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.

OPINION: Anti-Semitism, Ilhan Omar, Curtis Sittenfeld, and Seth Meyers

Disclaimer: 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.

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Ilhan Omar, a Democratic congresswoman representing Minnesota’s 5th district, took office in January 2019.  She received media attention for being the first Somali-American and one of the first—along with fellow freshman Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib—Muslim women to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The following month she received media attention for a very different reason: a series of anti-Semitic tweets.  On November 16, 2012 Omar had tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” 

The tweet employed the anti-Semitic trope of Jews using magic powers to dominate the world. Shortly after Omar took office, The New York Times writer Bari Weiss penned a column explaining why she, as an American Jew, took offense at Omar’s tweet and how the conspiracy theory of Jews as hypnotic puppeteers has a painful and deadly history.

In response to Weiss’ criticism, Omar tweeted: “That statement came in the context of the Gaza War.  It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy in disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, compared Omar’s use of an anti-Semitic trope to Iowa’s Republican Congressman Steve King’s comment to The New York Times expressing befuddlement that white nationalism and white supremacy are considered offensive.

On February 10, journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted: “Equating @IlhanMN [and] @RashidaTlaib’s criticism of Israel to Steve King’s long defense of white supremacy is obscene (McCarthy said it’s worse).  In the U[.]S[.], we’re allowed to criticize our own government: certainly foreign governments. The GOP House Leader’s priorities are warped.”In response, Omar tweeted: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” (a slang reference to hundred-dollar bills).

Batya Ungar-Sargon, Opinion Editor for the Jewish newspaper The Forward, joined the conversation by tweeting: “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”

Omar replied: “AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee]!”

Reading these tweets was painful for me.  As an American Jew and a Millennial, I’ve always taken for granted the acceptance and security I experience living in the United States, a privilege rarely given to Jews throughout history and throughout the world.  Omar’s tweets employed anti-Semitic tropes of Jews using money to control the government. This was the first time I experienced an elected U.S. official publicly using hate speech directed at a minority to which I belonged.

Following public outcry, Omar deleted the offensive tweets and issued an apology the next day: “Anti-Semitism is real[,] and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.  My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.  At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA[,] or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”

In some ways, I’m more offended by Omar’s apologies than by her initial statements.  While I would like to believe her apologies were genuine, they don’t seem plausible. Omar claimed ignorance.  She insisted she wasn’t aware her statements were cloaked in anti-Semitic tropes. But it seems far-fetched to believe it’s merely a coincidence that she unknowingly used classic anti-Semitic notions when tweeting about Israel, employing the same ugly stereotypes anti-Semites have used throughout history.  Plus, her AIPAC tweet was in direct response to Ungar-Sargon’s tweet that blatantly called out Omar for anti-Semitism. How can she claim she had no idea she was spewing anti-Semitic jabs when one of her controversial remarks was in response to being alerted to the anti-Semitic nature of her previous remarks?  

The fact that she didn’t know—or claimed not to have known—she was using hate speech is appalling.  For example, if I as a straight person used the three-letter f-word in reference to the LGBTQ community and then claimed I didn’t know it was offensive, that level of ignorance would be comical.  It would also be disgusting because it means I’m so accustomed to communicating with hate speech that I don’t even see anything wrong with it or comprehend how hurtful it can be to others.       

Omar insisted that criticisms of AIPAC should not be confused with anti-Semitism.  However, when you mix traditional anti-Semitic tropes with your criticism of AIPAC, the word AIPAC becomes a dog-whistle for the word Jews.

Another reason Omar’s apologies seemed disingenuous was because she continued using anti-Semitic tropes.  In March, when questioned about the Twitter controversy at a bookstore event in Washington, DC, Omar said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” intimating the anti-Semitic idea that Jews possess dual-loyalty, which is inherently suspect of our devotion to America.  This time Omar did not apologize.

Whenever a person makes anti-Semitic remarks, it’s hurtful.  When a person in a position of power makes anti-Semitic remarks, it’s scary.  I wish Omar would stop talking about us.

In April, as I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I saw that Curtis Sittenfeld, one of my favorite authors and a resident of Minnesota, posted: “#IStandWithIlhan and I’m glad [and] proud she’s my congresswoman.”  The post stunned me and also really bothered me. To be fair, I don’t think Sittenfeld was endorsing the use of anti-Semitic tropes. In the same post, Sittenfeld recommended a documentary about Omar that explores “the adversity she’s overcome as a woman and refugee.”  While it seemed that Sittenfeld’s support of the congresswoman was based on her ambition and overcoming of adversity, she was nonetheless advocating for someone who traffics in anti-Semitism. 

At first, I thought what bothered me about Sittenfeld’s post was that someone I admired was turning a blind eye to incidents that caused me pain.  But then I realized that what bothered me was something more complex. Sittenfeld wasn’t the target of Omar’s bigotry; I was. Sittenfeld is not Jewish, and she made no mention of Omar’s anti-Semitic comments in her post, seeming to tacitly give Omar a pass for her hateful rhetoric.  What bothered me was someone outside of the targeted minority arbitrating what level of anti-Semitism is considered passable.  

That uncomfortable feeling returned on May 8th when late night talk show host Seth Meyers engaged in a testy argument with his guest Meghan McCain about Omar’s tweets.  Three days earlier during an appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, roundtable guests were quick to place blame for the synagogue shooting in Poway, CA on President Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric.  McCain pointed out that anti-Semitic rhetoric exists on both sides of the political aisle and referred to Omar’s tweets as an example.

Meyers repeatedly asked McCain if she stood by her statement from the previous week about Omar’s tweets being anti-Semitic.  McCain confirmed she stood by her statement, saying that she will call out anti-Semitism when she sees it. Meyers urged McCain to reconsider, saying that Omar has apologized and has received death threats and that as one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, she brings a different point of view to which people should listen.

I felt physically sick.  It was painful to listen to a non-Jew publicly make excuses for anti-Semitic rhetoric, and to essentially advocate, as Sittenfeld had, that it was passable.

What scares me more than people who use anti-Semitic rhetoric is non-Jews who use public platforms to argue that anti-Semitic rhetoric is acceptable. It’s these enablers that make anti-Semitism mainstream instead of a fringe viewpoint, giving strength and motion to a dangerous ideology.

When seemingly innocuous celebrities align themselves with politicians who spout bigotry, it is time for the Jewish community to come together and stand against hatred.

The controversy surrounding Omar’s tweets was bookended by synagogue shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue and Chabad of Poway, harsh reminders that anti-Semitism doesn’t just exist on Twitter, it is a real and deadly threat from one coast of the United States to the other.  

German film director Werner Herzog recently tweeted:

“Dear America: You are waking up as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches.


aliza

About the Author: Aliza Epstein is a native of the Washington, DC area and currently lives in Arlington, VA.  She works as a non-profit manager.


Calling all Jewish Interns!

Your Guide to the Best Summer Ever in Jewish DC

My name is Rose Haas and I am an intern at GatherDC this summer. DC is a wonderful and exciting, albeit humid, place to spend your summer, especially if you are looking for Jewish or “Jew-ish” events to participate in! 

Check out the list below for a compilation of really cool Jewish (and some not Jewish, but very affordable and intern friendly) events happening in the city this summer for interns and young professionals. As a Machon Kaplan Fellow, I’ll be attending several of the events listed below, so I hope to see you there!

Also, if you are new to the city and would like to get coffee to discuss your interest in DC’s Jewish community, email me!

Want your event listed on this intern guide? Email info@gatherdc.org!

June 26

June 27

  • Yoga at GatherDC  (FREE)

June 28

June 29

June 30

July 2

July 4

July 5

  • Chabad DC’s Shabbat Dinner 
  • Temple Micah’s Kabbalat Shabbat

July 6

July 7

July 9

July 11

  • Yoga at GatherDC (FREE)

July 12

July 14

July 17

July 18

  • Yoga at GatherDC (FREE)

July 19

July 20

July 25

  • Yoga at GatherDC (FREE)

July 26

August 2

August 3

August 4

August 8

  • Yoga at GatherDC (FREE)

August 9

  • Chabad DC’s Shabbat Dinner 
  • Temple Micah’s Kabbalat Shabbat

August 15

  • Yoga at GatherDC (FREE)

August 16

  • Chabad DC’s Shabbat Dinner 
  • Temple Micah’s Kabbalat Shabbat 

August 17

August 22  

  • Yoga at GatherDC (FREE)

August 23


rose

About the author: Rose Haas is a senior at American University studying Jewish Studies and Special Education. During the school year, she works as a 4th grade teacher at Washington Hebrew Congregation, and this summer is GatherDC’s intern. In her free time you can find Rose sunbathing or finding cool new places to eat in DC!   


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.

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!”

——-

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.

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!


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