Jewish Guy of the Week – Max

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Rachel: Aren’t you the pickle guy?
Max: You know what?  I’m sick of everyone saying, “you’re the pickle guy, you’re the pickle guy”.  I’m so much more as a person than the stupid pickle contests I win.  I’m also the yogurt guy.

Rachel: What brought you to DC, Yogurt Guy?
Max: I was living in Atlanta and thinking: this town could use more healthcare policy debates at happy hour, 400 lb. matching t-shirt tourists on segways, defunct escalators, and snowpocalypses (sp?).  So I moved for those reasons and for a job.  But mostly for those reasons.


max2Rachel: You look familiar…have we seen your face on the metro?  What was that about?
Max: That was indeed my big Hebrew shnauze poking into your morning metro commute courtesy of Masa Israel.  Masa is one of the Jewish organizations I volunteer with in DC helping to bring people to Israel for work, study, and internships.  And for some reason, they decided to put my face in your faces as an ad and a video (with a slow walk!).  I don’t know how effective the ad was for Masa, but it definitely increased Metro’s revenue from myself alone after I started riding the train 13 times more often.  And now, at least some people call me “the poster guy”.

Rachel: Ok, Poster Guy, what do you do and what else do you do in the community?
Max: Professionally, I’m a research director for a small national security focused think tank.  Community-wise, in addition to the DC Masa Board, I’m a founding member of HaLev Israel and a HaLev scholar, an Alumni Leadership Mission trip participant to Israel, an RJC Young Leader, an Impact 2013 Committee member, a Charter Member of DC Federal City Rotary, have held DC fundraisers for the Rett Syndrome Foundation and Michael J. Fox Foundation (Team Fox), and will soon launch a Jewish young professionals brunch series.  I don’t have any net worth yet beyond my 1996 Nissan so I volunteer my time for pretty much any good cause whenever I’m not traveling (which is often).

max3Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Max: Meat’s a food right?  All of those – all of the Jewish meats.  Corned beef, pastrami, brisket, shwarma… Shwarma’s Jewish, right?  Or did I just get a fatwa?

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Max: Mike Katz.  If I were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one thing with me, without even blinking an eye, it would be Mike Katz.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Max: Mike Katz must be signing autographs.




Jewish Guy of the Week – Ethan

Ethan Merlin 2Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Ethan: Let x = the reason I came to DC. I’ll spare you the algebra, but in short, x equals “to teach kids math,” which has always been my dream job. I’ve been teaching for 12 years now.

Rachel: We heard you founded two independent minyanim in DC- that’s so cool!. Can you tell us more?
Ethan: I didn’t set out to become a “minyantrepreneur,” but my wife and I have twice had the opportunity to help create Jewish communities we wanted to be a part of. You may want to be part of them, too: Tikkun Leil Shabbat is a fully egalitarian Friday night community which gathers in the Dupont area for a songful, soulful Shabbat service followed by a teaching about a social justice issue and an awesome veggie potluck. Minyan Segulah is a traditional egalitarian community in the Shepherd Park neighborhood that meets many Saturday mornings for songful services and veggie potluck lunch. Both are meeting for Purim this week. Click here and here for details!

Ethan Merlin & Herry Monster -- I'm the one on the left (1)Rachel: We heard you’re a muppets appreciator…what does that mean?
Ethan: The rumor is true. The Muppets are like the ultimate havurah: lots of crazy personalities but they look out for each other, make bad puns, and channel life’s chaos into some great song and dance numbers.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Ethan: I’m from New England and love maple syrup, so for the first year after our wedding, my wife and I dipped our challah in maple cream (whipped maple syrup) instead of the traditional honey.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Ethan: My favorite Jew changes all the time. It’s whoever most recently did something to help sustain our grassroots Jewish communities, whether it was arriving on time, leading services, bringing a tasty potluck dish, or washing dishes.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Ethan: …the babka disappears.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Eli

Eli - newWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Eli: I came to conquer the United States, and stayed to conquer mimosas at Sunday brunch.

Rachel: How would people describe you?
Eli: I’m like your stereotypical James Bond Russian villain.  I like to work hard, play hard, and take an occasional body shot from a Jewish sorority girl or summer Hill intern.  But I’m always home in time to put a kippa on for Shabbat and to attend an RJC event.

Seriously, I originally came to college at GW because I was really interested in politics as a kid.  And, I ended up staying for law school and work.  I guess I like the city that much.

Rachel: What’s your favorite part of DC?
Eli: If anyone wants to schmooze with me, you can almost always find me at the Georgetown Waterfront on Sunday nights.

Rachel: We heard you’re attending the HaLev Israel Young Professional Welcome Event for AIPAC Policy Conference.  Can you tell us more about it?
Eli: As you probably know, AIPAC holds a conference in DC every year.  People from all over America, along with nearly every pro-Israel congressman, come to the conference.

This year, HaLev Israel is throwing a great event for young professionals who are going to the conference and for those in the DC Jewish community.  It will be a great way to meet other people who care about Israel and learn more about the AIPAC conference, while having a fun time!

Eli 3The event will take place at Capitale – one of the best venues in DC – on March 1st, the night before the conference.  If you’re attending the conference, the event is free – you just need to register.  If not, the tickets are only $25 until February 15, 2014. So, check out .

Rachel: Any cool/hidden talents?
Eli: I’m great at getting to know people’s dark secrets – like a more Jewish, slightly less crude Howard Stern.

Rachel: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Eli: I love celebrating Passover with my family, and all of its traditions.  These days, I particularly enjoy helping the younger kids plot to steal the Afikoman.  I try to resist re-hiding it when they’re not looking.  For me, Passover is also a great reminder about how Jews had to run away from evil over and over again throughout history, and why Israel is so important.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Eli: Sheldon Adelson.  Besides helping American veterans and Israel, he seems to have an awesome attitude for dealing with haters.  Plus, who doesn’t love a man who bankrolls Birthright from casino winnings?

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Eli: When Jews gather…you get a million opinions, a full belly, sharp wit, and a great time.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Alan

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Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Alan: I’m originally from here… Grew up in Bethesda, MD; went to college in the Midwest.  Decided the Midwest had ran its course after four years so I moved back.

Rachel: You coached the GTJ kickball team.  How did the season go?
Alan: Although our record may not reflect it, the season was a ton of fun.  We had a great group of people, made new friends, played a ton flip cup, and we killed it on the dance floor (that’s all that really matters in these kickball leagues right?).

Rachel: You started your own business.  Can you tell us more about that?
Alan: Yes, I started my part-time business in March of 2013.  I see two huge problems in our country today; wealth and health.  You don’t need to open a newspaper to know that our economy is still struggling, money is an issue in almost everyone’s life, and 7 out of 10 people HATE their job- yet they don’t leave because they are afraid they might not find a better job or better pay.  On top of that, people are still very self conscious about their weight and obesity is still on the rise.  Take a step back and listen in closely to your conversations with your friends, family, co-workers, etc.  I’d say money and/or health come up approximately 90% of the time in conversation in one way or another.

The fact of the matter is, no one walks around saying “man I wish I was sick today” or “yo, I wish I was broke.”  No of course not…  Everyone wants to look good, feel good, make money, and be happy.

Blue ShirtFor the people looking to get healthy or maybe shed a few pounds: I sample out various health and wellness products (healthy energy drinks, weight loss shakes, juices, liquid antioxidants) which are healthy alternatives to what’s out there on the market to my family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, dude at the grocery store, UPS driver, whoever.  For the folks who want to generate an additional cashflow, I show them how they can market these products using word of mouth advertising, social media, and leveraging internet marketing.

Rachel: Any cool hobbies/hidden talents?
Alan: I love playing basketball, soccer, going on spontaneous weekend trips, snowboarding, and dancing (a white Jewish kid who can dance… crazy huh?).  As for hidden talents… I can do a handstand and I used to be pretty sick at juggling.

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Alan: Spending time with friends, relaxing, and occasionally I’ll check out Sixth and I too.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Alan: A tie between challah and Beef Shawarma.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Alan: Drake

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Alan: Hilarity ensues.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Will

1482926_10101609402137129_1056749505_nWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Will: I started my PhD at George Washington in Political Science in August, so I moved here right before classes for that.

Rachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Will: The neighborhoods.  Each neighborhood is actually different in looks, who lives there, and feel.  It makes the city much more intimate and authentic.

Rachel: You live in the Arlington Moishe House.  What’s that like?
Will: I really enjoy it.  It can be a lot of work between school and often organizing multiple events in a week but it’s been great so far.

970712_161666084029515_1838975323_nRachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Will: Dinner at our house.  Its always fun and I think the best part of Shabbat is long, relaxed meals with friends and lots of wine.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Will: Rugelach or Challah.  Everyone always claims they make the best challah, but I really do.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Will: I am woefully unqualified to say if someone is cool or not, but I will go with Jon Stewart.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Will: When the Jews gather there are always leftovers.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Seth

1063836_10151683552975100_814205239_oWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Seth: I did a program in DC the summer after my junior year of college and just really loved the city.  I knew I wanted to end up back here after graduation and, fortunately, I was able to get a job in DC.

Rachel: You work for B’nai B’rith. Can you tell us more about that?
Seth: B’nai B’rith has a quarterly magazine—coincidentally called B’nai B’rith Magazine—that I work for.  My role mostly involves editing articles and working with our freelance writers, but I get to do some writing for the magazine as well, which I really enjoy.  It’s a general Jewish interest publication, so I get to write on a variety of subjects and talk to a lot of people who are doing interesting things.  And B’nai B’rith does a lot of great work as well, and I get to use the magazine to convey the organization’s activities to our readership.

Rachel: Are you involved in any other DC Jewish organizations?
Seth: I’m active in DC Minyan and I’m also involved with the Young Professionals at Adas Israel.  Both offer wonderful services and programs and are just great communities to be a part of.

67029_484738330099_5910866_nRachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Seth: First and foremost, the Jewish community in DC is fantastic, especially for young professionals.  There are so many different options available to Jews of any background, whether you’re looking for services, Jewish programs, social events or some mixture of all three.  The community in DC is incredibly vibrant and diverse and welcoming.  Secondly, DC, with all the memorials and iconic landmarks, really makes you feel connected to history—both real history and the stuff that happened in The West Wing.

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Seth: An ideal Shabbas for me would probably entail going somewhere for Friday night and Saturday morning services.  Then maybe having some people over for cholent Saturday afternoon.  I’d probably work in a nap somewhere in there if I’m feeling particularly crazy.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Seth: Definitely the aforementioned cholent.  It’s easy to make—just throw anything in a crockpot—and somehow you have a magical, stew-like concoction waiting for you to devour.  Additional benefits of cholent include waking up to the delightful aroma wafting throughout your apartment and ample leftovers that’ll last for days.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Seth: Bob Dylan (aka Robert Zimmerman) is pretty awesome, if you don’t count that whole Christian phase.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Seth: There are a lot of happy Jewish mothers.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Sayyad

crop 2Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Sayyad: I’m getting my Master’s in Biomedical Science in a program between Georgetown and George Mason while applying to medical school — I hope to end up here afterwards!

Rachel: How did you end up with the name ‘Sayyad’?
Sayyad: My mom thought it was prudent to make sure that I blended in when I was born in Azerbaijan.  It worked for three years.  Then we ended up in the US and now I stick out in a shul like the sign language translator at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Rachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Sayyad: The monuments at night.  Hands down.  Also, I still think it’s so awesome that we live in the nation’s capital.  Other than that, the fact that it’s a big city in a small geographic area!  There’s so much to do, so many awesome food choices, and a plethora of fantastic bars (not to mention the happy hours), and yet the city is small and completely devoid of skyscrapers!  Oh and the Bikeshare and the parks are pretty cool too.

1460015_10201135135206168_2113860224_nDid you know that, allegedly (I only heard this via word of mouth, so it may be entirely false), the color of liquor dominantly consumed in DC varies based on who’s in office? (Dark liquors — whiskey, spiced rum, etc. — with republicans and clear liquors — vodka, gin, etc. — with democrats)

Rachel: Have you been to Israel?  What’s a favorite memory?
Sayyad: Yes. Favorite memory?  Hmm…I’m torn between spending my first Shabbat in Israel in the old city of Jerusalem (that was unforgettable, truly) and stargazing with friends when I hiked from the Kineret to the Mediterranean on Yam le Yam.  Though schwarmma and falafel make me happier than a camel on hump day, and the enormous bungee-cable ball that launches you way higher than anything in Eilat was pretty fun too.

profRachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Sayyad: Getting together with my camp friends for dinner and whiskey gingers.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Sayyad: My mom makes better brisket than your mom (an intrinsic debate between all Jewish guys), my grandma’s matzah ball soup cures at least three different ailments, and cholent is pretty remarkable. In short, those three.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
SayyadMordechai Anielewicz.  All day, every day.  And if you don’t know, now you know…

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Sayyad: …you only get one guy in the room named Sayyad!



Jewish Guy of the Week – Josh

530756_2344010836665_1115132697_nWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Josh: I came to the District to study Political Science at the George Washington University, fell in love with the local politics, and have been here ever since.

Rachel: You’re working on Jack Evans’ campaign. Can you tell us more about that?
Josh: I am very proud to serve as the Campaign Manager for Councilmember Jack Evans.  Councilmember Evans is running for Mayor to bring this city’s growth and prosperity to every resident in every part of the city.  The Councilmember has been responsible for reviving neighborhoods including the 14th Street Corridor, securing the financing to build the Verizon Center and Nationals Ballpark, and creating tens of thousands of jobs by supporting local small businesses.

IMG957128Rachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Josh: I love the neighborhoods of the District.  Each neighborhood is so vibrant and has its own unique character.

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Josh: Having friends over and cooking at my apartment.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Josh: Matzah ball soup.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Josh: My girlfriend is the coolest Jew I know.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Kevin

Lieberman JSUWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Kevin: I’m a native Washingtonian.  I studied mechanical engineering in college, and since then I’ve been working near Dulles Airport for an air traffic management research and engineering company.  I research air traffic control and engineer new ways to handle air traffic more efficiently and safely.

Rachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Kevin: I enjoy exploring DC’s history and being part of its Jewish community.   The summer between high school and college, I worked as a tour guide for Tourmobile.  The company gave tours of the monuments and Arlington National Cemetery for the National Park Service.  I sat backwards on a bus and told stories and facts as we drove tourists to the sites.  As a young professional, I spend my weekends exploring museums, going to free concerts downtown, walking around the mall, and hiking at area parks.

LiebermanRachel: What’s your favorite Smithsonian museum?
Kevin: My favorite museum is the National Portrait Gallery.  It’s like an American Hall of Fame, and the focus is on the people featured in the portraits rather than the artists themselves.  I like how the museum highlights the contributions of different individuals who shaped their fields, whether it was aviation, dance, or politics.  The Smithsonian American Art Museum, which shares the building, has a converted cigarette machine on the third floor that sells original pieces of art for five bucks.  Every so often I will get something and keep it on my desk at work.

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Kevin: I spend my Shabbats at Sixth and I, the Montgomery County Moishe House, and having people over for Shabbat dinner.  A few weeks ago, I had friends over for Shabbat and I made my kindergarden teacher’s challah recipe.  It brought back memories.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Kevin: My sister got me listening to country music three years ago, and I still listen to WMZQ as I drive between my apartment and work.  They frequently play songs by the country singer Jake Owen, except for the longest time, I thought the DJs on the station were introducing him as “Jay Cohen.”  I guess they said his name really fast and slurred the two words together.  With a last name of Cohen, I figured he had to be Jewish.  I would have told you that I thought he was the coolest Jew.  I don’t think that is still valid.

Rachel: Thanksgivikkah ideas?
Kevin: The tur-latke.  It’s a spinoff on the classic Thanksgiving turducken, except the idea is that you deep fry your latkes inside the turkey… that you’re already deep frying.  Just make sure the chanukah candles don’t get too close to the fryer’s oil.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Jeff

550422_10101934136541683_207854363_nWant to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Jeff: A combination of work and family brought me to DC.  I was born and raised in Potomac, Maryland.  After college I was hired to work in NYC, however I was asked pretty quickly to transfer to our DC regional office about 5 years ago.  Don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally.  It was an easy choice to move back for the confluence of a great job opportunity, being proximate to family and friends, and most importantly, rooting for the Caps and Redskins games live without being berated by rival New York fans.

Rachel: You’re a ConnectGens Fellow. Can you tell us more about ConnectGens and your project?
Jeff: ConnectGens, powered by PresenTense, is a social entrepreneur fellowship that gives leadership skills, business tools and connections to those with creative ideas for engaging, inspiring and transforming the Jewish community.  Over the 6-month part-time program, fellows learn how to evolve their venture into a successful, implementable strategy to impact our community, our city, or our world.  The organized process is anchored around attending business development seminars and receiving support from a new entrepreneurial network including peers and individually matched coaches and mentors.  The exciting conclusion to the program is at the Federation Annual Meeting when fellows have the opportunity to get on stage to pitch the venture idea to hundreds of attendees at the Annual Meeting.

Connectgens is about providing the forum for fellows to  “dream out loud” and bring their ideas to life.  Whether it’s the fellows’ current venture idea or their next, the education, experience and resources help shape some of our future leaders of tomorrow.  The last two years have been huge successes and I can’t wait to see what new fellows and ventures come out of this year’s class.  You can read about the amazing fellows from last year here:

If you have an idea that can transform your community or change the world? Applications are open for the ConnectGens Fellowship in DC, powered by PresenTense and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Applications are due November 10. Visit for more info, and let me know if you’re interested!

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Jeff: Shabbat has always been about family and friends.  Growing up, Shabbat was our weekly (or as frequently as we could make it) respite to spend quality time together and enjoy some fine, home-cooked Jewish dining.  Regardless of how exciting or stressful the past week may have been, Shabbat was family time.   However, now that we are all older and on the path to starting our own families, family Shabbat has been fewer and farther between.  Fortunately, between my existing Jewish network from growing up in the area and the incredible network I have found within Federation, Shabbat has become a BYO party amongst friends.

Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Jeff: Not even close.  Mama Chod’s Matzah Ball soup.  For me, there are few religious events as welcoming as heading home for Seder.  I get to spend considerable time with siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, but the real draw is the best appetizer in town.  Its very rare I make it to the entrée without my second or third helpings – it’s the only dish that never has leftovers.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Jeff: As a sports enthusiast, I have to say the coolest Jew ever is Sandy Koufax.  He was revered both for his values and athletic prowess.  The guy won 27 games in his last season in the big leagues – this year the best pitcher barely got over 20 in his prime.  And his game 7 world series victory will still stands as one of the best pitching performances in the history of the World Series.  But what differentiated Sandy Koufax was his decision to sit out Game 1 of a World Series match to observe Yom Kippur.  He was applauded and became cemented as not just an incredible baseball player, but a model Jew willing to stand up for his traditions and show how to assimilate those values into modern day culture.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Jeff: When the Jews gather, a party is born! (For proof check out Impact DC next year.)