Meet Valerie and other Jewish People of the Week at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!
Get to know Valerie Brown – lover of “brinner”, The New Yorker, re-runs of The Office, and empowering women and girls nationwide. Read on for our exclusive 1:1 interview!
Allie: What brought you to DC?
Valerie: I was living in France, and a bunch of my college friends had all moved to DC. It seemed like they were having a fun time out here, and I was having a lot of FOMO. So, on my way back from France, I stopped in DC and wound up getting a job here doing design work.
Allie: Why did you transition from design work to the nonprofit organization you’re at now?
Valerie: After the 2016 election, I really wanted to see my work affecting people and feel like I was making a positive difference. I wanted to be at a company that had specific goals to improve the world. JWI (Jewish Women International) – an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering women and preventing domestic violence – was a perfect fit.
Allie: What has most inspired you at JWI?
Valerie: Women to Watch, which happens annually in December, is when we honor 10 Jewish women in our community who are leaders in their field. Getting to interact with them was incredible. They have so much good advice and insight, and are so successful in both the business world and in life. Rabbi Dana Saroken was really amazing; she runs The Soul Center in Baltimore, and I just really connected with what she had to say.
I also admire the Mother’s Day Flower Project that JWI does every year. People donate $25 and JWI sends a Mother’s Day card to whoever you choose. The donation helps send bouquets and financial literacy resources to domestic violence shelters across the country. A lot of time, women who have experienced domestic violence have never received flowers with love, and this shows them that we hear you, we are here for you, and we support you. This year, it feels more relevant than ever. Also, I also designed some cool shirts, sweatshirts, and tank tops to benefit the project.
Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Valerie: With my good friends (and past “Jewish People of the Week”!) Molly Cram and Jackie Zais. We rotate hosting and making dinner for our friends. Recently I made “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) for everyone. This is one of the reasons we put together the upcoming Reclaiming Ritual Retreat – we love spending Friday nights celebrating Shabbat together, and we want to explore Jewish rituals like this with others.
Allie: What do you like to do on a rainy day?
Valerie: Go to a cozy coffee shop and read a book! I’m plagued by “New Yorkers” stacking up every week and would also love a chance to read those.
Allie: What’s a quote that motivates you?
Valerie: “This too shall pass.” It’s reminds me to lean into those moments when you’re feeling really down, and just be present – feel all the feelings. Being able to embrace the painful feelings ultimately helps inform who you are.
Allie: What is your favorite Disney movie?
Valerie: “Moana”, definitely because of the song ‘You’re Welcome’ – I just really identify with that.
Allie: Who is the coolest Jew you know?
Valerie: My brother/future rabbi, Timmy. He inspires me to be a better Jew every day.
Allie: How do you like to relax and destress?
Valerie: When I’m not out at a Jewish happy hour, I’m probably watching Netflix and crocheting on my couch. Right now, I’m rewatching “The Office”.
Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…
Valerie: I want to quote my pal Liz Lemon and say “I want to go to there.”