Never Heard of National Landing? You’re Not Alone

Photo by Christian Wiediger

What the heck is National Landing

On November 13th, Amazon announced it had selected Long Island City in Queens, New York and National Landing in Arlington, Virginia as its two new headquarters locations. The entire population of the Washington metropolitan area raised its collective eyebrows and asked, “What the heck is National Landing?”

According to Amazon’s press release, “National Landing is an urban community in Northern Virginia located less than three miles from downtown Washington, DC. The area is served by three Metro stations, commuter rail access, and Reagan National Airport—all within walking distance. The community has a variety of hotels, restaurants, high-rise apartment buildings, retail, and commercial offices. National Landing has abundant parks and open space with sports and cultural events for residents of all ages throughout the year.” So why didn’t the locals know about this great place? In fact, National Landing didn’t even have a Wikipedia page at the time of Amazon’s announcement.

Did Amazon rename Crystal City?

The internet was abuzz with people claiming that Amazon was assigning a new moniker to Crystal City. The Washingtonian published an article on its website titled “Did Amazon Just Rename Crystal City?” Twitter users joked that if Amazon brings 25,000 new jobs to the area, it can call Crystal City whatever it wants.

Where exactly is the National Landing?

So where is National Landing, exactly? Let’s start with the basics. National Landing is in the commonwealth of Virginia;more specifically, it’s in Northern Virginia (which is an odd name considering that there isn’t a region called Southern Virginia). NoVA, as it’s commonly called, is a region composed of the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park, according to  the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s website. Arlington is a county within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since it’s not within a city, Arlington is a self-governing county, and it does not contain any incorporated towns or villages. Arlington is divided into two unincorporated areas with Route 50 serving as the dividing line: North Arlington and South Arlington. Almost all Arlington street names begin with the prefix “North” or “South.”

What about Crystal City?

Both North Arlington and South Arlington contain a mixture of residential neighborhoods, historic districts, and urban villages. Urban villages, though not actually incorporated villages, are “compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods” according to UrbanVillage.com.  The urban villages in South Arlington are Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Shirlington. The fact that two of these places have the word “city” in their name just makes things more confusing. “Why does the app say we’re going to Arlington?” countless tourists have asked their Uber drivers. “I want to go to Crystal City.”

Crystal City got its name in the early 1960s when developer Robert H. Smith built a slew of apartment buildings each with the word “Crystal” in its name, the first of which was Crystal House in 1961 with a large crystal chandelier in the lobby. Prior to that, Crystal City was a nameless area of junkyards and industrial sites along Route 1. Crystal City is nicknamed “Underground City” because of its many underground corridors linking stores, offices, and apartment buildings. It even has an underground mall, which opened in 1976 as Crystal Underground and is now Crystal City Shops.     

Now things get complicated

Now here’s where things get complicated (if you didn’t think they were complicated already). National Landing extends beyond Crystal City. It also includes parts of Pentagon City and Potomac Yard in Alexandria. If it was self-governing, it could be a municipality, but National Landing doesn’t have a governing body. It doesn’t even have borders! Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of Alexandria Economic Development, told Washingtonian that National Landing has “no finite boundaries” and represents “an interesting way to erase an invisible line between the jurisdictions.”

Basically, National Landing is a community, albeit an amorphous one. Will it someday be nicknamed NaLa? Will the communities adjacent to it one day be referred to as North National Landing? Whatever you call it, the property values in National Landing are about to rise.

 

alizaAbout 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Abundance and Scarcity

rabbi rant

It’s Hanukkah, and the malleable metaphor of light amidst darkness will inspire many important themes – hope amidst cynicism, clarity amidst doubt, joy amidst sadness, etc. But I think there’s a less obvious, yet no-less-important, theme related to the source of light – the oil.

It’s hard to get pumped about something lasting longer than it should have. I’ve been wearing the same coat since high school, and let me tell you – no one’s excited for me. That 30-minute meeting that lasted 2 hours? Again, not a cause for celebration. Me not getting sick from eating expired chicken? Perhaps a miracle, but certainly not holiday-worthy.

Why did the rabbis highlight the story of oil burning beyond expectation? Perhaps it was to get us thinking about scarcity, both real and perceived.

Like the Maccabees who had to work with less than what they needed, many of us might be feeling depleted in various aspects of our lives. It’s hard to sit with that lacking as well as the longing for more than what we currently have.

But also like the Maccabees, it’s possible that we already have exactly what we need.

There’s a famous chassidic story about a man – Isaac ben Yakil of Krakow – who dreams about buried treasure in a far away place, so he travels there to find it. When he gets there, he doesn’t find the treasure, but he meets a guard who tells him that he had a similar dream about treasure buried under the stove of a man named Isaac ben Yakil of Krakow. Of course, Isaac ben Yakil goes back home and finds the treasure, which was in his own home the whole time.

At times, what’s missing is only the proper perspective, an issue that Krista Tippett calls a “poverty of imagination.” Some resources aren’t as limited as we think.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks connects this idea to another aspect of the holiday – the ruling that we can light one Hanukkah candle from another candle. Despite the objection of a dissenting rabbi in the Talmud, we rule that light doesn’t diminish when shared. Rabbi Sacks then adds:

When it comes to spiritual goods as opposed to material goods, the more I share, the more I have. If I share my knowledge, or faith, or love with others, I won’t have less; I may even have more.”

When we act from a scarcity mindset, we often end up warping or misusing the resource we deem to be scarce. Even in times of abundance, the fear that it may run out at any moment can once again induce the scarcity mindset.

The weekly Torah reading, which  is always the same on Hanukkah, begins with Pharaoh’s dream about fat cows and the skinny cows, which Joseph interprets to mean years of abundance followed by years of scarcity. He then helps Pharaoh plan for the years of famine during the years of plenty.

Scarcity and abundance are interdependent – we wouldn’t know one without the other. Everyone will experience moments of abundance and moments of scarcity. As best as we can, we should cultivate and protect our resources to prevent or minimize moments of depletion – like Joseph advised Pharaoh. We should also remember that a lot is still possible from within a place of scarcity. A lot can happen from just a little. After all, the entire universe was created from a single spark

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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.

Why Rabbis and Shuls Shouldn’t “Get Political”

politics

There’s a relatively new trend in American society that I think is doing us great harm. Everything is becoming political.

We’ve seen it with Nike weighing in on the kneeling debate, Grubhub’s CEO telling his employees that Trump voters should resign, [solidcore]’s owner speaking out about Ivanka Trump, restaurants refusing to serve various politicians, and more. Companies and groups whose missions have absolutely nothing to do with politics are increasingly beginning to publicly endorse (or reject) political parties and candidates. These actions are accelerating the already brutal polarization in this country by denying people respite from politics and the daily dysfunction in Washington. There is, however, one place that I strongly feel should remain apolitical and sacred (pun-intended): synagogue.

Don’t Get Political

What do I mean by “get political”? Increasingly, I’ve noticed a pattern in which rabbis will reference and implicitly endorse or reject certain political candidates, or disparagingly reference a political party using sweeping generalization. Before the 2016 election, some rabbis even had the gall to say “and that’s why it’s so important that we go to the polls to ensure that [x] candidate is elected!” Worse yet, I know a number of people who – in the fallout from the 2016 election – argued that their shul shouldn’t allow members of certain political parties or supporters of certain candidates to even attend the shul.

This, to me, is a complete and utter catastrophe, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, our country is currently bitterly divided across a variety of lines, arguably more so than at any time since the Civil War. Intentionally fracturing ourselves further – not just by denomination, but additionally by political affiliation – is a truly awful idea. Shul should be, and indeed needs to be, a place where Jews can come together and pray, regardless of how they look, where they come from, or who they vote for.

In addition, rabbis are, in many ways, the original teachers and therapists. As any good teacher knows, you’re supposed to teach your students how to think, not what to think. Explicitly telling congregants who to vote for or what policies to endorse completely flies in the face of this basic principle. Relatedly, how could any congregant feel comfortable seeking religious or personal advice from a rabbi who consistently bashes their party or views? This type of proselytization is very likely to unnecessarily alienate certain members of the congregation.

Finally, synagogues have the potential to serve as one of the few places where people of differing ideologies can still come together and engage in productive discussions around important issues. In today’s society, there are precious few opportunities for us to actually do this; debates and discussions – whether they take place in person or on social media – quickly turn to vitriol and ad hominems, instead of respectful dialogue. It would truly be a shame for synagogues to squander such potential by further atomizing themselves in an already tiny and heterogeneous community.

The Counterpoints

I know that this is not a popular argument, especially among my age group. Therefore, I want to take a moment to address some potential objections:

Some people will undoubtedly make the seemingly-reasonable argument that “if 90% of a shul votes a certain way or belongs to a certain party, doesn’t the rabbi have not only a right, but in fact a responsibility to cater to their stances and views?” While this seems logical on the surface, the answer is a resounding “no”. Jews have always been the “stranger in a strange land.” Even in this country today – which arguably offers the most tolerant environment for Jews in history outside the state of Israel – Jews comprise less than 2% of the population. We know what it’s like to be the minority in the room, the country, and the world. It would show a remarkable lack of self-awareness to submit the minorities in our own community to that same treatment.

Worse yet, some people might actually believe that their rabbis hold the Objective Right Answer to various moral and political questions, giving that rabbi license to pontificate. It would take immense hubris and shortsightedness to believe that there are objective Jewish “right answers” to most modern elections and policy issues. Part of what makes Judaism unique from most other religions is that Jews have been arguing about the meaning of the Torah and how best to apply it to their everyday lives for centuries. There’s a rich history in Judaism of chavruta study – being paired with someone with whom you disagree on almost every issue. This is done not to torment people, but because any question with a clear and easy answer isn’t really worth discussing. Important issues, especially political ones, are almost never clear-cut, and to believe the opposite shows a genuine lack of nuance and historical perspective.

Finally, some might argue that it is a rabbi’s prerogative to discuss and endorse whatever they want; if you don’t like it, you can find another shul. While rabbis should indeed enjoy wide leeway in what they discuss in their drashes (speeches), this is a remarkably cold and unwelcoming stance to take. Of course rabbis will inevitably infuse their own views on Judaism and society into their speeches; that is what gives each drash its unique flavor. If you strongly disagree with a rabbi or shul’s approach to Judaism, it may indeed make sense for you to think about switching to another one. But I fear the day when congregants will have to additionally weigh the politics of the shul, even if they agree with the shul’s approach to Judaism itself. This is particularly problematic in more rural areas, where shuls don’t grow on trees. It is profoundly unfair to the members of those communities to add yet another barrier to attending.

The Better Approach

What, then, should shuls and rabbis preach? Am I arguing that they should create a moratorium on discussing politics and current events? Absolutely not. Some of the best drashes I can remember discussed modern issues from a Jewish perspective, which is part of what made them fascinating and relevant. The crux of the issue – which is admittedly a fine line to walk – is that rabbis should teach the principles, history, and ethics of Judaism, without explicitly telling congregants what to do (or – in this case – how to vote).

As educators, rabbis should follow the etymological and historical traditions of the word “education” itself. Education comes from the Latin ducere (to lead) and ex (out), because the idea of education is to help lead out the thoughtfulness and creativity that students are capable of. This is exactly what rabbis should be aiming to do for their congregants: they should provide a solid grounding in the Jewish tradition and Jewish ethics, but allow their congregants to use that background to interpret the choices and dilemmas that their personal lives will inevitably bring. They should lay out the ingredients, but not “bake the cake,” so to speak. If rabbis can do this, they can create a more productive, inclusive environment for people of various ideological backgrounds, one that can serve as an example to the rest of the country and the world. Jews lead the country and the world in so many respects. I would love to see us start doing so in the realm of political tolerance.

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eliAbout 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.

Jewish Dog of the Month: Scruffy!

scruffy

Sarah: What is your name?

Scruffy

Sarah: Where did your name come from?

Scruffy: Have you seen me? It’s the pawfect name for me with my wiry hair and my beard!

Sarah: How did you get to DC?

Scruffy: I got to DC by way of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. I was a stray in South Carolina (can you believe that?!), and they picked me up and brought me to DC at three months old. I was only five pounds. (Now I’m a healthy 17 lbs, in case you were wondering.) I feel very lucky.

dog

Sarah: What’s it like living with your owner?

Scruffy: Erika? She’s the best! I mean, she gives me Beggin’ Strips, leaves DogTV on when she goes out, and she sings Broadway show-tunes in her (ahem…our) room. Oh, and those belly rubs…

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

Scruffy: Erika is a total night owl, and she leaves the light on until like 2 am! I need to get my beauty rest. She does let me sleep in, though, so it’s all good.

Sarah: If a genie could grant you 3 wishes, what would they be?

Scruffy: 1) For my my favorite dog that Erika fostered this year, Kiki, to come back. We had a special bond. 2) A chicken-scented blanket. 3) No more baths!

Sarah: What is your spirit animal?

Scruffy: I’ll go with a fox! Even though I’m small, I have a BIG personality (just ask the doggies I torment when Mom brings me to her WeWork office with her). Also, I always have something going on in my head.

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

Scruffy: Passover. Umm… brisket leftovers. Need I say more?

dog

 

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.

Jewish DC Hanukkah Guide 2018

hanukkah

I.

Smell.

Latkes.

That can only mean one thing.

It’s Hanukkah time y’all. So get ready to get lit (that pun is still clever, right?).

For those who have been counting down the days until this glorious Festival of Lights, or those who maybe totally forgot Hanukkah was happening early this year and are now debating whether re-gifting last year’s Blue Apron subscription would be socially acceptable (that’s definitely not me, okay!)…this handy-dandy Hanukkah Guide is for you!

Check out our roundup of the best Hanukkah parties, latke recipes, and menorah lightings across Jewish DC! Oh, and if we missed an awesome event – submit it here. And however you celebrate, we wish you a miraculously wonderful Hanukkah season.

NOTE: This list will be regularly updated, so please check back for new events and celebrations.

Pre-Hanukkah Events

Hanukkah Events

Sunday, December 2nd

Monday, December 3rd

Tuesday, December 4th

Wednesday, December 5th

Thursday, December 6th

Friday, December 7th

Saturday, December 8th

Sunday, December 9th

Post-Hanukkah Holiday Events

Hanukkah Recipes & Blog Inspiration

 

The events listed above are not sponsored or hosted by GatherDC, unless otherwise specified. GatherDC does not assume any responsibility, liability, or financial obligation to to the events listed that are not explicitly hosted by GatherDC. 

Defining Anti-Semitism

The first step of addressing any challenge is defining it.  But anti-Semitism is more than a challenge. It’s a direct threat rather than an abstract one – as our people were sadly reminded last week.

The Threat of Anti-Semitism is Not New

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in downtown DC, calls it “the longest hatred.”  The museum continues by defining it as a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and that the plague of anti-Semitism has sickened “the world for more than 2,000 years.”

The USHMM definition is fairly aligned to the Webster’s Dictionary definition of anti-Semitism:  hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.

The threat of anti-Semitism isn’t a Jewish problem.  It’s a human problem. Hate is hate. When one people are marginalized or threatened, all people are marginalized and threatened.  This isn’t quite intersectionality – it’s logic.

As the prominent Lutheran German Pastor Martin Niemöller said, as a vocal critic to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, in his post-World War II remarks:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller was not a perfect person.  No man (or woman or non-binary individual) is perfect.  Niemöller was critical of his own culpability as a Christian for his earlier support for Hitler, but his example as a leader is an important one for today’s day and age.  Let us not forget that if we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat it.

Lessons from the Tree of Life Synagogue

We have a lot to learn from the tragedy that sunk all of our hearts on Saturday, October 27 in the steel city.  The lessons must be for all people – not just the Jewish people.  To me, the most important lesson that we must take as Americans and as Jewish-Americans is to equally agree on a definition of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and it is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.”  But it is also more than that…

I personally accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition”.  As an American, the United States is a party to this non-legally binding working definition and as an American, I accept my country’s definition of anti-Semitism as,

“A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA and the U.S. describe a number of manifestations of anti-Semitism online, which may include but is not limited to “targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”

The residents of Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life Synagogue may have never thought that such an evil could ever befall them.  They are not to blame for anything that they did or did not do for the evil of the shooter – whose name is not worth repeating. The residents of the DMV should also never think that such evil will not befall our torn community.  

Anti-Semitism Persists 

In the few days alone since the tragedy of Pittsburgh, two incidents of anti-Semitism in our community bring pain to my heart.

On Monday, October 29 – just two days after the shooting – a DC public high school found a swastika sticker affixed to a bathroom wall.  This same school found swastika graffiti on a bathroom wall just one year ago.  As noted, if we do not learn from history, we’re bound to repeat it. Unfortunately, these acts at the DC school are not alone.  Although the most recent swastika was found two days after the Pittsburgh attack, another swastika was found drawn on a classroom desk at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD just two days prior to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.  An analysis from The Washington Post found three dozen bias incidents in Montgomery County schools alone in the 2016-2017 school year.

Despite it All, We Pursue Peace 

As Jews, I suspect those reading this article and those who attend GatherDC programming believe – like me – in the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam.   These acts of hatred are new cracks in the fractured and broken world in which we live. As Jews, we spend every day looking to repair the world.  I for one will do what I can to double down in my efforts to give my time, my creativity, and my tzedakah to do my small part to repair the world.  I hope you will join me. You can say thank you to a stranger, hold the elevator or front door open for a neighbor, smile at someone that looks different than you, or donate to a charity that is meaningful to you.

Showing up for Shabbat 

I spent my Shabbat before the shooting with friends and family at Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239 community shabbat with Rabbi Miller.  I spent my Shabbat after the shooting with friends and family at Sixth & I’s Solidarity Shabbat with Rabbis Shira and Jesse.

I decided to #ShowUpForShabbat. I am committing myself to peace, justice, love, and a desire to pray for those who currently have darkness in their hearts towards Jews – or any other people – to question their own hate and replace it with understanding and light.  The Jewish people make up only 2% of the American population and approximately 0.2% of global citizenry. But, I do hope that we can be – in these dark days – a light unto the nations to guide all people to a better understanding of who we are as a people and what we are as a religion. Let us all take our first step into that light by agreeing to the same definition of anti-Semitism, so we as a generation can eliminate it so our children do not need to experience the pain that we all feel this week.

 

 

About the Author: Jason Langsner is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Jason has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004, and volunteers for several Jewish organizations including B’nai Brith International. He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world. When not blogging, he can often be found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood, or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.