Meet Aurell: Jewish Doctor of the Week

aurellAllie: What brought you to DC?

Aurell: I’m from Kansas City, originally, went to medical school in Tel Aviv. Most recently, I was living in Denver after residency but had no family around because they’re all in DC. I also wanted to find a place with a bigger Jewish community. So, I looked for jobs in DC and found a hospital that fit what I was looking for, and moved here. 

Allie: What kind of medicine do you practice?

Aurell: I did my residency in internal medicine, and practice as a hospitalist, which is basically an internal doctor who only works in hospitals. I see a lot of cancer patients, and patients with pretty challenging cases.

Allie: What’s your favorite thing about being a doctor?

Aurell: I feel like it’s something I can become better at all the time as I deal with challenging situations and learn to problem solve. I can feel myself becoming a better physician each year, and that’s the best gift you can give to a future patient. I really like interacting with patients and collaborating with the people on my team. It’s very rewarding.

What’s your favorite way to relax after a long work week in the hospital?

Aurell: I like treating myself to spa days. A facial, massages, anything involved in going to a spa. I also recently started playing golf which is very fun.

Allie: Describe your perfect DC day from start to finish.

Aurell: I’d wake up very late. I really enjoy sleeping in. Then, I’d work out. I like doing lots of different types of exercises like spinning, boxing, lifting weights. I’d pick one of those to do. At night, I’d probably go see an artist I like at the 9:30 Club. I like upbeat, dance music, but have pretty eclectic taste. I recently saw Zara Larsson there and have tickets to see Lauv at The Anthem

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Aurell: When I lived in Israel my favorite Jewish holiday was Shavuot because it was widely celebrated, but since moving to DC my favorite holiday has shifted to Hanukkah. There are just so many fun activities and the whole thing seems to last a month. I see my friends more often around Hanukkah time because there are so many fun events for young adults.

aurellAllie: Do you have any Jewish New Year resolutions?

Aurell: I don’t. I’m not into making resolutions because I feel like you should always be working on and for yourself. My mantra is to continuously be better, learn from others, and not wait for a certain time to work on yourself.

Allie: Do you have anything on your bucket list?

Aurell: I want to go on a big Scotland, Ireland, England trip. There is a lot of history and scenery I want to see.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Aurell: Babies are made.

 

 

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.

Back To The Future

traylor

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” 

As someone who loved learning about history in school, I always found this saying inspiring. Our history, whether it’s of the Jewish people, the United States, or the world, gives us a roadmap for how to approach the many decisions and situations that appear in our lives each and every day. And our Torah portion this week reiterates this idea.

In Parashat Ki Teitzei, the Israelites receive dozens of commandments as we prepare to enter the Promised Land. After several of these commandments, we read: 

“Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.” – Deuteronomy 24:22

As rational as the many commandments about family life, animals, property, and farming are, we’re reminded of our history as slaves in the land of Egypt and the oppression that we’ve faced. Without these reminders about our history, the Israelites may have been doomed to fall into similar situations, or, even worse, repeat the oppressions of Pharaoh. The portion’s last words are a triumphant, “Do not forget!”, challenging us once again to remember who the Israelites are and the experiences that have brought them to this point. 

We’ve all learned various lessons in our lives that have come to shape who we are and what we believe. By knowing our history – our family history, the key experiences in our lives, our values that guide us along the way – we can continue the journey of becoming our best selves and living our best lives. 

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evan

About the AuthorEvan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Meet Carolyn: Jewish Influencer of the Week!

She’s wielding her Instagram powers for communal good. Get to know Carolyn Becker, the fashion forward, plant-based brains behind @DCVeganLife, @FindingYourGood, and @Petite_Punk.

WARNING: This interview may cause hunger.

carolyn

Photo by @Petite_Punk

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Carolyn: I was born here, raised in Bethesda, and then went to American University. I’ve always loved this city so I never moved. I joke that rather than move to different states, I just moved from State Street to State Street.

Allie: Tell me how the @DCVeganLife Instagram account came to be.

Carolyn: I’ve been a vegetarian since college and had a lot of vegan friends. Then, one of my best friends said that for her birthday she wanted her friends to try going vegan for a week. So I said, “heck yes” and went to Yes! and bought all the Daiya cheese and vegan deli meats. I love deli sandwiches! But, being the petite size that I am, I had leftovers after the week ended. I hate wasting food so I just continued begin vegan. 

Shortly after that, I started @DCVeganLife. I was already active on Instagram documenting my thrifting adventures, so I figured this would just be one more account to run – it’s fine. Mostly, I was so excited about the foods I could have as a vegan – like fried ice cream and donuts. I also really love supporting local vegan businesses and wanted to help fuel the local DC vegan community. I made a strict posting schedule and tagged other brands – and it just started to grow from there. 

Photo by @DCVeganLife, from Sugar Shack Donuts Arlington

Allie: What’s your favorite part of running @DCVeganLife?

Carolyn: Supporting and connecting with the DC vegan community, specifically with businesses who do not have as big of a budget as other companies. There are some brands that I hold dear to my heart like Donut Run and Pow Pow, because I’ve been able to help them grow, and that brings me so much satisfaction.

Allie: Walk me through your dream DC eating day.

Carolyn: I’d start with a dope breakfast bagel sandwich at Bethesda Bagels. I’d get a whole wheat everything bagel with creamy veggie tofu cream cheese with a side of fruit salad. For lunch, I love Little Sesame. I’d get their cauliflower hummus bowl and their tahini soft serve. It’s so fresh and healthy and feels good. I’d get a snack later on at Sticky Fingers; either a calvin cookie or a cupcake. Or maybe both! For dinner, I’d get Menomale pizza with vegan cheese. They have scissors so you can cut your own slices. Or Roscoe’s Pizzeria in Takoma Park. Then, I’d have to get a slice of vegan funfetti cake at Fare Well for dessert.

vegan pizza

Photo by @DCVeganLife, from ROSCOE’S Neapolitan Pizzeria

Allie: On top of running your vegan food Instagram, you have a full time job; tell me about that.

Carolyn: DC Vegan Life is my 6pm-8am. From 9-5pm, I’m the DC Communications Manager for Goodwill of Greater Washington. I run their social media platforms, and am one of their in-house photographers and event planners. In that capacity, I get to connect with the local DC community from a sustainable fashion capacity through their lifestyle community brand, Finding Your Good..

Allie: Why is sustainable fashion and veganism so important to you?

Carolyn: It all goes back to supporting community and loving your home. When you make a purchase, you have a lot of power. I think it’s so important to take a moment to think about whether your purchases are supporting organizations that are doing good in the community, supporting animals or people, or not. In regards to fashion – when you buy something new, that leads to more trash, which creates poison in the world. You don’t have to buy, buy, buy to have interesting fashion. I actually think it’s really cool to have the confidence to repeat outfits. Buying recycled fashion from local thrift stores can make such a difference – both for the people in the community and for the environment.

Allie: What are some things you like to do to relax?

Carolyn: Walking. It is one of the most therapeutic and invigorating activities; you’re exercising, exploring your city, all while saving money on a gym membership. I also love to thrift. I love finding that gem in the rough, and have a passion for one-of-a-kind finds and vintage fashion. I love being outdoors – hiking, urban foraging, discovering edible trees and plants, and baking vegan treats with my boyfriend, Steven.

Photo by @DCVeganLife, vegan funfetti cake from Farewell

Allie: What would people be surprised to know about you?

Carolyn: I do have time to watch Netflix! 

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the Jewish New Year?

Carolyn: To slow down and relax.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Carolyn: We can foster a greater sense of community and build a stronger DC.

Photo by @Petite_Punk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

or

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

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

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

itay
Restaurant #1: Little Sesame

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

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

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

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

Our rating: a humMUST! 

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

little sesame

Restaurant #2: Yafa Grille

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

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

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

Our rating: a humMISS.

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

yaffa

Restaurant #3: Shouk

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

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

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

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

Our rating: a humMUST!

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

shouk

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Meet Elissa: Jewish Economist of the Week

She may seek balance, but this thoughtful PhD candidate can already perform a headstand with ease! Read all about Elissa Cohen and her secret past life as a saber fencer!

Allie: What brought you to DC? 

Elissa: I originally moved from Philly to DC in 2012 to work as a welfare policy researcher at the Urban Institute. At the time, I totally thought I was going to be a member of the transient DC community, and leave after a couple years for grad school. Yet here I am, seven years later; a legit DC resident with a DC driver’s license and all! So, in case you were wondering about DC Statehood – vote yes! 

Allie: Tell me about the PhD you are currently pursuing? 

Elissa: I’m pursuing my PhD in Economics. I had been on the fence about whether a doctoral degree was the right path for me. Ultimately, I decided a research path would allow me to make the impact I wanted on society. Being able to rigorously evaluate the policies and programs we have in place is extremely important to me. So, one day, you know, post dissertation, I hope to use my skills and knowledge to improve the quality and structure of our safety-net and financial systems.

Allie:  What led you to your interest in economics?

Elissa: I was in college during the Great Recession and wanted to understand why socioeconomic systems broke down and led to widespread turmoil. I also observed how the burdens of these system failures were unevenly distributed across the income and wealth distributions. I felt compelled to understand which policies could best help those most vulnerable. 

Allie: What was this awesome program you participated in this past summer in Santa Fe?

Elissa: The Santa Fe Institute’s Complex Systems Summer School! It was basically a nerdy adult summer camp. It brings together an interdisciplinary group of people from around the world come to learn about complexity science, including chaos theory, network theory, and information theory. I was able to start – and am now continuing – to collaborate on projects with some of the incredible people I met from this program.

In addition to all the learning, I managed to find some free time to explore the area! I attended my first rodeo, hiked amazing trails, and got to view inspiring local Native American art. The only thing I wish I could’ve done was go to the Santa Fe Opera, of which RBG is a regular patron! Everyone should find time to go to Santa Fe.

Allie: I hear you’re also a certified yoga instructor, tell me about that!

Elissa: I did my teacher training in 2013 at Studio DC up in AdMo, and it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made in myself. Having practiced yoga for eight years already, I had a strong desire to deepen my physical and meditative practices, and to be able to share the passion I had cultivated for yoga with others.

I love that yoga is a forever practice; there’s always something fun and new to discover within it. There’s this intrinsic recognition that our bodies differ every day, so when we’re flowing through the same sequence again, our experience changes. We inevitably learn – and it’s definitely a learning process – to appreciate the experience in the present, letting go of expectations.

I also love being able to empower my students to have fun and feel comfortable in their own skin. I often hear new students say, “I’m not flexible, so that means I’m bad at yoga”. Having been at that stage myself, I get from where they’re coming; but I also know where they’re going! Yoga is a process…and, you gotta trust the process.

elissa yoga

Allie: It seems like you’re someone who stays pretty busy. What is your favorite thing to do to relax at the end of a long work/school week?

Elissa: Honestly, I really enjoy going to Kabbalat Shabbat services and then having a chill Shabbat dinner with friends to catch up.

Allie: What are some of your favorite Jewish dishes to cook?

Elissa: I’m going to have to say shakshuka. I make my own harissa paste, and there’s something incredibly satisfying about being able to develop layers of flavor in a shakshuka. I’m also of the camp that one should cook the egg in the shakshuka and not separately.

Allie: With the Jewish New Year quickly approaching, what is something you want to achieve in the coming year?

Elissa: I’m seeking balance. The past two years of grad school were quite rough, and so it’s my intention to do a better job this year of making time for friends and family. 

Allie: What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

Elissa: In an earlier life, I used to be a saber fencer, and got to go to Junior Olympics! Perhaps if, and when I have time, I’ll find a fencing club in the area to join. At this point I’m definitely rustier than my sabers.

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

Elissa: …let the Jewish geography games begin. 

elissa c

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.

DID JEW KNOW? It’s already time to dust off that shofar and wake up your soul

did jew know

For all the shofar lovers out there, you may be pleased to know that blowing the shofar is a ritual that can be done well before Rosh Hashanah. In fact, starting this Sunday, when the new Hebrew month of Elul begins, there is a tradition of sounding the ram’s horn every single day for a month up until and including the first day of the next month, a.k.a. Rosh Hashanah, a.k.a. the Jewish New Year. 

Just as you would train for a marathon or practice before performing with your band, it makes sense that we would spend time emotionally preparing ourselves for the High Holy Days. These essential days are a time for making amends with the people we have hurt (including ourselves) and recommitting to our moral values. 

Personally, I’ve come to appreciate having some lead time to gauge where I am in my life and plan for how I can, to the best of my efforts, set myself up for success moving forward. 

I like to think of the High Holy Days as a mirror that reflects back at us an honest reflection of who we are and what we’ve done. However, when I don’t give the necessary thought and emotional energy to where I want to be, how I can get there, and what my realistic obstacles are before the High Holy Days arrive, I wind up feeling more overwhelmed by Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur than is helpful. By spending time in self-reflection throughout the entire month leading up to this time of year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can ultimately be days I am able to fully honor and uplift my process of renewal and forgiveness. 

Judaism recognizes how hard it can be to observe and change our behaviors, as well as reconcile our personal relationships.Therefore, with innovations over time, Jewish tradition has come to offer us a whole High Holy Day season, rather than just two or three days to think about and embrace real change. 

This is why the practice of personal introspection has evolved as a central part of the month of Elul. Some call this practice cheshbon hanefesh, or soul-accounting, and it includes mindful reflection through journaling, conversation, meditation or prayer, and, you may have guessed it, blowing the shofar. (Side note: therapy works, too!)

Personally, I love the blowing of the shofar (evidence below). I love the eerie, loud cries that emanate from it. I love how it makes us uncomfortable and alerts us to the urgency of addressing what feels broken in our lives. The shofar is there to guide us so we can be motivated to take positive action for the sake of improving our own lives and the wider world. 

Since the mitzvah, or commandment, around the shofar is to actually hear its sounds rather than blow it, I’m including a video of me blowing the shofar that you can listen to once a day during your own period of cheshbon hanefesh. Give it a try, and let me know how it’s going!

As we begin this new month and start sifting through the messiness of our lives, remember to embrace the many good things you’ve done and the parts of you that you absolutely cherish. It is by recognizing and accepting who we are fully, that we can take steps to become more whole, more loving, and more effective in this work of soul-accounting and in our lives.


 

ilanaAbout the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and exploring Jewish ideas that are relevant and alive for people in their 20’s and 30’s. 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 Dan: Jewish Dog Lover of the Week

dan

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Dan: My job, and the fact that I absolutely love DC. I came here a number of times while I was in college and got to know the city. I’m originally from Philly, so it seemed like the perfect place for me to live because it’s an easy trip home, and is the center of politics. As an international politics major that was something I looked for and enjoyed. I love the fact that we have Hollywood for ugly people here in DC, which is what one of my former bosses – a congressman – used to call it. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.

Dan:  I’d wake up, let my dog Archie out of his crate and he’d be willing to cuddle with me for more than two minutes. I’d go for a hike in Rock Creek Park or Great Falls. Then, I’d go to a brewery where we can sit outside and enjoy great weather, like Dacha or Wunder Garten. Then, take a solid nap by a rooftop pool. At night, I’d have friends come over for a small get together or maybe we’d go bowling, which I secretly love. 

Allie: Tell me about your dog Archie.

Dan: Archie, or Sir Archibald. He’s a golden-doodle: half golden retriever, because that’s the kind of dog I had growing up, and half poodle because I was looking for a dog that didn’t shed per my roommate’s request. Unfortunately, Archie sheds. He’s adorable, but there is hair all over the place.

dan

Allie: Have you always been a dog-person?

Dan: Oh yes, I was the crazy guy in college that would seek out any opportunity I could find to bring puppies to my fraternity, to my residents when I was an RA, or to my volunteer group. 

Allie: What do you love about dogs?

Dan: They just make your day better. I’ll come home from work so exhausted, and Archie will be there when I open the door with the cutest, funniest look on his face. He doesn’t care that I had a bad day, we can just go for a long walk and not think about work. He gives me unconditional love.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Dan: Sweet kugel. It’s delicious, but I don’t really want to think about what it’s made out of.

Allie: What’s on your life bucket list at the moment?

Dan: Hike the Appalachian Trail, from the bottom to the top. I grew up going to Camp Ramah in the Poconos and as a part of camp there was a yearly 3-day trip where we hiked along the Appalachian Trail. I fell in love with it. I think it would be such a cool and unique experience to hike the whole thing, but logistically I’d have to do a lot of thinking to figure out how to actually do it. I also really want to go to India. I went to Japan last year, and I’m going to Portugal next!

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the Jewish New Year?

Dan: I use the High Holidays more as a way to reflect, rather than set resolutions. I feel like we all suck at sticking to resolutions. I’d like to think about how I can reset, and become a little bit more involved this year.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Dan: They party like no other. The amount of bottles of wine I go through when DC Jews come to my apartment is absolutely insane.

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

Opening Our Hands & Hearts

traylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


evan

About the AuthorEvan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

 

 

 

 

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

Meet Jana: Jewish Doctor of the Week

Jana Bregman recently moved to DC for her fellowship and is looking to make some awesome new friends – preferably those who enjoy early morning runs, cross-country bike rides, and handmade knitted sweaters as gifts. Read on!

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janaAllie: What brought you to DC?

Jana: I’m originally from Nashville and went to Vanderbilt for both undergrad and medical school. I recently moved to DC after my residency in Baltimore for my fellowship at Children’s National in pediatric ophthalmology, aka medical and surgical eye-care for little kids. 

Allie: What did you like about pediatric ophthalmology? 

Jana: What’s cuter than a tiny kid in glasses?! I chose pediatrics because within ophthalmology it’s an underserved field, and one that provides opportunity to make a lifelong impact on people by helping to preserve their eyesight from a young age.

Allie: What are the biggest differences between living in Nashville versus DC?

Jana: When I was growing up in Nashville, there were way more differences than there are today. Back then, Nashville was still quintessential south with a slower pace of life. Now it’s more of a sprawling, cosmopolitan city. I think that the Jewish community in DC is better and it seems like there are more young people walking around here.

Allie: Describe your dream DC day from start to finish?

Jana: I would get up early before it gets too hot and go for a run or bike ride in Rock Creek Park. After that, I’d host brunch for some friends, and then take a nap. Later in the afternoon, I’d let out the nerd in me by knitting while watching a movie. Then, I’d go to the pool for a while before heading to a local brewery. After some beers, I’d go out to dinner with friends, followed by some live music. I’d go to sleep by 10 o’clock.

Allie: Is knitting one of your favorite pastimes?

Jana: Yeah, I’ve been knitting since I was in high school. I knit sweaters, socks, pretty much anything. I most recently knit a sweater vest for my brother. I find it really relaxing, especially because I’m not very good at just sitting still. I also like the idea of taking a ball of nothing and turning it into something really pretty. It makes great presents for people!

Allie: What’s your go-to ways to relax at the end of a long work day?

Jana: Running or swimming. I love just reading a book and drinking a beer outside, preferably while sitting by a pool. Banneker Pool is probably one of my favorite places in DC so far. 

jana

Allie: Do you have a favorite Jewish holiday?

Jana: Shabbat. I have so many fond memories around it – Shabbat was always a priority for my family when I was growing up. My mom is a really good cook and would make delicious vegetarian meals. 

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

Jana: I’d love to go to Acadia National Park in Maine, and break 20 minutes in a 5K.

Allie: What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

Jana: I’ve biked across the country. When I graduated from high school, I took a year off before college. I spent the first part of that year with an organization called Bike and Build – we biked and built houses with Habitat for Humanity. It was a two month long trip – we started in Jacksonville, Florida and ended in San Francisco, California. We would bike between 80-100 miles everyday. I sported the proudest farmers tan of my life 🙂 

Allie: Do you have a Jewish role model?

Jana: My cantor growing up. He is someone who truly acts out what it means to be Jewish. He connects with people on a very personal level, he’s there when you need him during both happy and sad times, and always has the right reference to Jewish teachings for the moment.

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

Jana: Friendships are made!

jana

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 Jordan: Jewish Politician of the Week!

This musical theater lover, soccer-playing, “Jane the Virgin” fan is running for DC Council. Upgrade from his past job as a bar-mitzvah dancer? Read on to get to know Jordan Grossman.

jordan

 

Allie: What led you to DC?

Jordan: I’m the 5th generation in my family to live here! My great-great grandparents and great grandparents immigrated to DC in the early 1900’s. My great-great grandpa was a kosher butcher in Georgetown, my great grandma had a grocery store called Sherman’s Market, and my grandpa had a store on H Street. I also work in politics and government, which is part of why I live here. 

Allie: What interests you about working in politics?

Jordan: I’m a true believer that if you do it right, the government can make people’s lives better. Growing up, I learned all about the importance of participating in public life and strengthening our community through tikkun olam (repairing the world). So it wasn’t an accident that I came to care about all of these things. My dream is to work on things that make services easier to access, and make life better for my neighbors.

Allie: What was your first segue into government?

Jordan: I did internships in DC while I was in college. My first full-time job was as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. I spent most of my time in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and had an extraordinary experience. 

jordan obama

Allie: I hear that you’re now running for DC Council. What exactly is the DC Council?

Jordan: The DC Council is the legislative branch of the DC government and is made up of 13 members – eight are elected from specific wards and five are elected city-wide. I’m running to represent Ward 2, which includes neighborhoods like Chinatown, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, and Georgetown. The Council votes on things like affordable housing, child care, healthcare, safety, and really anything that affects you in your day-to-day life in the city. In DC – it’s a unique situation because technically everything the Council passes, Congress can reverse. This is one of the main reasons I think DC should be a state – we deserve the right to govern ourselves and to have full representation in Congress. 

Allie: Do you have a job outside of campaigning? 

Jordan: Yes, I work for a nonprofit called Co-Equal. We help members of Congress with accountability, oversight, and policy research. 

Allie: Tell me about your dream DC day.

Jordan: I’d start the day at Buttercream Bake Shop, my favorite place in my neighborhood. My wife and I love walking and being outside. So, we would probably walk to the National Mall or to Rock Creek Park. We’ll play tourist and go to a cool museum, and then – if it was a special occasion – have a meal at Rose’s Luxury. After, I’d love to go to a show at The Kennedy Center – I’m a huge musical theater fan. 

Allie: What’s your favorite musical? 

Jordan: The Last Five Years

Allie: What do you do to relax? 

Jordan: I love playing soccer with District Sports here in DC, and watching Netflix with my wife. Jane the Virgin is one of our favorites.

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

Jordan: I’d love to go to China and Japan. 

Allie: Do you have a piece of Jewish wisdom that inspires you?

Jordan: It comes from my Jewish grandmother, who grew up here in DC. She always says, sometimes in Yiddish, “if you give a smile, you get a smile.” 

Allie: What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

Jordan: In high school I was a part-time bar mitzvah dancer. So I wore sequin shirts and danced to Motown medleys. 

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Jordan: I’m a huge fan of Call Your Mother. An everything bagel with lox from there makes it a very good morning. I can’t wait to go to their second location in Georgetown when it opens! 

Allie: Complete the sentence! When Jews of DC gather…

Jordan: They have a great time! 

jordan

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.