Tiny, Battered, but Never Broken: “Big Sonia” Film Review

The documentary “Big Sonia” opens with a little old Eastern European woman in a car marveling at the “bog mindling” beauty of nature in everything. The cute outset is quickly contrasted with the film’s overarching question: If something terrible happens to a child, does it affect her for the next 70 years?

Photo courtesy of Gloria Baker Feinstein

Sonia, the film’s protagonist, is shown pondering this question on a radio show – the tattooed number on her arm peeking past the sleeve of her chic red blazer. But it’s the film’s director, Sonia’s granddaughter, who answers this pivotal question by splicing together the endless, endearing moments of the golden-hearted 80-something’s everyday life with depictions of the horrors her grandmother faced as a Jewish teenager in 1940s Poland. The obvious and unequivocal conclusion to the above question is, absolutely.

Photo courtesy of Gloria Baker Feinstein

Sonia works six days a week at her tailor shop, named after her late husband, in a midwestern mall that’s on its last legs. The camera follows her commute, as the mall’s adoring security guard ushers her on walks from her premiere “no parking” parking spot and perusal of the shopping mall’s empty halls. Despite being the final occupants of the mall, Sonia’s shop continues to thrive.Throngs of decades-long regulars flood in and out, each greeted with hugs and kisses and showered with compliments. We follow Sonia further as she navigates the world behind her leopard-print steering wheel cover on her car, visiting family, running errands, and picking up only the freshest bigmouth buffalo prepared specially for her by yet more adoring staff. This makes for a fine gefilte fish Sonia joyously brings to the Rosh Hashanah table.

But Sonia’s life certainly hasn’t been all charm and adoration.

Interviews with her children reveal that, although their mother never talked about the Holocaust, they could sense a darkness in their parents, both of whom were survivors. Sonia buried her story until she saw a skinhead on TV denying the existence of what she endured. Sonia then wills herself to recount the trauma of being sniffed out by Nazi dogs while hiding in an attic and transported to a concentration camp at 14 years old. She speaks about permanently parting from her father and brother shortly thereafter. She speaks about the beatings and torture, starvation and fear, and being forced to spread the ashes of her people as fertilizer. And she finally opens up about watching her mother walk off to the gas chamber. Sonia persevered through all of this, only to be shot through the chest on the day of her camp’s liberation.

She recovered, she moved to America, she built a new life, she got married, she raised a new family, and she built her beloved store.

Photo courtesy of Gloria Baker Feinstein

Sonia’s physical survival is inexplicable, but the crux of this film lies in her soul’s resilience. To lose so much and be able to rebuild is a story of unconquerable will. And she carries that message to schools, where young victims of personal trauma find empathy and inspiration in her ability not to hate, even the Nazis. And to prisons, where she gains respect of grizzled inmates because Sonia, a sweet, sub-five-foot old lady, is tougher than they can ever imagine. Your hardships can be overcome, she teaches.

She lost her entire family. She built a new one. She lost her husband. She carried on his work. And finally, she lost her tailoring shop when the relic mall of middle America was deemed for demolition. Her reading of the notice that her lease was terminated was one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the film. Yet, in her late 80s, Sonia rebuilds an entire new store – and that store thrived, too.

Sonia says she survived the death camps in order to tell the story of the Holocaust. But throughout the film, her grace, wisdom, and wit; her beauty and charm; her charity and love; and most of all, her resilience despite tragedy after tragedy, show that there’s more to the reason she survived.

Although the film makes no mention of it, Sonia survived to tell the story of the Jewish people. Tiny, battered, but never broken – and always big.


See “Big Sonia” this Saturday, check out other screening dates/locations, or request a screening for your organization/movie group.




About the Author: Max Bluestein is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. He is a full-time government flack and part-time research consultant on security issues. With whatever time is left, he’s a writer, traveler, gym-rat, and charity fundraiser. Also husband. Definitely husband.





The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Ben: Jewish Eastern-European Buff of the Week!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ben: I grew up in a Suburb of Philly called Moorestown and lived there pretty much my whole life. I moved away to LA for college, and after graduating, lived overseas in Ukraine for a year on on a Fulbright research grant pertaining to Holocaust remembrance, Jewish heritage, and other Jewish community topics. I was fortunate enough to find a job in DC at The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, which does similar things to what I was doing in Ukraine. So, I moved here pretty much straight from Ukraine to start working there.

Allie: What spurred your interest in Russia and Eastern Europe?

Ben: In college I had to pick a language, so I signed up for a Russian on a whim. I loved it so much, I made it a second major. I’ve always been interested in that region because my great grandparents are from Eastern Europe, so in some small way it’s a part of who I am. I liked that I could explore that part of myself in an academic setting, and to be able to communicate with people who live there opened up this whole world to me. Also, the language is fun!

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time outside of the office?

Ben: I like cooking and entertaining for people. I’m like a reincarnated Jewish grandmother. I make a mean roast chicken, stews, soups, you name it. And I made really good hamantaschen during Purim. I’m also trying to become a runner, which I’m really enjoying.

Allie: Well, on top of your job, cooking, running, and entertaining, I also I hear you’re a part of TWO Jewish fellowships, tell me about those!

Ben: I’m in a leadership training with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called the Glass Leadership Institute. We learn about the different programs and issues that ADL works on, and go to ADL events, and volunteer with them. It’s a way to develop the next generation of leaders within ADL.

I’m also a part of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, which is a way for me to help people grow into and with the Jewish community, and a way for me to grow into a Jewish community in DC too. Before this, I didn’t really know how to meet other Jews, and have been on the search for a community that works for me. This is what I’ve been looking for! I’ve been given access to cool community spaces that I would never have known about before or approached on my own.

Allie: Wow! Where does this passion for the Jewish community come from?

Ben: I grew up with a pretty cookie cutter Jewish childhood – I went to a conservative shul, Hebrew school twice a week, celebrated all the holidays with my family. But, I hated Hebrew school, and I really drew away from Judaism throughout college.

But, when I lived in Ukraine, I started to re-engage with Judaism in a much more personal way. Being there made me realize how fortunate we are to have different Jewish community resources – to have choices. The Jewish community in Eastern Europe was almost completely wiped out by the Nazis, and then the Soviet Occupation made being a Jew a huge liability. The country is still dealing with that history, so there’s much less variety, and a struggle for resources when it comes to Jewish life. When I came back to DC, I decided to make Judaism a priority.

Allie: If you could trade places with any celeb for a day who would it be?

Ben: Jeff Goldblum. I don’t fully understand why people love him so much, but they do, and he’s Jewish so it sounds like a sweet deal to me. Sign me up.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Ben: Three-words. Schelsky’s of Brooklyn. They have the most amazing selection of bagels and smoked fish that I’ve ever had in my life.

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Ben: Southeast Asia – Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma. I’ve never been to that part of the world before and would love to spend time there.

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Ben: I played the oboe in orchestra for almost 6 years.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Ben: You always find someone who knows someone else from another time in your life.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Spotted in Jewish DC: Hill Country BBQ’s Passover Brisket

When you think Passover food, Texan BBQ is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But, local DC BBQ joint, Hill Country BBQ, has somehow magically combined these two forces to create a mouthwatering, traditional Texan BBQ brisket ready-to-order for Passover.

Get the lowdown on this seder-worthy dish from Hill Country BBQ’s Chef de Cuisine, Dan Farber, and Director of Operations, Chris Schaller.

Allie: I hear you have some delicious brisket on sale for Passover. What makes this brisket special?

Chris: Our founder, Marc Glosserman, grew up in the BBQ capital of Texas, where central Texas BBQ is a true celebration of the quality of meat. Our brisket reflects this, and is made with a heavy rub of cayenne, salt, and pepper, and then we soak it over Texas post oak wood from 13-15 hours. By the time it comes out, its very tender, melts in your mouth.

Allie: How can I get this brisket at my Passover seder?

Chris: You can order it online here, pick it up at Hill Country BBQ, or we can do drop-off catering whenever possible – depending on the amount.

Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food?

Dan: Hmmm that’s a hard one because isn’t all Passover food really amazing? 🙂 I would probably say a delicious brisket of course, and a good, flavorful matzo ball soup with the perfect consistency matzo balls (somewhere between floater and sinker). I don’t mind gefilte fish and I can tolerate matzo when it’s served with some butter or as matzo pizza. Of course, in the morning you can’t pass up matzo brei!

Allie: Do you have any other foods at Hill Country you suggest for Passover?

Chris: We serve a healthy amount of lamb, and some great sides like cucumber salad, mac n’ cheese. These can all be ordered for delivery to a Passover seder.

Allie: Is there a discount GatherDC readers can get on the brisket?

Dan: We are happy to extend a 10% discount for GatherDC-ers, just mention this article when ordering.


Check out our 2018 Passover Guide for more DC restaurants with seder foods, Passover recipes, and much more.






NOTE: The brisket at Hill Country BBQ is not kosher.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

See DC Like Never Before!

Camp Nai Nai Nai and Sixth & I are teaming up for an ‘Uncover DC Scavenger Hunt.’ Clues and ridiculous tasks await all daring individuals as you uncover DC treasures. Using a mobile app, teams will traverse Chinatown and explore Jewish history, art, and culture in our beloved metro scene. Come with your friends and a ready-made team or be adventurous and join a team of new friends when you arrive. P.S. This scavenger hunt uses a super cool app developed in Berlin, no pieces of paper and markers needed!

Expect the Unexpected!


Random acts of kindness? Yup! Food from a country you’ve never visited? Yup! Jewish Deli in DC? YUM and most definitely yup!

Wrestle with clues, discover historical sites, and compete in absurd team challenges!

Ever invented an odd job and tried to get paid for it? How about cheering on strangers for simply crossing the street? As you venture through Chinatown, we promise to show you a side of DC rarely explored!

What will YOU find?

Do you like puzzles and logic games? Do you like to dance in the streets like nobody’s watching? Synagogues become churches…and back again? Uhhh, yup! Several synagogues in DC have become churches over the decades and some have even come back to the tribe. We promise you will see the same streets you walk every day in a brand new light.

Camp Nai Nai Nai & Sixth & I believe that Jewish ritual and culture should be vibrant, relevant, and exciting. We don’t know how many clues you’ll solve, but we do know that you’ll find  a group of people who enjoy spending time together in this beautiful city of ours. “Uncover DC” is an opportunity to meet fun new people and become a part of a brand new community.


$$$, SWAG for the Winners

Why do this? First of all, everyone that shows up will get a Sixth & I tote bag, and we ALL need more tote bags for walks home from Trader Joe’s! Second, it will be a guaranteed raucous good time. Third, the winners will get exclusive and fabulous Camp Nai Nai Nai swag and 50% off registration for Camp Nai Nai Nai.


Camp Nai Nai Nai is a Jewish Summer camp for adults, taking place over Memorial Day weekend, May 25 – 28, 2018, in Waynesboro, PA (1.5 hours from DC). Camp Nai Nai Nai gives you a chance to relive the curious and courageous days of youth through spirited song sessions, creative play-shops (there’s no work at camp), color wars, festive meals, and more. This inclusive and pluralistic weekend getaway is your canvas to connect with new and old friends and recharge your city-worn spirit. Camp busses will be leaving from DC, and we would love to see you all there!


RSVP and Invite Friends on Facebook

Sign up for the Uncover DC Scavenger Hunt

Sign up for Camp Nai Nai Nai

Check out Sixth & I


The above is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Finding Your Shabbat Squad

I’ve been working at the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center (EDCJCC) for the past few years as the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program based out of the center. When I started this role, I decided to change up one of our signature programs, Shabbat Clusters – small groups of young adults who we bring together to meet for monthly potluck dinners at each other’s homes and restaurants.

Originally, the Shabbat Clusters groups were based on age and location, and/or if you were single or part of a couple. In 2016, we added interest-based clusters such as outdoors, arts, 30-somethings, and foodies. Each group was also assigned a Shabbat Cluster Coordinator to help the group decide who would host dinner for the month, and be there as a resource for welcoming others to their home and learning about Shabbat rituals. Groups became larger so members had a chance to connect with different types of people. By the end of 2016, we had 285 young adults registered for the season, with new Shabbat Clusters forming every spring and fall!

As someone who has been a part of this program as both a participant, and a staff member, I have discovered that Shabbat Clusters is an incredible way to make new friends, reflect on your week, create Shabbat traditions, throw an awesome themed dinner, and even find your next bae. Check out some of my favorite Shabbat Cluster memories before signing up for the chance to create your own. 

Top 5 Shabbat Clusters Highlights of the Past 2 Years

1) The chilly winter evening when the 30-somethings Shabbat Cluster group hosted an Oscars-themed Shabbat, complete with a photo-booth and themed ice-breaker of sharing your favorite Jewish TV/movie moment, actor, director, or commenting on the week’s Torah portion (and potentially earning an Oscar for this!).

2) That time when two Shabbat Clusters didn’t have enough space at each other’s homes for dinner, so they wound up hosting the dinner together at the EDCJCC – and found these awesome tablescapes and stuffed mini pumpkins for dinner.

3)  That day when we received this awesome email:

I am writing with exciting news! Our cluster was formed through the DCJCC in April 2015. Though we’ve lost a few members to grad school and new jobs in other cities, we continue to meet regularly.  Over the years, we’ve had a Hanukkah Shabbat gift exchange, and gotten together for birthdays, Passover seders, Rosh Hashanah lunch, Yom Kippur Break-Fast meals, Halloween parties, Hamentaschen baking, EDCJCC’s Everything But the Turkey community service project, a singalong Shabbat, and a show at the Kennedy Center (“Kinky Boots”). In September, two of our members (Jennifer Bronson and Douglas Robins), who met through Shabbat Clusters, got engaged and are getting married this summer!

P.S Doug and Jen got engaged over a Shabbat meal that Doug made from scratch. After the proposal,  they danced around the apartment to Bruno Mars. #Shabbatposal

4)  That spring afternoon when the outdoors Shabbat Clusters and the 20’s-something Shabbat Clusters came together for Shabbat lunch in the most creative space: The National Portrait Gallery Kogod Courtyard.

5)  When Lisa Zingman and Hilary Bernstein combined forces to be co-coordinators of their Shabbat Cluster not once, but THREE times. These two amazing ladies already have 15 people signed up to re-join their group for the next year! #winning #Shabbatsquad


One of our taglines for Shabbat Clusters is “Find Your Shabbat Squad” – and I think that these 5 highlights reflect the idea that coming together for Shabbat is about meeting new friends, celebrating Shabbat your way, creating new traditions, and making lasting memories.

Want to learn more about Shabbat Clusters? Visit the FAQ Page and register for the Spring 2018 Season. The season kicks-off this Friday, but rolling registration will be open until June (or until spots are full).


About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Stephanie: Jewish Hip-Hop Dancer of the Week!

Move over Channing Tatum, this extroverted, Israeli chocolate loving hip-hop dancer is ready to take center stage. Get to know Stephanie Aseraph, because she’s one of the most vivacious, sweet, passionate women you’ll meet – and has a not-so-secret party trick of being able to kill it on the dance floor.

Allie: I hear you’re quite the dancer. Tell me about that!

Stephanie: I love hip-hop dancing. Dancing is a huge part of my life. I started dancing after seeing the movie “Honey” in second or third grade, and deciding that I wanted to be just like the star of the movie.

Allie: What do you love most about dancing?

Stephanie: When I dance and am on stage, I just forget about everything and all the troubles in the world go away – nothing else matters. Dancing has also given me so many amazing opportunities. In high school, I was a part of a dance troupe called Future Shock DC, and we went all around the country for showcases… and one year went to Barcelona!

In college, I had a lot of friends from Latin America and they helped me get into salsa and bachata and merengue. Hip-hop is my favorite though. Now, I’m not taking dance classes anymore, but I can go out dancing with friends– to places in the DC area like The Salsa Room, Cuba Libre, and El Centro.

Allie: Who are some dancers you admire?

Stephanie: Matt Steffanina is my favorite choreographer. Also, Channing Tatum is amazing. I love all the movies he’s in when he dances.

Allie: What motivated you to work for Masa Israel Journey?

Stephanie: Coming from an Israeli family, Israel is a really strong part of my identity. I went on a Masa program when I was a Junior in college at Tel Aviv University…and then, when I came back my senior year at Towson University, became a campus ambassador and did recruitment for Masa. After college, I did my Master’s in Leadership in Jewish Education and Communal Service, and knew I wanted to work in the Jewish professional world. When this job opened up at Masa, it was perfect because not only does it allow me to work with others with a passion for Judaism, but with a passion for Israel as well. Being able to support an organization that allows American Jews to connect to Israel and bring them on programs that can change their life, like Masa changed mine, is an amazing opportunity.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Stephanie: My mom. She’s a wholesome person that I’ve always admired and looked up to. She contributes very significantly to my love for Judaism and Israel, and she has always been my role model and my best friend.

Allie: What do you love most about Jewish DC?

Stephanie: There’s so much going on! I feel like I’m always learning about a new young Jewish professional group. It’s incredible to see so many people connected to the Jewish community, and that it’s such a broad network that there’s an event for everyone.

Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food?

Stephanie: Matzah with chocolate spread. But not just any chocolate spread…it has to be Hashachar spread – which is an Israeli chocolate spread. I love it because I can spread it on matzah and eat chocolate for breakfast…when else do I get to do that?!

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Stephanie: Greece has been on the top of my travel bucket list since I saw “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. After that, I really want go to South America and explore Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala, Panama, and Brazil.

Allie: Favorite show to binge watch?

Stephanie: “Friends.” I cannot get enough it. But, of new shows, I’d say “This Is Us.” Randall is hilarious, and Jack is just amazing.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Stephanie: They become connected!




The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish People of the YEAR Celebration!

GatherDC is throwing down to celebrate the extraordinary humans featured as Jewish Person of the Week from 2017-2018, and everyone who makes our Jewish community so friggin’ awesome (that’s YOU)! 

DON’T MISS OUT on this festive opportunity to:

  • Cheers to the Jewish People of the Week over drinks, games, prizes, & fried foods
  • Sip on specialty cocktails like the “Jewish Drink of the Week” and “Gather the Booze”
  • Take photo-booth pics with incredible, diverse young adults from across the DMV
  • Win awesome raffle prizes from One Eight Distilling, Baked by Yael, Pleasant Pops, and more!

Date: Thursday, May 10 from 6-9pm

Location: The Loft at 4935 (4935 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda MD)
7 min walk from Bethesda Metro (Red Line), parking garage next door, 20 min Uber ride from DC, or contact allisonf@gatherdc.org if you would like to arrange a carpool.

Cost: $15 in-advance, $20 at-door (includes 1 drink ticket, 2 raffle tickets, appetizers, photo-booth, and more!)

Raffle Prizes include: One Eight Distilling Tour & Tasting, 1 Year of Adas Israel Shir Delight Shabbat Dinners, 1 Year of 2239 Metro Minyan Shabbat Dinners, 1 Year of GatherDC Happy Hours, Baked by Yael Gift Certificate, Pleasant Pops Gift Certificate, Masa Israel Shirt + Tote Gift Set, & more!

Jewish People of the Year Celebration Host Committee: Ally Sherman, Eric Schwartz, Jodie Singer, Melanie Fineman, Monica Arkin



| Resume a previously saved form
Resume Later

In order to be able to resume this form later, please enter your email and choose a password.

Join Us for the Jewish People of the YEAR Celebration!

Registration Information

Please note this event is intended for those in their 20s and 30s.


Payment Information
Please note these tickets are non-refundable.
Your ticket includes 1 drink, 2 raffle tickets, appetizers, photo-booth, and more! 

*Raffle Prizes: 11 winners will be chosen at the happy hour!

Promo Code is case sensitive.


GatherDC is committed to making Jewish experiences accessible for young adults in a variety of circumstances across the DC area. If cost is a barrier, please email racheln@gatherdc.org GatherDC welcomes the participation of interfaith individuals, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. GatherDC fosters inclusive communities and strives to accommodate all needs whenever possible. If your require special accommodations, please contact us in advance of the event at 202-656-0743 and we will make every effort to meet your needs. 

By attending, you understand that photographs and/or video may be taken at this event, and may appear on the GatherDC website, publications, or other media.

Need assistance with this form?

Passover Guide 2018

Attention DC-area Jewish young adults – Passover is around the corner.

Translation: It’s time for matzah pizza, Manishevitz (or grape juice) overload, and the best excuse to re-watch A Rugrats Passover.

This year, Passover takes place from Friday, March 30th – Saturday, April 7th. And no matter how you celebrate, DC’s amazing Jewish community has something for you. We’ve compiled the best in Passover happenings across the DMV so you can dig into the holiday with new friends, delicious food, and beloved traditions. Oh, and if you’re having a Passover event that’s not listed — submit it here!

P.S. Not sure which of these events is the right fit for you? Email the GatherDC team!

P.P.S. Planning to host your own Seder this year? Check out Moishe House Without Walls, OneTable, or EntryPointDC (to be matched with other young adults looking for Seder). OneTable is nourishing Friday and Saturday night seders with help from Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market will be providing seder hosts with their own seder plates to use at their tables! OneTable is a great place to post your seder and find seders to attend.

Eh, I strongly dislike meals that start with homemade matzo ball soup and highly encourage consuming four cups of wine.” Said no one ever.


Passover Related Events

First Night Seders

Second Night Seders

Passover Recipes, Videos, + More!

Restaurants with Passover Menus

Meet Jason: Jewish Francophile of the Week

Le Diplomate, Croissants, French coffee, party buses to wineries – these are a few of Jason Sarfati’s favorite things. I met this super cool French-Sephardic-Arlingtonian/Jewish Lawyer at our last GatherDC happy hour (PS – next one is March 15th), and decided to find out more about his European roots over cups of caffeine at Dupont Circle’s charming French coffee shop – Un je ne se Quoi. After ordering his coffee in French, Jason opened up about his love of Jewish DC, Virginia wineries, and cyber security.


Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Jason: When I was applying to law schools, I realized I wanted to be back home –  I grew up in DC – so I applied to George Mason. I was really fortunate to live with all of my college friends in Arlington through all of law school, so I didn’t have to feel like I was outside of my comfort zone. And I wound up staying here because DC has so many opportunities in the legal field.

Allie: What do you like most about the DC Jewish community?

Jason: Its a large community, yet at the same time it feels close-knit. There are a lot of different events – any weekend there’s something going on. Also, it feels like DC has a lot of transient people who show up here looking for a place to fit in, and the Jewish community is that perfect landing spot.

Allie: If you had a free day in DC to do anything, how would you spend it?

Jason: I’m a huge fan of the vineyards out in Virginia. Every April, I organize a wine tour with my friends on a party bus. Its crazy, its a lot of fun, and it’s a whole day thing. After that, I’d have dinner in DC at Le Diplomate – obviously. Then, after a day of drinking French wine, I’d pass out.

Allie: I hear you have some French heritage…, tell me about that.

Jason: Most of my family lives in France, in a city called Lyon. The Jewish community there is actually smaller than one you would see in Paris – everyone kind of knows each other. I go to France once a year or so…otherwise I wouldn’t have a connection with my [extended] family.

Allie: How do you carry your French identity with you into your life in DC?

Jason: Well, growing up, we spoke probably 70% French in the home. And my family’s synagogue, Magen David in Rockville,  caters to Sephardic Jews. If you go there, you’d hear kids being yelled at in French. It’s very loud and close-knit, and I try to go as much as I can.

Allie: Would you ever want to live in France?

Jason: No, I’m very happy here. Also, my law degree would be useless there – and there are no Gather events there!

Allie: What are your favorite French foods?

Jason: Croissants and French coffee, like right here [at Un je ne se Quoi]. DC has some great French spots. Le Diplomate is, in my opinion, genuine French food.

Allie: And what about your favorite Jewish food?

Jason: The Jewish food I’m used to is very different than what most Ashkenazi Jews are used to. I had my first kugel when I was a sophomore in college. Where I lived, we would have marinated lamb or shawarma, which is more my speed. The spicy, north African foods that I’m used to is what I’ll go back to. A lot of beans, couscous, falafel.

Allie: What are you looking forward to most for the upcoming year?

Jason: I’ve noticed that DC kind of hibernates from January to February, and then in March it wakes up again. We’ve got the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Nats start playing again. DC is definitely a place that relies on the weather to be fun. And this year the Southwest waterfront is open, so there is a lot to do. Also, I’m excited for the coming year because just last week I started a data privacy and cyber security practice at my law firm, which is always going to be a field that’s relevant.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Jason: They make genuine connections and it can translate into business opportunities, marriages, and lots of good things!



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Words & Ideas: 1:1 Interview with EDCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky

On March 15th the Edlavitch DCJCC will host, as part of the Words & Ideas program, a discussion on “Compassion, Love and the American future” featuring Rabbi Shai Held in conversation with Martha Nussbaum, world renowned author and philosopher. This will be the first event of the series that I will be able to attend, and I am very much looking forward to it! I studied philosophy, so it’s always exciting to listen to  contemporary thinkers expressing opinions on today’s issues.

While checking out the Words & Ideas program, I discovered several amazing events and got curious about the history and goals of this initiative. I also started to wonder: are words more important than ideas? Or vice versa?

To curb my curiosity, I spoke over the phone with EDCJCC’s CEO, Carole Zawatsky.

EDCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky

Daniela: Can you tell us something about the Words & Ideas program and how it got started?

Carole: Edlavitch DCJCC has a wonderful and rich history of doing intellectual programs at a very high level and I, together with our Board of Directors, wanted a new program this year, that really focuses on vital issues that are relevant throughout the community, featuring writers, artist, scientists, and thinkers.

Daniela: Last October, you had a Words & Ideas 3-day-symposium. How did it go?

Carole: It went very well and addressed the issue of “how we age”. It was called “Getting Older, Getting Bolder” because, like many other people turning toward their 60s…I don’t feel older, I feel bolder! The experiences we encounter in life make us much more comfortable speaking out, and using our experiences in positive ways. I wanted to do something that would address age from a very positive prospective.

Daniela: On March 15th the program will feature Rabbi Shai Held in conversation with Martha Nussbaum. What will they be talking about?

Carole: This upcoming event is with Martha Nussbaum, one of the most prominent philosophers, and an incredible writer for The New Yorker. We will be looking at compassion, which is definitely a relevant issue in everyone’s life.

Daniela: Why is it important to focus on and talk about contemporary issues through a Jewish lens? In other words, do you think that programs such as “Words & Ideas” are particularly significant nowadays?

Carole: As a community we have shared values, shared concerns. We think about the finite resource of our environment, the finite resource of our time, getting older–they are universal concerns. All faiths and religions have something to say about these universal issues. But looking at these topics through a Jewish lens brings the values of Jewish tradition to bear on issues that are important for us, and which we think about together. One of the most wonderful ways to learn about any faith is to see its best values shining forward.

Daniela: Last question – Are words more important than ideas, or vice versa?

Carole: I love that question!! Both — words, and ideas, can bring you up and tear you down. I think that the word is the expression of the idea but I would love to hear what other people think!

My dear readers, since we would also love to hear your opinion on Words & Ideas – please let us know what you think and leave a comment below.





About the Author: Daniela Enriquez is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Daniela is Italian and comes from the only Jewish family in Palermo (population: slightly higher than DC). Things she likes about America include: the price of clothing, Internet coffee houses and ice rinks. Among the less desirable things are: the obsession with air conditioning, American “espresso,” and root beer. Feel free to contact her for advice on real Italian food in DC!



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.