Sabrina is a friendly face you will likely run into at Jewish events all over the city. You can find her at Shabbat dinner with Mesorah, a GatherDC Happy Hour, or at a Moishe House event! This week I got the opportunity to interview Sabrina about how she first got involved in the Jewish community, as well as her passion for music and the environment!
As a part of GatherDC’s Jewish Person of the Week feature, we will be highlighting one Jewish “newbie” each month. (Are you new? Do you know someone who is? Nominate them today by emailing Shaina!)
This week’s first-ever Jewish Newbie of the Week is Blair!
Blair was one of my first friends in DC. She signed up for coffee, and we immediately hit it off. She’s affable, funny, and definitely one of those friends you want to introduce to your parents (proven by the fact that she has met mine…). Read more about Blair, her pupusa adventures, and her favorite lesser-known DC coffee shop, below…
What brought you to DC?
Akin to many other 23 year old Jews in DC, I moved here for a job after graduating college. I work in healthcare consulting (with a larger passion for the public health and health policy space), so this city definitely lured me in. I have known since I was younger that Washington, DC. was a city I could not only live but thrive in. I have distant family living in Arlington, VA, and on frequent trips to visit them throughout my childhood and adolescence I constantly marveled at Washington, DC, as a blend of both my childhood in the South mixed with the Northeast. Washington, DC struck me as a city where people come and go for work, but the constant intellectual stimulation is ever present.
How long have you been in DC?
I’ve lived in DC since May of last year, so by most people’s standards I’m still new. Nine months in and I am still on the hunt for the best food in each neighborhood.
What is your favorite thing about this city?
Washington, DC may not have the best food, art, community building, or bars, but I absolutely love the people I meet here. Most individuals I meet are doing such interesting work and have an incredible passion for what they do. That passion has become contagious and has pushed me to be more present in my own involvement in and outside of work, as well as in and outside my social circles. Despite the masses of people that come in and out for work, they city still feels small. After growing up in Durham, North Carolina, I feel like this city is a logical jump for me that allows me to explore the constant flurry of activity that metropolitan areas have to offer, without being too overwhelming.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who just moved here?
I am an incredibly extroverted person, so this advice may not resonate with everyone, but: instead of getting bogged down in the happy hour culture and networking, find a weird niche event that you want to go to, go alone, and just talk to people. There is honestly something always going on in DC, and there really is something for everyone. I am obsessed with Latin American food, so when I first moved here, I knew I had to go to the Columbia Heights pupusa festival. I made one of my first great friends there after standing in line for three hours waiting for pupusas. We bonded over recently moving to the area and knowing no one. It’s simple, but it worked.
Best place to grab coffee in DC is…
ThreeFifty Bakery & Coffee Bar is tiny and they make a great cappuccino. They have limited inside seating, but a great outside patio to just relax, chat with friends, admire the surrounding row houses, and people watch.
When the Jews of DC Gather…
The company and conversation is good, but the food is better.
Stacy was a Jewish Girl of the Week 6 years ago when the feature first began. She even competed in the first-ever Jewish Girl of the Year competition. Stacy is still an integral part of the DC Jewish community, but now in a professional capacity.
Read our updates on Stacy and her original article (including a poem) below!
- I am not in the field of education anymore (I sooo miss recess and the kiddos), but before I left teaching I started an after-school cooking program for kids called Snack Attack Cooking. My favorite session was when we had an Iron Chef competition and the judges tried one group’s creation that looked like a dessert pizza. But, the kids had used garlic instead of sugar! The looks on the judges faces when they tasted it was priceless.
- About a year after the original article was published, I founded an organization that hosts events for Jewish young professionals in Northern Virginia called NOVA Tribe Series. Since 2011, I have hosted over 150 programs, engaged thousands of peers in the community, and helped orchestrate countless numbers of friendships – and even 2 marriages!
- Last fall I started working for the Edlavitch DCJCC as their manager of EntryPointDC, a program for 20s and 30s. I have helped revamp the Shabbat Clusters program, started the B’Shert 2.0 Modern Jewish Love Series and am looking forward to our next big event, Schmooze & Snooze Fest on Saturday, February 25th. The event will be an “all-night” type party with a 90’s cover band, Bar Mitzvah DJ dance party, moonbounce, Havdalah, drinks, carnival snacks, Ted Talks and more! Tickets go on sale today.
- One signature program I created that I look forward to hosting every year is Lox Meets Bagel. It has become one of the largest speed dating & mixer events in the DC area for 20s and 30s. The 6th Lox Meets Bagel is next Tuesday, February 7th, and you can register here!
- I am still a Virginia girl, but I now live in Arlington instead of Fairfax. My favorite things to do in the neighborhood are people watch at Northside Social, catch a comedy show or movie at Arlington Drafthouse, and take long walks to Georgetown.
Read her original article below!
Stacy on why she should be Jewish Girl of the Year:
There once was a girl from VA
Who taught her students to say
“I flip my latkes in the air”
She spent $157.23 on metro fare
To get to Jewish events last year
Her Hebrew name
is a video game
She works with Jnet
Your vote she needs to get
Editor’s note: Stacy raised the bar for Jewish Girl of the Week by submitting a Youtube video as part of the application process. If you think you or someone you know has what it takes to be a Person of the Week, shoot us an email and tell us why. We encourage creativity in nominations!
How long have you been teaching?
This is my sixth year teaching. I have taught students from grades K-7 over the years, but right now I teach 1st-3rd grade at a Montessori school. These kids are awesome. The Montessori philosophy emphasizes learning practical life skills, so my kids cook me lunch every Wednesday, do the dishes and laundry every day and take field trips out of the classroom at least once or twice every few weeks. I want to take them home with me to clean my house!
Stacy, so many people ask: “What do you do?” The GTJ staff likes look deeper into the Jewish soul, so we ask, “What is your passion?!”
My biggest passion is helping others. Besides teaching, I also work with autistic kids once a week leading social skill groups. My first day at social group went something like this (and I knew from then on I was in the right place) Me: Ben, we have something in common, we both like to celebrate Hanukkah Ben: You are Jewish Ms. Stacy? I am so glad you joined group! (He runs around the room singing the dreidel song) Nate: You must be Israeli then because you are Jewish Me: Actually, I am not. Nate: Aww man, I really like Israeli women, can’t you be Israeli for me? Dan: I know someone that is Jewish, but I don’t like her very much. Me: Why is that? Dan: She is a very bossy Jewish girl.
Are there really Jews that live out in Virginia?
Yes, there are and we rock. I am on the committee of Jnet. We plan happy hours, BBQ’s, and other great events; our next BIG gathering will be a philanthropic event for the JCC of NOVA special needs department. You can find us on facebook if you add JnetVA as a friend. I promise if you come find me at an event I will make sure you have a great time!
Can we share the video of your kids with all our readers?!
Of course you can share the video! I love being Jewish, and I want to share my love of my religion and culture with everyone; the video explains it all. You can see the enthusiasm in my students’ faces as they sing this song (and my amazing dancing skills and “latke” flipping tools as well). I spent a whole day reading Hanukkah stories, playing dreidel, sharing latkes, and taught them all the words to Candlelight and I have never seen them more excited, or in other words, equally excited to sing about/celebrate Hanukkah as Christmas. Since you and the Maccabeats are BFF’s, can you send the video to them as well?
What has been your most memorable Jewish moment?
Hmmm that’s a hard one. I think I have had many, but one that sticks out actually occurred this week. We had a Celebration of Light ceremony with our class in which all the families came together to share their winter month traditions that involve light. I have 23 students in my class and only 1 is Jewish. After the presentation, the one Jewish family came up to me and gave me a big hug. They thanked me for teaching the students the Candlelight song and told me their daughter finally feels included and everyone is now just as excited about Hanukkah as any other winter holiday. It really touched me because I have always made it my personal mission to bring Jews together from smaller communities, whether it’s making my one Jewish student in my class feel more comfortable talking about her religion to her classmates to planning events for my alma maters’ Hillel that included only about 400 Jewish students out of 15,000.
It would be my mom’s challah. She started making using this recipe when I was about 10, it’s a sweet version that I can’t get enough of. It totally satisfies my sweet tooth.
Is it Chanukah, Hanukkah, or Hannukah?
Is this a trick question? I have not seen the double N’s before or if I did it was way back in the day; spell check does not like it either. Actually prefer the double K’s, Hanukkah is where it’s at. My students know 3 ways to spell it and are very proud of that fact.
Where can we find you on a Friday night?
I usually check out the services at Adas Israel and Sixth & I and then go out in the city. I have gone to Shir Delight the past few months and always have a good time with my friends and meet a lot of new people. You never know who you are going to run into, last week I saw my babysitter whom I have not seen in 20 years!
What’s the next big Gathering you will be at?
I am on the committee of Jnet. We plan happy hours, BBQ’s, and other great events; our next BIG gathering will be a philanthropic event for the JCC of NOVA special needs department. See facebook page here.
Rachel was nominated to be the Jewish feature by Ben, former Jewish Guy of the Week. They went on a Birthright Alumni trip together that inspired Rachel to come back and start her own service project in DC. When not watching baseball or cooking, Rachel is doing communications for the Pew Research Center. Learn more about her in our interview below!
Jackie: You are from St. Louis originally. What do you miss most about it?
Rachel: I have a ton of St. Louis pride. The number one thing I miss about it is my family. The second thing is my favorite baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals. The third is just how nice people are in the Midwest – it really is true. For all of these reasons, I try to go back to St. Louis as often as I can.
Jackie: Ben mentioned you went on an alumni mission to Israel last year together. What was that like?
Rachel: I had the privilege of participating in the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Alumni Leadership Mission through NEXT DC in late 2015, with 25 young adults from D.C. who had been on Birthright trips. It was my second time being in Israel. I hadn’t been back since 2007 when I went on Birthright. This trip was about seeing Israel through the eyes of people who live there and experiencing day-to-day life and culture, beyond seeing tourist sites that we visited on Birthright. We learned all about the work that the Federation does in Israel, visited several Israeli businesses, volunteered, and spent time with Israelis who staffed Birthright trips from D.C. Along the way, we participated in leadership workshops and learned the art and importance of storytelling. The best part about the trip was that we came back to D.C. with a new group of Jewish friends, and we’ve inspired each other to become even more involved in Jewish life here.
Jackie: You are currently working on a project interviewing Jews with disabilities. Can you tell me more about that?
Rachel: Yes, after our trip, each of us began working on a project to impact the D.C. Jewish community. I’m working with two other people on a project to help tell the stories of young Jews in D.C. who have disabilities, with the goal of fostering a dialogue that will ultimately help the community become more inclusive. We’ve begun interviewing people and are in the process of turning the interviews into blog posts that will eventually be shared.
Jackie: What inspired you to start such a meaningful project?
Rachel: One of the main themes of our Israel trip was inclusion, which tied into much of our itinerary. For example, our first dinner in Israel was at Café Kapish, a restaurant where all of the staff are hearing-impaired. We found ways to order or ask for things using body language, rather than spoken words. We also visited a military base where we spent time with young soldiers participating in the Special in Uniform program – a program that provides work opportunities in the military for Israelis with special needs, who would otherwise not be able to serve. We talked to them and helped them disassemble computers into parts that the military could use. When I think about the trip, these are some of the experiences that stood out to me most. We’ve all felt excluded at times, and the Jewish community is one that should be welcoming to everyone. Telling the stories of young Jews with disabilities and sharing their ideas for how to make our community more inclusive is something that would benefit all of us.
Jackie: What is one thing you can’t get through your day without?
Rachel: Baseball. I’m a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan and am literally counting down the days until Spring Training starts! Also, chocolate chip cookies. I’m on a quest to find the best one in D.C. So far, my favorite is the Captain Cookie and the Milkman food truck.
Jackie: Speaking of cookies, I hear you love to bake. What are some of your favorite things to bake?
Rachel: I especially love to make my mom’s kugel on Jewish holidays. Without fail, I always have to call her when I’m making it because I can never remember the exact recipe. My mom knows it by heart and can always figure out the ingredient I’m forgetting. I also love making cookies, whether classic chocolate chip, hamantaschen on Purim or Chanukkah cookies in December. Lately, I’ve also been trying new recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s new cookie book, Dorie’s Cookies.
Jackie: Can you tell us more about your job – what’s it like to work at the Pew Research Center?
Rachel: Our mission at Pew Research Center is to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world, which is something that I feel good about doing, every day. I work on the communications team, so my job is to help our research reach the right audiences. Pew Research Center is nonpartisan and non-advocacy, which are qualities that can be hard to find in Washington. I feel lucky to work with such smart colleagues at a place that produces research that is so relevant to what’s happening in the world.
Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Rachel: Passover. Seder has always been one of my favorite family traditions, and I love the themes of freedom and Spring.
Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…there is loud conversation, laughter and way too much delicious food… and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Ben is a familiar face for many of us in the Jewish community. If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet him you can run into him at any number of Jewish events around DC! Gather first interviewed him in 2012 but we wanted to check back in with him to see what he has been up too. Read his updates and his original article below!
Ben, what have you been up to since your original interview?
- I’ve been a teacher at the Religious School with Adas Israel. One of the classes I enjoy teaching is on “Pop Culture and Judaism”, where we discuss topics in movies and TV shows and look at how they parallel Jewish values in our world today.
- I worked in online advertising and marketing in the tech and software community. This year, I’m having a blast working in the Preschool with Adas Israel.
- I traveled to Israel a good amount. I staffed three Birthright trips, including a DC community trip. Last year, I participated in the Birthright Alumni trip with Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
- I was a ConnectGens Fellow in partnership with PresenTense where my initiative was bringing together Holocaust Survivors in our community with Hebrew School students.
New Question: Why do you deserve to be Jewish Guy of the Year?
We have one of the greatest cities in the world for young Jewish professionals. I’m that guy who’s always trying to connect people in the Jewish community and helping others out. There’s so much out there in this town and lots of great people to meet and network with and I’m always encouraging others to get involved because… I mean why not? I’m genuinely a good guy and a mensch.
That’s why I’m your Jewish Guy of the Year.
You have a cool mix of jobs. Tell us about it.
I’m substitute teaching at the DC JCC preschool and the Jewish Primary Day School. I’m also teaching a 3rd-grade class at the Adas Israel Hebrew school. I’m interning in the area of marketing for IsraelStrategist.com. It’s a one-stop shop for readers who want to become more informed on Israel’s economy, and it helps readers identify investment opportunities in Israel. In addition, I lead tours of restaurants in Georgetown on weekends through a tour operator geared towards foodies.
Did you say restaurant tours? You’re going to have to explain this.
I really enjoyed taking people around my campus as a tour guide when I was studying at Florida Atlantic University. Recently, I learned that I can do something similar on weekends here in Washington, but instead of showing prospective students the ins and outs of a college campus, I get to show off the restaurant highlights across neighborhoods of DC. This spring, I’ll be working with DC Metro Food Tours showing visitors and locals around Georgetown, speaking about its history and stopping into a few local restaurants along the way to nosh on some of their featured dishes. It’s a fun birthday present or great afternoon activity to do with friends or family visiting from out of town.
You attended a summer institute in California. What was this experience like?
I participated in a program in Los Angeles called Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI). It allows you to really immerse yourself in exploring your Jewish identity through various ways including learning about the arts, studying Jewish texts, and forming a community with young Jewish adults from all over the world. It definitely was one of the most meaningful and uplifting experiences I have ever had. You can find out more about BCI here http://bci.ajula.edu/
You’re from Florida. What brought you to D.C.?
Ever since my sister became a student at GW, I’ve had an interest in the DC community. After a summer internship at the Hillel International Center and a semester internship on Capitol Hill, I saw that DC had so much to offer Jewish young professionals, career-wise and socially.
To learn more about Ben, email email@example.com.
Inspired by Bagel Bash in Atlanta, Stephanie and some friends started DC’s own Falafel Frenzy in 2010. They wanted to create a way to party and give back on Christmas Eve. And so, Falafel Frenzy was born as an event where 100% of the proceeds would go to charity. This week, I got to learn about Stephanie’s involvement in Falafel Frenzy and what she is up to when not planning a charity party!
Jackie: You have been a part of Falafel Frenzy since it began back in 2010. Why did you want to start throwing a Christmas Eve Party?
Stephanie: I had attended the for-profit alternative the two prior years with a high cover charge. On Christmas Eve of all nights, it didn’t feel right directing my dollars this way. With two friends, we launched the Falafel Frenzy as a meaningful way to support the community through donations to local food programs and holocaust survivors living below the poverty line.
Jackie: How has the event changed over the years?
Stephanie: We have grown in numbers and location. We have held the space at Local 16, Howard Theatre, and this year 18th Street Lounge. We have raised over $100,000 for charity since the event’s inception.
Jackie: Do you do any other volunteering around the city?
Stephanie: I do – I have been involved in StreetWise Partners since 2008, a 3-month career venturing program for those living below the poverty line. It is an incredible program that really transforms the lives of individuals. I am happy to speak with anyone interested in mentoring!
Jackie: What are you most passionate about?
Stephanie: I am passionate about addressing the cycle of poverty and helping those less fortunate than myself. I recognize that life is incredibly unfair to so many, and I want to do as much as I personally can to help others have increased opportunities for success.
Additionally, as the Director of Holy Cross Health’s Cancer Program, I am passionate about impacting access to cancer-related health care. In my professional role, I establish programs that help to support patients during such an incredibly difficult time in their life.
Jackie: You like to plan trips for friends. What was one of your epic weekends?
Stephanie: It was a weekend in the eastern shore 4+ years ago; the group had great energy, we did yoga on the dock (see attached picture), had bonfires at night, and lots of swimming despite jellyfish issues!
Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?
Stephanie: Ruth Bader Ginsburg – she’s liberal, speaks her mind, and she’s vocal about women’s issues.
What is something you just can’t live without?
Sunshine – the winters are always hard in DC!
Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… we can fight injustice, especially after this campaign season!
Rachel came to DC for grad school at George Washington University in 2014. She was a part of our inaugural cohort of Open Doors Fellows. Since then, she has graduated, taken part in Gather’s inaugural Beyond the Tent Retreat, and recently returned from a trip to Japan! She is a friendly face at any Jewish community event, walking up to everyone and anyone. She spoke with us about her passion for health, wellness and organizing community.
Nominate someone to be Jew of the week!
Jackie: Over the years, you have become interested in food and wellness. Can you tell us about your approach to this?
Rachel: I grew up in a pretty healthy household. My parents always cooked and tried to teach me what foods are nutritious and why. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely indulged and had treats. I was just able to read a nutrition label and understand what ingredients are in the foods I eat at a pretty early age, compared to most I think. Now, I feel lucky that I grew up with the knowledge and ability to make informed choices, because once I started college and had my own kitchen, I just wanted to experiment. My mom is going to be so happy when she reads this! Since then, I’ve been getting into different types of food-ing. I spiralize (transforming vegetables into noodle shapes). And started brewing kombucha, sprouting and fermenting vegetables. Those who follow me on Snapchat know!
Jackie: What has been the most interesting thing you’ve learned through food-ing?
Rachel: I learned that everything is connected, from the food that’s grown in farms, to what goes on your plate, to your hormones, your energy, mood, back pain and to that annoying pimple that pops up in the same place every once in a while. It’s all holistic. Your body is one and what you put in it matters. Just call me your wannabe stereotypical yogi!
Jackie: You recently facilitated a discussion on menstruation. Can you tell us more about that event and what prompted you to organize it?
Rachel: It goes back to the idea of holistic wellness. I wanted to have a conversation about the woman’s cycle since it’s something every woman encounters in her life, but each in a different way. I wanted to explore how menstruation is (or isn’t) connected to Judaism, to the rest of the body and to our daily lives. I was amazed by how open and inspiring each woman was sitting in my living room talking about periods! It was probably one of the most freeing conversations I’ve ever had.
Jackie: What advice do you have for someone who wants to run their own program?
Rachel: Never think an idea is too far fetched. Start bringing it up in daily conversations and you’ll get a gist of how you want to approach the subject. You may find like-minded people who are just as into it as you and others who gawk and walk away. Both will help you realize what you hope to achieve with your program. Yes, I was sliding menstruation into random conversations at happy hours and in my Uber pools.
Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Rachel: Sweet kugel. Oh, and babka, chocolate babka. I’m addicted to chocolate and I’m really open about it.
Jackie: What drew you to be a part of the DC Jewish community?
Rachel: At first, I moved to DC and wanted to meet new people. Ever heard that one before?
Shortly after, I realized that the DC Jewish community is a highway for deep connections to amazing people who do amazing things and will take me along for the ride if I ask; for opportunities to bring internal passions to life with ample resources and support; and for Friday night Shabbat every week!
Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather….They cook!
Elana was nominated to be the Jew of the Week by her roommate Emma, who was the past Jewish Musical Lover of the Week! Emma nominated Elana for her sense of humor and her exciting work in DC. Learn more about Elana in our interview with the Jewish Jeweler of the Week!
Jackie: You just moved to DC from Wisconsin. I know our cheese isn’t as good here so what brought you to DC?
Elana: A job! I graduated this past May from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. After graduating I spent about a month at home in Denver volunteering at Ryan Seacrest Studios in the Children’s Hospital Colorado and then made the big move out to DC in July.
Jackie: Emma told me you help run a jewelry business. Tell me more about that?
Elana: Dayna Designs is a small jewelry design and manufacturing company. We sell sterling silver collegiate jewelry for 100+ school and sororities and are just announcing our new designer line for 2017.
Jackie: What is your job at Dayna Designs?
Elana: My official role is Operations and Marketing, but given the small size of the company, the beauty is I really get to do it all! My daily operations incorporate business decisions/plans, strategy, creative/design, marketing, advertising, etc.
Jackie: Since you are new to DC, what are you excited to try out for the first time?
Elana: I haven’t been to the Zoo yet, but have heard great things about it. I am especially excited now that the Zoo Lights are open.
Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?
Elana: My grandmother, of course.
Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Elana: Passover, without a doubt. My family goes all out – lots of guests, good food, lots of singing and discussions. Last year our Seder went until midnight…I didn’t make it past dinner.
Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…we play our favorite game of all time – Jewish geography.