Shabbat: Pure and Simple: An Interview with Rabbi Scott About Upcoming Events at Sixth&I

Shabbat: Pure and Simple will debut on December 15th. Click here for more information.
Rachel: How long have you been in DC now?
Rabbi Scott: I’ve been in DC four months now. I love it. In L.A., walking 15 minutes gets you to your mailbox.  Here, you can enjoy the entire city.
Rachel: What is your favorite part of DC/the DC Jewish community?
Rabbi Scott: Right now it’s a tossup between my amazing job at Sixth & I (not to mention having concerts and authors in house) and the Dupont Farmers Market. Dolcezza is a close third.
Rachel: What programs/events/services do you provide?
Rabbi Scott: You can expect more from me in the coming months, but we’re starting a series called What It Takes- short term, high intensity classes with friends, designed to get practical, useful Jewish knowledge so that you can connect to services, holidays, life cycles,  and learning -and feel comfortable in them all.  With Sarah Lawson and Josh Cogan’s help, Sixth & I is starting Havdallah with the Three Star Collective- a chance to hear great music and poetry inside Havdallah (the service separating Shabbat and the rest of the week).  It’ll be the perfect way to start a Saturday night.  Jamming is encouraged. We’ll be relaunching the Sixth Street Minyan in February.  The details aren’t out yet, but expect an extraordinary new Friday night opportunity.
Rachel: Your service is called, “Shabbat: Pure and Simple.”  What do you mean by “pure and simple”?
Rabbi Scott: It’s hard to step in Judaism cold.  Our kind of prayer is thick and rich, moves quickly, and assumes a lot of knowledge.  I know people who’ve been coming to Shabbat every week for 30 years, and still don’t know the service.  It’s not easy to learn by osmosis.  Shabbat Pure and Simple does two things: it slows the service down so that participants can focus more deeply on what they’re doing and saying, learn to understand why things are, and, even for the pro’s, simply have enough time to concentrate; it also provides an important opportunity for those who’ve never experienced Shabbat morning to come in, know what’s going on, even help lead the service if they want to.

Rachel: This is Sixth and I’s first Saturday service.  Why did you choose to lead a Saturday service?
Rabbi Scott: We created a Shabbat morning service because of demand.  After reaching out, our people told us that they were looking for a morning experience.

Jewish Girl of the Week – Dana

Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.Aaron: What brought you to DC?

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Dana: A Chimpanzee and a t-shirt: The first time I moved to DC, I came to work for the Jane Goodall Institute, an organization that works on environmental and ape conservation.  The second time around, my good friend bought me a GWU Medical School t-shirt, and I then felt obligated to attend.  I guess all it takes to be convince me to move to a place is a cute animal and monogrammed clothing.

Aaron: We heard you were working on becoming a Jewish doctor.  Do you have any good jokes/stories?
Dana: Not clean ones.  I did deliver my first baby a few weeks ago, which was one of the most amazing experiences.  Although I can’t remember the child’s name because I was in such utter shock, the second baby I delivered was named “Prince” and so I am proud to say I brought royalty into this world by delivering a Prince!

Aaron: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Dana: Growing up, I always dreamed of being the first Olympic rollerblader.  However, after performing my first circumcision on the honorable Prince, I think these hopes and dreams have been altered.  I now aspire to become a Mohel!  I am currently taking reservations for 2017 so calling all couples to plan ahead!

Aaron: What’s it like being a professional photographer?
Dana: Well, I haven’t had as much time for photography as I would have liked.  My last “professional” work was a photo shoot of my older sister for her Facebook profile in order for her snag the Jewish man of her dreams (currently in the works).  I also am really excited because I now have a photo exhibit at Filter Coffee House in Dupont Circle.  If you ever want a delicious cup a coffee, I suggest checking out Filter!

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Dana: Mike Lapidus… He is the captain of the Bier Baron Trivia Team called “Rocket Envy” who finish in second place on a weekly basis.  He’s also my favorite Jew because his name “Lapidus” originates from the Hebrew word for “torch.”  Especially during this time of Hanukkah, Mike’s torch is always around to light my fire.

Aaron: Where are you for Chanukah?
Dana: Last year I went to former Guy of the Week Evan Caplan‘s house for latkas.  He and I were in the Peace Corps together, and would travel over 8 hours by bus and motorcycle just to celebrate the Jewish holidays together.  This year I may be at home in Florida with my parents.  My mom cooks the most delicious zucchini and carrot latkas.  I’ve tried making them, but they never compare.

 

Jewish Guy of the Week – David

Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
David: I got an awesome job working at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC.  Growing up in New York, I always said that I would never ever live anywhere else but New York.  Then I came to DC… I looked around me and saw museums, theatres, monuments, little European-style neighborhoods like Georgetown and DuPont – and I was hooked.  DC is the perfect blend of city and quiet neighborhoods.  You can be strolling along a calm, quiet street and suddenly stumble into the heart of Adams Morgan or DuPont Circle as opposed to Manhattan, where it’s all or nothing.

Aaron: How did you get involved in the theater world?
David: Yeah, I have no problem admitting that the Tony Awards are my Super Bowl Sunday.  It is what it is.  When I was five years old, I got a part in a school musical and never looked back.  I’ve been performing, singing, writing, and acting all my life.  I went to LaGaurdia High School for Performing Arts and Atlantic Acting Conservatory with NYU Tisch School of the Arts before focusing on Communications.  I’m a Shakespeare nut, a Chekhov nut, and a Musical Theatre nut in particular.  Although, ‘Big-Ups’ to Tennessee Williams and Clifford Odets as well.  Working at the Kennedy Center and at Arena Stage was perfect for me because I was able to blend my communications proficiencies with my undying passion for live theater.  And DC theatre is awesome by the way.  If you’re not going to a lot of shows in DC, you’re missing out.

Aaron: What made you want to get involved in the Jewish community?
David: Judaism.  Judaism is the only other focus besides theatre that could really hold any professional interest for me.  So, here it is… Judaism, to me, is not some dogmatic museum relic that we come to gawk at twice a year on the Jewish High Holidays.  The ancient and ingenious technology of Jewish living, the richness of the traditions, the sensory experiences of our food, our spices, our candles, our sukkas, our tallit, our transcendent melodies and stories- these are all unbelievable gifts.  They’re living, breathing tools for experiencing each moment, for improving our quality of life, and for connecting, on a deep level to something greater than ourselves (however you define it).  It is also one of the best tools I can think of for connecting to each other as well.  As Director of Communications at Adas Israel (an amazing Shul, one block from the Cleveland Park Metro), I’m very lucky in that it is my job to be a Jewish outreach man and to spread the word about all the amazing and fulfilling opportunities there are for experiencing deep, personal Yiddishkeit in this city.  When I re-discovered my own Judaism not too long ago, I found what I was always looking for in the theatre: a chance to experience true transcendence in this life… Deep man.

Aaron: What programs to do you recommend for young Jewish professionals?
David: There’s an awesome Young Professionals’ Shabbat Service at Adas Israel called Shir Delight.  It touts over 300 YP’s per service and features a Happy Hour Oneg, Lay-Led Kabbalat Shabbat, and a full catered dinner for everyone.  Go to www.adasisrael.org for service times.  I’d also recommend checking out the Tuesday night Jewish Meditation sessions offered through the new Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington at Adas.  It usually features silent meditation, discussion, and exploration of sacred Jewish texts with one of our Rabbis.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
David: I’m a Shul-hopper.  I look forward to Kabbalat Shabbat all week. You’ll usually catch me at Adas Israel, Sixth & I, or Kesher Israel.  I think one of the best Friday Nights in town is at JewishROC (the Jewish Rockville Outreach Center) in Rockville.  It’s got an ecstatic, Sephardic vibe with raucous singing, table slapping, dancing around the Bimah, and a delicious Israeli feast cooked fresh by the Rebbetzin each week.  Loves it.

Aaron: What are you looking forward to most during Hanukkah?
David: Seeing my new home lit by the warmth of the Hanukkah flames is going to be pretty sweet.  About as sweet as it gets in fact.  Very few rituals capture the symbolism of tradition, miracles, and an inner glow more poignantly than the lighting of the Hanukkiah.  Of course, a gift card to Bed, Bath, and Beyond wouldn’t hurt either- I did just get a new apartment after all!  But as Rabbi Gil Steinlauf (Senior Rabbi at Adas Israel) often says, “It’s not the flame of the Shabbat candle or the flame of the Hanukkiah that creates the presence of God in our lives, it is the witnessing of that flame reflected in another’s eyes.”  I’m superbly fortunate that I have a lovely lady in whose eyes I look forward to experiencing that warm Jewish glow this Hanukkah.  So basically, it’s all good, and all’s well.

Shalom DC & L’Chaim!

GTJ’s Satirist Brian F. – ‘JDate Going Really Well’, Thinks Guy Who Doesn’t Realize How Rude He Just Was

BOSTON, MA – (@TheComedyNews) –  While on his first JDate in a month, Max Rubinstein smiled across the cocktail table to his date, Rebecca Schumer.  It was at this juncture that Max thought that things were going beyond smoothly.  He knew was in—she was digging his flattery—-so  Max kept buttering her up for what was certain to take this JDate to an intimate end.

“This JDate is going really well—-just keep on smooth-talking and I am in!” Max thought to himself.

Little did Max realize that his comment comparing Rebecca to his ex was the rudest thing he could have done in that moment.

“You’re not as cute as my last girlfriend, but you do look smarter,” Max said while chewing on some of Rebecca’s red velvet cake with his mouth open.  “But no offense.  I’m starting to like smart-looking girls, anyways,” he continued.

Shocked and floored, Rebecca could only sit with her mouth partially open, eyebrows lowering.

“Oh man, she can’t stop looking into my eyes, you did it Maxy!”  Max thought to himself.

Max wanted to keep his perceived momentum going, so he followed up his “flattery” with back-to-back 20-minute stories about himself.  First, a smug tale about when he turned 13, his parents voted him their favorite child (out of four total).  This was followed by an iPhone slideshow of Max’s beloved cat, Matzah, and then a profane diatribe about how Nixon should have defeated JFK in the 1960 election.

The waiter for the pair told reporters that throughout the evening, Max used five of the ‘seven words you can’t say on television‘.

After about 90 excruciating minutes, the check arrived. At that point Max thought, “Alright, fourth quarter, you’re Tom Brady, better pull out the A-Material, son!”   Out loud, this translated into Max saying, “so Rebecca, tell me about yourself.”

Not wanting to indulge, Rebecca replied, “I’m getting a text message from a friend.  She’s, umm, having a bit of a crisis.  I really should go now.  She’s my best friend from college.”

Wanting to turn up some more cute flirting, Max snapped, “you went to college?”

As the JDate parted ways, Rebecca conceded an awkward side-hug with Max.  Max then looked into Rebecca’s eyes one last time, flashed a sideways peace-sign and said, “I’ll be in touch.  Peace sugar!”

Upon arriving home, Rebecca deactivated her JDate account and changed Max’s name in her iPhone to “Don’t Answer #7”.

Don’t want your Jdate to end this way?  Check out GTJ’s dating columnist Erika E’s Helpful Tips for a Great First Date.

Brian Fishbach is a comedian, writer, political satirist, former GTJ JGOTW, and musician specializing in social and political commentary.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at www.TheComedyNews.com, and enjoy his late-night jokes at www.BrianFishbach.com.  Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

The Future of DC Real Estate is Single & Small- Featuring Design Tips for Living Large in Smaller Spaces

You may have noticed from my recent blog posts that I love to examine societal trends- both nationwide and those specific to the District- to see how they have affected and will continue to affect DC real estate.  My hope is that by understanding the “Why,” GTJ’ers will look at DC real estate differently and make more informed choices about the “What,” “Where,” “When,” and “How Much” when making  their real estate choices.  Today’s post tackles another trend that is reshaping the real estate market in DC and is largely driven by young professionals*: the rise of the single person household.

In 1950, 10% of all American households were one-person households.  Today that figure is 28% nationally, around 45% in DC, and continuing to rise*!  While there are a multitude of factors that contribute to this long term trend- people marrying later in life, divorce rates increasing, the rise of the economic power and independence of women, urbanization, etc.- what I find most interesting is how this trend affects what we buy and where and how we live.  DC is looking more and more like Europe every day (Stockholm is over 50% single person households) with little Fiats, Mini Coopers, and Smart Cars zipping around the streets (don’t even get me started on the Vespas and bicyclists!).  While a lot of these changes can be ascribed to our society going “greener,” I believe that sheer pragmatism is just as significant of a factor in more people “going small.”  More single-person households means less need for 4 doors (if you’re single, how often do you really use the rear doors of your car?) and a huge trunk to make Costco runs (if you live alone do you really need to buy toilet paper by the pallet?).  Put simply, the trade-off of space for cost and efficiency is simply easier to make in smaller households.

Outside of auto manufacturers, we are also seeing real estate developers and urban planners responding to these trends with denser developments and ever smaller condo units.  With 1,100 new residents entering the District each month (70% of them under the age of 35!)**, DC city planners have entertained a host of ideas to increase density, including a recent proposal to increase the maximum allowable building height above its current 160 ft threshold (By comparison Tulsa, OK has 17 buildings over 200 ft…even Fargo, N.D. has two!) and introducing the Fiat of real estate development, the micro studio, to our housing mix.

RISE OF THE MICRO STUDIO

At sizes ranging from 220 – 375 square feet, the “micro studio” is now being introduced to the DC market by some intrepid developers who feel that DC’s changing demographics will create an increasing demand for smaller living.  To make these smaller spaces more attractive, developers are not only using architecture and design to make spaces feel bigger and function better, but they are also creating community amenities and bringing in businesses that provide residents “living” space outside of their micro-units in an effort to foster connective living.  From a design standpoint, this translates to higher ceilings, larger windows that are angled to pick up viewing area and capture more light, smaller appliances, and incorporating multi-functional furniture (think Murphy bed units that transform into couches, entertainment centers, desk space, and storage….check out this video!)

From a community standpoint, having business centers or coffee shops that are accessible to residents reduces the need for a home office or secondary living space in the unit.  Having local grocery stores or encouraging farmers’ markets where residents can get easy access to fresh food reduces the need to have large kitchens to store food.  By building self-sustaining environments that foster connectivity while creating interior spaces that maximize functionality, developers and city planners hope to attract DC’s growing single person households into denser and denser communities at price points they can afford (think below $250,000).

THE FUTURE OF DC REAL ESTATE IS SMALL

Will micro-studios catch on?  We may get our first glimpse at the answer to this question when PN Hoffman-Madison Waterfront delivers its $1.5 billion, 35 acre redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, which will feature units ranging from 330-380 square feet (see rendering above).  Even if micro-studios are not the ultimate answer to the need for denser living, the demographic trends are hard to ignore.  With a growing population of single person households streaming into the District, smaller and smaller condos will become a greater percentage of our housing mix.

DESIGN TIPS FOR LIVING LARGE IN SMALL SPACES

If the future of DC real estate really is small, how can we deal with it?  For that answer, I reached out to Wendy Danziger (www.DanzigerDesign.com), a prominent interior designer in the DC Metropolitan area whose work was recently featured in Home and Design Magazine and in the DC Design House, for some simple tips for living large in small spaces.

1. Use Color to Make Spaces Look Larger.
If the ceilings are over 9ft, paint them a fabulous color and leave the walls light and the wood floors pale.

2. Conserve Visual Space with Minimalist Interior Design Choices.
Keep window treatments minimal.  Check out these Matchstick Blinds:

Consider furniture that “disappears” like the Victoria Ghost Chair, which takes up less visual space than wood or upholstered chairs:

3. Maximize Storage and Space with Multi-Functional Furniture.
Invest in a bed that has a high profile mattress and boxspring to create greater storage space underneath your bed or consider beds with drawers underneath.  Check out the Stratton Bed from Pottery Barn:



If you don’t have room for a bed, consider Murphy Beds or Sleep Sofas:

Use banquette seating with storage in a kitchen nook:

If your kitchen cabinets do not extend to the ceiling  use this area to store rarely used items:

Surfaces should double as storage pieces.  Need a coffee table? Check out the Hunter II Trunk from Crate & Barrel:

Consider storage ottomans for seating and storage.  Check out the Vanguard Storage Ottoman from Vanguard Furniture:

4. Shelves Everywhere!
Some space that is often underutilized is over the bed, over the toilet, and even in the corners of rooms:

Danziger Design is a full service Interior Design Firm serving Maryland, Virginia and DC.  Wendy listens to her clients and works with them to design beautiful and livable spaces.  Visit Danziger Design on the web at www.DanzigerDesign.com or contact them at 301-365-3300.

* Eric Klinenberg on Going Solo: The surprising benefits, to oneself and to society, of living alone Smithsonian Magazine, February 2012.
**Statistics from the DC Office of Planning

David Abrams, a new GTJ contributing columnist, is a native of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.  He received his M.B.A. from Emory University in 2009 and currently works as a realtor specializing in DC’s emerging neighborhoods with the BergerSandler+ team (www.bergersandlerplus.com) at Evers & Company Real Estate.  David is licensed in DC, MD, & VA. For more on DC Real Estate, check out David’s real estate blog at www.TheCapitalLine.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Impact DC Raises More Than $20,000!

The Impact DC event committee.

Find more Impact DC pictures on the Young Leadership of the The Federation of Greater Washington Facebook page.

Oh, what a night, when more than 350 of DC’s most savvy young adults hit the Howard Theatre for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Second Annual Impact DC.  This not-to-be missed event was a lively celebration of young adults’ commitment to strengthening the community locally, in Israel, and around the world.  Event organizers proudly reported that the evening raised more than $20,000 for The Federation’s Annual Campaign and they shared that attendees collectively donated $80,000 to this cause over the course of the year.  “This evening personifies the unwavering commitment of young adults to serve their community and each other, as well as recognizes their unbreakable faith in our people and our values.  And the fact that we had an amazing time doing it is a great bonus,” said Andrew Friedson, Impact DC Co-Chair.

Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington was proud to celebrate the next generation’s leadership, as they take steps to shape the future of the Jewish community and beyond.  Co-chairs Andrew Friedson, Ariana Heideman, and Jess Sher, along with their committee of 18, did a phenomenal job assuring the night was an unbelievable success.  From a live-updated slideshow of event Instagram photos to endless food and drinks, the crowd left raving about Impact DC and looking forward to the next event.  “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of The Federation’s Young Leadership; I’ve attended social events like Impact DC, volunteer events, and held leadership positions.  I have built a great network of friends through YL and am looking forward to staying actively involved,” said Ariella Brodecki, an attendee at the event.

Be sure to check out upcoming Federation Young Leadership events including a night of giving back to the community , Chanukah Dial-A-Thon, on December 11, a hands-on volunteer event, Mitzvah Hoppin’, on December 16, and a social gathering, Hannukah Happy Hour on the Hill, on December 10. All details can be found at shalomdc.org/youngleadership.

 

Jewish Girl of the Week – Shira

Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Shira: I moved to DC from Florida to get my M.S. in Mathematics & Statistics from Georgetown.  It’s not as nerdy as it sounds.

Aaron: You got your graduate degree in Georgetown and decided to stay in DC.  Why?
Shira: DC is just a great city.  Not too big, not too small and there’s so much history and culture.  Not everyone can say they have been to Teddy Roosevelt’s old house (Eighteenth Street Lounge) for happy hour.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else at this point in my life.

Aaron: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Shira: Opening a bakery?  I love baking, so it’s kind-of a dream of mine.  I also want start writing a baking blog…someday (or when I’m done catching up on Homeland).

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
ShiraRoy Lichtenstein is by far the coolest Jew.  I was so excited when I heard his exhibit will be featured in DC.  I have already seen it twice and anyone who hasn’t been should go, it’s free! Spike Mendelsohn is a close second.  He is just so cool.

Aaron: Where are you for Chanukah?
Shira: Going home to Jacksonville!  My mom makes the best latkes.

Aaron: We heard you have family in Israel.  What are your thoughts on the current situation
Shira: The situation in Israel is near and dear to my heart.  My entire extended family and two of my brothers are currently living in Israel.  Israel has no choice but to defend and protect its existence.  That being said, the death of innocent civilians (on both sides) is heartbreaking.  I pray and hope for peace.

Aaron: When are you going back to Israel?
Shira: This summer!  I go every summer and I look forward to it all year.  Do you want me to get you anything while I’m there?  Pop rocks chocolate?

 

 

What I’ve Learned So Far: GTJ’s November Business Leader of the Month Shares Insights

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Priceline.com, and Sarah Green, co-founder of Empact100, present an award to Spencer recognizing SPARK as one of the top 100 companies founded by young entrepreneurs.

In this new monthly column, Victoria Shapiro asks top young business leaders in the DC area to share their thoughts on succeeding in business and in life.

Business Leader of the Month: Spencer Gerrol, CEO and founder, SPARK Experience, a full service digital agency
Age: 30
Relationship Status: Married to Rachel Cohen Gerrol, co-founder of the Nexus Global Youth Summit and executive director of PVBLIC Foundation
Education: Tufts University
About SPARK: Recently recognized at the White House by Empact100 as one of the top 100 U.S. companies started by young entrepreneurs, SPARK Experience creates digital campaigns, apps and websites for clients ranging from small companies to Fortune 500s, as well as nonprofits and government agencies.
SPARK’s Key Market Differentiators:  SPARK analyses human behavior using psychology and research experts to ensure its design work is data-driven, reflecting how people think, act, and interact. SPARK bases its designs in research findings, not guesswork.

Victoria: Spencer, those featured here need to have demonstrated a sense of adventure, innovation, tenacity and commitment to community. This column is about spotlighting cool people, and the GTG Team thought you’d offer answers that people can really learn from.
Spencer:Thank you so much, Victoria. It’s such an honor to be included.

Victoria: Great, let’s get started. When did you start SPARK and what inspired you?
Spencer:I started SPARK Experience in 2009 after about six years working my way through the ranks of a large international user experience consulting firm. … My entrepreneurial tendencies had brewed beneath the surface until one day a light bulb went off, and I realized I could provide a higher level of service to organizations at a lower cost, which is exactly what the economy was begging for.  Companies still had to do business, but they wanted to do so more strategically.  I knew that my focus on combining science with creativity would fill an important gap in the market, so I went for it.

Victoria: What are the biggest challenges facing companies in your space?
Spencer:The world is changing and every day it changes faster.  Our field is at the forefront of this change, so it is contingent upon us to lead the way.  Only 15 years ago the internet was just a fledgling, Google was just gaining popularity 10 years ago, Facebook was just a tiny startup eight years ago, and the iPhone had just entered the scene five years ago.  The world of technology is changing before our eyes and it is not slowing down.  Neither can we.

Victoria: What kind of team/company have you created to help confront those challenges?
Spencer:My field of study, Human Factors, is committed to understanding human behavior and decision-making and to applying the principles of cognitive psychology to design and technology.  We train our staff to study human beings first.  Technology will continue to change, and we will continue to be at the forefront, but it is because of our understanding of the human condition that we will always be ahead of the curve in designing for the latest wave of technology in a human-centered way.  Social media, for example, is still a new concept to many companies… but to us it is human behavior in a different medium.

SPARK Experience enjoys biannual company retreats. Here the team enjoys team building and sailing last summer.

Victoria: What energizes you as a leader?
Spencer:I am energized by the ability to help others learn and grow.  My favorite aspect of leadership is identifying other people’s many strengths and helping them make the most of their gifts…. Too many organizations focus on improving weaknesses instead of customizing roles to leverage strengths and building teams out of how people work together best.

Victoria:What have you learned about prioritizing the different pieces of your life – friendships, your marriage, family, religion and business?
Spencer:I’ve learned that balance is an ever-moving target.  I used to constantly fight for balance and always feel like it was a losing battle.  Now I realize that different elements of balance are meant to shift throughout life.  At one time my friends were the most important element, during other times building my business had to take priority.  Marriage adds another beautiful component. As time goes on, this will continue to change, shifting the balance of friends and family, of business and philanthropy, of travel and of stability.  The important thing is to take stock in your priorities so balance is a conscious decision, not an aftereffect.

Victoria: How do Jewish values play a part in your role as a business leader?
Spencer: When working so hard for success it is important to know WHY you are really doing it.  Many entrepreneurs aim to make millions, and I have no qualms with that.  But that begs the question, why make millions?  To buy a Ferrari?  For me the answer is tied to my Jewish values: tikkun olam.  My end game is to leave the world a better place.  I hope to do a lot of good in my lifetime and the more successful SPARK is, the more capable I will be to contribute to meaningful causes.  That is not just me, and it’s not just Jewish.  I am proud to say that the amazing staff at SPARK all show a deep commitment to helping others.  It’s become part of our company DNA.

Victoria: What do you wish you had known five years ago?
Spencer: Shabbat is the most important part of the week. Life is hectic and we are lucky to have a day when we are supposed to STOP. Stop working, stop texting, stop emailing, stop traveling, and redirect all that energy to real quality time with the people you love. We need that time to step back, take a moment to breathe, and devote that time to our community, our family and ourselves.

Victoria: How do you motivate your team when times are tough?
Spencer: The right company culture is among the most important elements of an organization that can survive even when times are tough… we focus on values, on what really matters in life, and on creating a culture of sharing in successes and supporting each other.  I don’t have to motivate my team very much because they have the capacity to be self-motivated and to motivate each other.  I only need to set up a culture that allows that to flourish.

Victoria: What advice do you have for people who want to start their own businesses?
Spencer: Find a mentor who’s been through it, succeeded, and hasn’t forgotten what it took.  We entrepreneurs tend to romanticize starting a business.  We remember all the benefits and tend to forget the difficult times along the way.  Entrepreneurs are programmed that way; we wouldn’t get through it if we didn’t amplify the good and minimize the struggles.  I would recommend finding a fellow entrepreneur who can provide some perspective on both the emotional and practical sides of starting a business.

Also, a good life partner can be your rock.  My wife, Rachel, keeps me aimed squarely at who I want to be and how we want to live our lives together.

Victoria: That’s it, thanks for your time.
Spencer:  Thank you!

Victoria Shapiro is a senior account executive at Susan Davis International, a full-service communications and public affairs firm on K Street.  She is also an advisor to her family’s company, The Donald J. Ross LLC, the official licensing company for the legendary 20th century golf course architect.