Sixth & I: A Vibrant Hub of Jewish Cultural and Spiritual Life

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Sixth & I’ers dance like no one’s watching at Saturday Night Believer: A Purim Disco. Photo credit: Ari Strauss.

Sixth & I, a historical synagogue in Washington, D.C., is loved for its unique approach to celebrating Jewish tradition, exemplified by its annual Purim celebration. Sixth & I celebrated Purim this year with a disco theme, highlighting the synagogue’s commitment to blending traditional Jewish practices with contemporary cultural elements.

“Purim is one of the highlights of our calendar every year,” Sixth & I’s Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Michelle Eider said. “We typically see around 400 people come out for a big party.”

The disco theme offered entertainment and an innovative means of connecting with Jewish heritage, attracting individuals eager for celebration and meaningful engagement.

Sixth & I does not operate as a member-based synagogue. Instead, Sixth & I welcomes regular weekly attendees and new people, illustrating the synagogue’s inclusive policy. It mainly targets young adults in their 20s and 30s.

“We serve thousands of people in our Jewish community every year,” Eider said.

This year’s Purim celebration featured a Megillah reading and Purim skits inspired by recent pop culture phenomena that blend contemporary themes and humor.

Participants in the Jewish Welcome Workshop contribute to the synagogue’s Purim celebration by creating and performing these skits. Sixth & I’s Jewish Welcome Workshop is an intensive Jewish learning course for adults, some of whom are on a path to conversion.

“You probably see everything from ‘Saltburn’ to ‘Barbie’ represented,” Eider said.
The Purim celebration is a testament to Sixth & I’s dedication to creating enriching experiences that resonate with today’s Jewish community.

Each year, the Purim event is meticulously organized by the synagogue’s Jewish Life team and rabbis. Additionally, this year’s celebration supported Pathways to Housing DC, reflecting Sixth & I’s commitment to social action by aiding those experiencing homelessness.

“We wanted to choose an organization to support that reflected the needs of our neighborhood,” Eider said. “We see so much value in Pathways to Housing’s approach to ending homelessness by building person-centered relationships and addressing complex health challenges of people experiencing homelessness in our city.”

Rabbi Aaron Potek and Rabbi Nora Feinstein, Sixth & I’s rabbis, serve as the masters of ceremonies at the Purim event each year.

“For as long as I’ve been here, it’s always been a part of our calendar and something that I know folks on our staff look forward to planning, and coming up with what’s going to be the theme is always a highlight,” Eider said.

Additionally, Sixth & I will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this April. A historic building, once at risk of becoming a nightclub, has stood as a vibrant hub of Jewish cultural and spiritual life for 20 years.

“It’s an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and look to the future,” Eider said. “Ever since our founding, Sixth & I has served as a place where people can explore their intellectual and spiritual interests all under one roof, which really makes us unique to other spaces in the city.”

Sixth & I hosted Adele in 2008, just before she received her first Grammy Award. They also hosted Fiona Apple, who returned to live performances after a seven-year break. In 2011, Sixth & I made a notable mark on the city’s culinary scene by launching Washington, D.C.’s, first kosher food truck amid the food truck trend.

The city’s recognition of April 22 as Sixth & I Day celebrates the synagogue’s impact on Washington, D.C.’s, Jewish life.

“Nowhere else in the city can you come in one night and hear from a New York Times bestselling author while at the same time, upstairs, there might be a Jewish education class, and then the next day, a country music concert,” Eider said.

The Purim disco celebration is just one example of Sixth & I’s unique approach to engaging the community and revitalizing Jewish traditions for contemporary audiences. Through a robust social media presence, the synagogue reaches a broad audience, from long-standing members to newcomers seeking a connection with Jewish life.

The synagogue’s proactive engagement strategies ensure its enduring relevance and popularity within the city’s cultural scene, inviting all interested in Jewish life to explore and participate.

By fostering a dynamic and inclusive Jewish community, Sixth & I continues to play a pivotal role in enriching the lives of its participants, making it an indispensable part of Washington, D.C.’s, cultural and spiritual fabric.

To celebrate Sixth & I’s 20th anniversary, the synagogue will encourage people to share their favorite Sixth & I memories on social media as part of a more extensive social media campaign. They also hope to encourage people to give to their fundraising campaign and support the synagogue financially.

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