Your DC Purim Guide: 2020!

gatherdc purim

DC knows how to party like its 357 BCE. So get ready, because the best in DC-area Purim parties, hamantaschen recipes, and Shusan inspired gatherings are about to take the city by storm. See a full list below. And if there’s an event missing, submit it here.

However you celebrate, we wish you a chag Purim sameach – a happy and joyous Purim!

Wednesday, February 26th

Wednesday, March 4th

Thursday, March 5th

Saturday, March 7th

Sunday, March 8th

Monday, March 9th

Tuesday, March 10th

Where to Get Hamantaschen

Purim Inspiration



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.

Coping with Winter: Why Judaism Asks Us to Learn from Trees 

Tu B’shevat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat) is a strange Jewish holiday.

It’s technically the New Year for Trees. But:

  • Why do trees need a Rosh Hashanah?
  • Why is it celebrated in the winter time?
  • Basically, what’s the deal? 

Truth be told, the origins of Tu B’shevat are rather obsolete today. It began nearly 2,500 years ago when priests served as the Jewish people’s religious leaders in the Jerusalem Temple. Because they exclusively worked by offering sacrifices and such, all day every day, it was up to the rest of the Israelites to feed and clothe them. There developed a neat tithing system, which included a one-tenth tax on fruit. In order to organize the tithe seamlessly, they created a tax year within the regular year to define and synchronize the fruit trees’ harvesting cycles. It was basically an agricultural tax day. 

When the ancient Temple was destroyed and the priests were no longer employed, Tu B’shevat could have been forgotten from Jewish life. But, as you can guess, it stuck around. 

For centuries, Jews observed Tu B’shevat by reciting special psalms or hymns which were sung by the priests and by eating fruits from Israel (particularly olives, dates, grapes, figs, and pomegranates) to connect them to the land as they were dispersed around the world. Many still observe the holiday just like this. 

Others, inspired by a 16th century mystical tradition of viewing the inner workings of trees as a symbol for how God’s energy flows through the world, developed a tradition of hosting a Tu B’shevat seder. During this seder, participants consume several courses of symbolic dried fruit, nuts, and wines. Each course creates a moment for reflection about how to connect with the Divine though the earth and beyond. Although these seders can be really beautiful and creative, I don’t like dried fruit and I’m not a mystic.

So, what else can be done to bring Tu B’shevat back to life?


I think Tu B’shevat is still fascinating precisely because it’s set during the wintertime.

The winter is a rather precarious season for trees because they are much more susceptible to freezing, losing precious energy, and being beaten down by heavy winds and snow. When this happens, trees do what they can to survive. They lose their leaves and stop producing energy to save up what they have left. They also send all of their sap, their nutrient-rich water, down towards their roots for safe-keeping underground until it is safe to use again in the spring. 

Clearly, there’s something much more intentional in celebrating trees this time of year than first meets the eye. This intention has something to do with the fact that there is a lot we can learn from our wise friends.

Trees are very realistic about getting through a time of year that is dark and cold. They don’t pretend that they aren’t impacted by the weather. They sustain themselves by turning inward and holding tightly onto the resources they need to get through it. As the days start to grow longer, even before it gets warmer out, the trees shift gears internally. They begin, slowly but surely, sending their sweet sap back up from underneath. 

As human beings affected by our natural environment, we experience our own physical shift in the winter.

This season often forces us to spend more time inside. We may sense that life is moving more slowly than when it’s warmer out. For some, this is a great time to focus inward, to spend quality time alone or with fewer people than usual, and to replenish our souls with a cozy blanket, a good book, and tea (hygge night anyone?). 

But, as winter goes on, we may feel more isolated, uninspired, and lonely. This is when we can turn towards the trees and remember that we can emerge from our funks well before spring officially begins.

We can intentionally shift gears and open ourselves back up to people, hobbies, and opportunities that bring us joy. We can begin to spend more time outdoors. And just as trees choose to grow in a forest, so that if one falters from a windy blow another is right there to prop it back up, we too can choose to rely on one another to help us get by during challenging times. 

I’ve come to realize that this is why I love and need Tu B’shevat. (It also help that my name, Ilana, is the Hebrew word for tree!). Tu B’shevat gives us the prompting to come out of our emotional hybernation and curate a seasonal shift.

Every breathe we take can be a moment to remember that the very oxygen we breathe is from our world’s forests. We recognize the trees importance to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

We can say “thank you” to them with a Jewish blessing for trees every time we take a breath or visit a park;

“Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh Haolam, she’kacha lo b’olamo” – “Blessed are You, Source of Life, that there is such a thing in this world.” 

We can do our share to return the favor and make the earth more habitable for trees and plants to live in (which, as we’ve seen in places like California and Australia, is increasingly difficult). There’s even a new Jewish initiative called JTree to raise funds for the National Forest Foundation and plant more trees in America’s National Parks and Grasslands. I just made my donation. 

In the spirit of the Tu B’shevat seder, we can gather with friends to study Jewish environmental perspectives (including from my favorite book on the subject) and talk about how to be stewards of the earth. 

What Tu B’shevat can still teach us is that new fruits don’t happen overnight, not for trees and not for us. Each of us harbors the potential to bring forth some incredible new fruits this year.

Let’s use this Jewish New Year for Trees to inspire us to move through the rest of this winter season – or any moment of long, daunting “lows” – to nurture ourselves and others. Let’s trust that in time, we’ll turn as the seasons do.

And if we need it, we can remember to take some advice from a tree

  • Stand tall and proud
  • Sink your roots into the earth
  • Be content with your natural beauty
  • Go out on a limb
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Think long term
  • Enjoy the view!

Happy Tu B’shevat! 



About the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and creating real and meaningful connections with them. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.






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.

Spotted in Jewish DC: Jewish Planner Part II

Keeping up with our Jewish lives is hard enough when we are dealing with job stress, making plans with friends, and the general hustle and bustle of daily secular life. For many of us, trying to keep up with our High Holiday and Shabbat routines can feel like more of a chore than the joy it should be.

Last year, Amanda Herring and Mo Golden launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the capital to print The Jewish Planner. This year, they are taking it up a notch with more room for reflecting and I personally cannot express how deeply excited I am to get my 5781 planner!


Alex: What differences will there be in this year’s planner compared to last year’s?

Amanda: First, we learned so much through the process of starting the business last year – about working with printers and graphic designers, shipping, and managing workflow so the behind the scenes process is smoother this year. It’s wonderful to have all that experience coming into this year. Second, due to user feedback, we’re adding extra blank note pages and a back pocket, so those are really great feature ideas we got directly from our supporters.

Mo: There was the temptation to make a ton of changes, just because we have so many creative ideas. But we decided to channel that energy into new products and to keep the basic structure of the planner the same because people really like it. We’ve built upon what was successful last year, while still making changes based on feedback. We’ll see what works well from last year and this year, and then be able to make more significant changes as needed for the third year. Most of the illustrations are new too, which is fun.

One way we’ve added depth to the planner without modifying the product itself is with the new tea subscription we’re launching along with this year’s Kickstarter. 

A lot of us don’t know this, but there are body parts, senses –smell, sight, etc. – and healing properties associated with each month of the Hebrew year. So, we are creating an herbal blend that you’ll receive on the new moon each month during the year 5781, along with a teaching and guide for facilitating a meaningful experience at any gathering. This builds off of the planner and offers a way to embody the learning that comes from using the planner, but is also something people can happily enjoy without The Jewish Planner, as a stand-alone subscription. 

Alex: What are some creative ways you’ve heard of people using the planner?

Mo: Quite a few users have shared with us on Instagram that they color in the monthly and weekly illustrations, which I absolutely love. We went back and forth about whether they should be simple line drawings or have more color, and I think the simplicity that we landed on has been inspiring to other people’s creativity. 

Also, the weekly wheel is controversial – in a good way! Everyone has something different to say about how they use it. A lot of people use the wheel to bullet point key tasks and appointments through each day, but not everyone. Some folks are actually using each day section in the wheel to write down their dreams from the night before. Others use it as a space for past reflections, as they look back on the week. One person told us she uses it for her Daf Yomi practice, which is really cool. 

Overall, the planner has attracted a wide range of people and met more diverse needs than we initially expected. It has become a teaching tool for educators, especially the digital version, which can be printed out for sessions on a specific month or theme. And the planner has also made its way into conversion classes because it lays out a pretty complex aspect of our tradition in an elegant, simple, and engaging way that invites the user to learn about the Hebrew calendar in bite-size pieces, through the process of living their life and reflecting on the changing seasons. 

Alex: What have been the biggest challenges in creating this planner in Year 1 and now in Year 2?

Amanda: The challenge was initially creating something totally new! We changed up the traditional linear planner layout and visually aligned the Hebrew and Gregorian dates with the offset at sundown. All these things were fun design puzzles, and we then had to communicate our solutions to the graphic designer and find ways to include all the information without looking cluttered or confusing. 

This year, the challenge is communicating the continued need for Kickstarter support and explaining why we aren’t rich off of one round of sales, but are actually still very young as a business. We know people loved the planner last year, so we’re hoping for return backers. We had so many people asking for planners after they sold out, we’d love to order more this year, it just depends on the response.

Alex: How did you decide what to include in the Jewish Planner?

Mo: We were really inspired by the Bullet Journal method, which has a structure that goes from broad to specific. That way of working makes sense, which is why our planner starts with the large Shmita cycle, then seasons, months, weeks… From there, we decided that we needed an overview teaching of the aspects people wouldn’t be familiar with and that are important to know in order to really interact with the calendar. So, there’s a monthly teaching where we introduce the themes, as well as journaling prompts where the monthly teaching becomes alive and personally relevant to the user.

Then, after that process, the month overview that comes next– which looks like a grid and could feel overwhelming on its own – makes sense and feels approachable. Most of our decisions were about structure, context, order. The content piece followed from there, both for the writing and the illustrations. We created images that embodied the themes of each month, and for the weeks, we played off of the Torah portions, the seasonal shifts, holidays, and other themes for the week. That took a lot of thought, but it was a fun process.

Alex: What is Gold Herring LLC and how did that launch?

Mo: Gold Herring is our new publishing company! We create immersive products that deepen your connection to Jewish wisdom and culture. We created The Jewish Planner under Gold Herring, as well as the new tea subscription we’re currently launching. It’s a nice container for all the goodies we are making, and may also grow into a publisher for other creators’ work as well.

Alex: What are your dreams for the future of this planner and Gold Herring?

Amanda: We have so many ideas for immersive and experiential products that will help users connect to Jewish wisdom and teachings. We want to make Jewish educators’ lives easier, we don’t all need to reinvent the wheel. There are great resources out there that we can all use and reuse year after year. We’re planning to release our calendar’s teaching curriculum introducing the Hebrew calendar as a ready-made kit that teachers can use in the classroom or on retreat.

We’re also dreaming of a beautiful Omer counter that can be hung up in your home, office, or classroom to help you move through the seven weeks of the Omer thoughtfully and with guidance. We have tons of other ideas of activities and games that any Jewish professional can add to their repertoire of effective programming that works with all age groups, settings, and levels of Jewish knowledge.

Mo: As the planner grows, we hope that it creates more awareness of the Hebrew calendar as a doorway into embodying Jewish tradition and connecting with natural cycles. We have been so excited by the partnerships we’ve already made with organizations. We look forward to The Jewish Planner and the kits and educational tools we’re creating being a part of Jewish organizations’ programming. 

Alex: What audiences do you envision using the planner?

Amanda: We know the planner is being used by Hillel professionals, Moishe House residents and retreat facilitators, Jewish day school teachers, and folks from all walks of life who want to come into the rhythms of the lunar-solar calendar. I have non-Jewish friends who like the lunar month breakdown and journal prompts as reminders to be attuned to the changing seasons and how they affect our mood, productivity, and energy.

The planner is for anyone, unless your current Google calendar or paper planner is already doing what you need… and then you don’t need us! But if you wish your planner could help you feel more grounded, connected to the cyclical rhythms of Jewish time, then try out The Jewish Planner and let us know what you think.

Alex: How do I get one?

Amanda: Right now we’re totally sold out of 5780, so the only way to ensure you’ll get your hands on a copy of the 5781 planner (coming out this August) is to back the Kickstarter and then share it with as many people as you can!

Mo: We do have digital pdfs available at for 5780, but the 5781 physical copy and our new tea subscription are being crowdfunded now.


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.