As day turns to night in downtown Washington, Shabbat begins and so does Metro Minyan – a monthly service for young Jewish adults sponsored by Washington Hebrew Congregation. At a certain point, Rabbi Aaron Miller asks if anyone has a simcha they would like to share. Hands shoot up in the air as Miller scans the room and points to each person in order.
That is when the room gets wonky.
Washington-centric simchas are rattled off. A piece of legislation a congressional aide worked on is signed into law. A college student is accepted into a top-ranked international relations master’s program. A government worker gets an upgraded security clearance. A Ph.D. candidate successfully defends her doctoral dissertation. An Ivy League grad joins a think tank.
“D.C.’s a fun city for sharing simchas,” says Miller. “I say this all the time: If you moved to D.C., you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. You have people coming in here to work in politics. To work in law. To work in all kinds of really fascinating and important ways, especially young professionals.”
Valerie Hillman, coordinator for 2239, Washington Hebrew Congregation’s young professional community that organizes Metro Minyan, says that the simchas are similar to D.C.-centric greetings.
“I suppose it’s similar to how what do you do for a living is a D.C.-specific question. They don’t really ask that in other areas. I guess it is very D.C.-unique that people announce their job promotions and educational successes at simchas at Metro Minyan,” Hillman says.
Miller, who recently shared the simcha that he and his wife are expecting a baby, says that whether it is a Washington or more universal simcha, there is something special that happens when people share their joys because even the people who don’t share a simcha start thinking about their own simchas.
“Shabbat is a time of joy, and it’s a time of celebration, and it’s a time to separate from life’s worries, at least for a little while. And so to frame Shabbat around the simchas that are taking place in our lives is a wonderful thing,” says Miller.
“I want to think about Metro Minyan as a place that they can share their joys with each other. I want someone to get an amazing promotion and one of their first thoughts to be ‘this is great, I’m going to share this at Metro Minyan next time.’”