GatherDC’s winter 2018 Beyond the Tent retreat was an amazing experience for young adults to get outside of DC for a weekend, unpack 21st century Judaism, and explore their Jewish identity over deep, meaningful conversations. Among the 30 participants, zero were named Rachel…but FOUR were named Ben! This week, the Bens of Beyond the Tent share their unique perspectives on Jewish DC and life in general – proving, once and for all, that not all Bens are the same. Get to know them…
Allie: Where does your unique name come from? Do any of you have a cool story behind why you were named Ben?
Ben D.: I was going to be named after my grandfather, Sidney, which is now my middle name. As a result, my hebrew name is Simcha.
Ben F.: It was passed down from my great-grandfather.
Ben R.: I don’t know. Does that make me a bad Jew? Fake Jew? Typical Jew?
Ben L.: No, but my family and I grew a bit tired of our names last year (we’ve been using them for decades…) and so we used nicknames for a few good months. I went by Josh.
Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?
Ben D.: DC brings the best and the brightest young people from around the country, who come here specifically to make a difference in the world. DC is a springboard for young leaders.
Ben F.: Great collection of educated citizens that aren’t afraid to challenge the establishment. Ask questions, drive for change, and push forward.
Ben R.: All within a few miles and by way of a mass-public transportation train, there’s movies, comedy, craft beer, rock climbing, pour-over coffee shops, and challenging hikes. What else is there in life?
Ben L.: The monuments at night.
Allie: If you could pick a new name for yourself right now, what would it be and why?
Ben D.: I usually go by my full name “Ben Droz”, (rhymes with “Ben Rose”). I like it just the way it is.
Ben F.: Staying with Ben. Simple name but yet plenty of clever nicknames.
Ben R.: When I was 26 years old, my first book was published. I had unlimited options for the name that was published on the cover: I could have chosen Ben, Benjy, Ben-jammin, Ben-jammmmmmmmmin, Benjamin, or an alias. I chose Benjamin, the name by which my loving parents chose to call me. And, I’m sticking with it.
Ben L.: Josh. Worked before. Could work again.
Allie: I hear you all recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat with Rabbi Aaron! First, how was it? Second, was it weird, awesome, or both meeting 3 other Bens?
Ben D.: Beyond the Tent was a great experience, to get out of the DC bubble and make time for deep reflection. It helped to highlight that any person can define Judaism for themselves. I am used to there being other Bens around throughout my life, which is one reason why I usually go by my full name. But this time, we made up more than 10% of the whole group, so yes, that was both weird and awesome.
Ben F.: Beyond the Tent was a mind-changing experience. Rabbi Aaron encouraged us to ask difficult questions and not to be afraid to stand behind our beliefs. In terms of meeting all the Bens, I think we embraced it – it was like our own little breakout group in itself.
Ben R.: Beyond the Tent impacted my life positively, partly because I was one of four individuals named Ben. Never again in my life, I’m certain of this, will I be in the same place with three other friends named Ben. That’s “Beyond the Awesome”.
Ben L.: It was a thought provoking weekend. I’m a regular attendee of the weekly secret underground gatherings of the Bens, so nothing too new.
Allie: Favorite thing to do on a free Sunday in the city?
Ben D.: There are always so many events in DC that I like to see what is going on and base my decision on that. Last weekend I randomly went to the Zoo, which was fun.
Ben F.: Go for a run along the National Mall.
Ben R.: Watch professional football. Oh wait, I live and die by the Washington Redskins and football season is over? Dang it!
Ben L.: Park. I really enjoy not having to use the meter.
Allie: Favorite Jewish food? Ben R., we already know you hate hummus…
Ben D.: Chicken Soup.
Ben F.: Might be a classic choice, but Apples and Honey.
Ben R.: [haha. Yep]. Not hummus.
Ben L.: My mom’s challah. All of her’s are good, but I’d say that 1 out of 4 is truly something divine, especially when my two year-old niece helps. Shout out to Maya, Talia, and Andrew, my favorite Jews in DC!
Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?
Ben D.: I had a spiritual experience at Burning Man and now want to incorporate spirituality into my life in new ways.
Ben F.: I was born without two normal teeth and with all 4 wisdom teeth. Call me strange I guess!
Ben R.: Every morning, I touch my three tattoos and say aloud a blessing of gratitude about having my third chance in life and about accepting myself and others as we are. Thanks to Beyond the Tent, I realize now that, for me, this is a deeply Jewish and spiritual ritual.
Ben L.: I used to tear it up at table tennis tournaments as a kid.
Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?
Ben D.: Passover, because there is so much relating to the holiday (I follow sephardic food rules so that I can still enjoy rice and lentils). I like to celebrate by re-interpreting the Haggadah from a post-modern perspective.
Ben F.: Rosh Hashanah. And I try to spend time back home to reminisce on the year prior and look at new ways to seize the future.
Ben R.: Purim because my friend is baking me hamentashen. Ask me again in April, and I may say a different holiday if a friend bakes me something else.
Ben L.: Havdalah. I like to hear the candle’s flame slowly go out in the wine. Judaism places a lot of emphasis on transitions throughout one’s day, week, or year and when in crisis, and I think that’s smart.
Allie: Complete the sentence: When the Jews of DC Gather…
Ben D.: They will always find connection and meaning.
Ben F.: If meeting for the first time, you’ll probably get a first question like what you do for a living or where are you from.
Ben R.: They still congregate around the hummus.
Ben L.: You’ll never be the one with the best question or the best answer. That means it’ll be pretty exciting.