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Rachel: So how long have you been in DC and where were you before?
Jason: I’ve been in DC for a decade. I started my career in Boston, but that adventure was over after my first 10-month winter in the Northeast. I was born and raised in Richmond (VA) and attended college in Charlottesville (VA). So, you could say that I never really left my backyard.
Rachel: I hear your last name has a cool story – can you tell us about it?
Jason: My last name is hebrew and means “wise.” It was changed from Verstandig, which is German and means “understanding”, when my father and his family moved to the U.S. from Israel. I like that we loosely kept the meaning, while changing the language.
Rachel: Are there any interesting ways that your Jewish and professional lives have intertwined?
Jason:Yes…I left PricewaterhouseCoopers’ tax practice about four years ago — I still do freelance tax work for many of my local, business-owning friends, which is how I got my current full-time gig. I joined my long-time friend and now business partner, Jeff Rossen, at Rossen Landscape (local, residential landscape company). Jeff and I met freshman year of high school in BBYO! Jewish ties run deep!
Rachel: What do you do to recharge?
Jason: When I’m not cutting grass…just kidding, I don’t cut grass, I cut costs! In my free time, I like to be active — yoga, cycling, snowboarding, any sport, etc. I enjoy traveling as well whether it be a Hilton Head Island beach week with my family or biking the Rallarvegen trail in Norway with friends. My current sedentary obsessions are watching Shark Tank and managing my fantasy football squad.
Rachel: We heard you’re on the Impact DC Host Committee which is coming up this month! Could you tell us more about the event and why it’s so important to you?
Jason: Glad you asked! We’re very excited for this year’s event on Thursday night, November 20th at The Howard Theatre — it’s the fourth annual. (For complete information and to register visit www.shalomdc.org/impactdc) Last year I was a member of the host committee and this year I was honored with a role as co-chair of the event. Impact DC is a great way to introduce young professionals to charitable giving. It’s both a party and a fundraiser to benefit The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. The event registration fee is part party cover charge and part donation. Therefore, it ends up being a celebration of our generation’s contributions to improve our community. It’s definitely a night to remember! Philanthropy has always been important to me. That’s one reason I’ve become so involved with Impact DC. On some level (some more obvious than others), we’ve all been offered a helping hand when we needed it (hopefully) and it gets you to a better place (hopefully). To ensure that “hopefully” is a “definitely” for someone else, it’s become an underlying theme of my life, manifesting itself in various ways. It started with Key Club in high school, continued with Madison House at UVA, and evolved into adulthood in various forms (i.e., big brother/big sister, blood drives, monetary/clothing donations, etc.). It’s one of the best win wins still around. The person in need certainly benefits and the donor (of time or money or clothing, etc.) feels good as a result.
Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Jason: You mean, how Jewish am I? Just kidding. I love when Shabbat falls at the end of the week. It really is a great time to do something quiet and reconnect with friends and family after a long work week.
Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Jason: [Without hesitation] Bagel with cream cheese, lox, capers, red onion, and tomato. If that doesn’t qualify then I’d have to say the Passover spread. I enjoy all the tastes of the Seder plate.
Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Jason: Is the next question who is the most athletic Jew? I don’t feel qualified to answer this question. The first person that came to mind was Adam Sandler. I think Drake’s Jewish — who’s cooler than a rapper? Rabbis can be when they drop knowledge to enlighten us. It depends how you define cool. My nephews and niece (pictured) are pretty cool too.
Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather
Jason: …good things happen.