Adas Israel Renews!

Renovation rendering of the new sanctuary.

Adas Israel Congregation, home of the legendary Shir Delight Young Professional’s Shabbat service (averaging roughly 300 YPs per Shabbat!), announces the imminent launch of an exciting renovation and modernization project for its landmark building in Cleveland Park – all part of a wider “Vision of Renewal” initiative to bring Adas even further into the 21st century.  At the heart of the renewal is the creation of MakomDC (Place DC).

MakomDC is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on – it’s basically a ‘Jewish Politics and Prose!’” says Adas Israel Senior Rabbi Gil Steinlauf.  “It will feature comfortable seating and tables for lively discussion, books and technology, coffee and snacks, speaker jams, art, engaging sessions, and even interactive prayer services.  It will be the place where people, ideas, and Jewish experiences collide.”

The heroic architectural design for the new structure includes a complete overhaul of four worship and gathering spaces within the current 2850 Quebec Street address.  There will be new light-filled spaces used for worship, meals, celebrations, school programs, classes, meetings and other happenings.  Also, an expanded, super-modern entrance foyer will provide an open area to gather and will lead directly to MakomDC, the new and unique space at the heart of the building to serve as a bustling learning and engagement center for the 21st century.

The Charles E. Smith Sanctuary (also known as the Beit Tefillah, or House of Prayer) is the building’s largest worship space.  It will sport a more intimate seating arrangement, a stunning sculptured eastern wall, and a large circular skylight that will saturate the worship space with natural light, consistent with Jewish tradition.

“The landscape of Jewish life is changing rapidly and Adas sits at the crossroads,” says Rabbi  Steinlauf.  “With this renovation, we are poised to engage Jews from many different backgrounds and ages, and create an exhilarating, immersive opportunity for DC-area Jews to find true, personal spirituality for the modern world.”

Renovation rendering of the “MakomDC.”

Founded in 1869 by a group of European immigrants, Adas has been at its landmark location, one block east of the Cleveland Park Metro, since 1951.  The building has played host to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and, more recently, the Dalai Lama.  So it’s no small fry. However, the Jewish world (in particular, the young Jewish world) is evolving and so the congregation and its historic building must as well.

The Adas clergy and leadership worked closely with renowned architect Hugh Hardy and H3 Collaboration Architecture, who recently completed a reinvention of the Lincoln Center Theater in New York.  Construction at Adas will take place in three phases over the next year to allow continuation of all synagogue activities in the building.

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled for some time before the High Holidays next year, is sure to feature musical presentations, food, booze, and schmoozing!  And the word on the street is that it’s all going to be free for YPs, so follow all the latest developments at or on

The Modern-Day Dating Lemon Law — GTJ dating series with Erika E. (week 7)

You’re on a date.  It’s going just ok.  Actually, no it’s not.  You’re bored.  He lied in his profile.  Her jokes are offensive.  You got into an argument over some spilled wine.  He was rude to the waiter.  She thought it was polite to spit out her gum and keep it behind her ear for later.  He started talking about a potential Martian invasion and possible future wars between humans and aliens.  Whatever the reason, you want out.

And herein lies the question: Is there a polite, socially acceptable way to end a bad date and extricate yourself quickly and gracefully?

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about Barney Stinson’s Lemon Law.  (In case you don’t watch How I Met Your Mother, see:  I’m just talking about a courteous gesture that indicates that the date is over.

I once went on a JDate to play ping pong.  (If you know me at all, you know I’m a ping pong fiend.)  When I got there, I couldn’t find him.  Why, you might ask?  Well, he was about 50 pounds heavier than his JDate picture and stated weight indicated.  I could talk for hours about the reasons not to lie online, but I’ll save that for later.  I wasn’t happy that my date lied, but I was already there, so I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.  But it soon became clear that he was exceedingly boring (like, pulling teeth boring) and a poor sport at losing to me in ping pong.  Three strikes for him, and I was outta there.  I told him that my workout earlier in the day had really taken it out of me and that I had to go home.

Did I do the right thing?  Maybe.  In hindsight, it might have been more appropriate to say that I was disappointed that he had misrepresented his appearance.  But what’s done is done.

When it comes to a bad date, first determine the nature of “bad.”  Is it “creepy” bad or just “no sparks” bad?  If it’s the latter, then your best bet is to stick it out (at least for one drink or a cup of coffee).  A drink can’t hurt either… It may actually loosen you both up.  Who knows?  You might even start to like each other.  Plus, the worst that happens is you might get a funny story out of it.  “Remember that time when I went out with a guy from JDate who had taken me out six years prior, but I didn’t recognize him?  I didn’t like him then, and I certainly didn’t like him now!”  Yep – happened to yours truly.  I’m glad I stuck that one out since I’m still telling the story.

For the “creepy” bad date (other variants are “scary” bad, “offensive” bad, “mean” bad – you get the picture), the best bet is to (gulp!) be honest.  This is definitely the most awkward choice, but it’s also the most mature. “You know, I just don’t think we’re clicking.  It was nice to meet you, but I don’t want either of us to waste our time, so I thought I’d say that to give us the option to go do something else fun tonight.”

Telling a white lie (you’re not feeling well, you ate some bad cheese, you forgot about a work function you have to attend, you’re really tired, etc.) to get out of a date, like I did, isn’t usually the smartest move.  You may cross paths with this person again, which actually makes this choice pretty awkward too.  Your date may not have gotten the hint and may try to ask you out again, and the lie will become apparent by your present lack of interest.  No, a little white lie never killed anyone, but if you’re comfortable enough to use the, “I just don’t think we’re clicking” line, it’s a better, more honest approach.

So, while there’s no modern-day dating Lemon Law, if your date starts discussing the pros of dogfighting, or coughing in your face without any regard for your personal space, it’s ok to admit you’re not a match and move on.  Even Oprah agrees!

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, and helps people find success in online dating and gets them excited about its possibilities. “Like” A Little Nudge on Facebook, or follow on Twitter. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.

Have questions you want answered in a future post?  E-mail


Jewish pride is not a sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have something you want to write on?  Email Noa at



Goodbye (to Lani and Marisa)… And hello (to Casey and Andy)!

Isn't there a song about this?

One of the worst things about living in DC is that with each summer, some of my favorite people leave.

I had planned on beating the system by staying here just one or two years – I would be the person who left, not the person left behind.

That plan failed.

But the silver-lining of this is that with each outgoing batch of friends, a new – potentially great – group of friends enters.  True, these newbies require a bit of training, and it is a hassle, but the rewards outstrip these costs (see, e.g. GTJ leadership and friends Aaron and Noa).

This DC cycle is perhaps best embodied by the recent turnover at the Jewish Federation for Greater Washington.  Lani Hart and Marisa Saltzman – two of the community’s best friends and most active participants – are leaving DC in a matter of days.  Lani served as Assistant Director, and Marisa as Director, for Young Leadership at the Federation.  NeXus, Shabbat Hoppin’, Jewnity, Sukkah Hop, Afikomen Scavenger Hunt, if you participated in any of these events (and many others), then you benefitted from the hard work of Lani and Marisa.

My personal debt goes much deeper.  Lani is one of my longest-standing Jewish DC friends:  She’s seen me make a fool of myself (multiple occasions?); she’s encouraged my involvement in many Jewish programs (e.g. Israel Diplomacy Fellowship); and she’s never once missed a chance to flag me down on 17th street, at Adas Israel, or at Sixth & I to give me a big hello and a smile.  Lani also featured as Jewish Girl of the Week for this website!

Similarly, Marisa oversaw my participation in NeXus and really encouraged my increased Jewish participation.  In one of the first NeXus classes, she asked me, in particular, to tell the group about my Jewish journey.  I’d never really considered my Jewish journey that noteworthy before; growing up in  Utah, I barely knew what a Jew was…  But Marisa helped changed that.

Finally, it MUST be said that Gather the Jews could not be where it is today without the help of Lani, Marisa, and the other Young Leadership people at the Federation (Sarah Arenstein, Avital Ingber).  They’ve been very supportive and have encouraged us to stay at it.  For this, thank you on behalf of all of GTJ!

Lani and Marisa are both leaving DC, but they are not leaving the Jewish community, and they’re not even leaving the world of Federation.  Lani will start a dual degree program at NYU that will allow her to continue her work with the Federation, and Marisa will soon start work for the Federation of Los Angeles.  I know that NYC and LA have NOTHING on DC, but I’m sure these lesser-cities will be getting some major Jewish assistance.

As alluded to at the beginning of this article, for every exit, there is a similarly fantastic entrance.  Former Jewish girl of the week Casey will take over as Director of Young Leadership at the Federation, and though I don’t know him, I’m sure – Andy, who is joining the team to bring the Presentense Fellowship to Jewish DC – is similarly great.  We at GTJ look forward to working with Casey and Andy, but we also won’t forget, and we hope to stay in touch with, Lani and Marisa (GTJ in NYC and LA!!!!)

Thanks for everything Lani and Marisa,

Gather the Jews


To become a part of Young Leadership at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, email Casey and Andy at:


GTJ welcomes new blog editor: Noa Levanon

Gather the Jews is pleased to welcome Noa Levanon to her new position as co-editor of the GTJ blog (along with Stephen Richer).

Noa’s involvement will add both editing expertise and a knowledge of Israel to the GTJ blog.  After receiving a BA from Princeton University, Noa moved to Israel where she served in the Israel Defense Forces for three years.  Noa extended her to stay in Israel as both a masters student at Hebrew University and as an editor at Ynet, an Israeli news website.  Noa is now pursuing a doctorate in conflict management at the John Hopkins School for Advanced and International Studies (SAIS).

Although Noa has been part of the GTJ staff for several months now, we are still extremely pleased and excited to welcome her to her new role as co-editor of the blog.

If you have any story ideas, or if you would like write for the Gather the Jews blog, please contact

Submitted articles should be no more than 600 words (preferably around 400 words) and should focus on issues pertaining to the Jewish community of Washington, DC.

Gather the Jews now serves over 2,000 young professional Jews in the DC area and receives approximately 2,400 visits per week.

Foreskin Frenzy! Russell Crowe, San Francisco, and alleged anti-Semitism!

Peculiar controversies are by no means to peculiar to San Francisco.  But this one may take the cake for 2011.  The subject?  Foreskin rights.  As the SF Gate reported:

There’s only one ballot measure San Franciscans are sure to be voting on this November: a ban on circumcision.

Department of Elections officials today certified that the fellows who call themselves “intactivists” did indeed persuade enough city voters to sign their petition making circumcision on anybody under 18 a misdemeanor, even for religious reasons. It would be punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

The petitioners cleared the cut-off point by inches. (Consider yourself warned: We’ll be making these jokes for months.) They needed 7,168 signatures and got 7,743.

Supporters of a ban say it’s a cruel, unnecessary practice akin to cutting off a baby’s ear or nose. Opponents say the ban, even if passed by voters, would never hold up in court.

Sadly, not all participating opponents of circumcision were philoderms (my made up word for “lover of skin”). Pajams Media unhooded the ugly head of anti-Semitism amid the debate:

As you may have heard by now, San Francisco will be voting this November on whether or not to ban circumcision in the city.

Defenders of the measure say it’s all about “human rights” and “protecting babies” from unnecessary procedures.

But critics suspected there was something vaguely anti-Semitic about the whole proposal, since among Jews (and Muslims, as well) circumcising male babies is a religious duty, not just a mistaken medical procedure.

Ban proponents insisted their proposal had nothing to do with Jews — really, it’s all about the rights of children.

Well, any doubt that they were lying have now been dispelled, with the publication of new campaign literature for the upcoming circumcision ban. The campaign comic book, called “Foreskin Man,” after its baby-saving superhero, features a litany of evil Jews doing battle with blond Nordic saviors.

Yes, really.

(Oh, and did I mention the artist’s last name is Hess? A relative of Rudolf, perhaps?)

Below you will find a selection of images taken from Foreskin Man, the campaign brochure for San Francisco’s anti-circumcision ballot measure. You tell me: anti-Semitic or not?

Go here to see the comic book pictures (I’ve posted some on at the bottom of this page).  Pretty disgusting.

Thanks to Pajamas Media and other Hebrew Hammers (defenders of Jews) the leader of the anti-circumcision cut short her legislative efforts, fearful that the movement had become too anti-Semitic. Fox News Reports.

A few days elapsed without comment.  But Russell Crowe blew the cap off the issue today by calling circumcision “barbaric” and comparing it to human sacrifice.

The Daily Telegraphy reports:

The Oscar-winning actor laballed the practice “barbaric and stupid” during a row with his Twitter followers, telling them to “f— off” if they disagreed with him.

The 47-year-old engaged in an angry exchange with one follower, whom he branded a “moron”, before imploring Jewish people to “stop cutting your babies”.

I’m sure there’s more to come.  We’ll cover it periodically.  Major h/t to Cory Andrews for his tips on these stories.