Meet Ally: Jewish Party Planner of the Week

In addition to having the best first name, Ally Sherman is one of those amazing women who seems to have kinda figured out this whole “how do I live a productive life?” thing. In addition to being a spin teacher, FlyWheel coordinator, and marketing associate, she spends “free” time volunteering for the local Jewish community and is currently helping plan the annual Falafel Frenzy Christmas Eve party! Get to know this hard working, challah-baking, spin instructing mensch in our exclusive interview.

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Ally: I was born in Chicago, and then moved to Orange County, California until I graduated high school. I wound up going to college at University of Michigan – and LOVED it. While in college, I spent a summer interning in DC and had the best time. Before I graduated, I landed a job in DC at a trade association for affordable housing development, so I moved here. Now, it’s been almost five years and I just love it. I love being able to see the capitol building and the White House – it’s nice living in a city with so much history, and so much happening.

Sometimes, it’s hard being far away from my parents, but also gives me a good excuse to warm up in California. I also have two sisters, one lives in New York and one is in Chicago, so we spend weekends visiting each other.

Allie: So, I hear you’re juggling not one, not two, but THREE jobs at the moment. Girl. How do you do it?

Ally: I’ve always loved indoor cycling, and FlyWheel was one of my favorite places. And for the past year, I’ve been working as a coordinator for the studio, which is a great community – AND I get free classes…not a bad perk (job #1). Working here inspired me to start teaching my own spin classes at other studios (job #2), which has been a lot of fun. I love music, and one of my favorite things to do is to be on Spotify, discovering new music, and making playlists for my classes. I also started a new job in September at a marketing agency (job #3).

In terms of how I juggle it – caffeine is very important. Although I don’t have as many free days as I wish and spend very little time in my apartment, I’m just one of those people who enjoys staying busy.

Allie: On top of having THREE jobs, you’re also the chair of the Falafel Frenzy host committee. What’s all this buzz I hear about Falafel Frenzy?

Ally: Falafel Frenzy started in 2013 by Eva Malka Davis and Steph Heller as a way to fundraise for local causes and give Jewish young adults a place to party together on Christmas Eve. This year, Eva and Steph wanted the event to continue, but felt it was time to pass the torch on to new planners. So, they put together a host committee of young adults who are spearheading it. This year, it’ll be at Hawthorne on U Street with a DJ, dance floor, rooftop bar, speciality cocktails (Fire-y Falafel Ball Shot, Miracle Mule), and 100% of the proceeds goes to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. It should be a really fun time, and is for a great cause.

Allie: With all of these jobs, how do you relax and de-stress?

Ally: This past year, I got really into baking artisanal challah (i.e. nutella, fig + goat cheese, everything) and love sharing these homemade challot with my friends at dinner parties and Jewish holidays. Also, I’m all for self care. If I have a day off, I make sure that I take full advantage of it – sleeping in, catching up with friends, getting a massage or a mani-pedi, or watching something amazing like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Allie: Who is your role model?

Ally: My mom. She has always worked really, really hard throughout her life, and all the while has been an active part of whatever community she’s a part of. She spends a lot of time and energy making the world a better place. So, if I can continue in her footsteps just a little, that would be an awesome way to live my life.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Hanukkah?

Ally: This year, I had a bunch of people over my apartment for a little Hanukkah shindig. Some of the people there had had never celebrated a Jewish holiday in their life. It’s really fun for me to share Jewish traditions with my friends from different religions. We played dreidel, we lit the candles, I made latkes – and now my apartment will forever smell like latkes.

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

Ally: A lot of fun happens!

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.

5 People to Meet at Falafel Frenzy this Christmas Eve

 That person you lost touch with from a previous Jewish life.

via GIPHY

Hebrew school, Jewish summer camp, youth group, an Israel trip; someone from “a lifetime ago” will most likely be there. You’re bound to run into at least one blast from the past—whether you recognize them or not is another question.

 

The party-goer who is only there for the drink specials.

via GIPHY

It seems that every time you look at the bar, this person is getting another drink. But hey, can you blame them for wanting to take advantage of those fabulous drink specials? Whether or not you choose to drink, you can say “L’chaim” and have a ton of fun.

 

That guy who is totally owning the dance floor.

via GIPHY

This person is leaving it all on the dance floor. They came to throw their cares away and party like it’s 5759 (or 1999)! Word of advice: don’t get too close to the line of fire.

 

The person who genuinely came to support a good cause.

via GIPHY

They’re here to do good and they are loving every minute of this mitzvah (good deed)! Say hello to your fellow ‘do gooder” and give them a high-five, because 100% of your ticket proceeds go to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s continued efforts to build a stronger Jewish future around the world.

 

The networking guru who’s never without an ample amount of business cards

via GIPHY

You can find the networking aficionado by the trail of business cards left on the floor by all of his new “friends”. This person is worth meeting because they have the insider scoop on all the best Jewish gatherings in DC.

 

In sum, go to Falafel Frenzy because it’ll be an awesome night filled with innumerable next-day brunch stories.

Register today at shalomdc.org/falafelfrenzy to get a free drink ticket!

 

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.

Your (Jewish) Guide to Christmas Weekend in DC

Your long, eskimo winter coat has officially left its hiding place deep in the back of your closet and made its way onto your freezing cold body. “Santa Clause” 2 airs 67 times a week. 97.1 FM has converted to playing solely holiday jingles for 24 hours-a-day (so long for now Ed Sheeran). It’s dark long before you leave the office. Speaking of which, there’s literally nobody else in the office. Because you, as the diligent worker and loyal Hanukkah observer that you are, are the only person not taking a vacation this week.

It’s official – Christmas break has hit our nation’s capital and you are left all alone. With nothing to do. No one to see. Just boredom, Netflix, and Instagram-induced FOMO loom on your horizon. 

Well, in the words of Mr. Grinch, let me just say…you are “WRONG-O.”

Christmas is, may I be so bold, the BEST TIME to be left in DC. Read on for my personally curated list of what to do, where to go, and who to see this weekend, to make your Christmas break the best ever. And no need to thank me for providing you with this epic list. Gift cards to Amazon or Jeni’s Ice Cream will suffice. 😉

Your Jewish Guide to Christmas Weekend in DC:

Friday, December 22 – PM: Chances are, you’ll get to head home from the office a bit early today (as you will be the only one there). So, why not use the extra time to prepare a Shabbat feast for the best date out there — YOU! Shabbat is all about relaxation, so sit back and embrace the much-needed R&R. Pick up a challah at Bread Furst, don your coziest PJs, light candles, fill your Kiddush cup to the brim, make your own matzo ball soup and some latkes (in case you’re already missing Hanukkah), put away your phone, and enjoy the quiet. Reconnect with yourself, reflect on the past week, start a new book, brainstorm New Year’s resolutions, write in your journal – you do you.

But, if you happen to be more in the “schmooze with society” kind of mood, head to the Chai-vy and Cohen-y Hanukkah pop-up bar for a night of Manischewitz’s finest kosher wines.

Saturday, December 23 – AM: After sleeping in, go for a long, brisk walk around Georgetown – maybe grab a coffee and bagel along the way. There are few things quite as miraculous as a beautiful, morning stroll around DC when the only sounds you can here are whatever tunes you choose to blast – or not – on Spotify. Also, Christmas sales.

Saturday, December 23 – PM: Pregame Christmas Eve at the Hava Tequila party at the DC9 Nightclub. A portion of your ticket supports the It’s On Us campaign to end sexual harassment.

If late night partying ain’t your thang, grab a friend and host a holiday movie marathon! All you need is popcorn, hot chocolate, fuzzy blankets, and this list of top holiday movies.

Sunday, December 24 – AM: See Star Wars at the Cleveland Park Uptown Theater, followed by lunch at Paragon Thai (because, spring rolls).

Sunday, December 24 – PM: Hit the dance floor, mingle with friends new and old, and try a Miracle Mule signature cocktail at Falafel Frenzy.

Monday, December 25 – AM: Volunteer at D25 – sign up in advance to take part in the EDCJCC’s largest volunteer event of the year. You can serve meals, paint a homeless shelter, or throw holiday parties for those in need. There’s also a special event just for young professionals where you’ll visit and deliver food to isolated seniors living in Colombia Heights.

Monday, December 25 – PM: Head to Moishe House Columbia Heights for a Harry Potter marathon and chinese food feast.

Now that you have all you need to enjoy the BEST WEEKEND EVER – go grab your favorite holiday sweater, slip on your coziest winter socks, blast “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on your iPhone, and take advantage of some much needed relaxation and fun. Wishing you and your loved ones a very merry holiday season!

 

 

 

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 Person of the Week: GatherDC’s Newest Team Member Rachel!

BIG NEWS GATHER-ERS: Boston native Rachel Nieves has just joined the GatherDC team as our Community Coordinator! This Bostonian turned University of Maryland Terrapin turned DC-ite, is eager to meet each and every one of you! Rachel’s contagious smile, friendly demeanor, zest for life, and self-proclaimed flailing skills on the dance floor — has us more excited than ever for the year ahead.

After you read this exclusive 1:1 interview, send her an email at racheln@gatherdc.org to say hi, welcome her to the team, or arrange a coffee date!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Rachel: I went to University of Maryland, so I’ve been in the area for a while. A lot of my friends moved to DC after we graduated, and I’ve always loved this city, so I figured it would be a great move for me!

Allie: So, what are you most excited about in your new role as GatherDC’s Community Coordinator?

Rachel: A big part of my job will be meeting people who are new – or new(ish) to DC, and helping them navigate the city, and then hopefully find their people, their place, or their path in Jewish DC. I’m excited about all of it! I really love people. I genuinely love talking to people and learning about their lives, what they like, who they are, their personal story. Everyone has something to say and a story to tell, and I’m so excited to get to know all the wonderful people already in the GatherDC community, and those new to DC. I know how intimidating it can be to be in a new, unfamiliar space so I’m really looking forward to being a resource for anyone who wants it.

Allie: What would be your dream Sunday in DC – if money and logistics were no object?

Rachel: First I would wake up at my leisure, then get ready for brunch at 801 in Shaw (my new favorite bottomless brunch place). The waiter/waitress would really like my friends and I, and would waive the 2-hour limit so we could stay there all day. It would be a really sunny and warm day, so we’d be on the rooftop. After brunch, my friends and I would go bar-hopping along U St/Shaw, and we’d have a ball. It would be pretty late by then, so I’d treat myself to McDonalds for dinner (it is Sunday and I deserve it, after all). I’d go home with my McDonalds, hang out with my roommate/best friend and watch some amazing Bravo TV.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday, and how do you like to celebrate it?

Rachel: Call me crazy, but I LOVE Yom Kippur. Every year I legitimately look forward to my fast, because I don’t dread it, but really revel in its meaning. Regardless of fasting, I think the holiday is extraordinary in that it sets aside an entire day to challenge you to think about the past year and how you feel about it – and how it made you feel about yourself. I don’t typically really spend time reflecting like that, and I think however that reflection and atonement manifests itself can be really powerful. Also, Break Fast, obviously.

Allie: Favorite show to binge watch right now?

Rachel: “Game of Thrones” – I know I’m so late on this but WOW. The other night I had a dream I was Khaleesi and it was the best night sleep I’ve gotten in a while.

Allie: What’s your best piece of life advice?

Rachel: Life goes by fast. Enjoy it, calm down, it’s all funny.

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

Rachel: it’s party time!!!

 

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.

Healthy Latkes?! AND not-so-healthy Hanukkah treats to satisfy your cravings for the next 8 nights!

Latkes and donuts, and gelt, oh my! Hanukkah is here, and with it comes eight days of gut-filling, artery-clogging, and dangerously delicious food. While the Miracle of Light may not refer to a miracle calorie-free feast, there are easy ways to enjoy all the latkes your heart desires without packing on too many pounds before your New Year’s resolutions begin. Don’t worry, we’ll still enjoy our traditional fried versions as well!

A classic latke is typically made from potatoes, which are grated and then deep-fried to get that crispy exterior you dream about each year (save the nightmares for the soggy ones). On top of that, they get loaded up with sour cream, applesauce, or my father’s favorite, a tablespoon of sugar!

So, here are a few ways to cut back on the calories without cutting back on the crisp:

  1. Simply swap out the sour cream for non-fat Greek yogurt. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try out some other toppings like hummus, guacamole, or make your own sugar-free applesauce that will have your house smelling like the holidays.
  2. While potatoes are “grate” (get it?), you can get in some extra vitamins by adding in other vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes, or parsnips. Try these beet latkes, which incorporate the beet greens into the potato-beet mixture before pan- frying. Beet greens are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, giving your latkes that extra nutritious punch, not to mention a bright purple hue!
  3. If you want to go oil-free this year (save it for the sufganiyot – fried donuts – at dessert), think about baking your latkes instead of frying them. You can still get a good crisp in the oven, just be sure to really squeeze out as much moisture as possible – you’ll get a workout while making dinner – and make them as thin as you can without falling apart. This recipe is a good one to start with, but feel free swap some of the potatoes with other root vegetables or add in some different spices (e.g. carrot + curry powder or sweet potato + chili powder).

Now if calorie cutting is not what you’re looking for, here are some drool-worthy ways to take your latke game to the next level:

  1. Potatoes and cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly, so why not add a handful to your latkes to make them ooze with every bite.
  2. If latkes eight nights a week aren’t enough, try these Latke Benedicts for breakfast! Poach an egg, whip up some hollandaise sauce and heat up last night’s leftover latkes for a quick and easy Hanukkah breakfast.

If you’ve managed to save room for dessert after all these recipes, here are some delectable treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.

  1. Why let potatoes have all the fried glory, when apples taste just as good, if not better, fried and caramelized? This recipe puts your scraps to good use, turning the fresh apple juice into a caramel sauce to drizzle on top of your apple latkes.
  2. If you can’t fathom a dessert without chocolate, then fry up some Mexican Chocolate Latkes for a sweet and spicy end to your latke party. Top with some ice cream, perhaps a donut hole, and you’ll be spinning in circles alongside the dreidel all night long!

You’re now ready and prepared to have eight nights of Hanukkah glory this year. With healthy twists and some not-so- healthy recipes worth indulging over, you won’t be bored with the plain old potato.

Let each night be a new miracle as you discover new tastes, perhaps make some new friends, and get ready to make some New Year’s resolutions that will most likely involve a lot sweating.

About the Author: Judith  Rontal  is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! Judith hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, even if that was at 10 pm. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her blog, Aluminum Foiled Kitchen, and in her daily life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations. When not in the kitchen working on a new recipe to serve at her next dinner party, you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the Rock Creek Park trails. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

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.

JUDITH VS. DONUTS: The DC Donut Taste-Test

8 Days of Hanukkah means the PERFECT excuse to take advantage of eight chances to indulge in some of the best, most delectable, most fried, most well frosted, most heavily sprinkled, most — ugh, we’re getting so hungry right now — donuts throughout DC. This week, we highly encourage you to go have fun tasting the best donuts across the city as you explore new neighborhoods, surprise your friends with exciting flavors (sweet and savory), and get in as much fried food as possible before the New Year!

We did some preliminary “research” to help steer you to the tastiest treats, and away from those not worth the calories — we took a few caloric hits for the team. Use our highly scientific Donut Deliciousness Meter (out of 4 ✡) to decipher which donuts are worth the splurge. You’re welcome!

Dunkin’ Donuts

While these donuts are great for a cheap office treat, looks are very much deceiving as we encountered tasty looking but…we hate to say it…stale donuts! We tried both a classic glazed (very dry) and an apple-filled (more like one bite of filling in the corner of a very dry donut), throwing out both donuts after one bite. 🙁 But, we did pick these donuts up in the afternoon, so perhaps they are best enjoyed with your morning Dunkin’ coffee run.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡

B. Doughnut

Due to the overwhelming popularity of these particular fried and frosted circles, we were unable to quench our B.Doughnut taste buds. These donuts sold out by 11am! (DC donut lovers – we’re impressed.) Although I cannot speak from personal experience, we’ve heard these are definitely ones to have on your list…along with an alarm clock set for sunrise. Using a Hawaiian style Malasada recipe instead of the traditional fried fritter (making for an eggy, yeast dough), these doughnuts are filled with pastry crème or cream cheese. With a pop-up shop at Union Market, you can swing by on the weekend and grab a LOX bagel doughnut! Yes, that is a real thing.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: Too late to tell!

202 Donuts

You can find these handmade donuts at Bold Bite in Downtown DC. While deceptively small, these donuts pack a punch of flavor – and were one of our favorite bites of all! The donut itself has a strong yeast flavor and isn’t very sweet, which actually pairs miraculously well with the sugary toppings and fillings. Go for the Dulce de Leche for a creamy caramel treat or the Samoa if you’re missing your favorite Girl Scout cookie.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡✡✡✡

District Doughnut

With drool-worthy flavors like Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, Brown Butter, and Cannoli, this local donut shop (started in Union Kitchen) spreads happiness through its mouthwatering, handcrafted donuts in a wide variety of flavors. They have a special strawberry jam filled Sufganiyot for Hanukkah, and are one of the few places that serve cake donuts in addition to the classic yeasted variety.

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡✡✡

Image courtesy of Astro Doughnuts,  Scott Suchman

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken

Founded by two Jews who met while playing hockey (they were the first native Washingtonians to play for the Capitals), this donut shop fries up sweet treats AND crispy chicken! Combining their two childhood comfort foods, Jeff Halpern and Elliot Spaisman brought the very first chicken and donut sandwich to DC. You can get classic donuts with or without the chicken, or a special box of sufganiyot donuts for Hanukkah (traditional jelly-filled, crème brulee topped with gelt, and Hanukkah cookie!). These flavors will be available from 12/12 – 12/20/17, so stop by this week to give ‘em a try!

Donut Deliciousness Meter: ✡✡✡✡

Honorable Mentions:

Shake Shack, Donuts Are Forever Concrete: Milkshake heaven made of Astro Doughnut’s coconut flavored doughnut, Vanilla custard, strawberry jam, and rainbow sprinkles.

Munch Ice Cream Donut Sandwich

Chocolate Frosted Entenmann’s Donut

 

 

About the Author: Judith  Rontal  is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! Judith hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, even if that was at 10 pm. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her blog, Aluminum Foiled Kitchen, and in her daily life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations. When not in the kitchen working on a new recipe to serve at her next dinner party, you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the Rock Creek Park trails. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

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.

18+ Ways to Volunteer in DC this Holiday Season!

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and holiday parties, funky Hanukkah sweaters and even funkier Hanukkah gifts from your great aunt or your office secret snowflake. Even though everyone loves socks, scarves, and Starbucks gift cards, why not consider making this time of year more about giving gifts instead of getting them? Here are 18+ amazing opportunities to give back this winter – which one will you choose?

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

For foodies:

For those great with Bubbes:

  • D25 Day of Service: Monday, December 25th
    • Spend your Christmas Day with the EDCJCC giving back to the local DC community before hitting the movie theater and eating Chinese food.YP EVENT: There’s a special Columbia Heights-based session for young professionals through EntryPointDC that you can find here. These YPs will be visiting low-income and food insecure seniors through We Are Family DC. If this D25 activity doesn’t sound like you, be sure to check out the other D25 volunteering options including the Cookie Drive going on now through December 23rd!

For the super crafty:

For animal lovers:

For Northern Virginians:

For those with really busy schedules:

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

  • Coat Drive with ThriveDC: Drop off between January 8th and January 11th
    • ThriveDC helps those facing homeless across DC. You can contribute anytime by providing a warm coat to a person in need through their winter coat drive.
  • Capital Area Food Bank at Giant
    • Headed to Giant to buy canned beans for your famous chili? Buy an extra can for the food bank and drop it off in the collection cart on your way out of the store.
    • A loyal Safeway customer instead? Make a small donation at the register to help provide food for residents in need.

For those with volunteering in their New Year’s Resolutions:

Consider becoming a committed volunteer in 2018 at one of the organizations below.

For those who live through their phone calendars (I’m right there with ya), here’s a list fit for that “Add to Calendar” button:

December 13th, 6:30-8 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 16th, 8-11 am: Wreath Laying at the Arlington National Cemetery

December 17th, 8:45 am-12 pm or later: DC Central Kitchen Volunteering and Brunch with Moishe House Capitol Hill

December 17th, 11:45 am-1:30 pm: Doing Good with JFE at N Street Village

December 17th, 1:30-3:30 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 17th, 6:30-8:45 pm: Patricia Handy Place for Women Volunteering with YP@AI

December 20th, 5-8 pm: Wrap gifts with We Are Family

December 25th, 10 am-2:30 pm: D25 Day of Service with EntryPointDC

January 4th, 7-9 pm: Hunger Action for DC Central Kitchen at EDCJCC

 

About the Author: Shira Cohen is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! When not writing about volunteer opportunities in DC, she works in student life and disability services at a local law school. Originally from Charleston, SC, Shira loves DC Library $1 book sales and District Taco.

 

 

 

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: Solid State Books Holiday Pop-Up

Not to brag or anything, but, this week, we’ve kind of discovered the Hanukkah gift shop mother-load. The Solid State Books pop-up (the evergreen bookstore is slated to open in early 2018) has everything and anything you’ll ever need to impress your best friend, sister, mom, partner, or coworker with your on point gift giving skills. Meet the nice Jewish bookshop owner who started it all (alongside Scott Abel) – cofounder, Jake Cumsky-Whitlock.

After you read our 1:1 interview with Jake, go check out the shop at 600 H St NE in time for the holidays…which means ASAP…because, welp, Hanukkah started yesterday!

GatherDC-ers Rachel and Allie with co-founder, Jake!

How did Solid State Books come into existence?

I’ve always loved books, which led me to get a master’s degree in creative writing, and then go on to work at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle. Scott Abel (Solid State Books co-founder) and I met while working together at Kramerbooks, where we were for almost a dozen years. We talked about opening a business together, and decided bookselling was our long-term career choice. 

Where did the name come from?

It’s threefold: 1) A throwback to solid state technology – which was a term used to describe modern technology in the ‘50s and ‘60s. 2) It references the physical book that you can hold in your hand. A book that doesn’t exist in the cloud, that you scan hold, put down, and lend to people. 3) It’s a pitch for DC statehood. We think this name is definitely going to push us over the top in terms of DC becoming a state. 😉

Why shop local versus buying books on Amazon?

Well, we can’t compete with Amazon on price. But, we don’t believe books should be discounted, because we think it lessens their inherent value. Also, we offer a curated selection of books, and the ability to talk to someone about those books.

Most of all, we provide a community. We have an actual space people can come to that’s not their home, or their work, but they can connect with other people, whether that’s by meeting new people, discovering new books, hearing authors, or getting intellectual stimulation.

When does Solid State Books actually open?

Sometime in early 2018. We’re very excited about it! We’re going to host so many amazing events at the shop – cookbook events, literary fiction talks, children’s author programs, and events that are not totally book driven, but bring community together to talk about important issues like cannabis legalization, DC school systems, etc.

– – – – –

And now, here are some on-point Hanukkah gift ideas we discovered at the Solid State Books pop-up: 

      Caticorn Greeting Card, and other way too relatable cards

 . 

      Maps of DC

      Water-Color Paint Set

      Inspiring Women, and Beer, Coasters

 .

      Books to Learn About Life: e.g. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl; Thich Nhat Hanh’s “How To” Series; “Brave Enough” by Cheryl Strayed

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 Alex: Jewish Comedian of the Week!

Warning: Florida native Alex Barbag is one of the most hilarious humans in the DC stand-up comedy scene, so be prepared to laugh out loud while reading this interview (perhaps head to a non-open office space). Also, this past year he started his own YouTube comedy series, which has potential for international greatness (according to myself) – so, you best get to know him before he makes it big and forgets the little people.

 

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Alex: I graduated from college at the height of the recession, which was the best time to graduate if you have rich parents that you want to abuse by living with them while unemployed. After a while, I decided I needed a job. I graduated with a degree in microbiology from University of Florida, and Rockville is very good for biotech jobs – so I moved here for a job in genetic testing. This was pretty much a dead-end job though, because you need a higher degree to get anywhere in this field. And since I wanted to do comedy more than go get a PhD, I switched over to computer programming which is a lot more flexible.

Alex being grilled by HR in the Safe For Work series​

Allie: I hear you fulfilled every millennial’s dream and started your own YouTube series…tell me about that.

Alex: After switching over to the computer science job, I started doing stand-up comedy, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. One of my comedian friends, who I met while doing standup in the DC-area, had an office we could shoot in at night. We made a bunch of skits in it, and one of them was an office-based skit where I played this lazy character who tries to get away with nefarious workplace antics. That evolved into  the “Safe For Work” series – the best part of which is that I actually shoot it at work.

I’m also working on a new YouTube series called “Broccoli Scientists,” which is a real job where they confirm that we should indeed be eating a food we already know we should be eating.

Alex on his wedding day.

Allie: I hear you recently got married and now work with your wife on the show!

Alex: You heard correctly. I met my wife, Amanda, on JDate, which I am very embarrassed about. I like to pretend JDate is the name of a bar. Amanda is embarrassed by my embarrassment, and so she quickly tells whoever I am talking to that what I am saying is a lie. This does not make for a good comedy duo since one person is undermining the other’s bit.

On “Safe for Work,” she stars as the HR Manager who is constantly yelling at me for mischief I get into. We film those scenes in our apartment. I like working with her since she is always around. However, I do think she regrets agreeing to be in it because now she has to work with such a tyrannical director such as myself.

Allie: How – and why – did you get started in comedy?

Alex: There’s nothing that I’m passionate enough about in this world that justifies me sitting in an office from 9-5. And I’ve always thought I was funny – although many people just thought I was weird – so that led me to want to do standup. Now that I do standup regularly, I realize it’s not a great lifestyle. It’s at night, and takes a lot of travel, it’s a lot of work. Ugh, work.

Performing at the Kennedy Center in the Terrace Theater

Allie: What’s the most challenging part about working in comedy?

Alex: Confidence has been the biggest shell I’ve had to crack in my whole comedy career. It takes a lot of that to be successful. When you’re on stage, you can’t be afraid of how you’ll be viewed. Also, the people who book stand-up rooms are the ones that really need to like you, and you have to network properly with them – which I am not good at.

Allie: Who is your favorite Jewish comedian?

Alex: I’d say Larry David. I’m actually making a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” themed episode of “Safe for Work” – so stay tuned! It’s about the water fountain at work – and those people that spend way too long filling up large water bottles, while those left waiting just want a mere sip.

Allie: What’s your best piece of life advice?

Alex: I’m very relaxed and I go with the flow, and

I think more people should be a leaf trying to float along the water, instead of a leaf trying to cling to a tree. I read that in a Buddhist book recently. I read one passage, that was the passage I read.

But really, I do think going with the flow is important. There’s way too much stress in the world and we’re all going to die one day, we’re just one tiny blip in the earth.

Allie: Favorite joke you tell?

Alex: I tell a lot of stand-up jokes about my balding. Overall I’m more thankful rather than bitter that I’m balding because I get a lot more standup jokes out of it. I think if God offered me a full head of hair – I would reject it knowing that I wouldn’t have as many stand-up jokes.

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

Alex: They should do it in front of their laptop while watching “Safe for Work.

 

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