Rounds 2 and 3. Jewish Guy/Girl of the Year Contest

Dear Jews of round 2,

Please tell us what “Judaism is while standing on one leg.

By standing on one leg, we mean, please tell us “What Judaism is” in a digestible format that takes no more than 5 minutes to read, watch, or listen.

We encourage you to play to your strengths and be creative; you can write an essay (fewer than 500 words); make a video; perform a dance; paint a picture, or use another medium for your answer.

The only thing we ask is that your response be delivered in such a format as we can post to our blog (yes, all responses will be made public, both the winning and non-winning alike).

The entries will be judged by a panel of Jewish leaders: rabbis, Jewish professionals, and Gather the Jews staff members. Six judges will rate all female entries, and six judges will rate all male entries.  Each judge will be asked to rate each entry on a scale of 1 to 10.  The scores will be totaled.

The top 2 men and top 2 women will advance for a final round of Jewish trivia.

May the truly worthy advance.

Submissions are due on Tuesday, March 1, 11:59 PM.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Gather the News – Jewish News – 2/21

Ok, there really isn’t any information about the contest in here; I just wanted to lure you into clicking.  We’re pulling out all the stops here at GTN to get you guys to read, including moving the timeslot to Monday mornings.  Evidently, we can get over 9,000 votes for Jewish Girl of the Year, but no more than 64(?!) IP addresses to read a few bullet points.  GTN will now be reviewing the previous week’s Jewish news to liven up your Monday morning. [1]  And by “liven up your Monday morning,” I mean…

  • …make your blood boil.  Raise your hand if you like being referred to as “they.”

    Helen Thomas preparing to feast on an Eloi.

  • The world says “goodbye!” to the likely Jewish Uncle Leo. [2]
  • Bahrain is firing at its own citizens from helicopters, but Israel is the one that almost gets a UN condemnation.  The US vetoes, and the Palestinians have one of those ubiquitous “Day[s] of Rage.” [3]
  • An Iranian nuclear facility recovered quickly from the Stuxnet cyberattack.  Not only would Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith have done a better job, but we would also get to hear some snarky comments from Will Smith. [4]
  • Meanwhile, an Iranian warship moves to B5.
  • The New York Post reports an interesting, underreported detail in the sexual assault of Lara Logan.
  • Israelis may have to to think twice about their motivations for not buying that hummus…
  • …or that bandage that probably saved Gabrielle Giffords’ life.

Want to see some good news in Gather the News?  Send me stories all week at


[1] You’re probably enjoying your day off too much to be reading this anyway.

[2] Easiest pop culture reference pun EVER.

[3] I had a personal Day of Rage last week.  Let’s just say that you do not want to be a tourist blocking the Metro escalator when I’m running late.

[4] Something like, “I have GOT to get me one of these…shawarma laffas.”

Parsha Time: The Hidden Face of G-d

Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

The question: “Why do bad things happen to good people, while many wicked people seem to prosper?” is one that has troubled philosophers and religions over the centuries. Questions about why the righteous suffer are understandable, but they are based on the assumption that what we see in our limited perception is the way things really are.

After the sin of the Golden Calf in Parshas Ki Sisa, G-d informed Moshe that His Divine Presence would not accompany the Jews into the land of Israel. Instead, an Angel would accompany us into the Holy Land. Moshe pleaded that G-d’s presence alone be the One to guide us, and his prayers were answered.

After successfully pleading with G-d not to destroy the Jewish people for creating the Golden Calf and convincing G-d to allow the Divine presence to travel with us into the Israel, Moshe decides to do something that seems totally in line with the trait of classical Jewish chutzpah. He makes a demand of G-d saying “Show me now Your Glory” (Exodus 33: 18).

The Talmud states that part of the reason for this demand was Moshe’s burning curiosity to know the answer to one of life’s greatest questions: ‘Why there are righteous people who suffer, and wicked people who seem to have it easy?’ Shortly thereafter, G-d tells Moshe “you will see My back, but My face may not be seen” (Exodus 33:23). This statement requires some explanation.

Our Sages debate whether or not G-d answered Moshe’s question – Rabbi Meir holding that He did not, while Rabbi Yehoshua holds He did. Rabbis Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) suggests that the two Tannaic rabbis were not arguing, instead explaining that in the cryptic statement above, G-d was telling Moshe that no mortal human being can ever know who is righteous and who is wicked, or what is good and what is bad. In other words G-d did indeed answer Moshe, but He did not include a reason. In other words, while Moshe was asking why the righteous suffer and wicked earn reward, G-d was informing Moshe that as a human living in a physical body, Moshe’s perspective was limited. Therefore not even Moshe – a person to whom G-d revealed everything that can be revealed to a human being – can know when reward begins, punishment ends, or what righteous people of today were like in previous incarnations.[1]

Chasam Sofer teaches that the ‘face’ of G-d refers to what we experience as the events in our lives unfold.[2] A person never knows where events in the present will lead to in the future. We cannot judge the purpose of any given situation until after the fact. Only after all is said and done can we possibly understand why something happened in our own lives, and sometimes it is not until much time has passed. It is then that we see the ‘back’ of G-d so-to-speak, but His ‘face’ will always remain hidden to those whose souls remain in a physical body.

This idea is demonstrated quite clearly by the miracle of Purim which we will be celebrating next month. Purim is the only story in the Bible in which G-d is not explicitly mentioned. However, through a string of seemingly coincidental events we see G-d was indeed a character with an active role throughout. This is true in each and every one of our own lives. Everything that befalls us is Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence), or the product of G-d’s orchestration of the world. Furthermore nothing bad comes from G-d. If we truly understood why things happen the way they do from His perspective we would no longer see the bad. The challenge of life is to try to see G-d in all that befalls us and remain steadfast in our faith that all is for the best.

[1] Y. Nachshoni, Studies in the Weekly Parshah. 583

[2] Ibid.

FREE 10-day Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip this Summer!

Are you a Jewish young professional or graduate student, ages 22 to 26, living in the Greater Washington area who has never been to Israel on an organized trip before? This trip is for you! With trip provider Shorashim, you will travel for 10 days this summer with Israelis who will share the beauty, excitement, and complexities of their country with you. Experience the history and challenges of modern Israel while building a community of fellow Washingtonians. Register NOW for the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip by visiting Please contact Sarah Arenstein at or (301) 230-7277 with questions.

Bumping into a former J-date at synagogue

Jewish Girl is a young professional Jew living in Washington, DC.  The views expressed in this piece belong solely to Jewish Girl.

I’m a veteran J-dater.  Veteran in the sense that I no longer subscribe to that infamous Jewish dating website, but, in my time, I went out on many first and second J-dates.  I’d go so far as to say too many.

Why too many?  Because now I can’t go to a synagogue in this town without seeing a parade of past dates.  Besides the gentleman who were kind enough to take me out (and I do thank you all, for the most part it was lovely), I also encounter those who I had to politely decline at Jewish singles mixers of the past.  Oh, the joys of being a single Jewish woman in DC.  Huzzah.

This is not to say I don’t enjoy the many “young professional” Shabbat dinners and events that DC has to offer.  I like seeing friends and meeting new people.  There is no ring on my finger, so I’m not opposed to meeting single men with the idea that one day we can assure the continuance of secular Judaism with our offspring.

The problem is, at times, the presence of an old date will interfere with my ability to attain the inner peace I seek when I go to shul.  The last time I went to Shabbat services at a certain synagogue (which shall remain nameless to protect my identity), the rabbi discussed the difficulty of being as beautiful a person on the outside as you are on the inside.  He was not talking about exfoliating.  The challenge is to reflect on the outside our inner light of Hashem.  But it’s really hard to be good, even on just one night of the week, when the sight of an old fling makes me turn to my girlfriends and gossip.

So, to you GTJ guys, this is my pledge: I promise to be better at navigating the social waters of the DC Jewish community, to keep my memory short and sweet, and to bite my tongue when I don’t have something nice to say.  In return, I ask for the same respect, and a few ground rules for Shabbat and the rest of the week:

1.      If we’ve been on a (failed) date and we happen to make eye contact, let’s just smile politely at one another and/or nod in greeting.  If you can’t manage that, and you can’t make small talk, do not resort to bringing up our past.  I’m really sorry it didn’t work out, but the odds in this town are greatly in your favor as single women far outnumber single men.

2.      If I’ve already said no, or haven’t returned your calls, please take a hint.

3.      When it’s Shabbat, please tone down your game.  Don’t corner me into conversation, or whip out your cell phone to get my number and make a date.  Let’s keep the peace, please.

Shabbat Shalom!

The Adventures of Kosherman (pt. 1 and pt. 2)

Watch these two Mesorah DC videos to see Kosherman in action.

Episode 1: Kosherman kasherizes your kitchen.
Description: Kosherman takes on both beast and bird in the process of kosherizing this kitchen.
Featuring: Rabbi Motzen as Rabbi Motzen, Aaron Wolff as Kosherman, Tila Kety as The Gecko, Sara Glickman as the damsel in distress, Stephen Richer as Ali G.
Camerawork: Noa Levanon
Watch Episode 1

Episode 2: Kosherman goes shopping.
Description: Your local superhero — Kosherman — recently journeyed out into the great unknown (the gentile world) to show YOU how easy Kosher shopping can be.
Featuring: Rabbi Motzen as Rabbi Motzen, Rabbi Teitelbaum as Rabbi Teitelbaum, Sara Glickman as Kosherman’s assistant, and Stephen Richer as Kosherman.
Guest Appearance: Moshe Itzhakov
Watch Episode 2

Yale calls for paper submissions: Jewish wisdom in management

How can we put Jewish wisdom back into in management and management education?

Do you know?  Or do you have a good idea?  If so, Yale University, Ben-Gurion University, and The Academy of Business in Society are looking for you!

Selected contributors will present their papers and will be published.

For more information on submitting a paper, see Practical_Wisdom_Call_for_contributions_Jewish_traditions_Final-1

For more information about this academic project, see this PDF.

Parsha Time: Part 3 — Will Gotkin on the qualities of a leader

Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

The Jew and G-d – An Unbreakable Connection

Every Jewish person has a neshama – Jewish soul – which Chassidut explains is part of G-d Himself. True, every human – Jews and non-Jews alike – is made in the image of G-d, but the Jewish people were given a special type of soul that would allow them to pursue the all-encompassing path of Torah and mitzvos. This bond is deep and even goes beyond the Torah.

This week’s parsha is titled ‘Tetzaveh,’ a word that literally means ‘command.’ However, ‘tetzaveh’ is also a derivative of the word ‘tzavsa’ which means ‘connection.’[1] In the first line of the Parsha, Moshe is told by G-d: “And you should command the children of Israel that they should bring to you pure olive oil…it ignite the lamp (until it burns) continually” (Exodus 27:20). The sentence could also be read as “And you should connect the Jewish people,” hinting that Moshe connects the Jewish people with G-d.[2]

This is the only parsha in the Torah (since his first appearance) in which Moshe’s name is not mentioned (The book of Devarim are his words to the people). Although G-d frequently addresses him in Parshas Tetzaveh, Moshe’s name is conspicuously missing.

One famous explanation for this is that G-d fulfilled Moshe’s request that if G-d punishes the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf, Moshe be removed from the Torah (see next week’s parsha, which takes place before ParshasTetzaveh). G-d forgave the Jewish people, but still removed Moshe from this Torah portion. This is testament of how powerful our words can be and even more so the words of a righteous leader are in affecting the world.

However, Moshe is mentioned throughout the parsha even if not by name, being referred to as ‘You’ right in the beginning. Why did G-d refer to Moshe as ‘You’? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the objectives expressed in this parsha can only be achieved by Moshe’s essence, the aspect of him that cannot even be conveyed by his name.[3]

By asking to be erased from the book, Moshe wished to invoke an essential bond between himself and the Jewish people and thereby the essential bond between G-d and the Jewish people.[4] This bond is one that goes beyond Torah and mitzvos. It is a supernal connection between Hashem and the Jewish people that is so strong that it is not dependent on Torah and mitzvos. Obviously, Jews must study Torah and pursue mitzvos in order to connect in the way G-d desires, but by Moshe invoking this transcendent, unbreakable bond established by G-d’s covenant with Avraham (see the Book of Bereshis) it allowed for the atonement of the people’s sin and brought them back to the Torah.[5]

Moshe’s self-sacrifice epitomizes that of a true Jewish leader. In the beginning of the parsha he was told that the Jewish people should bring olive oil to him in order that it be used to ignite the menorah so that it burns continually. This is because a true leader can enable the people to reach a level of spiritual self-sufficiency, to the degree that they no longer have to depend on their leader in order to keep the fire of Torah and love and fear of G-d burning continually.[6] It’s up to us to keep that fire ablaze.

[1]The Gutnick Edition Chumash, The Book of Exodus, 203

[2] Ibid.

[3]The Torah – Chumash Shemot. Commentary based on works of the LubavitcherRebbe, 214

[4] Ibid., 215

[5] Ibid., 215

[6]The Gutnick Edition Chumash, The Book of Exodus, 203