Taking Action After Pittsburgh to Save Lives

In the aftermath of the tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue, I’ve read many articles that offer ideas to help our communities cope with the tragedy in Pittsburgh.  Some ideas are spiritual, some offer actions. At the same time, I’ve heard personally from a number of congregations that have told me that their members are worried about attending shul or public events.

We must not let the actions of those who hate us and would seek to destroy us cause us to abandon who we are, nor our desire to join our fellow Jews to meet, and celebrate life’s events and holidays.  At the same time, many want to find something that they can do to help make a real difference in their congregations and in our community that can help improve our safety.

temple

Why This Matters

In any violent attack, whether it be with firearms, knives, or explosives, the arrival of the medical response may be delayed.  During the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, almost 40 minutes went by beforethe first casualties were evacuated by tactical medical teams.  That delay can be a lifetime for someone seriously injured and bleeding, anddeath can occur in less than 5 minutes. In the world of tactical medicine, we often use the term “preventable casualties” in reference to people who succumb to injuries that could have been survivable if medical care had been provided faster.  Until the arrival of those first heroic tactical medics in Pittsburgh, the members of the congregation were put in the position to be the immediate responders.

Taking Action

There is something that everyone can be a part of that can and will save lives.  There is something we can do to create “immediate responders” in our own synagogues and communities.  Regular people who have the tools and training to save the life of someone who is suffering from severe bleeding.  This can be from something as serious as (G-d forbid) a terrorist attack, or something as routine as kitchen mishaps, car accidents, and why not…even shark attacks.

Bleeding Control Kits

We want to put public access bleeding control kits into our synagogues and community centers.  These kits contain items that can be used to control severe bleeding, such as tourniquets and pressure bandages.  Think of these kits just like public access Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs), but for bleeding instead of heart problems.  Just like AEDs, they enable bystanders to intervene and save lives during the time it takes for EMS to arrive. Just as with an AED and CPR, bystander intervention with severe bleeding can literally mean the difference between life and death.

 

bleed control

Training

Having these kits is not enough.  We need to get people trained, and the more the better.  The Stop the Bleed program is a nationwide initiative that raises awareness of severe bleeding injuries and encourages people to take action to protect themselves and their communities.

Like CPR training, Stop the Bleed training only requires a few hours of time to teach the skills needed to save a life.  Imagine the feeling of being able to use these skills to save someone at a car crash, at work, or at your synagogue!

What You Can Do

We’re trying to get these kits into DC-area synagogues, and to provide training to staff and members of the congregations.

First, you can become an advocate.  Talk to your synagogue and get them on board.  That’s easy…but hopefully you want to do more.  We’ve had interest from several synagogues, but we’ll help anyone we can.

Most importantly, please contribute towards this project.  Jackie Feldman has created a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help make this happen.  These funds will support the purchase of kits and provision of training (I’ve already lined up several tactical medical colleagues willing to donate time) for synagogues that are interested.

If you want to do even more…participate!  If your synagogue is on board, get trained. If they’re not, go to one that is.  Maybe you’ll even decide to get your own kit to keep with you in the car just in case you come upon some kind of accident where you can now help.

—–

About the Authors:

steveSteve Birnbaum is an independent consultant and expert on disaster and emergency response technology and innovation, with experiences responding to domestic and international disasters. He is a volunteer firefighter/EMT and USAR tech in Montgomery County, MD, and is trained as a tactical medic. Birnbaum serves on the various DHS and Department of State advisory bodies related to public safety and disaster response. He is a former wilderness SAR tech in Israel, and previously served in the Climbing, Rappelling, and Rescuing Section of the IDF Counter-Terror School.

 

 

Jackie FeldmanJacqueline Feldman is the founder of Sephardic Jews in DC, a group that hosts events for young professionals in DC in celebration of Sephardic culture, food, and religious traditions. She is the author of the food blog, Healthy Sephardic Cooking that features a healthier spin on many traditional Jewish and Sephardic recipes and teaches classes on Sephardic cuisine and cooking in DC. When she’s not busy cooking or hosting, she enjoys painting, yoga, watching Seinfeld, and anything to do with International Affairs.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Jillian: Newest Jew of the Week!

jill

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Jill: When I graduated from college, I was looking for a job in DC, which made sense because I’m originally from Virginia. I got a job working for a luxury lifestyle magazine in DC and then switched directions. I’ve been working for an IP software company for the past four years.

Allie: Describe your perfect Sunday in DC?

Jill: I would wake up and have coffee at A Baked Joint. Then, I’d go to Solidcore and eat a fabulous meal at Fancy Radish. I love that place because I’m a vegetarian and can eat everything on the menu! Even my boyfriend Joel, who is an avid meat eater, loves it. At night, I’d want to see a movie and then go to Timber Pizza (Editor’s note: Timber is owned by the Jewish Deli Owner of the Week!). Also, I’d definitely want to scooter around the city.

Scootering is my secret obsession. It’s so fun, I highly recommend it.

Allie: I hear you recently converted to Judaism. What was the best and toughest part of that process?

Jill: I’m still in the process of converting. I did my conversion class at Temple Sinai, and am doing my conversion with Rabbi Evan Krame who runs The Jewish Studio. The conversion process can be very intimidating. Not being Jewish, I was scared about fitting in and being accepted. Going through this process for the past 9 months, the Jewish community has been so welcoming and taken me under their wing. They’ve always been open to my questions and have helped me be involved.

Allie: What motivated you to convert to Judaism?

Jill: As Joel and I plan for our future together, I want to make sure that we are a united front when it comes to religion and how we want to raise our future family.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Jill: Hanukkah! As part of my celebration I will be eating my weight in latkes.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax at the end of a long work week?

Jill: Cooking and baking. I like to know what is going into my food so when I can, I cook. Now that it’s fall, I like making pumpkin bread, apple pies, and different fall desserts.

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Jill: In the U.S., I want to go to Seattle, which I’m doing for Thanksgiving. I want to go to Austin, Santa Fe, Jackson Hole, and Maine. Abroad, I’d love to do Brazil, Croatia, and Ireland.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Jill: There’s never a shortage of food.

Special note from Jillian: If you or anyone you know is under the age of 50 and wants to play Canasta or Mahjong, comment below!

jill joel

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish DC Hanukkah Guide 2018

hanukkah

I.

Smell.

Latkes.

That can only mean one thing.

It’s Hanukkah time y’all. So get ready to get lit (that pun is still clever, right?).

For those who have been counting down the days until this glorious Festival of Lights, or those who maybe totally forgot Hanukkah was happening early this year and are now debating whether re-gifting last year’s Blue Apron subscription would be socially acceptable…this handy-dandy Hanukkah Guide is for you!

Check out our roundup of the best Hanukkah parties, latke recipes, and menorah lightings across Jewish DC! Oh, and if we missed an awesome event – submit it here . And however you celebrate, we wish you a miraculously wonderful Hanukkah season.

NOTE: This list will be regularly updated, so please check back for new events and celebrations.

Pre-Hanukkah Events

Hanukkah Events

Sunday, December 2nd

Monday, December 3rd

Tuesday, December 4th

Wednesday, December 5th

Thursday, December 6th

Friday, December 7th

Saturday, December 8th

Sunday, December 9th

Monday, December 10th

 

Hanukkah Recipes + Blog Inspiration

 

The events listed above are not sponsored or hosted by GatherDC, unless otherwise specified. GatherDC does not assume any responsibility, liability, or financial obligation to to the events listed that are not explicitly hosted by GatherDC. 

Defining Anti-Semitism

The first step of addressing any challenge is defining it.  But anti-Semitism is more than a challenge. It’s a direct threat rather than an abstract one – as our people were sadly reminded last week.

The Threat of Anti-Semitism is Not New

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in downtown DC, calls it “the longest hatred.”  The museum continues by defining it as a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and that the plague of anti-Semitism has sickened “the world for more than 2,000 years.”

The USHMM definition is fairly aligned to the Webster’s Dictionary definition of anti-Semitism:  hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.

The threat of anti-Semitism isn’t a Jewish problem.  It’s a human problem. Hate is hate. When one people are marginalized or threatened, all people are marginalized and threatened.  This isn’t quite intersectionality – it’s logic.

As the prominent Lutheran German Pastor Martin Niemöller said, as a vocal critic to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, in his post-World War II remarks:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller was not a perfect person.  No man (or woman or non-binary individual) is perfect.  Niemöller was critical of his own culpability as a Christian for his earlier support for Hitler, but his example as a leader is an important one for today’s day and age.  Let us not forget that if we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat it.

Lessons from the Tree of Life Synagogue

We have a lot to learn from the tragedy that sunk all of our hearts on Saturday, October 27 in the steel city.  The lessons must be for all people – not just the Jewish people.  To me, the most important lesson that we must take as Americans and as Jewish-Americans is to equally agree on a definition of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and it is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.”  But it is also more than that…

I personally accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition”.  As an American, the United States is a party to this non-legally binding working definition and as an American, I accept my country’s definition of anti-Semitism as,

“A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA and the U.S. describe a number of manifestations of anti-Semitism online, which may include but is not limited to “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”

The residents of Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life Synagogue may have never thought that such an evil could ever befall them.  They are not to blame for anything that they did or did not do for the evil of the shooter – whose name is not worth repeating. The residents of the DMV should also never think that such evil will not befall our torn community.  

Anti-Semitism Persists 

In the few days alone since the tragedy of Pittsburgh, two incidents of anti-Semitism in our community bring pain to my heart.

On Monday, October 29 – just two days after the shooting – a DC public high school found a swastika sticker affixed to a bathroom wall.  This same school found swastika graffiti on a bathroom wall just one year ago.  As noted, if we do not learn from history, we’re bound to repeat it. Unfortunately, these acts at the DC school are not alone.  Although the most recent swastika was found two days after the Pittsburgh attack, another swastika was found drawn on a classroom desk at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD just two days prior to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.  An analysis from The Washington Post found three dozen bias incidents in Montgomery County schools alone in the 2016-2017 school year.

Despite it All, We Pursue Peace 

As Jews, I suspect those reading this article and those who attend GatherDC programming believe – like me – in the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam.   These acts of hatred are new cracks in the fractured and broken world in which we live. As Jews, we spend every day looking to repair the world.  I for one will do what I can to double down in my efforts to give my time, my creativity, and my tzedakah to do my small part to repair the world.  I hope you will join me. You can say thank you to a stranger, hold the elevator or front door open for a neighbor, smile at someone that looks different than you, or donate to a charity that is meaningful to you.

Showing up for Shabbat 

I spent my Shabbat before the shooting with friends and family at Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239 community shabbat with Rabbi Miller.  I spent my Shabbat after the shooting with friends and family at Sixth & I’s Solidarity Shabbat with Rabbis Shira and Jesse.

I decided to #ShowUpForShabbat. I am committing myself to peace, justice, love, and a desire to pray for those who currently have darkness in their hearts towards Jews – or any other people – to question their own hate and replace it with understanding and light.  The Jewish people make up only 2% of the American population and approximately 0.2% of global citizenry. But, I do hope that we can be – in these dark days – a light unto the nations to guide all people to a better understanding of who we are as a people and what we are as a religion. Let us all take our first step into that light by agreeing to the same definition of anti-Semitism, so we as a generation can eliminate it so our children do not need to experience the pain that we all feel this week.

 

 

About the Author: Jason Langsner is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Jason has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004, and volunteers for several Jewish organizations including B’nai Brith International. He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world. When not blogging, he can often be found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood, or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Andrew: Jewish (Call Your Mother) Deli Owner of the Week!

Allie: What inspired you to open Call Your Mother Jewish deli?

Andrew: I grew up in Mt Pleasant, and my dad is a lawyer but always said to me “I like my career, but I should have opened a deli.” As I was growing up and started working, I stole his tagline, but switched it up to wanting to open up a pizza restaurant. Timber Pizza had been open for a year, and opening up a deli became a way I could expand and do this thing my dad had talked about for years. Out of that was born Call Your Mother.

Allie: Where does the name come from?

Andrew: The place came before the name. I knew I wanted the deli to look very light and playful. My grandparents lived in Boca Raton while I was growing up, and I wanted it to look like Boca meets Brooklyn. We went through a lot of bad names, and we were thinking about something funny your Jewish grandmother would yell at you, and my friend’s sister yelled out “call your mother!” Everyone was laughing and I said, lock it in.

Allie: Do you call your mom enough?

Andrew: Every day. Or she calls me.

Allie: What’s your favorite thing on the menu?

Andrew: The Craig D., named after Craig David, a famous British singer who is like 5% Jewish, perfect. It’s a homemade peach jam, cream cheese with jalapenos, bacon, and we put chips on there. I usually recommend the Amar’e to someone who is coming in here for the first time. It’s on a za’atar bagel which is different, and made with candied salmon cream cheese, which is like your favorite salmon cream cheese on steroids.

Allie: How did you come up with the recipe for these bagels?

Andrew: Dani (the chef and partner) and I don’t really have lives or friends, so all we talk about are restaurant things and getting inspiration for food. Dani is the bomb dot com.

Allie: What’s a piece of wisdom you bring to your work at Call Your Mother?

Andrew: Dani and I often say to each other “bring fun back to food”. So much of fine dining is stuffy and serious. At the end of the day we are making warm carbs so people are happier and fuller – we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

call your mother

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Andrew: Latkes, I cannot be trusted in a room with latkes.

Allie: It’s not bagels?

Andrew: Eh. It’s latkes.

Allie: What do you like on your latkes?

Andrew: Applesauce, I hate sour cream with a passion. I also kind of like gefilte fish. Growing up for most Jewish holidays, we used to go to my next door neighbor’s house who was a big time hippie, medium sized Jew, and we would have enchiladas. So while enchiladas are not actually a Jewish food, they are also in my top three of favorite Jewish foods.

Allie: What about your favorite Jewish holiday?

Andrew: How could it not be Hanukkah? It’s 8 days of presents.

Allie: How do you relax at the end of a long work week?

Andrew: I go to Yoga Heights, big fan. I also like a nice jog through Rock Creek Park. And I play basketball to get my rage out.

andrew

Allie: What’s your perfect day in DC?

Andrew: Wake up, chill out, bike through Rock Creek Park and head to Little Red Fox. I’d get their breakfast sandwich The Sherwin, add avocado, and get a hot cup of coffee. Delicious. From there, I’d go to Rose Park in Georgetown, play some hoops. Then, take a stroll and meander to Baked and Wired, I’d get some tea and a duffin, which is a mix of a donut and muffin, and then go down to the waterfront and take it all in. I’m a big nature guy if you can’t tell. I’d teleport over to Indigo. Bomb Indian food. Delicious. After that, I’d go catch a movie at the Uptown Theater. Classic theater, big screen, iconic. When I get out, I can go to my favorite pizza place that isn’t Timber called Vace, get some slices. From there, I’d walk down Porter Street to where my parents live, pick up my parents, walk up to Mount Pleasant Street and end with ice cream at Mount Desert Island.

Allie: Final question. Complete this sentence: When Jews of DC gather…

Andrew: They eat bagels at Call Your Mother.

bagel

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

GatherDC Midterm Election Guide 2018

In case exercising your civic duty, the fear of being shamed by your friends, and/or standing up for things you believe in have all failed to persuade you to get out the vote for the 2018 midterms… I now offer you the lure of FREE THINGS you get if you vote. Yes folks, the day everyone’s been waiting for is finally upon us, and DC restaurants and businesses are ready to CELEBRATE!  

Check out our guide for a comprehensive list of all the sweet deals out there for civic-minded Washingtonians (as well as some of the best places to watch the returns roll in tomorrow).

Know of something we missed? Let us know in the comments!

vote

Most important: getting to the polls.

Lyft, Uber, Zipcar, and Lime are all offering free or discounted rides to polling places using special election day promo codes. Go into the apps day-of and they will provide the code/necessary information to GET TO THE POLLS!

“I Voted” Sticker Lunch Deals and Discounts

  • Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar & Eatery: 15% off purchases of $10 or more to anyone wearing an “I Voted” sticker
    Bobo’s: Get a coupon for a free vegan, gluten-free oat bar by sharing that you voted on social media. To get a coupon mailed to you, tag @eatbobos and use #GetOatTheVote.
  • Buffalo & Bergen: 50% off all breakfast orders until 4pm with an “I Voted” sticker
  • Buttercream Bakeshop: Free cookie for first 100 people with “I Voted” stickers
  • California Tortilla: Say “I voted” Tuesday and get a free order of chips and queso with any purchase.
  • Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop: $1 off any sub Tuesday.
  • Chameleon Cold-Brew: Get a voucher for a free 10-ounce Chameleon Cold-Brew when posting a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker on Instagram. To get the freebie, tag @ChameleonColdBrew and use #FuelTheVote.
  • Corner Bakery Cafe: Receive a free brewed or cold brewed coffee with any purchase and “I Voted” sticker
  • Flywheel: The Dupont Circle & City Center locations are offering free classes during off-peak class time with your “I Voted” sticker or other proof of voting.
  • Junction Bakery and Bistro: Free 12-oz drip with “I Voted” sticker
  • Lil’ B Coffee & Eatery: 15% off all purchases of $10 or more with “I Voted” sticker
    Matchbox: Specials on pizza, wings, and meatballs, as well as all-day happy hour from open to close (or, 9pm if you live in Virginia) (sorry Virginia)
  • Shake Shack: For voting, get free fries with any purchase Tuesday. Either show an “I Voted” sticker or redeem with the code “ivoted” in the chain’s Shack App.
  • Soupergirl: 15% all purchases at their stores if you wear your “I Voted” sticker

Drink & Dinner Specials

  • Ambar: Happy Hour menu- beer, wine, cocktails, small plates- for $5 from 4-10pm
  • Ana: 20% off your check at District Winery’s restaurant
  • The Bird: $4 Moscow Muellers, as well as the “Mr. President” cocktail, a peach-infused Aperol, and prosecco confection with a cotton candy garnish
  • Bar Deco: $4 tacos and $7 Old Fashioneds and Manhattans on the third floor bar
  • Barrel: $1 old fashioned drinks from 4-8:30pm
  • Dino’s Grotto: Happy hour deals on antipasto and drinks with all-night election coverage
  • District Winery: 10% off check with “I Voted” sticker
  • The Dive Bar at Darlington House: No deals to start, but if the House flips to Democratic control, the bar will give out free shots; if both the House and the Senate flip, it will be an open bar until close. Talk about a nerve-wracking night.
  • Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill: $1 off two cocktails
  • Exiles Bar: $6 whiskey drink with three choices of Jameson
  • Logan Tavern: Free campaign trail mix with “I Voted” sticker and happy hour prices and election coverage from noon to close
  • Mission Navy Yard: $5 patron shots, $7 margaritas, $8 quesadillas, and more TVs than you could ever hope to watch at once to watch the results come in
  • Pitchers DC: Free drink with an “I Voted” sticker, with political bingo and prizes
  • Pizzeria Paradiso: Themed pizzas and beer specials to celebrate the women running for office across the country
  • Rare Tavern: All-night happy hour starting at 4pm, including drink specials, seafood steampots, dollar oysters, and classic bar foods with a twist
  • Ritz Carlson Tysons: 1 free cocktail with called “Where The Left And Right Meet”

Hot Spots to Watch the Results

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Five Ways to Cope After the Pittsburgh Tragedy

The shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in United States history. There was a death toll of 11.  In the days and weeks after the attack, Jews across the country are still struggling to come to terms with this horrific act. Here are five things you can do to cope after the Pittsburgh tragedy.

Say thank you.

The next time you’re in synagogue, say thank you to the security guards.  Security guards have a difficult, but important job. Oftentimes the people guarding our synagogues are different races, ethnicities, and religions than the people inside the sanctuary.  Although it’s easy to think of our country as being divided, seeing people who are committed to protecting others who are different from them is a reminder of unity and a spark of hope.

thank you

Go to a community Shabbat.  

There are numerous opportunities to come together as a community to process, and move forward together in the wake of this tragedy.  Check the GatherDC calendar. While these events can’t necessarily give us answers or eliminate our pain, they can ensure that we don’t have to grieve alone.

shabbat

Donate money.  

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has established the Fund for Victims of Terror.  The money will be used for medical bills, counseling, repairs of damages to the building, and additional security.  There is also a verified GoFundMe campaign that has already collected over one million dollars, which will go directly to the Tree of Life Congregation.  In addition, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has created the Communal Security Fund to ensure the immediate security needs of every local synagogue and Jewish organization are met.

donate

Say Tehillim.  

Known in English as Psalms, Tehillim contain some of the most widely recognized verses from the Bible (such as, “the Lord is my shepherd”).  The Book of Tehillim was composed by King David. It is the first book of the Ketuvim (Writings), which are the third section of the Tanakh.  There are 150 Tehillim.  Jews often recite Tehillim during difficult times.  You can find all 150 Tehillim in Hebrew, English, and transliteration at www.DailyTehillim.com.

temple

Vote.  

Everyone has an opportunity to impact our laws, our country, and our future by showing up to the polls on November 6th.  

vote

 

May the memories of those who died in the Tree of Life shooting forever be a blessing and may the wounded have a speedy recovery.

 

 

—-

aliza

About the author: Aliza Epstein is a native of the Washington, DC area and currently lives in Arlington, VA.  She works as a non-profit manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Will Work For Challah

“Do you have any challah left?” I asked into my phone.

“Any what?” the person on the other end asked with confusion.

“Challah!”I repeated louder.

challah

Pic from Alex Levin’s Rosh Hashanah Bakeshop

My mother was doubled over with laughter in the front seat of the car. I was visiting home in Madison, Wisconsin and wanted to secure some challah. Although both of my mother’s parents were Jewish, I was not raised Jewish. As a young adult, I began to explore my Judaism, and ever since learning more about Shabbat at GatherDC’s first Beyond the Tent retreat, I have really embraced the spirit of the tradition.  I have found meaning in my own versions of the Shabbat rituals, including wine, challah, and candles.

When I realized my trip home included Friday night, I was determined  to find some challah. My mom urged me to reserve a loaf prior to stopping by the store, which turned out to be a very good idea. As she drove me through town, she heard me calling store after store. Convinced that Madison, a very progressive small city, would have a bakery staff that knew of challah, it didn’t occur to me to change my script. So, for three or four phone calls my mother heard me say, I asked “Do you have a challah left?” They did not seem to understand the question. So, I asked it louder – as if volume was the problem. I yelled, “CHALLAH!” into the phone. My mom found this hilarious.

This was not the first place I struggled to secure challah. A few months earlier, on a trip to South Africa and Madagascar, I won the challah battle in Johannesburg when I found out that South Africans call it “kitke” making it easy to secure the familiar braid. I hosted a lovely Shabbat in the courtyard of my hotel, complete with kitke, a local Pinotage, and candles stuck in empty beer bottle holders. A week later in Madagascar, I was not so lucky. But I used a brioche-like loaf instead, and, to my delight, it was equally meaningful.   

My quest for challah has also played out in Key West, New Orleans, Colombia, and Belize. But perhaps the most entertaining was last summer in Petoskey, Michigan. Petoskey is a small but amazing place on the northern part of the lower peninsula in Michigan. I was annoyed when I went to a large grocery store and managed to find a sushi stand, but no challah. Undeterred, I called around to each store in the town. Realizing from my time in Madison that running out of Challah didn’t seem to be the concern, I shifted my question slightly.

“Do you have any challah?”

“Olive bread?”

“No, chall-ah!”

Next call. “Do you have any challah?”

“Halibut?”

*Sigh.*

Alas, that Shabbat I wound up serving a delicious loaf of grainy whole wheat bread instead. Although not what I envisioned, that bread still served its purpose: making me slow down, be grateful, and mark the beginning of a dedicated time for rest and reflection.  That Shabbat, just like all the ones with the wonder of challah, was free from the daily grind, and filled with connection, family, and joy.

 

 

meleiaAbout the Author: Meleia is an avid “Gather Groupie” and 8-year resident of DC. Gather has helped Meleia find her people, find her place, and find her path to her own meaningful Jewish identity and community. She is self proclaimed “pathological optimist” who loves yoga, bird watching, and travel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Healing Through Togetherness

This week has been a tough one.

The horrific shooting at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh has brought to light the excruciating level of hate- manifested in anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia-  that exists in our country. This horrific tragedy may be hitting us in different ways and at different times – I know it has for me.

At GatherDC, when we feel paralyzed and scared we offer what we do best – we bring people together. We did just that on Monday night, opening up our townhouse for a public streaming of the Community Interfaith Service & Solidarity Gathering that was hosted by Adas Israel, JCRC, and The Jewish Federation. 20 young adults stopped by to share in the comfort of their fellow community members. Holding hands, singing together, and sharing words of hope for a better tomorrow has inspired us to go on. In togetherness and love, we can find healing.

So in this difficult time, in our fractured world, I encourage each of you to spread love and togetherness to your circle. You can start repairing our world from exactly where you are:

  • Send a note or text to anyone you know connected to Pittsburgh in any way.
  • Reach out to anyone who works in a synagogue for whom their daily sacred space has been violated.
  • Call someone you know who has experienced the loss of a loved one recently because they may be feeling a magnified sense of pain and loss.
  • Smile at those you pass on the street. Spread kindness wherever you go.

As Parker Palmer writes in his book “A Hidden Wholeness”, the heart can be broken in two ways: “the first imagining the heart as shattered and scattered; the second imagining the heart broken open into new capacity, holding more of both our own and the world’s suffering and joy, despair and hope.”

May we continue to find comfort in those around us. May the memory of the lives lost forever be a blessing. May our community go on, stronger than ever and with even greater capacity to love.

If you want someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to email me at rachelg@gatherdc.org or call GatherDC at 202-656-0743. We are here for you.

Sending love,

Rachel Gildiner

Executive Director, GatherDC

P.S. If you are looking to find healing in togetherness this week, here are Shabbats happening across the District. We encourage each of you to #ShowUpForShabbat this Friday. If you have questions or want to host your own Shabbat, please let us know how we can help.

Meet Alex: Jewish Fashionista of the Week!

alex

How did you wind up living in DC?

I came here for grad school after living in New York for eight years. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York and then worked in fashion for a few years. But, at the end of the day, I realized that I wasn’t contributing to the world in a positive way. I felt like I was putting forth more product into the world that wasn’t helping anyone. I had to rethink how I wanted to spend my days, and that involved a transition to graduate school in DC.

What did you go to graduate school for?

I got my master’s in International Peace and Conflict Resolution and focused on gender at American University. Right now, I’m working as a sustainability consultant for fashion startups. I work with them on developing sustainable and innovative business plans, goal setting, and brand alignment initiatives – among other things. I would really like to grow that.

That’s a great combo of fashion and sustainability. I hear you also have a side hustle as a personal fashion-guru for your friends. Tell me about that!

I love working with my friends on their closets. I help them re-organize and minimize their wardrobes so they can better use it in their daily lives. A lot of people don’t like to shop, and in DC, which has a very typical wardrobe, it can be sometimes be demoralizing to figure out how to fit your personality into your work wardrobe. I love helping people shop for their work day, their body type, and understand how to make their wardrobe more sustainable. (Editor’s Note: Email Alex if you want some fashion help!)

What’s one fashion tip you can give for fall?

It’s really important to have a staple outfit. Since Fall is about layering, zone in on a few key pieces of outerwear. Invest in that coat or scarf that you love and can wear as it continues to get colder. We live in a city where we walk a lot- so think of your outerwear like another outfit!

alex

What do you like most about DC’s Jewish community?

I like how diverse it is. I’ve met a lot of  amazing Jewish people that come from all different areas of life and don’t fit into a stereotypical box.

What’s your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Having a lot of food, great people, and good conversation.

Who is your Jewish role model?

My aunt. She passed away last year from Leukemia. She was the matriarch of our family and such a  strong, beautiful, and very fashionable woman. She embodies all the things that I really admire. I think of her all the time.

How do you destress at the end of a long week?

Hair mask. Face mask. I do that every week. I’m all about self care.

alex

What’s something you want to learn this year?

French. I’m always working on becoming a better French speaker, but it gets put on my back burner a lot. 

When Jews of DC gather…

There’a a lot of Jewish geography.

alex t

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.