Jewish Guy of the Week – Yasha

Yasha explains why he should be Jewish Guy of the Year:

When I moved to US from Russia in 2006 I didn’t know a single person in DC. Yet I was very much welcomed by the Washington Jewish community and through my involvement with the DC Jewish life I’ve met great friends and had many memorable and meaningful personal and communal experiences. Now I feel very much at home here and whether or not I will be named the Jewish Guy of the Year I will continue to pay it forward by being as engaged and welcoming as I can.

1.)     Tell us about your work at Hillel.
I work at Hillel’s International Division in our headquarters in Chinatown. My job, which I love, is to support and grow over 30 Hillels in the countries of the former Soviet Union, Israel, Latin America, etc. No, I don’t travel to all these places all the time, but I definitely use Skype way more than my regular phone.

2.)     Where can we find you on a Friday night?
I enjoy taking advantage of the diversity of the DC Jewish community. Over the years I attended services at TLS Shabbat, DC Minyan, 6th in the City, Mesorah DC, Shir Delight, 6th Street Minyan and others. These days most of the time you will find me at 6th and I Historic Synagogue as I’m a big fan of their truly inclusive community of communities model. Maybe that is why I am currently the mayor of the place.

3.)     I hear you love to host parties. You had a Glee season finale party. What did that entail?
Ooops. I guess I’m out of my Glee closet for good now. It was a very laid back night with my fellow gleeks where we had some vodka slushies and decorated a Glee chalkboard during the commercial breaks. It wasn’t as crazy as some other parties that my roommate and I recently hosted at our place in Van Ness such as Russian Space party or guys-only Whiskey Night. But the next party I’m planning will put them all to shame as I’m looking forward to celebrating my American citizenship later this summer.

4.)     Vodka slushies, Russian space party, citizenship – it seems pretty clear you came from Russia not too long ago. What were the biggest adjustments you had to make when you came to the U.S.?
First there was language and food but that was relatively easy. Then came the real learning and the process of breaking down the stereotypes about Americans as a whole and certain communities in particular that I didn’t get to experience before moving here. It was an eye- and mind-opening experience that I am very grateful for. One other interesting observation that I made is that Russians usually have fewer friends, but the relationships among friends seem to be deeper. Here everyone is friendly but building a meaningful friendship is not easy, especially in such a transient city as DC. But being the member of the tribe certainly helped a lot with my adjustment here as it creates an instant bond with someone with whom you might not have much in common otherwise.

5.)     What’s your favorite thing to do in DC?
I host a lot of international visitors and often take them around to see the sites. Strangely enough I still very much enjoy it as I get to see and rediscover the beautiful city that we live in through their eyes. Library of Congress, FDR and Einstein Memorials, Old Post Office Tower are some of my favorite places to take people to but there are many more that are off the beaten path. And since I recently signed up for Capital Bikeshare I’m discovering even more unique neighborhoods and cool streets. I’ve been here for 5 years but still feel like the journey has only just begun.


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