Jewish Director of the Week – Adam

Adam-Immerwahr

Adam came to the DC after spending almost 10 years in Princeton, NJ. He left his role as the Associate Artistic Director at McCarter Theatre Center to join Theater J as their new Director. Adam and I were able to sit down and chat about what is in store for Theater J, how he is adjusting to DC and why someone in their 20s and 30s should come see the next Theater J show!

Know someone you think should be Jew of the Week? Nominate them!

Jackie: How did you first get into theater? 

Adam: I pretty much grew up in the theater.  When I was young, my mother was a modern dance teacher at Swarthmore College, and she was just starting her own theater company.  And my father (who taught at Villanova) was close friends with the head of the theater program there.  So I was in shows at Villanova as a child actor, and hanging out around theaters and dance studios in Swarthmore. It always seemed like the most obvious way for me to express myself.

Jackie: What is the stage production you are most proud of?

Adam: As a producer, I’m immensely proud of Fiasco’s INTO THE WOODS, which I produced at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre when I was the Associate Artistic Director there. It’s an inventive, 10-actor and one-piano version of Sondheim’s classic musical, and our production went on to The Old Globe (in San Diego), the Roundabout (in NYC), and now it’s playing on the West End in London and preparing for a national tour–including a stop at the Kennedy Center!  As a director, I’m most proud of a production of THE CONVERT that I directed at Almasi Collaborative Arts in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was extraordinary to work with a group of Zimbabwean actors, designers, and producers to tell a story together–and the production was incredibly well-received and nominated for the national arts medal award in Zimbabwe.

Jackie: Did you always dream of being the artistic director of a Jewish theater?

Adam: Ha!  Wait was that a joke?  I never in a million years would have imagined that I would end up leading a Jewish theater.  But when Theater J was looking for their next leader, they hired one of the top search consultants in the field, so of course I took his call.  I basically said I wasn’t very interested during the first few conversations, but as I got to know the theater better, and got to think about what kind of programming I could do here, I realized what an extraordinary opportunity it was. Theater J has a unique role in the Jewish life and culture of this city, but we also are a critical part of the nation’s theatrical ecology. As the country’s largest and most prominent Jewish theater, we have an opportunity to preserve and champion a rich theatrical heritage, whether it is revivals of little-known Jewish-American classics like Arthur Miller’s BROKEN GLASS (which we’re doing this year), or newer plays like THE LAST SCHWARTZ (our season-opener). I realized that in programming through this lens, I could have an incredibly rich conversation with D.C.’s audience, do a broad range of really vital work, and I didn’t want to pass up the chance!

Understudy Rehearsal 2Jackie: As the new director of Theater J what was the first thing you wanted to tackle?

Adam: So much!  One of the advantages of a theatrical season is that I get to pick multiple plays that are programmed throughout the year (September-July).  I was eager to expand the notion of what kind of work could happen in a Jewish theater, so I was thrilled to get my hands on the rights to THE CHRISTIANS, a searing new play about how religion can tear us apart or bring us together–set inside a church.  We’re recruiting a different church choir to perform live onstage with us at each show!  But I also wanted Theater J to be a place of joy and laughter, so I was eager to start the season with Deborah Zoe Laufer’s stupidly funny THE LAST SCHWARTZ, all about the things we pass on from one generation to another.  Theater J has always been a place of rich intellectual dialogue, so THE HOW AND THE WHY (about elevation, feminism, and generational divides), and COPENHAGEN (about the creation of the atomic bomb) seemed like perfect fits.  And of course because we’re in the heart of the gay community of D.C., I had to bring back D.C.’s favorite all-male, dragapella beauty-shop quartet, the Kinsey Sicks.  These “chicks with schticks” will be performing their delightfully salacious OY VEY IN A MANGER during Chanukah season, in perfect four-part harmony.

Jackie: What perspective are you bringing to Theater J as a millennial/next generation Jew? 

Adam: I think that my generation has different ideas about what theater can be. Our culture is becoming more participatory, more on-demand, and more customized–but theater has lagged behind. I’m working on some ways to make Theater J a more communal place to be, and to open up opportunities for arts participation beyond just attending a play and staying for a talkback. For instance, we’re engaging an entire interfaith community by inviting live choirs to perform with us in THE CHRISTIANS–and sharing the stage between professionals and community members.  It should be really exciting, and I look forward to figuring out how we continue to expand our notions of how a professional theater works with its audience.  But I also think that as we look toward making Theater J a cooler place for millennial/next generation Jews to congregate–it helps to have someone whose taste is shaped by similar influences. I curate art differently than many in the generation above me.  I can’t help but have the programming that I’m attracted to be the product of my generation.

Jackie: One of Theater J’s production is THE CHRISTIANS. How do you decide what plays fit into the scope of Theater J?

Adam: It’s a very smart question. At one time, the rule at Theater J was that either the playwright or one of the characters must be Jewish. That felt to me both limiting and small, and I wanted to expand the notion of what Jewish theater can be.  The rubric I’ve been using is that the plays we do should fit into at least one of three categories: legibly Jewish plays (which directly struggle with and celebrate Jewish life and culture); thematically Jewish plays (that tell stories that parallel our own); and Jewish values plays (big plays that engage with the major issues of our time).  So that means that not all of our work is by Jewish artists, or even has any Jewish characters on the stage–but all of it connects with Judaism and resonates with the Jewish experience in a meaningful way.

Jackie: THE LAST SCHWARTZ is about to start its run, what would you say to a young professional who hasn’t come to Theater J before to encourage them to see the show?

Adam: It’ll be a really really fun night out.  THE LAST SCHWARTZ is a stupidly funny play with a whole lot of heart.  It’s about a family who gather together for a yahrzeit that goes perfectly wrong when one of them (a Hollywood director) brings a sexy wannabe starlet to the family home–and everything goes awry. It’s surprising, it’s got some side-splitting laughs, and it’s less than two hours long. We’re right between Dupont Circle and 14th Street, so you can go grab a bite and then have a good time.  Plus–our ushers will let you buy a drink and take it into the theater with you, and tickets for those under 35 are only $17 on weekdays or $30 on weekends.  So it’s a great deal!

20160329_AdamImmerwahr_0591459530318

Greg Kendall-Ball/For The Washington Post

Jackie: How have you been acclimating yourself to a new city?

Adam: I really have been enjoying D.C.  I ditched my car and get everywhere with my bike. The theater community has been incredibly welcoming, and so has the community around the group “Nice Jewish Boys.”  I am eager to get to explore the city more, especially the food scene–I just discovered Union Market which is terrific!

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Adam: Right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about Fyvush Finkel, the great actor who just passed away.  By all accounts, a terrific man–but if you’ve never seen him perform you’ve missed one of the most ebullient and charismatic artists of our time.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…we have fun!

Saying Goodbye to Gather’s First Staff Person!

734747_10151672718558709_1356824173_n

Rachel Giattino moved from Delaware to DC in 2012 to become the first employee of Gather the Jews. Her work helped create and shape the organization that Gather is today. Those of you who have had the opportunity to meet Rachel at a Happy Hour, Shabbat, or community meeting will know the passion and dedication that she brought to her work in the DC Jewish community.  We are sad to see her go but are excited to see what her new journey in Chicago will bring. We wish her all the luck in the world!

From Rachel (Gildiner), Aaron, Jackie and Shaina

Jackie: It was recently the 4th anniversary of you coming to DC to work for Gather the Jews. What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Gather?

Rachel: My favorite memory is a collection of memories- basically the way the Jewish community welcomed me to DC. New contacts would set me on friend dates, make sure I had a place to go for holiday meals, and even cook chicken soup for me when I was sick (shout out to Rachel Briks)! I hope I have repaid the favor in welcoming newcomers to DC, both as Gather the Jews and in my personal life.

IMG_2937Jackie: What is finally pulling you away from DC? 

Rachel: Adventure and a new job opportunity are calling me away. A few months, ago I realized how easy life is in DC. I know my favorite coffee spots, my favorite happy hours, and my favorite gym- and everything is so routine. I wanted a new challenge, so when a job opportunity presented itself in Chicago I decided to go for it.

Jackie: What are you going to miss the most?

Rachel: Duccini’s Pizza. And Wiseguys Pizza. And &pizza (did I mention I love pizza?). But really, I’m going to miss all the amazing people I’ve connected with in DC.

Jackie: What advice do you have for the DC Jewish community?

Rachel: Keep on Gathering!

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… My work is done.

Jewish Adventurer of the Week – Rose!

rose1

When Rose was nominated for Gather’s Person of the Week, I was told that she was the “sweetest person in the world.” As I began our interview, I realized that she not only lived up to her nomination but also had taken some amazing adventures. I am excited to share some of her stories with you in this week’s interview!

Jackie: How did you find yourself playing the fiddle for ‘The Dirty River String Band’?

Rose: I fell into folk music my first year of college, and it changed my life. I had been playing classical violin forever, but had waning motivation. Playing with The Dirty River String Band and teaching myself fiddle along the way opened up a world of communal music-making which brought freedom, satisfaction, and an insane amount of fun to my music expression.

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

Rose: A bank of the Potomac, a rooftop, H St NE, bars with live music, any and all bike lanes.

Jarose3ckie: What was your favorite part of your WWOOFing in Hawaii?

Rose: I fell in love with untamed ocean in Hawaii – the coasts of the Big Island are powerful, with a teeming underwater world of coral and fish without the foggiest clue of the problems us humans worry about just above the surface. I loved snorkeling and peeking at their wonderland! Also, the mangos. I dream about the mangos from my farm every day.

Jackie: Speaking of travel adventures, I heard you were “kidnapped” in India! What is the story behind that?! 

Rose: It was my last week in India, and after my months spent there, I was used to going with the flow and accepting whatever came my way – India has way of pushing you there. So that’s what I did with my 2 rockstar travel buds when backpacking around Rajasthan. When an invitation came from someone we met (who happened to be a millionaire) to enjoy the best dinner Jodhpur can offer, we went with the flow. The best part? 5 star meals and a night to remember…the worst? We missed our bus to Jaisalmer. Good thing there was a private car to drive us there…it worked out and we have an incredible story. (P.S.A. accept invitations from Indian strangers at your own risk!)

rose5Jackie: Was this on your JDC Entwine Fellowship?

Rose: Yes! I completed the JDC Entwine multi-week fellowship, where I lived in Mumbai and taught with an education NGO called Gabriel Project Mumbai in a nearby slum.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Rose: I look forward to Kabbalat Shabbat all week, so Shabbos for me includes services with lots of singing followed by meals with friends. Throw in some Dvar Torahs and a nice long walk!

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…food and friendships are made.

Jewish Violinist of the Week – Eli

IMG_8094This week I had the pleasure to interview Eli for the weekly feature. I knew that he was an incredible violin player and worked in the medical profession, but through this interview I got to learn more about both of his passions. Learn more about Eli in my interview with the Jewish Violinist of the Week!

Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

Eli: I first came to DC five years ago to spend winter break with my cousin and her husband. I absolutely fell in love with DC right away. It’s got pretty much everything that all the big cities have, yet it’s not as overwhelming.

Jackie: You are an incredible violin player. When did you start playing and what inspired you to continue?

Eli: I started violin at a later age in my childhood. I was nearly 12. But I initially started voice and piano lessons at the age of 6 or so. I switched to violin because I felt I could express myself better than being on the piano. Once I hit puberty, I was disappointed that I couldn’t sing those high notes I could sing easily before. Music has always been an important part of my life. It’s like an extension of myself. Letting go of the violin would be like amputating an arm.

IMG_0522Jackie: Do you have a favorite piece of music you play?

Eli: That’s a really hard question to answer. I think for most classical musicians, whatever piece we’re working on becomes our favorite music at that particular time. I do have a huge admiration for anything Bach related- the mathematics and emotional depth intertwined and layered into his works is extremely mesmerizing and breathtaking.

Jackie: Another passion of yours is your career as a respiratory therapist. What made you want to study this?

Eli: I never knew I’d end up being a respiratory therapist. I initially double majored in violin performance and psychology. Quickly I realized that wasn’t the right track for me. My cousin who’s a nurse, encouraged me to try the health care field. I chose respiratory therapy and absolutely fell in love with it. Whether it’s a 12-hour night shift in the ER or the ICU, I feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction after each shift. I don’t really consider it a job. It’s what I really love to do.

IMG_0502Jackie: You just spent last week at camp, can you tell us more about that?

Eli: Yes! The camp is called Camp Breathe Happy and is mainly targeted towards inner city DC asthmatic children. We take them out to a beautiful camp site in Maryland and teach them about asthma and how to manage their asthma by exposing them to the woods and nature. Many of them have never experienced the beauty of nature, so it is heartwarming to see their reaction.

Jackie: Who’s your favorite Jew?

Eli: Haylie Ecker, the former first violinist in the electric string quartet BOND. The way she rocked her ferrari  red Starfish violin always thrilled me.

Jackie: Being Jewish seems like an integral part of your identity. What are your favorite ways to stay connected to the community?

Eli: Saturday morning services, for me, is such a long, yet elaborate and intricate reminder of our thousands of year old traditions. Even after being dispersed into the four corners of the earth, there are so many similarities in customs and rituals in each Jewish community around the world. I find that very intriguing. You’ll mostly find me at Adas Israel on Saturday mornings. It rekindles and revives the 14% Middle Eastern blood in me (according to AncestryDNA). Sixth and I and Gather the Jews have such wonderful programs that has made it so easy for young Jews like me to stay connectedIMG_7402 with the Jewish community. I also am a member of the artist selection committee at the JCC in Rockville for their excellent Polinger Arts Series program. Working with its music director, Janet Getz , is so easy and boy, I must say, we Jews have an incredible roster of talented world class classical musicicans!!

Jackie: What is your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Eli: There’s nothing like celebrating Friday night Shabbat by dining at home with friends and family. Home cooked meals, endless supply of wine, challah, signing off electronically (most times), and enjoying great conversations with your own people is heavenly and nourishing.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… it takes about seven goodbyes or so until we actually leave (no wonder it took us 40 years to get out the desert) !!

Jewish Advocate of the Week – Leah

IMG_4781

This week I interviewed Leah to be the Jewish Advocate of the Week. She was nominated for her incredible work for the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse but I also got to learn about her love of dogs, what she learned from her first year of marriage, and how learning Russian is going! Do you know someone who should be nominated as one of Gather’s Jewish Feature? Nominate them!

Jackie: You are originally from Maryland, why did you want to come back to this area?

Leah: When I was growing up in the Maryland suburbs, I knew DC as the place where my father worked and my school went on field trips. As I was finishing up graduate school in Philadelphia, I thought it would be fun to come back to the area and get to know DC as an adult.

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

Leah: How do I pick just one? I love living in Columbia Heights and being able to walk to Meridian Hill Park. Some of the best people watching (and dog watching) in town! A couple months ago, I finally went to the drum circle I’ve heard so much about. My mom was with me and we both started dancing. Now she wants to move into the city too!

Jackie: Can you tell us about your work for the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse?

Leah: Sure! I oversee JCADA’s prevention, education and outreach IMG_2415programs. Our goal is to raise awareness about the issue of domestic and dating abuse in the Jewish community in order to create a path for those experiencing abuse to get the help they need. We also have an amazing team of therapists who provide individual counseling and other support services to our clients.

Jackie: What first inspired you to work for the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse?

Leah: My background is in social work and my focus has always been positive youth development. When I was first introduced to JCADA, I was impressed by the organization’s prevention initiative, AWARE®, which was designed to empower teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge they needed to cultivate healthy relationships. It was exciting to see an organization being proactive in breaking the cycle of abuse by focusing on teaching healthy relationship skills and identifying unhealthy relationship warning signs.

IMG_3844Jackie: You are learning Russian, how is that going!? How do your in-laws think it is going?

Leah: Harasho! (Good!) At this point, I’m most comfortable talking about food and giving driving directions.  Doesn’t make me the best conversationalist but my husband’s family is always encouraging me and telling me that I ‘m doing great. His babushka (grandma) learned English at 80 so I figured I could learn Russian in my 30s.

Jackie: As a beach lover, can you recommend some beaches that are worth leaving the District for? 

Leah: I love Lewes, Delaware. There are two beaches – Lewes Beach, which is on the bay and is very calm and Cape Henlopen State Park. Most people go to Rehobeth and Bethany but I love Lewes.

horizontal 1Jackie: You just had your one year wedding anniversary – what is the biggest lesson you feel like you learned in that year?

Leah: It’s important to build time into each day for us as a couple even if it is only a few minutes.  At some point this year, my husband proposed the idea that we end each day by sharing a couple of things from our day we were grateful for. Life is moving so fast and it’s a really nice way to connect with the other person. I look forward to these moments and when one of us is traveling for work, we both miss this time.

Jackie: I know you are a dog lover, but do you have one of your own? 

Leah: No, but hopefully soon. In the meantime, I am a proud doggie aunt to my best friend’s dog, Maggie, and try to pet sit as much as possible!

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… to raise our voices on important issues, our community is better for it. During my time at JCADA, I continue to be amazed by the power of our voices when we come together. From the congregations, JCCs and other community organizations who display our purple bathroom signs to the schools who bring in our prevention programs, the commitment to ensuring every person feels safe in their homes and relationships is clear.

Jewish Resident of the Week – Emily

Emily_1

I had the opportunity to interview Emily for this week’s feature. This nomination came from Emma, our Jewish Musical Lover of the Week. I got the oppurtunity to ask Emily about her time in Moishe House, the nonprofit she started when she was in middle school and her favorite Turkish food to cook!

Jackie: How long have you lived in Bethesda?
Emily: About 6 months, but I’m a local so I’m familiar with DC/MD.

Jackie: What is your favorite part of living in Moishe House Bethesda?
Emily: Having the ability to meet so many new people in one space, helping make connections to people who are new to the area, and creating events that can welcome both introverts, extroverts, and anyone in between.

Jackie: I hear that you are Turkish and make some incredible food! What is your favorite thing to make?
Emily: That’s very sweet! I love cooking Shabbat dinners and trying to make it as close to my grandmother’s traditional recipes as I can – one of my favorite dishes is a tomato dish called “armiko” (which is more Sephardic… they always blend together in my family).  It can be served hot or cold and has tomatoes, onions, peppers and olive oil.

Emily_2Jackie: Can you tell us about the nonprofit you started in middle school?
Emily: Absolutely!  A small group of my friends and I co-founded School Girls Unite, with help from the founder of the “Youth Activism Project.” We began by just brainstorming ideas on how we could change the world – it started big with tons of ideas being thrown around, but after several meetings we narrowed it down to wanting to help girls in Mali, Africa get an education. We fundraised to setup scholarships for our sister chapter to go to school by selling school supplies. We also met with Congressman Van Hollen, and aides to leaders on Capitol Hill to discuss increasing U.S.’s funding for foreign education.

Jackie: Your birthday is on fourth of July. Does that make it the best birthday or the worst?
Emily: Worst! The classic “the fireworks are just for you” gets tiring after 25 years. Until I was about 15 my grandmother (who lived with me) would get me red, white and blue themed birthday supplies.  The plus side of it though is I’m usually with friends to see fireworks, so I do get to see people on the actual day. However planning a party around that is always tricky.

Emily_4Jackie: You just got a new bike. Are you an avid biker or trying something new?
Emily: I’m hoping to become an avid biker! I started to bike short distances on my old bike, so I thought I’d make the investment to see how far of rides I can go on. It’s been really exciting though – I went to Van Ness a few weeks ago, then Adams Morgan last weekend so I’m taking baby steps.

Jackie: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Emily: I love Shabbat dinners with groups where my friends are but where I can also meet new people. Shabbats in someone’s home is always more comforting to me than at a Synagogue, but a plus side of a Synagogue one is hearing the Rabbi’s dvar torah.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… the community strengthens.

Jewish Musical Lover of the Week – Emma!

I met Emma a while ago, and she’s definitely the kind of person you should know! She’s kind, very outgoing, and loves musicals (we both have Hamilton on our bucket list). We talked about her identity as an English ex-pat, her passion for baking, and her surprise headline in USA Today. Look out for her in the community; she’s super involved. Read more about her in this following interview.

Know someone you think should be featured as Jew of the Week? Email Jackie to nominate them!

Jackie: What brought you to DC?

Emma: I came here for college at American University, and have stuck around since then. 18-year-old me was ready to get out of South Florida’s suburbs. I now can’t stress how much I miss the beach!

Jackie: What do you do, both in your professional and personal lives?

12080034_10206684319402079_1608659411625563233_oEmma: The D.C. question! Work: public relations. Personal: I love to write; I have a side photography freelance gig. I could spend all day in a modern art museum and all night bouncing between D.C.’s amazing theater selection and/or the district’s many Jewish events. I’m practicing taking relaxing time. If not at yoga or the gym (which I count as extroverted relaxing time), I’m likely figuring out how to make healthy muffins that are actually tasty, or I’m daydreaming about whatever next trip to take (read: some international destination).

Jackie: You were born in England and so both of your parents are English. Do you ever get to go back?

Emma: I was born in London, then moved to France and California before ending up in Florida. French was my first language, English with a beautiful British accent was my second, and some version of American with some weird British remnants was my third. I call it my identity crisis. I have gone back to London several time: as a child to get my green card and in the years since to visit my grandparents. It’s funny to have such deep family roots in a country that I grew up so far away from. Yet, given the home and culture in which I grew up, I definitely maintain a connection to that identity.

Screen shot 2016-07-02 at 1.11.34 PMJackie: I heard you were published on the front cover of USA Today when you were in college. Do you mind telling us why?

Emma: I spent a year writing for USA Today while in college, first as a collegiate correspondent and then as a reporting intern. My first article assigned as an intern was on minimum wage hikes. The topic was dry and the content was so nuanced. I struggled writing the piece. The article finally got approved by editorial that Monday. I was sitting in my college reporting class the following Tuesday, my off day from my internship, when I got a text. “Grab a newspaper”, my co-intern sent. My article had made front cover of the national and international editions of the USA Today print publication. This was all while I, clad in gym clothes, trudged through my college classes before heading to my afternoon babysitting job.

Jackie: We also know you like Broadway musicals, and you know all the lyrics to Rent. What song is your favorite?

Emma: OMG yes. I fan-girled HARD when I met Anthony Rapp (original Broadway cast for Mark, one of Rent‘s main characters) at stage-door of If/Then two years ago.

I have two favorites: “Another Day” off the movie soundtrack—so much of Rent’s central theme focuses appreciating the moment to squeeze the love and joy out of our daily lives. “Another Day” captures all of that, while blending the tension of the characters’ emotions into a deeply poetic and moving song. My second favorite is the Original Broadway Cast musical version of “Christmas Bells”. It’s such a fun song that mixes so many storylines into one.

Jackie: What other musicals do you like?Screen shot 2016-07-02 at 1.12.22 PM

If/Then and Bright Star have such fantastic music. Les Miserables is a classic. Hamilton is on the Broadway bucket list.

Jackie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Shabbat. I know it’s not a one-off holiday, but I grew up in a family that did Shabbat dinner each Friday, and it’s a tradition I’ve since continued. I think any excuse to bring people around a table to enjoy in each other’s company is truly special. Shabbat, for me, is just that.

Jackie: Fill in this sentence. When the Jews Gather…
…we add another knot to the thread connecting us all through the generations.

Jewish Community Organizer of the Week – Jordan

I met Jordan and heard all about his work as a participant of the Jeremiah Fellowship. I thought he would be a great addition to our blog so I asked him a few questions. Learn more about Jordan Bleck, this week’s Jewish Community Organizer of the Week! (Or as he may call himself, a “Justice Jew.”) Read on to find out more:

Know someone you think should be featured as Jew of the Week? Email Jackie to nominate them!


Jackie: What first brought you to DC?

10626565_1528220964077112_6596191237203903372_nJordan: Back in 2010, all that I wanted to do was international development work. My impression of DC before moving here was that it was all business and had no spirit of its own, and I have never been happier to be wrong. I spent several years working with an NGO that sent me to Uganda to teach people how to build bicycles out of bamboo. That project has now ended and I’m focusing my energy on building up our local communities, and celebrating the breadth and diversity that DC has to offer.

Jackie: You just bought a new house. What excites you most about the community you’re living in?

Jordan:  The community in Brookland is a really wonderful place and is unlike anywhere else I’ve lived in DC. Even though we’ve only just moved here, my housemates and I feel like we’re getting to know our neighbors quickly and easily. Before we moved in, the whole block put together a party to say goodbye to the previous owner (who moved down to Arizona with his partner after they met across the backyard fence), and to get to meet all of us. My housemates and I were totally blown away; this feels so far beyond the idyllic motif of being able to knock on a door to borrow some sugar, and I feel so lucky to have found it.

10174980_10201437591660412_7016019028852993923_nJackie: You just finished the Jeremiah Fellowship. Can you explain what this Fellowship is and
share what your experience was like doing this work?

Jordan: The Jeremiah Fellowship is a social justice organizing training program. It’s run by Jews United for Justice, which is an organization that strives to attain justice and equality for all DC residents through a lens of Jewish values. They are some of the most driven and impactful people I’ve ever met. The Fellowship is all about learning how justice work is such an integral part of Jewish culture and how to do it in a sustainable way. I started Jeremiah with no organizing background at all, and through the Fellowship, have participated in both of JUFJ’s current campaigns: DC Affordable Housing and Paid Family and Medical Leave. I feel like I learned an incredible amount through the Fellowship and am excited to put it to good use to make DC a better place for everybody to live.

Jackie: What is the biggest thing you will walk away from the Fellowship with?

Jordan: The best thing that I got out of the Jeremiah Fellowship is an incredibly powerful support network. Organizing can be really scary, and sometimes social justice campaigns feel like they’re an uphill battle. However, through the Fellowship I really feel like I can wield the strength of a vast network of justice-minded folks, especially the other people from my fellowship. Sharing that experience with a dozen people–all with different backgrounds, but all fighting for the same thing–was incredibly powerful.

Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC?12794609_10104486187301538_5222489486969859375_n

Jordan: I am always happiest when I’m outside, so any favorite place is going to reflect that. I think if I had to pick just one it would be the C&O Canal trail (where I absolutely love to take my bike and go camping). Trail running in Rock Creek Park or a picnic in the Arboretum are also close to the top of that list so it’s really hard to say.

Jackie: You are a huge biker, anywhere you like to bike with Jews?

Jordan: The havdallah bike ride, run every other month by DC Jews on Bikes, is a fantastic event and a great way to connect with the Jewish community. It is actually the brainchild of Lisa Kaneff, who started the ride while doing Gather’s Open Doors Fellowship, and it’s brought together a really stellar group of people. We leave from Sixth & I, ride for a bit, have a havdallah service, and end up at a bar to welcome in the new week. It’s also a really gentle ride, so anyone who has any interest in riding bikes should do it. To anybody reading this: bring your bike or check out a Bikeshare and join us!

Jackie: Who are your favorite Jews?

10174858_10100747494262377_6462863739471430286_nJordan: I’d have to say that Justice Jews are my favorite Jews. I’m living with three of them (who had all done Jeremiah before I did) and they make up a huge portion of my network here in DC. If I had a nickel for each Justice Jew I know who is working on an incredible project here in DC, elsewhere in the country, or abroad, I’d have…a heck of a lot of nickels. Instead, I have a wealth of people inspiring hope everywhere I look. Therefore, I can continue to believe that, despite all of its chaos, the world is still moving in the right direction.

Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

…the world will be repaired (as soon as we’ve all had bagels and coffee).

Jewish Artisan of the Week – Greg

I met Greg at Adas Israel’s Late Night Lounge: Shavuot Experience. We were talking around 1 am and he was telling me about how he started his work as an artisan butcher.I knew this was a great story to share with our community and asked him to be this week’s Jewish Artisan of the Week.

Know of anyone you think should be featured as Jew of the Week? Email Jackie to nominate them!

Jacgreg3kie: Your past as a chef is quite interesting. You were trained in a kosher cooking school in Jerusalem. Are you still cooking?

Greg: I’ve left professional cooking for the time being. Although I’m a good cook and have the skills to be a good chef, I didn’t do great as a line cook, and the stress and hours were too much for me. I reached my goal of a Michelin starred restaurant in NYC and it still wasn’t the right fit. I work as a whole animal butcher now and I love it, it enables me to work normal hours, still be hands on with food, and be much more strident about my idealism in food sourcing. For instance I only work on pastured animals – no factory farmed meat crosses my butcher block. Happy animals produce better meat, no question, not to mention much safer meat, and properly managed pasturing of grazing animals is actually carbon positive. So where as commodity beef is one of the worst industries in America as far as carbon footprint, the beef I work on is actually helping to reverse that effect, trapping that CO2 into healthier pastures and nutrient dense, super meaty beef.

Jackie: Where can we try the food that you make?

Greg: Since I don’t cook professionally anymore, finding my food involves being my friend, haha. We host shabbat brunches from time to time and since it stopped being work, my home cooking has come to life again, my fiancee and I really love hosting together.

greg6Jackie: What is your favorite thing about living in DC?

Greg: I grew up in NoVa so it’s nice to be close to home, but still far enough that we have our own life here in DC and can visit NoVa to see friends and family. Also, the food scene here is booming. It’s a really exciting time to be working in food in DC, this fall DC gets put on the global radar for restaurants with the release of the first DC Michelin guide. I can’t wait to see what the french food power elite think of our budding fooding culture.

Jackie: Can you tell us about your time as a hype dancer? Also what exactly is a hype dancer?

Greg: Many of the readers may remember the people dressed in all black that came out with the DJ’s at bar mitzvahs and helped get the dance floor going, as well as lead line dances and facilitate the games like coke & pepsi… thats a hype dancer. They also get hired by night clubs from time to time. I did it on weekends my senior year of high school, and it was a lot of fun. I loved dancing anyways, so why not get paid to do it? Who knows, I may have even danced at the bar or bat mitzvah of someone reading this!

greg4Jackie: You are getting married in September. Will you be using some of the dance skills at your wedding?

Greg: I sure hope the old hype dancing days will come in handy at the wedding, since my fiancee and I have catering and event planning experience and are pretty particular about how we host, we’re doing everything for our wedding ourselves. So no DJ, and no hype dancers. We’re thinking we can do a pretty good job getting the dance floor going ourselves.

Jackie: I hear you are quite the handyman! What kind of furniture have you built for your home?

Greg: In high school I built sets for the theater department and worked as a contractors apprentice, plus my dad and I finished our basement, built a porch under the deck and a play house for my little sister, so I’ve always felt confident building a few things as needed. This year I built our radiator covers, a freestanding closet/wardrobe, plus our raised bed garden and compost bins; our bed frame, pantry unit, and my butcher block work table moved with us from NYC. I’ve got a few more projects coming up this fall, but someday I’d like to build a sustainable off grid house… we’ll see if I get there.

greg5Jackie: What does your personal Jewish community look like?

Greg: Right now our personal Jewish community is still building. In NYC we’d built a great group through our shabbat dinner circles, and before that we lived in Blacksburg and both worked for the Hillel at Virginia Tech. Here we have a few friends already, but we still need to build that kind of thriving Jewish foodie crew we had in NYC. I’ve been really happy to find so many Jewish food idealists to latch onto. A friend of ours from Hillel at VT runs the CSA that we’re members of at Whitehall Farm in Clifton, VA. I love talking to her about some of the really radical farms she’s worked on and how it ties into Jewish values around intentionality and conscientiousness with regards to food.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather… we grab hold of that thread of heritage that ties us back to thousands of years of tradition and get to weave it into the tapestry of our modern lives.

Meet the New Community Coordinator – Shaina!

This week, the Gather team got13406786_10154165669345120_4241892941627554331_n a little bigger! Shaina Dorow joined us as the new Community Coordinator. She just graduated from Brandeis University, and she is excited to learn more about DC and the Jewish community. Learn more about her in our interview with her and email her for coffee to get to know her more!

Jackie: Tell us about yourself and what you’ve been up to until now…

Shaina: First of all, I just graduated Brandeis University (let’s play Jewish Geography?) and studied Sociology. Throughout college, I did a bunch of volunteering. I just recently moved to DC and so I’ve been just getting to know the city (and used to this awful humidity). I enjoy art, theater, cooking, exploring new places, and meeting new people.

Jackie: You are brand new to the city, how do you plan to get a lay of the land?

13238922_10153649524203170_4354411583136149059_nShaina: This is such a good question because I’m still figuring it out! I would love to go out and get coffee or drinks all over the city and just get to know the city geographically. I want to start walking around and seeing different things. If anyone wants to explore the city with me or has some great recommendation on where to start, feel free to reach out!

Jackie: What motivated you to work in the Jewish community?

Shaina: It’s always been something I’ve been interested in doing. Ever since I was 10 years old,  I’ve been going to Jewish summer camp (this is my first summer not at camp in 12 years). I did NFTY in high school then went to Brandeis; I always have surrounded myself with Jews. Through these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about the nuances within the Jewish community and learned how I fit in to this framework. Now I believe it’s my turn to help others and to continue the learning myself. Due to my many experiences, I’ve seen first-hand what a Jewish community can do for people and for myself.

Jackie: What are you most excited about as you start with Gather the Jews?

12219539_10153669314885196_8268728210448149591_nShaina: I love talking to new people and figuring out what they’re interested in. I’ve always been passionate about people’s personal stories and therefore always strive to make people feel comfortable. I am excited to transfer these skills and passions to this job. I’m also really excited to get to know the Jewish community in this city.

Jackie: What is your new role with Gather?

Shaina: I’m the Community Coordinator. This is a brand new position at Gather, and I have been brought on to engage people who recently arrived in DC. It is tough to transition to a new city, especially when you don’t know anyone. I will be here to help them navigate that transition, especially since I’m going through it as well. I am also excited that it is now my job to grab coffee with people and get to know them! 

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 12.16.37 PMJackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Shaina: Does Josh Lyman count even though he’s fictional?

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Shaina: Passover. It’s such an event in my family, and I can’t imagine life without it.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

…there will be loads of good food. Probably bagels.