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Repairing the World, One Trip at a Time

I recently sat down with Michele Chakaya, a food justice fellow for Repair the World NYC  to discuss how she got started working with Repair the World and her upcoming service trip with EntryPointDC (the 20s and 30s program of the EDCJCC). This trip, called B’Yachad: A Giveback Getaway Trip to Brooklyn, is an immersive experience where participants volunteer with a variety of organizations, and learn about the systemic issues that create inequality in our society.

Stacy: Tell me more about you! Why did you want to be a fellow and what does Repair the World and their fellows do?

Michele: I am originally from Minneapolis, MN. My family comes from the former Soviet Union and I grew up speaking Russian. Prior to coming to Repair the World, I was working at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. There, I was introduced to various social justice issues and became interested in the social justice world. I have been a Repair the World food justice fellow since August 2017, and I will continue to be a fellow until July. My main partner is Hunger Free America, and I volunteer with them as a SNAP benefits screener. Repair the World organizes tens of thousands of young Jews to volunteer in tackling pressing local needs each year. Our food justice and education justice fellows work with local nonprofits to arrange volunteer and learning opportunities through a peer-to-peer model.

Stacy: What are some of the community service and learning projects participants will be partaking in on the B’Yachad trip?

Michele: We’ll learn about food justice by preparing a meal for the hungry at St. John’s Bread and Life and canvass neighborhoods to inform the local community about the SNAP Benefits and Food program.

We’ll also be helping out at a youth after-school project with Brooklyn Community Services. Racial justice is something we’ll focus on during our time together – the group will partake in anti-oppression training led by Repair the World. And, we’ll have the opportunity to empower young inmates by editing their poetry through the DC-based organization, Free Minds. One of our local board members will be leading a tour of the Crown Heights neighborhood, and Friday evening the participants will join with other local young professionals for a community Shabbat.

Stacy: What do you hope the volunteers will learn from the trip?

Michele: I hope they come back to DC committed to getting involved in service and social justice opportunities. I hope they bring back new ideas, practices, and inspiration that they learned over the weekend, and are able to explore their relationship between their Jewish identities and social justice. And I hope they can reflect on the importance of volunteering, as well as get to know the challenges, strengths, and communities in Crown Heights.

Stacy: What are some of your favorite things to do in Brooklyn and NYC?

Michele: I love to hang out in our neighborhood – Crown Heights, Brooklyn. There are several locally owned businesses on our street, many of which are Caribbean restaurants which serve delicious meats. We are also very close to Prospect Park, which is so beautiful and a very nice place to relax when the weather cooperates. When it comes to the Jewish community, I have enjoyed connecting with the various Moishe Houses, in particular, there is a Russian Speaking Moishe House that has been very welcoming!

Learn more about B’Yachad: A Giveback Getaway Trip to Brooklyn here. The trip is from June 7 – June 10 and applications are due May 7th. Limited spots available.

 

 

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.

 

 

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EntryPointDC is committed to helping Jewish adults in their 20s and 30s in the D.C. metro-area build and maintain a Jewish identity and a connection to the community through social and educational programming.  Annual community service projects include Everything But The Turkey, D25 Day of Service, and Good Deeds Day. Repair the World NYC enables people to transform their neighborhoods, city and lives through meaningful service experiences, rooted in Jewish values, history and heritage.

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 Drag Brunch

Every once in awhile, we all need a Sunday Funday.  

A time to sit back and be entertained with a drink in one hand, and your crew spilling over to the next table, dishing out the latest in their lives.

A popular Sunday afternoon activity that has long been a DC tradition is drag brunch. Favorite drag brunch spots like Nellie’s and Perry’s provide awesome entertainment, but are missing one of our favorite elements – a Jewish shtick.

Luckily, this Sunday, April 22, the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC), located in your favorite DC neighborhood – Dupont Circle – will be hosting the fabulous  Not Your Bubbe’s Bingo: Drag Brunch and Games presented by EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program and GLOE, the LGBTQ outreach and engagement program of the EDCJCC.

There is drag brunch, and then there is JEWISH drag brunch. We thought you might want to know some of the extra elements you will encounter at this entertaining event (drag queens, schvitzing, and glitter may or may not be included).

Bagels, Blintzes, & Many a Mazel Mimosa

There is no better way to start your morning than with Jewish staples like bagel, lox and schmear, challah French toast casserole, blintzes, an unlimited mimosa bar, and coffee and juices for those that may be feeling less “mazel-ous”.

via GIPHY

B-I-N-G-O  (with prizes!)

Perhaps instead of getting an X or four corners on a board, you can win a round of bingo with the shape of a star of David or a Chai? Let us know if you can help us figure that one out!

via GIPHY

Drag Queen Yentas

What is a drag queen yenta you ask? Someone who can simultaneously channel Barbra Streisand, tell you about the hottest hunk in the room, all while calling bingo numbers.

via GIPHY

Mah Jongg,  Canasta, & Jewish Apples to Apples  #FTW

We would love to help you impress Bubbe when you join her at her weekly mahjong game. Learn why a Chinese tile-based game became popular among our female family in Florida and the basics of the classics.

 

Sunday may be some people’s day of rest, but we plan on ending our weekend having more fun than the time we got lifted in our chairs at our bar and bat mitzvahs.

Get tickets here for Not Your Bubbe’s Bingo: Drag Brunch & Games on Sunday, April 22.

 

 

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.

Words & Ideas: 1:1 Interview with EDCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky

On March 15th the Edlavitch DCJCC will host, as part of the Words & Ideas program, a discussion on “Compassion, Love and the American future” featuring Rabbi Shai Held in conversation with Martha Nussbaum, world renowned author and philosopher. This will be the first event of the series that I will be able to attend, and I am very much looking forward to it! I studied philosophy, so it’s always exciting to listen to  contemporary thinkers expressing opinions on today’s issues.

While checking out the Words & Ideas program, I discovered several amazing events and got curious about the history and goals of this initiative. I also started to wonder: are words more important than ideas? Or vice versa?

To curb my curiosity, I spoke over the phone with EDCJCC’s CEO, Carole Zawatsky.

EDCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky

Daniela: Can you tell us something about the Words & Ideas program and how it got started?

Carole: Edlavitch DCJCC has a wonderful and rich history of doing intellectual programs at a very high level and I, together with our Board of Directors, wanted a new program this year, that really focuses on vital issues that are relevant throughout the community, featuring writers, artist, scientists, and thinkers.

Daniela: Last October, you had a Words & Ideas 3-day-symposium. How did it go?

Carole: It went very well and addressed the issue of “how we age”. It was called “Getting Older, Getting Bolder” because, like many other people turning toward their 60s…I don’t feel older, I feel bolder! The experiences we encounter in life make us much more comfortable speaking out, and using our experiences in positive ways. I wanted to do something that would address age from a very positive prospective.

Daniela: On March 15th the program will feature Rabbi Shai Held in conversation with Martha Nussbaum. What will they be talking about?

Carole: This upcoming event is with Martha Nussbaum, one of the most prominent philosophers, and an incredible writer for The New Yorker. We will be looking at compassion, which is definitely a relevant issue in everyone’s life.

Daniela: Why is it important to focus on and talk about contemporary issues through a Jewish lens? In other words, do you think that programs such as “Words & Ideas” are particularly significant nowadays?

Carole: As a community we have shared values, shared concerns. We think about the finite resource of our environment, the finite resource of our time, getting older–they are universal concerns. All faiths and religions have something to say about these universal issues. But looking at these topics through a Jewish lens brings the values of Jewish tradition to bear on issues that are important for us, and which we think about together. One of the most wonderful ways to learn about any faith is to see its best values shining forward.

Daniela: Last question – Are words more important than ideas, or vice versa?

Carole: I love that question!! Both — words, and ideas, can bring you up and tear you down. I think that the word is the expression of the idea but I would love to hear what other people think!

My dear readers, since we would also love to hear your opinion on Words & Ideas – please let us know what you think and leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Daniela Enriquez is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Daniela is Italian and comes from the only Jewish family in Palermo (population: slightly higher than DC). Things she likes about America include: the price of clothing, Internet coffee houses and ice rinks. Among the less desirable things are: the obsession with air conditioning, American “espresso,” and root beer. Feel free to contact her for advice on real Italian food in DC!

 

 

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.

“Strange Fruit” – Remembering the Civil Rights Movement

I was a bit disappointed this past November when I was unable to see the Edlavtich DCJCC’s Washington Jewish Music Festival (WJMF) show by Levine Music, “Strange Fruit: Music from – and inspired by – the Civil Rights movement”. The tickets for this show sold out too quickly for me to get one, and people who attended told me it was a big success. So when I saw, last month, that the EDCJCC was offering a second performance on January 29th, I immediately decided to check it out AND got the chance to speak with one of the musicians involved!

The “Strange Fruit” concert was a powerful and intense experience from the beginning to the end. Energetic songs and freedom chants were sung, heartbreaking poems and motivating speeches were recited. The audience was taken to the 1960s and back by the rhythm of the instruments and the amazing voices of the musicians. By the end everybody stood, sang and clapped to the rhythm of “We Shall Overcome!”

A few days before the performance, I had the pleasure of speaking with internationally acclaimed opera singer and star of this show, Mr. Charles Williams – who has performed at renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall, Wolf Trap, The Smithsonian, and the Kennedy Center. Williams led the “Strange Fruit” show with songs, recited classic poetry, and even read a portion of Martin Luther King Jr’s Nobel Prize speech. We talked about the two performances at the EDCJCC, freedom riders, the civil rights movement, and the difference with today’s movements for social justice.

Daniela: “Strange Fruit” had already been performed and had such a big impact that the EDCJCC proposed an encore. Were you expecting such a big success?

Charles: It was very exciting, and we were very overwhelmed by the reception. We’d love to do it again, and in other places, but there are about 7 people in the show and it’s difficult to get them all together. When composer, educator, and one of the leading musicians Chris Brown (no, not that Chris Brown) – and the people at the EDCJCC suggested we do it again, we all agreed and we’re really looking forward to it.

Daniela: Tell us about this project. Why did you decide to present it as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival?

Charles: Chris Brown spoke with the people at the WJMF, and thought it was a wonderful idea to open the show during the WJMF because it has a lot to do with racism, and the Jewish people have had their share of racism – it was a natural. During the Civil Rights era, there were so many people of all religions and ages that were very much a part of it, including a lot of Jews. Martin Luther King Jr. had a very special talent because he was speaking the truth and people knew it. He forced Americans to get on the right track.

Daniela: What about the musical selection? How did the set list come together?

Charles: In 1961 the freedom riders travelled to Washington, DC and to the deep south. Some of them were attacked, and some of them were killed. We chose some of the freedom riders’ songs that I suggested, and as well as some of the other songs from the era that were being sung by the students.

Daniela: What makes a song like “Strange Fruit” a protest song, and how big of an impact did that song have when it first came out?

Charles: “Strange Fruit” was written in 1939 by a white, Jewish school teacher Abel Meeropol who was a member of The Communist Party. He wrote it as a protest poem exposing American racism and particularly the lynching of African Americans. Then, Billie Holiday wrote music to it. It became an anthem, a very important song of the civil rights era.

Daniela: Do you think that today’s “resistance” movement can be compared to the civil rights movement? What’s the role of music in it?

Charles: You can compare today’s “resistance” movement to the civil rights movement, but there is one significant difference. During the civil rights movement, people sang. Everybody – Catholics, Jews, Black people, and White people…they sang.

Nowadays, people are not singing. Even during the Women’s March, they were not singing. Music is extremely powerful, and if you do music while you are resisting, that becomes very powerful and it’s difficult to disregard it. I think that’s what is missing with these movements, like the Women’s movement and Black Lives Matter. They could sing the music from the civil rights era! They are missing an opportunity, and it won’t have as big of a success without the music. Music and love are the most powerful forces on earth!

 

About the Author: Daniela Enriquez is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Daniela is Italian and comes from the only Jewish family in Palermo (population: slightly higher than DC). Things she likes about America include: the price of clothing, Internet coffee houses and ice rinks. Among the less desirable things are: the obsession with air conditioning, American “espresso,” and root beer. Feel free to contact her for advice on real Italian food in DC!

 

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.

Why I Love Five Minute Dates (and You Should Too)!

Raise your hand if you have sat through a first date you met from “fill-in-the-blank” dating app about 45 minutes longer than you wanted to?

Can you count the number of times you started talking with someone at a bar you were interested in, but it turned out he or she was not single?

Remember the night you attended that Jewish happy hour looking for a date but only talked to people looking for friends?

Most of us have been there.

You wished that first blind meeting would be shorter, but you are obligated to stay for at least one drink, or you spend a few hours chatting up the one person you find attractive in the room only to find out they’re not available.

We don’t always want to admit that sometimes the easiest thing to do is be in a room where we know everyone is single and looking.

That is why I have been hosting speed dating events for the Jewish community for the past 6 years.

I was skeptical of the speed dating format at first (which is why my events add other mingling elements) but I do think these types of events have lots of positives.

You don’t have to cite the lemon law

Conceived by Barney, the perpetual bachelor from the television show How I Met Your Mother, The Lemon Law is a rule introduced to avoid spending too long on a date that is going nowhere. The Lemon Law entitles either party on a date to call off the date within the first five minutes with no repercussions or hard feelings.  With speed dating your total date lasts less time than your favorite Spotify song.

You can meet people you would not otherwise meet

The first time I went speed dating on my own was before the era of swiping right, and around the time online dating was at its peak. I tried to go in with an open mind, and figured if I didn’t meet anyone or get a match, at least I tried something new.  I wound up matching with 3 men I had not come across before and went out with all of them, going on several dates with 2 out of the 3. None of them hdid online dating at the time, or attended a lot of Jewish events, so the chance of us meeting was practically zero. Although it didn’t work out romantically with them, one of these men I still count as my good friend today (sorry, he is taken ladies) and I helped introduce him to his current circle of guy friends.

I decided to try speed dating another time a few years later. This time, I didn’t feel a connection with any of the men.  I noticed many of the women were sharing the same feelings at the end of the night so a group of us decided to go to dinner after the event. We had a great time discussing our evening and many of us kept in touch. I still consider this night a win for me.

IRL vs. swiping right

In the world of app and online dating, there is a good chance that someone does a) not look like their picture or is b) shorter or taller than they listed or c) more extroverted or introverted than their text conversations led you to believe. Meeting someone first IRL takes the guesswork out of the equation.

A preview date leads to a better real first date

A few years ago I threw myself into the mix of one of my group speed dating events since we needed more women. During the mingling portion of the evening I heard that one of the men was asking the women a much better question than the typical DC “what do you do?” Apparently he was going around having everyone describe their favorite board game and why they liked it. Of course, I eventually met this guy during a round of speed dating and we discussed my love of the game Balderdash. He asked for my number and I said yes. Why? Because I knew he would be a fun date, he stood out from the crowd and was creative during our “preview date.” My instincts were right; he didn’t suggest a typical drinks or coffee first date.

On our date, we had Sour Patch (him) and Reese’s Peanut-Butter Cup (me) infused beers for DC Beer Week with dinner and then attended a secret musical open-mic show.  Where is board game guy today you ask? He moved away from DC a few years ago, but I still have him to thank for creating the app that allows everyone to choose their matches at our speed dating events.

Speed dating has some silver linings, right?  Every year, before Single’s Awareness Day (AKA: Valentine’s Day), I host my speed dating event, Lox Meets Bagel. I gather around 100 Jewish young adults in a room and call on cupid to make some matches. Next Wednesday, February 7, I hope you will also be up for more IRL dates and meeting new people and join me for some “preview dates.”

And because I am confident you too will make some matches, for after the “preview date”:

Brightest Young Things first date guide

Thrillist’s 26 Winter Date Ideas that are not just drinks

Date Nights DC

 

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! She 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.