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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.

The Best Galentine’s Day Ideas For You & Your Lady Friends

My very favorite time of year is the week after the New Year.

Why?

Because every year, one day that week, I celebrate my love for my galpals and get to revel in the fact that I am surrounded by so many talented, strong, and beautiful friends inside and out. We brunch, we bond, and we fight over the coolest present during our belated white elephant gift exchange.

For the past 10 years, this girl-bonding time has been my beloved tradition. And today, it appears that this concept of celebrating your favorite ladies has evolved into its own holiday – Galentine’s Day – in much part due to Leslie Knope, Amy Poehler’s “Parks and Recreation” character. Galentine’s Day, for those who are not aware, occurs every year on February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day and is a time to get together with your girlfriends and celebrate how much you love one another.

No matter what day you celebrate, it’s always nice to take time to honor your friendships and enjoy good company. So, whether you want to kick it over waffles and leave your partners at home like Leslie, or create your own tradition – here is some inspiration for your next girlfriend gathering.

How to Celebrate Galentine’s Day This Year

Throw a party for your whole squad: Pretty invites, fun activities, festive food, gift exchanges…bring on the friendship fete of the year. Check out these comprehensive guides  for DIY party or an HGTV inspired soiree.

Go on an adventure

Find a last minute travel deals or stay in the city and take a flower arranging class, celebrate powerful women, or head to drag brunch.

Connect to Judaism

Rosh Chodesh, a minor holiday that marks the beginning of every Hebrew month, has long been a time for Jewish women to gather for a wide variety of activities. According to MyJewishLearning.com, women come together to recite traditional liturgy, share a meal, discuss Jewish ethics, or work for social change according to. This is a perfect time of the year to form a group of gals to meet every month.

Snag a spot at GLOE’s Torah and Sexuality class, “Exploring Esther & Female Sexuality in Judaism”

Make some more lady friends!

Check out Sixth and I’s Not your Bubbe’s Sisterhood or Jewish Women International’s Young Women’s Leadership Network

Host or attend a Galentine’s Day Shabbat dinner.

Moishe House Bethesda is hosting a Galentine’s Day Shabbat (nourished by OneTable), and check out others – or get money to host your own – here.

Take some time to connect

Why not use Galentine’s Day as an excuse to reconnect with old friends? Send snail mail to your BFF from college. Facetime with your new-mom friend so you can catch up, and read her baby a bedtime story. Tell your running buddy you’ll be there to cheer for her on and off the track.

No matter how you celebrate, I hope you have a fun Galentine’s Day celebration and enjoy the friends that make your life so wonderful!

 

 

 

 

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.

Jewish pride is not a sin

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  Fortunately, that septet is a Christian invention.  And I’m a Jew.  A proud Jew.  And I’m proud to be a proud Jew.  To be a proud Jew isn’t wrong – as Halley C. at the DC JCC suggests.  Rather, pride in Judaism is the only way we can save American Judaism.

On July 27, Joel Alperson wrote at the JTA that “the non-Orthodox way of life is falling by just about every metric we have at our disposal.  … We’re losing Jews and the commitment of Jews far too quickly.”  Mr. Alperson’s remarks are disturbingly familiar; the number of Americans identifying as Jewish has been on the decline for a long time – between 1990 and 2000, the number of self-identified American Jews fell by five percent.

The only way to reverse this trend is through more Jewish pride.  We proud Jews must share the smart, funny, great, cool, innovative, and powerful Judaism with our children, friends, and colleagues.  Otherwise they will not join.  They will not join because of Torah – sacred texts are no longer sacred in America.  Nor will they will join through stories of the holocaust – pity and sympathy are not club-joining adjectives.   We can only win the allegiance of tomorrow’s Jews by showing them that they are members of an impressive club with an illustrious history.

That this strategy works cannot be doubted.  Sociologists tell us that emotions are contagious: pride will beget pride.  Marketers tell us that people want elite products: Mercedes cars, expensive wines, and Ivy League degrees.  And Washington, DC tells us that people like winning teams: Capitals hockey games are sold out; Nationals baseball tickets are $5 after six losing seasons.  We Jews have a winning team, but nobody will know our record if we never tell a newspaper.

This marketing should of course be done in good taste, and the majority of the marketing should take place within the private Jewish community.  And marketing shouldn’t be put ahead of the product.  Our first responsibility as communal Jews must be to continue to succeed in all dimensions we can.

But we can no longer afford to raise American Jews who are afraid or embarrassed to admit they’re Jewish.  These Jews don’t know that Judaism is a shared bond with many of the smartest, richest, and most successful in the country.  And it’s these Jews that walk away from Judaism.

Pride is not a sin.  If we accomplish great things, then let us share our accomplishments, and let it be incentive to keep pushing.  A Rabbi once praised the biblical David because “where he walked, the ground shook.”  We Jews need to shake the ground and make some tracks.  In doing so, the next generation will know where to follow us.

Stephen Richer is co-founder and president of Gather the Jews.  This blogs reflects only the opinions of Stephen.

Have something you want to write on?  Email Noa at Noa@gatherdc.org