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Amanda Herring is mom to possibly the cutest chow chow doggy ever, a frequent host of sustainable Shabbat feasts, and a lover of tap dance. This fascinating woman is someone you definitely need to know. Read on!
Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?
Amanda: I grew up in Northern Virginia, and then moved to New York with my partner who was going there to work in fine dining kitchens. After we got engaged, we wanted to be close to home, and to culture and all the activity of a major city.
Allie: Right now, you’re working as the JOFEE Fellow for OneTable. From what the internet tells me, JOFEE Fellows seed local Jewish organizations with outstanding Jewish outdoor/food/environmental educators. How did you decide to pursue this position?
Amanda: Growing up, my mom made all of our meals from scratch. I didn’t realize how special this was until I went off to college. From there, I realized how much I wanted to be hosting and cooking my own meals. I got involved with Hillel and started helping out with Shabbat meals. Then, I got together with my partner Greg who is passionate about food and feeding people.
When Greg and I were living in New York, we became some of the first hosts of OneTable Shabbat meals. We got to be a part of this movement where community was forming over Shabbat dinner in Harlem. When we moved to DC, Marina Rostein had just started working as the DC hub manager and she asked me to be a Shabbat coach. Around this same time, Greg and I were on a journey to becoming more food conscious. So when OneTable was looking for a JOFEE Fellow, Marina had me in mind for it.
Allie: What do you enjoy most about hosting Shabbat?
Amanda: When I worked at Hillel and Birthright, I saw that immersive experiences could have a transformative power on people. I loved staffing Jewish trips because the power of those experiences can lead to shifts in people’s lives. To me, that’s part of hosting – making everyone feel welcome and facilitating them through an experience.
Allie: What’s your favorite Shabbat you’ve ever hosted?
Amanda: The one Greg and I just had. We hosted a Farm to Friday Shabbat at Eco City Farms. I was able to work with the farm to celebrate what they had in season. The farm’s space was kind of a classroom shipping container and we elevated it with twinkle lights, a table setting, name cards, and music. We had a cocktail hour infused with herbs from the farm, and added bits of Jewish education in between the courses. It felt really special.
Allie: I’m so bummed I missed that! Are you planning to host any other awesome Shabbats this coming year that I can come to?
Amanda: Me and the other two DC-based JOFEE fellows (including GatherDC’s Mollie Sharfman) are planning a big Sukkah-based harvest festival on September 21st. We think Sukkot is hard to connect to if you don’t want to go to a synagogue and you don’t have yard space. We’re renting out a farm in Shaw for a pop-up Sukkot Shabbat and we’re going to teach everybody how they can bring the spirit of Sukkot into their home for the following week, even if you don’t have space for a sukkah.
Allie: When are you the happiest?
Amanda: When I’m eating really good food and I know exactly where it came from. Like when I was just working at Milk and Honey Farm in Colorado and got to play with baby goats every day and drink their fresh, warm goat milk. It was just so fresh, and creamy, and delightful.
Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Amanda: I love Hanukkah because Greg and I host a classy Hanukkah party every year. At Christmas parties everyone gets dressed up and its fancy. Hanukkah feels like this lowly forgotten holiday. So we’ve created an elevated Hanukkah experience where we get dressed up and there’s lights everywhere, jazz music playing, cocktails, and all kinds of fancy food.
Allie: I understand you have an Instagram famous dog named Bubbe. What makes Bubbe Insta-worthy?
Amanda: Our dog is a grumpy old chow chow. She is the cutest thing I have ever seen and also hates people and other dogs, except for us. We rescued her from Fairfax County Animal Shelter almost 3 years ago. Because Bubbe doesn’t want to go out and meet a bunch of people, I set up this Instagram account so other people can share in the joy. It feels like we’re hoarding her cuteness if we don’t share her with the world. She’s just a fluffy lion bear dog.
Allie: What’s at the top of your life bucket list?
Amanda: To have our own farm, produce our own food, and maybe run a Jewish retreat center where people can connect with the agricultural roots of Judaism.
Allie: What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
Amanda: I grew up swing and tap dancing, I love it – it’s so fun. My brother is actually a professional swing and tap dancer. Also, I also make my own greeting cards and send them to friends.
Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…
Amanda: They eat good food together.