Alternative Yom Kippur


Image: Five trees of different colors in the center of a sunset background with a squirrel sitting on a tree stump in the midst; a pale pink sun rests behind the center tree. Text: ALT YK with Gather logo "pin" in between ALT and YK

For many, Yom Kippur can be a challenging day that brings up a lot of negative emotions. It might involve spending hours at synagogue, fending off hunger pains, or feeling shame about past behavior.

For you, that might not work.

Perhaps you’ve been searching for a way acknowledge Yom Kippur that feels more relevant, accessible, fun, and…dare we say…alternative?! If so, you’ve come to the right place. GatherDC is offering a few Alternative Yom Kippur experiences to help you celebrate this beautiful holiday in a way that is authentic to you.

All of these experiences are open to Jewish and Jew-curious young adults of all gender identities, sexual orientations, backgrounds, ethnicities, abilities, and levels of religiosity.

Here is our plan for the day:

Alternative Yom Kippur Experience – 10:00am

This is an exploratory and interactive Yom Kippur experience led by GatherDC’s Community Rabbi, Ilana. It’s not a prayer service and it’s not in a synagogue, although the space we’ll create together will be special. There is no fasting required to be considered a good Jew, no Hebrew required to 100% participate, and you don’t have to believe in God to be moved or inspired (although it’s cool if you do, too!).

Together with other Jewish 20’s + 30’s (and friends), we will gather at the Pearl Street Warehouse to observe Yom Kippur through ways that are intended to help us authentically connect to this most important Jewish holiday, including small group discussions over Jewish texts, outside-the-box writing activities for personal introspection, live Jewish and secular folk music, and thematic storytelling by Rabbi Ilana, and some of your talented peers. We’ll also be collecting charitable donations as a way to give back to our local DMV community. More details will be shared upon registration.

  • Location: Pearl Street Warehouse (33 Pearl St SW, Washington, DC, 20024)
  • Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm
  • Cost: Sliding scale

Intentional YK Lunch Meetup – 1:00pm

We know that there are many who do not fast on Yom Kippur for important physical and mental health reasons. This year, we’re experimenting with organizing a lunch meetup for those who would find it meaningful to gather with other people who also do not fast and engage in a Jewish ritual to honor the act of mindful eating and taking care of one’s body and spirit on this special day. GatherDC will pick a central meeting point on the SW Waterfront following our Alt YK morning experience, where you’ll have time to meet others and Rabbi Ilana for schmoozing and intention-setting before embarking on a self-led lunch excursion on the beautiful waterfront (i.e. bring your own meal or go out afterward). We’ll be in touch separately with those who sign up. You also do not need to join our morning experience to participate.

  • Location: SW Waterfront (exact location shared upon registration)
  • Time: 12:30pm
  • Cost: Free.

Break the Fast Potluck Dinner – 6:30pm

A delicious and casual break-the-fast at GatherDC’s townhouse. We will provide bagels, schmear, drinks, and friendly faces. We’ll be there starting at 6:30, but feel free to join at any point in this time frame.

  • Location: GatherDC, 1817 M Street NW
  • Time: 6:30 – 8:30pm
  • Cost: Free



Rabbi Ilana Zietman
Community Rabbi

Rabbi Ilana loves meeting new people and creating real and meaningful connections with them. As GatherDC’s Community Rabbi, she is thrilled that she gets to meet young Jews all over the city. She loves exploring Jewish ideas that are relevant and alive for people in their 20’s and 30’s. Rabbi Ilana is excited to help people find their own unique connections to Judaism and Jewish life and create new expressions that are so needed today. She can’t wait to continue Gather’s work of creating spaces where people can question, explore, laugh, grow and find themselves and community. She received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in Greater Boston.