Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pagaent 2019: Meet the Contestants!

Launched with brilliant, glittery fanfare in 2013 in the erstwhile Cobalt space, the 2019 Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pageant is bigger, flashier, and with lots more shmear.

Set to take place on August 4th at U Street Music Hall, the Pageant features four contestants competing for the title and the tiara – and a grand prize from VIDA. Nice Jewish Boys DC, an LGBT Jewish social organization based in Washington DC, is organizing the event.

“Now in our fourth year, this amazing event just keeps getting bigger and better,” said Ben Rosenbaum, President of Nice Jewish Boys DC. “The Mr. NJB Pageant is a chance to showcase our community and the amazing individuals who make it so special. This is our largest event of the year and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

The DC community has welcomed the pageant as a smashing success. Proceeds from the event benefit Keshet, one of the largest nationwide LGBTQ Jewish organizations that provides support, education, and resources to LGBTQ Jews of all ages. The event raised more than $4,000 for the organization, said co-organizer and 2017 runner-up Jeremy Gilston, “and we’re hoping to top that this year!”

Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 winner and 2019 co-organizer Jeremy Sherman said that there’s “no doubt that the Mr. NJB Pageant is a wildly entertaining event, but it’s so much more. Mr. NJB Pageant has become one of DC’s premier events for the Jewish LGBTQ+ community. It celebrates the community’s spirit, talents, and ability to come together for a greater cause.”

Contestants begin the show by seeking to wow the audience with a choreographed dance number. Following that, they undergo a rigorous interview from a panel of distinguished judges from the Jewish community, including at least one Jewish mother. Contestants finish with the talent portion. In the past, these have ranged from a rap about Bubbe to doling out homemade chicken soup.

Beyond bragging rights, this year, the contestants are competing for a VIDA Fitness full-year all-access gym membership with access to the pool and rooftop facilities, valued at about $2,000.

Also new this year: a performance by celebrated New York City-based Orthodox Jewish drag queen Lady SinAGaga.

“People in D.C. may not be familiar with Lady SinAGaga, but she is smart, funny, talented, and a Long Island-born former yeshivah boy turned drag queen! She is kind of New York City’s next Miz Cracker, who became a famous RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant,” said Gilston.

The event will also include a silent auction with donations from local businesses; all of these proceeds will also benefit Keshet.

Though they have big heels to fill, the four contestants participating in the pageant this year are promising to slay the stage themselves.

Now let’s meet the contestants!

Adam Gerstenfeld

First is Adam Gerstenfeld, a research analyst at an education nonprofit. He said that he should be the next Mr. Nice Jewish Boy “because I’m just a small town boy trying to make it in the big city.” Just as importantly, Adam says that he calls his mother every day. And “as Mr. Nice Jewish boy, I would offer to call Jewish mothers who don’t feel that their sons ring often enough.” To drive the point home, his special talent is a magical traditional Shabbat meal. He also claims that he can cure hiccups. Adam reports that as a summer theater camp kid, he once ripped his pants open in a competition attempting a split. There’s no word on whether there will be a repeat performance.

 

Ben Gersten

Next is Ben Gersten, a research scientist focusing on cancer drugs with a side hustle teaching Hebrew school. He claims that he should be crowned because of his backstory, having survived gay conversion therapy and then later getting a degree from Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He also claims to be great with Jewish moms. They can “count on me to chitchat about The New York Times over coffee, make sure their sons are eating, and to always bring a host gift.” Watch out when it comes to games, though, because “you can bet your tuches I’ll beat you in Jeopardy,” he says.

 

Jordan Aronowitz

The third contestant is Jordan Aronowitz, who is following his roots as an accountant. “But I’m a cool accountant,” he says. “I visit Navy bases to say hi to the boys in uniform.” He claims that he should win the crown because of his Jewish geography: he’s from Great Neck, New York, went to college in California, and is now an accountant in DC. He also notes that he’s a “buxom bombshell with a big personality and long eyelashes.” Since moving to Washington, DC, “the Jewish community has been my favorite part.” He also claims that he calls his mother on the daily.

Larry Komrower

Last but certainly not least is Larry Komrower, a coordinator of international education and study abroad programs. He, too, proclaims skill in the kitchen, but with a “killer” challah to match. Beyond being “nice, Jewish, and a boy,” Larry says that his deep involvement in the NJB community over the past several years proves that he should take the crown. Plus, he can “throw down a good showtune,” not to mention that he can do so in any of the four languages he speaks. “It has been refreshing to find a group in which I could make friends who are both gay and Jewish,” he says. His best friend and adorable pet Corgi agrees, “Larry has what it takes, WOOF!”

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Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 Runner Up and 2019 co-organizer Zach Levine is excited for each of these contestants, concluding that they are all winners for getting this far: “Participating in the Mr. NJB Pageant was, by far, one of the best decisions I have made since moving to the District. It introduced me to a Queer and Jewish community in DC I never knew I needed.”  

General admission tickets are $25 and limited VIP tickets come with a meet-and-greet with Lady SinAGaga.


About the Author: Evan Caplan hails from the second Jewish homeland (New York). After serving in the Peace Corps, he’s a longtime DC resident and onetime Jewish Guy of the Week. Evan is the Washington Blade food columnist when not at his day gig. Evan was also the runner-up in 2013. He won points for telling the Jewish mother judge that he would provide all the kosher meat that her vegetarian son would ever need.


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.

Learning How to Say “I’m Sorry”

traylor

It’s the time of the Jewish year when we need to start figuring out one of the hardest things to do: apologize to people who we’ve hurt. No, it’s not time for Yom Kippur (you’ve got until October this year), but in this week’s Torah portion, “Parashat Naso”, we receive this wisdom:

“When a person commits any wrong toward a fellow man, thus breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes their guilt, they shall confess the wrong that they have done. They shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it, giving to the person whom they have wronged.” – Numbers 5: 6-8

All of us make mistakes. We’re not always there for people, we talk bad about others, we ignore our families, and judge others too quickly. But it’s all about how we respond to these mistakes and repair the relationships we’ve harmed.

These verses don’t give us all the answers, but it clearly lays out the most important steps to say “I’m sorry” and move forward with our relationships:

  • “And that person realizes their guilt” – In order to start this process, you must recognize the harm you’ve caused;
  • “They shall confess the wrong they have done” – Next, tell the person how you’ve hurt them and apologize for your actions;
  • “They shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it” – Name the negative impact you’ve had on the person; and
  • “Giving to the person whom they have wronged” – Work with the person toward repairing your relationship through giving and goodwill.

Again, Parashat Naso doesn’t give us all of the answers to effectively saying “I’m sorry.” But it’s a place to start, and one that will slowly rebuild the relationships in our lives.

 

 

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evanAbout the Author: Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

Jewish Dog of the Month: Pesto!

Meet Pesto of House Lieberman. Son of Allison and Michael Lieberman. First of his name. Cavachon of the Great Outdoors. King of the Instagram. Father of early rising.

pesto

Sarah: What is your name?

Pesto: Hi everyone! I’m Pesto Moshe Lieberman. I’m a 3-year old cavachon – but don’t be fooled by the breed; I’m a big boy – over 30 lbs! You can follow my adventures @pesto_lieberman.

Sarah: Where did your name come from?

Pesto: My pawrents had a long list of potential names for me and Pesto was one of them. I was born when they were on their honeymoon in Italy so it seemed like the right choice!

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

Pesto: First, I wake up around 6:30 am (sorry mom!) and we go for a walk in my ‘hood. I eat breakfast, which sometimes includes cereal, because as mom says, it’s Special K for a special boy 🙂

If it’s the weekend, we go to Rosedale Conservancy in Cleveland Park, followed by a trip to Little Red Fox DC where I get lots of pets and crumbs.

pesto

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

Pesto: One of my Instagram furriends told me I was “the George Clooney of cavachons!”.

Sarah: Who is your best friend?

Pesto: My dad! From being nap bros to playing ball together, he is the best!

Sarah: What is your biggest pet peeve that your owner does?

Pesto: Go to work :/

Sarah: What’s your favorite smell?

Pesto: Butts! (Or should I say tuches ;))

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

Pesto: Rosh Hashanah! My Puppy Bubby makes me a very special treat called “Pesto Pops”, which are individual ice cubes of homemade chicken soup with a side of carrot. What can I say, I’m a lucky guy!


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 High and Talking Torah

BREAKING NEWS! Judaism’s newest, hottest podcast has officially arrived. As two soon-to-be Jewish DC alums, we wanted to share an exciting new project we have officially launched with our favorite group of Jews.

Sufficiently Chai, our brand new Jewish-themed comedy podcast, aims to disrupt the traditional narrative that Judaism is outdated and inaccessible for the average person. We both realized that we were much more connected to our Judaism than the average Millennial Jew, and we wanted to create something that helped make Judaism relatable and relevant to everyday life for people in their 20s and 30s.

We decided to chat with GatherDC’s podcast connoisseur Julie Thompson to share the big news.

rachel and lindsey

Julie: Walk me through an episode; what can listeners expect to hear?

Lindsey: Each episode contains a D’var Torah (a discussion about the week’s Torah portion) and a JewISH, which explores various aspects of secular life through a Jewish lens. We always close out the episodes by playing a couple games, and we’re committed to keeping the episodes funny, entertaining, and rated at least PG-13.

Rachel: You’ll be laughing so much you won’t realize until the end that you’ve actually learned something – and that’s exactly the point.

Julie: Why did you decide to incorporate marijuana into the podcast?

Lindsey: If you know us, you know we had to spice it up a little bit and it couldn’t JUST be a Torah study podcast. So, we decided to incorporate something else – the cannabis component.

Rachel: One in four Millennials consume marijuana, and by loosening the stigma around recreational marijuana use and infusing it with Jewish learning, we realized we could connect with a generation of listeners who would be otherwise less than likely to tune in to a Jewish themed podcast.

Lindsey: Smoking a joint and studying the Torah do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, we believe they go hand in hand.

Julie: What motivated you to launch this podcast?

Lindsey: We’re two 20-something Jewish blondes living on the edge of glory (or so we wish) in the nation’s capital, trying to figure out who we are, what we want, and how to find meaning in a society where so many things feel out of our control. We confirmed what we already knew – that there’s a void in the Jewish-themed comedy podcast space dying to be filled. Then, we decided to do our civic duty and put our love of learning and hearing ourselves talk to good use. And thus, our brain child, Sufficiently Chai, was born.

Julie: What are your goals for this podcast?

Rachel: We ultimately want to be famous. Just kidding! Kinda! Obviously worldwide acclaim and recognition is the overall dream, but we realize that may be a stretch. In the immediate future, we want:

1) People to listen to the podcast;

2) To help listeners connect to Judaism in an alternative, but relatable way.

Julie: Anything else you want to say to your current and future listeners?

Lindsey: As we figure out the world of podcasting, we want people to want what we’re giving to them! We want all kinds of feedback (unless it’s just really rude and aggressive then you can keep it to yourself), and we’re always thinking of new, interesting ways to engage with our audience.

Rachel: We’re committed to making this podcast as amazing as possible in every way we can. We have a blast recording every episode and we want to show the secular Jewish community that Judaism and religion can be fun and entertaining.

Lindsey: Sixth & I – we’re looking at you if you want a live show anytime soon.

Sufficiently Chai co-hosts Lindsey and Rachel


Find Sufficiently Chai on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and anywhere else you get your podcasts. For updates, sources, and tbh hilarious content, follow us on Instagram @Sufficiently_Chai.

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.

Top 6 Jewish Podcasts for Your Summer Vacay

As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed myself becoming less and less interested in the latest social media app of the day. You lost me with the “finstagram” and I could not pick a “TikTok” out of a line-up, but one of the newer media trends I am deeply in love with and will never give up?

Podcasts.

They’ve been around for a while, but in the last couple years I’ve noticed that podcasts have taken an increasingly larger role in how I consume… well, everything.

Current events? The Daily’s got me covered on my walk to work.

Need a little dose of history? American History Tellers is my jam.

Have a 40-minute metro ride where I want to learn a lot about one thing but don’t really want to expend any future energy in pursuing said subject? Those Stuff You Should Know guys sure are funny.

Want to hear the latest in politics, flavored with my preferred brand of irreverence/despair/humor/activism? Ha, nice try.

As an employee and community member of GatherDC, I feel like I’m surrounded by Judaism everywhere I go, and it’s only fitting that I’ve expanded my desire for Even More Judaism into my podcast life. I thought my fellow podcast-listeners might feel the same, and I have therefore compiled a list – in no particular order – of six of the most interesting Jewish learning, history, current events, humor, and pop culture podcasts.

Author’s Note: As an (increasingly reluctant) Apple user, I have no idea how Android users consume their podcasts; in the interest of accessibility, I’ve linked to Apple Podcasts in the heading and Stitcher in the body, but if there’s a better or more widely used app than Stitcher that I’m unaware of, let us know in the comment section so we can update those links!

Can We Talk?

Coming from the Jewish Women’s Archives, Can We Talk? is an AWESOME monthly show that features “stories and conversations about Jewish women and the issues that shape our public and private lives”, and it is a stellar contender for your podcast rotation. The format switches between documentary-style narration and roundtable conversational formats, and the topics – and the frankness with which they’re discussed – feel highly relatable to me as a Jewish woman in her late 20s. Some of my personal recs: “Jewish Hair”, “Sonnet for America”, “Women Wage Peace”, “Dirty Dancing Turns 30”, “The Power of Women’s Anger”, and “The Red Tent: Claiming Our Place in the Story”.

can we talk

The Joy of Text

The Joy of Text explores the intersection of Judaism and – you guessed it (or did you?) – sex. Hosted by an Orthodox rabbi and Orthodox doctor, The Joy of Text is a fascinating way to explore sex and relationships through an Orthodox Jewish lens. Featuring in-depth conversations with rabbinic and medical experts, nothing’s off-limits: the last three episodes as of publication date are “On Matzah and Sex”, “Why Cross-Dressing on Purim is Kosher”, and “The What if My Kids See Me Naked Episode”.

Sufficiently Chai

Sufficiently Chai is a brand-new entrant into the podcast game, but is no less deserving of a spot on this list because of it! A Jewish-themed comedy podcast, Sufficiently Chai aims to disrupt the traditional narrative that Judaism is outdated and inaccessible for the average millennial, and uses d’var Torah, secular discussions through a Jewish lens, and various games to make Judaism relatable and relevant to everyday life for people in their 20s and 30s – all with a little marijuana thrown in for some extra flavor.

Full disclosure, co-host Rachel Nieves is my former coworker/current friend, and you all may know her as GatherDC’s recent Community Coordinator! Check out our interview with her and co-host Lindsey Weiss here to learn more about Sufficiently Chai and why they decided to jump into the podcast scene.

rachel and lindsey

Over My Dead Body

What would a podcast round-up be without a true crime podcast? Over My Dead Body follows the story of Dan and Wendi, two high-powered attorneys whose wedding was featured in the New York Times– but not all was picture perfect. When Dan winds up murdered, the community is left reeling and trying to put the pieces together. Who would do this? Could it be connected to the Prodfather case Dan was working on about a rabbi in New York who tortures men so they give their wives gets? Or was it something a little closer to the family?

Although OMDB isn’t an explicitly Jewish podcast, the murder victim, suspects, and the factors that went into the fraying of their marriage (kosher food fiasco at the wedding? Dan refused to go to Wendi’s grandmother’s funeral because he’s a kohan? You’ll have to listen for more!) are all Jewish, and like I said, there can be no self-respecting podcast round-up without some true crime thrown in.

over my dead body

Judaism Unbound

Judaism Unbound explores pressing issues for 21st century American Judaism through the hosts’ own analysis and interviews of leading thinkers, practitioners, artists, and “regular Jews.” In episodes such as “100% Black, 100% Jewish”; “Creating Jewish Theater”; “Beyond Christmukkah”; “God and Gender”; “Antisemitism, Nativism, and Immigration”; and more, Dan and Lex look to push past the bounds and dig deeper into what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century.

Side note, GatherDC’s Rabbi Aaron Potek was once featured on this podcast!

judaism unbound

Seincast

Seinfeld is no longer, and neither is this podcast, but it would have felt wrong wrapping up this list without including Seincast, a hit show with a 4-year run that regretfully ended in May 2018. During their run, hosts Matt and Vinnie took a deep dive into all 180 episodes of Seinfeld (and we mean deep: the run-time for the average episode dissecting each 22 minute episode is well over an hour). We could be sad it’s over, but on the bright side, there’s now nothing stopping you from binging Seinfeld from start to finish with Matt and Vinnie by your side!

seincast

And that’s my round-up! As a small post-script, I’d also like to shout-out some Gather staff favorites with Jewish hosts, including: Who? Weekly, My Favorite Murder, and of course, NPR’s Code Switch from our very own Leah Donella!

What do you think? Missing any favorites? Let us know in the comments!


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.

Why I hate Jewish happy hours

I work for a Jewish nonprofit that is perhaps best known in some circles for our happy hours that “Gather the Jews” of DC together at trendy bars throughout the city every month.

These happy hours have been gracing our Jewish community since the good ole days of 2010. Over the past nine years, these monthly gatherings have helped thousands of young DC-area Jews with diverse interests, backgrounds, levels of religiosity, professions, and relationship statuses make their bubbies proud.

And yet, if I earned a shekel for every time someone in the community has said “I hate those Jewish happy hours”, I’d be floating on a blow-up unicorn in my private infinity pool full of hummus right about now. #lifegoals

But, I digress.

The fact of the matter is that there seems to be a large percentage of the young Jewish DC community that feels happy hours, well, kind of suck. As the person who does the marketing for these happy hours, and as a regular attendee myself, I decided it might be a really good idea to compile a list of reasons why.

1. You have to make painfully awkward small talk with strangers.

Yes. I feel this one. I mean, how many times are people going to ask “What do you do?” Seriously? Even though I spend 60% of my waking hours at my job, it’s such a random question! Plus, small talk is boring and leads to nowhere.

And yes, maybe it was small talk at GatherDC happy hours that led me to meet the woman who became my boss, the people who became some of my closest friends in DC, and the man who became my husband. But really – enough with the small talk.

via GIPHY

2. You have to pay $5 to get into the happy hour and don’t even get a free drink!

Look, it’s not like I can’t afford the $5, it’s the principle of it! Why should I have to put $5 of my hard-earned money toward an entry fee to these happy hours? It would be one thing if that money was supporting something important, like a local Jewish nonprofit organization that is a pretty big part of my life in DC. But I have no idea where that money is going.

Ugh, I’ll just head home. Hold on though, let me stop by Sweetgreen to get a $14 salad.

via GIPHY

3. You’re peer-pressured into wearing a name-tag.

It’s awful. I hate having to go through the effort of taking 12 seconds to write my name on a sticker. Also, sticking the sticker to my beautiful outfit totally ruins the look I was going for. Everyone at these fashion-forward happy hours really cares what I’m wearing.

I would much rather have people ask me 17 times to repeat my name because they have trouble remembering.

via GIPHY

4. You have to be happy for a full hour – or more!

What if I had a bad day at work and am feeling stressed out? What if my mom just called nagging me and I’m super annoyed? What if I just ate three slices of cheese pizza but I’m lactose intolerant so I’m feeling extremely bloated? The pressure to be forced into happiness for an extended period of time is almost too much for me to handle.

What’s that you say? GatherDC’s Rabbi Aaron Potek already made it clear that all emotions are welcome at Jewish happy hours? So, I can come as my real, authentic self even if that means I’m full of annoyance or exhaustion or sadness? Alright then, I’m going to show up to the next happy hour with a big pouty face on. Just you wait.

via GIPHY

5. There’s way better things I could be doing with my night.

I work hard during the day and when the clock strikes 6pm, the night is my oyster (#notkosher). Why spend it in a bar full of potential new friends? My Netflix app gets mad at me when I don’t binge watch “The Office” for the eighth time.

Yeah, meeting awesome young adults and finding connection to Jewish DC life is definitely not how I want to spend an hour of my night.

 

via GIPHY

 

In sum, it seems that these Jewish happy hours we love to hate are the same places that we can find our future community, roommates, soulmates, friends, and colleagues. They have the potential to connect us to one another, and help us find one of our places in the Jewish community. It’s these very happy hours that, while at times awkward, might just be the starting point to living your very best Jewish life. And hey, if they suck – you can always go home to spend the rest of the night with Dwight Schrute and your Sweetgreen salad.

P.S. Our next happy hour is May 22nd at Takoda. See you there?


P.P.S. We fully understand that happy hours just might not be your scene. Some people don’t like spending time in bars or feel uncomfortable in large groups of people. Our only goal at GatherDC is to help you find your fit in Jewish DC life – however that works best for you. If happy hours aren’t for you, there is zero pressure to attend. We have tons of other ways for you to connect to Jewish life! We can connect you to intimate cohort experiences, Jewish learning, volunteer opportunities, and a huge calendar with amazing events around the city. If you’re not sure where to begin, let’s grab coffee (our treat!) so we can help you find your people and place in this community. No happy hour attendance required. 

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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.

FREE Summer Yoga with GatherDC!

yoga

  • Stressed out?
  • Struggling to get out of bed?
  • Feels like Friday but its only Tuesday?

Yup. Yup. Yup.

We understand.

That’s why we’re inviting you to OM-it-out with us on Thursday evenings so you can head into your summer weekends with invigorated energy! Our in-house yoga teacher Allison Friedman (bio below) will be hosting 60-minute power yoga classes on Thursdays from May 30th – August 22nd. 

After class, you’re welcome to hang out and schmooze with your new “omies” over tea and healthy snacks.

Classes are free to attend and all levels are welcome. Please come in yoga clothes and BYOM (Bring Your Own Mat).*

 

sign up

Details

  • When: Thursdays from May 30th – August 22nd at 5:30pm
  • What: 60-minute Jew-ish power yoga at beginner to intermediate level
  • Where: Gather’s townhouse at 1817 M St NW
  • Who: Jewish and “Jew-curious” 20s/30s in the DC-area

Cost

  • Class is FREE to attend, but we suggest a $12 donation to GatherDC for each class.

RSVP

 

*If you do not own a mat, one will be provided for you. Just give us the heads up.

yoga

About Allison: In addition to working for Gather as Communications Director, Allison Friedman recently graduated from a 200-hour yoga teacher training with CorePower Yoga. Yoga and Jewish spirituality are two of her favorite things, and she can’t wait to share the healing practice of Jewish-infused yoga with you. She sees yoga as an invigorating physical and mental practice that can inspire internal serenity, strength, and compassion.

For questions, email allisonf@gatherdc.org