Jewish Mayoral Candidate of the Week – Dustin

I met Dustin at our November happy hour at Hill Country BBQ. Our conversation began with Dustin sharing some of his favorite things about DC. And as our conversation progressed, he divulged that he was running for mayor of this great District! I couldn’t have thought of a better person to be GatherDC’s Person of the Week. Read more about him, his leadership journey, and his love for this city below…

Shaina: I hear you’re running for mayor of DC! What made you decide to do this?

That’s the question a lot of people have been asking! I just posted my bio on DustinForDC.com and the whole story is in there, but it all started when I was on a journey in Central America in early 2016. I was teaching yoga and doing a lot of meditation. While I was going through deep self-reflection about my purpose and my future, I began thinking about many of the great leaders in the world who inspired me in my life.

I was thinking about how I could apply the lessons they learned along their journeys in my life, and I started getting a lot of ideas about my community and my city – Washington DC!

My path led me to decide to put myself on the ballot and step-up as a leader. I knew that I had to get out there and tell people about my vision for the city.

Shaina: What has most excited you throughout your campaign?

So many things! The most innovative thing that I am super-excited about right now is Dustin For DC’s commitment to a “clean campaign.” The team has designed an unprecedented fundraising model that goes above and beyond in meeting all explicit, implicit, and just plain common sense standards for campaign finance ethics.

We accomplished this by designing a subscriber-based donation model where we build strong relationships with our “subscribers” who commit to provide a small (so small) monthly donation to the campaign so that we can fund predictable monthly expenses. And in this “all-volunteer campaign,” we have no salaries to pay and this enables us to deploy 100% of donations to campaign infrastructure and projects.

We will publicly release detailed analytics on this innovative campaign, as it happens – and everyone can watch it grow!

Shaina: How long have you been in DC?

I grew up in Rockville, MD but due to family ties to the city, I always had a strong affection for DC and this whole metro area. I was in the Midwest for college but moved back to the area in 2011 and began working and living in DC. I fell in love with the technology community, the arts community, the fitness community, the startup and business community, and – especially – the AMAZING non-profit organizations and PEOPLE who have true spirit and compassion. We have some problems but I am so proud of DC!

Shaina: What’s your favorite part about this city?

This will probably sound sad – but I love our sports! I have been playing sports and doing athletic activities my whole life. I know we can’t ever bring home a championship – but maybe things will change if I’m the Mayor!

Shaina: If you got accidentally got locked in any museum in DC overnight, which one would you hope to get stuck in?

I would pick the National Air and Space Museum. I really enjoy the advance of technology and the story of the human race’s 

drive to gain flight – and space exploration! I am fascinated by the early space program, particularly the imagination and big-thinking involved. Those American heroes had a wonderful “overcome at all cost attitude” and look what they accomplished – wow!

Shaina: What’s your favorite brunch in the District?

My favorite would be teaching an early yoga or meditation class and just enjoying a coffee and healthy recharge meal with friends – and conversation! I don’t have a particular place but sometimes I’ll definitely get a craving for an Affogato from Dolcezza on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in DC.

Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…  According to the Washington Jewish Week, we volunteer!

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 Library Lover of the Week – Sally

Most days, you can find Sally at the library… organizing scavenger hunts, punk shows and 3-D printing classes. We sat down to hear more about her position as Development and Communications Specialist for DC Public Library Foundation and to learn about her life in DC!

You’re from NY originally. What brought you to DC and how long have you been here?

I moved to DC a little over four years ago at the beginning of Obama’s second term – it felt like a lot of millennials were making the same move during this time. It’s a bit cliché to say I came to DC looking for more meaningful, mission-driven work, but that’s basically the truth! I was ready to leave my corporate marketing job in NYC. I also had a couple of very close friends from college who were living here, so having some built-in support made the transition easier. I began applying for government and non-profit jobs, and I ended up accepting an offer from the DC Public Library to help launch a city-wide early literacy initiative. I love NYC and my family is near there (in the suburbs), but I have no plans to move back.  

You just returned from a trip to Morocco. What did you see or learn that you will bring back to your life here?

Before this visit to Morocco, I hadn’t left the country in six or seven years. The trip was a good reminder for me to prioritize travel a little more and save/budget accordingly because there is no substitute for physically visiting and absorbing a new place. The culture in Morocco is perhaps the most hospitable I have ever experienced. Everyone is very warm and eager to share their cities, food and traditions with tourists. There’s always time for afternoon tea; no one is ever in a rush. This is very different from the east coast mode of operation!

Since my return, I’m trying to slow down, enjoy more simple moments, and take time for mint tea breaks.  I was reminded of another lesson that always seems to come up when traveling abroad. You have to be at peace with what you cannot control because things almost never go according to plan, especially when relying on public transportation and Mother Nature.

Tell us about your job with the DC Public Library! What do you do there?

After working in the Library’s Marketing Department on the initial phase of the Sing, Talk and Read DC early literacy campaign, I moved over to the DC Public Library Foundation – the Development Department at the library. My role focuses on developing public and private programs designed to attract the next generation of library users and supporters. I get to work with our brilliant librarians and community partners to market and execute a variety of programs including free concerts, co-working for local creatives, author events, Fab Lab happy hours, fundraisers, and more. Come fall, I’ll be working on our second annual city-wide banned book scavenger hunt in celebration of Banned Books Week.

Every day is different and our program offerings are always evolving. I created the @dcpl_literati Instagram account as a way to promote some of these unique library programs to a new audience. I also manage less interesting but necessary administrative stuff, like the Foundation’s accounts payable and receivable and our donor database.

When many people think about a library, they think–obviously–of books , but DC’s library is so much more, right?

Public libraries are safe, egalitarian spaces that cater to the needs of the community. Nowadays this increasingly includes digital literacy and access to technology.

The DC Public Library is a very innovative system when it comes to leading the makerspace movement in libraries. With a DC Public Library card, you can take classes ranging from PowerPoint Basics to 3D printing, record music in the Studio Lab, print your own novel using the self-publishing machine, and so much more. As a history nerd, I love our Washingtoniana and Black Studies Special Collections, which house everything from the DC Music Archive to old photographs and oral histories. Library visitors can come for the free internet and stay for the documentary screening or the punk show in the basement. This intersection of free educational and cultural opportunities is what makes the DC Public Library such an important, local institution. 

Are the renovations at MLK making things crazy for you right now?

Definitely! From a public perspective, that location, at the convergence of every metro line, was the most central in the city. The departments and resources that were housed at the MLK Library are now scattered throughout the District in interim spaces. Communicating all of these changes and updates to the public is challenging. We also no longer have a central, free space to host author events, job trainings, story time, art exhibitions, etc. Internally, this forces us to be creative and thrifty, and engage the community where they already are. Although there is a void downtown left by the temporary close, the library is so much more than just a physical building.

What is your favorite thing about living in DC?

The diversity and access to cultural events. It’s hard to be bored here. There’s always something new to explore, like an exhibit or live show. I really appreciate the music scene and love how the city celebrates with different festivals like the Funk Parade, H Street Festival, Bluegrass and Folk Festival and Capital Pride Festival. I’ve also met a lot of passionate and interesting people here. So many people who live in DC are working and fighting for a greater cause. You don’t see that in every city.

What is one thing you would change about DC if you could?

Obviously the cost of living is high and only continues to go up. I also wish the food scene was more accessible. There are tons of ‘buzzed about’ trendy restaurants for foodies, but DC lacks a wide variety of affordable places that offer quality basics. My taste buds are not very sophisticated but the New Yorker in me would like to see more options when it comes to delicious and affordable bagels, bakeries, Italian and Chinese food. That’s not to say these places don’t exist, but they are just fewer in number. I realize it’s probably difficult for small, independently owned businesses to meet rent and charge reasonable prices, but I wish that could change. It all ties back to cost of living being high. On Rye feels like a little taste of NY, and I am excited about Shouk.

What does being Jewish mean to you?

Like a lot of secular young Jews in the States, being Jewish is a big part of my cultural identity and has shaped my personality, values and sense of humor. I definitely take an interest in Jewish history, tradition, food, arts and culture and like to see what’s happening at Sixth and I and the DCJCC, which is just a few blocks from where I live. I really love the Washington Jewish Film Festival at the DCJCC as a lens into the Jewish experience across the globe, from Israel to Europe to Africa.

I also have a close group of friends in DC (Jews, non-Jews, half-Jews) with whom I celebrate the holidays when I can’t make it home to family. This year we started doing a friends-Seder for Passover, and I think it will become an annual tradition.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That’s always a tough question, it’s hard to set expectations for the future. Where do I realistically see myself vs. where I’d like to be – these are probably two different projections! I hope I’m in a funky, cool city with access to nature. Maybe that’s DC or somewhere new. I hope I’m surrounded by close friends, not too far from family, maybe starting my own family, who knows!? I hope my work is creative and benefits society in some way. I do see a dog in the picture, that’s about all I can guarantee.

What is one thing you couldn’t get through the day without?

Coffee incentivizes me to get out of bed every morning, and I usually have to cater to my sweet tooth on a daily basis. But it’s my wonderful friends, boyfriend, family and coworkers who provide the comic relief I need to get through the day-to-day. Times are tense, so a good laugh and some nonsense is paramount.

Our Hilarious Chat with the Author of ‘Mother, Can You NOT!?’ (and her mom)

“She’s an evil genius,” said Kate Siegel about her mother using text to reach her. The 28 year-old continues, “With a phone call, I can screen. With an email, I can not open it…”

“But with texts, she thinks they’re from a friend, so she looks down and BAM!, gets the message!” mother Kim cuts in.

Author, Kate Siegel with mom, Kim Friedman

This dynamic, mom-daughter duo know a thing or two about texting. Their text exchanges were the inspiration for Kate’s New York Times Bestseller, “Mother, Can You NOT!?” The book is based on Kate’s Instagram account, @CrazyJewishMother, which is rapidly approaching 830,000 followers. The account are compiled screenshots of Kim’s ‘colorful’ texts to her adult daughter about things like her drying up eggs, meeting “Mr. Right,” and the questionable safety of her neighborhood.

Currently on a book tour (stopping in Northern Virginia next Thursday), Kate and Kim sat down to chat with GatherDC about their texts – the good, the bad, and the “still single.”

GatherDC: What sparked the idea for you to originally post your mom’s texts to Instagram?

Kate: My mom has been a lunatic forever. She discovered texting a few years back, and I’ve been screenshotting them ever since. It wasn’t until I received a text from her while at my friend’s bachelorette party... (In the text) she expressed her congratulations for my friend and concern for my eggs…

Kim: …I’m still concerned.

Kate: (Audible eyeroll) I shared the text with the group, and they loved it. This gave me the idea to post it to my personal Instagram account, where it got a lot of likes too. From there I started a designated account for them, @CrazyJewishMom, and when that got popular, published the book. And now, I’m currently working on a television script based on it with CBS/Ryan Seacrest Productions.

GatherDC: Kim, what do you think of this project? 

Kim: I’m so proud. She’s a New York Times bestselling author! But…she’s still single. So I have to balance the good with the bad.

Kim and Kate

GatherDC: Was there ever a feeling of invasion of privacy?

Kate: One of the things I admire about my mother is her fearlessness. We only had one instance where she called me, upset after her friend flagged a text she thought crossed the line. I explained that if this whole thing was making her uncomfortable I would stop immediately. But, I also said that if she liked parts of what I was doing, that I felt it was important to share all of it – the good and the bad. She agreed and it’s never been an issue since.

GatherDC: Kim, do you keep up on the Instagram account?

Kate: I created her an account of her own so she could follow along, but she promptly lost her password so…

GatherDC: Do you have favorite texts?

Kate: Oh, that’s a hard one. I think my favorite is a text she sent telling the story of her recent encounter with a stranger reading my book in public. My mom approached her and, remaining anonymous, asked how she was liking it. The reader said something to the effect of this mother needs therapy, to which my mother proudly took a bow, and walked away. Another favorite…She used to give my number out all the time to eligible bachelors. Now that we’re sort of in the public eye, she can’t really do that anymore. But, I did get a text from her recently that said something to the effect of, I just gave your number to a 27 year-old Yale Law School graduate! I replied telling her she couldn’t do that anymore. She replied with one word… “YALE.”

 

From @CrazyJewishMom Instagram account

GatherDC: Why do you think your Instagram account got such a huge following, and not just among Jews?

Kate: One of the most popular types of comments I get is about how my mom could be their “crazy Catholic mom,” or “crazy Mexican mom,” etc.  The complex relationship we have with our mothers is universal. It’s a combination of love and throw-her-against the wall hate. It’s complex because for all that drives you crazy about her, you know she has your best interest in mind. Of course, I think my mom is an extreme version, but really the relationship is universal. There is so much love there.

GatherDC: What’s next for you? Any projects in the hopper?

Kate: We have a lot going on the with the brand, building vertically and laterally. There is a lot on the website including our advise column, “Mom & Spawn,” which happened organically, with followers writing me asking what my mom and I would do about a certain situation they found themselves in. It’s a continuation of our dynamic where my mom will say things like, “Key his car!,” but I reign her in.

GatherDC: Thanks so much! Anything you want to add?

Kim: Yes! She’s single!

Kate: Except, I’m not. I’ve been in a committed relationship for three years now.

GatherDC: Kim, why do you say she’s single?

Kim: She’s not married!

Kate: She doesn’t like that he hasn’t proposed yet. She keeps sending me guys’ numbers.

GatherDC: What does your boyfriend think of that, Kate?

Kate: He is a very good sport. After all, he is quite familiar with pushy mothers.

Get more of this hilarious pair just in time for Mother’s Day. Kate and Kim will be in Arlington on May 11th as part of the JCC of Northern Virginia’s  j.talks author series. The evening is presented by JCCNV Cultural Arts in partnership with NOVA Tribe and Moishe House Arlington. More here.

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.