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Aug 16, 2011 09:01 AM

Shabbat and Aufruf in Washington DC

Our son is getting married in DC in mid-June 2012. We are planning to do a catered Shabbat dinner for 30-40 guests as well as the Aufruf over Shabbat. The wedding will be Sunday night at a different venue in DC...
does anyone have any suggestions for hotels that would accomodate Kosher catering/ or a restaurant that would open up for us/ any ideas? that would work for Friday nite dinner and be walking distance to a shul for the Aufruf. Ideally would be a nice hotel that guests would be comfortable staying in for three nights in a good location walking distance to shul and sites in DC. Please any suggestions for where to start would be appreciated, as we live in South Florida and I need to do the legwork online and on the phone...
Thank you!

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    1. Mazal tov!

      The only shul with an mechitza is Kesher Torah in Georgetown, a wonderful place to spend a Shabbat with a warm congregation and the intelligent, learned, adn charming Rabby Freundel is always worth listening to.

      The second thing you should know is that the D.C. eruv surrounds Georgetown, where the shul is, the Smithsonian and National Galleries of Art, and almost every hotel in downtown D.C. The Smithsonian stays open until 7:30 on summer Saturdays. You can walk form Kesher Israel right down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the White House and into the air-conditioned Smithsonian where they let you sit in the museum restaurants and eat the snack you brought with you or the sandwiches and fruit you packed for your small children. That's right, the Smithsonian is our museum and families, not just kosher families, are allowed to bring sandwiches into the cafes.

      I think the walk form the Kesher Area thorugh Layfayette Park and into the National Gallery or the Sackler is one of the most delightful ways to spend Shabbat afternoon. However, and this is a big however, it is a 2.3 mile walk. And D.C. can be very hot in June.

      So you can now make a choice. A hotel in Georgetown will be pricey, but several are a short walk to shul. Look at Kesher's excellent visitor page

      Or you can stay at any of the myriad hotels along the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, trading a shorter walk to shul against a shorter walk to the Smithsonian and the monuments.

      While several of the hotels do kosher functions, the first phone call that I would make would be to Eli's Deli. It's a somewhat informal atmpsphere, not regularly open on Shabbat but able to open for a simcha.

      Eli's is just outside Dupont Circle. There are a number of hotels in the neighborhood, very near, and the walk to Kesher Israel would be under a mile. They could probably bring your dinner in for less than a hotel. Though this is D.C. and there pretty much is no upper limit on what you can spend.

      The kiddush room in Kesher could also accomadate a dinner after davening in the kiddush room

      And, if you want a whole different option. The shul at 6th and I (not orthodox) is an unusual and flexible place in a wonderful neighborhood for tourists, near the Smithsonian. it is a beautiful building and I would not be surprised if you could cut a deal with them to have a dinner and a minyan of your own and a dinner. The range of hotels nearby would offer you a much better price on rooms than DuPont Circle or Georgetown, although, some of the most expensive hotels in the city are also located nearby. Like the Willard and the Monaco.

      3 Replies
      1. re: AdinaA

        Addendum. Almost all D.C. hotels use key cards. Many also have automatic lobby doors, and some have those elevators where you have to put your key card in before it will stop at your floor, and several have locked staircases, staircases that set off fire alarms, and staircases that do not exit to the lobby area.

        1. re: AdinaA

          We are Marriot members. Any good Marriot, I would expect other good chains, will have security bring you to your room on Shabbos. You dont' have to ask them; only gently tell them what you need. It works especially well if you let them know at the front desk that you will need this when you check in.

          1. re: momrn

            This can work, but at a big hotel like the J.W. Marriott, and at busy times and, frankly, at many hotels you can explain it all before Shabbat, in writing and verbally. Then a few hours later, when you actually need to get into the room, the people at the desk have no idea what you're talking about.

            And then there was a time, at a Marriott resort in Florida, when it went perfectly smoothly. A nice young man escorted me up to the room, and as he slid the electronic key card into the lock and held the door open I thanked him and he said:

            "No problem at all, my sister is baalat tschuvah."

      2. Thank you so much. I spoke to Kesher Israel, and the Aufruf and a casual lunch there is totally doable. I am waiting to see where the wedding is booked before we start deciding on hotels. I will call Eli's.... do you think that it can be dressed up to make it a nicer venue for a Shabbat dinner? I also spoke to someone at Dahan's (who are also catering the wedding I believe) and they can provide food and service to almost any hotel. Thanks for your advice.

        2 Replies
        1. re: glosing

          Just as another option depending on your logistics/price, George Washington Univ Hillel has its own builfing with ample room for a shabbat meal. When last I was there it also had an in-house kosher kitchen. I do agree with everyone else's suggestions.

          1. re: glosing

            Eli's was, I think, converted into a kosher deli from a space that was previously used by a non kosher restaurant. There's a large wooden bar along one wall. It;'s a corner, so there are windows along two walls. It probably seats about 40. The tables and chairs are wooden. It's not posh, but neither is is the formica look usual to places called deli. Tablecloths and some flowers would dress it up very nicely.

          2. Here's a list of caterers (and other food options) for the area:

            In addition to Kesher Israel mentioned above, Ohev Shalom is orthodox and has a mechitza. Its further from downtown and too far to walk to the major sites but hotels might be cheaper. I think they have an in-house caterer, but not sure.

            1 Reply
            1. re: elmoz

              Ohev Shalom is a wonderful shul. Just, it's not walkable to things out-of-towners want to see. It's near the District line, adjacent to Silver Spring.

            2. I'm liking the idea of Eli's for Shabbat dinner, and Kesher for Aufruf and Shabbat lunch. Eli's seems like it will be alot less expensive than bringing a caterer into a hotel. I haven't been able to connect with the guy at Eli's yet, but will keep you all posted when I do. Do you know anyone that has actually used them for a Shabbat dinner?

              4 Replies
              1. re: glosing

                UPDATE: I spoke to someone at Eli's named Andres... he said that it will be expensive, that they will have to charge me $700/hour to open outside of normal hours (I think this includes the Mashgiach as well) plus the cost of the food etc. Does this sound right? How much is a dinner there usually?
                Another option is to order "food service" from a caterer where they bring in all the food prepared to the hotel but don't provide dishes, etc so I don't think that is really do-able...
                this is turning out to be pretty complicated! I will keep you all posted, thank you for your suggestions.
                Another question: Is the room in Kesher reasonably attractive? I suppose I could do a catered dinner there as they don't charge a fortune for the room. Any thoughts?

                1. re: glosing

                  I was just at Eli's in June. If I remember correctly we paid around $15 each for dinner with sodas but no dessert. (They have a web site so you can check it out.)

                  I rented a room at the local university for a party a few years ago and paid about half that, but the room did not come with dishes or any helpers. By the time you add all that up it doesn't really sound that bad.

                  FYI: The restaurant sales tax in Georgetown is outrageously high, something like 10%.

                  1. re: glosing

                    The room at Kesher is on the level where you enter the shul, you go upstairs to the main space. Typical for an urban shul from a century ago. The room serves as a combination Beis Midrash/kiddush room. Reasonably attractive. Bookcases on two walls. Renovated a couple of years ago.

                    1. re: AdinaA

                      Thank you all. I think I will make a trip up there for a couple of days once the muchetunim nail down a venue for the wedding and commit to the date 100%. We need to choose a hotel that is convenient, nice, and reasonable for all the out of towers as well as figure out the shabbat arrangements. I will keep you all posted..