Posts

Meet Jess and Sophie: Jewish Do-Gooders of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Sophie and Jess are Do-Gooders. In their spare time, they do things like volunteer at local soup kitchens, give back to Jewish non-profit organizations, and plan community-wide days of service. Get to know these two mensches as we chat about french fries, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and giving back.

From left: Jess Sher and Sophie Buslik

Allie: Describe each other in one word.

Jess: Radiant, giving off good, positive vibes. Sorry, that’s more than one word!

Sophie: Dedicated, driven.

Allie: Where does your passion for volunteering come from?

Jess: Volunteering – whether serving on a board or helping with a one time event – was really important in my household growing up. Learning this from my grandparents and parents is what led me into the social action world.  Community service is for others, but it also feels really good to make small changes and small positive impacts.

So, when I moved to DC, I started volunteering for The Jewish Federation and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). I also enjoy volunteering at places like N Street Village, or helping build homes where you can get your hands dirty and know that you’re making someone’s home a happy place.

Sophie: I love being a part of making our community better and engaging other people to do that. When I started working after college, I felt like I had a lot of free time outside of work so I started volunteering with my company (Booz Allen Hamilton) at places like SOME and Miriam’s KitchenLater on, my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to Federation, and I wound up getting involved with the volunteer aspects of the organization. I love the idea that even if you don’t have money to give, you can give in other ways to help those who can’t help themselves.

Allie: I hear that you’re volunteering to make Good Deeds Day happen this year. Tell me about that!

Sophie: Good Deeds Day (which is Sunday, April 29) is DC-area’s day to give back, and is part of the global day of service where millions around the world volunteer to help their community.

Allie: What Good Deeds Day service project should our GatherDC readers sign up for?

Jess: I’d say the project with N Street Village, to prepare/serve meals to homeless and low-income women. There’s also an opportunity to make meals for those facing homelessness at DC Central Kitchen.

Sophie: There’s a service project specifically for young adults to help out at Covenant House, which provides resources to homeless, disconnected, and exploited youth.

Allie: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Sophie: “Be where your feet are.”

Jess: I really like that! So important to be present, be in the moment.

Allie: If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be?

Jess: Taylor Kitsch, but only if he came as his character Tim Riggins from “Friday Night Lights”.

Sophie: JTT. Jonathan Taylor Thomas circa 1997.

Allie: If you could eat only 3 things for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Jess: My mom’s challah. Summer strawberries. Chicago Giordano’s deep dish pizza.

Sophie: Crabs. French fries. I really only have two.

Allie: Who is the biggest Do-Gooder you know?

Sophie: Jose Andres – I always see him giving back locally and around the world. I love how he uses his work and passion for food to help others.

Jess: My parents. They give a lot of their time, talents, and treasures to make an impact in St. Petersburg, FL (where I grew up). I’d be lucky if I could make just part of the impact that they’ve made.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Sophie/Jess: They Do Good!

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Rachel: Jewish Bicyclist of the Week!

Finishing the RAGBRAI at the Mississippi River

She rode her bike across Iowa. She hosts themed Shabbats. She volunteers for her temple. She writes for Petworth News. Is there anything the marvelous Ms. (Rachel) Maisler doesn’t do?! Find out with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Rachel: I’m originally from Jupiter, Florida, and came to DC after college because there were jobs. It was during a recession so those were hard to come by. And I wound up staying because I started to get involved with aging policy at the Department of Health and Human Services right before the Affordable Care Act was passed. I got to get both a front row seat of history, and got to actually help write history.

Allie: How did you become a DC bicyclist?

Rachel: I’ve always liked riding, and I eventually realized it was much quicker to get to work for me via bicycle than metro, so I started bike-commuting. I actually started a social media account called “View from the Handlebars” with pics from my commute. Then, I wound up getting involved with a group called “DC Jews on Bikes” that was created by past Jewish Girl of the Week Lisa Kaneff [Editor’s Note: Lisa started this group as part of her Open Doors Fellowship capstone project]. Lisa was so friendly and had so much energy that motivated me to get involved in the group. I loved it – we would ride bikes on Saturday at sunset, and then celebrate havdalah together.

Allie: What’s the coolest bike ride you’ve ever done?

Rachel: Last summer, I rode my bike across Iowa (411 miles) as a part of RAGBRAI.

Allie: I hear you do some pretty cool advocacy work in DC on behalf of cyclists, tell me a little bit about that. 

Getting sworn into the BAC with Council member Brandon Todd

Rachel: I was politically appointed to work on the DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) as a representative of Ward 4. The BAC is tasked with advising the city council with bicycle transportation matters, and I’m very passionate about finding ways for bicyclists to share the street. 

Allie: What are your goals on the Bicycle Advisory Council?

Rachel: To make sure that we’re aware of the barriers facing cyclists, and how we can continue to integrate cycling into our neighborhoods as a viable means of transportation and recreation. And to make sure we educate people about cyclists and safety.

Ball themed Shabbat during the World Cup

Allie: Tell me a little bit about how you stay connected Jewishly in DC?

Rachel: I’m part of a monthly Shabbat club, which is an amazing group of friends who get together one Friday a month. It’s been going on for 6-7 years now! Every Shabbat we have a theme, from using special ingredients like beer to making foods that are different colors of the rainbow. We always pick a “best dish winner” and said winner gets an amazing prize –  like a jar of gefilte fish.

I’m also a member of Ohev Sholom synagogue, which I love. There are a lot of incredible people there, like the Maharat – Ruth Friedman, who is an amazing ordained female rabbi. I’m part of the synagogue’s Tzedek Committee, which helps our friends and neighbors who need it.

Allie: What do you do as a part of the Tzedek Committee at Ohev Shalom?

Rachel: We do what we can to help those who most need it. Right now, we’re helping to resettle a family who immigrated here from Afghanistan. We recently helped a wounded warrior family for Christmas through the Operation Ward 57 program, and we coordinate our shul’s Good Deeds Day efforts – like making sandwiches, doing a coat drive, collecting school supplies, etc.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Rachel: My grandmother. She’s a Holocaust survivor and has been through more than anything I could ever imagine. But she wakes up with a smile on her face every day. She continues to be an inspiration, and is never afraid to tell her story.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax and destress?

Rachel: It’s always nice to go on a long bike ride with good friends on a great trail. Also, hiking in Shenandoah, or kayaking on the Potomac or Anacostia rivers. I also enjoy writing, and am a contributor to Petworth News!

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rachel: Anything is possible.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Top 5 Reasons To Volunteer this Good Deeds Day

GDD2016_buttonRnd3How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

As Jews, we have the extraordinary and critical commandment to leave the world just a little bit better than the way we found it. We are told to live our lives not solely focused on our own pursuits of success, but on the success, justice and welfare of society at large.

The world depends on individuals realizing that we are not independent of anyone or anything on earth – but that we are interconnected. The hostile anger and bigotry of one person can spread hate across a nation, just as the loving kindness of another can create lasting peace. Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to share our goodness with the world. We are here for only a limited time, so, as Anne Frank once noted, why wait a single moment before starting to make our difference?

It was in this spirit that in 2007, renowned businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison launched Good Deeds Day, the international day for those of all ages and backgrounds to join together in the pursuit of the idea that, “if people will think good, speak good and do good, the circles of goodness will grow in the world.” Since Arison and the organization Ruach Tova first launched Good Deeds Day in Israel, it has grown exponentially. Today, more than half a million volunteers in 90+ countries across the globe participate in this phenomenal day of service. Among them are more than 10,000 Do Gooders right here in Greater Washington.

On April 10th, for the fifth year in a row, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will host The Sara and Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day. Together, community members from across the DC area will gather for more than 200 projects and put our own spin on Arison’s idea into practice: that every single person can do something good, be it big or small.

In honor of Federation’s five remarkable years of planning and hosting Good Deeds Day in Greater Washington, here are the Top 5 reasons why you should sign up to join us on April 10:

  1. Get the “Helper’s High”: Positive Psychology has conducted extensive research studies proving that those who take the time to give back to others are happier than those who do not. According to the Americans’ Changing Lives long-term research project, “volunteer work is good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteer are happier and experience better physical health and less depression.” – Peggy Thoits, a lead researcher on the study.
  2. Meet Some Really Nice People: It turns out that when you volunteer with other people who are choosing to spend their Sunday make the community a better place – you meet awesome people.
  3. Make Bubbe Proud: All your life, your family has been spending every waking moment (subconsciously or not) trying to turn you into a mensch. Now’s your chance to show them – and thousands across the Greater Washington community – that you are a “Do Gooder.” You are someone who lives with the Jewish values you learned in Hebrew school to be kind, loving, respectful, hardworking and passionate about giving back.
  4. Make a (Real) Difference: This is not just a day of feel-good fluff. On April 10th you’ll put your best self to work and get your hands dirty to make a real difference for those in need. From gardening and planting, to packing and delivering food to local seniors, to making care bags for homeless children and blankets to keep hospice patients warm – check out more than 200 projects available to choose from!
  5. Forget Your Problems: At the end of the day, making time to step out of your own head, consider the plight of others and make a difference, however big or small, to improve their lives, is a powerful feeling. Every single day, we encounter people who are facing some sort of struggle. Yet, often times we are far too caught up in our own plans, logistics, relationships, career planning (ad infinitum) that we become unable to notice or be there for others.

On Good Deeds Day, you’ll have the incredible opportunity to pause, get outside of yourself and lend your time, your kindness and your resources to help those in need throughout our community. I can’t wait to meet you – and Do Good with you – on April 10th!

Allison Cossman is an Account Executive at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.