Meet Melanie: Jewish Marathon Runner of the Week!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool DC job. Tell me a little bit about that.

Melanie: I’m on the digital communications team at J Street, which is the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who are diplomacy-first US foreign policy in the Middle East, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and policies that reflect our Jewish and democratic values.. I feel really fortunate to wake up everyday knowing that I’m working for an organization that I care about, and is fighting for important causes. It’s a nice combination of working both in the Jewish community, and in the political space.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Melanie: I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, and did an internship at Jewish Women International in 2011, where I learned about the RAC (Religious Action Center), and felt like it would be really amazing to work for an organization that advocates for critical issues like homelessness, hunger, minimum wage, children’s issues, and engaging the reform Jewish movement. So, in 2014, I moved down here to be Legislative Assistant at the RAC.

Allie: How did you get involved with Gather?

Melanie: I ran into Rabbi Aaron Potek as a HIAS event, and he told me about the Beyond the Tent retreat. I decided to apply, and went on it this past July. I had a fantastic experience, i met a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise have met, I got to think critically about what it means to have a Jewish identity, and how I connect to my Jewish identity in a meaningful, real way. If you go, you have to be able to ask big questions, challenge yourself, and be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable.

Allie: What do you like about DC?

Melanie: I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful jobs where i get to think critically and work with smart colleagues. I also love a lot of the people I’ve met here, many of whom I’ve through a running group call The November Project – which is a free fitness group where you show up early to work out. I ran track and cross country in college, so this was a really great way for my to get integrated into the DC running community, and meet people outside of the Jewish and political worlds. There’s really nothing better than starting your day while running past the Lincoln Memorial.

Allie: Have you ever run a marathon or have any plans to?

Melanie: Oh yes! Since getting involved in The November Project, I started training for marathons. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and the Charles River Marathon in Boston in 2017. I actually ran fast enough in the last two marathons to qualify for The Boston Marathon, which I am planning to run in 2018 and 2019. That’s been a dream of mine forever, I grew up handing out orange slices to Boston Marathon runners during the race, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Allie: Who would you say is your Jewish role model who inspires you to stay so determined?

Melanie: My mom and grandma – they are both such incredible people. My parents raised all of my siblings with very strong Jewish identities in terms of striving to be better and do better, advocating for social justice, making the world a better place (tikkun olam), learning, being a part of the Jewish community, and also in terms of family. These are also the core values that I want to ensure I pass on the my kids one day.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Melanie: Passover. I love that the root of Passover is about Jews fleeing slavery, and that the core values of Passover can be relevant to so many social justice issues that we’re currently grappling with. It’s a holiday that pushes us to help others suffering from forms of slavery, and is also a holiday I can share with my non-Jewish friends who seem to really enjoy it.

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

Melanie: The world better be ready for what’s coming next.

 

 

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 Ike – Jewish Journalist (and Newbie) of the Week!

Ike Swetlitz is a man of many talents. A contra-dancing aficionado, world traveler, Jewish music guru, medical journalist – just to name a few. Though he is brand new to our nation’s great capital, he seems to be taking full advantage of what DC has to offer. Get to know him, and welcome him to the city!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool job as a journalist. Tell me a little bit about that.

Ike: I’m a health and medical journalist for STAT, which is part of The Boston Globe Company. Before this, I was majoring in Physics at Yale and doing a lot of journalism on the side – trying to decide if I wanted to be a Physicist or a Journalist. In the end, I realized I prefered developing relationships with people instead of a computer, so I figured it would be a lot more enjoyable to work as a journalist. I’m still really fascinated by science, so getting to be a health/medical journalist is a wonderful opportunity for me to pursue both of these interests.

Allie:  Where is the coolest place you’ve ever traveled?

Ike: I have two: The Point Reyes National Seashore, on the coast of California, just north of San Francisco. It was such a beautiful place, and has an incredible sea lion reserve. The second is my visit to the the Jewish community in rural Ghana – Sefwi Wiawsoin. While I was spending a few weeks in Ghana working for an agricultural news radio station, I had the opportunity to travel to the Jewish community and spend a Shabbat there.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ike: I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago, and after college was looking for journalism jobs. STAT was just starting up in Boston, and I got a job there as a medical/health journalist, and moved to Boston. I started working on many journalism projects related to DC, and wound up moving down here just a few months ago to pursue these projects at STAT’s DC-office.

Allie: Being new to the city, what is your take on DC so far?

Ike: DC reminds me of when I first moved to Boston, and I’m in this period of meeting a lot people and trying to figure out where I fit into the community. It’s a different kind of city than Boston though. In Boston, every other person works for a university or health company, and in DC every other person works for the government or an organization related to the government.

Allie What are your favorite things to do in the city?

Ike: I really enjoy going to the farmer’s markets in DC, and checking out the many Jewish community programs, and folk dance communities.

Allie: Folk dancing? How did you get involved with that?

Ike: Well, I learned square dancing in ninth grade, because we were told it was was the State Dance of Illinois. Then, when I was at college, I discovered this small, nearby town that had contra dancing – which is sort of like square dancing, but more fun – and every so often, I took part in that. While living in Boston after college, there was a big dancing community, so I started doing contra dancing, and have been happy to see there are lots of those communities in DC too.

Allie: How do you connect to Judaism in your own life?

Ike: I love Jewish music, Jewish ritual, and find that Jewish communities I’ve been a part of are really welcoming. It’s refreshing to spend time with a group of people who can be intently focused on one thing at hand.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Ike: I’d say the founders of Nava Tehilah – a song-based community in Jerusalem. They’ve created this incredible group that brings people together who normally have different religious practices, and show one another the beauty of each other’s traditions.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Ike: Sweet potato latkes. They’re basically like gigantic sweet potato fries.

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

Ike: They’re surprised by who they recognize.

 

 

 

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 Sarah: Jewish Tech Startup Founder of the Week!

Sarah Hostyk is one of those people who makes you want to deactivate your Netflix account and start doing more productive things with your evenings (but Stranger Things Season 2?!). At age 13, she wrote her first business plan. At 21, she was a finalist in Virginia Tech’s regional business competition. The following year, she was the first US employee at a Tel-Aviv based mobile app. And by age 26, she founded her very own mobile app. …maybe Stranger Things can wait until I’m a super successful app-creator? Ugh, but then I’ll never know what really happened to Barb. Life choices are tough.

Sarah seems to be really good at life. Get to know her!

Allie: So, you founded and just launched a mobile app in DC and on DC college campuses. That’s pretty awesome, tell us a little about that?

Sarah: Thanks! I founded Place Tempo – a free Apple and Android app that matches remote workers, students, and travelers with the top six places nearby to work/study that best fits their selected productivity needs (quiet, great wifi, how busy, open seating, outlets, etc). It’s driven by daily real-time and recent crowd-sourced ratings from fellow users and from your ratings. The app covers cafes, coffee shops, university buildings, restaurants, libraries, transit hubs, hotel lobbies, work spaces, etc. I describe it is as a productivity focused Yelp meets real-time Waze. You can download it from my website, or on the Apple App or Android/Google Play stores! (More info on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)

Allie: How did you come up with the idea for Place Tempo?

Sarah: When I was in college, I would stay up very late every night, moving from place to place in order to find some place quiet with few distractions so I could productively study. After college, I moved to Boston where I worked as the first US employee of an early-stage mobile app startup based near Tel Aviv, and then I worked on/at other Boston startups. There was a lot of remote work involved, and I encountered the same problems: home was too distracting/comfortable, staying in a location that didn’t have what I needed and that meant I wasn’t as productive, and I’d waste valuable time searching out decent places both in Boston and while traveling to other cities.

I couldn’t find a tech solution to help, and I saw the US workforce moving more and more to remote work… so Place Tempo was born. I moved back home to the DC area to bootstrap it and get it off the ground.

Allie: What are some lessons you’ve learned about running your own tech company from launching this app?

Sarah:

    Be relentlessly determined, keep pushing through closed doors and No’s, and never give up until you get the Yes’s you need.

      Be a Jack-of-All-trades, teach yourself the basics of everything until you can bring on a specialist.

      Serendipity is real, so pitch strangers everywhere: in coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, on the metro. I’ve made amazing connections, and gotten great feedback and new users this way.

      Be creative and resourceful. I created a life-size Place Tempo smartphone costume and went to DC campuses in it to get users and attention (see photo).

      Constantly seek user feedback and build a community around your product.

      Ask for help and advice. People in the tech community are always willing to help.

      Always try to help others and pay what you know forward.

Allie: Very great advice! Besides, you know, running your own tech startup, what do you like to do for fun in DC?

Sarah: On Shabbat afternoons, I meet with friends and we walk for miles across the city and explore without any plans, randomly falling into wonderful adventures. Major highlights: coming upon an Army band concert with live cannon fire on the mall, running into hundreds of swing dancers and a swing band at Dupont Circle, a 20 foot tall wooden dragon, all kind of festivals and interesting people, walking through historic hotels and museums, across bridges and monuments, listening to talented buskers, and the list goes on.

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

Sarah: Shabbat (my weekly reset to factory settings)!

Running a startup is an around the clock rollercoaster ride. So to have one day to unplug, not stress about work, go to shul, be introspective and take a measure of the past week, socialize and enjoy the company of friends and family without distraction, smell the roses and see the outside world unfiltered, explore and walk around the city with friends seeing where the day takes us, reading, playing cards… is a gift.

I go to shul at DC Minyan and Rosh Pina, two independent traditional egalitarian partnership minyans that meet in the DCJCC. I also sometimes go to Ohev Sholom/The National Synagogue.

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

Sarah: We schmooze and kibitz!

 

 

 

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 Courtney: Jewish Children’s Book Author of the Week!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Courtney: I actually grew up in the Maryland area, went away to college, and then moved to New York City to pursue acting. For years, I dreamed of being on Broadway as a musical theater star, like Sally Bowles in Cabaret. But then a few years after giving that a try, I moved back to DC. Although I love living in the city, after getting married – my husband and I moved to Kensington, MD so we could have a bit more space.

Allie: What’s your favorite part about living in DC?

Courtney: I’m a really big foodie and love going out to amazing local restaurants like Rasika, Filomena… and my new favorite is this little pizza place called Frankly Pizza. It’s exceptional gourmet little pizzas. I also love experiencing the culture in DC – going to indie bookstores like Politics and Prose, and seeing local theater (which I actually used to perform in myself).

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool job at Adas Israel. Can you tell me a little about that?

Courtney: Sure! I’m the Director of Programmatic Engagement, and help with Adas’ robust programming. I do a little bit of everything – from working with the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington, to the young professional programs like Shir Delight, to holiday programming like Return Again Shabbat, to social action events, and lots more. It’s rewarding to be a part of a lot of different initiatives, and I love meeting and connecting with community members of all ages.

Allie: What inspired you to work in the Jewish community?

Courtney: While in grad school at George Washington’s Masters of Elementary Education program, I wrote a children’s book called The Number on Her Arm. The book stems from my personal experience of learning about the Holocaust from my grandmother – a survivor – and how honest and open she was about her experiences.

After my grandmother passed away, I felt a need to get her story out, so I went on to self-publish the book. Then, I got so busy promoting the book and discovering this overwhelming passion to teach children about the Holocaust. This experience motivated me to take the job at Adas Israel so I can spend my entire career working to make a positive difference in the Jewish community through education and programming.

Allie: That’s incredible. It sounds like you have a lot of passion for educating the next generation about the Holocaust. Are there other ways you pursue this passion?

Courtney: One of the groups I had an event with when I was promoting the book is called 3GNY (Third Generation Holocaust Survivors) in New York. It was so meaningful to meet a group of other grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and I really wanted to bring this group to DC. I found out that this group already existed in DC, but had not been very active. My boss allowed me to pursue bringing this group back to life, and now, we have our first event coming up – tonight! We’re going to be sharing pictures of our grandparents, telling stories, and brainstorming ideas this program can make possible.

Allie: Who’s your Jewish role model?

Courtney: My grandparents. They went through so much as Holocaust survivors at a young age, but they were able to move forward, move to Canada after the war, start a family, and provide for their children and grandchildren. Instead of harboring resentment and bitterness, they gave unconditional love, and used their experience to educate us.

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

Courtney: Laughter ensues.

 

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 Aaron: Jewish Teacher of the Week!

Aaron Bregman is a history teacher by day, and hardcore Big Lebowski fan by night (White Russian anyone?). He also recently got engaged (thanks JSwipe!) and is super-excited to teach at this year’s ROUTES: A Day of Jewish Learning. We think he’s a pretty objectively awesome guy, so you should most definitely read on to get to know him.

NOTE: GatherDC-ers (that’s you!) can get $20 off the ROUTES registration price with code GATHERDCROUTES2017. The cost is normally $48 including lunch, but for you it would be $28 (not including lunch – you are welcome to BYO).

Allie: Tell us, how did you become a teacher?

Aaron: Well, while growing up in Danvers, Massachusetts (just outside of Boston), I loved learning about history and politics. So, I went on to study history and education at American University. After graduating, I spent several years developing curriculum on the Arab-Israeli conflict at The David Project in Boston. In 2012, I came back to DC to teach American, European, and Middle East Jewish History for 11th and 12th graders at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland – where I’ve been for five years now. And in just a few weeks, I’ll be teaching about the Soviet Jewry and The Jewish American Experience at ROUTES.

Allie: Huh? What’s ROUTES?

Aaron: ROUTES is kind of like going back to college for the day – except just the actual, education part of college ;). It’s an entire day of Jewish learning hosted by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington at George Mason University on November 5.

You show up, pick four learning sessions, have lunch, meet new people, and leave with at least one new piece of life wisdom. There’s tons of sessions to choose from…across diverse topics like addiction and Jewish spirituality, rebranding Judaism, creating a sustainable kitchen, using media to talk about Israel, Jewish women making an impact, gratitude in Jewish prayer, and more. See a full list here. And if you’re a history buff – you better sign up for my session!

Allie: Wow. That sounds like quite the day! In other news, I hear you have an exciting life update…
Aaron: Yes! I recently got engaged to my fiancé who I met on JSwipe, and am having fun wedding planning with her. We’re planning a wedding in DC at Hotel Monaco.

Allie: Mazel Tov! What do you guys like to do for fun together in DC?

Aaron: It’s fun going to many of the political events and Jewish community events across DC. There’s just so many interesting ways to be involved. Also, my fiancé is a big foodie…so I’ve subsequently become a lot cooler in terms of my restaurant-going behavior over the past few years. We also like going for walks, playing chess, seeing museums, trying new restaurants…pretty much whenever we see something fun going on in DC when we have time off work – we go check it out.

Allie: More importantly, what TV shows do you guys binge watch together?

Aaron: I used to be very anti reality shows, but my fiancé has officially converted me. Now I watch Big Brother and Survivor (no shame). But my personal favorites will always be Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, John Oliver, and The Daily Show. Oh, and fun fact, one of my friends is actually a writer for John Oliver, which is pretty awesome.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Aaron: I’m going to have to go with Rosh Hashanah. It really brings the family together and you get to enjoy that great big dinner, without the difficulty of preparing a big seder. And I love a good brisket and matzo ball soup.

Allie: If you had to be stuck on a desert island with a celebrity who would it be and why?

Aaron: Well, there’s two. I would go with Jon Stewart – he is brilliant in everything he’s ever done. His background, his beliefs, his whole shtick. And also Gal Gadot, because in my world, she is the new Jennifer Aniston.

Allie: Any fun facts about yourself that might surprise our readers?
Aaron: I was in the high school marching band and played snare drum, and our band actually performed at the Rose Bowl in 2001 (between University of Washington and Purdue University). Also, I am a huge Big Lebowski fan; when I went to Lebowski Fest in 2004 in Louisville, Kentucky, my buddies and I won the best costume award.

Allie: Hold up. What’s Lebowski Fest?

Aaron: Oh, it’s incredible. It’s just the most ridiculous, fun time complete with White Russians, bowling, a big screening of the movie on the green, and obscure costumes…

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

Aaron: a family comes together.

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 Daniel: Jewish Outdoorsman of the Week!

Michigan-native Daniel Wasserman loves everything fall: pumpkin-y drinks, s’mores around the bonfire, hot apple cider, wool socks, camping, and Curb Your Enthusiasm (but we promise he’s far from basic!). If you’re a self-proclaimed #notbasic fall fan too, we suggest you get to know him.

Allie: What are your favorite outdoor activities in the fall?

Daniel: Few things in my life compare to a fall camping trip. The crisp air, the fall foliage, wearing your favorite flannel or fleece, and most importantly… hiking without sweating too much. Of course I appreciate any chance to sit around a campfire, but there’s something special about cozying up to the warmth from a fire on a cool night. Throw in some close friends, a guitar, and a pot of hot whiskey-cider – and I don’t know if there’s anything else I could ask for.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, sky, cloud, outdoor, closeup and nature

Allie: What’s this I hear about a Jewish Camping Weekend in Shenandoah?

Daniel: Yeah! All that fall camping magic I just talked about, I want YOU to experience it with me in Shenandoah National Park, November 3 – 5. I’ve gotten to know GatherDC’s Rabbi Aaron Potek well, and Aaron is also big into camping. One evening, Aaron, Mark Nathanson (maybe a future Jewish Outdoorsman of the Week, wink wink…), and I were talking about going camping ourselves, but that conversation quickly spiraled into, “What if we made this into something more official and invited more people to join us?”

We’re lucky to have a place like Shenandoah in our backyard, so it all came together perfectly. We’ll be doing all the typical camping activities—sleeping in tents, hiking, making a bonfire, drinking, etc.—but we’ll also be having deep meaningful conversations, which might be my favorite part of any camping trip! There’s something about being in nature that just strips us down to our core and brings out the best in us, so channeling that into conversations around Judaism, spirituality, and more should lead to some pretty incredible, intimate dialogue. Along the way, we hope that you’ll meet some new people and come away with friends to go on future camping trips with.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, sky, mountain, cloud, outdoor and nature

Allie: What was your first experience with GatherDC?

Daniel: I signed up for the first Beyond the Tent retreat in the summer of 2016 without knowing anyone or anything about GatherDC. I can confidently say it was the best decision I’ve made since moving here. Not only did the experience introduce me to some of my closest friends, but it also challenged—and reshaped—the way I think of myself as a Jew. Since then, I’ve continued learning regularly with Rabbi Aaron and had the chance to facilitate the third iteration of Beyond the Tent this past summer

Allie: What is your favorite fall food?

Daniel: When it comes to fall, I’m about as basic as it gets. I just want to eat something pumpkin-y and drink something pumpkin-y, while wearing wool socks and a Patagonia fleece OR jacket. So far, the DC weather hasn’t been cooperating as much as I’d like, but if you’ve seen me around town lately, you’d know I’m still doing my part to usher in the fall spirit.

Above all, though, I really miss quality apple cider—not the kind you buy in grocery stores around here. You can find some decent cider at Eastern Market, but nothing compares to the stuff they have back in Michigan where I’m from (shout out to the cider slushies at Franklin Cider Mill).

Allie: If you could spend one full day binge watching any show, what would it be?

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, ocean, sky, plant, outdoor, nature and water

Daniel: I started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm at a young age and have seen every episode at least four times. It would be exaggerating to say that I think about the show every single day of my life, but honestly, at least every other day something will inevitably trigger a Curb reference in my mind (and often aloud to whoever will listen). So to all of DC’s pig parkers, stop and chatters, chat and cutters, and ice cream sample abusers: you’re on notice.

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

Daniel: they should do it outside, November 3 – 5, in Shenandoah!

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 Miranda: Jewish Instagram-er of the Week!

Miranda Lapides has achieved every DC millennial’s most lofty life goal – she knows how to take the perfect Instagram pic, filter it just right, AND top it off with the wittiest of captions. In addition to successfully realizing this dream, she also just (spontaneously!) ventured on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China, can make a mean butternut squash mac n’cheese, and is on the prowl for dates…at CVS? Get to know her in our GatherDC exclusive interview!

Allie: I hear you recently went on a big adventure to China. What were some of the best memories from that trip? Eat anything particularly crazy?

Miranda: I did! My favorite memory was going on a Yangtze river cruise, that we literally decided to go on minutes before the boat left. It was at night, so you could see lit up bridges and buildings. Some lights even changed patterns… so it was like watching one beautiful, magical light show with colors reflecting on the river. 

Another great memory was visiting the Moishe House in Shanghai. It was a great experience getting to meet Jews living in another part of the world and asking them what being Jewish in China was like.

As for food, the craziest thing I ate was pig brain. It was tasteless and mushy, but it sure made a neat photo! I also had pig feet, duck neck, and what I think was intestine. Sorry, not kosher 🙁

Allie: As a – GatherDC proclaimed – Instagram pro, what makes a good post?

Miranda: I’m flattered! I would say perhaps the right lighting or filter, but I don’t know much about photography. My real answer is anything genuine that speaks to you, whether it’s the books on your bookshelf, a meal you cooked, or a quote you like. It’s your personal ‘gram, so post what gets you jazzed, rather than what you think will garner the most likes. Or when in doubt, go with food. Food is always a solid choice.

Allie: What do you find is the best way to meet potential dates in DC?

Miranda: Honestly, the best way to meet potential dates is in unlikely situations when you’re not even trying! I met someone on my morning commute, just because I thought he was cute and told him so. Meanwhile I was on six hours of sleep and in desperate need of coffee, but the moment felt right. I’ve also met someone at CVS when I was buying toothpaste. Moral of the story is you can find that spark in unlikely places if you’re open to it!

Allie: I hear you’re a pretty great chef. What have you cooked that you’re most proud of?

Miranda: Every fall, I make butternut squash mac and cheese. It’s the perfect comfort food: cheesy and full of warm, comforting flavors like nutmeg and thyme. Invite me to your potlucks around this time of year, and I will surely bring it!

Allie: What’s on your bucket list?

Miranda: One thing I’d love to do is to see a performance at the Kennedy Center. I would love that! Also, traveling to India has always been my lifelong dream.

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

Miranda: Israel and Curb Your Enthusiasm are common topics of conversation. 🙂

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 Kira: DC Jewish Professional of the Week

Kira Borman is what your Bubbe would call a mensch (role model). She spends her days creating a vibrant Jewish life for young adults as Federation’s Young Leadership Associate, her weekends downward dogging at yoga class, and her nights attending fun Jewish community events across the city. She also happens to be one of the sweetest, friendliest, and most hard-working ladies out there. So…you should probably get to know her.

Allie: So, tell us about a day in the life of a DC Jewish professional.

Kira: As The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Young Leadership Associate, no day is ever the same. One day, I may be surfing in Tel Aviv while staffing a Birthright Israel trip, and another day, I could be drinking cold brew coffee at WeWork with other Jewish young professionals for our monthly learning collaborative.

When I’m not traveling across continents or throughout DC, I spend lots of time in the office planning fun get-togethers for Birthright Israel alumni, creating special programs for members of Federation’s giving societies, and putting on great events for our larger Jewish community (such as our upcoming Havdalah with an Israeli Changemaker on November 4). So, it’s safe to say my work keeps me pretty busy day-to-day. More than anything, what I love most about my job is that I’m always meeting new, amazing young adults living in our local community!

Allie: I hear you’ve staffed a TON of Birthright Israel trips. What’s that like?

Kira: I’m beyond thankful that part of my job includes staffing Birthright Israel trips for adults ages 22-26! Looking back on my last trip (shout out to #Bus555), the highlight was definitely the 13 participants that celebrated their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs while looking over the Saadim ruins near Jerusalem.

The B’nei Mitzvah participants ranged from Hebrew school dropouts (no shame!), to individuals that wanted to re-experience their Bar/ Bat Mitzvahs at a time that was more meaningful to them. Each of the B’nei Mitzvah participants had the opportunity to say the blessings before and after the Torah reading, share the meaning of their chosen Hebrew names, and discuss what this experience meant to them. This was one of those truly unforgettable memories that motivates me to get up every morning and do what I do.

From my first trip (#Bus488) to my most recent trip, I’ve been absolutely blown away by how curious participants are. The amount of genuinely meaningful and deep conversations I’ve had on Birthright Israel continue to inspire me for months after the trip.

My biggest challenge on each trip is how to make my Birthright participants’ 10 days in Israel as incredible as possible.

Allie: What’s your go-to food to break the fast with on Yom Kippur?

Kira: Definitely a GOOD bagel and cream cheese. I was gluten free (you can make all the jokes you want!) for about a year and a half because my body seemed to strongly dislike wheat. But…last Yom Kippur, I felt so cruddy from fasting all day that I figured, worst case scenario, if I tried a bagel, I’d continue to feel awful. Thankfully, that was not the case and I felt totally fine! While I can’t say it was as good as a Tompkins Square Bagel, I’ve been happily enjoying the gluten life ever since =]. Hooray for not gluten free challah and finally getting to try District Donuts!

Allie: Tell us your favorite way to spend a free Sunday in the city.

Kira: Assuming I’m not starting the day off too slow, my ideal Sunday kicks off with a yoga class and then a trip to the Dupont farmer’s market for some delicious fresh fruits and veggies (and, yes, maybe some gluten-full treats as well). Those who know me, know that I’m still getting over my move from the Navy Yard and missing my very favorite VIDA down at The Yards. If you ever have the chance to take yoga (or even Pilates) with Chris Parkison at The Yards’ VIDA, take it!! I promise, I’m not getting paid to say this, Chris just totally got me hooked on yoga and I’m forever grateful to him for that.

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

Kira: You know that at least one person showed up because their mother told them, “go! you might meet someone nice!”

 

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 Aaron: DC’s Jewish Coffee Guru of the Week!

Aaron Wallach is kind of living the DC young professional dream. After bonding with his friends at The University of Maryland over college drinking…of coffee…he and his friends went on to start their very own organic coffee company JavaZen. Today, he is JavaZen’s Chief Wellness Officer, current (though soon to be former) Moishe House Bethesda resident, Boca Raton aficionado, and chicken soup connoisseur. Get to know him!

 

Allie: A little birdie (AKA: my coworker) tells me you started a company called JavaZen. First off, mazel. Second, how did that that came about?

Aaron: My 3 second pitch – JavaZen is organic coffee in a compostable tea bag. Its truly brewed coffee on the go. Check it out on Amazon prime, Mom’s, Wegmans, and at camping stores across the country.

The JavaZen journey began four years ago at the University of Maryland. My co-founders and I wanted better coffee than what was being served to us.  So, we went about working on solutions to make coffee better and healthier for ourselves and for the world.

 

Allie: What’s your go-to coffee order?

Aaron: Easy. A single origin organic coffee bean brewed in a french press for four to five minutes with 8oz of purified spring water. However, this is hard to find since most “coffee bars” are more focused on selling milk and sugar than on coffee.

One free pro-tip: when going to Starbucks, they have a sugary matcha tea drink for pretty cheap. It’s my go to order.

Allie: Any special plans for the High Holidays?

Aaron: I’ll be hitting the clubs with my grandma down in Boca Raton, FL. This means, Sunday brunches, early evening dinners, tennis lessons – all while wearing nice khaki pants and a collared shirt of course. It will truly be something special.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Aaron: Chicken Soup made with a special heritage kosher chicken. For the past two years, I’ve lived in a Moishe House in Bethesda.  Over the summer, my house did a series of meals and events which focused on ethical kosher eating. For many of the meals, we went around the table asking each participant what it meant to keep kosher. For some, the ethics of how food was made is important, and for others is was an afterthought.  

As a young Jewish leader and professional, I see the connection between Judaism and food becoming a central tenet of what it means to be Jewish for our generation.

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

Aaron: …we all talk about the food.

 

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 Short Filmmaker of the Week – Ivan!

Ivan Kander, 32, of Silver Spring, MD “did a little dance” when he found out he got into DC Shorts Film Festival. His short film, Getaway, is an Official Selection at this international, critically-acclaimed film festival. It’s playing until this Sunday, September 17th in venues all around DC. We sat down with Ivan to ask him about his filmmaking, Jewish upbringing, and what he recommends doing at the festival….other than seeing his film, of course!

 

GatherDC Staff: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ivan: I’m a freelance video producer and motion designer. I write, curate, and edit for Short of the Week, the best place to watch free narrative short films on the web. And if you need an awesome video made for your company or organization (live action or animation), I’m your guy.

 

GatherDC Staff: What is Getaway about, and what was your inspiration for making it?

Ivan: The film revolves around a couple determining what they mean to each other. The audience is forced to wonder, as the sun sets, if their relationship will make it another day. After making my previous short—a viral Spider-Man/Miles Morales fan film complete with stunts, VFX, and a big crew—I wanted to do something that was simpler and character focused. Getaway is the result: a single, unbroken take with two people talking. It’s a character driven piece with minimal crew and even less distractions. I wanted to find out if I could tell an interesting story without all the cinematic “tricks” that allow you to manipulate an audience’s emotions. There’s no musical score to remind you to feel sad, no close-up cutaways to remind you to focus on an actor’s facial expression. The hope is to capture the moment in a relationship that it starts to fall apart.

GatherDC Staff: Is DC a good place to be a filmmaker?

Ivan: Absolutely! Obviously, the network isn’t as big because it’s not New York or LA. But, that also means we feel more like a family. Everyone is often willing to work together and help one another out to make something cool, especially amongst the indie film crowd. Some of my best friends are fellow film-people in the area.

 

GatherDC Staff: We see you did a film about Rob Jones, which was narrated by Gary Sinise.  That’s kind of awesome. How did that happen?

Ivan: Rob is my best friend. We both grew up Loudoun County, VA. He’s also the most inspirational person I know. He lost both his legs serving as a Marine Corps. combat engineer in 2010. During his recovery back home, I started to document his life. The result is a 30 minute profile piece called Survive. Recover. Live, which won the Sgt. William Genaust Award from the Marine Corps. Heritage Foundation. After the completion of that film, Rob decided he wanted to challenge himself even further while also raising money for Veterans charities by cycling across the country on a stand-up bicycle. So, I made a follow-up doc about this particular journey. 

GatherDC Staff: How do you connect to the DC Jewish community?

Ivan: I grew up in Waterford, VA and had to travel to Winchester, VA to go to synagogue. Now, I’m active in the DC Jewish community, but not as much as I’d like to be. I’m a member at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington, but currently not attached to a particular synagogue. I go to their family Shabbats, various events, and, of course, use the gym and exercise facilities.

 

GatherDC Staff: So, what are your tips for people who make a trip to the DC Shorts Film Fest?

Ivan: I’d highly encourage people to go to the mixers and parties. It’s a great way to meet people and forge connections that can often blossom into rewarding, creative relationships. I met my current screenwriting partner at a small short film festival in Nevada. You truly never know who you’re going to meet.

 

 

GatherDC Staff: Complete this sentence…When Jews of DC Gather…

Ivan: The food is always good!

 

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.