Jewish Actor of the Week – Sophie

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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 Resident of the Week – Sam

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Sam is the newest member of Moishe House DC. I got the chance to catch up with him to hear how living in the House was going and also hear what lead him to live there in the first place! Learn more about him and hear his recommendations for getting to know DC in our interview with Sam this week.

Jackie: You moved around a bit since graduating from Binghamton. Where have you been and what brought you there?

Sam: I originally grew up on Long Island and have moved basically every year since graduating college. I attended Binghamton University for my undergraduate degree and moved to Houston to teach middle school as part of Teach for America while also earning my Masters in Education. After that, I moved to New York City for a year, then Baltimore for a year, back to New York City, relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina and then moved to DC in March of this year. Some of the moves were related to work. Others were embracing opportunities to live in another part of the country and have an adventure along the way.

Jackie: What finally brought you to DC?14856074_10100587589263299_4070627615327562005_o

Sam: With every opportunity I take, I always consider how I can have an impact. I was surprised to learn that the third leading cause of death in the United States is medical errors. Looking to become part of the solution, I joined a fast-growing ed tech start-up based in Bethesda called Knowledge to Practice, focused on helping physicians with their continuing medical education needs. My role there is helping build the digital marketing team from the ground up. Everything from digital analytics, to content strategy, to marketing automation, and beyond. I’ll stop while I am ahead.

Jackie: You recently moved into Moishe House DC! Why did you want to live in a Jewish house?

Sam: Being part of the Moishe House represents an opportunity to be part of something larger than myself. A community that becomes a home away from home for many individuals who may only live in Washington, DC for a short time. Having the chance to build that sense of community and become a connector of the community is something that I strive to build in the many cities I have had the chance to call home.

Jackie: What has been your favorite part of joining that house?

Sam: The amazing people! Despite living in DC since March, I’ve met more people in the past month than I have in my total time here previously. The range of events all the Moishe Houses put on in the DMV area allows everyone to connect.

11824943_10101608180155952_7293008731603885208_nJackie: What are some recommendations for the seeing things off the beaten path in the DMV?

Sam: Walking tours are a great way to learn about the city. One of the best tours I recommend is food walking tours you can do in different neighborhoods in DC and VA. Walking around for a few hours. Trying 5-6 different types of food. Learning about culture and history along the way. You really can’t go wrong. I also recommend checking out different breweries.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew? 

Sam: Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing is pretty much as close as you can get to my heart. Besides Hamilton at the moment.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… The house shakshuAKES-ah! (I am so sorry).

Jewish Cook of the Week – Jackie

14915456_10109529814741681_9150082870296178926_nJackie: Where did your interest in Jewish community start?

Jackie N: I’ve always been lucky to live in places with a strong Jewish community. I attended Jewish day school, went to a Cuban-Jewish Sephardic synagogue (yes they do exist!), and grew up in a very traditional home.

When I went to college at the University of Florida (go Gators!) it really propelled my interest in getting involved with the Jewish community. Up until that point, I had lived in Miami which made me take Jewish practices and communal life for granted.  For the first time in my life, I was living on my own without my family nearby. It felt very unnerving to not have Shabbat dinner every Friday and although I loved my new friends at school I missed Jewish life. I started getting involved by going to UF’s Hillel and Chabad and by the time I graduated I sat on Chabad’s board and was very active in Jewish life at UF.

When I moved to DC in 2008 I didn’t really know too many people and had no family in the area, so the Jewish community was an easy and a great way to make friends.  I realized that many of my friends were also alone up here without our families nearby. So I decided to step up and take the lead and host the major holidays and Shabbat for my friends. It also felt more intimate, fun, familiar and less stressful than going to a large holiday event with hundreds of people. From there, my dinners grew tremendously and I became known for hosting Shabbat dinners.

A friend approached me in 2013 about co-hosting a Sephardic Shabbat service/dinner. I agreed and it was a massive success! From there I began hosting monthly Shabbat dinners through my organization Sephardic Jews in DC.

10731068_10105919570544991_2032516370974524497_nJackie: Can you tell me about your love of food? 

Jackie N: I’ve always loved to cook. I’ve been cooking ever since I was a small child and I used to help my mom out in the kitchen all the time. She’s an even better cook than I am, but hopefully one day I’ll be as good as her! I especially love learning about the history and evolution of food. I’m fascinated by what ancient Sephardic Jewish communities ate, how they lived, and how their lives differed from the rest of the population and why. I’m constantly tinkering in the kitchen, researching different kinds of recipes and cuisine, and making it for my friends. I even have a food blog which contains many of my recipes.

Jackie: What is your favorite Sephardic meal to cook?

Jackie N: Oh way too many! I love cooking Turkish Sephardic food, especially borekas, keftes de prasas (leek latkes), abondigas de prasa (leek meatballs), and sofrito. I also love cooking Persian food and my favorite dish to make is fesenjoon (a walnut/pomegranate stew). I also love Moroccan food and love to make Chraime (Moroccan fish), hamim
(cholent) and Moroccan carrot salad.
 

Jackie: How did you get the idea to start Sephardic Jews in DC? 13906725_10109007473278161_3125682790798231446_n

Jackie N:I was raised in a traditional Sephardic home and grew up going to a Sephardic synagogue. I really love the customs, heritage, history, and cuisine of the Sephardic world, but almost all of the synagogues and Jewish events in Washington DC are Ashkenazi, with the exception of a few synagogues in suburban Maryland.

I started the organization because the preservation of Sephardic culture, traditions, heritage and cuisine is very important to me. I want to ensure that Sephardic culture doesn’t die out, but rather will continue to evolve and be celebrated for its many contributions to Jewish life.

I spent many years frustrated that most Jewish organizations in DC didn’t address the Sephardic world, so I decided to take the lead and create a community-based organization to fill this void. My goals with this organization are not just to feed people delicious food (certainly an added benefit), but rather to create a robust Sephardic community in DC and educate people on Sephardic/Mizrahi culture, cuisine, history, liturgy, and traditions.

I believe that sharing a meal helps bring a community together and keeps traditions alive. Plus, learning about something is always easier when you have delicious food close by.

I, of course, have to acknowledge that “it takes a village” and use this opportunity to thank the  people and organizations that have assisted me throughout the years. My fellow Sephardic leaders Ari, Aaron, and Jen. Also organizations like Chabad (Rabbi Levi and Menachem Shemtov), 6th and I (Rabbi Scott Perlo), Mesorah DC (Rabbi Teitelbaum), and Moishe House Arlington/DC for their partnerships.

Jackie: What are ways for people to get involved with your organization?

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Jackie N: I’m always looking for people who are interested in volunteering their time to help nurture and grow a Sephardic community, whether it be helping to cook for events, leading or participating in services, generating ideas for events, or just attending and helping out at events. Thus far we have been a community lay-led organization with no major sponsorship. I’m hoping that in the future I’ll be able to work with larger Jewish organizations and be able to create an organic Sephardic Jewish community in DC. If you’re interested in learning more about coming to one of our monthly Shabbat dinners please visit our page on Facebook Sephardic Jews in DC.

Finish the sentence: When the [Sephardic] Jews Gather…there will be delicious food, good conversation, and fun times.

Jewish Advocate of the Week – Ben

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Ben was nominated as Jewish Advocate of the Week by fellow Tufts alumni and Jewish Foodie of the Week, Julie. I had the opportunity to ask Ben about his diverse interests, how they come together in his work and life, and of course who his favorite Jew is! Learn more about Ben in his interview below.

Know someone who you think should be Person of the week? Nominate them!

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Ben: DC is the third city I have lived in; I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and went to school in the Boston area. In my mind, these three cities are very similar. They are of a similar geographic size, have fantastic cultural institutions, and have strong communities (Jewish and otherwise). I spent a summer in DC while I was in college, and knew I could see myself living here afterward. During my senior year, I was able to find a job in the city.

Jackie: In college, you studied Peace and Justice Studies and Physics. What drew you to these polar opposite pursuits?

2016-09-04-12-37-10Ben: The first time I walked into a physics class, I fell in love with the subject. Math had always come easily to me, but I found it boring. With physics, math finally had a use and a fantastic one with that! Early physics courses so clearly translate to our experienced reality (mechanics, magnetism, etc.), that I was able to apply this framework to my universe in a way that thrilled me. I felt compelled to learn as much as I could about the subject.

However, I’ve always had a commitment to doing something for others beyond myself. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and there has always been a nagging within me to make sure I make a difference in the world. Tufts University, where I attended college, offered this interdisciplinary program in Peace and Justice Studies, which I was immediately drawn to. I viewed it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” major, as I was able to take courses in philosophy, anthropology, English literature, sociology, among many others. Rather than studying two disciplines, I could study five or six – but with a common thread. By the time I reached my senior year, I attempted to combine these pursuits: what is the relationship between science and society? My thesis attempted to justify government funding for scientific research, and my capstone explored the public understanding of scientific language. In my mind, they aren’t polar at all.

Jackie: You now work as a lobbyist. What causes are you advocating for?

2016-08-02-07-55-10Ben: This certainly was not a job I ever expected. I work exclusively with institutions of higher education, research associations, and laboratory facilities that are nonprofits or public. In essence, I advocate for continued public investment in scientific research. Given my background in physics, I work more on the physical sciences side, including engineering, energy research, and “smart cities.” Since WWII, the federal government has been one of the biggest funders of research on a spectrum from basic (think, discovering the Higgs Boson) to applied (think, making solar panels better). Universities and scientific societies do a great bulk of this research, and it’s important to make sure that Congress is supportive of science.

Jackie: How do you pursue your interest in Urban Planning and architecture?

Ben: This is a personal interest that I have been pleasantly surprised to also work on it in my day job. Pittsburgh (my hometown) has changed significantly over the past 30 years, not unlike many major cities throughout the U.S., including Washington, DC. There are whole wards in DC that look nothing like they did 30 years ago, and while that can come with significant benefits, it also can hurt residents who live here and who have lived here. During the Obama administration, a confluence of events led to an increased interest in cities. Open data initiatives at the federal, state, and local levels have made cities “smarter,” insofar as they are more efficient in delivering services. A number of cities have hired Chief Innovation Officers to help integrate technologies into their cities. I’m fascinated by how cities will change in the next 20 years, and getting to work with “anchor institutions,” such as universities, that are studying and changing their own cities has been a great experience. I also tend to do a lot of reading, with City Observatory, The Atlantic’s City Lab, and Planetizen all being great sources.

12961539_10154232286153968_5784365337675715953_nJackie: What do you like to do for fun in DC?

Ben: It’s incredible how much DC has to do. I try to frequent the museums as often they have new exhibits. The National Portrait Gallery/National Gallery of American Art is a favorite, as is the National Building Museum. A number of friends from both Pittsburgh and Tufts have also moved to DC, so it’s also good to see them, either grabbing a meal, walking through Rock Creek Park, or having them over for Shabbat Dinner.

Jackie: You have been on many world travels! Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Ben: Favorites are hard for me. I was just in Colombia, though, and that was an incredible experience. I traveled alone for a week in Bogota and Medellin, and so enjoyed my time there. Medellin has changed so much during my lifetime, and it was incredible to see.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Ben: Again, favorites are hard, but among Jewish historical figures I think I would go with Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… it is sure to be interesting!

Jewish Advocate of the Week – Alyssa

img953972Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Alyssa: GW! I moved to DC in 2010 to study international affairs at The George Washington University and I fell in love with the city. Six years later and I still feel fortunate to call the District my home.

Jackie: I hear you’re quite the foodie. What’s your favorite restaurant in the District?

Alyssa: There are few things I love more than great food with great company. With the recently announced Michelin DC Restaurant Guide, Michelin’s Bib Gourmand and the Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide, I’m excited to continue exploring the DC food scene! My favorite restaurant is probably Le Diplomate, but recent places I’ve loved are Kinship in Shaw and Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan.

Jackie: How did you get involved in Jewish Women International’s Young Women’s Leadership Network?

Alyssa: I was invited on a whim to a YWLN Potluck Shabbat in Summer 2015 and was surprised at the ease with which I could talk to and connect with other YWLN members. Soon after, I joined the network and have been involved ever since. I joined the DC Board a few months ago and I’m excited to continue working with this amazing organization.

img_0838Jackie: Have you always been interested in advocacy for women?

Alyssa: Absolutely. I grew up with the best role models: fiercely strong women who showed me the importance of believing in and standing up for oneself, caring for others, dreaming big and giving back. I was lucky to have been raised in such an environment. It’s important to me that I give my voice to making sure all women and girls feel supported and empowered to realize their full potential.

Jackie: What is your role for the JWI Young Women’s Leadership Conference on December 11th?

Alyssa: I’m on the Young Women’s Leadership Conference Committee, so I’m part of a team of YWLN members working to make this conference the best one yet! I’m on the workshop review subcommittee, so I work with my subcommittee to make sure the workshops are engaging and meaningful to conference participants.

Jackie: Why should someone come to the Conference?

Alyssa: This conference is a great way to network with young Jewish professional women in a variety of different fields, not just those working in the Jewish community. The Conference is also an amazing opportunity to learn from former and current JWI Women to Watch, notable women recognized by JWI as change-makers and leaders in their respective fields ranging from art and culture to business and technology. The different workshops cover both professional and spiritual topics, making this a well-rounded and meaningful event.

img_0304Jackie: Can you tell us about your role at AJC?

Alyssa: I’m the Senior Associate for the Department of International Jewish Affairs at AJC. In my role, I support the work of my boss, Rabbi Andrew Baker, who has been working to combat global anti-Semitism for decades. I also plan exchange programs with overseas foundations. My next program is called Promoting Tolerance, which brings emerging liberal civil society leaders (i.e. journalists, politicians, lawyers, NGO directors, etc.) from former Soviet Union countries to learn about pluralism, tolerance, and the role of minorities in a flourishing civil society. They’re coming less than a week after the election– it’ll be a very interesting program, depending on the results…

Jackie: Do you have a favorite Jewish dish to cook?

Alyssa: Two dishes I love to make that bring me back to cooking at home are roasted rosemary potatoes and vegetable soup.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… We Eat! 🙂

Jewish Extrovert of the Week – Lisa!

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If you have spent some time at Sixth & I Synagogue, there is a good chance you have met Lisa. She is outgoing, friendly, and welcoming; with a smile that you can’t miss! For many years Lisa was the Cultural Programming Associate responsible for bringing many famous speakers to Sixth and I, and is now on to a new adventure at The Washington Post! Catch up on what your Jewish Extrovert of the Week has been up to in our interview with her!

Jackie: What do you miss most about working at Sixth & I? 

Lisa: In life, sometimes you’re lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, and I was fortunate enough to have that happen to me in 2012, when I learned about the opening of the Cultural Programming Associate role at Sixth & I. Far and away, what I miss most are the people! I miss discovering new things about Jewish culture through conversations across cubicles and the adrenaline that goes into an evening of hosting 800 guests. Thinking back on my experience, I’m incredibly thankful to have learned how to think creatively, collaborate across departments and build community through my role at Sixth & I, as I have been able to carry those skills with me through my transition to The Washington Post.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew? 

Lisa: I know quite a few Jews and I’d consider many of them a favorite, so answering this question doesn’t come easily. The Jew who has been most influential in cultivating my identity as a Jew, as a partner, and as a forward-thinking woman is Rabbi Shira Stutman, Sixth and I’s Senior Rabbi. She is a Jew that is loved by many, and one that has taught me about the importance of acceptance of self, challenging the boundaries set by past experience, and experiencing Judaism through the lens of social justice.

gather-5Jackie: I am sure it is hard to choose, but who was your favorite speaker that you brought to Sixth and I?

Lisa: This is a tough one! I used to often say, “the one from last night”, as the caliber and content of speakers is beyond impressive. My favorite speaker event was the second time that Sixth & I hosted Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, for the release of her most recent book, Big Magic. I tend to resonate with the authors that have a message of finding one’s voice, expressing gratitude and accepting vulnerability. That is Liz Gilbert’s character, both in her writing and in how she carries herself through life. Her generosity shined through as she gave those working on the event, including Sixth & I’s wonderful cadre of volunteers, a charm from a store that she owned. The charm I chose from Liz’s bucket is a small, brass elephant. It’s intended to be part of a necklace, but since I haven’t found the right chain for it, it remains a happy keepsake on my desk at the office.

Jackie: What is your new role with The Washington Post? 

Lisa: In July, I joined The Washington Post’s Human Resources team as the Talent Acquisition & Organizational Development Specialist (Talent Specialist for short). I like to say that I do a little bit of everything as it relates to talent and development. I work closely with our recruiters to help build the candidate pipeline for the Post’s growing engineering team through managing university events and establishing partnerships with thought leaders in the areas of science, technology, math, and science. I have put my public speaking skills to the test through leading new employee orientation. I will soon start training to become a coach and lead organizational development workshops for management teams at the Post. My role is continuing to evolve! There is such a great energy, both on my team and in the company, and I can’t wait to see how my role continues to grow in the weeks and months ahead.

Jackie: What has been the biggest difference between working at a synagogue and a newspaper? 

Lisa: Sixth & I and The Washington Post share more similarities than I would have imagined before coming here. Both organizations have a strong sense of culture, community and a continued focus on innovation. In my short tenure here, the biggest difference that I’ve discovered is size. Sixth & I has a strong and mighty staff of 17. The Post employs more than 2,500 people across the globe. I am continuing to get to know my new colleagues through coffee dates, company-wide events, and connecting on good book recommendations. 

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Jackie: In addition to the new job, you are also celebrating your recent engagement. What are you most looking forward to about getting married?

Lisa: As silly as this may sound, I am most looking forward to calling myself Grant’s wife! I couldn’t be happier with my decision to marry Grant. He is the ultimate partner, in every way possible. He is the most joyful, affectionate and loving person. I’m fortunate to have found someone who loves me, accepts me and challenges me to be my best self. We’re at the seven-month mark and counting! I can’t wait.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC? 

Lisa: If a suburb of DC can count for this – my favorite place is Del Ray, a community just next to Alexandria in Northern Virginia. I like to describe Del Ray as a modern day Pleasantville. It has a small town charm that includes a cheese shop, a toy store for dogs and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. What else could be better?

Finish the Sentance: When the Jews Gather… there is dynamic and thoughtful conversation, full bellies, and an opportunity to discover new friendships

Jewish Comedian of the Week – Max

MaxJackie: You are originally from California. What do you miss most now that you live on the East coast?

Max: I actually tell a joke about how Californians here complain about how much better California is than DC. The weather, the beaches, the Mexican food, yadda yadda. Honestly, my thing is the lack of places to get cheap, quality donuts in DC. In my opinion, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin don’t count and are honestly pretty terrible. And sure, you can get an “artisan donut” that costs $17, is locally sourced, and blessed by a hipster with glasses. But you can’t find a place in DC that’s really dedicated to the donut craft like you can in California.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC? 

Max: My new backyard! The first four and a half years that I lived in DC, I was in an apartment building. I just moved to a house and now I sit outside several nights per week, working on comedy and hanging out with friends. Being from California, I’m not a big fan of winter… even less so knowing that soon enough I won’t be able to spend as much time outside.

Jackie: What is your favorite thing about working at the Religious Action Center (RAC)

Max: Lots actually. First, I get paid to be on social media all day and interact with the press. Also, I have a very dynamic group of coworkers who are all great to work with. I’ve definitely had jobs in the past where I couldn’t stand being around my colleagues. I can’t say the same for my time spent at the RAC.

Jackie: As a comedian, do you incorporate your Jewish identity in your stand-up routines? 

Max: My stand-up is a mix of Jewish material and non-Jewish material. Ultimately, I don’t want to be known just as “a funny Jewish comedian.” I want to be known a funny comedian who just so happens to be Jewish. My stand-up is more reflective of my overall experiences, whether Jewish or not. Basically, if I think it’s funny, I’ll talk about it.

11709901_10152842785485981_6588522059791561531_oJackie: You will be performing at Confessions: A Storytelling Interrogation Show what can audiences expect from this show?

Max: I’ve never performed on a Perfect Liars Club show before, but from what I’ve heard about the many past shows, audience members can expect to be thoroughly entertained and even competitive as they try to determine which story was the lie.

Jackie: Where else can we see you perform?

Max: So, I recently launched a website for my comedy. It’s simply maxrosenblum.com. All of my major performance dates are on there. Plus, I just started a new show every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month at the brand-new Drafthouse Comedy Theater with my good friend Stephen Nicks, who by the way has always been a good friend to the Jews. The show is called Vent! and it’s (as far as I know) DC’s only interactive comedy happy hour. Basically, the show is about encouraging people to express what’s bothering them (vent) and we’ll talk about it during the show. But that’s not the whole show, just a part of it. We also incorporate sketch, stand-up, and improv comedy. Our next two shows are Fridays, October 7 and 21. Additionally, I’m on Twitter and Instagram (@MrMaxRose) and I post many of my shows on those platforms as well.

Jackie: You have opened for some pretty well-known comics. Do you have a favorite story? 

Max: Last summer, I had the thrilling opportunity to open for an internationally known British comedian named Russell Howard at Sixth & I Synagogue. He’s a big deal (over in the UK at least), and that was an amazing experience. However, the best story happened earlier this year. I opened for a comedian named Moody McCarthy (as seen on Conan and Letterman). Now, I often tell a joke about how I share the same name (same spelling) as one of the men who was indicted for dealing the fatal dose of heroin to Philip Seymour Hoffman. In the joke, I say that personally, I didn’t care when Hoffman died because, for the most part, celebrity deaths don’t affect me. However, this one did because my name was all over Google, but in a negative capacity. Anyway, Moody came up to me after the show to tell me that in college one of his best friends was PSH, and Moody showed me a picture of the two at Hoffman’s 19th birthday party. I immediately apologized to Moody for saying that I didn’t care that his friend died. Moody responded by saying: “No problem at all. Philip was a weird dude. I think he would’ve liked that joke.”

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish Holiday?

Max: When I’m not performing on a Friday and I can get together with friends, my favorite holiday is Shabbat. It’s a good way to power down after a long week and meet up with close friends you haven’t seen in awhile. I also like Shabbat because it’s benign enough to be inclusive of people of all religions. You don’t need to be Jewish to have a get together with people you know, power down, and reflect on the week.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Hopefully, they decide to come to a comedy show. And laugh, of course.

Jewish Foodie of the Week – Julie

Julie Foodie of the week

This week’s Foodie was nominated by our Jewish Adventurer of the Week – Rose. Rose and Julie attended Tufts University together and are united again in DC! Rose wanted to highlight Julie for her love of travel and her passion for food justice.

If you know someone who you think should be the Jewish Person of the Week nominate them!

Jackie: What was your favorite part of Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps?

Julie: My favorite part of being an AVODAH Corps Member was definitely my house. I lived in an intentional and cooperative community with 12 other Jewish women in one of two AVODAH houses in DC. Each one of my housemates had unique passions and their own personality, and while it wasn’t easy to live with such a big group, we worked hard to establish systems of that allowed us to appreciate each other’s strengths and contributions. I admire and am inspired by each and every one of the people I lived with last year. Learning how to coexist and cooperate with this group allowed me to grow a lot as a friend, a person, a family member, and a Jew.

Jackie: How did you get involved in food education?

Julie 3Julie: My interest in food education kind of grew into a professional passion by accident…and very quickly! I’ve always loved food – I’m from a family of big eaters who all love to cook – but I really dove into the food scene after I studied abroad in Argentina. During my time abroad, I really learned about the city of Buenos Aires and Argentinian culture by eating the local food and sharing meals with friends. When I came back to the US, I realized that my passion for food was more than just a love of local produce and hatred of food waste – rather, it was something that allowed me to connect with different cultures and people. I realized that my love for food didn’t just have to be a personal interest! I started exploring further by taking classes at my university and doing research on food policy, local and urban agriculture, and sustainability. After I graduated I was lucky enough to land at Brainfood, a DC non-profit and youth development organization that runs summer and after-school programs for high schoolers all about cooking, food entrepreneurship, and urban agriculture. This opportunity allowed me to combine my interests in child development and education with my love of food in the best way possible.

Jackie: You are staying in DC now that Avodah is over. What about DC made you want to stay?

Julie: As a New Englander, DC felt surprisingly foreign to me when I arrived. After a year here, I feel connected to the city first and foremost by my Jewish community, and friends from AVODAH and from work. I also feel a deep connection to the city through the learning I’ve done both from research and from first-hand experience about education in the District. DJulie 2C schools and youth services have a unique set of issues, which I feel motivated to work to address. While there’s youth in need everywhere, I feel particularly able to do this work here in DC because of the amazing network of people I have supporting me.

Jackie: What was your favorite part of studying abroad in Buenos Aires?

Julie: It’s hard to pick one thing that stands out from my six months in Argentina, but I think the biggest thing I took away from this experience was the culture of social interactions. Meals in Argentina are much slower. There’s actually a term “sobre mesa” for the conversation you have after the meal is finished “over the table” (literally). Sharing “mate”, a bitter and highly caffeinated tea, shows the deepest sign of friendship in Argentina. I found the casualness and intimacy of this tradition really beautiful; when you drink mate you actually share the tea through one straw using one cup. While Buenos Aires was the largest city I’ve ever lived in, I came to appreciate the slower pace of life and the desire to spend time with others that is so innate in Argentinian culture.

Jackie: What inspired you to travel to Morocco with JDC?

Julie: Travel has always been an interest of mine, and I was Julie 1really excited by the opportunity this trip presented to learn about non-Ashkenazi Jewish practice and the co-existence of Jews and Muslims in an Arab country. I was also drawn to the idea of participating in this trip with fellow students at my university and using a critical eye to consider globalization and the ideas of service and charity. The opportunity to connect with a specific community and compare their Jewish experience to my own was a huge part of why I applied to this program.

Jackie: What was your favorite part of that trip? 

Julie: I was so floored by the graciousness and hospitality of our hosts especially given how the Jewish community in Morocco is shrinking almost daily. We were fed enormous amounts exquisite foods all day and were welcomed into the fairly private Jewish community with open arms.

When the Jews gather… you know there will be food.

Jewish Minnesotan of the Week – David

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David was nominated by our Jewish Musical Lover of the Week, Emma! Besides telling us he is “lovely,” she made sure we asked him about his attachment to his home state and how he has managed to get along with the same roommate for 8 years! If you know someone who should be a person of the week nominate them today.

Jackie: I hear you are obsessed with your home state of Minnesota, what makes you love the state so much?

David: It’s the most wonderful state in the world! People are very friendly (“Minnesota nice” is real); the state is home to great inventions such as the honeycrisp apple and the post-it note, plus it’s home to 17 Fortune 500 companies and more than 10,000 lakes!

Jackie: One of my favorite films of all time is Drop Dead Gorgeous. As a native Minnesotan do you love the film as well?

David: I can’t say I’ve seen Drop Dead Gorgeous, but my favorite Minnesota movie is the Mighty Ducks. I can pretty much quote all three movies verbatim.

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

David: I went to American University; my sister went there and had a great experience. I had visited lots of times and always liked DC, so ultimately when I was deciding between AU and a couple of the Big 10 schools, I thought it would be more fun to live here for four years. Four years after graduation, and I’m still here!

Jackie: What is your favorite thing to do in DC?

David: It’s hard to beat a Nationals game on a non-humid summer night.

Jackie: You have lived with your current roommate since 2008. What is the magic that makes your living situation work?

David: Dan and I were randomly assigned to live together fre13781886_10207367528647896_2792066165896126333_n-1shman year at AU 8 years ago and we have lived together ever since. We have similar interests from sports to politics, to Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler comedies. We also have a pretty similar outlook on life in general and have very laid-back personalities.

Jackie: You spent sometime in Spain living with a family, do you still keep in touch?

David: My host seniora, Margerita, wasn’t too into technology, but I’m friends with her daughter on Facebook. So I get to see how her and her grandson are doing.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

David: Hard to pick between Larry David and Sandy Koufax.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…We shout l’chaim!

Jewish Adventurer of the Week – Molly

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Molly has been there for many of Gather’s firsts. She attended our first New(ish) & Jewish Happy Hour last year (check our this year’s event!) and joined us on our inaugural Beyond the Tent Retreat in July. I was excited to hear more about her international travels in my interview with the Jewish Adventurer of the Week!

Jackie: What made you decide to go to university in Scotland?

Molly: I decided to study in Scotland because it was more affordable than going to university out-of-state or a private university. With all my options on the table, I could afford Oregon or abroad, and Scotland seemed like a good option. I also had never traveled abroad before, (except for a disability rights exchange for 3 weeks in Bahrain, random, I know) and the idea of being based in the UK, with Europe a stone’s throw away, was pretty enticing. I figured if I didn’t like it, it could be my study abroad freshmen year and I could always come back to Oregon.

Molly_4Jackie: What were your favorite parts of spending four years abroad?

Molly: By far, my favorite part of studying at St. Andrews was the location. I had a moment in third year of university where I studied the wars in Bosnia and Croatia in the 90s and then decided to go to Bosnia and Croatia for the 20th anniversary. It was incredible to finish an exam writing about the bombing of Dubrovnik and a week later speak with a man my age about what it was like for his family narrowly escaping bombings every night.

My least favorite part was making incredible friends that now live in a different country. That blows.

MollyJackie: You were a part of Gather’s first Beyond the Tent retreat. How was that experience for you?

Molly: The retreat was a great experience, and I’d highly recommend it. What I loved about the retreat is that we didn’t bother with the small talk. I walked out knowing how people felt about their Jewish identity, their beliefs in G-d, and their relationships with their moms…but not the usual where did you go to school, what do you do, where are you from. I’m trying to skip the small talk now that I’m back to real life, but it turns out asking people if they believe in G-d before asking their profession has mixed results at happy hours.

When the Jews Gather… they do so at the Gather the Jews happy hours (seriously, have you been? There are, like, 200 people crammed in bar, it’s crazy!)