Protecting The Asset

traylor

Have you ever read a book and had a feeling it would really change your life? Well, last week, I finished “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and had that exact feeling. In exploring how to live according to our essential values, I was really struck with how McKeown described strategies for taking care of ourselves: “protecting the asset.”  

McKeown’s argument, which I agree with, is that in order to be at our very best, we have to protect and take care of our body, mind, and spirit. Taking care of ourselves is at the core of success.  

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-et’chanan, we receive a similar instruction from Moses:

“But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live.” – Deuteronomy 4:9

This portion comes as the Israelites are close to entering the Promised Land and later on, we read two key passages of Judaism – the Ten Commandments and the Sh’ma. In other words, right before laying down some of the most important words in Judaism, what does Moses tell the Israelites to do? Practice self-care. Because we can only succeed and thrive when we take care of ourselves. 

Fast forward to 2019, we would all benefit if we took on this mentality. Isn’t it ironic that in some of our most stressful moments – moving apartments, starting a new job, navigating family challenges – that we take care of ourselves the least? Those tough moments are exactly when we need to actually sleep, spend time outside, journal, exercise, or whatever else brings us joy. We have to protect our most valuable asset in life – ourselves. 

 

evan

About the AuthorEvan 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.

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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.

Let’s Work Out! (…of a gym)

Last week, I took a field trip from the GatherDC offices to the MINT Health Club. Rather than going to enjoy a mid-day workout, I was going to meet up with Sarah Hostyk, founder of a new tech startup called WorkStrive and former Jewish Tech Startup Founder of the Week. I was curious to learn more about what her brand new company has to offer DC.

Sarah’s describes WorkStrive as a combination of AirBnB, WeWork, and ClassPass. It takes local gyms and fitness studios that are often empty during peak work times, and transforms them into a shared workspace for remote workers. Better yet, when Excel is driving you crazy or you’ve been staring at your inbox for one too many hours, you can spend an hour rejuvenating your mind – and body – with a fitness class or use of the gym facility that you’re in.

Rose: Tell me a little about yourself and how WorkStrive came to be.

Sarah: I’ve wanted to create a startup since I was a little kid, and even won a few elevator pitch competitions as a teenager and in college. My first job was working remotely for a startup near Tel Aviv working to launch their first mobile app in the US. I was living in a new city and all of my coworkers were in Israel.

When I moved to DC, I launched my first startup called PlaceTempo, which matches students and remote workers with the best places to study based on their needs.

While I was trying to launch PlaceTempo, I would go door-to-door trying to get businesses to offer deals for the app. Walking around DC, I’d pass by beautiful and empty gyms and had a lightbulb moment that led me to come up with WorkStrive.       

Rose: What’s your elevator pitch for WorkStrive?

Sarah: Its a network of gyms and yoga studios that have unutilized space during the work day and turns them into furnished co-working spaces. You get to work and workout without any extra cost or transportation. It costs $36 per day – about the price of a one-hour spin class. Eventually, I’m going to roll out a monthly membership. 

In addition to offering an affordable alternative for remote workers, WorkStrive helps business at smaller gyms and helps with the loneliness that many remote workers experience.      

Rose: When did you start this company? 

Sarah: I started working on it in January 2019 and I just launched it this month.

Rose: What is your favorite part of working in an environment like this?

Sarah: The space – its colorful, and the studio is calm and serene.

Rose: Where do you see this company going in the future?

Sarah: Right now we have four locations in DC, and I’ll be opening other locations around the DMV by early fall. We’ll be having monthly memberships and other workshops that incorporate both wellness and working. In the future, I’d like to expand all over the world. The sky’s the limit!  

workstrive

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.

DC High Holiday Guide 2019

DC is low-key the best place to celebrate the High Holidays as a young professional.

See list below for evidence.

So, whether you’re looking for a Jewish New Year writing workshop, a Reform Rosh Hashanah service at a synagogue, a Yom Kippur conversation with Justice Kagan, or anything in between – this list has it.

Here’s how to use it…

  1. Explore the list of events below. This list will be updated regularly, so check back often.
  2. Email us info@gatherdc.org if you’re not sure which event is right for you, don’t see anything you like, and/or want a friendly face to go with.
  3. Add any High Holiday events for Jewish 20s/30s across the DMV that you know, but don’t see listed.
  4. If you need a ticket for a service, but it’s sold out OR if you bought a ticket and no longer need it – use our High Holiday Ticket Exchange!
  5. Looking for discounted or even free services? EntryPointDC has reduced ticket rates for young professionals for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Meryl

High Holiday Prep

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Rosh Hashanah

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Yom Kippur

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Sukkot

  • October 14th

  • October 15th

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Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

  • October 21st

  • October 22nd

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High Holiday Inspiration

 

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For questions or assistance, email info@gatherdc.org. GatherDC welcomes the participation of interfaith ​individuals, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations. GatherDC ​fosters inclusive communities​​​ and strive​s​ to accommodate all needs whenever possible. If you require special accommodations, please contact us​ in advance of the event​ at (202) 656-0743, and we will make every effort to meet your needs.

Getting Beyond the Blah

“What would constitute a perfect day for you?”

That’s the question I pulled from the mason jar holding 86 such questions, each written on a mini sticky note and then folded over. I named my creation Beyond the Blah Jar.

My new girlfriend Anie had to answer per the rules of Beyond the Blah Jar. She was sitting next to me on the couch, on the middle cushion. We were tired, approaching the end of our March weekend together, but she didn’t hesitate responding. “Today!”

Today, a day she’d spent entirely in my presence, was my new girlfriend’s perfect day? I forced my lips to remain within the boundaries of my face.

We began the day with scrambled eggs and coffee with heavy cream (for me, tea for her). That sated us before we hiked around Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Virginia, and then drank India pale ales at Lake Anne Brew House. Anie’s perfect day was now ending with me, dinner, a movie, and Beyond the Blah Jar.

“Oh wait,” Anie added. Her face held an “aha” expression. “I thought the question asked for a recent perfect day. Did it mean what is my ideal perfect day?”

I laughed. Yes, that was how I took the question, though I wasn’t complaining about Anie’s response to her interpretation of it.

My idea to create Beyond the Blah Jar hit me after attending Even Further Beyond the Tent in February. Anie, I, and some 35 others attended this follow-up to the original Judaism-focused retreat hosted by GatherDC and its former improv comedy-loving, eccentric rabbi. This retreat didn’t lead to increased understanding of my Jewish identity like the original had. Instead, it led me to delve deeper into myself and my relationships with others. Even Further Beyond the Tent taught me it was OK to ask questions.

The jar’s first 36 questions came from a study now known as The 36 Questions That Lead to Love. I didn’t include those to trick Anie into falling for me; I suspected both she and I had already begun sinking. I just happened to have recently read the Modern Love essay referencing the study, and the study just happened to have included questions like:

What is your most treasured memory?

What is your most terrible memory?

If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone?

What a question. My initial thought is that’s a question neither Anie nor anyone else would want to be asked. It leads to too much vulnerability; it’s too hard to create the pulmonary pressure and tongue placement required to verbalize the response we feel is most truthful.

But on second thought, I wonder if part of us wants to be explicitly asked that question because some truths are too hard to reveal to the people we care most about on our own, without the encouragement of Beyond the Blah Jar.

If I were asked that question, maybe I’d say I’d regret not having told my brother that the way he treated me during the years I received and recovered from cancer treatment was perfect, that I wouldn’t have wanted anything from him beyond what he gave, all those days and nights he spent hanging out watching sports and movies with me and carrying on as if little had changed in our lives besides him occasionally having to press pause to empty the contents of my puke bucket into the toilet.

Yes, I think, I may say that if asked that question, but I’m unsure if I could say that outright. I don’t think I could say to him directly, like during a halftime commercial break while watching a Redskins game together, “So, if I were to die, I’d most regret not having told you, ‘Thank you.’”

Yes, sometimes it’s easier to die than to find the courage to reveal a truth openly. Sometimes, we need encouragement. Sometimes, we can only reveal a truth when forced to confront an inquiry from Beyond the Blah Jar.

Once I finished adding the 36 Questions That Lead to Love, I added two of my own questions. I stole the next 12 from Tim Ferriss’s book, Tools of Titans, and pirated StoryCorps for Beyond the Blah Jar’s remaining 36 questions.

StoryCorps’s mission is to record, preserve, and share others’ stories. StoryCorps inspired me to virtualize my jar on occasions when my coffee table with the jar propped on it wasn’t around. For example, when I would visit my parents at their Manassas, Virginia house, the same one in which I grew up.

Four times since then, my parents have answered my questions from my virtual Beyond the Blah Jar, and I audio-recorded them. Mom’s answers included stories about her zayda and where her passion for social work stemmed from. For another question directed at both of them, their answer led to a story about our summer vacations during my childhood. My, how they sacrificed their own passions and joys so my brother and I could pursue and have ours!

Of all their answers to my questions, I most enjoyed the one about how my mom allowed my dad’s parakeet, Felix—who she says always tried biting her, probably out of jealousy for her taking my dad’s attention away from him—to share their residence. That’s young love. She didn’t, however, allow for a replacement Felix once he died.

All those questions and answers are now preserved in Beyond the Blah Cloud Drive (aka Google). I decided to preserve the conversations because I don’t know how much longer my parents will live and I want to always be able to hear them. It’s not that they are terminal; we just don’t know how long anyone will live because health and longevity are privileges, not promises. People tend to carry on just fine, but every once in a while they don’t.

My parents have been married for 44 years. It’s my turn for young love. I don’t take it for granted. We can’t assume people will live, or stay lovers, forever.

Anie realized she likely misinterpreted the way the question was intended to be understood, but she didn’t offer a replacement response. So her day with me was her perfect day…at least, her one perfect day compared to the previous six or so.

I then shared my ideal perfect day, and we returned the folded sticky note to Beyond the Blah Jar, where it awaits my or my guest’s actual or ideal response the next time the note is pulled.

There wasn’t much time left with Anie that weekend. It was getting late. Maybe one plunge into vulnerability each day is enough, so we returned our attention to the comedy we’d begun watching earlier. Laughing with Anie felt so good.

If anything, Beyond the Blah Jar has taught me that if you don’t have both beyond the blah—and some blah—in your life, then you’re not fully living.


About the Author. Benjamin Rubenstein  is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you!  Benjamin is the author of the Cancer-Slaying Super Man books. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. You can subscribe to his quarterly newsletter.

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.

From Eli to Ben: Passing the JMAC Torch


Get to know the man taking the reins on the Jewish Monthly Article Club (JMAC) before I say goodbye to DC this August. Ben Lovenheim is also a huge proponent of civil discourse and talking across lines of difference, and he’s officially taking over. Get to know JMAC’s new leader and then join him for a gathering this coming Monday, July 22nd where the topic will be “Questions About Polyamory and Polygamy”.

Eli: First, who the heck are you? 

Ben: Well, my name is Benjamin Adam Lovenheim, but most folks call me Ben or just text me because that’s easier. I’m from Rochester, NY. I went to school outside Boston, and I now reside in a little place called Dupont Circle. I enjoy reading, listening to podcasts, and eating french fries at The Red Boat on H St.

Eli: What got you interested in JMAC?

Ben: Eli Feldman’s wonderful beard, but I stayed for the people and great conversation. It was all Rabbi Aaron Potek’s doing (Aaron put Eli and me in touch. Thanks Aaron!). I was seeking out a community where I could have important and sometimes tough conversations with genuine courtesy and inviting people. If you’ve been to a JMAC meeting, you know they fit the bill. 

Eli: What’s your favorite article topic/outlet and why?

Ben: My favorite things to read are conflicting takes on the same story. I love investigating why and exactly how two people disagree. In fact, I’d like to do a JMAC meeting that discusses two articles with starkly different takes on the same topic (don’t worry, they’ll each be shorter than our standard reads!). 

Eli: What are the elements that lead to a great, deep convo?

Ben: I can’t even begin to describe how important this question is. It may be among the most important questions we have as a species, and I certainly don’t have a well-formed answer. But if you come to JMAC meetings, I think you’ll quickly sense that each of us are asking ourselves this very question over and over again throughout our discussions. Just asking the question is an important element.

One other interesting element has to do with the framing of the conversation. We often start out a discussion or debate with a question. From there, we can either choose to spend our time investigating the answer, or we can further investigate the question itself. Most of the time, the latter choice will lead to a greater understanding. 

Eli: Why is having open dialogue so important?

Ben: With anything important––especially the views we espouse––it’s generally a good idea to open them up to careful inspection, criticism, and refinement, and to do this regularly with people we trust. This process is one of humility and integrity, and it’s one that we should be careful not to impede or constrain. 

Eli: What is unique about what JMAC provides? Why does the group keep growing over time?

Ben: JMAC is one of the few places you’ll find where you can come into a meeting genuinely undecided on a topic, and that’s totally ok. You aren’t forced to “pick a side”, and you can test out ideas as you go. We also generally discuss niche topics that leave more room for nuance (e.g., we don’t just talk about guns, taxes, abortion, etc.). I think it’s that combination of interesting topics and genuine intellectual openness that keep people coming back for more.

Eli: What are some changes or additions you’re thinking about making to the group? What topics do you hope to discuss going forward?

Ben: We’ll continue to explore a variety of topics and experiment a bit here and there with the format to see what else might stick. As I mentioned earlier, I’m interested in discussing articles with opposing views. I also would love to do a special meeting in which we discuss a JMAC topic through a Jewish lens, perhaps in combination with GatherDC’s Wednesday night discussion group. I’m also open to organizing outings to local book talks and lectures. 

Eli: Who should come to the group meetings?

Ben: I really think that everyone should give it a try. The topics vary widely, so even if the article for one month isn’t your jam, the next one might be right up your alley. But regardless of the topic, everyone leaves the meetings having learned something new and with more questions to chew on in the future.


eli

About the Author: Eli Feldman is the Research Associate to the President at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-partisan non-profit that defends student and faculty rights on college campuses. Eli graduated from Yale in 2016 with a degree in psychology.  Eli is an alumni of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, from which he launched the Jewish Monthly Article Club (JMAC), a club for Jewish 20s/30s to discuss articles about a range of important topics. He is passionate about sports, music, coding, politics, free speech, Marvel movies, and tech.


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.