So how about those New Year’s resolutions?

In 2019, I didn’t create “resolutions,” but more themes or intentions for the year.

I wanted to create more joy, meaning, and connection to others throughout the year – and so far it’s been pretty great! I’ve started by just making more time for the things that bring me joy, like playing basketball, watching great TV, traveling to new places, and eating delicious food. I’ve pushed myself to also identify more meaning and purpose in my life through journaling, reflection, and constantly reading. And I’ve been really intentional about reaching out to old and new friends to expand and deepen my relationships with folks.

But, as with most goals or resolutions, I’ve started to feel myself stray a little bit from my intentions for 2019. This last month, I was traveling a ton for work and felt like I wasn’t as focused on what I wanted this year to be for me. Some days, it just felt like life was happening and I wasn’t getting the full amount of joy, meaning, and connection I wanted for 2019.

journal

Checking in on my 2019 intentions

So, I’m using the month of April to check in with myself. Not only is it my birthday month (April 2nd!) but it’s also one of my favorite Jewish holidays: Passover. This holiday is all about the Israelites going on a journey toward freedom and redemption, escaping slavery to experience the land flowing with milk and honey. Our story of going from an oppressed community to a redeemed nation includes a ton of joy, meaningful moments, and a strong community – just like the intentions I set for myself in 2019. Our freedom story provides us with several different insights on how each and every one of us can experience more freedom and a better life each and every day.

Rediscovering joy

Just like my first intention for 2019, the first lesson from our Passover story is all about joy. Although it begins with anguish and pain, by the time our people cross the Red Sea we are totally and completely ready to celebrate our freedom. With Miriam leading the Israelites in song and dance, we expressed a lifetime of joy after that tremendous moment.

But you don’t have to wait for all the big moments in life to celebrate. Whether it’s trying a new restaurant, sleeping in a little longer on the weekend, or just pausing to really appreciate the cherry blossoms, each and every day represents an opportunity to experience joy in our lives.

Finding meaning in our lives

My second intention for 2019, and the second lesson we can draw from our Passover story, is all about finding meaning in our lives. Understanding our purpose in life is one of those deep, existential questions that is really tough to figure out, and I’m not saying that you need to tackle that question to truly find meaning in your life. But the Passover story provides us with a great starting place to think about the big questions of the world. A core component of the Passover seder is the reading of the Four Questions.

Here are some adapted questions to help think about how you might create more meaningful moments:

  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What brings you pure joy?
  • How are you going to make a difference in someone else’s life today?
  • What do you believe is possible in your life?

Connecting with community

My final intention for 2019, and the last lesson we can draw from our Passover story, is that community is essential to success. Although there may have been bickering amongst the Israelites when escaping and definitely while they were in the desert, staying together as a community was necessary for their survival. And for us in 2019, community is necessary for our survival. We are naturally wired to be around other people and it’s even more important when you’re wanting to make a change, big or small, in your life. One of my goals for this year was to be more connected with the people in my life because I know that it will make me happier and bring more meaning into my life.

Among all of the ways that society, other people, and even ourselves sometimes keeps us from fulfilling our true potential, there is always the opportunity for more freedom in our own lives. And if we focus on the lessons from our Passover story, we can seek out more joy, meaningful moments, and a strong community to be on this journey with us.

Passover resolution check-in

If you set resolutions or goals or themes for 2019…

  • How are you doing on them?
  • Would you change them at all?
  • What do you need to do in order to adjust?

If you didn’t set any goals for 2019, now’s the time to start.

  • What’s one thing you want to do for the rest of 2019 to make yourself more free this year?

As we celebrate Passover, may we use this time to check-in with ourselves, to connect with those in our communities, and to commit to freeing ourselves so that we may be our best selves.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

Rabbi Rant: On Inner Freedom

rabbi rant

Passover commemorates the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery to freedom. The rabbis refer to Passover as “the time of our freedom.” And in our prayers we refer to Passover as “chag hacheirut” – the holiday of freedom.

So if we’re going to try to connect to Passover in a meaningful way, we should probably talk a bit about freedom.

But, I find that most Passover-related conversations about freedom tend to be either philosophical or historical, both of which, frankly, sound irrelevant and boring.

I get very bored by pseudo-philosophical conversations where people pontificate about the meaning of a grand, abstract word. All it takes is for someone to ask “What is (insert: freedom, truth, love, etc.)?” and I’m asking “Where is the exit?” Ironically, I would like to utilize my freedom to avoid talking about the nature of freedom.

I also get bored by history. I know, I know – if we don’t learn from our history we’re doomed to repeat it. (Which is also ironic because I had to repeat my 9th grade history class.*) But when it comes to the Passover story, talking about how my ancient ancestors were freed from slavery feels disconnected from my life and the world around me.

The rabbis anticipated this problem and mandated: “In every generation a person must see themselves as though they had gone out of Egypt.” (Mishna Pesachim 10:5). This is the foundational idea behind the concept of the seder, where we are meant to keep our history alive by reenacting it. Still, keeping history alive by resuscitating it every year feels more like a burden than the choice of a free person.

Lucky for me, and anyone else looking for a more meaningful connection to the holiday, the chassidic rabbis of the 18th and 19th century turned the Passover story inward. They related to the story less historically and more metaphorically, and they related to the idea of freedom less abstractly and more personally. For them, “Egypt” (mitzrayim) is a metaphor for the confining/restricting (meitzar) aspects of our lives. As the Gerrer Rebbe writes:

“The truth is that in every generation there is an ‘Egypt’ for every Jew.” ~Sefat Emet, Exodus, p. 51

By turning Passover inward, these rabbis allowed us to relate to the theme of freedom in a much more personal way. If freedom requires leaving our own “Egypt,” then this holiday becomes a time to confront the question: “What is your Egypt?” i.e. “What prevents you from being who you want to be?”

To be truly free, we must free ourselves from the constraints that hold us back. Those constraints might be thought patterns, behaviors, or actual people in our lives. Passover is a time to take a step forward on our spiritual journey, away from our “Egypt(s)” and towards redemption.

 

*False, but funny?

 

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.

 

Want to work for GatherDC?

were hiring

Attention Jewish DC: It’s time to dust off your resumes for the chance to work with the coolest team of frolleagues (that’s friends/colleagues) around.

GatherDC Community Coordinator

First, our Community Coordinator position is open. We’re pretty sad to have recently said goodbye to Rachel Nieves, our all-star Community Coordinator who may have treated you to a Gregory’s Coffee or partied with you at a Gather happy hour this past year. You can read more about that here. If you or someone you know is an outgoing, friendly soul with a passion for Jewish community building, run – do not walk – to this job listing.

Apply for the Community Coordinator role now.

GatherDC Community Engagement Director: Jewish 30s

This is a BRAND NEW position. *pause for applause* Could you be the tenacious, enthusiastic people-person to transform Jewish life for 30s across the DMV? Send us your resume & cover letter for a chance to become Gather’s first-ever Community Engagement Director for Jewish 30s to connect hundreds of 30-somethings across the DC-area to one another, to Jewish opportunities, and to a meaningful adult Jewish identity.

Apply for the Jewish 30s Community Engagement Director role now.

GatherDC Community Coordinator: Northern Virginia

Another new role on the Gather team is a Community Coordinator for Northern Virginia (NoVA) Jewish life. This is a people-facing, innovative, and very fun role for someone who is a friendly, energetic human with a passion for building Jewish community. Will you be Gather’s OG in the NoVA?

Apply for the Jewish NoVA Community Coordinator role now. 

GatherDC Summer Intern

Next up, we’re on the lookout for an intern (maybe two, we’re open) to help us hold down the fort this summer. If you know an awesome college student who wants to elevate our social media game, meet some fantastic new friends, and dive head first into Jewish DC life – tell them to send in their resume & cover letter!

Apply now to become a GatherDC Summer Intern.

 

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For any and all job application related questions, email info@gatherdc.org.

 

A Camp Love Story by Roey Kruvi

This is a sponsored blog post. 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.

camp nnn

My love story starts with an anonymous Post-it Note.

“Would you go to the camp dance with me? Yes, No, Maybe.”

I paced by her room, nervously twirling the square neon paper in my hand. Sliding the note under her door, I ran down the hall to avoid being seen. My sticky note was anonymous. If it was meant to be, she would know who it’s from.

post it

It was the first night of Camp Nai Nai Nai, a Jewish summer camp for adults. More than 125 ‘campers’ in their 20s and 30s were asleep in their bunks ready for a weekend filled with nostalgia, joy, self-exploration, and for her and I – an entirely unexpected love story.

Camp Nai Nai Nai is an incredible place where you can be yourself, explore new creative outlets, get locked in a camp-themed escape room, dance, play soccer in a giant bubble, or compete in a game of human hungry hippos. You can be in a sea of white for Shabbat and in a huddled drum circle with hundreds of new friends singing Havdallah. It’s a place where you can explore your Jewish identity in a creative, playful, and adventurous community.

And, turns out that being in this kind of space makes us more attractive to potential partners! The Washington Post reports, “researchers at Pennsylvania State University asked 250 students to rate 16 characteristics that they might look for in a long-term mate. ‘Sense of humor’ came in first among the males and second among the females, ‘fun-loving’ came in third for both, and being ‘playful’ placed fourth for women and fifth for men.”

I love camp because I love to play. I believe it is an essential part of who I am and I love to share that with others. I believe that our Jewish community (and those who love us) can be transformed by the power of playfulness, creative expression, and authenticity – and you can find it at camp.

She came to camp for the flash mobs; I came for the glow in the dark laser tag.

We met somewhere in the middle. Nearly two years and three Camp Nai Nai Nais later – we’re still together – and Camp will forever be our special place. I invite you to come make it yours.

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camp nnn

About Camp Nai Nai Nai

Camp Nai Nai Nai is the ultimate Jewish summer camp for young adults in their 20s and 30s! A radical experiment in Jewish community-building – where what you do for a living doesn’t define you, everyone is welcome, and spontaneous adventures await. Join us for bonfires, bubble soccer, yoga, aerial skills, epic dance parties and more! Camp is a “choose your own adventure” experience, so whether you’re outgoing, shy, geeky, artsy, sporty, creative, spiritual, all of the above, or none of the above, there’s something for everyone.

Camp Nai Nai Nai – East Coast

Memorial Day Weekend
Friday – Monday, May 24-27, 2019
Waynesboro, PA (1.5 hours from DC)

Early bird registration is almost over!

Save $30 when you register before April 10th at 11:59PM. Grab your friends and sign up as a group of 4+ people and you’ll save an additional $25 off per person at checkout. Hurry, space is limited!

Check out photos from last year on our Facebook page and Like us for updates!

Hebrew, Hindi, and a L’Chaim with Whiskey: A Look Inside Jewish India

Visiting India has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I always imagined posing in front of the Taj Mahal, decorating my hands and forearms with henna, and indulging in all the Indian delights from authentic chai to fresh mango lassis.

Last month that dream had come true, and while it included these touristy activities, my journey could not have been planned using a Lonely Planet guidebook. It was a unique kind of trip, one that exceeded any expectation for my first visit to this beautiful country. That’s because it was led by JDC Entwine, organized with elements of Judaism in mind.

jdc india

JDC Entwine is the young adult engagement initiative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish humanitarian group. JDC Entwine hosts trips all around the globe to connect Jewish communities from around the world, with a focus on global responsibility. Inside India, JDC Entwine’s one-week program based in Mumbai, focused on meeting local residents of the Bene Israel community and seeing how JDC is making a positive impact with their local NGO partner, Gabriel Project Mumbai, which improves the lives of women and children in slums and rural villages.

When I told people I was going on a trip to meet Indian Jews, their responses were the same: “Jews… in India?!” I had the same reaction as well, which was why I knew I had to travel there and meet them myself.

The Bene Israel (“Children of Israel”) Jews, the largest of the three groups of Jewish people living in India, are believed to be one of the lost ten tribes of Israel who fled from the land of Israel around 175 BCE. It is said that they are survived from seven men and seven women whose ship crashed off the coast of Mumbai in the 4th century, ending up in surrounding villages. They’ve lived in Mumbai since the mid-18th century. Today there are 4,000 Jews in India, most of them Bene Israel in Mumbai.

The culture of the Bene Israel Jews is a harmonious blend of regional Indian customs, such as speaking Marathi and eating local foods, with the familiar Jewish traditions of keeping kosher, observing the Sabbath, and circumcision.

We visited synagogues dating back to the mid-19th century that are still in use today. These grand, ornate structures are protected by security guards 24/7 due to regulations by the Indian government, for which there is no great demand: India has virtually no anti-Semitism.

Still, I felt grateful for the ability to observe Shabbat safely in a foreign country. Attending a service at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, one of the nine synagogues in Mumbai, was an experience I will never forget. I was in awe not only of the interior painted sky blue with gold trim and the long Victorian stained glass windows, but of the collective Jewish community I saw before me. It didn’t matter if you were a tourist who traveled from miles away, or one of the locals who was keeping his or her community alive: you were welcome with open arms to pray there.

jdc

On the Sabbath, we learned about special traditions of the community, such as reciting Kiddush with a banana and a date to symbolize plants and fruits. Another ritual that stood out was that while many of us are accustomed to covering our eyes when we recite the b’racha after lighting the Shabbat candles, the Indian locals in our group brought their hands to their lips to give them a kiss, while their eyes focused on the flames before them.

They also have a particular way of blessing someone on Shabbat, a greeting I found most endearing. You place your hands over someone else’s, look the other person in the eyes, wish them a Shabbat Shalom, and then bring your hands to your lips to kiss them, all while maintaining eye contact with the person before you. Partaking in this intimate tradition made me feel incredibly close and connected to people I had only just met.

The Bene Israelis also drink whiskey instead of wine during their Shabbat dinners and lunches, which is another tradition I can get behind!

A glimpse into Jewish India wouldn’t be complete without a visit to India’s only JCC, the Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Centre, founded by JDC. Here we learned about the Jewish educational programming they offer, as well as some Bollywood dance moves! The community graciously fed us a dinner of chapati (unleavened bread made from whole wheat flour), lentils, paneer, bread rolls, and gulab jamun, a popular dessert consisting of fried dough balls soaked in cardamom syrup.

Engaging with fellow Jews from another part of the world is an enlightening and eye-opening experience. It is a reminder of how far our people have come, and where we continue to thrive, no matter the size of our communities.

Another important aspect of the trip was the emphasis of Jewish global responsibility. We saw this through Gabriel Project Mumbai, an NGO started by a Jewish man by the name of Jacob Sztokman, which works to improve healthcare, education, and nutrition in the slums and rural villages.

We had the opportunity to teach and play with the children in their classrooms, as well as learn about the many services GPM offers in the slums, including a new medical center, a water filtration system, and soap and paper recycling.

JDC did an excellent job of bridging the gap and bringing two sides of the world together through shared Jewish ancestry. We not only filled our bellies with biryani and made friends for life, but also saw examples of how to make a lasting impact in the world around us.

On the rooftop of our hotel on Friday evening, surrounded by palm trees and the warm glow of sunset, we lit candles and sang “Kol Ha’Olam Kulo” collectively, first in Hebrew and then in Hindi. During the song, we noticed an older couple approach our table of Shabbat candles. The man wore a Kippah, and both he and the woman wore grins on their faces.

Together they lit candles, and when our song came to an end, the man said to us, “We thought we were alone.”

Someone from our group responded to him: “You’re never alone”.

kids india

 

 

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mirandaAbout the Author: Miranda Lapides is the deputy director of communications for the pro-Israel think tank The Endowment for Middle East Truth. Miranda graduated from George Mason University in 2015 with a B.A. in psychology. Her claim to fame is being named GatherDC’s Jewish Instagrammer of the Week. You can find her serving up lattes at Coffy Cafe in Columbia Heights on the weekends, and trying new food around the city.

 

 

 

 

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.

Your DC Passover Guide 2019

passover

If avoiding carbs and retelling a several hour long saga about slavery – while indulging in horseradish and shank bone – doesn’t qualify for the best holiday ever, than I don’t know what does!

Since this beloved holiday is right around the corner, it’s time to start making your seder plans. Because, lucky for us Jews, we get not one – but TWO – nights of seders. WOO WOO! Can you say PARTAY?! Alright, enough small talk. On to the Passover happenings.

But first, Jon Stewart.

Oh, and if you know of an awesome Passover shindig not on this list, let us know.

PRE-PASSOVER EVENTS

Sunday, March 31st

Tuesday, April 2nd

Monday, April 8th

Tuesday, April 9th

Sunday, April 14th

Tuesday, April 16th

Wednesday, April 17th

Thursday, April 18th

 

PASSOVER SEDERS

Friday, April 19th (Seder, Night #1)

Saturday, April 20th (Seder, Night #2)

 

POST-SEDER EVENTS

Wednesday, April 24th

Friday, April 26th

Saturday, April 27th

Sunday, April 28th

 

PASSOVER RESOURCES

 

Local Restaurants with Passover Menus/Catering

 

P.S. If you’re not sure which of these events is the right fit for you? Email the GatherDC team!

P.P.S. Want to host your own Seder this year? Check out Moishe House Without Walls or OneTable (either to get nourishment to host your own or find seders to attend).