family tree.

JScreen recently started a new and exciting gift giving initiative,
Which should lend you the idea of the perfect present to give!
Know someone who has or will have children on their mind?
Well then what better gift could you possibly find?!
Whether thinking about starting a family in a week or a year,
This is a present that will surely make people cheer!

Hoping to secure the healthiest possible future for all children,
Giving a JScreen kit this holiday season is a definite win!
Many wonder what their children will grow up to do and be,
And you can help ensure healthy children to your friends and family.
So, help spread the JScreen mission to genetically screen
And give a gift that will help people learn about their genes.

The Hungry, Hungry Hebrew: Chabad Hopping

On Tuesday, December 9, a man with a knife stormed into the New York City Chabad headquarters yelling “I want to kill the Jews” and stabbed a 22 year old student in the neck. Chabad has always been a special home away from home for me and this is why:

819150_10101904690132550_525675366_oWhen I first got to Thailand, I was embarrassed to find pizza cafes and “hamburgerer” joints overcrowded with Americans forsaking a culinary kingdom for subpar imitations of their own staples – pizza sauce should never be ketchup.

However, after almost a month in Thailand – a month of Thai breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and second dinners of either “American spicy” or “Thai spicy” – I finally understood my fellow countrymen. All I wanted was an American sized carb-bomb to snuff out the smoldering debris that used to be my intestines.

Perusing through Bangkok for dinner on my final Friday night, my stomach shuddered at the scent of each passing pad thai stand and curry shop until I happen to stumble upon a Chabad. Challah!

I’ve always understood Chabad as a bunch of Orthodox folks with the single guiding principle of: give me your tired, your poor, your Jewish masses yearning to eat free.

That being said, a giant loaf of challah could be the one cure to extinguish the nuclear fallout from the three-week onslaught of atom bombs successively dropped in my gut.

The man at the Chabad door looked at me quizzically.529329_10101904696534720_1273192419_n

“Can I help you?” he asked in a thick Israeli accent.

“Yes, can I join you for services tonight?” My clothes were torn and tattered and so was my body – this was a few days after I bit gravel in a motorbike crash.

“This is a service for Jewish people,” the man said dismissively.

“I am Jewish,” I replied as he skeptically examined the 6 foot 2, blond-haired, blue-eyed raggedy traveler before him. Fully Jewish, at that. My folks are both 100% Jewish as were their folks before them. But somewhere along the line, some frisky Cossack must have dipped into our gene pool during any given Polish pogrom and produced a long lineage of Aryan looking offspring.

“It’s not for you here,” he brushed me off. Annoyed, I pulled out my passport and read him my last name. “Bluestein. Blue. STEIN.”

Unfortunately, the boy in the 9 year old passport photo with glasses looked more like Harry Potter than the Viking marauder presenting it.

379595_10101904695831130_526252340_nIt’s you or did you have it made up the street?” he accused, referring to the city’s dozens of shameless counterfeiters.

“It’s an old photo. How do I prove to you I’m Jewish?”

“Emmm. What are the four questions of Pesach.”

Challenge accepted. There I was, standing outside a crowded marketplace in Bangkok in December reciting a Passover prayer for an Israeli security guard that seems to think I’m collecting data for the Wehrmacht.

“Ma nishtana ha layla hazeh, mikol haleilot,” I sung out.

Just as I was getting into it, a rabbi stepped out of the front door and interrupted me, delighted to see a weary traveler uttering a completely irrelevant prayer.

“Stop messing with the boy,” the bearded black-hat said to the snickering guard. “Come in!” he demanded.

I proceeded to join the Bangkok Chabad in a beautiful service and, as expected, was invited to a tremendous dinner afterward with the rabbi, his family, and at least 3 loaves of challah.

830319_10101904665137640_158306842_oJudaism is a way of life built around tradition, as Jews on any corner of this planet will be saying the same prayers, singing the same songs, and eating the same challah on any given Friday night.

One of the most important of those traditions is hospitality. Ever since Abraham took in the three wanderers from Mamre, Jews have sought the mitzvah of opening their homes and hearts to others.

Nowhere have I seen this sentiment of hospitality expressed more than in Chabad Houses abroad, where no matter your background, language, or level of devotion, you can always find home.

Chabad-Lubavitch may be divisive, but one of its core tenants is that sentiment of hospitality, one which I aspire to replicate in my own home.

From Montreal to Toulouse to Thailand, I’ve found so much comfort in that Jewish hospitality that has bonded strangers, wanderers, and hungry, hungry Hebrews for thousands of years.






After my first birthright trip, I was stricken with the terrible genetic disease known as “wanderlust” – passed down to me by my great32 grandfather, Moses. Hungry, Hungry Hebrew captures my benign observations disguised as rants as I meander around the world

Do Good this Chanukah and Winter Season: Ways to Give Back

Know of more opportunities to help out in DC this season?  Or looking to organize a group to do service together? E-mail 

images-2In this season of Chanukah, winter cheer, and rededicating ourselves to what we care most about, here are some ways to consider giving back to those who could use some warmth, kindness, and extra blessings in their own lives:

Coats for Kids:  Help provide new winter coats to more than 6,500 children from (30) thirty local charities and community organizations in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 

Volunteer on Christmas Day:   NOVA Tribe Series is working with The Holiday Project this year and visiting patients at the Washington Hospital Center in DC. We will sing songs, pass out presents, and visit with patients.

D25: Join the DCJCC Day of Service on Christmas Day. Projects range from 2-4 hours in length and include serving meals, preparing food for the homeless, visiting seniors, painting and throwing Christmas parties.

Donate Blood and Give the Gift of Life:  There is always a need for blood and platelet donations, but there is an increase during the holiday season.  Find the closest donation site to give or to volunteer your time.

JScreen: JScreen at Emory University is a public health initiative dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases through carrier screening.

MLK DayAs the DC Commission on National and Community Service and the Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism, Serve DC commemorates the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service each year by supporting and promoting service and civic engagement across the city.

House of Ruth:  Make a financial contribution to help end homelessness and life-long abuse.

Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse:  Help support victims of domestic abuse to become empowered and obtain safe environments. 

Eat and Party!:  Check out these culinary organizations and benefit parties that do good in their community:

Sunflower Bakery: They prepare individuals with developmental or other cognitive disabilities for employment in baking and related industries through skilled, on-the-job training.

Falafel Frenzy: Proceeds of the event will go to support hunger action programs, local Holocaust survivors living below the poverty line and many other community programs through the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Know of more opportunities to help out in DC this season?  Or looking to organize a group to do service together? E-mail 

TMI! – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 99)

People don’t seem to shy away from sharing things about themselves these days. What may have seemed overindulgent a mere 10 years ago now seems commonplace. After driving back from NJ for Thanksgiving and listening to all eight episodes of a podcast in succession, I wrote a tweet that said, “May or may not have just listened to every single episode of @abexlumberg‘s @podcaststartup in a row. #bingelistening Even my dog likes it.” Some people might still think, “Who cares?” But you know what? They still read what I wrote. The voyeur in us all eats this stuff up.

With Twitter and Facebook and Instagram (oh my!) and GChat and texting and Snapchat, it’s almost impossible not to overshare. When it comes to dating, though, there’s a fine line between an appropriate amount of sharing and simply too much information. I’m going to break things down into several key stages: 

Classic Case 1 of TMI:

I was at my weekly mahjong game this week, and my friend Jennie was talking about a guy she had “met” online. They did not go on a date. Here’s what happened:<br

  1. They matched on the dating app Hinge.
  2. He messaged her to say hi.
  3. She responded.
  4. He asked if she had any more photos to send (red flag).
  5. She said she didn’t.
  6. He asked if she wanted to see any more pictures of him.
  7. She said no.
  8. He sent pictures anyway, including a shirtless selfie.
  9. She was so turned off that not only did he not listen to her but he also sent the shirtless picture. She ultimately decided not to go on the date.

Classic Case 2 of TMI:

About six months ago, I went on a date with someone I had matched with on Tinder. He seemed nice enough, albeit not my type, and we had an enjoyable conversation… until he mentioned his ex-wife. Now, I’m certainly not one to care if someone’s been married before. In fact, sometimes I think it may be a preference since, as we all know, people often learn from their mistakes. I didn’t ask any questions about that relationship because it’s really not my business. Without any prompting, he proceeded to tell me all of these negative things about his ex and how she made him miserable, in addition to telling me that she had a mental illness.  A few thoughts immediately went through my mind:

– He’s not over her.

– If he speaks that poorly of her, what would he say about me?

– He shares very personal information about other people with strangers.

While I was certainly flattered that he felt comfortable enough to share this information with me, it was completely inappropriate in that setting (at a bar, mind you), and, while we ddidn’thave enough in common to warrant another date anyway, the fact that there was TMI solidified that decision for me.

Now, I want to draw a distinction here between being yourself (do it right away!) and the TMI advice. They are not mutually exclusive.  For example, I’ve been known to dance in the middle of the room whenever I feel like it. Someone needs to see that side of me up front.  That’s my essence, if you will.  But sharing with someone that I have bad breath because I just ate Sabra’s garlic hummus?  Probably TMI.

After the stages in the chart above, how much information to share becomes up to the two people involved. Feel out the situation. Get to know each other. And then go crazy with the pictures and the deeply personal information. Just wait until the time is right.

1Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of Love at First Site, available on Amazon.  Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more.  To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.



Jewish Guy of the Week – Rich

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

unnamedRachel: What brought you to DC? 

Rich: I went to grad school in Baltimore and came to DC for my amazing Adas job. So glad I did—this city is the

Rachel: So you’re from Morristown, NJ but you love the New York Rangers.  How does that work? 

Rich: Are you suggesting there is another hockey team in NJ worth rooting for??

Rachel: Did you play hockey as a kid? What got you into it? 

Rich: I started playing hockey when I was 7 and it immediately stuck with me. Hockey has become a huge part of my life and I’ve learned much of what it means to be a part of a team and how to work well with others from it.

Rachel: What is your favorite part of your job as Youth Director at Adas Israel? 

unnamed (2) Rich: I love showing youth & teens that life can still (literally) be fun and games well into your 20’s. Life is tough and can seem intimidating when you’re young, and I like to think I can help dissipate some of the fear of growing up by providing fun programming, meaningful life discussions, and just being someone who they can talk to about anything.

Rachel: What are your favorite ways to relax and unwind after a busy day? 

Rich: There’s nothing like a nice long run to reflect after a hard day’s work. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the occasional glass of white wine every now and then too.

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat? 

Rich: Back in Baltimore my friends and I created what we call “Vegan Shabbat”. We cook a bunch of vegan foods, crack open a couple bottles of wine, light the candles, and just talk and enjoy each other’s company. Usually some Jenga, Apples to Apples, or a puzzle finds their way into the evening before it ends.

unnamed (1)

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Rich: FALAFEL. #obsessed

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?

Rich: Marcy Spiro.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Rich: I’m most likely there.





Jewish Guy of the Week – David

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

Rachel: So tell us where you’re from and what brought you to DC?

David: I grew up in Columbia, Maryland, and returned to my hometown a handful of years ago after working as a reporter in New England. I’ve always wanted to live in a major city and had already been falling for D.C. Now that I’m here, those feelings haven’t changed. My long commute is totally worth it to be in such a vibrant place.

Rachel: How long have you been here and what are some of your favorite things to do in the city (besides Gather the Jews Happy Hours of course!)?

David: I’ve been in D.C. since June and have been exploring as much as possible. I love trying new bars and restaurants, going to concerts and sporting events, walking and bicycling and driving to become acquainted with neighborhoods, and searching for places and events that have character. I could even do the touristy stuff over and over again: the zoo, the museums and galleries, the monuments at night. And while I’ve got a handful of friends in the city, I also enjoy meeting new people.

Rachel: What is your day job and what were you doing before that? 

David: I work in media relations and communications for Columbia Association, a nonprofit in my hometown that is dedicated to making the community one of the best places to live in the country. Does that sentence make it too obvious that I sometimes act as a spokesman? Before that I was a journalist who covered everything from the presidential primary campaigns in New Hampshire to government and politics, murder trials, homelessness and poverty, and good, old-fashioned community reporting. I still do plenty of writing on the side, mostly about boxing but also a little bit about poker.

Rachel: What are some of your favorite things to write about?

David: I never thought when I started writing about boxing that I’d still be covering the sport 10 years later, but it’s probably where I’ve done some of my best work. The stories that can be told about the fighters themselves and the fights they’re involved in can be dramatic and touching. There is a contrast between the brutal nature of the sport and the prose that describes it, and yet what A.J. Liebling coined “The Sweet Science” has also drawn literary luminaries such as Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates.

Beyond that, I’m proud of the work I’ve done covering homelessness and poverty in a handful of communities, and I want to continue to shine a light on the people who are struggling and those who work so hard to help them.

Rachel: YOU’RE GOING TO BE ON JEOPARDY!? Tell us more about that…

David: It’ll be broadcast on Thanksgiving! If you’re in D.C., it’ll be on ABC7 (WJLA) at 7:30 p.m. Otherwise, well, I’ve always wanted to say this: Check your local listings. For my friends and acquaintances who’ve always felt that I’m either a know-it-all or a know-nothing, now we can find out which is truer.

Oh, and I guess I should say that I did my Mike Tyson impression while chatting with Alex Trebek.

Rachel: Since this is our Thanksgiving edition, tell us one thing you’re thankful for this year. 

David: Not to get too sappy, but the people in my life. I hope they know I’m always thankful for them. And there I just went and got too sappy. Thanks for that, Rachel.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?

David: Do shawarma and falafel count? If not, there’s something about a really good loaf of challah…

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?

David: Jon Stewart, far and away. Jon, if you’re reading this — and I know you are — I’m available as a writer.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

David: Sure, why not end on a bad pun? You end up with a Flock of Siegels!  (Thanks. I’ll show myself the door…)