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!
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!
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.
I had met Sophie only a few times before our 10 hour road trip to North Carolina for the wedding of a mutual friend. Over the course of our drive, I got to know more about Sophie and her work. I just knew she needed to be featured here for the Gather the Jews Person of the Week!
Jackie: You first came to DC for school at American University. After living in California, why did you want to move across the country for school?
Sophie: I wanted to study theatre, as opposed to film. Most of the musical theatre programs that you have to audition for were on the East Coast, so East Coast it was! I do not relish the change in weather. I was very happy living without seasons.
Jackie: When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
Sophie: You know, I’m not sure. I wrote a letter to myself in elementary school that said I wanted to be a marine biologist/flutist/maybe a singer, so I guess performing was always a part of the equation.
Jackie: Do you have a favorite show you were in or character you played?
Sophie: Probably Little Red in Into the Woods. I get to play a lot of children – when you’re 5’1″ it comes with the territory- and it’s always amazing to play a young character with depth and dignity; there is a lot going on in those little brains. The writing from Sondheim and James Lapine is so rich; they do all the work for you.
Jackie: Can you tell us about the show are you in currently?
Sophie: Currently, I’m playing Fan in A Christmas Carol at Toby’s Dinner Theater in Columbia, Maryland. Oh, the irony. But, in all honesty, I think the show has some messages that the world really needs to hear right now. “Till each child is fed. Till all men are free. Till the world becomes a family. Star by star up above and kindness by human kindness, light this world with your love and G-d bless us, everyone.” At its core, the story and the lessons it teaches are pretty universal.
Jackie: Do you have any recommendations of shows to see in DC?
Sophie: Unfortunately, I don’t get to see much when I’m in a performance.
I have heard amazing things about The Secret Garden at The Shakespeare Theatre. I’m also dying to see Milk Like Sugar at Mosaic Theater and Looking Glass Theatre Company’s Moby Dick at Arena Stage. Ooh and, looking forward to January, I cannot wait for Caroline, Or Change at Round House Theatre; it’s about an African-American maid working for a Jewish family in Louisiana during the Civil Rights Movement. The casting is impeccable, and it’s the kind of piece that makes you uncomfortable, which is so important. It’s the perfect collaboration between Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori, two of the greatest theatre-makers of our time.
Jackie: When you aren’t working, where can we find you spending time in DC?
Sophie: Honestly, I love just wandering the city and exploring new neighborhoods; I’m a good walker. Favorite haunts include the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the Kogod Courtyard, the Smithsonian’s Butterfly Pavilion, and any block where every row house is topped with a turret.
Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Holiday?
Sophie: I’m sure I’m in the minority, but Pesach [Passover] has always been my favorite. That whole no bread thing is a bummer, but who doesn’t love a good matzoh ball?
Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… there are more than enough opinions to go around.
Emily: I actually have two Etsy stores. Both of them started as fun hobbies. My larger store is small animal focused, thanks to my geriatric pet rabbit! I make healthy snacks for pet rabbits, which are my top selling items, and also some little toys for animals. I also have rabbit and small animal themed accessories for humans, including bow ties and baby bibs. I’ve even started to design and print my own fabrics! In my second shop I sell Polaroid transfer images, a fun technique I learned almost 20 years ago while studying traditional photography. Until recently I would show my work at art shows and craft fairs as a member of the DC Craft Mafia. Now I sell my original prints, magnets, and greeting cards on Etsy. (I have Chanukah themed cards too! Hint hint!)
Jackie: What first brought you to DC?
Emily: I came down here for college and never left! I wound up getting both my undergraduate degree and my Master of Public Administration from The George Washington University. Now I live in Arlington. I worked with county governments for almost a decade before starting my own consulting business. Now I am a freelance writer and consultant.
Jackie: It seems you do a little bit of everything – cook, craft, and photography. In your opinion, what is the best spot in DC to photograph?
Emily: It’s really hard to narrow down one spot in DC! Because of the nature of my Polaroid art, finished photographs come out looking a little different that regular photos, kind of etherial and delicate. I like to photograph subjects from odd angles or really close up to show texture. I have some neat photos of the Iwo Jima Memorial through the filter of an American flag.
Jackie: You also write for the Jewish Food Experience. Can you tell us a little about what JFE is?
Emily: Yes! I write about mostly about cocktails and sprits for the Jewish Food Experience. I found myself working for a local distillery for a few years and I got into the growing cocktail scene here in DC. JFE asked me to contribute when they started in 2013, and since then I’ve written lots of articles and have come up with lots of holiday themed drinks.
JFE is a really cool program started by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. It is centered around DC people, so it’s really local. They publish articles, recipes, host events and food demos about every aspect of Jewish food. That’s defined as food that Jews cook, food that Jews eat for holidays, food traditions Jews share, anything that’s related to Jews and food! It has been so successful here that it will be spreading to three other cities in the US within the next few months.
Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Right now I’m going to say really good challah is my favorite Jewish food. I love baking bread, and I’ve been making my own challah for the last year or so. It’s such a simple food that has had a place on every Jew’s table for nearly every holiday for our entire history. My friends and I get together for fun potluck Shabbat dinners pretty often, and I have been bringing my homemade challahs.
Jackie: You also have a bit of a green thumb, can you tell me about your garden?
Emily: I have a great little container garden on my roof deck at home. I use my blog, www.roofgardengal.com, as something of a journal to remember what has and hasn’t worked in years past. I was in the food world for a few years, and it reminded me how much I used to enjoy vegetable gardening growing up. My “experiment five floors up,” as I like to call it, consists of two giant tanks, several smaller pots for herbs and tomatoes, and two compost buckets. Right now I am experimenting with cool weather veggies, including kale, radishes, and carrots, but I’ve also had squash, beans, cucumbers, onions, and even ginger. My neighbors love to show off the garden to their friends, too!
Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather, there will be…