Next week, Eli Feldman is launching our community’s first-ever Jewish Monthly Article Club, AKA: JMAC. This week, we give you the chance to get to know the fascinating man behind the club. Spoiler: He really likes articles.
Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?
Eli: Two years ago, I was living back home in the Bay Area in California, and was applying to jobs. I only applied to one job outside of California – which is where I am now (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, AKA: FIRE).
Allie: How is DC different from the Bay Area in Cali?
Eli: 1) The weather. There is basically no winter in California.
2) The speciality of what organizations are here. The Bay Area is dominated by startups and private tech companies, whereas DC has a big non-profit presence.
3) The Cali stereotype is that everyone is laid back and relaxed. I actually think DC is more similar to this than other places across the Northeast, like New Jersey and New York. But, DC is certainly much more fast-paced than where I’m from.
Allie: Describe your perfect day in DC.
Eli: I’d wake up, eat breakfast, and do a little email or planning for the week. Then, I would get brunch at The Diner in Adams Morgan with some of my friends. After that, I’d go work at a coffee shop, work out, and go out to dinner at somewhere like Beau Thai in Mt Pleasant or SEI. After dinner, I’d host game night for some of my friends. And I’d be in bed before midnight!
Allie: I hear you are about to launch something called the Jewish Monthly Article Club (JMAC). How did you decide to start this?
Eli: I’ve been wanting to host an article club since I moved to DC. I felt like I didn’t have a group to be a part of where we could have long-form, organized discussion about important topics. I had this in college, and I missed it. Nearing the end of my time in GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, I realized this was a niche that I could help fill in DC.
Allie: What do you hope people get out of being a part of JMAC?
Eli: I hope that people get to explore a topic they might not have had an opinion on before, and can learn from other people’s perspectives. I hope it can be a somewhat consistent group so we can develop a close-knit community. I hope it becomes something people look forward to, and that we can engage in lively, but respectful discussions.
Allie: Speaking of respectful discussion, what is one thing you would change about the way people in the U.S. talk about politics?
Eli: When people hear something they disagree with, I wish instead of jumping off and hurling an insult, they would say, “That’s so interesting, what makes you feel that way?” This is totally disarming to people and could instantly change the national dialogue dramatically.
Also, intellectual humility is important. No matter how much you know about a topic or how strong your views are, it is so important to know that you could always be wrong and someone else could always be right. Also, even if you hear an argument and 100% still disagree with it, the ability to say, “Okay. That perspective doesn’t make me good and you bad, or me right and you wrong. We just disagree and it’s good to know where the areas are that we disagree.”
Allie: What kinds of topics do you want to discuss in JMAC?
Eli: I want to cover topics that are not the standard political moral or battle points. I don’t want to talk about gun rights, abortion, or taxes. I’d like the articles we read to focus on niche topics that matter like privacy protections or the style of voting in our society.
Allie: How will you make sure this is a safe space for people who have different political views or perspectives than most of their friends in DC?
Eli: I will be moderating the discussion, and will try to guide it in a respectful way. I led discussions in college for a mental health awareness group, and I know how to get people to think broadly about topics without letting my opinions be known.
Allie: Have you embarked on any fun travel adventures this summer?
Eli: I just got back from a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords with my parents and three out of my four siblings. It was a total blast, and provided much needed respite from the day-to-day grind of DC.
Allie: What’s on your travel bucket list?
Eli: I want to do more domestic travel. I’d like to take a trip to Seattle and Chicago, I’ve never really been to the midwest.
Allie: Who is the coolest Jew you know?
Eli: Josh Neirman. He is a past GatherDC Open Doors Fellow. He takes everyone under his wing. He has such a warm, kind presence. I would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have a glowing view of Josh’s personality.
Allie: What is your guilty pleasure?
Eli: I’m not guilty about it, but I’ll say reading comic books. I started getting into the Marvel movies in college, so I thought I’d pick up the comic books and give it a try. Now I have a massive stack of comics on my shelf.
Allie: What’s something that people may not know about you?
Eli: I taught myself how to code by taking a couple of online courses my senior year of college.
Allie: When are you the happiest?
Eli: When I’m hanging out with my friends at a brunch or game night, or when I’m in the middle of my work out at the gym and my heart is pumping and I’m totally forgetting what’s happening in the outside world.
Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…
Eli: They schmooze.
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