The Jewish Leader of the Week – Rachel

Gather 3Rachel 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.

gather-5Jackie: 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.

gather1Jackie: 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!

Jewish Do Gooder of the Week – Stephanie

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!

howard theatre

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.   

ff photoJackie: 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.

IMG_1247Jackie: You like to plan trips for friends. What was one of your epic weekends
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!

Jewish Foodie of the Week – Rachel

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 K eventRachel: 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.

RachelK_yogaJackie: 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!

Jewish Jeweler of the Week – Elana


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.

gather-the-jews5Jackie: 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. 

Jewish Actor of the Week – Sophie


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. woods3

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?

293Sophie: 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.

Jewish Artist of the Week – Emily!

IMG_5281 copyJackie: I hear that you run an awesome Etsy store. Could you tell us about what you sell and why you decided to start an Etsy store?

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!)


Out and about in my neighborhood at the Iwo Jima memorial

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.

Emily Jewish Food Experience

Jewish Food Experience event at Common Good City Farm.

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.


My rainbow challah from a few weeks ago. (On the Shabbat we read parashat Noah, we are supposed to eat rainbow themed foods!)

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,, 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…

Emily: Food!


Jewish Activist of the Week – Jill!

-3Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Jill: I went to UVA for undergrad, and DC is the closest big city, so I took a bus here after graduation just because it seemed like the thing to do.  I didn’t really have a plan beyond applying to jobs with feminist organizations.  It’s turned out to be exactly the right place for me, where I’ve found my chosen family, meaningful work, and a surprising enthusiasm for our sweaty summers.  I’ve lived here for 9 years now and I don’t plan to ever leave.


Jackie: What work were you doing with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network?

Jill: This was my first grown-up job after college.  I was hired as a fundraising assistant, but when the Grassroots Organizer left a few weeks later I applied for her job, and this national organization fighting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” trusted 22-year-old me with running the organizing program by myself.  It was a huge job that demanded a lot of me, and I absolutely loved it.  I got to build SLDN’s digital program from the ground up, train hundreds of people to lobby Congress, and emcee a rally on the National Mall.  One of my favorite projects was Pride in a Box, where we recruited activists from our email list to represent SLDN at their local Pride festivals, enabling our small organization to be present at hundreds of Pride festivals all over the country, give activists a big job to sink their teeth into, and get the word out about our legal services and lobbying work to hundreds of thousands of people who may not otherwise have gotten that chance.  This was back in 2007 when this kind of distributed online-based campaigning was still pretty new, and I’m proud of how quickly my non-techy colleagues agreed to give it a try and how many people were excited to be a part of it.

Jackie: You started the organization Practice Makes Progress. What is your mission with this organization?

Jill: Practice Makes Progress teaches digital strategy infused with radical inclusion to organizers and political operatives across the progressive movement.  Digital strategy means organizing on the Internet.  We teach it all — developing campaign strategies, aspirational messaging, finding and building activist audiences, and the technical skills that make it all happen.  Radical inclusion is the idea that every human being deserves a voice in the political process, including in professional advocacy careers, and that we have to work systematically to end institutional racism, sexism, ableism, cissexism, and other structures that block so many of us from meaningful careers advancing the justice we need.  I’m proud of my work training thousands of organizers in the strategic instincts and technical know-how that’s required to run great online campaigns.  And I’m especially proud of Practice Makes Progress’s newest program, training progressive organizers in cultural competency around gender identity.



Jackie: What made you want to start your own business?

Jill: I saw a need arise for a new approach to professional development for progressive organizers, and I had the skills, so I took the leap.  Entrepreneurship is hard work on a level I couldn’t have imagined before I started doing it, but I believe so strongly in my idea that we can and must provide excellent training in strategic and technical skills at the same time as we help organizers develop more inclusive ways of treating each other in progressive workplaces.

Jackie: How do Jewish values inform your work?

Jill: I’m a pretty observant Reform Jew, and that’s really important to me and also a really private part of my life.  Tikkun olam sums up so beautifully why I’ve devoted my professional life to activism.  At the same time, I believe very strongly that our religious reasons for political advocacy have no place in the public square.  If I want to convince others to share my beliefs about public policy, Jews and non-Jews alike, I need secular arguments and secular evidence — what my God or my tradition says about abortion, or climate change, or Israel for that matter, is simply not relevant in a pluralistic society.  The United States was the first modern nation to grant equal rights to Jews, way back in 1776, and our separation of religion and government is fundamental to the promise of this country that I love so much and protest so often.

Jackie: I hear you throw a pretty epic Passover seder, how do you feed that many people!?!

Jill: Hosting seder is one of my favorite things to do all year!  It’s also a ton of work.  The planning starts about 3 months in advance, setting the date and explaining what my seder is all about to friends who are new to it.  I wrote my own Haggadah, which I update every year.  The cooking itself is a time crunch in the few days leading up to seder, and I have several vegetarian and vegan friends, and a few who need to avoid gluten or nuts, so I’ve settled on an all-vegetarian menu that meets everyone’s needs and I just serve the same thing every year.  Last year I cooked for 20 people!  I ask that my guests bring lots of wine and a willingness to be earnest for one night.  Organized religion has done a lot of harm to many queer people, and I’ve had more than one friend over the 6 years I’ve been doing this say that my seder was the first religious observance they’ve ever been to that made them feel safe.  I’m still blown away by that.



Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Jill: I had to think about this question for a while!  There are so many people who I think are awesome, who are Jewish, like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is one of my favorite humans.  Specifically in terms of people who are my favorite for Jewish things that they do, after some reflection, I’ve come to a tie between Rachel Adler and Michelle Citrin.  Rachel Adler wrote a phenomenal book of Jewish feminist theology called Engendering Judaism that contains a lot of important ideas, including a new approach to Jewish wedding ritual based on an ancient ritual Jews used to solemnize contracts — a deeply Jewish ritual to solemnize a marriage without any of the gender bias that’s inherent in kinyan.  And Michelle Citrin is a very talented musician who got Internet famous for her 20 Things to Do With Matzah song — she’s been serving as cantor for Temple Micah’s Next Dor High Holidays services for the past several years, making me cry every Yom Kippur.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Jill: We bang on the table when we sing, and that feels like home to me.

Jewish Teacher of the Week – Joanna


Meet Joanna! This Chicago native has been in the District for two years now. She is a teacher in Fairfax and Pure Barre enthusiast! Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on Gather the Jews? Nominate them at

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

I am celebrating my two-year anniversary here in DC. I moved here from Chicago and deciding to make the move was a big decision for me. I was at a point where I wanted a change. I was looking for a new job and my mom had passed away two years prior and a new experience just seemed like what I needed. I moved here really not knowing anyone except my brother. I absolutely love it here and have made amazing friends. I love exploring the city and there is definitely more for me to continue to explore.

Jackie:You are a teacher, what is your favorite part of your job?

I am going into my 9th year of teaching. I am currently a K-6th special education teacher in Fairfax County. There are so many reasons that make me love what I do. The look on my students’ faces when they finally get a concept after days of teaching is very rewarding. Every day is different for me, kids always seem to know how to put a smile on my face, especially with all the funny comments and compliments I get everyday. My friends always appreciate the priceless stories that I have for them about what happened during my day.

image4Jackie: I hear you are keeping Pure Barre in business, where is your favorite studio and do you have pointers for beginners?

I am definitely keeping Pure Barre in business. My recent accomplishment this past week was reaching my 250th class. My favorite studio I go to is Pure Barre McLean. I work in McLean, so I like to stick to my morning routine before work with the 6am class. This summer I have taken advantage of sleeping in a bit and going to class a bit later. For those of you wanting to try Barre and have hesitation, my words of advice for you are that this workout is probably going to be different than any other workout you have done before, so do not get discouraged if you are not an instant pro. You are going to feel muscles that you didn’t know existed and you will be sore, but give it a chance and you will be just as addicted as I am.

Jackie: Can you tell me about your work as a member of the NOVA Tribe planning committee?

image1NOVA Tribe was the first organization I began participating in when I moved here two years ago. Not knowing anyone, this was a way for me to meet friends. The friends that I have made through NOVA Tribe are real meaningful friendships. My decision to be part of the planning committee stems from wanting to help others that are new to the community or that have lived here and want to start participating in the Jewish community to build friendships. Being able to sit with the committee and discuss our ideas allows us to tap into all our resources as individuals and come together as a committee to create the best event possible to provide a meaningful experience for everyone in NOVA Tribe.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

I went eating gluten free about three years ago, so some of the Jewish foods I used to eat I definitely do miss eating. One of my favorite Jewish foods of all time is my mom’s kugel. I remember coming home from college and she had it waiting for me to eat. Also, if you are ever in Chicago, matzo ball soup from The Bagel is yummy!

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew? My favorite Jew is definitely my mom. She passed away 4 years ago and I miss her more and more each day. She has made me the person I am today. She was the strongest woman I knew. She was always there to cheer me on and give me the encouragement when it was needed the most. She taught me to set my mind to something and give it my all.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

… They create memories

Jewish Comedian of the Week – Dana

FleitmanHeadshotJackie: What brought you to DC?

Dana: I came to DC for undergrad at American University. Since I was pursuing a degree in international relations, I felt like it was the place to be. I’m originally from California, so I get a lot of questions about why I would ever leave the Bay Area, why I haven’t moved back and what’s wrong with my choices in general.  But while I do miss my hometown, I also really do love DC! It suits me. I think it’s a beautiful city and love how it’s super accessible, there’s always something going on and you meet so many young, smart, liberal people. I was here before the Columbia Heights Target, you guys. That makes me an old-timer by young professional standards.

After college, I worked at a consulting firm for the Federal government and focused on teen pregnancy prevention, which got me really interested in relationships and sexual assault. That transitioned me over to Jewish Women International (JWI), where I work now.


Denver3FleitmanJackie: What is your role at JWI?

Dana: I am the Senior Manager of Prevention and Training Programs at JWI, the leading Jewish organization working to end violence against all women and girls. Essentially, I create and manage educational programs about preventing intimate partner violence (i.e., dating abuse, domestic violence) and sexual assault. Much of my work has been focused on campuses – for example, I authored the Safe Smart Dating program, a co-ed workshop on sexual assault and dating abuse for college students in the Greek life system. Through a series of discussions, scenarios, news stories, live text surveys and video, the program helps young people define and identify dating abuse and sexual assault as well as build skills to be active bystanders at school and in their communities. I’ve been able to travel across the country to present the program to students and provide trainings of trainers for adult professionals and student leaders.

I’ve also written programs on teen dating abuse, bystander intervention and healthy masculinity and manage a webinar series for professionals in the field of domestic violence.

dana halloweenJackie: How did you first get into stand up comedy?

Dana: I always did super hip activities like mock trial and speech and debate and love being in front of people, so I think it’s something I always wanted to try. A few years ago, my parents generously gifted me a stand up class at the DC Improv for my birthday. That was a ton of fun and the performance went well, so I just started hitting open  and stuck with it. Now I perform in shows pretty regularly and even produce some of my own, including fundraiser shows for JWI and themed shows for Fourth of July and Halloween. I talk about groundbreaking and edgy topics like my cat, eating and dating. It’s an interesting transition from my day job – which is all women and very PC — to the comedy world, which is not those things. The comedy scene in DC is strong and thriving, and you can catch very talented local comedians any night of the week.


unnamed (3)

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to hang out in DC?

fleitman5Dana: A sunny afternoon in Malcolm X Park is hard to beat. Especially when people bring their dogs. Hey, people reading this! Bring your dogs! Bring them everywhere! Thanks.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?
Dana: That is tough. Mel Brooks is up there. So’s my sister. Also, Jesus. So there’s a range, I’d say.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Dana: Hot corned beef on rye. One time I saw someone order a turkey on white with mayo at the deli in front of me. I was like…did I just witness a hate crime?

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…
Dana: they will discuss who is and who is not Jewish. Oh, and they’ll have a good time.