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

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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.

Shalom, Self-Care!

I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a LOT to deal with.

From the wild political antics that scroll across my computer daily, to the devastating natural disasters seemingly every other week – all of the noise made me realize it can get really hard to distance yourself and take a break – even for just one moment.

There’s been a lot of talk about “self-care” lately. Perhaps you have seen Instagram photos of your friend’s toes poking out of a bubble bath, or seen someone tweet “#treatyoself” before diving headfirst into a pound-sized bag of M&Ms. You may have even snapped that photo of the brownies you made yourself. There’s no shame – we’ve all been there!

But self-care is something much deeper than just taking some time off to color in a coloring book, or ordering that extra side of fries with your dinner. Self-care is listening to yourself and your needs, and doing what’s best for you in that moment, to make tomorrow just a little bit easier.

A quick word of warning – sometimes listening to your own needs is really, really hard. Sometimes, it’s cleaning out those storage boxes in your closet because you know you’ve got your ex-partner’s sweater and you’ll never actually wear it/repurpose it/burn it in a bonfire in your backyard (just me?). Sometimes, it’s signing up for that sign language class and committing to going every week, even if it’s right after work on a Friday afternoon. And sometimes self-care might actually be that bubble bath, and those brownies, and that bag of M&Ms. What’s most important is taking time to intentionally recognize what part of your self needs that care, and listening to it.

Judaism has always been a major proponent of self-care, even from ancient times. Nearly everyone has heard the great Hillel quote, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” In other words, if you aren’t taking care of yourself – heart, mind, body, soul – who will?

With all of that in mind, I wanted to provide a few simple tips to ensure you give your whole self the self-care you may need. All of these tips are author-tested and Judaism-approved.

Add something small but meaningful to your routine so it becomes habit.

“Customs are more powerful than laws.” – The Talmud

I’m the first to admit that when it comes to routines, I love them – but I’m terrible at them. I’ll write down in my planner and add to my phone calendar that I’m going to go to the grocery store EVERY Saturday at 8am. I’ll feel so accomplished, and “adult” and take pride in myself. Three weeks later, I’ll wake up at noon for the third Saturday in a row, and order pizza two hours later since there’s still no food in the house. *Womp*

But, despite this example, there’s actual proof that adding a small task to your routine can eventually turn into a helpful habit. So, consider a tiny to-do and start working it into your schedule. Last year, I started going to bed in my gym clothes and packing a bag with work clothes before going to sleep. At first, it felt silly. But, I then realized that by waking up in gym clothes and having everything else ready to go for the day ahead, I had no more excuses and simply started going to the gym. By the time I realized that I am infinitely happier on days I’ve worked out, I no longer felt weird going to sleep in exercise shorts and a tank top. It’s a reminder that I’m going to have a better tomorrow because of what I’m wearing to bed tonight. It’s a little note to myself, that I care about my mental and physical health.

It doesn’t have to be a life-changing, schedule-altering routine change. Simply commit to reading for an hour on a Sunday morning, when you’d otherwise be watching Netflix. Or, download an app like Duolingo or TED, so you have something educational to learn from on those long Metro commutes. Make a standing lunch date with a friend at your job instead of always eating at your desk. Little, simple everyday changes can have a huge impact on your life in the long run.

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Do something kind for someone else.

“I do not want followers who are righteous. Rather, I want followers who are too busy doing good that they won’t have time to do bad.”  – Rabbi Menachem Mendel

Sometimes, the best way to clear your head is to focus on something that has nothing to do with you. What better way that to do this than by helping out a fellow human? There are so many places in DC that are actively looking for volunteers to help our community grow and thrive. Check out this blog post for local volunteering ideas.

Also, doing something kind doesn’t just mean volunteering. Bake a cake for a friend who’s going through a tough time at work. Call your aunt who adores you, but you forgot to talk to until she sent you a Hanukkah card. Write a handwritten letter to your best friend about that time you both did that thing and it was SO FUNNY – and send it in the mail. A little kindness goes a very long way, not only for the person you’re giving the kindness to – but also for yourself. It’s contagious!

Find a cause you believe in and do what you can to support it.

“I don’t speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don’t have the power to remain silent.” – Rabbi A.Y. Kook

During the last year, I watched many disheartened friends slowly discover a new passion or cause that they felt strongly about, and then jump headfirst into helping out. For one friend, it was calling representatives in Congress to voice dissent or support on certain issues. For another friend, it was hosting themed “parties” where attendees donated a certain amount to a charity that the party was themed around. (i.e. a Red-Cross themed party where there was “blood” punch and cupcakes with the iconic logo.)

For me, personally, I started researching discussions in my area about the causes I cared about most and attending when I could. Slowly, that blossomed into me going to workshops and conferences, and moving from attendee to presenter. Even though I’m not donating money I don’t have, or committing time I can’t promise, I feel like I’m genuinely making a difference. This sense of fulfillment has done wonders for personal happiness and health!

#TreatYoself

“The loving man rewards himself.” – Proverbs, 11:17

Okay, I know I poked a little fun at the idea of treating yourself earlier. But, I can’t deny the healing habits of pampering yourself! I say, have the cookie. Wear the silky pajamas. Do something nice just for you. Treating yourself can mean a full-day shopping spree, taking yourself on a date to a your favorite museum, a trip home to surprise your Bubbe, or a scenic hiking adventure through Rock Creek Park. My favorite thing to do is to buy the five-dollar flower bouquet from the man outside of my Metro stop on the way to work. They’re always fresh and beautiful, and light up my windowless office cube.

Reminding yourself – in a tangible way – that you’re worth the cost, time, and energy to be happy is an excellent way to keep that thought in your head all year long.

I hope you enjoyed these few ideas on how to take care of your whole self this upcoming year. If you have any other great self-care tips, please post them in the comments below. I hope you have nothing but happy and healthy days ahead in 2018!

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Alannah Johnson is part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! She is a born-and-bred New Englander who now calls both DC and Central Florida home. She is one of the many folks who moved to the District for school, and just never left. She has worked in higher education for nearly a decade. She loves dedicating time to “studying the soul of Judaism,” which ranges from reading books on comparative religions, to attending a different Friday night Shabbat service location for thirteen full weeks. When she isn’t watching the “Swedish Chef” videos on YouTube, she’s probably scribbling in a journal while waiting for a bus in the rain.

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.

18+ Ways to Volunteer in DC this Holiday Season!

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and holiday parties, funky Hanukkah sweaters and even funkier Hanukkah gifts from your great aunt or your office secret snowflake. Even though everyone loves socks, scarves, and Starbucks gift cards, why not consider making this time of year more about giving gifts instead of getting them? Here are 18+ amazing opportunities to give back this winter – which one will you choose?

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

For foodies:

For those great with Bubbes:

  • D25 Day of Service: Monday, December 25th
    • Spend your Christmas Day with the EDCJCC giving back to the local DC community before hitting the movie theater and eating Chinese food.YP EVENT: There’s a special Columbia Heights-based session for young professionals through EntryPointDC that you can find here. These YPs will be visiting low-income and food insecure seniors through We Are Family DC. If this D25 activity doesn’t sound like you, be sure to check out the other D25 volunteering options including the Cookie Drive going on now through December 23rd!

For the super crafty:

For animal lovers:

For Northern Virginians:

For those with really busy schedules:

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

  • Coat Drive with ThriveDC: Drop off between January 8th and January 11th
    • ThriveDC helps those facing homeless across DC. You can contribute anytime by providing a warm coat to a person in need through their winter coat drive.
  • Capital Area Food Bank at Giant
    • Headed to Giant to buy canned beans for your famous chili? Buy an extra can for the food bank and drop it off in the collection cart on your way out of the store.
    • A loyal Safeway customer instead? Make a small donation at the register to help provide food for residents in need.

For those with volunteering in their New Year’s Resolutions:

Consider becoming a committed volunteer in 2018 at one of the organizations below.

For those who live through their phone calendars (I’m right there with ya), here’s a list fit for that “Add to Calendar” button:

December 13th, 6:30-8 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 16th, 8-11 am: Wreath Laying at the Arlington National Cemetery

December 17th, 8:45 am-12 pm or later: DC Central Kitchen Volunteering and Brunch with Moishe House Capitol Hill

December 17th, 11:45 am-1:30 pm: Doing Good with JFE at N Street Village

December 17th, 1:30-3:30 pm: Pre-D25 Gift Wrapping at the EDCJCC

December 17th, 6:30-8:45 pm: Patricia Handy Place for Women Volunteering with YP@AI

December 20th, 5-8 pm: Wrap gifts with We Are Family

December 25th, 10 am-2:30 pm: D25 Day of Service with EntryPointDC

January 4th, 7-9 pm: Hunger Action for DC Central Kitchen at EDCJCC

 

About the Author: Shira Cohen is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! When not writing about volunteer opportunities in DC, she works in student life and disability services at a local law school. Originally from Charleston, SC, Shira loves DC Library $1 book sales and District Taco.

 

 

 

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.