Apply Now for GatherDC’s Giving Circle

Make an impact.

In just 4 weeks, you can make a lasting impact on your community.

This June, GatherDC is launching a 4-week long Giving Circle that will bring together a group of passionate young adults who pool their money to give to nonprofits across the DC-area seeking to improve the lives of those who need it most. As a whole, the group will donate $1,000+ to a local nonprofit of their choosing.


What will you do as a part of the Giving Circle?

  • Attend 3 learning sessions led by GatherDC’s Jackie Zais and Mollie Sharfman to explore Jewish values related to charity
  • Attend 1 Giving Circle dinner where you will vote on which nonprofit to donate the money to
  • Discover your unique commitment to social change through philanthropy

Why should you apply?

  • Meet like-minded young adults who share your passion for philanthropy and tikkun olam (repairing the world)
  • Discover the power of collective giving at valuable learning sessions
  • Explore Jewish values related to philanthropy
  • Make a meaningful difference in your community

Dates: Wednesdays from 7:00 to 9:00pm on June 6, June 13, June 20, and June 27, 2018

Location: All meetings will take place at GatherDC’s office in Dupont Circle (1817 M Street NW)

Contact: For questions, contact Mollie Sharfman at




Note: As a part of the GatherDC Giving Circle, you agree to donate $100 to the Giving Circle pool that will be donated to a local nonprofit organization the group decides on together.






GatherDC is committed to making Jewish experiences accessible for young adults in a variety of circumstances across the DC area. If cost is a barrier, please email GatherDC welcomes the participation of interfaith individuals, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. GatherDC fosters inclusive communities and strives to accommodate all needs whenever possible. If your 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. 

By attending, you understand that photographs and/or video may be taken at this event, and may appear on the GatherDC website, publications, or other media.

Meet Alyssa: Jewish Moishe House Resident of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to

Alyssa Silva is a woman of many talents. She can plan a 300 person Jewish event, sell kosher meats to farmer’s market samplers, and dominate on the softball field. This is why we’re pretty bummed she’s leaving us this summer 🙁 Before she goes, we wanted to make sure all of our readers have the chance to get to know her, and both meet and say goodbye in person at her going away party this coming Sunday. Alyssa – thanks for all you have done and continue to do to make Jewish DC so incredible! We will miss you.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Alyssa: I was coming from Tucson, Arizona. When I decided I wanted to move to DC, I reached out to my friend Tiffany Harris  – who I met at a Moishe House retreat in Arizona – to see if she knew of any housing or job opportunities. She told me there was a resident opening at Moishe House Columbia Heights. One thing led to another, and I moved into that house with Tiffany soon after!

When the Moishe House Columbia Heights accepted me, I drove cross-country to move into the house and figured I would find a job later.

Allie: What is it like living in a Moishe House?

Alyssa: It’s been a whirlwind. I’ve lived here for two years and have seen four different people move in and out as residents. I’ve seen our community change a lot in two years, everything from people who just want to party and meet Jewish singles, to people who want to pursue Jewish learning. I’ve hosted over 168 programs since being here! Overall, I’ve made some really good friends, and met hundreds of people who I’ve connected with in some way.

Allie: What Moishe House program stands out the most?

Alyssa: The Syrian Sweets Soiree. This event went viral. We released the event and overnight there were over 3,000 people said they were interested on Facebook. The event tickets were donation-based and would go to the Syrian American Council, and we had a speaker who was speaking about Syrian refugees and the crisis there. We had sold over 500 tickets and raised over $5,000 to help Syrian families trying to resettle in the U.S. Since we couldn’t fit 500 people in the Moishe House, we held it at Hawthorne, which gave us their rooftop space for free.

Allie: I hear that you’re soon going to be leaving us to live in Israel. Tell me about that!

Alyssa: I’ve decided that it’s time to continue my education and am going to be doing a Jewish Experiential Educators program at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem! I’ll be moving out of Moishe House at the end of May, and you’re all invited to my going away party this coming Sunday!

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Alyssa: With people that I love, having a beautiful song-led Kabbalat Shabbat where everyone is singing followed by a delicious dinner with lots of wine and talking.

Allie: I hear you keep pretty busy in DC, tell me about that.

Alyssa: I have four jobs! My main job is at Maryland Hillel where i am the Programming and Operations Associate. I’m also a peer-led retreat mentor with Moishe House, and a Moishe House resident so I plan programs programs [as a part of this role]. I also work at the Bethesda Central Farm Market for a kosher meat distributor called CWS where I help him sell kosher sandwiches and ribs.

Allie: Wow! How did wind up working at the Bethesda Central Farm Market?

Alyssa: I was on JSwipe one day and swiped right on a guy named Hillel. He then messaged me and asked if I wanted to help him sell meat on Sundays. I didn’t totally get what he meant, but he explained that his brother owns a meat business and wanted someone to help with sales. This was before I found my job at Maryland Hillel, so I said “sure”! It was a way I could make some easy cash on Sundays. It’s super fun and the guys are awesome.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Alyssa: I play softball every week with DC Fray (just like Alissa!). Finding this team was one of the first things I did when I moved to DC. I played softball in high school, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I didn’t know anyone on the team, and now I’ve been on the same team for two years! I also wind down by being a the farmer’s market on Sundays. It’s super calm and just fun. I’m your typical extrovert – so sitting in my room not talking to anyone would make me stressed out.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model and why?

Alyssa: My mom. Growing up, it was really important to my mom that I learn about my Jewish heritage, because she didn’t grow up with that. My mom and I learned about Judaism together. When I was in middle school, my mom taught a class called Social Action Sunday at my Hebrew School. Instead of sitting in a classroom, she had us go to a men or women’s shelter or animal rescue and actually do tikkun olam together. My mom has always pushed me to be the ultimate kind person and be a Jewish role model to my peers.

Allie: What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Alyssa: Portugal. My last name is Portuguese, and there’s all of this history we don’t know about my father’s side of the family. I’d love to do some digging on that.

Allie: if you could eat only 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

Alyssa: Sushi, specifically salmon sashimi. Gefilte fish. And brisket.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alyssa: We make noise.


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 2018 Shavuot Guide

Shavuot is here! For those wanting a quick refresher on the holiday, here’s a 2-minute Q&A to curb your curiosity.

Q) “What’s Shavuot?” 

A) Shavuot, AKA: “Feast of the Weeks”, is a two-day holiday celebrated 50 days after the first Passover seder (this year,  it goes from sundown on May 19 to sundown on May 21), marking the end of the 50 day counting period between the two holidays. It is believed that the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. To celebrate, it is customary to stay up all night long learning Torah. This is called a Tikkun Leil Shavuot. In recent years, many Jews have started to reimagine Shavuot…engaging not only with traditional Torah texts, but also with more contemporary texts and art. Learn more.

Q) “Do I get the day off work for this?”

A) Technically, we’re not supposed to work on Shavuot. We’re supposed to rest, eat a lot of dairy products (get those Lactaid pills ready), and dive into hardcore Torah study. But, how you choose to celebrate is ultimately up to you.

Q) “Do I have to fast for this one?”

A) Fret not. Rather than fasting, Shavuot involves eating a lot of cheesecake and milkshakes. There’s several reasons for eating dairy meals on this holiday, here’s a few.


Sound like a holiday you could get into? Why not start this year? Here’s some fun Shavuot happenings across DC this month:


Don’t see your event listed? Submit it to our calendar, and then shoot us an email.

Saturday, May 19

Sunday, May 20


Food for Shavuot

1:1 with Artist Jeremy Schonfeld

I recently had the opportunity to speak with creator of the new theatrical concert “Iron & Coal” – Jeremy Schonfeld, and Strathmore’s Vice President of Programming – Joi Brown. Jeremy, Joi, and I discussed the upcoming world premiere performance of “Iron & Coal” at the Strathmore performing arts center.

To provide some background, “Iron & Coal” is a remarkable, theatrical concert about a father-son relationship built in the shadow of the Holocaust. This show is inspired by the memoir of Schonfeld’s father, and will feature a rock band, full orchestra, and over 120 adult and youth voices, including some of our very own young Jewish professional community members!

Iron & Coal composer Jeremy Schonfeld

Stacy: How did you begin working on Iron & Coal?

Jeremy: The show was originally based on an album I created in Vienna in 2011. It’s a concept album based around a father and son, and their parallel emotional journeys. It’s a true to life story based on my own father and I. My father wrote his memoir, “Absence of Closure in 2009. I had initially wanted to musicalize his memoirs, but instead decided to focus on our psychological mindsets, rather than a linear retelling of his stories.

Stacy: Did your father ever hear the album?

Jeremy: I was able to play one of the songs for him from the album just before he passed away. The album came out around the same time that he passed away.

Stacy: Why do you think young adults will be interested in this show?

Jeremy: The show is a mix of harsh, angry, and beautiful with rock and orchestral music that is uplifting, but also has a rawness to it. The piece incorporates multimedia, with a vibe that is Pink Floyd meets the Who’s Tommy. I wanted to take a modern approach to what I do. My hope is that you won’t know exactly where things are going.

Also, I think it’s important that our generation – as children and grandchildren of survivors – is able to explore the emotional journey of the Holocaust.

Joi: This performance does not simply tell the Holocaust story, but rather looks at this topic in a new way. It acknowledges that the next generation has this story in their DNA, that there is a history there, but [the millennial generation] processes it in different ways.  It is a piece that captures people’s emotions, while looking at a collective history. The next generation is given the chance to reflect on this. Jeremy’s musical style is very accessible, and draws on artists and performances from Billy Joel to “Rent” to classical choral passages.

Stacy: Why did you decide to bring “Iron and Coal” to Strathmore?

Joi: Typically, we bring artists that have an established touring structure, but this was an opportunity to be direct partners with an artist on a collaborative, community project. Our staff has personally been able to be involved in more of a long term process from working with soloists and casting to creating storyboards.

Iron & Coal animation by Tom Seltzer


“Iron & Coal” tickets are now on sale – use code “GatherDC” for 20% off your ticket price. Performances are this Thursday, May 3rd and Friday, May 4th. Check out a sneak preview.


About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.


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 Town That Was Once a Concentration Camp

Theresienstadt is just a town. A small village, really, with a patch of green grass framed by sleepy sidewalks residing at its center. As we stood in the center, I noticed the ashen trees that lined the seemingly abandoned alleyways.

They were the same trees which appeared in the drawings hanging in the museum; drawings which were found curled up in the creases between the walls. Now, the walls have been re-worked with a fresh coat of paint. But not the trees. The dead trees still line the alleyways, like frozen ghosts which never leave.

It only took five minutes before I realized people live in Theresienstadt today. I couldn’t fathom how people wanted to live there—to eat, to sleep, to make love—in the place that had once been a concentration camp. “If you ask the residents why they are living here, they won’t understand the question,” explained the Czech tour guide. “It was their home before it was a concentration camp, so after the war they moved back.

Beyond the trees we saw the train tracks where thousands were shipped to extermination camps. A man walks his dog next to the tracks now.

Theresienstadt was the “show camp” for the outside world, a place where prisoners were allowed to draw pictures, make music, and act in plays. When the Red Cross came, the Jews changed the ending of Hansel and Gretel so that instead of the witch being thrown into the oven, the kids were cast into the oven instead. It was a warning, but the Red Cross missed it. They spent only five hours in Theresienstadt, two of which were spent eating lunch, and they deemed it humane. Two weeks later, those same little kids who played Hansel and Gretel were burned to death in Auschwitz.

Theresienstadt was meant for 6,000, but held nearly 60,000. Prisoners were forced to work with barely any food or water until their jagged cheek bones and hip bones became sharper than the biting outside air. They worked and lived and slept and breathed and diseased diseased diseased together until they perished from sickness or until they were shipped to an extermination camp.

The last place we visited was the crematorium, which engulfed 35,000 bodies. Somehow, that was only a drop in the bucket of the 11 million murdered during the Holocaust, 6 million of which were Jews.

We held small, round candles while we stood in the crematorium. I brought my pointer finger close enough to the flame to feel its heat on my flesh. G-d said, “Let there be Light,” and there was. And with that, he created the possibility for darkness. Humans took that possibility and made light their prisoner. They made fire their prisoner in the darkness of that crematorium.

I cradled the little piece of light in the palm of my hands. How does one reclaim the fire that burned up our people, my people, this nation, this religion, this race, this what? What are we but the remnants of something so horrific that we just try to forget? What is it that has kept us persevering longer than any nation in the history of the world?  What is the code that Jews live by?

Lithograph by Leo Haas (1901-1983), Holocaust artist, who survived Theresienstadt and Auschwitz

Be a light unto the world. But the world burned us up.

Cupping his candle, which gently illuminated his ponytail and colorful knitted kippah, the Rabbi told us a story of how he and his students were kicked out of Auschwitz the year before. “To be honest, though,” he laughed, “if there is anywhere in the world you do want to get kicked out of, it’s probably Auschwitz.”

“Why did you get kicked out of Auschwitz?” we all asked.

“We were singing. We were singing “Am Yisrael Hai” (The People of Israel Live), and we were kicked out because we were told it was a somber place and singing was not allowed. But if Jews looked at suffering like that…if we weren’t the type of people to go back to these places and sing, we would never have survived.”

We stood together in a circle, none of us sure how to cry, if to cry, what to cry about when there is no way to comprehend. So we all stood, none of us crying, but none of us with dry eyes either.

And then, slowly, one voice joined another, the lights of our candles dancing in unison with our breath as together we sang “Hatikvah” (The Hope), the Israeli national anthem.

Moments later our wicks disappeared, and we left for the airport to head back home to Jerusalem.


NOTE: To learn more about the lasting impact of the Holocaust on our peoplehood, join Mesorah DC for a special presentation with a survivor at Sixth and I Synagogue on Monday, May 7th.


About the Author: Idalia Friedson lives and works in DC. In her free time, she enjoys doing Krav Maga, singing too loudly, and attending Gather DC’s Wednesday night learning group with Rabbi Aaron Potek.





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 Valerie: Jewish Real Estate Agent of the Week

Get to know Valerie Bluestein, and then meet her – and other Jewish People of the Week – in person at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Valerie: I’m one of the very few DC natives! I was born at Georgetown Hospital, spent most of my childhood in Bethesda, and then went to college at University of Maryland. I’m pretty convinced that my parents brainwashed me into never moving more than 30 minutes away. Although, DC is a great place to live. So, if I’m going to be stuck somewhere, I’m glad it’s here.

Allie: What is it like to be married to the Pickle Eating Champion of DC (AKA: Max Bluestein)?

Valerie: My grocery bill has tripled, and I’ve learned to eat fast. Max is the eating champion of everything, not just pickles. I remember we had just started dating when he participated in one of the pickle eating competitions –and I was simultaneously impressed, revolted, and intrigued. But being married to Max is wonderful. We really have the best time together.

Allie: How did you meet Mr. Bluestein?

We have differing perspectives on whether our first date was a date. As someone who was taught to be courted, I didn’t count “lets meet up after my friend’s birthdayday dinner at 11pm” as a date. I thought that was just a friendly get-together. So, when I texted him before that “get-together” that I couldn’t make it, he thought I stood him up (I thought we could just reschedule)…so we didn’t talk for 3 years. Luckily, we reconnected at a Jewish event and were able to explain each of our sides of the story, confess that we both had crushes on each other, and seal it with a kiss. Good thing he’s already had his Jewish Person of the Week interview, so I’ll get the final say on this :).

Allie: Why – did you become a real estate agent?

Valerie: I’ve always been fascinated by real estate, and HGTV was always in the background at home. I’m not sure why I never considered it as a career before now. But, I decided it was time to change gears after being at my job for 8 years. After having lots of informational interviews, I decided to dive into real estate sales since it incorporates all of the skill-sets I’ve developed, and I would be doing what i love most.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Valerie: Enjoying a dinner with close friends.

Allie: What is your number one piece of house-hunting advice?

Valerie: You’re going to have to think with both your head and your heart. There’s so much that goes into the process – financial, emotional. It’s exciting and scary, and really important that you find  a real estate agent who understands what you want and need, and gets your personality.

Allie: What is your favorite show to binge watch?

Valerie: I’ve already watched “Veronica Mars” 3 times, and I would be down to watch it again anytime.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Valerie: A combination of exercise, reading, or napping.

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Valerie: Being married to Max has increased my travel 1,000%. I’d love to go to Hawaii next.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Valerie: There’s a lot of food and a lot of fun.



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 Improv Workshop

Learn improv for FREE with Rabbi Aaron Potek as he leads a 3-week workshop on his 2 favorite things: Judaism and improv.
Improv and Judaism can be seen either as a fringe hobby or a way of life. In this three-week-long workshop, we’ll attempt to unpack some wisdom behind both improv and Judaism, with a focus on where these two philosophies intersect. The workshop will integrate Jewish texts and improv exercises. Participants will come away with new perspectives on Judaism, fun improv games, and a “spiritual” practices to incorporate into their daily interactions. No prior experience with a background knowledge of improv or Judaism required.


What: Jewish Improv Workshop
WhenTuesdays from 7-9 pm, May 15, 22, and 29
WhoDC-area Jewish young adults
Where: GatherDC’s Townhouse – 1817 M St
Cost: Free
Questions: Email Mollie Sharfman at
DEADLINE TO APPLY: Friday, May 4th at 5 pm 


About Rabbi Aaron Potek
Aaron Potek was born and raised in Saint Louis Park, MN and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Engineering. After receiving rabbinical ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, NY, he served as the campus rabbi at Northwestern University. Aaron currently works with Jewish 20’s and 30’s as the Community Rabbi for GatherDC in Washington, DC. He has studied improv at UCB in NY, iO in Chicago, and WIT in DC. He currently performs with Keegan Hines on the two-person team “Double Stuff”

Booze and W2s… and Shabbat?

If I told you that I celebrated Shabbat with 30 strangers in a distillery, you’d probably say I had one too many glasses of wine and was imagining things.

My response would be, no, I celebrated Shabbat in a new way, with new friends in an environment that cultivated meaningful experiences in the DC community. And I’d finish with, “Welcome to the world of OneTable.”

Shabbat is my favorite part of the week. I gather with friends, enjoy good food, even better conversation, and am oftentimes wearing leggings and a sweatshirt! That being said, two years ago, I rarely participated in Shabbat experiences. I would observe Shabbat – at most – once a year. I would have never believed it would be something I would eventually do almost weekly, and even more, something I looked forward to.

Let’s go back to last Friday.

Imagine a crowded room with everyone raising a shot glass and saying kiddush. While the traditional wine may have been swapped with vodka, the meaning and intention behind the “ritual” was felt by every person in that room, no matter their religion or practices. With cocktails named after tax puns, juicy barbecue from Sloppy Mama’s, and an exclusive tour of One Eight Distilling, my Shabbat last week was unlike any other I’d ever experienced. I truly felt enriched and connected to my community here in DC.

For me, Shabbat is all about the community you bring together and the conversations you have over a good meal. It’s a way to take a break from your busy week, reflecting on all that’s happened (I like to do high“lights” from the week as a part of my Shabbat candle lighting ritual) and all to come. If tradition is important to you, by all means go for it! As I like to say, “you do you.” Don’t let anybody tell you your Shabbat isn’t enough. If it provides meaning for you, then you are doing Shabbat your way, and the “right” way.

Now, not every Shabbat of mine involves tax puns and shots, but last week’s “Booze and W2’s Shabbat” with OneTable (named in celebration of having made it through this year’s tax deadline) showcased the creative approach to Shabbat that OneTable provides and the ease of introducing Shabbat into your life. There are several dinners on the platform that are open to the public, so take a look and sign up for a dinner! Or better yet, sign up to host your own, and you too can do Shabbat your way – whatever that may look like.

Shabbat Shalom – and here’s to hoping that tax refund comes in the mail sometime soon!




About the Author: Judith Rontal  hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, even if that was at 10 pm. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her blog, Aluminum Foiled Kitchen, and in her daily life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations. When not in the kitchen working on a new recipe to serve at her next dinner party, you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the Rock Creek Park trails. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.



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 Conversation With My Bone Marrow on Her 15th Birthday

On every anniversary of my bone marrow transplant, I try to write a story of reflection. This is one such story in recognition of the 15th anniversary since I had my bone marrow transplant and have been cancer-free. This story is fantasy, so please suspend reality for a moment.

My 15-year-old “daughter” says that since I was born in the period when the sun passed through the constellation Capricornus, I’m—according to her favorite lifestyle magazine Elle—charming, graceful, and a freak in the sheets, lady in the streets. My daughter says this as we sit at our pollen-covered bistro set on the covered balcony of our ninth-floor apartment overlooking Crystal and Pentagon Cities. Clouds have rolled in and it has begun raining.

“I’m so glad I got that messy self-exploration out of the way!” I tell my daughter. “Now that I know myself fully, I can begin honing my sheets-and-streets skills.”

It’s cool being able to talk like this with my daughter. Though, that’s because I didn’t conceive her. She’s the stem cells collected from an anonymous baby girl’s umbilical cord. The cells were transplanted into me on April 24, 2003, to treat my second cancer called myelodysplasia. Those stem cells repopulated inside my bone marrow, and now my blood is her XX blood. My immune system is partially hers. I am partially her.

“But hold up,” says Bone Marrow—that’s what I call my daughter—“In Japan, your blood type is apparently more important than your zodiac sign. You’re type O-positive, right?…Like, duh, obvi you are because we have the same blood type. So some rando site called Body ecology says that since your blood type is O-positive, you handle stress well and you’re daring.”

“I’ll take it!” I tell her.

“Um ohmagawsh, it says you also have a well-developed physique?”

“That is true, I am shredded!” I reply.


“I mean, I will be again when I stop eating ALL THE CANDY. What does “Elle” say about me based on my blood type?” I ask Bone Marrow.

“Let’s see what it says about you based on the blood type you were born with and had until I changed you.” Click click click. Bone Marrow searches the internet even faster than birch pollen leads my face to mushroom. My heart swells when I consider she’s so much more brilliant than anyone else’s bone marrow. She is one big reason why I rarely catch colds, haven’t developed a third cancer or had a recurrence, and have allergies.

“”Elle Singapore” says A-positive people are creative and calm.” Bone Marrow tells me.

“Amazing, that is me!”

“But, like, it also says you are stubborn and, like, avoid confrontation.”

“…I’ve been O-positive for 15 years, so let’s go with that daring stuff instead.”

I think more about how my blood type changed. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t even have believed it was possible. But then again, my personality has changed, too. Life is long for the fortunate ones. Long enough for us to change and learn and do almost anything. Bone Marrow has extended my life by 15 years and counting. When I feel sad about my inadequacies, I just have to remember that each day—each interaction, even—is a new opportunity to learn something new and become adequate. Thanks to Bone Marrow, I can do anything.

Neither of us speaks for a bit, and I can hear the rain splatter on the balcony railing. I look down to the ground at the greenery. The color reminds me of the towering trees I encountered the first time I left the University of Minnesota hospital after my stem cell transplant. When I was admitted, everything was frozen, and 65 days later when I exited the lobby’s revolving doors, I saw that the world had sprung to life. I feel so happy sitting here with Bone Marrow on her fifteenth birthday I could cry.

“What’d you get me for my birthday?” Bone Marrow says, interrupting the quiet. “It better be hot. It better make the boy bone marrows and girl bone marrows all cray cray for me. You know, I’m still exploring.”

Just when I was getting all sentimental about Bone Marrow, as I often do around her birthday, she reminds me she’s still a teenage girl. As much as I have to learn about overcoming inadequacy, I still have much to learn about parenting a horny Bone Marrow.

“Of course I did, Sweetie,” I say, reaching towards the plate on the table to grab a piece of chard to eat. “I learned how to sauté this in macadamia nut oil just for us!”

Bone Marrow sighs and makes some serious eye-rolling. “What?” I say.

“What do you mean, ‘What?’ You’re such a basic bone marrow host.”

“What’s ‘basic’? Chard is one of the most nutrient-dense foods! How else will we live to 150 years old?” I ask Bone Marrow.

“Only a basic would say ‘What’s basic.’ Ugh I can’t believe they put my cells in you.”

My hemoglobin drops. I know because I suddenly feel tired. Bone Marrow must have caused the drop because she’s really upset. “Calm down, I was just kidding. I got you something for real.”

I feel a jolt of energy. She’s excited. “What, what! Don’t you dare say you got me watercress.”

I laugh. My little Bone Marrow is so funny sometimes. I can’t believe she was transplanted into me 15 years ago. I remember that moment as clearly as if it happened not yesterday, but just now.

“I got you MoviePass!” I say as I show her the debit card that allows us to get right in for any movie in almost any theater.

Bone Marrow screams, and it doesn’t sound like the good kind. “Like OH-MA-GAWSH, you’re the most basic bone marrow host ever! How did you not know that I only watch Netflix shows? Movies are for old people. Ugh!”

I exclusively watch movies and not shows, apparently because I am old. I am old in part thanks to Bone Marrow. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and happy birthday, Sweetie.


Your ever-grateful host

Celebrating Bone Marrow’s 15th birthday (and 15 years cancer-free)



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 booksHe earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. You can wish his bone marrow a happy birthday on FacebookYou can subscribe to his quarterly newsletter, Words by ruBENstein.





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 Sarah: Jewish Defender of the Week

After living in Lebanon, walking with lions in Africa, and trying to retrace her grandfather’s historical trek around the globe, this worldly woman found her homebase at the U.S. Department of Defense. Get to know Sarah Geller, a far from #basic, multilingual, workout-loving fashionista in our 1:1 interview…and then meet her in person – and other Jewish People of the Week – at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

At my best friend’s wedding in Philly

Allie: How did you wind up working at the Department of Defense?

Sarah: I was a Middle Eastern Studies and Politics major at college, which is part of what led me to study abroad in Lebanon. Although I think my mom had a heart attack every day while I was there, [being in Lebanon] was incredible. It reminded me a lot of Israel. I met great friends, and I worked on my Arabic.

When you step away from your normal culture and way of life, you appreciate and have a different perspective on things. While in Lebanon and traveling through the Middle East, I developed a unique appreciation for American values and the freedoms we have. I decided that the best way for me to contribute to society would be working for the Department of Defense – behind the scenes, not on the front lines. But, I am deeply in awe of the people who can be on the front lines.

Allie: How have your Jewish values informed your career?

Sarah: It might seem ironic–because the Department of Defense may bring about images of war and guns – but what we do is about making a positive impact on the world. I believe in the bigger American picture, and see us as working towards a peaceful solution in the end, which relates to the Jewish idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

Allie: Do you have a favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Met Jordan Klepper of Comedy Central at the Newseum

Sarah: Eating challah and having dinner with friends. I’m not super religious, but I appreciate taking that time to step back from the day-to-day craziness of life and have a good meal with friends. And if Judaism says you have to, then alright, I’m going to eat and drink wine with friends. It’s simple, but I like it.

Allie: How would spend the day in DC if you had an entirely free day and money was no object?

Sarah: I would get breakfast at A Baked Joint, which has really good food and coffee for a good price. Hopefully it would be a nice day in DC, and I’d just walk the entire city. I’d love to go to the monuments, maybe go to a museum, and then walk to Georgetown for some shopping. At night, I’d start with a nice dinner somewhere at Le Diplomate, someplace you can get dressed up for. Then, I would get drinks at a cocktail or hotel bar like POV at the W, and then go out with friends.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax?

Sarah: Working out – I like FlyBarre, Solid Core, and exercising with my roommate – who’s not currently my personal trainer, but I really want him to be! After a good work out, I like taking a long hot shower and sitting in my room with a candle, reading a book…or just taking a nap.

Allie: If you could only eat 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Sarah: My grandma’s french toast, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cauliflower. I love cauliflower. I prefer my cauliflower stir-fried, with basil, salt, pepper, and cumin (it might be basic but I think it’s delicious).

Walked with lions in Zambia, Africa

Allie: Where’s the coolest place you’ve traveled?

Sarah: My mom used to live and work in Zambia, Africa, and we went there as a family trip. I got to walk with lions while I was there, which was terrifying and exhilarating.

Allie: What else is on your bucket list of places to travel?

Sarah: My grandfather was in the Coast Guard during WWII. From that experience, he traveled almost the entire world. I’m trying to follow his footsteps of where he went. I’ve been to India, Nova Scotia, England, and South Africa – where he docked. I have Australia, Italy, and Morocco left on the list and then, I will have completed where he’s been. It’s really cool to be a part of that history.

Allie: Who are your Jewish role models?

Sarah: Outside of family, I’d say Diane Von Fürstenberg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They are strong women who have overcome a lot to get to where they are, and they have shown that you can be successful and do well with integrity and perseverance.

Allie: Complete the sentence…When Jews of DC Gather?

Sarah: They make Jewish babies


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.