Your 2019 High Holiday Gifting Guide

With Rosh Hashanah coming up this year, you might be searching for a special gift for your significant other, friend, or family member. Perhaps, after spending the last 30+ High Holidays at your parent’s home, you might be looking for a small gift that shows your folks how much you appreciate them letting you crash in your childhood bedroom and taking advantage of their family shul tickets all these years. Use this guide to find unique, custom, and local gift ideas that are sure to sweeten up the holiday for those you love the most. 

For the fashionable 

Ariel Tidhar has a great selection of custom-designed jewelry that would be sure to complete any look.  She has a range of designs and products from hair pins to necklaces. For example, these pomegranate earrings are a personal favorite of mine and offered at a range of price points.  All her products are handmade in New York City. 

gift

Jewish Hairclips from Ariel Tidhar

For the foodie 

One of my favorite Jewish chefs is the District’s own Paula Shoyer.  Her cookbook, The Holiday Kosher Baker, is a must for any Jewish household – even if you don’t keep kosher!  The banana bread recipe in there is without a doubt the best recipe I’ve ever tried. For that alone, this book can make the perfect housewarming or hosting gift.  It’s guaranteed to get a lot of use by the food lovers in your life.

For the art collector 

DC local Marcella Kriebel makes some fantastic art prints that would make very appropriate gifts for the New Year.  Her apple and pomegranate prints are both reasonably priced and absolutely gorgeous pieces that can add a bit of flair into spaces that may be lacking.

Pomegranate Fruit Watercolor by Marcella Kriebel

                                                                                                                  

If you’re looking for something for the spiritual person in your life, I can’t recommend the artist Jessica Tamar Deutsch enough. Her shop on Society6 has a range of different artwork that you can get printed as wall art, tote bags, and even mobile phone cases. Her artwork is colorful, energetic, and intrinsically Jewish.

Love and Fear mobile phone case by Jessica Tamar Deutsch

For the reader

Lastly, for the quiet reader in your life, check out The Jewish Book Council’s “Paper Brigade.  This is a collection of Jewish writings and illustrations that are all as gorgeous as they are captivating. I bought Volume II for my mother’s birthday last year. With Volume III out now, she might just be receiving this version soon enough.  Each volume is unique, so you can gift just one or the whole set.

For the hard-to-gift

If you’ve read through this blog and still can’t pick something out for your special someone, it can’t hurt to pick up a gift basket from “Baked by Yael”.  Their cake pops and chocolates are guaranteed to sweeten the mood of even the most difficult of family members.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very sweet new year!

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brettAbout the Author:  Brett Boren is a Conservative Jewish guy who loves his mother’s challah, but could do without her latkes.  Originally from Miami, he appreciates arroz con pollo as much as double-chocolate babka, though preferably not together.  When he’s not experimenting in the kitchen, he can be found with his cat, Youpi, or sampling shawarma at Max’s.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Not Your Bubbie’s High Holiday Playlist

music

The iconic Mexican queer artist Frida Kahlo once said, “I think that little by little, I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.

With the High Holidays around the corner, Frida’s quote resonates with me even more. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I feel the need to ensure Jewish rituals survive on a very deep level. I believe this is why the High Holidays are so special. It’s a time to focus on forgiving and seeking atonement, but also surviving by continuing with our rituals, while creating new ones. And for me, music is a very important component of our Jewish rituals during the High Holidays.     

During Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), not only do we atone for our sins, but little by little, we solve our problems and like Frida Kahlo said, “survive.” Leading up to Yom Kippur, the Kol Nidre service is often known as a time that music can be especially healing for the New Year. Personally, I think you can have an inspiring playlist to listen to throughout the entire High Holiday season. I’ve compiled some of my favorite contemporary songs for the High Holidays that encourage reflection and healing. Many of the songs are by Jewish artists from Drake to Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boy’s, others are by amazing lyrical artists such asTupac Shakur. 

This playlist is meant to get you in the vibe of ushering in the New Year. So, L’Shanah Tovah. Here’s to a sweet new year! L’Chaim! 

NOTE: If this list inspires you to think of other songs that help you connect to the High Holidays, I encourage you to comment below with the name/artist.

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“Ghetto Gospel” by Tupac Shakur

“And when it’s said and done. I bet this brother be a better one. If I upset you don’t stress. Never forget, that God isn’t finished with me yet.” 

“Root Down” by the Beastie Boys

”Bob Marley was a prophet for the freedom fight. If dancin’ prays to the Lord, then I shall feel alright. I’m feeling good to play a little music.“ 

“I Shall Be Released” by Joan Baez, written by Bob Dylan

“I see my light come shining from the west unto the east. Any day now, any day now

I shall be released.”

“Tears for ODB” by J Cole  

“Rather die before I fake it. They say life is what you make it. Lord have mercy on my soul. What I’ve done and what I’ve seen, my life is tumbled into stuff, which only you can intervene.”             

“Brand New Me” by Alicia Keys

“Don’t be mad. It’s just the brand new kind of me. Can’t be bad, I found a brand new kind of free. If you were worth a while, you’d be happy to see me smile.”                             

“God’s Plan” by Drake

“I don’t wanna die for them to miss me. Yes, I see the things that they wishin’ on me. Hope I got some brothers that outlive me. They gon’ tell the story, shit was different with me.”  

“Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen

”You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain, make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain, waste your summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets.”  

“Everything is Everything” by Lauryn Hill

”Now, everything is everything. What is meant to be, will be. After winter, must come spring. Change will come eventually.”  

“Sometimes it Snows in April” by Prince

“I often dream of heaven and I know that Tracy’s there. I know that he has found another friend. Maybe he’s found the answer to all the April snow. Maybe one day, I’ll see my Tracy again. Sometimes it snows in April. Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad. Sometimes I wish that life was never ending. But all good things, they say, never last.” 

“Keep Ya Head Up” by Tupac Shakur

But please don’t cry, dry your eyes, never let up. Forgive but don’t forget, girl keep your head up. And when he tells you you ain’t nuttin’ don’t believe him. And if he can’t learn to love you, you should leave him. ‘Cause sista you don’t need him.”

 

Full Playlist Here

 

micheleAbout the Author: Michele Amira is a nice Jewish girl,  DC based journalist, spoken word artist, and vegan. When not writing, she might be found Israeli dancing,  listening to hip-hop, and enjoying a l’chaim (toast) with her favorite drink – margaritas on the rocks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Hummus Games: May the Odds be Ever in your Flavor

Picture this: it’s lunchtime and you’re craving some delicious Israeli cuisine in DC. Where do you go? What do you eat?

If you’re like me and identify as a Falafel Fanatic (should I copyright this as a superhero name?), then you’re reading the right article. I am sharing the results of my search for DC’s best Israeli food with GatherDC’s readers, so you too can know where to get the best middle eastern grub around. 

As a proud Israeli, part of this DC food tour included seeing which places stay true to the authenticity that comes with Israeli food –  the spices, the flavor, and the feeling of home (imagine a decorative pillow saying “hummus is where the heart is”). 

While I am no professional food critic, I do consider myself professionally hungry, so to help us keep it light, we will be giving each restaurant one of two designations: a humMUST or a humMISS.

humMUST: I falaFELL in love with this restaurant and it is straight schug fire. Basically the embodiment of Tel Aviv in DC. You MUST visit it when you get a chance!

or

humMISS: this place missed the Israeli mark for us but it is far from falawful food! 

I tried three different Israel-esque restaurants on this journey: Little Sesame, Yafa Grille, and Shouk. This is by no means an exhaustive list of delicious Middle Eastern restaurants in the area, but rather a small sampling of some hotspots. 

Bear with me as I channel my inner Gordon Ramsey (with less profanity) and dive into the hot Israeli food scene in Washington, DC!

itay
Restaurant #1: Little Sesame

If you’ve traveled to Jerusalem, you’ve probably encountered the delicacy that is loaded hummus (a bed of smooth and flavorful earthy hummus topped with some delicious spices and vegetables or meats). Little Sesame, a fast casual endeavor by chefs Nick Wiseman and Ronen Tenne, captures the Jerusalem marketplace feel with its delicious food. 

The Little Sesame menu includes your option of picking between a hummus base or pita pocket with several salads and sides to compliment your main course. You can also customize with some add-ons (like feta, a “10 hour egg”, and more). Trust me when I say the pita is so fluffy you will want to get an extra. 

And a special attention to all vegans/vegetarians – this place is for you!! Almost everything on the menu is plant-based and it is very easy to find options that are gluten- free and non-dairy (they even have a dairy-free soft serve ice cream dessert with traditional tahini flavors).

Walking into Little Sesame, the unique atmosphere and decor create a nice background for the delicious individually-prepared food. The line may appear long but moves fairly quickly and the turnaround for food is the same. Little Sesame’s prices are what you would expect for a DC lunch but can get pricey depending on your sides and add-ons on top of the main meal. 

Our rating: a humMUST! 

True authentic hummus and fresh ingredients make this meal not only relatively healthy, but a delicious lunch to look forward to. With so many options, it’s easy to mix it up and try new things while still getting a substantive meal out of the experience. The restaurant does not have a lot of space for seating but this type of food is easy to carry out. Words cannot express hummus I love this restaurant. 

little sesame

Restaurant #2: Yafa Grille

If you’re looking for a solid DC staple for food, Yafa Grille is your place! Yafa (often times spelled Jaffa or Yafo) is a coastal city in Israel adjacent to Tel Aviv that is known for its architectural antiquity and for being the true embodiment of coexistence between Israeli and Arab citizens. This melting pot of Israeli culture often leads to amazing food from all corners of the world, and of course, middle eastern cuisine.

Yafa Grille offers eaters a very CAVA / Roti-esque style of cuisine, getting the opportunity to pick from several bases (pita pocket, pita wrap, salad bowl, rice bowl, or platter) and either falafel or a couple types of shawarma as protein. 

Veggie options here are very delicious as well, with a wonderful cauliflower topping that left us wanting more and a grape leaves side that was a perfect supplement to the meal. The pita reminded me of supermarket Israeli pita that we would eat on Saturday mornings in the park with family. 

Our rating: a humMISS.

Yafa Grille has great food and is similar to other types of lunch places you will find in DC. It is a delicious lunch option for when you’re in the area and craving some Mediterranean grub. It didn’t scream “Israel” for us or offer a unique take on the food but is definitely not a restaurant to snuff at!

yaffa

Restaurant #3: Shouk

The final stop on this journey led us to Shouk, a self-titled “modern Israeli street food” hotspot. I had heard of this place through several friends of mine who are vegan/vegetarian because everything on this menu is completely free of animal products and by-products. Even the labneh is made out of cashews! Shouk makes eating there an ultra-inclusive experience for even the pickiest eaters. 

To be fully transparent and acknowledge some bias, as I stepped into their casual eatery, I immediately heard some Israeli music (“mizrahit” if you will) which ignited a nostalgic fire in my already hungry belly. 

Similar to the other restaurants, Shouk gives customers the options of a pita, rice, or salad base. However, their protein options are different, rich, and refreshing, including a mushroom shawarma, roasted cauliflower, and their ever-popular Shouk burger which has been featured on both Forbes and The Cooking Channel. 

The falafel balls were cooked just perfectly and had a very green and tender center to them. Shouk delivered a full flavor profile using their fresh and invigorating ingredients. The spices used in Shouk’s cooking seemed less like an attempt to appeal to the tastebuds of the masses and more true to its Middle Eastern form. I strongly recommend you try their hummus with za’atar seasoning if you want to immediately be transported to the holy land. Additionally, we tried out their polenta fries which were spiced heavily with rosemary and were unlike any other polenta fries we’ve tried before. The meals were not heavy but still very filling and (aside from a little bit of frying) is generally a healthy option. 

Our rating: a humMUST!

Shouk delivered on all cylinders for both remaining true to the Israeli food experience (well, they are an Israeli restaurant) and a delicious flavor-filled meal that even those not seeking out a replicated Israel experience would love. With three locations in DC, Shouk is the kind of restaurant you will return to over and over again (for lunch, dinner, or otherwise). Come hungry because you are going to want to taste a little bit of everything.

shouk

Thank you for going with me on my epic journey to find some good hummus and falafel in DC, and for allowing me to make it as dramatic as NBC’s hit drama “This is (humm)Us”. As we say in Israel, “bete’avon” and good eats to all!

 

itayAbout the author: Itay Balely is a DMV-area local and works in the civil rights non-profit world in DC. He is a proud Israeli and loves listening to records on his record player. When he’s not watching his trash TV (particularly MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge), you can find him HUJI-ing on different DC rooftops.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Opening Our Hands & Hearts

traylor

Did you know that 17.4% of people living in Washington DC are living below the poverty line? That equals about 111,000 people, and doesn’t event include the folks that are technically above the poverty line, but still regularly struggle to take care of themselves and their families. 

We can all agree that no one should have to live this way; our Torah agrees. In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat R’eih, the Torah clearly states: “There shall be no needy among you”. 

God makes this statement as a promise to keep if the Israelites follow all of the commandments in the Promised Land. However, this unconditional statement from God is later contrasted in the portion with a much more realistic, pragmatic statement about poverty: 

“For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.” – Deuteronomy 15:11

While we start exploring poverty so aspirationally in this portion, this last statement brings us back to reality. It’s certainly not impossible to eliminate poverty in DC, but it is really hard to imagine. I’m reminded of this reality every time I talk with someone asking for a little bit of money to get something to eat or to get on the Metro. Although I provide what I can, I’m always left feeling like there’s more work to be done. 

So, what can we do to work toward this ideal of living in a place without poverty? While we’ll need bigger structural changes, we can start with our Torah. 

Approach someone struggling with homelessness with the kindness and compassion they deserve as a human being. Shake their hand, ask them their name, provide them assistance, and wish them well. If we each start to open our hands and hearts to those most vulnerable, we can build a better city, country, and world for all of us. 


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.

 

 

 

 

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 (September 29th – October 1st)

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Yom Kippur (October 8th – 9th)

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Sukkot (October 13th – 20th)

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Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah (October 21st – 22nd)

  • Monday, October 21st

  • Tuesday, 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.