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District Shabbat Brings Judaism Back to Southwest

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

That’s about to change.

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

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

Q: What is District Shabbat?

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

Q: Who is it for?

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

Q: What happens at this Shabbat “experience”?

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

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

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

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

WHC Shabbat

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

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

Q: Where is it?

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

Q: How can I sign up?

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

metro minyan shabbat

 

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

The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Amanda: Jewish Shabbat Host of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

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

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

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

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

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

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

Allie: What do you enjoy most about hosting Shabbat?

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

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

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

shabbat

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

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

Allie: When are you the happiest?

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

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

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

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

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

chow dog

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda: They eat good food together.

chow chow wedding

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

A Kurdish Shabbat Experience!

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

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

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

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

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

kurdistan map

According to The Kurdish Project,

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

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

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

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

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

kurdish food

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

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

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

Please register here ASAP as space is limited.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

A Toli Moli Shabbat!

burmese foodA typical Shabbat in DC is perhaps one of the hardest things to describe about this city.

A DC Shabbat can be anything from a service at one of the several synagogues across town, a vegan dinner of buddha bowls and trolley fries at the 100% plant-based Pow Pow (nourished by OneTable), or perhaps a dinner of coconut noodles and tea leaf salad at a Burmese bodega in Union Market.

The diversity of Shabbats in DC, and the opportunity for each of us to create these dinners and push the boundaries even further, are some of my favorite qualities of DC. Plus, these Shabbats give us the chance to be introduced to wonderful new food and people.

The latter Shabbat experience of a Burmese bodega was exactly where I found myself last Friday, seated around a table of people hungry for an adventure to Burma (also known as Myanmar).

Toli Moli, which means “a little of this and a little of that,” is the Burmese snack shop from mother-daughter team Simone Jacobson and Jocelyn Law-Yone (Chef Jojo) where this Shabbat took place. And a little of this, and a little of that, is just what these two women brought to the table. Throughout the evening, Simone and Jocelyn provided us with a warmth of hospitality and family stories along with every delicious bite.

toli moli owners

L’dor va’dor is a commonly sung prayer that means “from generation to generation.” In Judaism, passing down traditions is an integral part of the religion – from your family’s favorite matzo ball soup to the way you fold your hamataschen – food is one of the best vehicles to transport these customs. The practice of l’dor va’dor is a global concept, and one that inspired this Shabbat evening with OneTable, JDC Entwine, and Toli Moli. Unbeknownst to the organizers when planning the event, Toli Moli is not only an intergenerational concept, but also one with a strong Jewish connection!

As the only Burmese eatery in DC, Simone sees Toli Moli as not just a legacy for her own family, but also for her heritage. Growing up in Arizona with a Burmese mom and a Jewish dad, Simone’s Asian-American appearance gave her a sense of pride and provided her with a way to connect with similar people. Although Simone’s childhood best friend (who was of Thai-American descent) may not have grown up eating falooda like she did, her friend’s Thai heritage had a similar concept with Nam Manglak and the more familiar bubble tea.

Seen as an “international connector” and the foundation for Toli Moli, falooda is a fruity-layered dessert made with jellies, basil seeds, milk, and ice cream. The bodega of Toli Moli is stocked with falooda, as well as Asian pantry items, locally made DC products and, of course, a Burmese menu full of noodles and sandwiches.

By bringing falooda, a dessert that is eaten all around the world, to DC, Toli Moli creates an environment where everyone can feel at home.

Toli Moli is a place where everyone can find connections both to the food and to the intergenerational family that welcomes you as soon as you step inside – a place where everyone can have their own “toli moli moment”.

challah

 

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.

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.

Meet Rachel: Jewish Bicyclist of the Week!

Finishing the RAGBRAI at the Mississippi River

She rode her bike across Iowa. She hosts themed Shabbats. She volunteers for her temple. She writes for Petworth News. Is there anything the marvelous Ms. (Rachel) Maisler doesn’t do?! Find out with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Rachel: I’m originally from Jupiter, Florida, and came to DC after college because there were jobs. It was during a recession so those were hard to come by. And I wound up staying because I started to get involved with aging policy at the Department of Health and Human Services right before the Affordable Care Act was passed. I got to get both a front row seat of history, and got to actually help write history.

Allie: How did you become a DC bicyclist?

Rachel: I’ve always liked riding, and I eventually realized it was much quicker to get to work for me via bicycle than metro, so I started bike-commuting. I actually started a social media account called “View from the Handlebars” with pics from my commute. Then, I wound up getting involved with a group called “DC Jews on Bikes” that was created by past Jewish Girl of the Week Lisa Kaneff [Editor’s Note: Lisa started this group as part of her Open Doors Fellowship capstone project]. Lisa was so friendly and had so much energy that motivated me to get involved in the group. I loved it – we would ride bikes on Saturday at sunset, and then celebrate havdalah together.

Allie: What’s the coolest bike ride you’ve ever done?

Rachel: Last summer, I rode my bike across Iowa (411 miles) as a part of RAGBRAI.

Allie: I hear you do some pretty cool advocacy work in DC on behalf of cyclists, tell me a little bit about that. 

Getting sworn into the BAC with Council member Brandon Todd

Rachel: I was politically appointed to work on the DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) as a representative of Ward 4. The BAC is tasked with advising the city council with bicycle transportation matters, and I’m very passionate about finding ways for bicyclists to share the street. 

Allie: What are your goals on the Bicycle Advisory Council?

Rachel: To make sure that we’re aware of the barriers facing cyclists, and how we can continue to integrate cycling into our neighborhoods as a viable means of transportation and recreation. And to make sure we educate people about cyclists and safety.

Ball themed Shabbat during the World Cup

Allie: Tell me a little bit about how you stay connected Jewishly in DC?

Rachel: I’m part of a monthly Shabbat club, which is an amazing group of friends who get together one Friday a month. It’s been going on for 6-7 years now! Every Shabbat we have a theme, from using special ingredients like beer to making foods that are different colors of the rainbow. We always pick a “best dish winner” and said winner gets an amazing prize –  like a jar of gefilte fish.

I’m also a member of Ohev Sholom synagogue, which I love. There are a lot of incredible people there, like the Maharat – Ruth Friedman, who is an amazing ordained female rabbi. I’m part of the synagogue’s Tzedek Committee, which helps our friends and neighbors who need it.

Allie: What do you do as a part of the Tzedek Committee at Ohev Shalom?

Rachel: We do what we can to help those who most need it. Right now, we’re helping to resettle a family who immigrated here from Afghanistan. We recently helped a wounded warrior family for Christmas through the Operation Ward 57 program, and we coordinate our shul’s Good Deeds Day efforts – like making sandwiches, doing a coat drive, collecting school supplies, etc.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Rachel: My grandmother. She’s a Holocaust survivor and has been through more than anything I could ever imagine. But she wakes up with a smile on her face every day. She continues to be an inspiration, and is never afraid to tell her story.

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

Rachel: It’s always nice to go on a long bike ride with good friends on a great trail. Also, hiking in Shenandoah, or kayaking on the Potomac or Anacostia rivers. I also enjoy writing, and am a contributor to Petworth News!

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

Rachel: Anything is possible.

 

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.

Weekly Update with Rachel — 9/12

Giraffe at the Smithsonian!
(I’m a little obsessed with giraffes…)

Hi, everyone! I cannot express how ecstatic I am to be a part of Gather the Jews.  If you ever see me out at an event, or anywhere else in the city, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself.  I’m brand new to DC and can’t wait to meet everyone.

Last week was my first official week as Director of Operations.  I wrote up my first “Gather the News” and sent out my first newsletter (and the world did not implode so I guess I didn’t do too badly!).  I also jumped into Jewish events this week, starting with the Jewish Federation’s Nexus.  Nexus is a course designed to explore what it means to be an influential young Jewish adult, and how to impact the community through involvement.  Nexus was a great opportunity to start meeting members of the Jewish community as we shared with each other our respective Jewish journeys.

I spent my first Friday Shabbat at MesorahDC’s services and dinner.  The food was delicious and everyone, including Rabbi T and Rabbi Berkman, made me feel extremely comfortable.  The next night, with some new friends from Mesorah, I headed out to Clark and Shaina’s engagement party.  Sadly, I missed Clark’s flash mob proposal. Overall, I would say a highly successful first weekend in DC and I’m looking forward to many more. If you are not busy Sunday, September 30, you can come out, meet me, and help make another one of my weekends awesome by joining me in building sukkahs for GTJ’s first ever community service event!

I’m exceedingly thankful for how welcoming everyone has been, but I also want to be here for all of you. If you ever need help finding a place to go to services, want to know about a Jewish event, or want to find someone to go to an event with, let me know and I will do my best to help you out. Also, while I have my own ideas for GTJ, I would also like to hear from all of you. Compliments, constructive criticism, and new ideas are always appreciated.

Have a great week!

Rachel

rachelg@gatherdc.org