Meet Harry: Jewish Hill Staffer of the Week!


Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Harry: I’m from New York. I originally moved here for college at GW, and bounced around for a few years before coming back for law and policy school.

Allie: What are the biggest differences between New York and DC?

Harry: I miss New York pizza. But I’m very happy in DC, it’s a very livable city with a lot of hidden gems. You meet people from all over the world who speak about issues that matter.

Allie: I hear you work for the U.S. House of Representatives. What triggered your passion for politics?

Harry: I don’t like politics. I like policy. I don’t like the process of duking it out to make some ideological point. I like it when we can use our collective resources to make people’s lives better. This is very much about doing what’s right and helping people.


Harry’s dreamed of being the Jewish Hill Staffer of the Week for quite some time now.

Allie: What is your dream day in DC from start to finish?

Harry: I would get out of DC and hike Old Rag.

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

Harry: I really enjoy spending time with friends – hiking, traveling, going on road trips, doing yoga.

Allie: What is one place you really want to travel to?

Harry: The next two trips I’m thinking of doing are to Guatemala and Thailand. I’m very much looking forward to those. Traveling is probably my favorite thing to do. I like the sense of freedom, the adventure of pushing myself, and rediscovering the humanity in others.

Allie: Who is your role model?

Harry: Without a doubt, it’s John Lewis. He is a civil rights icon who was nearly murdered while fighting for the right to vote. It was partially through his advocacy that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and he’s now been a member of Congress for quite some time. He is a strong moral voice, that unfortunately we need a lot of right now.

Allie: What is a skill you want to learn this year?

Harry: My goal for the year is to learn how to use chopsticks.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Harry: Things get interesting.




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 Rebecca: Jewish Swapples Maker of the Week

In preparation for the day you’ll be spending dreaming about food you are not consuming, we figured now is the perfect time to introduce you to DC’s resident Swapple maker. “What are Swapples? You may be asking. Swapples are like waffles, except healthy. They’re made entirely from Yucca root and use only whole fruits and vegetables. And, wait for it, delicious.

Founder, owner, and CEO Rebecca Peress is ready to share how she became a food innovator/business owner by age 23 and why she really might be a spy working for the CIA.


Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Rebecca: I came to DC in 2010 to start undergrad at GW and never left. I thought I wanted to work for the CIA/FBI, so I came here for that. After an interview with the Secret Service for a summer internship, I almost got it and then they were like “no, sorry”. I didn’t have anything to do that summer, so I interned with a food/beverage director at a golf course and fell in love with food/hospitality and totally changed courses.

Allie: Hold up. You wanted to be in the CIA?

Rebecca: I wanted to serve the country. I’m also a true crime junkie. My cousins still think I am a secret agent and that Swapples is just a cover.

Allie: How did you come up with the idea for Swapples?

Rebecca: One Saturday when I was bored, I was messing around in my kitchen and put Yucca Root in my waffle iron. I wanted to see what would happen. I’ve been interested in nutrition since I took my first health class. I was having really bad blood sugar issues my senior year of college, and my doctor had me take out all sugar for an entire year. That was really hard. But that year changed my palette and brought to light how much bad stuff I was actually eating.

I started eating more plant-based and had taken out grain, but I wanted something crispy and bread-y.

Allie: What was the first flavor of Swapples you ever made?

Rebecca: The Everything Spice was my first flavor because I grew up with bagels in New York and missed them.

Allie: Who was your first customer?

Rebecca: I tell my former boss that Swapples would not exist if not for him asking for a bite of it one day and then telling me he would pay me for them! Then other people started ordering them, and I realized there was a market for this. I was 23. I had no boyfriend, no dog, not a lot of savings, I already worked like crazy so I didn’t really see my friends much. I had nothing to lose.

Allie: What’s the hardest part of starting and owning your own company?

Rebecca: There is no rule book for it. You’re figuring it out as you go. I am not a risk taker; I don’t like the uncertainty of it.

Allie: What’s the most rewarding part?

Rebecca: Being able to share them with people. Getting emails from people about how Swapples changed their life, or helped their gut issues, or how they finally have a gluten-free waffle they can eat with their family. That is why I do it.


Allie: What’s your dream for the future of Swapples?

Rebecca: For it to go national. Then, I’d want to sell it to a larger company so it can be spread wider. If I can put something out in this world that makes it easier to eat whole foods and fruits and vegetables, I want to do that.

Allie: Favorite Swapples flavor?

Rebecca: Garlic and greens.

Allie: Do you serve Swapples at Jewish holiday meals?

Rebecca Swapples can be used in place of matzo because they’re kosher for Passover! I’ve also served them at Shabbats in place of challah, and at Hanukkah parties as latkes.

Allie: What advice do you have for someone dreaming of starting their own business?

Rebecca: Take care of yourself. I get eight hours of sleep every night and work out every day. Working out is so important to me.

Allie: What do you like about working out?

Rebecca: I like high intensity training (HiIT) workouts and boot camps. I like to be dripping in a pool of my own sweat. I don’t drink, smoke, or eat a ton of sugar, so working out is my release. If I don’t workout for more than two days in a row I go crazy. I’ll work out anywhere. Once, I was on a 14 hour plane to China and was going crazy so I started doing lunges, squats and pushups in the middle of the aisle. People were staring at me but I didn’t care it felt so good.

Allie: What’s something people might be surprised to find out about you?

Rebecca: I started dating my boyfriend after we talked at a OneTable Shabbat dinner.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rebecca: They eat.




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 Cat of the Month: Golda Meow

Sarah: What is your name?

Golda: My name is Golda Meow, but you can just call me Golda. I was named in homage to the illustrious Golda Meir.  I like to think I live up to her visionary legacy, don’t you? I can see in the dark, after all. 

Sarah: What’s your favorite way to spend a day in DC?

Golda: I like to hang out with Mom before she leaves for work. I’ll follow her around, sit in between the shower curtains and just generally be underfoot to get maximum Mom time. While she’s gone I have a few premium nap spots around the apartment, where I lounge until 1) the automatic feeder chimes or 2) Mom gets home from work. It takes 12-16 hours of daily beauty rest to look this good.

jewish cat

Sarah: What is your favorite human costume to dress up as?

Golda: Humans are the underling. I would never dress up as a human. Next question.

Sarah: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Golda: I’ve been told I’m regal.  But don’t tell Mom, I don’t want her taking credit.

Sarah: What is your favorite thing to do when you think no one is looking?

Golda: I LOVE exploring the apartment building. I always try to dart out the front door. All the neighbors leave mats outside their doors for me to scratch. It’s the best adventure.

Sarah: What is your spirit animal?

Golda: Only the king of the beasts, of course. Lions are so majestic.

jewish cat
Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why? 

Golda: I’m a big fan of Passover. Can’t say I love 10 extra pairs of feet stomping around the house, but by the time they’re three glasses deep, and everyone has shuffled out of the kitchen, the brisket is on the counter and I feast! 

Between friends, I’ve been known to lend my image to different holiday greeting cards. Posing with apples & honey is easy, but I get a little curious around Chanukah candles. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a model, but I do get paid with extra treats and live my best diva life.

Sarah: I get most excited when…

Golda: Someone opens a can of tuna. I’ll come running from anywhere in the apartment. And don’t try to pretend it’s not for me. I see you up there. And you know you’re going to give me some. Who are you kidding? I’m the master, here.

jewish cat



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.

Getting My Jewish Culture On in 5779

If you’re like me, and one of your Jewish New Year resolutions is to try out some new experiences across the city, then this article is for you.

If not, there are a lot of other really interesting articles here. Or you could go watch the new season of Shameless, because Lip.

Back to the article. One way I can make good on my resolution is to check out a few of the local Jewish theater performances in DC. Fortunately, the District is about to be filled with compelling theatrical works featuring Jewish themes and characters, including The Diary of Anne FrankA Shayna Maidel, and The Last 5 Years.

I chatted with Paige Austin, the music director (as well as pianist and composer) behind The Last 5 Years to learn a little bit more about this performance, and explore the influx in Jewish performances this season.

last 5 years

Characters Jamie and Cathy from The Last 5 Years at The Montgomery Playhouse

Allie: What is The Last 5 Years About?

Paige: This is an autobiographical play about the life of Jason Robert Brown. He is Jewish and used to date an Irish-Catholic girl.

The show has only two actors who play Jamie and Cathy, a young interfaith couple. They each tell their story of their 5 year relationship, but Cathy tells it from back to front, and Jamie tells it from front to back. Eventually, they meet in the middle and the continue to go through their separate timelines.

Allie: What makes it worth seeing?

Paige: The characters have very relatable problems. Cathy is the one putting more effort into the relationship, while Jamie is splitting his energy between a lot of different things. Relationships are work, and it’s nice to see a story where this is the case. I’d rather see a story of a couple struggling any day. It also covers gender politics.

Oh, and it’s only 90 minutes with no intermission.

Allie: Is it true that this play is also a movie?

Paige: Yes! For those who are fans of Anna Kendrick, there is a movie version of The Last 5 Years starring Anna and Jeremy Jordan.

Allie: Where can GatherDC readers get tickets?

Paige: You can get tickets on the Montgomery Playhouse website. Tickets are $22.

Characters Jamie and Cathy from The Last 5 Years at The Montgomery Playhouse

Learn more about The Last Five Years and other upcoming plays:


The Pianist of Willesden Lane

September 12 – September 30

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Family Theater

Tickets here


The Last Five Years

September 14 – September 23

The Randolph Road Theater

Tickets here


A Shayna Maidel

October 11 – October 28

Peace Mountain Theater Company at Congregation Har Shalom

Tickets here



September 15 – September 23

The Gaithersburg Arts Barn

Tickets here


The Diary of Anne Frank

September 28 – October 7

Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville Civic Center Park

Tickets here



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.

Nosh Hashanah: DC’s Best Spots for Your Jewish New Year Feast

The Jewish New Year is upon us, and that means a few things.

First, it’s a time for self-reflection. Just like that scene in “Mulan” – you know the one.

Second, it’s a time to turn that self-reflection into a “resolution.” For most of us this will likely be a “resolut-”, which will be broken before we finish saying the word resolution.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, it’s time for some super special food.

Here at GatherDC, we think about food a lot. Almost as much as we think about coffee. So we’ve decided to do you all a favor and provide you with a guide to the very best in DC’s high holiday food specials. You’re welcome.


Alex Levin’s Rosh Hashanah Pop-Up Bake Shop

Back by popular demand, Alex Levin and his phenomenal team at Schlow Restaurant Group are providing the District with all the best sweet treats for your high holiday needs. These include, but are not limited to, traditional honey challah, handmade pies, apple butter honey cake, hazelnut chocolate crunch rugelach, and artisanal candies. You know what they say about artisanal candies.

View the full mouth-watering menu here and place your orders here.


Alex Levin’s Rosh Hashanah Bakeshop


Sunflower Bakery

Sunflower Bakery is a Bethesda favorite, and their Rosh Hashanah menu is baked goods heaven! From the traditional honey cake loaves and mini apple and honey cupcakes to the creative pies, tortes, and chutneys, Sunflower Bakery has dozens of vegan, gluten free, and nut free options to make you the star of all your dinners and break-fasts!

You can place an order by TODAY, September 5th, for pick-up on September 9th pretty much anywhere in the DMV region, or you can stop by their bakery anytime throughout the high holiday season to grab some last-minute goodies.

Plus, this bakery is an inclusive space that employs young adults with learning differences to prepare them for future employment in food industries. Ask them about this when you stop by to pick up your cupcakes!


Char Bar

Char Bar is a staple in the DC kosher food scene, and their high holiday catering menu is no exception. Highly customizable and insanely delicious (homemade brisket or apricot glazed chicken? Matzo ball or butternut squash soup?), this package serves 10-12 people and is a verified feast worthy of ringing in 5779!

Check out the order form here.

Hill Country BBQ Brisket

Your favorite Texas-themed-DC-BBQ-hotspot is serving up some tender, juicy, delicious brisket this Rosh Hashanah. Grab some grub, get some drinks, and sing some karaoke. 5779 is the year of no regrets.


Joe’s Stone Crab Rosh Hashanah Menu

We know, this seems like a disconnect. Joe’s Stone Crab has a Rosh Hashanah menu? Yes, you read that correctly. This DC institution is offering a special multi-course menu just for the Jewish New Year. There are classic faves like gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket, and couscous – the rice so nice they named it twice.

View their entirely delectable menu here.

Mon Ami Gabi

Joignez-vous à votre bistro français préféré pour un repas multi-cours sur le thème du nouvel an juif. Challah aux pommes et au miel, poisson de gefilte fait maison, foie haché, soupe de boule de matzo, etc. Traduction française non incluse.

**Translation: Join your favorite french bistro for a special Jewish New Year themed multi-course meal. Challah with apples and honey, homemade gefilte fish, chopped liver, matzo ball soup, and more. French translation not included.

Check out the full menu here.


Alex Levin’s Rosh Hashanah Bakeshop

Summer House

Summer’s not over yet! Summer House Santa Monica is keeping our spirits sunny and warm by offering an extra sweet Rosh Hashanah dinner menu complete with challah with apples and honey, brisket, matzo ball soup, and gefilte fish. It even comes with a Jewish mother who keeps pressuring you to eat more and incessantly asks when you’re getting married.

Teddy and the Bully Bar

Did you know Teddy Roosevelt was the first U.S. President to appoint a Jewish cabinet member? Celebrate his legacy of inclusion and head on down to Teddy and the Bully Bar on September 9th and 10th for a prix fixe, three-course meal incorporating traditional foods like apples with honey, house-made gefilte fish, and challah bread, along with modern twist dishes like handmade potato and butternut squash latkes, golden and red beet tzimmies, and more!

Delicious menu can be found here. Big stick not included.

Dino’s Grotto

A local artisan Italian restaurant may not have been your first thought when deciding where to ring in the Jewish New Year, but if you haven’t seen their high holiday menus, you better think again.

With menus for Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre, and breaking the fast, Dino’s Grotto is shaping up for a high holidays trifecta! With items like latkes with mascarpone and apple-dried compote, noodle kugel, duck fat matzo ball soup, and of course, round challah and honey roasted apples, you surely won’t go hungry this season.


Photo by Dino’s Grotto


Is your favorite restaurant doing something special for the holidays that you don’t see on here? Email with why you think it should be featured, and we’ll add it to this post!


About the Authors

Rachel Nieves

As GatherDC’s Community Coordinator, Rachel helps connect those new or new(ish) to DC and help them feel at home. She loves meeting new people, and connecting them with each other to help build thriving friendships. When she’s not in the GatherDC office or grabbing coffee with community members, you can find her dancing (more like flailing) to the nearest live cover band, admiring dogs that aren’t hers in Meridian Hill Park, watching reality television, and hanging out and laughing with her friends.


Julie Thompson

Julie helps keep GatherDC’s wheels turning behind the scenes as the Office Manager. When Julie isn’t at the GatherDC office, she’s probably out with friends trying a new restaurant across DC, planning her next big trip to explore a new corner of the world, or snuggled in with a good book and her rescue cat, Chloe.




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 Bryan: Jewish Swimmer of the Week!


Allie: What’s your favorite thing about living in DC?

Bryan: There’s always something new to discover and explore. I really enjoy trying new restaurants, and taking in as much culture as I can, whether it be a show, museum, or monument. DC has become such a world class city. I also live near the zoo so I go to the zoo all the time. Every morning around 5, I begin to hear the noises from the animals waking up. It’s an inspiring way to start the day.

Allie: Describe your perfect day in the city from start to finish.

Bryan: I travel a fair amount, so a day off in DC with no agenda is a great luxury. I’d get up early and go for a swim. I was a competitive swimmer growing up, and have tried to recapture a bit of that recently. I’d get some reading in (fiction on the weekends) and would definitely want try to catch up on any news I may have missed during the week. Then, I’d go out to dinner with friends. I love having no agenda on my days off and just seeing how the day unfolds.

Allie: What kind of swimming do you like to do?

Bryan: I was a sprinter- I actually raced Michael Phelps when I was younger. The mental and physical toughness you need to be a great swimmer is something I’ve always respected and been humbled by. My grandfather was a swimmer up until he passed away, and he inspired me to find a sport I could have for life. These days, I try to go as far as I can. In June, I did an open-water swim in Cape May, New Jersey. The race began by jumping fifteen feet off of a ferry into the Delaware bay, and when I hit the water, I promptly lost my goggles. Not the greatest experience, but I finished. 

Allie: Other than swimming, what’s your favorite thing to do after the work day?

Bryan: I recently started playing tennis regularly. A few of my coworkers and I actually started a tennis club at work. We have a group that gets together each week to play, and we don’t talk business. It really is fun. I like being active and being outside.

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the Jewish New Year?

Bryan: I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, but I make pretty solid resolutions throughout the year. I make goals for myself each quarter. I’m always trying to take everything I do to the next level. And frankly, I’ll often fail. Sometimes, that’s the most important part: failure. My failures often lend greater insight into how I can improve my performance as a human. My resolutions are often based around self-improvement. It’s a never-ending pursuit, but it yields great results. 

Allie: You recently participated in GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent. How did you decide to go on that retreat?

Bryan: My first experience with GatherDC was the Giving Circle. I was looking for a way to give back in a meaningful way and found GatherDC online. I didn’t know what to expect, but the Giving Circle experience led me to realize there are multiple ways to make an impact in the surrounding community and in my own life. Mollie (one of the Giving Circle facilitators) brought up Beyond the Tent at the last Giving Circle meeting and I was hooked. It was something I’d never done before. At this stage of my life I’m trying to challenge myself in every way I possibly can.

Allie: What was your experience like on Beyond the Tent?

Bryan: It was a transformative experience. We discussed a wide variety of important topics, we shared our experiences, but the real reflection happened afterwards and continues to happen as we move forward on this journey. I came away with a bunch of new friends and some really difficult ideas to grapple with. Rabbi Aaron has a unique ability to be thought-provoking and bring up ideas that while sometimes uncomfortable at first, engage the mind and take you out of your comfort zone.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Bryan: Jewish moms are happy.




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.

New Year, New Rabbis

Ah 5779. A new, fresh number to mark the start of a beautiful year ahead. A year when politicians will finally discover harmony across the aisles, weather will be consistent for more than two days in a row, and celebrities will wait longer than one month before getting engaged.

Okay, fine. Most likely, none of the above may come to fruition in the new year. But, one thing is certain: DC-ites are going to find 9 amazing new rabbis bopping around the community this coming year.

We asked these rabbis a few simple questions so we can get to know the Jewish leaders who are here to guide us through the insanity of today’s world…

dc rabbiRabbi Benjamin Barer, Georgetown University

Q: What’s your resolution for the Jewish New Year?

A: I try to focus on a combination of study, journaling, and reacquainting myself with the melodies of the High Holidays. Every year we approach the High Holidays in a different place, and I never know what themes or piece of prayer will resonate for me. I try to immerse myself in a combination of sources that have attracted me in years past and a mix of new offerings.

This year that has included journaling using prompts from ‘R’ Jordan Braunig (Tufts), listening to Judaism Unbound’s Elul podcast series, and listening to favorite recordings of High Holiday tunes from my childhood.



dc rabbiRabbi Stephanie Crawley, Temple Micah/Next Door DC

Q: How is Judaism valuable in your life?

A: I think Judaism is counter-cultural in the coolest ways. Judaism reminds me when it is time to unplug and pause, when the rest of the world is telling me to go, go, go. The Jewish calendar punctuates my weeks and months, reminding me that life moves in cycles, not straight lines. And in an era of 3-second snapchats and 24 hour news headlines, Jewish texts and traditions root me to something that feels rooted and eternal.

Q: What’s your resolution for the Jewish New Year?

A: In 5779, I hope to discover the best vegetarian taco in Washington DC. I’m also going to try journaling again, and maybe this year, make it past buying the notebook, journaling for three days, and then eventually hiding it to shield me from my shame at another failed attempt.


dc rabbi aderetRabbi Aderet Drucker, Community Rabbi

Q: What led you to your decision to become a Rabbi or Clergy member?

A: My initial path was to becoming a physician. During my freshman year in college, I had a powerful learning experience with the campus rabbi at a Shabbat service where I thought to myself, maybe I too, could become a rabbi one day. At the time I was not aware of women rabbis (I had not seen any growing up), and quietly told myself that it was not possible.

Years later, after taking the MCAT, graduating pre-med, and meeting more and more women rabbis, I began to reflect on the path that I was on and recognized that while I loved working with people, creating spaces for healing, and community building, I wanted to find a way to also tap into the spiritual part of my life. I had a life-changing conversation with my then-boyfriend (now husband and partner), where upon hearing my reflections, he asked me, “Is there anything else you have thought about doing? I’ve only heard you talk about becoming a physician.” It was then for the first time since my initial thought about becoming a rabbi back in college that I said out loud, “I thought about becoming a rabbi.” And as they say, the rest is history. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.


dc rabbi elianaRabbi Eliana Fischel, Washington Hebrew Congregation

Q: What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

A: I was a Dance major in college. I haven’t taken dance classes in a few years, but am open to suggestions for studios in DC!

Q: What do you love most about your work?

A: I love being adjacent to people’s lives. I love seeing a life and a family grow: connecting at different moments, celebrating when they are celebrating, and providing comfort when it is needed. I also love that every day is different. One minute, I can be sitting on the floor telling a story to the 3s class and the next be meeting with an engaged couple. It is all just fun.


rabbi sarah krinskyRabbi Sarah Krinsky, Adas Israel Congregation

Q: What’s your resolution for the Jewish New Year?

A: This year, I’m using Yom Kippur as a chance to explore forgiveness with myself. I often take quite seriously the practice of seeking forgiveness from – and granting it to – others, but am less generous with myself. My resolution for this year is to be patient with myself, and Yom Kippur is feeling to me like an invitation to step into that process.

Q: What do you love most about your work?

A: I love the opportunity to connect with people, learn their stories, and help bring them into community and tradition.

dc rabbi novickRabbi Daniel Novick, George Washington University Hillel

Q: What do you love most about your work?

A: I love building relationships with people to help cultivate and sustain their individual and collective Jewish identities. Every interaction, every conversation, every gathering is one that has intrinsic holiness and purpose. I love meeting people, hearing their story, connecting them to Torah and Jewish life, and working with them to create Jewish experiences.

Q: What’s your resolution for the Jewish New Year?

A: I am going into 5779 with the intention to listen better. Listen to myself, listen to my partner, listen to others whose “voices” I have not yet heard. And, listen to those with whom I disagree.


dc rabbi miriamMiriam Liebman, University of Maryland Hillel

Q: How do you prepare for the High Holidays?

A: I generally start by reflecting on the major themes or topics that have felt personally relevant to me over the course of the last year. Often times it has come from something I have read or been reading or even a podcast I’ve been listening to. I then think about and do some learning around how that topic is related to the High Holidays and how to incorporate those ideas into the intentions I set for myself and my community.

Q: How is Judaism valuable in your life?

A: Judaism is not something we do or a box we can check to say we’ve fulfilled our duty. It is a way of life and of being in the world. Living Jewishly is about pursuing justice and making change in the world around us in order to better ourselves and our communities.


dc rabbiRabbi Avi Strausburg, Hadar

Q: What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

A: One thing people might be surprised to learn about me is that as a youngster, I jumped off a roof (all the neighborhood kids were doing it) and sprained my ankle. I managed to crawl all the way home and then hid it from my parents for days, claiming I’d slept on it funny, until my older sister outed me when we finally went to get it examined at the doctor’s office. Take-home lesson: you can still get injured when jumping off a low roof onto a gigantic trampoline.

Q: What led to your decision to become a Rabbi?

A: Selfishly, I went into the rabbinate because I really loved the learning and wanted more of it. I also wanted to be an inspiring, engaging teacher for others as my teachers had been for me.

Check out Rabbi Strausburg’s haikus: The Daf Yomi Haiku Project, The Torah Haiku Project


dc rabbiRabbi Lauren Tuchman, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps

Q: What do you like to Break the Fast with?

A: I like to break the Yom Kippur fast by first downing a huge glass of water. Rehydration is critically important!







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.

Welcome to DC, Pearl’s Bagels!

Jews and bagels go together like peanut butter and jelly. Also, like PB&J, bagels and schmear are always quickly and completely devoured with only some crumbs, and sticky fingers, remaining.

While people have strong opinions about peanut butter (crunchy vs. creamy, natural vs. Skippy, and of course all the alternative nuts out there), ask a Jew about their ideal bagel and you will receive a passionate explanation of why their bagel is the one to rule them all. And we haven’t even entered the world of cream cheese vs. any other schmear…

Living in DC, our choices of bagels are quite limited. Taking the train to New York isn’t something one can do every weekend. Because of this, our freezers get stocked with bagels from those rare NYC trips and the few places that sell acceptable bagels get swarmed on weekends. Recognizing the bagel desert of DC, these two bagel lovers decided to quit their corporate jobs to start a bagel business.

Pearl’s Bagels, named after the owners’ beloved French Bulldog Pearl, is the newest bagel joint on the block and is already making the rounds in the food scene.

dc bagels at pearl's

Photo by Judith Rontal

How did Pearl’s Bagels get its start?

Husband-and-wife team Allee and Oliver Cox were raised to be bagel lovers. Oliver loved his hometown bagels so much that he thanked them for getting him through school in his high school graduation speech. In fact, Allee and Oliver’s shared affinity for bagels brought them together for the first time. While they were both working at a TV station in Nantucket, the two picked up some bagels together after an early shoot was cancelled. By the end of the day, they ended up sharing more than just a bagel.

Fast forward a few years and a move to DC, Allee and Oliver found themselves working corporate jobs during the week and baking bagels on the weekends to satisfy their cravings. After getting married, the two decided to quit their jobs and backpack through Asia. That big decision pushed them to take the leap to open up a bagel shop of their own once they returned back home. Enter Pearl’s Bagels.

dc bagels at pearl's

Photo by Judith Rontal

What makes these bagels special?

The bagels are a hybrid Montreal- and New York-style bagels with a chewy inside and a crispy exterior. They use only six ingredients (plus additional seasonings for the flavored varieties): flour, water, salt, yeast, honey, and malt powder. The bagels are delicious on their own, no schmear necessary. The Everything Bagel has the spices on both top and bottom, and can also be piled high with your favorite toppings.

After Allee and Oliver committed to this venture, they took an intensive class to learn about starting a bakery. They tested tons of recipes on themselves and community members. They want to bake the bagels they love, and be able to guarantee those bagels are the ones that DC will love too.

How does one get these bagels?

While the duo is still baking out of their rowhouse, they are in the process of finalizing details to open up a spot in the southern Shaw/Mount Vernon Triangle area by this time next year. In the meantime, they will begin taking catering orders at the end of October so you can host your own bagel-themed Shabbat or just stock up on these bagels for yourself.

With bagels being such a staple in our diets, Pearl’s Bagels is a welcome addition to the DC food scene. I for one am very excited to watch Allee and Oliver bake their way into the hearts and stomachs of DC.

dc bagels at pearl's

Photo by Vanessa Mack


About the Author: Judith Rontal hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, and regularly snuck bites from each other’s plates. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations for several local restaurants. When not in the kitchen putting together a feast for her next dinner party or finding a new way to use food scraps (kimchi watermelon rind anyone?), you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the District’s streets. Follow her food adventures on Instagram and Twitter.



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

How to Plan a Jewish Wedding Ceremony


From navigating tricky family dynamics, to having awkward conversations about money, to the million smaller decisions you have to make Cocktails or champagne? Lilacs or lilies? Bruno Mars or Beatles?! There are so many choices to navigate in the crazy wedding world. (If you’re shaking your head and saying “nah, it’s been so easy so far!,” just you wait, you’ll get there.)

The pinnacle of the entire wedding process is the moment the couple actually gets married, the ceremony. Along with this moment comes perhaps the biggest, and most meaningful, decision the couple has to make – what to include in the ceremony.

Do you want to make the ceremony Jewish? Do you want it to be religious at all? How do you navigate all the emotions and competing interests of this special moment?


When planning my ceremony with my partner, I felt the pull of many different interests vying for attention and acknowledgement.

My parents wanted a religious wedding to accommodate their more religious family and friends who would be attending. My partner’s parents are quite Reform, so they and their guests would have been lost with a lot of Hebrew and more conservative customs.

Many rabbis we spoke to weren’t comfortable with the more modern approach to certain rituals that we wanted. Other rabbis weren’t traditional enough for my parents. For the most important moment on the most important day of our lives, we found ourselves thinking: who should we accommodate? Our most religious guests, our most secular, our parents, each other, or ourselves?

In order to navigate these questions and the emotions that came with them, we talked to many rabbis in the DC area. My partner and I thought about the things that were important to us, and researched creative options for our ceremony. We definitely wanted Jewish traditions, but also wanted them to be hyper-inclusive. We wanted to incorporate our loved ones, but not have a ceremony stretching over an hour long.

Ultimately, we were fortunate enough to find a rabbi who was willing to have several extensive conversations with us, patiently listening to our concerns, and steering us through all of the options.

From my research and our discussions with our officiant, my partner and I found that there are many cultural, religious, and historic customs you can borrow from Jewish tradition that can bring meaning, spontaneity, good photo opportunities, and even some fun to your wedding day. The only required part of the wedding ceremony in Jewish tradition is the giving of a ring. Everything else is gravy.

Below are some well-known and less well-known options that we considered for our wedding ceremony. Perhaps this will help you figure out what you might want your ceremony to look like.

jewish wedding

Photography by Birds of a Feather


The most visible (and perhaps most common) Jewish custom you can incorporate is the chuppah, or wedding canopy. In Jewish tradition, the chuppah represents the couple’s home together, and is a nod to biblical Abraham’s famous hospitality and the fact that his tent was open on all four sides to welcome guests. You can also decide to have a chuppah simply because it’s pretty, and it can serve as a focal point for your ceremony. Sometimes couples will select four close family members or friends to hold up each of the four corners of the chuppah. This can be a nice way to actively incorporate your loved ones.  


You may be familiar with the idea of “circling” in a Jewish ceremony. Traditionally, the bride walks in seven circles the groom, but you can circle in any way you like. Some couples take turns circling each other, while others circle a central point together. Circling may represent unity and completeness. It can be seen as a physical reenactment of the wedding ring. Circling can also convey a moment of devotion, when one partner is orbiting the other.


Photography by Birds of a Feather


A less common Jewish tradition, but one with a rich history, is the veiling ceremony. This is where the groom greets the bride at the beginning of the wedding and places the veil over her face. This custom is based on the biblical story of Jacob marrying Leah instead of Rachel, whom he pined for, because he did not look under the veil to see her face before marrying. In some religious communities, the veiling is preceded by much fanfare, dancing, drinking, and singing by friends and family as the groom walks towards the bride to greet her. Other couples choose to have a private veiling ceremony. Some choose to have a veiling when the bride walks down the aisle.


Photo from One Story Weddings video


Neither I nor my partner have living grandparents, so we kept an eye out for ways to recognize them during our ceremony. We decided to use my partner’s grandfather’s prayer shawl as part of the canopy a top our chuppah. Some couples use a shawl as their chuppah, which is a beautiful and simple option as well. We used my grandfather’s prayer shawl to wrap ourselves during the blessings part of the ceremony, which is another lovely and meaningful tradition.


Photography by Birds of a Feather


Another option is the tradition of reciting seven blessings for the bride and groom. Usually, these blessings are recited by family and very close friends. Similar to having readings at Christian weddings, you can choose the traditional blessings or make up your own. Then, you can assign special loved ones to read the blessings to you at points that you choose during the ceremony. You can also have your friends and family choose their own blessings to read to you. You may decide to have these read in Hebrew, English, or both.


The next most recognizable Jewish tradition is the stomping on the glass at the end of the ceremony. This is arguably the most fun Jewish wedding tradition, as it usually results in a big “Mazel Tov!” shout from the crowd that creates a festive end to your ceremony.


Finally, while it is not part of the ceremony itself, the Horah dance has strong traditions in Eastern European Jewish communities. The Talmud actually requires wedding guests to entertain or “bring joy” to the bride and group, and many communities do so by lifting up the couple in chairs during the dancing.


Photography by Birds of a Feather

In the end, there are a myriad of ways to involve your culture and family history in this special moment. No matter what kind of wedding ceremony you choose, I hope you will feel completely surrounded by love when you say “I do” or “b’taba’at zu”.



danielaAbout the Author: Daniela Murch is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Daniela grew up between the DC suburbs and Leeds, England, before landing in the District permanently in 2009, where she has lived ever since. As a “tourist of Judaism” she loves exploring different Jewish practices and cultures, both locally and abroad. She works as a lawyer by day, sings in a semi-professional a cappella group by night, and enjoys traveling and exploring the local music and food scenes with her new husband, Jeremy.







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.