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Meet Jeremy: Jewish Canadian 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.

hanging at a sports gameAllie: What brought you to DC?

Jeremy: Like most people, it was happenstance of the job. I went to school in St. Louis, and am from Toronto originally, so I didn’t have ties to any cities in the US. I’d always heard that DC was a cool city to live, and filled with a lot of young people. After 3 years here, I’m so happy I made that decision.

Allie: How did you decide to move to America after growing up in Canada?

Jeremy: Canada’s university system takes a very European approach to education. When you apply to college out of high school, you apply directly to a specific program, like pre-med. In the US, it’s a lot more liberal. You don’t need to pick your major until the second year, there’s a lot more flexibility. Also, I had the same group of friends since middle school, and they were all going to go to the same college, so it was good for me to expand.

Allie: What do you think are the biggest differences between America and Canada?

Jeremy: 1) The cities in the US. have a much more diverse group of people. In Canada, people are either from Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. In the US, you have people from the middle of Iowa and people from New York who are now living in the same city.

2)  In the US, there is a lot more homegrown, original stuff that goes on in the cities. Toronto is a big city, but if you look at the entertainment options there, most shows and art didn’t originate in Toronto, they started in New York or L.A.

3) There are a lot more all-you-can-eat buffets in the US.

4) Canada just got its first Cheesecake Factory six months ago. Since then, there have been non-stop lines at the restaurant, and Canadian food bloggers are writing food blogs about it. People can’t even get reservations.

Allie: What are you most excited about for the summertime?

Jeremy: It’s my dad’s 60th birthday this summer, so my family rented a house in Puglia, Italy and are going to go at the end of summer. Apparently, there’s a wood-burning pizza oven in the backyard of the house, and it’s near wineries. I’m excited to drink wine, eat pizza, and it’s only 20 minutes from the beach and some old Italian cities.

Allie: If you had an entirely free day to do whatever you want in D.C., how would you spend it?

Jeremy:  I’d probably sleep in, go to Bethesda Bagels, and ideally there wouldn’t be a line. Then, I’d head towards the monuments. I’ve always wanted to go up the Washington Monument, even though the elevators have been broken for so long. In my ideal day, the elevators would be working. I’ve really wanted to go to the African American Museum, so I’d go there, and then  grab lunch somewhere downtown. I’d go to Mini Bar for dinner, and then to a speakeasy – the one behind Jack Rose called Dram and Grain DC. I’ve never been, but apparently they have really good bourbon drinks. Oh, also, I love going to see movies at the Air and Space Museum.

Jewish friends in DC

Allie: What’s your favorite smell and why?

Jeremy: Vanilla, Cinnabon, and the smell of a flower shop.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax and destress?

Jeremy: I try and go for a run every so often, and read. I tried to meditate for a week, and I wish I could do that longer, maybe that’s something I can learn this year.

Allie: If you could eat 3 foods for the rest of your life what would they be?

Jeremy: Bagel/lox/cream cheese, steak with a side of parmesan truffle fries, and any veggie pizza.

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

Jeremy: I want to see the Northern Lights. I want to go skydiving, but I’m terrified of heights. And I want to go scuba diving more often.

Allie: Are there any Canadian terms for things that you wish people knew?

Jeremy: My favorite word you guys don’t have here is a garburator – it’s a garbage disposal.

Allie: Hobbies or skills you want to do or learn this year?

I want to do more snowboarding and ice hockey. I’d like to go on a snowboarding trip to Vail or Big White in Canada for hockey and snowboarding.

Allie: Do you have any interesting facts that people may not know about you?

Jeremy: I have slept in an igloo, and have been dog sledding before.

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

Jeremy: They argue whose mom makes the best matzo ball soup (mine does).

Jewish guy of the week and girlfriend

 

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.

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.

From K Street to the Knesset – Pt 3:  What Does it Mean to be Jewish?

Over 100 events filled the GatherDC community calendar in April 2018. They ranged from a weekly Jewish yoga class at Adas Israel to listening to a Holocaust survivor at the EDCJCC. Events spanned all areas of the city, and extended to Maryland and Virginia. They included social gatherings like bar bingo, and educational outings for Jews of all identity groups.  

Diverse in many ways, but one thread bound these 100+ programs together: they were Jewish.

The 2017 Greater Washington Jewish Community Demographic Study denoted that, “DC’s Jewish community numbers nearly 300,000 Jewish adults and children in over 155,000 households.” The study found that 22% of the community is 18-29 years old, and another 21% are 30-39.

The Greater Washington Jewish community is the third largest Jewish community in the country. 43% of those in the DMV community are young professionals. Although many of these young adults are often seen at Jewish events (or on JSwipe), our local community spans far beyond these highly involved individuals. The study highlights that in America, being Jewish or not Jewish is not a binary classification. Jewish pluralism is alive and well in the U.S., and thriving in our nation’s capital.

As a part of B’nai B’rith International’s 175th Anniversary, I looked to better explore this idea of Jewish pluralism in a project dubbed The Zero.Dot.Two Initiative. With approximately 14.4 million Jews alive globally, our people represent approximately 0.2% of worldwide citizenry. In the U.S., which is the second most populous nation of Jewish citizens, we are still only 2% of the population. In Israel, three out of every four citizens are Jewish. To better understand Judaism in today’s diverse world, I began interviewing different local, national, and international Jewish influencers with just one question: what does it mean to be Jewish?

GatherDC’s Rabbi Aaron Potek answers the question by saying, “my five paths [to a meaningful Jewish identity] are spirituality, wisdom, ethics, community, and culture. I think these are five different ways to think about Judaism. Obviously, some of these paths intersect, but I believe each one individually can be a path that someone can go down.”  

Other DC-area rabbis share their own messages:

Rabbi Shira Stutman of Sixth & I Historic Synagogue discussed the orienting principles of her Jewish identity, which included tikkun olam (repairing the world) and, more specifically, how “that the world as it is, is not the world as it could be… It is our responsibility, as Jews in this world, to continue to yearn to heal the world, which is broken in so many ways, but also to improve the way that we interact with the world.”

Rabbi Steven I. Rein of the Agudas Achim Congregation of Alexandria, VA, who also serves as Jewish Chaplain for Arlington National Cemetery, said “one of the most important roles of Judaism is to provide the ‘derech‘ or path and motivation by which we can aspire to be our best selves, and in doing so, make a positive difference in the world in which we live.”

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, the founding rabbi of B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Maryland, spoke of fulfilling the mitzvot. He paraphrased Elie Wiesel in saying, “to be Jewish in the 20th century is to be offered a gift. I look at Judaism as I look at this wonderful treasure – this wonderful heritage that we have. It has to do with our values that we offer both to individuals, and the values that we contribute to the world. Secondly, being Jewish offers us a sense of identity. An identity of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.”

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who is the Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), and also serves the governmental and diplomatic needs of the international Chabad-Lubavitch movement, said, “the core of being Jewish means [asking], do I have a strong relationship with my creator – with G-d? Do I nurture that relationship on a daily basis? Do I do whatever I can to make the world better…bringing the world to a place where the nations of the world will be blessed through us collectively as Jews and individually?”

Beyond these religious leaders and teachers, the interview series has included elected officials, academics, celebrities, business leaders, Jewish communal professionals, and more.

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) answered the question by saying, “It’s family, it’s tradition, it’s values. Almost every Friday, our family gets together for Shabbat dinner because that’s our tradition. We talk about each other’s lives, and what we can do to help our community – because that’s Jewish values.”

Mr. Cardin’s counterpart in the U.S. House, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who represents a swatch of Montgomery County, MD, answered by referencing the first time on Sunday school that he heard the famous Rabbi Hillel dictum, “If I am only for myself, what am I?”


This interview series has been an exciting project for me as I continue to develop my own Jewish identity, that has been significantly evolving throughout my life. 

Growing up, I used to think that I was a “bad Jew.” My family didn’t keep kosher, regularly observe Shabbat, belong to a synagogue, or even celebrate every Jewish holiday.  Today, I don’t think anyone can be labeled a “bad Jew” because I no longer look at Judaism in a binary construct. I recognize that while some may choose to observe Judaism through a more traditional path, others may choose a different route. These paths run parallel to one another, rather than in opposite directions. 

My Jewish identity has matured exponentially while living in DC due to this wonderful, local Jewish community that has taught – and continues to teach – me so much. Today, when I think about my Jewish community, I see past the 300,000 Jews living in and around DC. I consider the wider global Jewish community that offers me lessons on how I can be a better person by representing Judaism in a way that is meaningful to me. I know that I want to raise my future family Jewishly, and am beyond excited to marry a caring, loving, smart, funny, confident, and beautiful young Jewish woman in just a few months. My fiancé makes me a better person, and a better Jewish man, every day. She is my besheret (destined/soulmate). I cannot wait to see how our two Jewish lives and families, unique in their own ways, forge themselves into a single Jewish household under the ‘chuppah’ – and into our collective future.

Thinking back to my meeting with Rabbi Potek at GatherDC’s new Dupont Circle townhouse on April 19, I consider how the significance of that day relates to my personal Jewish identity. Although that day may have appeared like any other Thursday, to me, it was significant. This  importance was not just because I enjoyed learning from the rabbi, but also because we met on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).

My own Jewish identity includes a great connection to the land and the people of Israel.  I’m proud that last month the nation celebrated its 70th anniversary since its founding and I have a deep respect for the thousands of years of history of the connection of that land to the Jewish people.

This series of exploring differing perspectives on Jewish identity is a teaching tool. We all relate to our personal Jewish identity in our own way.  One of my favorite things about Judaism is that we often have more questions than answers to some of life’s most complex ideas. These questions and answers can be unique to each of us.

So, my blog series, “From K (or M) Street, to the Knesset”, was meant to share that there is no singular answer to the question, “what does it mean to be Jewish?” Judaism is unique to me. It is unique to you. It is unique to someone on K Street, or M Street, or in the Knesset. It is unique to a Jew in DC, Maryland, or Virginia. And it is unique to someone in Jerusalem, London, Paris, Moscow, Cape Town, Montreal, Morocco, Tokyo, or wherever Jews call home.

Like the 100+ events on GatherDC’s community calendar – to be Jewish is diverse. But, it includes one common thread: t be Jewish is to identify as being Jewish.  Whether you identity as orthodox, conservative, reform, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi, tall, short, Jew-curious, or just Jewish – you are all my Jewish brothers and sisters.

P.S. My personal answer to “What does it mean to be a Jew” is this: Being Jewish comes down to one question, and it isn’t “is your mother Jewish?” I ask myself, and I hope others ask themselves, if they identify as Jewish. If so, then: Do I/they choose to live a life that is based on Jewish ideals; Do I/they recognize that the world is imperfect, and that it is up to each of us to try to find our own individual way to repair it; Do I/they treat others with respect and as-if we would like to be treated ourselves; Do I/they know that God exists and that we as a people should try to both learn and teach Torah.

P.P.S. If you are interested in exploring your own Jewish identity, reach out to GatherDC to learn about all of the wonderful ways that they engage 20-and-30-somethings in the DC-area. Or, to hear other news important to the Jewish people, “like” the B’nai B’rith International Facebook page.

 

About the Author: Jason Langsner is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Jason has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004.  He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world – B’nai Brith International. When not blogging, he can often be found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Monica: Jewish DC-Lover of the Week!

Monica Arkin is DC’s biggest cheerleader. Although she currently lives – and works – in Bethesda, Maryland, she never ceases on an opportunity to take full advantage of all that our great nation’s capitol has to offer. From day-dreaming of free afternoons laying on the National Mall to enthusiastically attending Jewish events across the city to taste-testing hamantaschen at local DC bakeries, Monica is here to reinvigorate your love for the District. Read on to get to know this vivacious human!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Monica: I’m from Cleveland originally and went to University of Michigan (go blue!), where I majored in Psych and minored in Hebrew. After college, I knew that I wanted to go to Israel to learn more about PTSD in kids and adolescents. In Israel there is so much trauma, which is unfortunate, but given the circumstances they do a really good job of producing research about trauma and resiliency.

I went to Israel after graduating, and it was great. After a year in Israel, I decided to come back to the US, I and started looking for jobs online. My cousin sent me an opening for a job in Bethesda – to be  a research assistant for a nonprofit, nonpartisan social science research organization called Child Trends. My first thought of Bethesda is that its where Carmen lived in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but when I looked it up on GoogleMaps I realized how close it was to DC! The job description was amazing, and I knew I liked DC from the two times I had been here. I got the job, and moved here, and have been pleasantly surprised time and time again with DC.

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

Monica: Honestly, I think it’s really special that our Jewish community has GatherDC, and no other city has anything like that [Editor’s Note: Monica received zero compensation for this shoutout — #humblebrag.]. It is really cool that every week I get one email that shows me what’s going on across the spectrum of observance levels, across all these different areas. One weekend, there might be a sephardic dinner and a social action Tikkun Leil Shabbat. If I wanted to, I could go to two Jewish events in DC every night.

Allie: Speaking of your passion for Jewish DC life, what was it like to be a part of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship? [NOTE: The Open Doors Fellowship is a 6-month fellowship that trains a group of 8-12 young adults from across DC to become go-to leaders, conveners, and facilitators of DC Jewish life.]

Monica: It was really fun! We had a really good group of people. It was cool meeting other people in the Jewish community, and we did a lot of community mapping so I was able to learn about every Jewish organization in DC. Now, when I meet someone new, I’m able to be a sort of unofficial ambassador for Jewish life and can connect people with things they might like.

Allie: I hear you volunteer for the Israeli American Council (IAC) – tell me about that!

Monica: I volunteer for a youth group – Eitanim – through the IAC. It’s a biweekly youth group for high schoolers, half of whom are American Jews and half of whom are Israelis. It’s cool because I get to interact with people of different ages, not only those in their 20s and 30s.

Allie: Awesome! Now, let’s get to know some of your favorite things…what’s your favorite show to binge watch right now?

Monica: Blackish. I love it.

Allie: Favorite way to spend a free Sunday in the city?

Monica: I would probably sit outside at Tryst and each lunch. Then, I’d walk all the way from Tryst to the National Mall and just sit on the Mall with friends.

Allie: Favorite Jewish food?

Monica: At the moment, I’m into hamantaschen. Yesterday, I got these amazing hamantaschen from Sunflower Bakery – triple chocolate and cookie dough filled.

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Monica: Passover! This year, I’m celebrating it in a very special way. we’re doing Pesach in Cleveland for Seder, which we always do. But, the week before we’re doing a huge “Pre-sach” (AKA: pre-Pesach) ski trip in Breckenridge, Colorado. My cousins are all going – family is coming in from California, Cleveland, and London. We’re going to do a Seder the week before Passover when we’re all together.

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

Monica: Jewish geography is played.

 

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 Ben, Ben, Ben, AND Ben! (yes, you read that right)

GatherDC’s winter 2018 Beyond the Tent retreat was an amazing experience for young adults to get outside of DC for a weekend, unpack 21st century Judaism, and explore their Jewish identity over deep, meaningful conversations. Among the 30 participants, zero were named Rachel…but FOUR were named Ben! This week, the Bens of Beyond the Tent share their unique perspectives on Jewish DC and life in general – proving, once and for all, that not all Bens are the same. Get to know them…

 

Ben D. – Former Jewish Guy of the Week!

Allie: Where does your unique name come from? Do any of you have a cool story behind why you were named Ben?

Ben D.: I was going to be named after my grandfather, Sidney, which is now my middle name. As a result, my hebrew name is Simcha.

Ben F.: It was passed down from my great-grandfather.

Ben R.: I don’t know. Does that make me a bad Jew? Fake Jew? Typical Jew?

Ben L.: No, but my family and I grew a bit tired of our names last year (we’ve been using them for decades…) and so we used nicknames for a few good months. I went by Josh.

Ben F.

 

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

Ben D.: DC brings the best and the brightest young people from around the country, who come here specifically to make a difference in the world. DC is a springboard for young leaders.

Ben F.: Great collection of educated citizens that aren’t afraid to challenge the establishment. Ask questions, drive for change, and push forward.

Ben R.: All within a few miles and by way of a mass-public transportation train, there’s movies, comedy, craft beer, rock climbing, pour-over coffee shops, and challenging hikes. What else is there in life?

Ben L.: The monuments at night.

 

Allie: If you could pick a new name for yourself right now, what would it be and why?

Ben D.: I usually go by my full name “Ben Droz”, (rhymes with “Ben Rose”).  I like it just the way it is.

Ben F.: Staying with Ben. Simple name but yet plenty of clever nicknames.

Ben R.: When I was 26 years old, my first book was published. I had unlimited options for the name that was published on the cover: I could have chosen Ben, Benjy, Ben-jammin, Ben-jammmmmmmmmin, Benjamin, or an alias. I chose Benjamin, the name by which my loving parents chose to call me. And, I’m sticking with it.

Ben L.: Josh. Worked before. Could work again.

Allie: I hear you all recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat with Rabbi Aaron! First, how was it? Second, was it weird, awesome, or both meeting 3 other Bens?

Ben D.: Beyond the Tent was a great experience, to get out of the DC bubble and make time for deep reflection. It helped to highlight that any person can define Judaism for themselves. I am used to there being other Bens around throughout my life, which is one reason why I usually go by my full name. But this time, we made up more than 10% of the whole group, so yes, that was both weird and awesome.

Ben F.: Beyond the Tent was a mind-changing experience. Rabbi Aaron encouraged us to ask difficult questions and not to be afraid to stand behind our beliefs. In terms of meeting all the Bens, I think we embraced it – it was like our own little breakout group in itself.

Ben R.: Beyond the Tent impacted my life positively, partly because I was one of four individuals named Ben. Never again in my life, I’m certain of this, will I be in the same place with three other friends named Ben. That’s “Beyond the Awesome”.

Ben L.: It was a thought provoking weekend. I’m a regular attendee of the weekly secret underground gatherings of the Bens, so nothing too new.

 

Allie: Favorite thing to do on a free Sunday in the city?

Ben D.: There are always so many events in DC that I like to see what is going on and base my decision on that.  Last weekend I randomly went to the Zoo, which was fun.

Ben F.: Go for a run along the National Mall.

Ben R.: Watch professional football. Oh wait, I live and die by the Washington Redskins and football season is over? Dang it!

Ben L.: Park. I really enjoy not having to use the meter.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish food? Ben R., we already know you hate hummus

Ben D.: Chicken Soup.

Ben F.: Might be a classic choice, but Apples and Honey.

Ben R.: [haha. Yep]. Not hummus.

Ben L.: My mom’s challah. All of her’s are good, but I’d say that 1 out of 4 is truly something divine, especially when my two year-old niece helps. Shout out to Maya, Talia, and Andrew, my favorite Jews in DC!

 

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Ben D.: I had a spiritual experience at Burning Man and now want to incorporate spirituality into my life in new ways.

Ben F.: I was born without two normal teeth and with all 4 wisdom teeth. Call me strange I guess!

Ben R.: Every morning, I touch my three tattoos and say aloud a blessing of gratitude about having my third chance in life and about accepting myself and others as we are. Thanks to Beyond the Tent, I realize now that, for me, this is a deeply Jewish and spiritual ritual.

Ben L.: I used to tear it up at table tennis tournaments as a kid.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Ben D.: Passover, because there is so much relating to the holiday (I follow sephardic food rules so that I can still enjoy rice and lentils). I like to celebrate by re-interpreting the Haggadah from a post-modern perspective.

Ben F.: Rosh Hashanah. And I try to spend time back home to reminisce on the year prior and look at new ways to seize the future.

Ben R.: Purim because my friend is baking me hamentashen. Ask me again in April, and I may say a different holiday if a friend bakes me something else.

Ben L.: Havdalah. I like to hear the candle’s flame slowly go out in the wine. Judaism places a lot of emphasis on transitions throughout one’s day, week, or year and when in crisis, and I think that’s smart.

 

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

Ben D.: They will always find connection and meaning.

Ben F.: If meeting for the first time, you’ll probably get a first question like what you do for a living or where are you from.

Ben R.: They still congregate around the hummus.

Ben L.: You’ll never be the one with the best question or the best answer. That means it’ll be pretty exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Meet Ike – Jewish Journalist (and Newbie) of the Week!

Ike Swetlitz is a man of many talents. A contra-dancing aficionado, world traveler, Jewish music guru, medical journalist – just to name a few. Though he is brand new to our nation’s great capital, he seems to be taking full advantage of what DC has to offer. Get to know him, and welcome him to the city!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool job as a journalist. Tell me a little bit about that.

Ike: I’m a health and medical journalist for STAT, which is part of The Boston Globe Company. Before this, I was majoring in Physics at Yale and doing a lot of journalism on the side – trying to decide if I wanted to be a Physicist or a Journalist. In the end, I realized I prefered developing relationships with people instead of a computer, so I figured it would be a lot more enjoyable to work as a journalist. I’m still really fascinated by science, so getting to be a health/medical journalist is a wonderful opportunity for me to pursue both of these interests.

Allie:  Where is the coolest place you’ve ever traveled?

Ike: I have two: The Point Reyes National Seashore, on the coast of California, just north of San Francisco. It was such a beautiful place, and has an incredible sea lion reserve. The second is my visit to the the Jewish community in rural Ghana – Sefwi Wiawsoin. While I was spending a few weeks in Ghana working for an agricultural news radio station, I had the opportunity to travel to the Jewish community and spend a Shabbat there.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ike: I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago, and after college was looking for journalism jobs. STAT was just starting up in Boston, and I got a job there as a medical/health journalist, and moved to Boston. I started working on many journalism projects related to DC, and wound up moving down here just a few months ago to pursue these projects at STAT’s DC-office.

Allie: Being new to the city, what is your take on DC so far?

Ike: DC reminds me of when I first moved to Boston, and I’m in this period of meeting a lot people and trying to figure out where I fit into the community. It’s a different kind of city than Boston though. In Boston, every other person works for a university or health company, and in DC every other person works for the government or an organization related to the government.

Allie What are your favorite things to do in the city?

Ike: I really enjoy going to the farmer’s markets in DC, and checking out the many Jewish community programs, and folk dance communities.

Allie: Folk dancing? How did you get involved with that?

Ike: Well, I learned square dancing in ninth grade, because we were told it was was the State Dance of Illinois. Then, when I was at college, I discovered this small, nearby town that had contra dancing – which is sort of like square dancing, but more fun – and every so often, I took part in that. While living in Boston after college, there was a big dancing community, so I started doing contra dancing, and have been happy to see there are lots of those communities in DC too.

Allie: How do you connect to Judaism in your own life?

Ike: I love Jewish music, Jewish ritual, and find that Jewish communities I’ve been a part of are really welcoming. It’s refreshing to spend time with a group of people who can be intently focused on one thing at hand.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Ike: I’d say the founders of Nava Tehilah – a song-based community in Jerusalem. They’ve created this incredible group that brings people together who normally have different religious practices, and show one another the beauty of each other’s traditions.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Ike: Sweet potato latkes. They’re basically like gigantic sweet potato fries.

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

Ike: They’re surprised by who they recognize.

 

 

 

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 Sarah: Jewish Tech Startup Founder of the Week!

Sarah Hostyk is one of those people who makes you want to deactivate your Netflix account and start doing more productive things with your evenings (but Stranger Things Season 2?!). At age 13, she wrote her first business plan. At 21, she was a finalist in Virginia Tech’s regional business competition. The following year, she was the first US employee at a Tel-Aviv based mobile app. And by age 26, she founded her very own mobile app. …maybe Stranger Things can wait until I’m a super successful app-creator? Ugh, but then I’ll never know what really happened to Barb. Life choices are tough.

Sarah seems to be really good at life. Get to know her!

Allie: So, you founded and just launched a mobile app in DC and on DC college campuses. That’s pretty awesome, tell us a little about that?

Sarah: Thanks! I founded Place Tempo – a free Apple and Android app that matches remote workers, students, and travelers with the top six places nearby to work/study that best fits their selected productivity needs (quiet, great wifi, how busy, open seating, outlets, etc). It’s driven by daily real-time and recent crowd-sourced ratings from fellow users and from your ratings. The app covers cafes, coffee shops, university buildings, restaurants, libraries, transit hubs, hotel lobbies, work spaces, etc. I describe it is as a productivity focused Yelp meets real-time Waze. You can download it from my website, or on the Apple App or Android/Google Play stores! (More info on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)

Allie: How did you come up with the idea for Place Tempo?

Sarah: When I was in college, I would stay up very late every night, moving from place to place in order to find some place quiet with few distractions so I could productively study. After college, I moved to Boston where I worked as the first US employee of an early-stage mobile app startup based near Tel Aviv, and then I worked on/at other Boston startups. There was a lot of remote work involved, and I encountered the same problems: home was too distracting/comfortable, staying in a location that didn’t have what I needed and that meant I wasn’t as productive, and I’d waste valuable time searching out decent places both in Boston and while traveling to other cities.

I couldn’t find a tech solution to help, and I saw the US workforce moving more and more to remote work… so Place Tempo was born. I moved back home to the DC area to bootstrap it and get it off the ground.

Allie: What are some lessons you’ve learned about running your own tech company from launching this app?

Sarah:

    Be relentlessly determined, keep pushing through closed doors and No’s, and never give up until you get the Yes’s you need.

      Be a Jack-of-All-trades, teach yourself the basics of everything until you can bring on a specialist.

      Serendipity is real, so pitch strangers everywhere: in coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, on the metro. I’ve made amazing connections, and gotten great feedback and new users this way.

      Be creative and resourceful. I created a life-size Place Tempo smartphone costume and went to DC campuses in it to get users and attention (see photo).

      Constantly seek user feedback and build a community around your product.

      Ask for help and advice. People in the tech community are always willing to help.

      Always try to help others and pay what you know forward.

Allie: Very great advice! Besides, you know, running your own tech startup, what do you like to do for fun in DC?

Sarah: On Shabbat afternoons, I meet with friends and we walk for miles across the city and explore without any plans, randomly falling into wonderful adventures. Major highlights: coming upon an Army band concert with live cannon fire on the mall, running into hundreds of swing dancers and a swing band at Dupont Circle, a 20 foot tall wooden dragon, all kind of festivals and interesting people, walking through historic hotels and museums, across bridges and monuments, listening to talented buskers, and the list goes on.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Sarah: Shabbat (my weekly reset to factory settings)!

Running a startup is an around the clock rollercoaster ride. So to have one day to unplug, not stress about work, go to shul, be introspective and take a measure of the past week, socialize and enjoy the company of friends and family without distraction, smell the roses and see the outside world unfiltered, explore and walk around the city with friends seeing where the day takes us, reading, playing cards… is a gift.

I go to shul at DC Minyan and Rosh Pina, two independent traditional egalitarian partnership minyans that meet in the DCJCC. I also sometimes go to Ohev Sholom/The National Synagogue.

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

Sarah: We schmooze and kibitz!

 

 

 

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.

Shavuot Guide 2015/5775

shavuos-banner2Shavuot is the second of three Biblical pilgrimage and agricultural holidays (the others being Passover and Sukkot) but the lesser known of the three. So what exactly is Shavout? It is the Festival of Weeks, the holiday’s date is determined by counting seven weeks after the end of Passover. Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is customary to stay up all night and study Torah and to eat dairy foods (especially cheesecake!)

There will be several opportunities to participate in Shavuot celebrations all over DC and we will update the list as the events are announced! Did we miss anything? Submit Events Here.

Tuesday May 19th

Wednesday May 20th

Saturday May 23rd

Recipes for Shavuot:ChocolateCheesecake-230x150Try this Chocolate Cheesecake & Challah Recipe from Aish.com

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Cooking these Cheese Blintzes, recipe from Chabad.org, will make your roommates love you!

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These Spinach Tidbits from About.com make a great appetizer, or whole meal if you have no portion control!

Other Shavuot Resources:

DC Purim Bash (2.0)

DCPurimBashPoster_2015 graphicThis year’s DC Purim Bash on Saturday, March 7th (affectionately known as Purim Bash 2.0) is going to be outstanding. Last year, the DC Purim Bash was a total experiment. We had no idea how much the young professionals community wanted a huge community Purim celebration, and the 530 of you who joined us probably saw that, while the party was awesome, we had no idea so many people would show.

This year, we’re ready. Last year, we had one bar. This year, we’ll have four. Last year, we were in a yoga studio in Adams Morgan. This year, we’re in the heart of Chinatown in the Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harman Hall- one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Plus, we added a photo booth, great drinks, and a bunch of other things that will make this year’s DC Purim Bash even better, so join us. You’ll have a great time.

The DC Purim Bash is able to happen because the organizations who really like Jewish young professionals also really like each other. Before the DC Purim Bash, we all used to have our own Purim celebrations, often on the same night as each other. Last year, we asked ourselves “Why?” There is one big DC community of Jewish 20’s and 30’s, so what about celebrating together instead? The DC Purim Bash launched an unprecedented level of collaboration between our organizations, and after a lot of planning, DC saw the biggest Purim celebration in our city’s history. And we’re just getting started.

So who’s the “we” behind this shindig? Adas Israel’s YP@AI, DCJCC’s EntryPointDC, Gather the Jews, NOVA Tribe Series, Sixth & I, Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239, and Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (joined, of course, with other community partners) are coming together to make this year’s DC Purim Bash happen. Our organizations are all a little different- some of us have buildings, some have rabbis, one of us is in Virginia, we are Reform, Conservative, or nondenominational, but we are all passionate about DC’s Jewish 20’s and 30’s community, and that’s why the DC Purim Bash works.

We can’t wait to get everyone together again this year, and see you March 7th. Register today!

 

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The DC Purim Bash Team