Jewish Public Historian of the Week – Jason

Jackie: What first brought you to D.C.?

Jason: I went to college here, spending fours years at The George Washington University. I then moved back to New York, where I’m from, and worked for seven years in the museum field, as a curator, archivist and consultant. In 2009 I gave a lecture at the Library of Congress and learned about the Library’s Veterans History Project (VHP). I applied for a job, and in October of that year I was hired. I moved here on December 1, 2009, and have worked at the Library of Congress ever since.

Jackie: Can you tell us about your work with Library of Congress?

Jason: When I began at VHP, my job was to help collect and preserve the stories of America’s war veterans. I worked with organizations and volunteers nationwide to record the stories of veterans and donate them to the Library. After two and a half years, I moved into the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, where I am today. The Kluge Center brings scholars from around the world to the Library to conduct research and shares their research with policymakers and the public. I manage the public-facing side of the Center: our web content, our blog, our social media, our public programming, media relations, Congressional relations, and strategy. It’s a fun challenge, as I get to absorb all the research done by top scholars in multiple disciplines and distill it into digestible forms for the public. It’s a great job, and I think one of the best in Washington. But I’m biased.

Jackie: Tell us about your concept of History Communicators? How are you implementing this idea?

Jason: Just as science has Science Communicators, I’ve argued that history needs History Communicators. History, like science, can often come across to those outside the field as impenetrable, full of jargon, perhaps even boring. It is anything but. Over the past three years I’ve worked with many historians at the Kluge Center to make their research more accessible and show its relevance to a wider audience. History Communicators is the next step in that work, a new way to communicate history to non-experts in the digital age. I’m working with leaders in the history profession and beyond to train future historians for this work. As a historian by training, specifically a Public Historian—a historian whose work is targeted toward a general audience—the concept of History Communicators is one I am very passionate about seeing come to fruition. More news about it will be coming soon!

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in D.C.?

Jason: Indoors, it’s probably the National Gallery. I love wandering the different rooms, and I’m a sucker for landscape paintings—Turner, Constable, the old Dutch masters. Outdoors, it’d be Meridian Hill Park. I love to play football, Frisbee, or just sit under a tree and read.

Jackie: Can you tell us about your passion for music? Can we see you play anywhere in D.C.?

Jason: Music has alwaySB1s been a big part of my life. My dad played guitar, and growing up we always had instruments in the house. My parents also had an impressive record collection. I began playing guitar in high school and have been in several different bands over the years. The most recent was a two-person blues rock band called The Grey Area. We were fortunate to make two music videos, one of which is on MTV.com, to tour the west coast and play at SxSW. At this point, though, we are not actively performing.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Food?

Jason: Nothing beats Jewish deli: corned beef, turkey breast, rye bread, and cole slaw, washed down by Dr. Brown’s. 

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Jason: Probably a tie between George Gershwin and Jerry Seinfeld. Gershwin is something of an icon in my family: a Jewish kid from New York who was arguably the most gifted composer of the 20th century. My grandma still knows all the lyrics to his songs. Jerry Seinfeld is, for me, the funniest comedian alive today. His sensibility and humor are exactly to my taste: random observations, analyzing and debating the minutiae of life. Years ago I wrote a parody of Seinfeld using some of my best friends as the main characters. His fictional life on the show almost exactly resembled my real life in New York as a young adult.

JackieWhat is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Jason: Either reading a book or catching up on The New Yorker.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…

Jason: we play Balderdash! I just got back from a family reunion, and it’s a tradition in our family to play Balderdash when we get together. We play for hours and at the end of the night we save the best answers for our Balderdash Hall of Fame. Nerdy? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.

 

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