After living in Lebanon, walking with lions in Africa, and trying to retrace her grandfather’s historical trek around the globe, this worldly woman found her homebase at the U.S. Department of Defense. Get to know Sarah Geller, a far from #basic, multilingual, workout-loving fashionista in our 1:1 interview…and then meet her in person – and other Jewish People of the Week – at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!
At my best friend’s wedding in Philly
Allie: How did you wind up working at the Department of Defense?
Sarah: I was a Middle Eastern Studies and Politics major at college, which is part of what led me to study abroad in Lebanon. Although I think my mom had a heart attack every day while I was there, [being in Lebanon] was incredible. It reminded me a lot of Israel. I met great friends, and I worked on my Arabic.
When you step away from your normal culture and way of life, you appreciate and have a different perspective on things. While in Lebanon and traveling through the Middle East, I developed a unique appreciation for American values and the freedoms we have. I decided that the best way for me to contribute to society would be working for the Department of Defense – behind the scenes, not on the front lines. But, I am deeply in awe of the people who can be on the front lines.
Allie: How have your Jewish values informed your career?
Sarah: It might seem ironic–because the Department of Defense may bring about images of war and guns – but what we do is about making a positive impact on the world. I believe in the bigger American picture, and see us as working towards a peaceful solution in the end, which relates to the Jewish idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world).
Allie: Do you have a favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Met Jordan Klepper of Comedy Central at the Newseum
Sarah: Eating challah and having dinner with friends. I’m not super religious, but I appreciate taking that time to step back from the day-to-day craziness of life and have a good meal with friends. And if Judaism says you have to, then alright, I’m going to eat and drink wine with friends. It’s simple, but I like it.
Allie: How would spend the day in DC if you had an entirely free day and money was no object?
Sarah: I would get breakfast at A Baked Joint, which has really good food and coffee for a good price. Hopefully it would be a nice day in DC, and I’d just walk the entire city. I’d love to go to the monuments, maybe go to a museum, and then walk to Georgetown for some shopping. At night, I’d start with a nice dinner somewhere at Le Diplomate, someplace you can get dressed up for. Then, I would get drinks at a cocktail or hotel bar like POV at the W, and then go out with friends.
Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax?
Sarah: Working out – I like FlyBarre, Solid Core, and exercising with my roommate – who’s not currently my personal trainer, but I really want him to be! After a good work out, I like taking a long hot shower and sitting in my room with a candle, reading a book…or just taking a nap.
Allie: If you could only eat 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Sarah: My grandma’s french toast, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cauliflower. I love cauliflower. I prefer my cauliflower stir-fried, with basil, salt, pepper, and cumin (it might be basic but I think it’s delicious).
Walked with lions in Zambia, Africa
Allie: Where’s the coolest place you’ve traveled?
Sarah: My mom used to live and work in Zambia, Africa, and we went there as a family trip. I got to walk with lions while I was there, which was terrifying and exhilarating.
Allie: What else is on your bucket list of places to travel?
Sarah: My grandfather was in the Coast Guard during WWII. From that experience, he traveled almost the entire world. I’m trying to follow his footsteps of where he went. I’ve been to India, Nova Scotia, England, and South Africa – where he docked. I have Australia, Italy, and Morocco left on the list and then, I will have completed where he’s been. It’s really cool to be a part of that history.
Allie: Who are your Jewish role models?
Sarah: Outside of family, I’d say Diane Von Fürstenberg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They are strong women who have overcome a lot to get to where they are, and they have shown that you can be successful and do well with integrity and perseverance.
Allie: Complete the sentence…When Jews of DC Gather?
Sarah: They make Jewish babies