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Apply Now for GatherDC’s Giving Circle

Make an impact.

In just 4 weeks, you can make a lasting impact on your community.

This June, GatherDC is launching a 4-week long Giving Circle that will bring together a group of passionate young adults who pool their money to give to nonprofits across the DC-area seeking to improve the lives of those who need it most. As a whole, the group will donate $1,000+ to a local nonprofit of their choosing.

APPLY NOW

What will you do as a part of the Giving Circle?

  • Attend 3 learning sessions led by GatherDC’s Jackie Zais and Mollie Sharfman to explore Jewish values related to charity
  • Attend 1 Giving Circle dinner where you will vote on which nonprofit to donate the money to
  • Discover your unique commitment to social change through philanthropy

Why should you apply?

  • Meet like-minded young adults who share your passion for philanthropy and tikkun olam (repairing the world)
  • Discover the power of collective giving at valuable learning sessions
  • Explore Jewish values related to philanthropy
  • Make a meaningful difference in your community

Dates: Wednesdays from 7:00 to 9:00pm on June 6, June 13, June 20, and June 27, 2018

Location: All meetings will take place at GatherDC’s office in Dupont Circle (1817 M Street NW)

Contact: For questions, contact Mollie Sharfman at mollies@gatherdc.org.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Note: As a part of the GatherDC Giving Circle, you agree to donate $100 to the Giving Circle pool that will be donated to a local nonprofit organization the group decides on together.

 

 

 

 

 

GatherDC is committed to making Jewish experiences accessible for young adults in a variety of circumstances across the DC area. If cost is a barrier, please email racheln@gatherdc.org. GatherDC welcomes the participation of interfaith individuals, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. GatherDC fosters inclusive communities and strives to accommodate all needs whenever possible. If your require special accommodations, please contact us in advance of the event at 202-656-0743 and we will make every effort to meet your needs. 

By attending, you understand that photographs and/or video may be taken at this event, and may appear on the GatherDC website, publications, or other media.

Repairing the World, One Trip at a Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.

 

 

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

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

Meet Jess and Sophie: Jewish Do-Gooders 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.

Sophie and Jess are Do-Gooders. In their spare time, they do things like volunteer at local soup kitchens, give back to Jewish non-profit organizations, and plan community-wide days of service. Get to know these two mensches as we chat about french fries, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and giving back.

From left: Jess Sher and Sophie Buslik

Allie: Describe each other in one word.

Jess: Radiant, giving off good, positive vibes. Sorry, that’s more than one word!

Sophie: Dedicated, driven.

Allie: Where does your passion for volunteering come from?

Jess: Volunteering – whether serving on a board or helping with a one time event – was really important in my household growing up. Learning this from my grandparents and parents is what led me into the social action world.  Community service is for others, but it also feels really good to make small changes and small positive impacts.

So, when I moved to DC, I started volunteering for The Jewish Federation and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). I also enjoy volunteering at places like N Street Village, or helping build homes where you can get your hands dirty and know that you’re making someone’s home a happy place.

Sophie: I love being a part of making our community better and engaging other people to do that. When I started working after college, I felt like I had a lot of free time outside of work so I started volunteering with my company (Booz Allen Hamilton) at places like SOME and Miriam’s KitchenLater on, my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to Federation, and I wound up getting involved with the volunteer aspects of the organization. I love the idea that even if you don’t have money to give, you can give in other ways to help those who can’t help themselves.

Allie: I hear that you’re volunteering to make Good Deeds Day happen this year. Tell me about that!

Sophie: Good Deeds Day (which is Sunday, April 29) is DC-area’s day to give back, and is part of the global day of service where millions around the world volunteer to help their community.

Allie: What Good Deeds Day service project should our GatherDC readers sign up for?

Jess: I’d say the project with N Street Village, to prepare/serve meals to homeless and low-income women. There’s also an opportunity to make meals for those facing homelessness at DC Central Kitchen.

Sophie: There’s a service project specifically for young adults to help out at Covenant House, which provides resources to homeless, disconnected, and exploited youth.

Allie: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Sophie: “Be where your feet are.”

Jess: I really like that! So important to be present, be in the moment.

Allie: If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be?

Jess: Taylor Kitsch, but only if he came as his character Tim Riggins from “Friday Night Lights”.

Sophie: JTT. Jonathan Taylor Thomas circa 1997.

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

Jess: My mom’s challah. Summer strawberries. Chicago Giordano’s deep dish pizza.

Sophie: Crabs. French fries. I really only have two.

Allie: Who is the biggest Do-Gooder you know?

Sophie: Jose Andres – I always see him giving back locally and around the world. I love how he uses his work and passion for food to help others.

Jess: My parents. They give a lot of their time, talents, and treasures to make an impact in St. Petersburg, FL (where I grew up). I’d be lucky if I could make just part of the impact that they’ve made.

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

Sophie/Jess: They Do Good!

 

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.

18+ Ways to Volunteer in DC this Holiday Season!

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and holiday parties, funky Hanukkah sweaters and even funkier Hanukkah gifts from your great aunt or your office secret snowflake. Even though everyone loves socks, scarves, and Starbucks gift cards, why not consider making this time of year more about giving gifts instead of getting them? Here are 18+ amazing opportunities to give back this winter – which one will you choose?

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

For foodies:

For those great with Bubbes:

  • D25 Day of Service: Monday, December 25th
    • Spend your Christmas Day with the EDCJCC giving back to the local DC community before hitting the movie theater and eating Chinese food.YP EVENT: There’s a special Columbia Heights-based session for young professionals through EntryPointDC that you can find here. These YPs will be visiting low-income and food insecure seniors through We Are Family DC. If this D25 activity doesn’t sound like you, be sure to check out the other D25 volunteering options including the Cookie Drive going on now through December 23rd!

For the super crafty:

For animal lovers:

For Northern Virginians:

For those with really busy schedules:

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

  • Coat Drive with ThriveDC: Drop off between January 8th and January 11th
    • ThriveDC helps those facing homeless across DC. You can contribute anytime by providing a warm coat to a person in need through their winter coat drive.
  • Capital Area Food Bank at Giant
    • Headed to Giant to buy canned beans for your famous chili? Buy an extra can for the food bank and drop it off in the collection cart on your way out of the store.
    • A loyal Safeway customer instead? Make a small donation at the register to help provide food for residents in need.

For those with volunteering in their New Year’s Resolutions:

Consider becoming a committed volunteer in 2018 at one of the organizations below.

For those who live through their phone calendars (I’m right there with ya), here’s a list fit for that “Add to Calendar” button:

December 13th, 6:30-8 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 16th, 8-11 am: Wreath Laying at the Arlington National Cemetery

December 17th, 8:45 am-12 pm or later: DC Central Kitchen Volunteering and Brunch with Moishe House Capitol Hill

December 17th, 11:45 am-1:30 pm: Doing Good with JFE at N Street Village

December 17th, 1:30-3:30 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 17th, 6:30-8:45 pm: Patricia Handy Place for Women Volunteering with YP@AI

December 20th, 5-8 pm: Wrap gifts with We Are Family

December 25th, 10 am-2:30 pm: D25 Day of Service with EntryPointDC

January 4th, 7-9 pm: Hunger Action for DC Central Kitchen at EDCJCC

 

About the Author: Shira Cohen is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! When not writing about volunteer opportunities in DC, she works in student life and disability services at a local law school. Originally from Charleston, SC, Shira loves DC Library $1 book sales and District Taco.

 

 

 

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

Jewish Mensch of the Week – Josh

1913734_1524321174533721_5696876135623580384_nJackie: What made you initially wary of being featured for Gather the Jews?
Josh: I think every person in our community should be featured by Gather the Jews. There are so many people doing amazing and impressive work our there that should be featured before me. I tend to like to be a behind the scenes guy and do what I do without any public recognition. However, since I got a Jewish Guy of the Week t-shirt before I was every featured on Gather the Jews, I felt compelled to earn the shirt. It would not have been right for me to wear it in public without being featured.

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?
Josh: I came to DC back in August of 2009 to start my year of service with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. I then left for a year to work at The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and then came back to DC once again to work for AVODAH starting in October of 2011.

Jackie: Do you have a favorite story from your work with Housing Unlimited, Inc?
Josh: Anytime I sign a lease with someone who has been on our wait list is a favorite story for me. We have a wait list of over 200 individuals in mental health recovery in need of affordable housing up in Montgomery County. So when I get to hand over the keys to someone who has been homeless or living in substandard housing and see that smile on their face, it reminds me how important and needed the work is that we do.

11704888_781452161855_3791433005746740942_nJackie: Anyone who runs into you knows you are a Bernie Sanders fan. Have you always been politically interested/active?
Josh: I have ever since my failed run for class president my senior year of high school and my political career came to a sudden and tragic end. But in all seriousness I have been politically active since high school. I was a delegate for Howard Dean at my state Democratic caucus where I was the youngest representative from my town. I have participated in environmental protests in front of the Israeli Supreme Court to being interviewed outside of an NRA press conference for holding a ‘Down With The NRA’ sign while trying to get Congress to act on sensible gun reform legislation. These days I focus my political energy on the Bernie Sanders campaign as he resonates with where I stand politically.

Jackie: I hear you have some interesting things in your backpack, what are they?
Josh: I always like to keep myself grounded and remind myself of where I came from. One thing I have is a little pocket blessing on a little fabric scroll that reads, “Seek Peace And Pursue It.” I got that after my year of services with AVODAH. I also have a Morgan Silver Dollar from 1884 that was a graduation gift from my high school shop teacher (yes, we had shop class up in Vermont). And lastly I have a tiny hand stone that is of the world made by Danforth Pewter which I got from the Environmental Studies Department at The University of Vermont. It always reminds me that I have the world in the palm of my hand.

Jackie: You’re involved with a lot of organizations around DC, do you have some recommendations for events that we should be attending this month (January)?
Josh: On January 28th at 7pm I’ll be going to the Masa Israel Journey will be hosting its Winter Shalom U’Lehitraot Party at Moishe House Columbia Heights where Masa Israel Alumni are invited to welcome back recent returnees and send off the next class of Masa Israel participants. Just RSVP to Jenn at Jrheuban@shalomdc.org. And who can forget the Gather the Jews’ January Happy Hour on Tuesday, January 26th at Redline.

Jackie: What is your favorite part of the Open Doors Fellowship so far?
Josh: Meeting all of the people who make up this amazing and dynamic young professional community in Washington, DC. And also Rabbi Aaron Potek’s improv skills and getting to know other amazing people in my cohort. If they have reached out to you for coffee you should definitely take them up on the offer!

IMG_2515Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?
Josh: I’m changing the questions to Jews because I can, right? I would go with my Bubbie who I talk with almost daily. She reminds me of where my family came from and the importance of connecting to Judaism in whatever way is most important to you. I would also be amiss if I did not mention my parents who always taught me that the best things in life aren’t things and to always stand up for what is right.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…
at least one of seven reasons that Jews might be there: National Identity, Spirituality, Jewish Values, Community, Shared Memory, Religious Practice, and Ancestry.

How a Stranger Learned to Welcome the Stranger

Citizenship-Graduates2-1024x719I am a most unlikely representative of the Jewish community. To say the least. I am the child of a Christmas baby. We have five boxes of Santa Claus-esque paraphernalia, gleaned over many decades, that we haul out every year in the same way you probably haul out your great-grandma’s menorah. But of course, we stop short of having a tree… because we’re Jewish. 😉 Once in my student teaching, I was asked to lead a lesson on Hannukah; I turned to the Internet. I never had a Bat Mitzvah. I’m pretty sure I knew more about Ramadan than Yom Kippur growing up…

Yep. Most. Unlikely. Representative.

Needless to say, HIAS did not attract me because it was a Jewish organization. It attracted me because of my shared passion for immigrants, refugees and underrepresented populations who need a voice. And according to the publicity I’d seen for that year’s HIAS Government Advocacy mission, this would provide a new way to explore and express that passion. Could’ve been Catholics, or Baha’i or anyone… just happened to be Jews!

But here I am, more than five years into one of the best—albeit biggest fluke—decisions I’ve ever made: joining HIAS Young Leaders! Five years into retooling my belief of what it means to—and all the different ways one can—be a Jew. Of understanding that it’s social justice, it’s welcoming the stranger, it’s forging friendships with those of my own religion, and it’s the opportunity to stand as one with them in our common ideal that we can, indeed, repair the world. And those beliefs I always held anyway happen to align very naturally with Jewish values in ways I’d never realized. For a basically secular Jew, it’s the first time in my life I’ve discovered such an outlet. (Funny what you find when you’re not even looking for it…)

And thus I have adopted this role as a HIAS Young Leader and embraced it more intensely as time goes on. This has meant opening my mind and taking stock of me. Or, frankly, allowing myself to let go of my own prejudices and perceived alienation from the Judaism I thought I knew and didn’t really like. And my reward has been the kind of inclusion and acceptance of a living, breathing Jewish community that I knew I was supposed to feel allegiance to before, yet never could begin to until now. And for this—my HYL friends and experiences that continue to “evolve” me—I am deeply grateful.

So how exactly does a Christmas-celebrating, disconnected 30-something Jew wander back to her flock?

Largely thanks to some wonderful Latinos. One of the HIAS-inspired activities I’m most proud of is a long-standing relationship with CARECEN (Central American Resource Center), an essentially one-stop-shop for social, legal and educational services for Latinos in DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. Our Young Leaders have been tutoring its ESL/Citizenship class bi-weekly for the last 4 years. Our work with CARECEN is primarily conversation exchange. It is informal but serves a crucial need for students hoping to pass their exams and become more confident in English overall. For many, class is their only chance to learn and practice English. We as native speakers (other than their teachers) allow them to put names and faces to “American culture.” Students are native Spanish-speaking adults, most of whom have been in the US for years. They are hard-working and motivated and appreciate everything we do. (“Me encanta when you come!” one woman declared).

For our part, tutors see in the trenches what it is to have to work for citizenship later in life, and appreciate the mere twist of fate that absolves us of this daunting task ourselves. Those students may appreciate us, but I have the utmost respect for them.

What does this have to do with promoting Judaism in particular? By serving immigrants through a HIAS-inspired endeavor, I directly represent the Jewish community. We make it very clear to the CARECEN population that we are a Jewish community who wants to build a bridge with them. We have hosted cultural exchange parties where kugel and falafel take their rightful places next to pupusas and tamales. The bond is not lost on anyone…

In general, I have the sense I’m personally carrying out a core HIAS (and Jewish) mandate to welcome the stranger. Except that somewhere along the way, these are no longer strangers. They become our friends, our extended community… people we care about and check up on in the weeks we’re not there. Whose accomplishments we celebrate first-hand.

The fact that we make the effort also draws other Jewish organizations to partner with us. A local Jewish fraternity has sent brothers to complete their community service requirement by joining us at CARECEN. In addition, a Jewish philanthropic organization funds us to subsidize the often prohibitive cost of citizenship tests for select students. We are supporting today’s new generation of immigrants as someone supported our grandparents or great-grandparents before us, completing a cycle and paying it forward. And we are the catalyst for connecting Jews to each other. And building bridges and educating non-Jews who tutor with us about Jewish core values. It is completely win-win!

So indeed… for this unlikely representative of the Jews, I have found myself in the place I am most likely to be. Yes, I’m keeping my Santa collection, but at least I’ve started to balance the equation of who I am.

Bring Smiles and Supplies to the Homeless with Midnight Mitzvahs

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 1.37.56 PMHave you ever walked past a homeless person and thought, “I’m too busy right now” or “I wish I knew how to help.”  Well look no further! Join Gather the Jews to kick off Midnight Mitzvahs on August 13th and we hit the streets to give out smiles and supplies to some of the 6,500 homeless people of DC.  We will start with a brief training and sandwich making session at GWU Hillel at 7:30 and will hit the streets by 8:15. Register here!

There is a $5 cost to participate. Your $5 will go towards purchasing the supplies we will hand out during the night.

Things we will be handing out (feel free to bring some to donate):

  • Cold Water
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Sunscreen
  • Socks (in the winter)
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Homeless Resource Cards

Register Here!

The Chesed Project: Another Volunteering Opportunity

Miss your bubbie and zaydie but don’t want to shlep to Florida to see them? Come with The Chesed Project to the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington!

The Chesed Project is a new group devoted to Jewish-oriented community service, such as visiting the underserved sick and elderly in our community – while providing young Professionals with an opportunity to socialize and have fun. We’ll be having one event on the first or second Sunday of each month, and hope to expand the number of opportunities over time.

Our first event will be Sunday, November 6 from 2:00 -4:00 p.m. We are going to the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, an elderly care facility, to spend time with the residents, play games, run errands, or do anything else they might need.

The home is a few blocks from the Rockville metro, but we will also organize a carpool (so please let us know if you can drive or need a ride).

The volunteer coordinator requested we be there by 1:45pm. In keeping with the event theme, we will arrange for an ‘early bird’ dinner afterwards at Pita Hut or one of the kosher restaurants in the area. If you are interested in joining for dinner, please let us (the Chesed Project co-chairs) so we can plan accordingly.

If you have any questions please contact Samantha. Please join us on facebook to find out about our other activties! Ideas for activities are welcomed.

Can’t make this event but do want to volunteer? Check out Rachel’s round-up for other ways to do so. Have your own volunteering event you’d like the Jewish community to know about? Write to Noa at Noa@gatherdc.org.