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District Shabbat Brings Judaism Back to Southwest

For more than a century, Washington’s Jewish community has thrived in the heart of the city. Since 1995, however, there has not been a Jewish synagogue in Southwest.

That’s about to change.

On Friday, October 19th, Washington Hebrew Congregation (WHC) will debut District Shabbat, a soulful, joyful, and musical Shabbat experience on the third Friday of every month at 555 Water Street SW.

Here’s a quick Q+A about this experience.

Q: What is District Shabbat?

A: It’s much more than a Shabbat service. This is a Shabbat experience led by WHC clergy and folk-rock musicians Dan Nichols and Alan Goodis. It’s a Friday evening that builds community through joyful, musical worship, learning, food, and drinks. If you’ve been to (or heard of) Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Metro Minyan service, you can expect a similar engaging, participatory vibe with District Shabbat, but WHC has incorporated some unique and exciting features. Read on!

Q: Who is it for?

A: Short answer: Everyone. You do not need to be a WHC member to attend!

Q: What happens at this Shabbat “experience”?

A: The night starts at 6:15 pm for a “Shot of Torah,” where drinks and appetizers are the opening to a spirited ­­discussion with WHC’s dynamic rabbis about the week’s Torah portion. That’s followed by a high-energy service at 7:00 pm, led by WHC’s rabbis and musicians Dan Nichols and Alan Goodis.

You can make it a complete night and sign up for one of their optional dinners:

  • Community Shabbat Dinner – An amazing catered dinner for adults held right at St. Augustine’s for $18.
  • The Rabbi’s Table – A prix fixe dinner at a hot nearby restaurant with one of WHC’s rabbis and a small group. It’s $50 and limited to just 20 people.

If you can’t stay for dinner, that’s fine too! There’s no charge for Shot of Torah and the service, but you need to RSVP either way.

WHC Shabbat

Q: Is this just for adults or can I bring my niece and nephew?

A: The Shot of Torah, District Shabbat Service, Community Shabbat DInner, and Rabbi’s Table are just for adults. You are more than welcome to bring your nieces, nephews, and friends with toddlers through kindergartners to “District Shabbat for Tots” at 5:30 pm! This fun and engaging service – also led by the WHC rabbis and musicians – is perfect for little ones. That service is followed by a free family-friendly Shabbat dinner (RSVP required) so both tummies and hearts will be full at the end of your evening.

Q: Where is it?

A: WHC holds District Shabbat (and District Shabbat for Tots) at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church – 555 Water Street SW, Washington, DC 20024 – right across the street from Arena Stage. Looking for public transportation options?  In addition to Metro’s Green Line Waterfront stop and the M-74 bus, which stops one block from St. Augustine’s, check out the free Wharf shuttle from L’Enfant Plaza and the Circulator’s SW Waterfront Route that runs from Eastern Market to L’Enfant Plaza.

Q: How can I sign up?

A: You can RSVP for the first District Shabbat on October 19th here. We hope to see you there!

metro minyan shabbat

 

About Washington Hebrew Congregation: Founded in 1852, Washington Hebrew Congregation serves more than 2,500 families throughout the region and is one of the most vibrant Reform congregations in the nation. Led by Senior Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig; Rabbis Susan N. Shankman, Aaron Miller, and Eliana Fischel; and Cantors Mikhail Manevich and Susan Bortnick, WHC has a deep commitment to social justice and provides a wide variety of opportunities for worship, community service, engagement, and education for all ages. Learn more at whctemple.org/DistrictShabbat.

The above is a sponsored blog post. 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 Amanda: Jewish Shabbat Host 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 info@gatherdc.org.

Amanda Herring is mom to possibly the cutest chow chow doggy ever, a frequent host of sustainable Shabbat feasts, and a lover of tap dance. This fascinating woman is someone you definitely need to know. Read on!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Amanda: I grew up in Northern Virginia, and then moved to New York with my partner who was going there to work in fine dining kitchens. After we got engaged, we wanted to be close to home, and to culture and all the activity of a major city.

Allie: Right now, you’re working as the JOFEE Fellow for OneTable. From what the internet tells me, JOFEE Fellows seed local Jewish organizations with outstanding Jewish outdoor/food/environmental educators. How did you decide to pursue this position?

Amanda: Growing up, my mom made all of our meals from scratch. I didn’t realize how special this was until I went off to college. From there, I realized how much I wanted to be hosting and cooking my own meals. I got involved with Hillel and started helping out with Shabbat meals. Then, I got together with my partner Greg who is passionate about food and feeding people.

When Greg and I were living in New York, we became some of the first hosts of OneTable Shabbat meals. We got to be a part of this movement where community was forming over Shabbat dinner in Harlem. When we moved to DC, Marina Rostein had just started working as the DC hub manager and she asked me to be a Shabbat coach. Around this same time, Greg and I were on a journey to becoming more food conscious. So when OneTable was looking for a JOFEE Fellow, Marina had me in mind for it.

Allie: What do you enjoy most about hosting Shabbat?

Amanda: When I worked at Hillel and Birthright, I saw that immersive experiences could have a transformative power on people. I loved staffing Jewish trips because the power of those experiences can lead to shifts in people’s lives. To me, that’s part of hosting – making everyone feel welcome and facilitating them through an experience.

Allie: What’s your favorite Shabbat you’ve ever hosted?

Amanda: The one Greg and I just had. We hosted a Farm to Friday Shabbat at Eco City Farms. I was able to work with the farm to celebrate what they had in season. The farm’s space was kind of a classroom shipping container and we elevated it with twinkle lights, a table setting, name cards, and music. We had a cocktail hour infused with herbs from the farm, and added bits of Jewish education in between the courses. It felt really special.

shabbat

Allie: I’m so bummed I missed that! Are you planning to host any other awesome Shabbats this coming year that I can come to?

Amanda: Me and the other two DC-based JOFEE fellows (including GatherDC’s Mollie Sharfman) are planning a big Sukkah-based harvest festival on September 21st. We think Sukkot is hard to connect to if you don’t want to go to a synagogue and you don’t have yard space. We’re renting out a farm in Shaw for a pop-up Sukkot Shabbat and we’re going to teach everybody how they can bring the spirit of Sukkot into their home for the following week, even if you don’t have space for a sukkah.

Allie: When are you the happiest?

Amanda: When I’m eating really good food and I know exactly where it came from. Like when I was just working at Milk and Honey Farm in Colorado and got to play with baby goats every day and drink their fresh, warm goat milk. It was just so fresh, and creamy, and delightful.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Amanda: I love Hanukkah because Greg and I host a classy Hanukkah party every year. At Christmas parties everyone gets dressed up and its fancy. Hanukkah feels like this lowly forgotten holiday. So we’ve created an elevated Hanukkah experience where we get dressed up and there’s lights everywhere, jazz music playing, cocktails, and all kinds of fancy food.

Allie: I understand you have an Instagram famous dog named Bubbe. What makes Bubbe Insta-worthy?

Amanda: Our dog is a grumpy old chow chow. She is the cutest thing I have ever seen and also hates people and other dogs, except for us. We rescued her from Fairfax County Animal Shelter almost 3 years ago. Because Bubbe doesn’t want to go out and meet a bunch of people, I set up this Instagram account so other people can share in the joy. It feels like we’re hoarding her cuteness if we don’t share her with the world. She’s just a fluffy lion bear dog.

chow dog

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

Amanda: To have our own farm, produce our own food, and maybe run a Jewish retreat center where people can connect with the agricultural roots of Judaism.

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

Amanda: I grew up swing and tap dancing, I love it – it’s so fun. My brother is actually a professional swing and tap dancer. Also, I also make my own greeting cards and send them to friends.

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

Amanda: They eat good food together.

chow chow wedding

 

 

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 Kurdish Shabbat Experience!

On Friday, July 13th, my organization Sephardic Jews in DC, in partnership with OneTable and JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), will be hosting a traditional Shabbat dinner featuring delicious homemade kosher Kurdish food and a panel of phenomenal speakers.

This panel is composed of those who have lived and worked in Kurdistan, and a Jew whose family lived in Iranian Kurdistan for many generations. Together, they will discuss the Jewish history of the Kurdish land, their struggle for independence, and why we as American Jews should care about the future of the Kurdish people.kurdish food

My first experience with the Kurdish Jewish people happened very serendipitously. Many years ago, a friend of mine suggested going to the Azura restaurant in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market to try their delicious Turkish food. As a Sephardic Jew of Turkish and Greek descent, I was excited to try out the food and practice my Ladino. Upon entering the homey restaurant, I spotted several very unique dishes. Some of these foods looked familiar to me, but other dishes looked like nothing I had ever seen before. My friend introduced me to the owner of the restaurant and told him I was a fellow Turkish Jew. I said hello to the owner with a Ladino greeting, and he replied back in a Kurdish dialect, which is a version of Judeo-Aramaic. My intrigue at the language he spoke led to a captivating conversation about his Kurdish heritage. From that moment on, I became deeply fascinated with the history of the Kurdish Jews.

Who are the Kurds? How did Jews get to Kurdistan? Where are they now? I had so many questions, and turned to the internet to help me get the answers I craved.

I learned that the Kurds are recognized as the largest stateless national group in the world. Although the vast majority of the 30 million Kurds in the world are Sunni Muslims, the Kurdish people also include many other faiths and religions due to the large area they inhabit.

kurdistan map

According to The Kurdish Project,

“After losing the opportunity for statehood post-WWI, the Kurds now exist as an ethnic minority spread out between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and strive to maintain a culture that has been rapidly absorbed by their host countries. Borne from a long history of strife, Kurdish culture places value on individual freedoms. Whether it be overt religious tolerance, strides towards equality in the status of women, or democratic government, Kurdish culture values individual life and has fiercely defended its ability to live free from external rule.”

The Kurdish Project goes on to explain that over the years, Kurds have been targeted by various governments, for reasons ranging from lack of religiosity, to living on land with natural resources, and other border disputes.

Does this story and history sound familiar? Parallels between the Jews and Kurds have been drawn as early as the Ottoman Empire. Their struggle for independence mirrors one another in many ways.

The history of the Kurdish Jews can be traced back to the Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin. This tribe first arrived in the area of modern Kurdistan after the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Israel during the 8th century BC. During this time, many Jews settled in rural and remote mountainous areas. Unlike the Jews in Europe and parts of the Middle East, many Kurdish Jews worked in agrarian occupations such as farming and trading. Kurdish Jewish society was mostly traditional and observant, but occasionally communicated with outside Jewish populations, such as Israel.  

In many cases, Kurdish Jews merged Jewish customs with local tradition. This can be seen in Kurdish food, which reflects local food of their region that is cooked in accordance with the laws of kashrut. The majority of Kurdish Jews, who were concentrated in northern Iraq, left Kurdistan during Operation Ezra and Nehemiah (a mass emigration of Iraqi Jews to Israel) of 1950-52. This brought almost all Iraqi Jews to Israel, and meant the end of a long Jewish history in places once known as Assyria and Babylon.

kurdish food

Despite facing many challenges after arriving in Israel, the Kurdish immigrants started assimilating into mainstream Israeli culture within a single generation. Israel, in turn, began to absorb some of the Kurdish culture and cuisine. For example, the popular Kurdish dumpling soup called Kubbeh, is now a national Israeli dish. Today, Kurdish Jewry is deeply zionist and settled mainly in Jerusalem.

However, The Yale Israeli Journal explains that even after living much of their lives in Israel, many Israeli Kurds deeply connect with their native Kurdistan, and strive for an independent Kurdish state.

Next Friday, we will come together for a Shabbat dinner to learn more about the Kurds’ compelling history and enjoy their traditional foods. This dinner is open to everyone!

Please register here ASAP as space is limited.

 

 

 

Jackie FeldmanAbout the Author: Jackie Feldman is the founder of Sephardic Jews in DC, a group that hosts events for young professionals in DC in celebration of Sephardic culture, food, and religious traditions. She is the author of the food blog, Healthy Sephardic Cooking that features a healthier spin on many traditional Jewish and Sephardic recipes and teaches classes on Sephardic cuisine and cooking in DC. When she’s not busy cooking or hosting, she enjoys painting, yoga, watching Seinfeld, and anything to do with International Affairs.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Finding Your Shabbat Squad

I’ve been working at the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC) for the past few years as the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program based out of the center. When I started this role, I decided to change up one of our signature programs, Shabbat Clusters – small groups of young adults who we bring together to meet for monthly potluck dinners at each other’s homes and restaurants.

Originally, the Shabbat Clusters groups were based on age and location, and/or if you were single or part of a couple. In 2016, we added interest-based clusters such as outdoors, arts, 30-somethings, and foodies. Each group was also assigned a Shabbat Cluster Coordinator to help the group decide who would host dinner for the month, and be there as a resource for welcoming others to their home and learning about Shabbat rituals. Groups became larger so members had a chance to connect with different types of people. By the end of 2016, we had 285 young adults registered for the season, with new Shabbat Clusters forming every spring and fall!

As someone who has been a part of this program as both a participant, and a staff member, I have discovered that Shabbat Clusters is an incredible way to make new friends, reflect on your week, create Shabbat traditions, throw an awesome themed dinner, and even find your next bae. Check out some of my favorite Shabbat Cluster memories before signing up for the chance to create your own. 

Top 5 Shabbat Clusters Highlights of the Past 2 Years

1) The chilly winter evening when the 30-somethings Shabbat Cluster group hosted an Oscars-themed Shabbat, complete with a photo-booth and themed ice-breaker of sharing your favorite Jewish TV/movie moment, actor, director, or commenting on the week’s Torah portion (and potentially earning an Oscar for this!).

2) That time when two Shabbat Clusters didn’t have enough space at each other’s homes for dinner, so they wound up hosting the dinner together at the EDCJCC – and found these awesome tablescapes and stuffed mini pumpkins for dinner.

3)  That day when we received this awesome email:

I am writing with exciting news! Our cluster was formed through the DCJCC in April 2015. Though we’ve lost a few members to grad school and new jobs in other cities, we continue to meet regularly.  Over the years, we’ve had a Hanukkah Shabbat gift exchange, and gotten together for birthdays, Passover seders, Rosh Hashanah lunch, Yom Kippur Break-Fast meals, Halloween parties, Hamentaschen baking, EDCJCC’s Everything But the Turkey community service project, a singalong Shabbat, and a show at the Kennedy Center (“Kinky Boots”). In September, two of our members (Jennifer Bronson and Douglas Robins), who met through Shabbat Clusters, got engaged and are getting married this summer!

P.S Doug and Jen got engaged over a Shabbat meal that Doug made from scratch. After the proposal,  they danced around the apartment to Bruno Mars. #Shabbatposal

4)  That spring afternoon when the outdoors Shabbat Clusters and the 20’s-something Shabbat Clusters came together for Shabbat lunch in the most creative space: The National Portrait Gallery Kogod Courtyard.

5)  When Lisa Zingman and Hilary Bernstein combined forces to be co-coordinators of their Shabbat Cluster not once, but THREE times. These two amazing ladies already have 15 people signed up to re-join their group for the next year! #winning #Shabbatsquad

via GIPHY

One of our taglines for Shabbat Clusters is “Find Your Shabbat Squad” – and I think that these 5 highlights reflect the idea that coming together for Shabbat is about meeting new friends, celebrating Shabbat your way, creating new traditions, and making lasting memories.

Want to learn more about Shabbat Clusters? Visit the FAQ Page and register for the Spring 2018 Season. The season kicks-off this Friday, but rolling registration will be open until June (or until spots are full).

 

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.

PRO-TIPS For Hosting Your Own Shabbat

I was a completely nervous wreck when I threw my first Shabbat dinner this past summer.

Growing up, Shabbat dinners were not a tradition my family took part in, so I was unaware of all of the customs and traditions that are a part of this holiday. I started attending Shabbat services and dinner regularly with Hillel in college, and soon began to see the beauty in this weekly holiday. Ever since then, I’ve chosen to make Shabbat dinners a regular part of my life.

When I threw my first dinner this past summer, however, I didn’t know where to start. I ended up putting way too much pressure on making sure every part of the night was perfect. The first dinner that I threw helped me realize that as much as I wanted to make it perfect, it was ultimately about enjoying the company of my loved ones, rather than whether or not I cooked a four-course meal.

Since then, I’ve hosted many dinners, both by myself and with others. I have been able to pick up a couple of tricks here and there to help throw a great Shabbat dinner. Read my tips below.

THE GUESTS

Don’t Invite People Who Only Know Each Other

It might be easy to want to only have a specific group of your friends at your first dinner, such as your work friends or the friends you made from your kickball team. It makes it easier on you, as the host, and easier on them, as the guests, because everyone knows each other. But, I really encourage bringing people together from different parts of your life. Your friends will enjoy meeting all the other special people in your life and you will enjoy the dynamic you create by bridging the gaps between your different worlds. If you have concerns about logistically bridging those different worlds, try to make sure that everyone at the table knows or has something in common with at least one person in the room.

Do Invite People Who Aren’t Jewish

Yes, Shabbat might be a Jewish holiday, but that doesn’t mean that non-members of the tribe can’t enjoy it as well. I find that friends of any (or no) religion can all appreciate coming together for a meal, good conversation, and the chance to unwind. As someone who didn’t grow up around a lot of Jews, I really enjoy sharing my culture and my background. Just make sure you encourage them to ask questions at any point during the night.

THE MEAL

Don’t Be Afraid of Store Bought Food

Yes, homemade Jewish food is the absolute best thing in the world! Nothing says a “warm, inviting home” like your mom’s homemade matzo ball soup or that challah recipe that your grandmother taught you how to make as a kid. However, the likelihood of you pulling off an entire home-cooked meal after you get off of work on Friday and finishing it before your friends arrive is “meshugana” (crazy). Just worry about making one or two main dishes. For everything else, go store-bought; the food will be just as good – I promise.

Do Suggest People Bring Items That Will Help Shrink Your To-Do List

Most guests will ask if they can bring something to dinner. While your first thought is probably “no” or “bring whatever you want,” you’ll be better off responding with specific suggestions from your own list. You don’t want to end up with 26 hummuses and no dessert. Wine is always great, and it is what most people will default to. But if someone offers to bring paper products? Take them up on it. Your co-worker wants to make a dessert? Even better. You won’t have as much pressure on your shoulders and you’ll be able to focus on your main dishes.

GENERAL TIPS

Don’t Think The Night Has To Be Super Serious and/or Traditional

If I’ve learned anything from all of the Shabbat dinners that I’ve hosted and participated in it’s this: everyone does Shabbat differently. For example, while I say the prayers and light the candles before every Shabbat dinner, others might choose to forgo that part of the evening. The differences can even be more minute than that, like putting salt on your challah or not (I do for what it’s worth). Part of the beauty of Shabbat dinner is that you can make it yours. Whatever you choose to do, own it — people will just be glad to be there and be part of a special evening.

Do Enlist the Help of Organizations That Serve This Exact Purpose

If you are still feeling overwhelmed after reading this entire post or you just aren’t quite ready to tackle hosting Shabbat dinner all on your own, enlist some of the organizations that solely focus on making hosting Shabbat dinner easier. OneTable and Moishe House Without Walls are two organizations that provide up to $150 credits/reimbursement subsidies to help young adults host dinners. I have personally used OneTable, and it has allowed me to host high-quality Shabbat dinners without feeling like I’m breaking the bank.

 

Leave comments below to talk about your own pro-Shabbat hosting tips.

 

 

 

About the Author: Bryna Kramer 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 originally from the small, southern town of Danville, Virginia. She’s been in D.C. for just over four years, as she moved here in 2013 to attend American University. When she is not busy covering the Wizards on a nightly basis or hosting her own podcast, Meet Us At Molly’s, you can find her binging television or brunching her way through the city. Follow her on Twitter.

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.