5 Things You Didn’t Know About Judaism

Okay, given the seemingly infinite nature of Jewish text, history, and interpretation, there may be more than 5 things you didn’t know about Judaism. But, here are 5 things you can learn more about at Federation’s ROUTES: Day of Learning on Sunday, November 5th at George Mason University! ROUTES is a full day of classes led by world-famous presenters from all walks of the Jewish world – including many from right here in the DC area. So, did you know…

“JewBarrassment” is a thing. It’s that uncomfortable feeling most of us get when we think we’ve said or done something wrong with regard to Jewish practice. It was coined by Archie Gottesman, founder of and a featured speaker at Federation’s ROUTES, who will discuss her vision of making Judaism more accessible. (Search Class 1A and 3A)

You can use rhythm and movement to engage with Torah. Jewish tradition has a long history with using rhythm to evoke meaning in Torah texts through cantillation and Chassidic niggun, a form of religious song. Matisyahu Tonti will lead a ROUTES session where participants will use a classic Torah story, and musical techniques from the Orff Approach to music education, to learn and create a short performance that will be fun, kinesthetic, and intellectually stimulating. (Search Class 1B)

The Torah is green. Jewish tradition teaches us to protect the environment through a wide range of lessons about how to conserve resources and use them responsibly. Eating locally and sustainably is tied closely to a Kosher diet. In Evonne Marzouk’s ROUTES class, you can learn about what Jewish wisdom says about protecting the environment and using resources sustainably, then see pictures and learn about the “ingredients” of sustainable home improvement. (Search Class 1E)

The Statue of Liberty is totally Jewish. Kerry Brodie’s session at ROUTES will discuss the brief life and legacy of Emma Lazarus, the Jewish woman behind the words etched into The Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” (Search Class 2F)

Jewish Washingtonians held a vigil outside the Soviet embassy in DC every day for 20 years. GatherDC’s Jewish Teacher of the Week(!), Aaron Bregman, will explore the time when Soviet Jews were fleeing the Iron Curtain, American Jews in DC responded to the reports of harassment and oppression by organizing a resistance movement that included vigils, protests and more. Come ready to discuss questions like, “Was this experience the last time diaspora Jewry bonded together over such an important topic?” and, “What does it take to galvanize or unify our Jewish community?” (Search Class 1D)

Check out all the details and register here. Plus, get $20 off your registration with code GATHERDCROUTES2017. Heads up – if you use the code, lunch will not be included with your ticket (but you can BYO). Online registration closes Wednesday, November 1st, but young professionals (under 40) can show their IDs at the door to receive $20 off the door price of $54. This discounted price does not include lunch.


This is a sponsored 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.

Introducing Identity Lab

IdentityLab_LOGOB-300x157We’re starting something new at Sixth & I. It’s called Identity Lab. It’s a chance to get to know other people by hearing their stories, and to discover something about ourselves through studying Jewish stories. We’ll learn something amazing together—Joseph and his crazy family, the history of how bar and bat mitzvahs got quite so over the top, Moses Maimonides and why he loved the life of the mind—and then take that learning to see how it matches our own lives and our own personal history. Local artist (of incredible talent) Rachel Farbiarz and I will create an open, welcoming, interesting, collaborative learning environment. You’ll get to learn, and then investigate, interrogate, think about, and, ultimately—only if you want to—tell your own stories at a live show.

I have a story of my own to tell you. I was born with a lisp, which stuck with me through elementary school. My parents took me to a speech therapist; I used to get pulled out of classes once a week to repeat sibilant syllables over and over into a tape recorder. My first name starts with “S,” so I creatively mispronounced my own name for a good five years.

The thing about having a lisp is that your tongue doesn’t move quite as fast as your brain, at least quite as fast as it should. When you start to speak, to speed into the fast lane of daily conversation, your tongue jumps, trips, then stumbles. I’d find myself verbally sprawled out on the asphalt. My tongue always landed me a step behind, and I learned to not quite trust my own talking.

Moses had a speech impediment, too. In fact, he’s famous for it. And when I read the verses that Moses says to God, I feel that rare, rock-solid sense of recognition: “For I am heavy of speech and heavy of tongue.” I know what that’s like, not that a person can’t speak, but that he doesn’t trust his ability to keep speaking.

God’s answer to him is a good one, though—a zinger: “Who made people’s mouths?,” the Holy One asks wryly. God did. God created the impediment. “Now go, and I will be with your mouth, and will teach you what to say.”

What I learned is that one doesn’t teach with the mouth; one teaches with the message. The speech, the talking, the rhetoric, the form—they don’t quite matter as much as we think they do. It’s the message that counts; it’s the message that matters.

RabbiScottPerloHeadshotWEBLike for Moses, you do not need to come to Identity Lab and be the most articulate speaker, or tell the wittiest anecdote, or have the funniest tale. Identity Lab is about finding a message, uncovering something important about yourself, and then sharing it with other people. The Torah that we study together will help give you words and a frame of reference to better understand yourself. Tell or listen, share from your life or help other people share from theirs—you will find a message that means something to you.


Our workshops begin Wednesday, February 4th. Join us to enrich your Jewish identity and be part of the story.

DC Shavuot Events

tenOn Shavuot we celebrate receiving the Torah and it is traditional to study Torah through the night.  This year Shavuot begins on the evening of Tuesday, May 14th. We’ve compiled a few event options for Shavuot and will continue to update the list so check back.

Monday, May 13th:

Tuesday, May 14th:

Wednesday, May 15th:

Are You There G-d?

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

Question of the Week:

How can we be 100% certain that G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people? I feel that I cannot observe a religion if I am not certain that it is true. Is there any proof of G-d and Torah?


Imagine you could do a blood test to determine who your soul mate is. You would go to a laboratory with a prospective partner and give blood samples, and half an hour later they would tell you yes or no. Sounds amazing! But think about it: Is that an ideal way to start a relationship? Would it be romantic to say, “Listen, the blood test came out positive, so we may as well get engaged”?

The truth is we wouldn’t appreciate a laboratory-tested soul mate. What makes a relationship meaningful is that it is a choice coming from within. If we based a commitment on external evidence such as a blood test, we would indeed have certainty, but the sense of freedom would be lost. Freedom is an essential ingredient of true love – certainty is not.

That’s why proving G-d is not helpful. G-d wants us to enter into a relationship with Him by choice, not by force. He created us as free beings who can deny Him if we want. There is no outside force or argument or proof that compels us to serve G-d. For that reason, when we do serve Him, it is by choice, it is coming from us, and that is the basis for a real relationship.

There are many logical proofs of G-d’s existence and the truth of Torah. But just as most people only recognize their soul mate after they have already committed to the relationship, most people are only ready to appreciate these proofs after they have already established a relationship with G-d.

If you wait to know for sure that you have found your soul mate you may forever remain single. And if you wait for proof of G-d’s truth you may forever live in a lonely universe. Embrace uncertainty and open yourself up to a real relationship. When you make that choice, you will find proof of G-d within your own soul.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

Mitzvah Maker – Rabbi Berkman

Tell us about Mesorah, DC.
Mesorah DC is an organization committed to enhancing the Jewish experience of the young professional community in D.C. Over 10 years ago Rabbi Teiltelbaum saw an opportunity to connect with, and serve a community that was not really being serviced at the time. Since then, countless numbers of young professional Jews have participated our events. We take pride in trying to make all Jews from all affiliations and backgrounds feel comfortable and welcome at our programs.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
On the first and third Friday night of each month Mesorah DC hosts Shabbat services and dinner at the beautiful 6 & I Historic Synagogue. Services start at 6:45 and dinner follows at 8. We often have guest speakers or special events at our dinners and it always guarantees a good time. This week, in fact, is our kick off Shabbat for the season. We are privileged to have world renowned relationship expert Mort Fertel as our guest speaker. I would like to take this opportunity to personally invite all GTJ readers to join. For more info or to RSVP check out our new website
How many people come to Mesorah Shabbat dinners?I would say that in an average shabbat, we probably expect about 120 people. If we have a special event or speaker, we can host between 180 and 200 people. This coming shabbat, we are preparing for a big crowd.

What if we are Jewish, but have never been to a Shabbat, can we still come?
Absolutely! That is why we are here. If you are apprehensive or feel funny about just showing up to services, please feel free to contact myself or any of the Mesorah rabbis any time throughout the week. We would be happy to talk to you or meet with you sometime before Shabbat if that would make you feel more comfortable.   What is your personal role in Mesorah DC, and how do you view youre roll in the community in general?I am fortunate to work with a very talented staff along with Rabbis Lefkowitz and Motzen and under the direction of Rabbi Teitelbaum. We very much work as a team, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of that team.  On a personal level, I want to be whatever the community needs. Even outside of regular Mesorah events, I am available throughout the week. If you want to learn, but Cafe Nite doesn’t fit into your schedule, let me know and we can make a different time to study. If you want to start a special class or study group during the day for friends or colleagues, I would be happy to help that happen as well. I am really here for the young professional Jews in DC, committed to making your Jewish experience a positive and enriching one.

How do we contact you (facebook, email, website…)?
I have about ten different email addresses, but the easiest one to reach me at is I feel kind of funny giving it out online but it’s on our website anyway so my cell phone is 443-538-3606.

Also I am kind of new to the face book community, so i could use some good friends.

Any parting shots or  piece of wisdom can you share with young professional Jews in DC?
D.C. is a great community with awesome potential. Make the most of your time here and the resources available to you. It’s amazing to thing that I am talking to Gather the Jews, a website focused on the options for Young professional Jews in D.C, that receives over 2000 hits a week. Its been a pleasure to watch GTJ grow to what it is now in really a relatively short time. You guys used to come to Mesorah events as participants now you come as community leaders. It is a testament to your hard work but also to the community you serve. Young professionals in D.C. are hungry for Jewish enrichment. We at Mesorah DC are here to provide what you are looking for. Please join us soon!