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Artichoke is the New Shrimp

The precedent

July 11, 1883, is one of most disastrous, non-violent days in recent Jewish memory: the date of the infamous Trefa Banquet.

During the graduation celebration for the first class to attend Hebrew Union College, dishes were served featuring shrimp, crab, and meat alongside ice cream! It is still unclear to this day if it was a caterer’s mistake, or done intentionally. Whatever happened, it was followed by the Head of the College, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, skipping apologies entirely, and eating the forbidden food under the eyes of hundreds of speechless guests. Since that momentous event, many who identity with Reform Judaism are inclined to eat shrimp and other non-kosher shellfish, differentiating them from Orthodox and Conservative communities.

In sum, this sole dinner helped launch the first true schism in modern Jewish history.

The current crisis

Why am I talking about this banquet more than a century later? Because another, although smaller, culinary and cultural schism may be on the horizon.

This time, the bone of contention is a dish very close to my heart (and mouth): the carciofo alla giudia, better known as the Roman artichoke (AKA: a deep fried artichoke). This succulent dish is the pride of the Rome’s Jewish community, and has been one of its most important symbols for centuries. This year, just a few days before the beginning of Passover, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate declared the artichoke to be non-kosher after receiving a package of Roman artichokes full of worms. The Israeli rabbinate stated that the artichoke is not safe to eat since worms can be hidden on the inside of the vegetable, rendering it non-kosher.

The reactions

As you can imagine, the reaction of the Italian Jewish community was at first of incredulity, followed thereafter by a rebellion that has caused a break within the community itself.

The Jews of Rome stayed faithful to their beloved dish and, led by their Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, continued to offer fried artichoke in the ghetto’s restaurants. To emphasize the point,Rabbi Di Segni wished everybody a “Happy Passover” in a video during which he peeled artichokes in front of a synagogue. The Jewish community of Milan, however, has instead decided to follow the decision of the Israeli rabbinate, and removed the dish from its Jewish restaurants.

The solution(s)

As my grandma says, “for each problem there is a solution.” When applied to the Jewish world, this saying becomes, “for each problem, there are several different solutions.”

Milan’s answer: The Jews of Milan are reinventing the dish and making it 100% kosher by cutting it up and cleaning the vegetable before frying it. The artichoke is now re-composed directly on the plate.

Rome’s answer: The Jews of Rome followed their own Chief Rabbi and continue to eat the artichoke according to their tradition. After all, as Mr. Pavoncello (owner of Nonna Betta, one of the Roman ghetto’s Jewish restaurants) said, “There is no pope [in Judaism]”. He explained that each community can make its own decision about which fruits and vegetables are proper to eat.

Naples’ answer: Rabbi Umberto Piperno, chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Naples, is trying to create and patent an ultrasound, flying-bug repellent which could tell with a 100% certainty if there are worms/bugs inside the artichokes without needing to open them.

My personal answer: Since my personal kashrut rules are limited to not eating pork or bringing shellfish home (mostly to avoid the complaints of my husband, who keeps kosher), the artichoke issue is not a problem. However, this debate continues to feel very personal to me because it involves the Italian Jewish community of which I am a part. I try to eat at least one Jewish artichoke every time I go to Rome. Last time, during a nasty NYC-snowstorm-induced layover, I had the signature dish in Rome’s airport as part of my wedding anniversary celebration!

After reading all about the controversy around this dish, I started to crave some good, deep fried artichokes myself. So, I decided to try the two DC restaurants that I knew were serving the delicacy: Etto and Lupo Verde.

Lupo Verde, which is designed to serve typical Roman food, was the uncontested winner! Their fried artichokes were so delicious that they made me almost feel like I was home.

If this article triggered your own fried artichoke craving, here are some recipes you can try out at home. Bete’avon!

Fried Artichoke from The New York Times

Jewish Style Fried Artichokes from My Jewish Learning

[Video] Artichokes Jewish-style, Italian recipe

 

 

About the Author: Daniela is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! She is a “retired philosopher” who works as an executive assistant and loves to write about Italian and Jewish events happening in DC. She was born and raised in Sicily (Italy) in an interfaith family and moved to D.C. with her husband after studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where they met. They have a wonderful Siberian cat named Rambam! Daniela loves going to work while listening to Leonard Cohen’s songs and sometimes performs in a West African Dance group.

 

 

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 Ultimate DC Pizza Rankings (Vegan Style)

The following is a guest blog post by The Avocadbro, a vegan food blogger who shares his greatest animal-free eating adventures on Instagram

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I imagine being asked to rank my favorite vegan-friendly pizza restaurants feels the same as being a parent who is asked to rank their favorite kids. All my favorite dairy-free pizza places are amazing in their own way.

Why am I ranking vegan pizza places you may ask?

Well, Shavuot is this week! Shavuot is the Jewish holiday that celebrates when God gave the Israelites the Torah. For some reason, Jews commemorate this event by eating copious amounts of cheese, and I’d like to provide some dairy-free alternatives for those of us who choose to abstain – or are unable to partake – in the cheese-eating festivities. There are many reasons behind the tradition to consume dairy on Shavuot, but some scholars say it has something to do with Israel being the “land of milk and honey”.

Quick tangent on this…

You might be surprised to find out that the “honey” in this holy phrase isn’t about honey from bees. It’s about honey from dates. As someone who avoids animal products, that’s kind of cool, not bothering bees and all.

But the “milk” part of that phrase is even more surprising. At least two-thirds of the world, including two-thirds of Jews, can’t digest cow’s milk properly. If two thirds of the people who live in a land of milk can’t consume milk, it must get pretty stinky there, right?

Apparently not. In Israel, all 55 Domino’s Pizza locations offer vegan cheese. It’s become one of the most vegan friendly countries in the world.

So, maybe it’s time to rebrand Israel as the “land of almond milk and date honey.”

While Domino’s in the United States still hasn’t caught up, there are no shortage of pizza places in DC that offer vegan cheese.

We’ve got a few pretty delicious vegan-pizza spots worth giving a Shavuot Shout-Out.

I’m quite familiar with DC’s vegan pizza offerings. Pizza is currently in first place as my favorite food. When I first moved to DC about a decade ago, there was one place that I knew of that had vegan cheese: Pizzeria Paradiso. They had the DC market cornered and deserve some special recognition for being trendsetters.

Since then, a vegan cheese company called Daiya emerged and began supplying restaurants around the country with their products. I love Daiya. But if you’ve ever eaten it before and weren’t thrilled, you should know that about six months ago they upped their game in a major way. They came out with a new variety called “Cutting Board” style cheese. Anecdotally, people love it. And slowly, but surely, pizza places have switched over to this new style.

One last thing before I get into the rankings: There’s this myth that vegan cheese is made of weird ingredients. Let me quickly put that myth to rest. It’s not.

Daiya, for example, is mainly a blend of coconut oil and tapioca starch. That’s no weirder than dairy cheese, which could more accurately be called coagulated estrogen excretion from cattle. Sounds more like a Passover plague than an edible food.

Now onto the rankings…

The Elite Three

These places don’t just have vegan cheese (and yummy crust, and a wide selection of veggie toppings). They also have delicious, high-protein vegan meat.

1) Mellow Mushroom: Okay, I’m starting with a chain. But how many pizza places don’t have multiple locations now-a-days? The pizza industry is that strong (yay America!).

Mellow Mushroom’s pizza crust is freaking delicious. Its pizza is considered to be “Southern style.” They recently switched from Daiya cheese to Follow Your Heart cheese, which is very good.  Oh, and they also have vegan calzones. What more could ask for to nourish your late night Torah study seshes?

Pro-tip: Order yourself some vegan pizza with marinated tempeh and sun-dried tomatoes. It tastes incredible.

2) Pi Pizzeria: This place, located in Chinatown, has St. Louis-style deep dish. I love deep dish pizza because it’s more cubic volume of pizza than other styles. They also have Match Meat sausage, which is a really delicious vegan meat.

Word of warning: You have to call six hours ahead of time if you plan to order the vegan deep dish. They lose points for such an oddly strict schedule.

Pro-tip: make it a habit to call them every single morning on your commute to work. That way, you always have a vegan deep dish pizza available to you that evening. (I’m 90% joking – maybe don’t do that if you’re semi-interested in getting summer body ready.)

3) &pizza: Pizza connoisseurs scoff at &pizza because it’s not “real” pizza and gets made in a fancy toaster oven rather than a true pizza oven. But you know what? They’re kinda right. You know what else? Who cares! If you’re in a rush (and if the line isn’t too long), you can get a delicious personal pizza for about $10 and 5 minutes of your time.

Plus, it’s a native DC company and they have Beyond Meat sausage crumbles, which I highly recommend.

Pro-tip: There’s an &pizza location in Terminal C of Reagan National, and most airlines consider your &pizza a “personal item”. Plus, your airplane seat neighbors will be jealous.

Middle Tier

4) Menomale: Full disclaimer: I’ve never eaten here. But they offer both vegan cheese and vegan chicken. That’s pretty awesome. How have I not been here yet? Anyone want to go with me?

5) Duccini’s. This was the first pizza place in DC to get Daiya cheese back in 2010-ish. I remember, because I was there to celebrate that unforgettable occasion (I feel old). Today, they are still rocking the vegan pizza game. Plus, they’re open until 2am on weekends. I’m usually asleep by 10pm after a long night of Netflix, but if you’re cool and party at AdMo clubs, you might enjoy some late night, dairy-free deliciousness.

Pro-tip: They can also make vegan jumbo slices if you call ahead and get the right person on the phone.

6) Pizzeria Paradiso: As far as I know, this was the only place that offered vegan cheese back when I first moved to DC in 2008. Huge points for being part of history. Otherwise, it’s a solid Neapolitan-style pizza place.

7) Pete’s New Haven Pizza: A random city in a random state has its own style of pizza. And after deciding DC was in need of some New Haven, Connecticut culinary pedigree, Pete brought his pizza to DC. They were pretty early in offering vegan cheese. Big points for that.

8) Comet Ping Pong: There’s a dark Internet conspiracy that Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have ordered vegan cheese pizza from here. Okay, I made that up, but seriously, both of them are vegan and might have ordered pizza from here before.

9) Timber: Wood-fired pizza in Petworth. To be honest, I’ve never eaten here (again, any takers to be my new pizza-eating buddy?). Based on other people’s reviews, this place sounds really good. And I know they offer vegan cheese. I wanted to go on Monday night to prepare for this blog post. But it’s closed on Mondays, resulting in a significant point loss. Some people need pizza at the end of a long Monday (especially before a major derecho). I know I did.

As Pitbull famously wrote, “[Vegan pizza is] going down [my throat]. I’m yelling Timber.”

10) DC Pizza: I’ve never been here either, but they do offer vegan cheese. I think it’s similar to &Pizza, but no vegan sausage option.

Lower Tier

Well, pretty much every other pizza place in DC doesn’t have vegan cheese, which results in a crushing point loss for them. Basically all of the other great pizza places in DC still make pretty good cheese-less pizza (call me crazy, but I prefer cheese on my pizza). As more and more people ditch dairy cheese, these places need to pick up the slack and acknowledge the changing tides.

In Italy, the birthplace of pizza, meat sales are declining. In response, the leading mortadella company in Italy came out with vegan versions of their products. A few years ago, that would’ve been unheard of. As of 2018, the company’s president said:  “It is an incontrovertible fact that the number of consumers choosing vegetarian and vegan [products] is growing.”

And New York City, the most well-known pizza city in the country, is now widely considered to be the most vegan-friendly city, with a large number of lactose struggling Jews and amazing vegan pizza places.

So, my message to Wiseguys, 2 Amys, Ghibellina, il Canale, Etto, Vace, All Purpose, Matchbox, 7th Hill, We The Pizza–heck, let’s throw in Manny & Olga’s, Pizza Boli’s, Ledo’s, Papa John’s, Domino’s and Pizza Hut–it’s already the year 5778! (in the Hebrew calendar). Let’s get with the times and start offering vegan cheese.

If you have any questions, you can find me in Adams Morgan blocking traffic on 18th Street as I debate whether to get Mellow Mushroom or Duccini’s.

 

About the Author: Andrew Friedman is an attorney in Washington, DC. He writes about food, nutrition, and veganism on his blog, The Avocadbro, and shares his favorite vegan eating adventures on Instagram. He loves animals, but doesn’t love eating them.

Your Guide to DC’s Hottest New Restaurant – Wawa

You heard it here first. The hottest, most in-demand, high quality restaurant has recently opened its shining metal doors to DC’s public.

It’s fast, yet doesn’t feel rushed.

It’s casual, yet sophisticated.

It’s delicious, and boasts $1 coffee.

You’re probably thinking, what glorious eatery could encompass everything you could ever want in a food establishment? Founding Farmers? Nope. Cava? Guess again. McDonalds? No. But, they do make a mean hashbrown.

The answer, my coffee-drinking, sandwich-eating, snack-loving friends, is simple, and just four letters long (the same number of letters in the word love). Wawa.

For all of you snarkily scoffing at your computer, thinking how ridiculous it is that I have the audacity to compare Wawa to DC institutions like Le Diplomate and The Hamilton, you clearly haven’t been to the newest, biggest Wawa in the country (you read that right). Or, maybe they were just out of Hot Cheetos that day.

Well, lucky for you,I’m here to help you make the most of your visit and understand the best way to navigate Wawa’s magic. This is your exclusive must-see, must-have, must-eat guide to DC’s newest, hottest restaurant – Wawa.

1. The beverages. Wawa literally has the best water. And it’s FREE. Make sure you get the 44 oz size, because hydration, and also – it is the most delicious tasting water ever. You may think I’m exaggerating, but ask Jackie (my boss), and she’ll vouch for me. Jackie – feel free to comment below. If the best water in the world isn’t enough for you (sorry, Fiji), Wawa also has $1 coffee every day. Every. Single. Day.

2. The food. Not only is Wawa living in 2055 with their touch screen ordering system, but they also have every type of food you can think of (besides, like sushi – it is still a convenience store people). Seriously, any type of food you could find yourself wanting, I guarantee Wawa has it or something like it. They even have salads and vegetables, for all you wacky health nuts.  My personal favorites are the mac and cheese, meatballs, mashed potatoes, pretzels, pre-made sandwiches, make-your-own sandwiches, smoothies, and if I’m feeling really crazy, the hot dogs – basically anything besides the salads.

3. The staff. Not only is their food phenomenal, in addition to the water, but the staff also couldn’t be nicer. The first time I went there, the staff literally said “Wa-Welcome!” I mean…. I rest my case.

If all of this hasn’t convinced you that Wawa is not only DC’s newest hot-spot, but also the best place on the planet, I’ve compiled a series of testimonials from fellow Wawa enthusiasts that will hopefully convince you of Wawa’s magic.

“Oh my gosh…where do I even start? I don’t think words can fully express everything that Wawa is and has to offer. Hold on, I need a moment.”  – Julie, 25, Clarksville MD

“I love Wawa because they make great sandwiches, Mac and cheese, and coffee while offering a ton of selection for food and drink at convenient locations for an affordable price.” – Andrew, 24, Bucks County PA

“I love Wawa because their food is always amazing quality and no other place has as large of a selection!” – Halle, 23, Cherry Hill NJ

“I love Wawa because it’s convenient, high quality, and affordable and meets my needs for everything from a quick coffee run to a full meal. It’s much higher quality in terms of service and product then comparable convenience stores and, let’s be real, the branding is on point.” – Ben, 24, Moorestown NJ

I like to think that if Leslie Knope grew up in Southern New Jersey or Pennsylvania she’d be Wawa’s biggest fan. Wawa….Wa-ffles…it fits right in. If that doesn’t convince you…I really don’t know what will.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your co-workers, take your dog for a walk, gather your closest friends, and check out the best new restaurant in the District. You’re Wa-Welcome.

Oh, and also, there’s FREE coffee at Wawa tomorrow – Thursday, April 12. Yes, free. Meaning you can slurp up all the caffeine you could dream of, while saving your change for a bag full of Hot Cheetos.

 

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, this blog post was NOT sponsored by Wawa. Although, Wawa – if you’re reading this – I am on Instagram, and would gladly be your go-to social media hype woman (I mean, if you’re looking).

 

About the Author: Rachel Nieves

As GatherDC’s New-to-DC Community Coordinator, Rachel helps connect those new or new(ish) to Jewish DC. After graduating from the University of Maryland in 2016, she has been on the hunt for ways to better engage with the DC Jewish community. She loves meeting new people, and connecting them with each other to build thriving friendships. When she’s not in the GatherDC office or grabbing coffee with community members, you can find her dancing (more like flailing) to the nearest live cover band, admiring dogs that aren’t hers in Meridian Hill Park, watching reality television, and laughing with her friends. Reach out to Rachel to grab a $1 Wawa coffee.

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 Jourdi: Jewish Food-Instagramer of the Week

Food lovers rejoice! The amazing human behind @District_Foodie is ready to set down her plate, set aside her iPhone, and chat with a big fan (me) about her successful Instagram account, favorite Jewish foods, and why Bruce Springsteen holds a special place in her heart. Dig into this exclusive interview with Jourdi Tobias, AKA: @District_Foodie! WARNING: Food cravings may ensue – so, we encourage you to #treatyoself to a Valentine’s Day goody while reading.

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Jourdi: I went to University of Maryland – go Terps! And I got a job here after school, am from the area and have always loved it, so I wound up staying.

Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?

Jourdi: I love that it feels like a city, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. It’s been easy to find great friends and feel a part of the community, and I also really enjoy the food scene here.

Allie: So I hear you run a popular food Instagram account…..

Jourdi: Yes! One night, my friends and I were in New York and trying to figure out where to go out to eat. They were all looking at photos on Instagram to decide where to go. As someone who has always been passionate about trying new foods, and loves going out to eat, I realized that I wanted to be that person in DC who helped others figure out where and what to eat. So, I started a food Instagram account, District Foodie.

I was going out to eat and taking photos of the food anyway, so the account happened pretty naturally. The more I kept posting, the more popular the page started to be. Today, we have 15,000 followers! I think it’s been so successful because it’s food I actually try, and restaurants I go to and love, so everything is real!

Allie: Top 3 favorite DC restaurants?

Jourdi: Little Cocos – a really delicious Italian restaurant in Columbia Heights; Rasika – incredible Indian food; and Red Hen – also amazing Italian food.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Jourdi: Shawarma! I’d love a shawarma platter with everything – hummus, pickled onions, tzatzi, banana peppers, spicy peppers, and a pita on the side. I also am a big fan of potato latkes.

Allie: If you had a free day in DC to do ANYTHING you wanted, how would you spend it?

Jourdi: I’d start the day at a fun all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink brunch place, like AmBar in Eastern Market. Then, I’d walk around Eastern Market for a bit. After that, I’d head down to the National Mall and walk around the monuments. Even though I’ve lived in the DC area for most of my life, I still feel like a tourist every time I go see the monuments. I also would love to go to the Botanical Gardens because I love flowers. I’d unwind from the day with a nice dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant like Pineapple and Pearls, which I’ve never been to.

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself you’d like to share?

Jourdi: My mom went into labor with me at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

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

Jourdi: There should be food and drinks!

 

 

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.

Spotted in Jewish DC – The EmporiYUM: Meet. Eat. Shop.

This week in #SpottedInJewishDC we checked out The EmporiYUM, a pop-up marketplace with over 100 vendors selling their best food products ranging from snacks, drinks, and even boozy ice cream! We went around with an empty stomach and an open mind, getting a taste of all the offerings and scoping out the local Jewish foodies sharing their products at the event.

With Hanukkah around the corner, we did your homework for you (you’re welcome) and have some great gift ideas for your fellow foodies. Dig in to meet some of these DC food scene changemakers, one full belly at a time!

Even if you didn’t make it to The EmporiYUM this year, don’t fret, just follow my pro-Hanukkah gifting tips to support your local Jewish foodie favorites and get some good eats along the way. You’ll be in foodie heaven, while giving the gift of eating locally made products that support the buzzing startup community here in DC.

 

NOSH BARWith “just the good stuff” inside, Nosh Bars are full of ingredients you can identify without pulling out your phone and turning to Google: nuts, fruit, oats, seeds, and spices. That’s it!

Keeping it simple is just what Nosh Bar’s owner, Michele, intended when she created them in her own home kitchen. Tired of being confused in the grocery store with all the various “health bar” products out there, she turned to the basics of eating simple foods full of clean ingredients. Her bars come in a variety of flavors, with the best-selling figstachio and something for the more adventurous with the goji berry bar (if you haven’t tried these berries yet, grab one – they are full of antioxidants and perfect for the winter sniffles). This was Michele’s first year at The EmporiYUM and she had lines throughout the whole event!

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: You can get some Nosh Bar products for your favorites online, and at local stores like TasteLab Marketplace, Steadfast Supply, and Reformation Fitness.

 

PRESCRIPTION CHICKENThe EmporiYUM was held outside on a chilly November day, so warm soup was just what we needed to keep up the energy. Luckily, the soup-slinging duo Prescription Chicken was on-site serving up shots of their chicken soup alongside mini challah braids.

This soup delivery service sends chicken soup out to cure whatever ails you, like the classic winter sniffles, to the hangover package that includes a turmeric spiced soup with a side of vitamins, tea and saltines. Started after co-founder Valerie Zweig had a rough battle with laryngitis where all she wanted was some good matzo ball soup, an idea was born and she recruited her cousin, Taryn Pellicone, to launch the business.  With the notion that soup infers comfort, their soup can be for those who are sick or just having a bad day.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Deliver a package of Grandma’s Famous Chicken Noodle Soup to those needing some extra love.

 

BUFFALO & BERGEN: Located steps from The EmporiYUM’s pop-up marketplace, Buffalo & Bergen brings the joys of New York soda shops to Washington, DC, giving a new spin on old classics.  With soda flavors ranging from Coca-Cola to Lemon Lavender to Carrot Marigold, Gina Chersevani’s mixology expertise adds an extra splash to these longtime favorites (you can also add a little booze if you choose)!

In addition to the expansive drink menu, Buffalo & Bergen serves up classic Jewish bites like knishes and bagels! Sourcing their water straight from New York, these bagels will have even the biggest critic coming back for more.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Treat your friends to brunch or cocktails at Buffalo & Bergen…or simply bring some bagels to your next Hanukkah shindig when everyone’s had enough latkes (is that a thing?!).

 

SWAPPLES: Frozen waffles are a staple in any millennial’s freezer, offering a quick breakfast option for our busy lives. Swapples provide a healthy alternative to the often sugar-loaded frozen waffle; entirely plant-based, these allergen-free waffles are made with yuca root, a starchy, nutritious tuber vegetable.

When owner Rebecca Peress was told by a doctor to cut out all sugar from her diet, she quickly felt limited by the options in her grocery store. She started making Swapples for herself, and once her co-workers kept requesting them, an idea for a business was born.

Swapples currently come in four flavors: Blueberry, Cinnamon, Tomato Pizza, and Everything (this one’s especially for bagel lovers). You can find them in grocery stores like Whole Foods, MOM’s Organic Market, and Glen’s Garden Market.

PRO-GIFT GIVING TIP: Grab a bag and try out this healthy, vegan alternative to your favorite waffle! Maybe even swap a Swapple for this year’s latkes – who knows, you may find a new holiday tradition.

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Judith  Rontal  is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! Judith 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.

Meet Courtney: Jewish Children’s Book Author of the Week!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Courtney: I actually grew up in the Maryland area, went away to college, and then moved to New York City to pursue acting. For years, I dreamed of being on Broadway as a musical theater star, like Sally Bowles in Cabaret. But then a few years after giving that a try, I moved back to DC. Although I love living in the city, after getting married – my husband and I moved to Kensington, MD so we could have a bit more space.

Allie: What’s your favorite part about living in DC?

Courtney: I’m a really big foodie and love going out to amazing local restaurants like Rasika, Filomena… and my new favorite is this little pizza place called Frankly Pizza. It’s exceptional gourmet little pizzas. I also love experiencing the culture in DC – going to indie bookstores like Politics and Prose, and seeing local theater (which I actually used to perform in myself).

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool job at Adas Israel. Can you tell me a little about that?

Courtney: Sure! I’m the Director of Programmatic Engagement, and help with Adas’ robust programming. I do a little bit of everything – from working with the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington, to the young professional programs like Shir Delight, to holiday programming like Return Again Shabbat, to social action events, and lots more. It’s rewarding to be a part of a lot of different initiatives, and I love meeting and connecting with community members of all ages.

Allie: What inspired you to work in the Jewish community?

Courtney: While in grad school at George Washington’s Masters of Elementary Education program, I wrote a children’s book called The Number on Her Arm. The book stems from my personal experience of learning about the Holocaust from my grandmother – a survivor – and how honest and open she was about her experiences.

After my grandmother passed away, I felt a need to get her story out, so I went on to self-publish the book. Then, I got so busy promoting the book and discovering this overwhelming passion to teach children about the Holocaust. This experience motivated me to take the job at Adas Israel so I can spend my entire career working to make a positive difference in the Jewish community through education and programming.

Allie: That’s incredible. It sounds like you have a lot of passion for educating the next generation about the Holocaust. Are there other ways you pursue this passion?

Courtney: One of the groups I had an event with when I was promoting the book is called 3GNY (Third Generation Holocaust Survivors) in New York. It was so meaningful to meet a group of other grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and I really wanted to bring this group to DC. I found out that this group already existed in DC, but had not been very active. My boss allowed me to pursue bringing this group back to life, and now, we have our first event coming up – tonight! We’re going to be sharing pictures of our grandparents, telling stories, and brainstorming ideas this program can make possible.

Allie: Who’s your Jewish role model?

Courtney: My grandparents. They went through so much as Holocaust survivors at a young age, but they were able to move forward, move to Canada after the war, start a family, and provide for their children and grandchildren. Instead of harboring resentment and bitterness, they gave unconditional love, and used their experience to educate us.

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

Courtney: Laughter ensues.

 

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 Foodie of the Week – Rachel

Rachel came to DC for grad school at George Washington University in 2014. She was a part of our inaugural cohort of Open Doors Fellows. Since then, she has graduated, taken part in Gather’s inaugural Beyond the Tent Retreat, and recently returned from a trip to Japan! She is a friendly face at any Jewish community event, walking up to everyone and anyone. She spoke with us about her passion for health, wellness and organizing community.

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Jackie: Over the years, you have become interested in food and wellness. Can you tell us about your approach to this?

Rachel: I grew up in a pretty healthy household. My parents always cooked and tried to teach me what foods are nutritious and why. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely indulged and had treats. I was just able to read a nutrition label and understand what ingredients are in the foods I eat at a pretty early age, compared to most I think. Now, I feel lucky that I grew up with the knowledge and ability to make informed choices, because once I started college and had my own kitchen, I just wanted to experiment. My mom is going to be so happy when she reads this! Since then, I’ve been getting into different types of food-ing. I spiralize (transforming vegetables into noodle shapes). And started brewing kombucha, sprouting and fermenting vegetables. Those who follow me on Snapchat know!

Jackie: What has been the most interesting thing you’ve learned through food-ing?

Rachel: I learned that everything is connected, from the food that’s grown in farms, to what goes on your plate, to your hormones, your energy, mood, back pain and to that annoying pimple that pops up in the same place every once in a while. It’s all holistic. Your body is one and what you put in it matters. Just call me your wannabe stereotypical yogi!

Jackie: You recently facilitated a discussion on menstruation. Can you tell us more about that event and what prompted you to organize it?

Rachel K eventRachel: It goes back to the idea of holistic wellness. I wanted to have a conversation about the woman’s cycle since it’s something every woman encounters in her life, but each in a different way. I wanted to explore how menstruation is (or isn’t) connected to Judaism, to the rest of the body and to our daily lives. I was amazed by how open and inspiring each woman was sitting in my living room talking about periods! It was probably one of the most freeing conversations I’ve ever had.


Jackie: What advice do you have for someone who wants to run their own program?

Rachel: Never think an idea is too far fetched. Start bringing it up in daily conversations and you’ll get a gist of how you want to approach the subject. You may find like-minded people who are just as into it as you and others who gawk and walk away. Both will help you realize what you hope to achieve with your program. Yes, I was sliding menstruation into random conversations at happy hours and in my Uber pools.

RachelK_yogaJackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Rachel: Sweet kugel. Oh, and babka, chocolate babka. I’m addicted to chocolate and I’m really open about it.

Jackie: What drew you to be a part of the DC Jewish community?

Rachel: At first, I moved to DC and wanted to meet new people. Ever heard that one before?

Shortly after, I realized that the DC Jewish community is a highway for deep connections to amazing people who do amazing things and will take me along for the ride if I ask; for opportunities to bring internal passions to life with ample resources and support; and for Friday night Shabbat every week!

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather….They cook!