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Meet Monica: Jewish DC-Lover of the Week!

Monica Arkin is DC’s biggest cheerleader. Although she currently lives – and works – in Bethesda, Maryland, she never ceases on an opportunity to take full advantage of all that our great nation’s capitol has to offer. From day-dreaming of free afternoons laying on the National Mall to enthusiastically attending Jewish events across the city to taste-testing hamantaschen at local DC bakeries, Monica is here to reinvigorate your love for the District. Read on to get to know this vivacious human!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Monica: I’m from Cleveland originally and went to University of Michigan (go blue!), where I majored in Psych and minored in Hebrew. After college, I knew that I wanted to go to Israel to learn more about PTSD in kids and adolescents. In Israel there is so much trauma, which is unfortunate, but given the circumstances they do a really good job of producing research about trauma and resiliency.

I went to Israel after graduating, and it was great. After a year in Israel, I decided to come back to the US, I and started looking for jobs online. My cousin sent me an opening for a job in Bethesda – to be  a research assistant for a nonprofit, nonpartisan social science research organization called Child Trends. My first thought of Bethesda is that its where Carmen lived in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but when I looked it up on GoogleMaps I realized how close it was to DC! The job description was amazing, and I knew I liked DC from the two times I had been here. I got the job, and moved here, and have been pleasantly surprised time and time again with DC.

Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?

Monica: Honestly, I think it’s really special that our Jewish community has GatherDC, and no other city has anything like that [Editor’s Note: Monica received zero compensation for this shoutout — #humblebrag.]. It is really cool that every week I get one email that shows me what’s going on across the spectrum of observance levels, across all these different areas. One weekend, there might be a sephardic dinner and a social action Tikkun Leil Shabbat. If I wanted to, I could go to two Jewish events in DC every night.

Allie: Speaking of your passion for Jewish DC life, what was it like to be a part of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship? [NOTE: The Open Doors Fellowship is a 6-month fellowship that trains a group of 8-12 young adults from across DC to become go-to leaders, conveners, and facilitators of DC Jewish life.]

Monica: It was really fun! We had a really good group of people. It was cool meeting other people in the Jewish community, and we did a lot of community mapping so I was able to learn about every Jewish organization in DC. Now, when I meet someone new, I’m able to be a sort of unofficial ambassador for Jewish life and can connect people with things they might like.

Allie: I hear you volunteer for the Israeli American Council (IAC) – tell me about that!

Monica: I volunteer for a youth group – Eitanim – through the IAC. It’s a biweekly youth group for high schoolers, half of whom are American Jews and half of whom are Israelis. It’s cool because I get to interact with people of different ages, not only those in their 20s and 30s.

Allie: Awesome! Now, let’s get to know some of your favorite things…what’s your favorite show to binge watch right now?

Monica: Blackish. I love it.

Allie: Favorite way to spend a free Sunday in the city?

Monica: I would probably sit outside at Tryst and each lunch. Then, I’d walk all the way from Tryst to the National Mall and just sit on the Mall with friends.

Allie: Favorite Jewish food?

Monica: At the moment, I’m into hamantaschen. Yesterday, I got these amazing hamantaschen from Sunflower Bakery – triple chocolate and cookie dough filled.

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Monica: Passover! This year, I’m celebrating it in a very special way. we’re doing Pesach in Cleveland for Seder, which we always do. But, the week before we’re doing a huge “Pre-sach” (AKA: pre-Pesach) ski trip in Breckenridge, Colorado. My cousins are all going – family is coming in from California, Cleveland, and London. We’re going to do a Seder the week before Passover when we’re all together.

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

Monica: Jewish geography is played.

 

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 Truman: Jewish Matzah Ball Lover of the Week!

From WWOOFing on an organic farm in Texas, to working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to meeting his girlfriend on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat – Truman Braslaw has some fascinating life stories to share. Also, he really likes matzah balls. So if you know epic recipes for matzah ball soup – please share in the comment section 🙂

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Truman: I’m from California originally. After living there for a while, I had an itch for adventure. I wanted to move to a  new city, have new experiences, and reinvent myself. So, I moved to Texas and lived on my aunt’s couch for a while, and spent a few months WWOOF-ing on an organic farm. After that, I decided to move down to DC because I’d always been interested in politics. Since moving here, I’ve had amazing opportunities in politics – from working on the Hillary Clinton campaign, to interning at a local Think Tank, to now, becoming a staffer for Virginia’s House of Delegates member Wendy Gooditis.

Allie: What is the most challenging part of working in politics?

Truman: The path to winning can be pretty demanding – it takes a lot of administrative, non-glamorous work. But, when you have legislative success and make policy changes that will impact people’s lives – it’s totally worth it.

Allie: How did you get involved in DC’s Jewish community?

Truman: When I moved to DC, I went to a couple of the Moishe Houses – Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill. From there, I went to coffee with someone from GatherDC, which is how I wound up getting involved in the local Jewish community.

Then, I heard about GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat through a friend, and applied because I was interested in connecting to other young Jewish people. I didn’t know many other people who were going, but I wound up meeting a few amazing people who I’m still really close with — including my girlfriend of over a year now, Molly Cram.

Allie: What would be your dream day of fun in DC if money and logistics were no object?

Truman: I’d start at Open City for brunch and order everything on the menu – since I can never decide what to get. I’d take a few bites of each, and take the rest home as leftovers. Then, I’ll fulfill one of my long-standing dreams to take an open air bus tour of DC on a nice, sunny afternoon. Finally, I’d go somewhere relaxing, like Tryst, and reminisce on the wonderful memories of those experiences.

Allie: What is your Jewish food?

Truman: I’d have to go with matzah balls. Especially the kind when you pack them in so they’re really dense – that’s probably like one half of what I need in life. My dad makes really great matzah ball soup. My girlfriend Molly also makes some matzah balls that are pretty good – for vegetarian ones.

Allie: Any resolutions for the New Year?

Truman: One, learn to make my own matzah ball soup. Two, do what I can to contribute to finding justice in our society with all the racism and intolerance going on.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Truman: Sometimes, I’ll read statistics textbooks because it’s nice to focus on something completely different for a little, and it helps me figure out answers to so many types of questions. I also like doing ink drawings of weird, abstract shapes. And I love listening to Podcasts, like “Rationally Speaking,” “Freakonomics,” and “Rabiolab.”

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

Truman: People can find a place where they belong.

 

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.