Quarantine Playlist to Keep You Dancing

As an introvert, it’s very easy for me to self isolate during COVID-19 since I’m somewhat of a feral cat. And for me, social distancing is vital because I have an autoimmune disease which makes me vulnerable to severe health complications. That being said, now is not the time to skimp on self-care. Circumstances around the coronavirus can make self-care difficult. The city is on lockdown, so my weekly acupuncture-and-reflexology sessions are canceled and stores are out of many essentials. 

While the idea of self-care has been consistently debated by the media, as to whether or not that self-care is indulgent, too capitalist or, in actuality, necessary for survival, especially in times of emergency. So, now is the time to get creative with your self-care, because quality of life is ESSENTIAL for survival. For example, I got creative and made my own curl cream from shea butter and coconut oil to keep my “Jew-fro” curly and indulged in some Spanish wine.

Although DC is in a state of emergency, Rumi (a 13th-century Sufi mystic) once said, “The human shape is a ghost made of distraction and pain. Sometimes pure light, sometimes cruel, trying wildly to open, this image tightly kept within itself.” 

Here are some feel-good songs to dance around to while you’re stuck at home to make sure that light shines bright and you are taking care of yourself!

michele image

Cover art for “The Secret of Mana” album



“In My Feelings” by Drake      

“I buy you champagne, but you love some Henny

From the block like you Jenny

I know you special, girl, ’cause I know too many” 


“Chera Meetarsand” (Why Are They Afraid) by The Secret of Mana                                          

“If only you knew you had the power in your heart, so if you want it let’s get it”      


“Cranes in the Sky” by Solange Knowles                                                                           

But it’s like cranes in the sky

Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds

Yeah it’s like cranes in the sky

Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds”                                                                   


Me Against the World” by Tupac Shakur 

“Don’t settle for less – even a genius asks-es questions. Be grateful for blessings. Don’t ever change, keep your essence”                                   

“Waterfalls” by TLC

“Dreams are hopeless aspirations / In hopes of coming true, believe in yourself / The rest is up to me and you. ”                                                         


“Rebirth of Slick” (Cool Like Dat) By Digable Planets 

“He touch the kinks and sinks into the sounds                                                                    

She frequents the fattest joints caught underground

Our funk zooms like you hit the Mary Jane

They flock to booms man boogie had to change”


“Fast Car by Tracy Chapman” 

“Maybe together we can get somewhere

Anyplace is better

Starting from zero got nothing to lose

Maybe we’ll make something

But me myself I got nothing to prove”


Best Life by Cardi B (feat. Chance the Rapper)

“I’m living my best life. It’s my birthday, at least that’s what I’m dressed like” 


We’re Gonna Make it By Damien Marley

“Searching for the light because you’re living in the dark

You must realize that Jah was with you from the start”


Balenciaga by Princess Nokia

“I’m so fly, I don’t even try

I get so high, I can touch the sky

Dress for myself, I don’t dress for hype

I dress for myself, you dress for the likes”


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.

Permission to Breathe

just breathe beach

On Wednesday night, during one of my weekly classes which I’m now doing online, I asked everyone to go around and share one word that best described where they were in that moment. Inspired by the very first question God asks humanity in the Torah—“Akyeka?” “Where are you?”—I asked a similar question in the hope of providing space for people to unload. 

The responses were not surprising: people are feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, scared, stir-crazy, tired, and done with screens. And a few were more optimistic; some said that they had “had a better day than yesterday,” or “Today, I’m a little more hopeful.” And as I spoke with people this week, I certainly heard a lot of gratitude and interest in being of service to the wider DC community. But more than anything, I heard shock, not knowing and pure exhaustion. 

Organizations, communities, and businesses are scrambling to respond to the rapid change in lifestyle and behavior that is social distancing. It seems like almost every sector of society, to the extent possible, transformed every service, class, and show into an online experience. From yoga to music to penguin tours around a deserted aquarium, we’ve all been bombarded by a whole array of ways to keep us occupied, entertained, and connected. This is certainly true in the Jewish world, which seems to have exploded with opportunities to pray, meditate, study and congregate online, GatherDC included. 

It reminded me a lot of this week’s Torah portion from the end of the Book of Exodus, Vayakhel-Pekudei. Having been freed from slavery in Egypt, received the Torah at Mount Sinai, and now making their way through the desert with numerous bumps along the way, the Israelites finally begin to build their portable desert sanctuary, the mishkan, the place of God’s dwelling that would be the epicenter of their communal and spiritual life. 

But when Moses asks the people to contribute to the mishkan in this week’s reading, he doesn’t do so by command. Rather, he tells the people,

“Take from among you offerings, every person whose heart is willing, bring a gift to God.”

Unlike their forced building of Egyptian structures under slavery, the people are now told they can voluntarily contribute however their hearts move them to. And so they do. Men and women bring all kinds of materials to help build the mishkan, from jewelry and gold to hand-spun yarns, goats’ hair and the like. They bring so much that Moses eventually has to tell the people to chill and stop, even though all their enthusiastic giving was going toward a sacred cause. 

I think similarly, as much as we’ve seen an outpouring of incredible offerings—gifts, really—to those of us at home, there may be too much happening all at once. Of course, I’m not talking about tzedakah, volunteering or providing mental health resources— those we should continue to give in abundance. 

But among the plethora of ways to stay busy, I also see that we’re responding to this strange time by trying to keep things the same, especially in our work. We’ve dived into our homebound 9-5 lives head-on, some also with children to homeschool and parents to care for. I heard from some of you that your employers made a point to tell you they expect the same level of efficiency despite the fact that you’re working remotely. Some of you who could work remotely still have to go into the office because your bosses did not want to change their company’s workflow. And some, I know, are in the middle of a job search when this all started, or have suddenly lost a job. 

While of course, we have to figure things out, most of us, myself included, didn’t think to take a breath. Having not been through something like this before, we haven’t realized that in a time of crisis, we need a break, however much we can afford. Life is really scary right now. Adjustment to a new, difficult reality doesn’t happen overnight, so taking a breath and stopping is not selfish. 

In fact, it’s a commandment. Although most of this Torah portion is about all the work the Israelites did to build their sanctuary, the very first lines of the text contain the commandment to observe Shabbat: On six days work should be done, but on the seventh day, you shall have a sabbath of complete rest. Rashi, a famous medieval commentator, said that the Torah prefaced the instructions for the mishkan work with the commandment to keep Shabbat in order to teach the people that building a sacred space does not supersede rest. And we can understand why the people might have thought otherwise. 

Unlike our modern association with work, the sometimes stressful or demanding things we do to make a living, the Hebrew term here, melacha, means creative activity, like the voluntary crafting, designing and building that went into making a beautiful sanctuary. We can understand how, in doing such work that we consider sacred or important, we can become so driven to continue or complete it that we might deny any need to rest or replenish. Indeed, a few chapters earlier, when God first gave Moses all the instructions for how to build this mishkan, God concludes by saying,

Nevertheless [ach], you must keep my Shabbat,” or as Rashi puts it, “even though you are compelled by enthusiasm for the work, let it not replace Shabbat.”

Our ancient tradition intuitively understood that sometimes we need to be commanded to stop and take a breath because humans are really good at making excuses to constantly do things. We’ve seen a lot of that this week, both in our work work and in the creative work we’ve taken on to get through this time. I know, with the weekend, the gorgeous weather and cherry blossoms, we’ll be tempted to breathe by going outside, which is okay in true moderation, but I want to remind us that we’re still responsible for one another, so let’s be mindful of where we put our bodies and where we try to rest this Shabbat. 

In the words of Rabbi Elliot Kukla in yesterday’s New York Times

“Staying away from other people contradicts our image of what saving lives looks like. We are used to heroes rushing in. But disabled and sick people already know that stillness can be caring. We know that immune systems are fragile things, and homes can’t always be left. Rest is disability justice, and right now it is one of our most powerful tools to keep one another alive.” 

Given that our mobility will be limited, let our rest this weekend start by giving ourselves permission to breathe. Please, if and however you can, take a real break. Just be where you are emotionally and, yes, physically. We will be there to hold one another through this. 

This week’s Torah reading concludes the Book of Exodus, the book of taking our first steps to liberation, to a new and better reality, so I want to invoke the traditional blessing for getting through a whole book of the Torah and now, a whole week of social distancing: Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek: Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened. 


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ilana




About the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and creating real and meaningful connections with them. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.






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.


How to Host a Virtual Shabbat

virtual shabbat

Shabbat in the modern world has grown in many ways. While using digital technology on Shabbat may not be the right answer for some, in times of separation or for those who suffer from issues of mobility, these modern resources can help us stay connected and share the rituals and meaning of Shabbat in ways they couldn’t before. 

I have always found value in being with loved ones on Shabbat and it becomes that much more important in times of strife. While we can’t be together physically, we should be able to bring people together in spirit and engage in conversation about how we can support each other and ourselves through these challenging times. 

To get started here are some resources you can use to make your shabbat work online:

  1. Find a siddur (prayer book) or bencher (blessings for rituals and meals) that you like. OneTable has a great one specifically for virtual and solo experiences with explanations of the blessings, alternative versions, and mindfulness exercises to elevate your dinner experience.
  2. Pick a hosting platform such as Houseparty (up to 8 participants), Zoom (Up to 4 with free version). 
  3. For candle lighting: As the host you can light candles and lead the blessings – and if not everyone in your call has access to candles, the Center for Healing Arts has a page for “lighting” virtual candles and is a great resource you can point your guests to. It gives directions on how to light candles virtually and offers the chance to light them in honor of what has meaning to them. There is also live candle-lighting online, led by GatherDC’s Rabbi Ilana Zietman every Friday at 6 pm. Click here to register
  4. Pick an icebreaker that is fun but offers a productive way to get to know people. A good example of this is “What is something people would be surprised to know about you?” or “What is the story of your name?” or “What three people living or not would you invite to your shabbat table?”. Anything open-ended is a great way to start off the conversation.
  5. Have some questions ready to discuss. If you have a theme for your virtual Shabbat, make sure they stay relevant but also leave room for people to discuss what is alive for them. 
  6. Pick something fun to do! There are many online game platforms such as Quizup, Xyzzy (Cards Against Humanity), etc.

Register your Shabbat experience with OneTable, and you can distribute nourishment to each virtual attendee – to get information on the best ways to do this contact your regional manager, for DMV area dinners contact Annie at annie@onetable.org.

Also, if you don’t feel like hosting your own this week, see GatherDC’s calendar for a list of virtual Shabbats events across the DMV.


alex fAbout the Author: Alex Fosco is GatherDC’s Community Coordinator and strives to help 20s and 30s build solid foundations and connections so they can thrive in Jewish DC. When she’s not sprinting across the city to meet someone for coffee, you can find her exploring Georgetown, noshing at one of DC’s amazing restaurants, or traipsing through the Virginia wilderness with her friends. Say hi and ask Alex about her love of costuming!





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.

Meet Connor: Jewish Uncle of the Week

Editor’s note: Full disclosure here – Connor Jacobson is no stranger to me. In fact, we share a nephew (his brother is married to my sister)! Since moving to the DC-area and going on a Birthright Israel trip co-led by GatherDC’s Rabbi Ilana Zietman, I’ve been able to see Connor more often and get to know him as a friend. Read on to get to know him too!



Allie: What brought you to the DC area?

Connor: I grew up in Connecticut and moved to Chicago for school, and stuck around after I got a job as a healthcare consultant. I wanted to move closer to my family. I had a nephew at the time that was 8 months old, and I wanted to find more meaning and purpose in my career. I found an opportunity working for Math Motivators – a nonprofit that helps underprivileged high school students with math.  

Allie: What has helped you find community in the Jewish DC community since moving here this year?

Connor: Going on Birthright Israel with a DC group this past winter. I had wanted to go for a while, but with a busy job, it was tough to find the time to get away. The group of 50 of us from that trip became like family in a matter of days and have kept in touch since. It was an incredible dynamic with the whole group, we love each other.

Allie: What were the highlights of your Birthright experience?

Connor: Going to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I have been spiritual and exploring religion for a while, and it all just came together that day. I’ve never really ascribed to a particular religion, but at the Western Wall, I saw other people davening and figured I’d try it. I started with saying a few prayers and had an out of body experience. It felt like I was a part of something larger.

Also, on the final day, I decided to have my bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. For my bar mitzvah, I was a little hesitant because I was raised half-Jewish, half-Christian. But I did it and even gave myself a Hebrew name, Shemiah. It was an incredible experience.birthright

Allie: Why was this so meaningful to you? 

Connor: I’m not really a believer per say but in that moment I had a wake-up call where all of the crazy chaotic things in my brain just became one and I realized what I want to be and what I want to do with my life. All my pain and the sounds around me went away and I just had one voice flowing through me. I had a thought in my head and I asked and prayed to become the person I want to be and as I did, a bird flew into a bush above my head and chirped which brought me back and I did my Bar Mitzvah ten minutes later.

Allie: Why Shemiah?

Connor:  The full name is Shemiah Haim, which loosely translates to “the listener who lives”. It was in honor of my grandfather. A year before he passed away, I was fortunate to interview him for a class. One of the last questions I asked him was “What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?” And he said, “As a good father, a good husband, and a good listener,” and that really stuck with me.

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.

Connor: The day would include a lot of time with my family and friends – particularly with my nephew Carter if he’s not napping. I would start at Call Your Mother, which I just tried and it’s phenomenal. Then, I would probably check out a museum in DC. Next, I would want to do an escape room with my brother and sister-in-law. After that, we would put Carter to bed and then head over to the whiskey bar Jack Rose for a nightcap. Somewhere in there, I would want to watch Carter watch dogs. 


Allie: What do you do to relax?

Connor: Besides spending time with my nephew and other family, I like watching good shows and reading. 

Allie: Is there anywhere that you are excited to travel to?

Connor: I want to go to Australia and New Zealand at some point when COVID-19 subsides. I recently got back from Park City, Utah. I’ve been on the road for two months and it’s nice to relax for a bit, but I am thinking about doing Oktoberfest in Germany.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Connor: I have been very fortunate to celebrate Hanukkah these past few years with my sister-in-law’s family, the Cossman’s. I love their grandma, Bubbi. And more recently I’ve been trying to do Shabbat every week. 

Allie: What speaks to you most about Shabbat?

Connor: I am reading a book by Sarah Hurwitz called Here All Along. There is a whole chapter on reasons to do Shabbat. It’s a way for us to avoid consumerism and live a simpler life for a day, and make an effort to turn off technology. I like to reflect and wake up Saturday morning refreshed. 

Allie: What’s something that’s on your bucket list?

Connor: I really want to have a family and raise kids. I want to be happy in my work. I let the wind take me wherever it should. I’m not sure what the future holds but I’m excited about it.

Allie: What animal do you most closely identify with?

Connor: Definitely a giraffe. That’s what my brother Mike calls me. I saw a cute stuffed baby giraffe and then found a baby kippah in Israel and had a friend sew it on the giraffe, so it became a Jew-raffe which I named Shira after my close friend.

Allie: Tell me about this mindful masculinity class you take.

Connor: We meet every other week at Rabbi Rami’s house (The Den). We talk about toxic masculinity and how we can reshape our mind and learn ways to be mindful in our understanding of our role in society.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather… 

Connor: There is plenty of debate and partying.



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’s Coronavirus Coping Guide

We are absolutely devastated by the coronavirus pandemic that is afflicting our world, and have been feeling all the feelings that this uncertain and frightening time is generating. Unfortunately, none of us at GatherDC are medical professionals, therapists, politicians, or billionaires – nor do we have any additional tips for physical safety that the CDC hasn’t already provided. But, we are listeners, connectors, and community builders and we have a deep love for each and every human across DMV’s Jewish community. We know how challenging it is to be living in quarantine, practicing social distancing, feeling anxiety in jobs where you have to be out and about, dealing with health risks and illness, or facing any of the other very real fears this crisis is creating.

To help ease our loneliness and anxiety, and keep us as mentally and physically healthy as we can be during this time – we’ve put together some resources to help us get through this together

P.S. If you have any additions, concerns, or questions, please email us at info@gatherdc.org. We are here for you in whatever way we can be.

P.P.S. Watch this 1 minute video if you need to smile – and be reminded why social distancing is so important right now.

Get E-Connected

Give Back

Online Jewish Learning 

Stay Mentally Healthy

Stay Physically Healthy

Get Financial and Emotional Support

“Choosing Life” During the Time of Coronavirus: Parshat Ki Tisa

At our GatherDC team meeting yesterday, our Executive Director, Rachel Gildiner asked the staff to consider the paradoxes we are sitting with in this very stressful and uncertain time. For me, the Jewish concept of “choosing life” immediately came to mind (see Deuteronomy 30:19 below). 

Over the centuries, this idea has come to mean several things, which today, feel increasingly at odds with one another. On the one hand, the imperative to choose life has meant that we must protect our physical well-being and that of each other, at all costs. This principle has come to be known as pikuach nefesh, the saving of life and its importance outweighs almost every other Jewish principle, including keeping Shabbat. 

Judaism is a tradition about prioritizing the lives we live and the bodies that enable us to do that. In this regard, we, of course, need to be taking the necessary precautions to stay physically and mentally healthy, and to support our overburdened medical system, even when it means physically isolating ourselves from people and community. 

On the other hand, choosing life is about establishing a sense of groundedness, connectedness, and joy when life feels absurd and chaotic. But, how do we cultivate this when we’re not around other people?; When the meaningful and energizing activities and gatherings we’re a part of are canceled?; When we’re potentially suspicious of everyone and everything all around us?

Hopefully, the precautions we’re now taking will be temporary. But, in the face of ongoing physical isolation and survival-mode mentalities, we need to find a way to stay well emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. As this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa in the Book of Exodus reminds us, anxiety around our sense of stability can lead us down a chaotic and ultimately, unhelpful path. 

After being liberated from slavery and following an uncharted path to freedom through a vast desert, the Israelites freak out when their trusted leader Moses is delayed coming down Mount Sinai, where he received the Torah on their behalf. The text tells us, “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron [Moses’ brother] and said,

“Make us a god who will go before us for that man Moses, who brought us from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him” (Exodus 32:1). 

What ensues is the making of the Golden Calf, a physical representation of God that they begin to worship. This was just days after they received the Ten Commandments, one of which explicitly says not to make a physical image of God. 

What is understandable in this situation is that in the physical absence of the one stable presence they had since leaving Egypt and their mediator to the divine – Moses – the people felt untethered. They did what we all do in such moments when we feel out of control, they grasped at simple answers, acted against their better judgement, and gave in to their greatest fears. According to traditional Jewish commentators, they were so consumed by doubt that they actually just miscounted the day Moses had told them he’d be back (see this wild story in Talmud, Shabbat 89a below). 

It’s important to realize that the Israelites’ misstep was not about trying to reclaim agency in a time of crisis. Judaism tells us to act when we can make a difference. In their panicking, the people reverted to another people’s way of worship. They sought to wholly submit themselves to a tangible deity of their own making, rather than trusting in their relationship with Moses and the God who brought them out of Egypt, or as Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan called it, “the power that makes for salvation.”

Similarly, when we act out of desperation, we run the risk of losing ourselves, forgetting about the most vulnerable among us, and while grasping for the most immediate, palpable responses, we miss out on opportunities that unfold with patience, thoughtfulness, and collaboration. More than anything, we run the risk of losing hope when things don’t turn out as planned. 

So, this Shabbat and the days following, I hope we can take the time and space we need to recenter ourselves, to rest, to cry, to eat well, to e-connect with loved ones, and to do replenishing and creative work so that we can continue to meet the demanding needs of our time. That is how we choose life in its fullest sense. 


Sending blessings for healing and strength,

Rabbi Ilana


I want to conclude by sharing this beautiful poem:



By Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

What if you thought of it

as the Jews consider the Sabbath—

the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,

on trying to make the world

different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives

are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.


Supportive Resources

  1. Want to speak with a rabbi, even for a few minutes? I’m making myself available to the community, so please don’t hesitate to email me to schedule a time to talk on video or phone. 
  2. Try these free daily 30-minute Jewish meditations to relax and find some inner calm. 
  3. Stay on top of Jewish offerings throughout the DMV and how you can stay connected virtually to Shabbat services and learning. 
  4. If you need financial support, apply for zero-interest emergency loans through the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington. 


Jewish Sources for Further Study

Deuteronomy 30:19

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—so you and your offspring would live. 

Shulchan Arukh, Choshen Mishpat 427:8

One has a positive duty to remove and guard oneself of any life-threatening obstacle, as it is said “beware and guard your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:9). 

Talmud, Shabbat 89a

And Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And the people saw that Moses delayed [boshesh] to come down from the mount” (Exodus 32:1)? Do not read the word in the verse as boshesh; rather, read it as ba’u shesh, six hours have arrived. When Moses ascended on High, he told the Jewish people: In forty days, at the beginning of six hours, I will come. After forty days, Satan came and brought confusion to the world by means of a storm, and it was impossible to ascertain the time. Satan said to the Jews: Where is your teacher Moses? They said to him: He ascended on High. He said to them: Six hours have arrived and he has not yet come. Surely he won’t. And they paid him no attention. Satan said to them: Moses died. And they paid him no attention. Ultimately, he showed them an image of his death-bed and an image of Moses’ corpse in a cloud. And that is what the Jewish people said to Aaron: “For this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what has become of him” (Exodus 32:1).




About the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and creating real and meaningful connections with them. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.





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

Meet Maddie: Jewish Vegan Instagrammer of the Week!

Madeline Reich is the Jewish Instagram queen we didn’t know we needed, but desperately do. If you’re cooped up at home and feeling bored/hungry/cabin-fevery…Maddie Reich has ALL the scrumptious recipes (and just general food porn) you need to nourish your body and soul on her Jewish Vegan account. Bon Appétit.


Allie: What brought you to DC?

Maddie: My partner already lived here, and I was accepted to my grad program for student affairs at the University of Maryland. I fell in love with the UMD program instantly, and feel really lucky I got in.

My masters in student affairs is about supporting students and helping them be successful while they are in college. 

Allie: How did you decide to go into student affairs?

Maddie: While at UNC Chapel Hill, I worked in the new student affairs office and helped with student welcome events, mentorship, and other programming. I got to implement a new program in the spring called Geek Week, which is a week of “geek” type activities like Star Trek trivia. Getting involved with Jewish life also helped inspire me to go into student affairs after college. 

Allie: What was your experience with Jewish life like at UNC?

Maddie: I didn’t really have a Jewish identity before coming to college, I kind of built one from scratch. I volunteered at the UNC Hillel and was part of a Jewish sorority. I helped with recruitment and programming related to Jewish identity and sisterhood. I also did Challah for Hunger, and despite never having eaten or baked challah before that, I fell in love with it and eventually became president of my chapter. All of these experiences helped me engage with my Jewish identity for the first time, and helped me become a leader. 

Allie: What was your Jewish identity like before coming to college?

Maddie: My family moved from New York to the rural south when I was 12, and we were the only Jewish family in the area. There was a lot of anti-Semitism, so I felt like I had to give up a lot of my Jewish identity. That really fueled my desire to help students have Jewish experiences that are meaningful for their identities while at college. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.

Maddie: I try to do yoga in the morning or go for a run with my dog Charlie, I usually wake up at 5:00 am! Then, I’d put on a TV show for a bit while I get ready. I’d head to Fare Well for breakfast, I’d get french toast strips and shakshuka. I have never been to the Botanical Gardens, so I would go there. For lunch, I would get Ethiopian food at Keren in Adams Morgan with my friends. They give you a LOT of food. After lunch, I’d stop by Labyrinth, the games shop in the Eastern Market, and check for board games on sale. At that point it would be dinner time, so I would try Seoul Food DC in Takoma. I’d get dessert at a bakery nearby that sells Vegan Treats. Then I would go home and try the new game I got, and be in bed by 10:00 pm. 

Allie: Tell me about your Instagram account!

Maddie: I love food, I love vegan food, and I love being Jewish. I also love photography – so I wanted an outlet for all of that. I had heard from a lot of people that they think cooking, especially vegan food, is really hard and that they had never learned how to cook and bake. I used to feel that way, and wanted to help other people learn to enjoy it. When I first started cooking and baking, I just made stir-frys and pre-packed foods. I started to get more creative and flexible with how I cook. With baking, the structure was nice because all you have to do is follow the recipe. It taught me the skills and the discipline. Cooking has helped me build confidence and I wanted to share that with others. 

Maddie Reich

Homemade vegan sufganiyot (jelly filled donuts), @thejewishvegan

Allie: When did you become vegan?

Maddie: I went vegetarian/vegan in 7th grade, so about 11 years ago. My parents didn’t know how to cook vegan, so I had to compromise with them and be vegetarian. I officially went vegan my sophomore year of college. My vegan challah recipe was the first thing I perfected. 

Allie: What is your hope for your Instagram account?

Maddie: I think that cooking and baking should be fun and not stressful. I want people – whether they are vegan or not – to learn from it. I also think being vegan is a skill that can be learned, and want to teach people how to be good at reading restaurant menus and nutrition labels. Eventually, I’m going to launch a website that outlines vegan resources, like how and where to find vegan foods. Fun fact: Disney has some pretty good food for vegans!

Allie: What is your favorite recipe?

Maddie: My vegan challah recipe. There is something really special to me about kneading the dough. I have a mixer, but I still make it by hand because I find it therapeutic. The recipe is also very versatile, you can do everything from sprinkles to vegan-beef and cheese. I want to make lavender challah!


Homemade vegan challah with sprinkles, @hejewishvegan

Allie: What is something you really want to accomplish this year?

Maddie: I really want to get to 1,000 followers on my Instagram and may try to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon here in DC.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Maddie: They eat.


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.

A Poem for Purim: Women in the Mikvah (for Vashti)


Vashti Refuses the King’s Summons by Edwin Long, 1878.

Vashti of Iran, so gorgeous and true,

Yet tainted by the world around – what were you to do?

Misused and abused, but still trusting God to save you                                                                             

A shining star from within,

They exiled you into the blowing wind,

Because you wouldn’t obey their every whim.


Don’t dance for the golems who see nothing of you.

You deserve attention. King Ahasuerus – should have been true.

You should be able to say “no” and still be Queen too.

But, they stomped on your soul and tried to force-feed you their seed.


Forever lost from what’s within, but I will never forget that you were a shining star within.

At the end of the day, it’s nice to know that there’s beauty in the struggle; 

Sometimes the world seems so scary, I would want to live in a bubble.


Forgive, but don’t forget, keep your head up because this holiday is to celebrate you! 

You sell me off my dreams when my guards were down, but I’m always going to be found – 

God won’t let me drown.



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.

Not Being Alone In Our Loneliness: Why We Need to Take the Conversation Outside the Jewish World


As the rabbi at GatherDC, I spend a lot of time talking with Jewish 20s and 30s about how hard it is to make actual friends in this city, how difficult it can be to find a Jewish community that feels like a good fit, and how much social circles can change from one year to the next given this area’s transient nature. 

At Gather, we prioritize building relationships between people to help combat this phenomenon of social loneliness, which is an increasing national trend among millennials and Gen Z’ers. 

Last weekend, I took this conversation outside of our usual space and brought it to a group of young adults from across different faith traditions at the 2020 DMV Interfaith Leadership Summit. What I found speaking with about 25 individuals who identified as Muslim, Morman, Christian, Baha’i, and Jewish was that the conversation was not all that different than the conversations I have with Gather community members.

One major part of the discussion focused on the need to redefine where and how we make community. In our very modern context, where people move away from the place they grew up in, where they may move around every few years, and where there are so many more options for how to belong, community is not something we just join, but something we have to proactively seek out. 

The obvious reason for how we think people get together is a shared piece of identity – be it a religion or culture, for example. Often, when we grow up in such a community, we expect to be able to replicate it wherever we go by virtue of sharing that piece of identity with others. But, what we find is that shared identity does not necessarily a true friend or community make, at least right off the bat. 

Several participants said that upon moving to DC, they realized that showing up at a religious institution or community event was not necessarily going to be the way they found sustaining friendship or community. I know this all too well from my own conversations and experiences in the Jewish world. 

We talked about how, although it may be easier and more organic to create smaller, more intimate communities of peers, we could wind up sacrificing broader social and intergenerational support networks. Some individuals said that they decided to look for pieces of connection with others that weren’t based on a shared religious or cultural backgrounds. They had to redefine the organizing principle of their relationships and what connected them to one another. This brought up a few questions:

  • How do we actually build these supportive communities?
  • How do we get to the point where people really know us and us, them?
  • How do we get a point where we are warmly welcomed when we show up and noticeably missed when we don’t?

In a city where networking happy hours abound, we are not always getting the right vehicle to connect with people in ways that move us beyond our exteriors. And this is especially true for people who don’t go to happy hours for religious, health, or social reasons. 

Instead, we discussed how we might venture into deeper conversations with people we meet at work, yoga class, or at synagogue or church events. What would it mean to ask people to share much more about themselves than what they do or study, like, “How do you prefer to spend your time?” “What brings you joy?” “What really matters to you in your life?” and modeling the vulnerability in our answers that we want to see come out in theirs. 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote,

“A person insists not only on being satisfied, but also on being able to satisfy; on being a need and not only having needs. Personal needs come and go, but one anxiety remains: Am I needed? There is no person who has not been moved by that anxiety.” 

I brought this quote to the group, and one person mentioned that if we spend time proactively asking how we can be of help to others, we might be able to fill our sense of loneliness. Volunteering and supporting those around us can make us needed and in turn, have our own needs met.

Heschel’s sentiment deeply resonated and is something we often forget when think about how to fill our own social needs. 

What I’m taking away from this experience is a rather odd sense of comfort in knowing that young Jews are not alone in feeling lonely and frustrated in not finding a sense of home. At the same time, I’m realizing more than ever that we need to join with people outside of our own affiliations to combat social isolation. 

In testing the waters last week, I was heartened to see that complete strangers were able to open up so honestly and vulnerability. I believe this is exactly how we can begin to address loneliness, with a special mix of a proper intention and an invitation to the kinds of conversations that help us not feel so alone. 




About the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and creating real and meaningful connections with them. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.






The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


Your Purim Playlist

purim dancing

My favorite holiday is approaching, which is a celebration that indulges in drinking and dancing all night. And no, it’s not Mardi Gras. It’s Purim! Or as I like to call it, “Jewish Carnival.” That being said, we need a soundtrack to celebrate both feminist queens: Queen Esther and Queen Vashti. 

According to Times of Israel, Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) describes how the Jewish Queen Esther used her influence in the harem to avert a slaughter of the king’s Jewish subjects. In recent years, there has been a slew of feminist interpretations, about Vashti, the tensions between Esther’s subservient role in the king’s household, and the power she asserts as his queen by saying no to his demands. Queen Esther submissiveness can also be seen as an act of radical feminism because even while she obeyed Mordechai, she fasted to acknowledge the sacrifice she was making to save her tribe. Queen Esther used her beauty to her advantage. 


Esther Haram; Edwin Long, 1878, England. Bibleing.com

So, here are some tracks that will inspire you to party all night this Purim, and lyrically celebrate the femist spirit of the holiday. This is especially significant because we are now in Women’s History Month. So dance on, celebrate, and toast to Queen Esther who saved our tribe with sacrifice and ruach. It’s the one time every year that we can brush off our problems and reset our minds. That’s why it’s especially important to have a spot-on soundtrack to dance your way through the whole megillah of the night. I hope these jams add extra swag to your Purim with captions worth a tweet.                       

Keep Ya head up by Tupac Shakur       

“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”   

Motion by Drake

”Try being with somebody that wanna be somebody else

I always thought she was perfect when she was being herself”      

Sure Shot by Beastie Boys 

 “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue

The disrespect to the women has got to be through

To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends

I want to offer my love and respect to the end”    

Zulu Dreams by Goldlink  

Snatch their wig, possess their soul

A man on road, squad on go

Your neck on green, my neck on froze”                 

Is This Love by Bob Marley                

“I want to love you, and treat you right

I want to love you, every day and every night

We’ll be together, with a roof right over our heads

We’ll share the shelter, of my single bed

We’ll share the same room”                                   

Secret Garden by Bruce Springsteen                 

“If you pay the price

She’ll let you deep inside

But there’s a secret garden she hides…”      

Bayti fi rasi by A-WA     

“My home is in my head                                    

 I’m a refugee in life

Wherever I go, it is with me”                                        

Zipporah by Goldlink       

“Shower you wit’ some poems

Shower you wit’ some songs

Remember the drawing I made?

Remember the flowers I gave?

Remember the time that we spent?

Remember the time that we missed?

Don’t let that happen again

Go find you a better man”                                         

Godspeed by Frank Ocean   

“And there will be mountains you won’t move

Still I’ll always be there for you”      

Bonita Applebum by A Tribe Called Quest 

“Hey “Bonita, glad to meet ya/For the kind of stunning newness,

I must have foreseen ya/Hey, being with you is a top priority

Ain’t no need to question the authority”



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.