Meet Evan: Jewish Oklahoman of the Week!


Allison: How did you wind up living in DC?

Evan: I am originally from Oklahoma City. I was born and raised there. Then, I went to school at University of Kansas, and when I graduated I went to New York to work at URJ (Union for Reform Judaism). I was ready and excited to get out of the midwest. I was doing long distance with my girlfriend who was in DC, so when URJ let me start in a new role in DC, I moved down here. I just moved to DC this past summer. In the next couple of years, I want to go to rabbinical school.

Allison: What motivated you to want to work in the Jewish community?

Evan: I grew up in the Jewish community my entire life, but it wasn’t until high school when I went to URJ Greene Family Camp and got involved with NFTY (The Reform Jewish Youth Movement) that I was able to see Judaism as more than just showing up to religious school or synagogue. NFTY was where I found a community I cared about and got to talk about important issues.

Allison: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Evan: I’m a very musical person, so I’d love to go to a a musical Shabbat service followed by dinner and dessert with friends. On Saturday, I don’t set an alarm so I can sleep in; I like to make Saturday a very chill day.

Allison: If you could invite 3 celebs to join you for Shabbat dinner, who would you choose?

Evan: Number one would be Barack Obama. Beyonce would be really cool. I might also have to say Rep. John Lewis.


Allison: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Evan: Number one is France. I really want to go. I also want to go to Africa, I still need to pinpoint which countries. I’m biracial and my dad’s side of the family is black and descended from slaves. I would love to be able to visit that country and learn more about those roots.

Allison: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Evan: One of my favorite Jewish holidays is Passover because of all the delicious foods that come with it. I love the fact that we have an entire holiday that is celebrated around the dinner table and is educational and fun. I’m big on charoset and gefilte fish – which I realize is a polarizing food.

Allison: Describe your dream DC day.

Evan: I would get up early, make breakfast and journal. I would find friends to go to brunch with at Busboys and Poets. I would spend the afternoon walking around DC and get closer to the mall and the monuments. Maybe pop in to a museum or two. In the evening, I’d find a great dinner place like Little Havana. At night, my girlfriend and I would have friends over to hang out at our apartment.


Allison: What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Evan: Growing up, I was in choir from 4th until 12th grade. In junior and senior year I was in show choir, which was just like Glee. We had singing and dancing competitions and wore sparkly vests.

Allison: What are your favorite musicals?

Evan: Hamilton. I saw it on Broadway last year! I also love Aladdin the musical, and Wicked.

Allison: When Jewish of DC Gather…

Evan: It’s exciting, comfortable, and new!




The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Balaboosta: Jewish Cat of the Month!

Want to nominate your awesome doggy or cat to be featured? Email Sarah Brennan and let her know.


Sarah: What is your name?


Sarah: Where did your name come from?

Balaboosta: My owner tells me that balaboosta is Yiddish for  a Jew who is the fearless emotional center of their family, who makes sure her table is not only full of gorgeous food, but also full of friends, compassion, and fruit. My owner wanted me to be a balaboosta to her and make sure she’s happy.

Sarah: What is your favorite way to spend a day in DC?

Balaboosta: Go to Busboys and Poets in Takoma Park and sit outside with my owner as she drinks her favorite $5 fresh-squeezed mimosa.

Sarah: What is it like to live with your owner?

Balaboosta: Well, first of all, I’m glad my owner is a vegan. She’s a really sweet, creative soul. She’s a bit clingy, but she’s a sensitive gal so that goes with who she is.

Sarah: What is your favorite food?

Balaboosta: My favorite food is smoked salmon (AKA: lox). I mean, come on! I’m a Jewish cat  – of course that’s my fav. My owner gets me smoked salmon from Yes! Organic Market or Whole Foods Market, and makes me my favorite cat sashimi.


Sarah: Who is your best friend?

Balaboosta: My owner Michele.

Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Balaboosta: Tu B’shvat. It’s the New Year of trees which is the ideal holiday for a hippie cat like me. It’s also my owner’s favorite holiday because it celebrates her favorite things: fresh fruit, wine, and Israel – my favorite country! My owner tells me that there are lots of cats all over Israel.

Sarah: My biggest fear is….

Balaboosta: My owner being sad and not realizing that I’m always there for her. I’m a Balaboosta and that means  I take care of her!

Sarah: What is your spirit animal?

Balaboosta: A mouse. I’m sweet and shy and mousy.

Sarah: I get most excited when…

Balaboosta: There’s a simcha to celebrate, so my owner gets to see her family and dance around.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Lindsey: Jewish Bra-Inventor of the Week

Lindsey Weiss created a bra made of magnets (it’s called BetterBra and hasn’t hit the market yet), is an epic painter, regular yogi, and skin care connoisseur. Oh, and this is all outside of her full-time job with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Let’s get to know this phenomenal woman.

Lindsey Weiss

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Lindsey: I’m originally from Dallas, Texas. I majored in Arabic and International Relations in college, and then spent a while in Dubai. Afterwards, I got a job in DC at AEI doing foreign defense policy. I always knew I wanted to end up in DC, and now I’m fixin’ to leave it so I’m pretty sad.

Allie: What?! Where are you going?

Lindsey: I’m applying to business schools.

Allie: What are you hoping to do with your business school degree?

Lindsey: Well, my day job is with AEI, but my night job is starting a company called BetterBra with my best friend who lives in San Francisco. My friend is now working on a presidential campaign, and I’m going to be taking over operations for the company. I have no business expertise or experience, and am learning as I go, so I knew that I needed to go to business school for this. I’ve started applying – so we’ll see where I end up.

Allie: What’s BetterBra?

Lindsey: It’s a bra that addresses breast asymmetry. 88% of women have some type of breast asymmetry, but there are zero bras on the market that cater to that. It uses magnets as support so it takes the weight off of your shoulder and back. The magnets either attract each other to create cleavage or repel each other to make separation, and you can lift the bra and move it using the magnetic fabric. Our whole supply chain is American made and women-run. It took off faster that we thought – we closed our second round of seed funding a couple of weeks ago, and are waiting for manufacturing to come in. We’re launching in April!


Allie: What motivated you to start this?

Lindsey: I was feeling a little lost for a while because I wasn’t working towards a concrete goal. That made me kind of depressed, like I was wandering around with nowhere to go. The idea for BetterBra made me excited in a way that I hadn’t been excited in years. I felt like that was a sign I should be pursuing it. Also, I get bored easily and need to constantly be doing a bunch of things of once.

Allie: How do you have time to launch this company on top of a full time job?

Lindsey: I don’t sleep very often.

Allie: What’s your dream for the future of BetterBra?

Lindsey: For it to get acquired within the next five years. My big dream is to run my own venture capital firm that invests in women-run startups, specifically in developing countries.

Allie: What’s a quote or piece of advice that inspires you?

Lindsey: “I am a great believe in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” – Thomas Jefferson

Allie: What does self-care look like for you?

Lindsey: Waking up early in the morning to do yoga and Pilates. I’m also big on skincare, hair care, and painting. Also, I live right next to the zoo and love going jogging through the zoo and seeing the panda bears.


Allie: Describe your dream DC day from start to finish.

Lindsey: I’m a huge fan of Shenandoah. If we left really early, I would drive there and hike Old Rag. Then, I would come back and go on a nighttime monument walk with my friends. Living in DC, we’re so lucky that we can see the Lincoln Memorial whenever we want. That’s crazy! People would kill for that. My parents lived in DC for 20 years and said that if you see the monuments at night and it doesn’t make you shudder a little, it’s probably time to leave. After that, I would then go to Barcelona on 14th Street and grab a few drinks with my friends. Nothing too crazy.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Lindsey: Passover. I have a lot of grandparents in Dallas – it’s a tribe. My uncle passed away last year and he was usually the one that led the Passover Seder. He was such a scholar. He taught me how to do the Seder, and last year was the first year that I led it. It was a very lukewarm experience. I still have my grandfather and uncle’s notes about preparing for the Seder. Hopefully I can pass those down to my children and grandchildren one day.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather….

Lindsey: They make the most welcoming community!



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Rachel: Jewish App Creator of the Week

At the age of 26, Rachel Koretsky is – to put it simply – living the dream.

She is the CEO of her own company, just spent five weeks traveling in Israel with her boyfriend, and recently learned how to make the best matzo ball soup ever. Let’s get to know the #bosslady behind the app transforming fitness communities across the U.S. and Canada – upace.

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Rachel: I went to American University and stayed here ever since. One of the main reasons I stayed is because of the really great startup community in DC, and especially the support of women entrepreneurs. It’s also such a beautiful city filled with history and has a hustle and bustle to it.

Allie: Can you sum up upace?

Upace is a customizable mobile platform for gyms/rec centers to build communities for their members, while improving their operations. [Once gyms/rec centers download the platform], members use the app to make reservations for classes and equipment, personal training, spa services, receive push notifications, and view real-time facility occupancy.

Allie: What inspired you to start this app?

Rachel: I love fitness, but had a lot of frustrations with my university’s recreation center while in college – the long wait times, equipment and facility crowds. I had this idea [for upace] to use mobile technology to help university rec centers and gyms better manage their facilities and classes, and allow members to gain control over their workouts. Two of my professors from the American University Entrepreneurship Incubator program encouraged me to take this idea beyond the classroom and explore making it into a business.

Allie: What’s been the hardest part of launching this app?

Rachel: At the beginning, my knowledge of technical development was very limited. It was a struggle to find the right development team to bring this vision to life.

Allie: What’s the best part?

Rachel: When users tell us how the app has helped them meet fitness goals, feel confident in the gym, and become more engaged with their facility and its member community. Hearing those stories and watching our gyms and centers increase member engagement and retention inspires us every day.

upace rachel

Allie: You must be very busy running your own start-up! What are you go-to ways to relax at the end of a long work day?

Rachel: Playing tennis. I love getting out there on the courts. Also, going to different workout classes across the DC-region, like CorePower and Pulse House of Fitness. I also love some good TV shows, like Grace and Frankie on Netflix.

Allie: What are the top 3 things still on your life bucket list?

Rachel: The top is going to the Galapagos Island. I want to climb Machu Picchu in Peru and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Rachel: Ruth Messinger, the president of American Jewish World Service. The work she’s done to make a difference in the world and bring attention to global crises has been really miraculous.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Rachel: I love matzo ball soup. My mom recently taught me how to make it and I’m trying to make it as good as hers. One day I’ll get there.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rachel: They make great food!

rachel and bf



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet David: Jewish Gym Owner of the Week!

[WARNING: The following interview may induce feelings of inadequacy.]

Okay GatherDC-ers, this week, we have the utmost pleasure of introducing you to the one-and-only David Magida. If you’re in the fitness scene, you may have seen his name before as the author of the book “The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training”, or on Facebook Live as NBC Sports’ Spartan Race host, or as a founding member of the Reebok Spartan Race Pro Team, or at one of the two locations of Elevate Interval Fitness – which he owns, runs, and coaches at. If you’re not in the fitness scene, maybe this interview will inspire you. If not, well, you can always work out your taste buds at Shake Shack.


Allie: What triggered your passion for fitness?

David: I’ve always loved fitness. Being active is me in my most natural state. Competing and testing my limits is a big thing for me. Whenever I’m down or in a funk, I just sign up for a race. It’s like therapy for me. It clears my mind, and mentally resets me. I try to make working out one of the first things that I do each day, and it sets me on a very positive track. Days when I don’t exercise I’m kind of a hot mess.

Allie: Were you this passionate about fitness when you were growing up?

David: I was really small as a kid, but was always athletic and loved sports. I was a soccer player, swimmer, and wrestler. In middle school I discovered running. By sixth grade, I was already training with the varsity cross country team. I would run with them after my middle school soccer practice and travel to meets with them, even though I had to be marked as ineligible until 9th grade. I loved workout out so much that my wrestling coach made me team captain as a freshman so I could lead team conditioning. It wasn’t over until I said it was over. I wasn’t super popular with the guys.

Allie: Wow! What sport did you like the best?

David: Running. [In high school], I made the choice to commit to running. My junior year I had to give up wrestling for a year so I could focus on my running career. I went to run collegiately, but only briefly. I did one season and was so fed up with the way the team was coached and so I fell out of love with running. I didn’t run for several years.

Allie: What did you do to replace running?

David: I got really into strength training and even joined the football team for a season. I ended up getting certified as a personal trainer at 19, and took a break from school to do that. But, I didn’t think there was long-term career viability in fitness so I went back to school to get my undergraduate degree. Then, I went to grad school at University of Miami and got my master’s degree in public relations. While I was in Miami I started running Spartan races.

david spartan

Allie: What’s a Spartan race?

David: It’s a running race with a series of military style obstacles, anywhere from 3 miles to marathon distances. In 2012, I did the Spartan Ultra Beast which is 31 miles of ski slopes, obstacles, and overall just pure torture. I also completed the Death Race, which is well over 100 miles in the wilderness over several days of no sleep.

Allie: The Death Race?! That sounds insane. Tell me more.

David: It’s appropriately named. It’s backpacking through the woods with a map and compass, and there’s no set course. It changes each year and sometimes mid-race, at the whims of the directors. You don’t know what it’s going to be and they do crazy things to mix it up. The race is full of time cutoffs, crazy physical tasks, and mental challenges. One year, they took our shoes from us for 20 hours and we were in the Vermont wilderness running barefoot on a trail known as Bloodroot. It’s crazy. All the while you’re filtering water out of rivers and chopping wood and basically running around in survival mode.

Allie: After you survived the Death Race, how did you wind up in DC?

David: I got a job working at a public affairs firm. Around that time, I was also offered a professional contract to race in 2013 for the Reebok Spartan Race Pro Team, so I was doing 25 or 30 Spartan races a year.

Allie: How did you manage to keep up with your job while also racing professionally?

David: I was run-commuting to and from work every day, about 3.5 miles each way, and skipping happy hours with my co-workers to go to the gym. I had very little semblance of a social life. But the run-commuting barely took longer than riding on the metro. It was about efficiency. I still often run-commute to this day.

Allie: Tell me how Elevate came to be.

David: I basically hated my job and wasn’t happy. But my success racing garnered some interest. People started asking me if I would coach them. I eventually started leading some outdoor classes. I was having more fun with this than anything I had done before. It’s really fulfilling work. So, I found this spot on 14th street, left my job, and just went for it. Elevate (a studio with high intensity circuit and interval workouts) opened in October 2014. We opened a second studio in Southwest this past August.

Allie: What’s the best part of running Elevate?

David: Getting to do the stuff that I love and connect with people on a deep level. And actually having an impact on people’s lives in a positive way. I like to help people change the way they look at fitness. People look at fitness as this thing they dread or do for body image issues, which is completely backwards. My goal is to teach people to embrace the process and find the joy in the workout and their own personal improvement. Community is also such a huge part of it. It’s difficult to meet other people in a big city. You go to work and go home, but you need a third place. For some people, that’s a bar. But going into a gym and sweating together can bring people closer and builds really dynamic communities.

Allie: What’s been the biggest challenge?

David: Time and stress. When you’re a business owner, you’re working 24/7. You’re never really off.  Fitness in particular, because the days start early and end late. The first year I felt like I was at work from 5am to 10pm every single day, and it can wear you down.


Allie: What advice would you give to someone hoping to kick-start a fitness routine?

David: Don’t try to do it on your own. Consult an expert and go to a class or get a trainer. You need direction. Don’t worry about what other people think about you in the gym. If you’re working hard, people will respect that. If you focus on frequency (how often you go), intensity (how hard you go), and duration (how long you go for) you will be successful. And then get your eating in line. Try to meal prep if you can.

Allie: Not sure if it ever happens, but if you had a free day in DC. How would you spend it?

David: First thing, coffee. I make a double or triple shot Americano and then go for a run. Then I wouldn’t mind going out on the river and go boating. If I could do some wake-boarding or wake-surfing that would be ideal. As weird as it sounds, I’d probably do an hour or two of work so I could feel productive. I’d want to go out to the rec center and play pickup basketball with some friends. Then, go out to a meal or happy hour with some friends at Grady’s. And then, play some board games.

Allie: Do you have anything still on your life bucket list?

David: I want to climb some of the world’s biggest peaks, like Matterhorn. I’d love to go running through Mont Blanc. I’d like to do some SkyRunning series, or a century which is a hundred miles. There’s a lot of the world I want to see. I’m going to Japan at the end of February with the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership Network. Maybe one day I’ll live in another country or on the West Coast just to do something different. I don’t see myself being limited to just working in fitness. I’d like Elevate to be a self-sufficient thing so I can go on to explore other client-facing business ventures.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

David: They have great conversation.

david and dog

David and his dog Oscar


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The UK’s Only Ultra-Orthodox Stand-Up Comedian: Ashley Blaker

Ashley Blaker is really funny.

This London based, international award-winning comedian has headlined off-Broadway’s “Strictly Unorthodox”, recorded a radio show for BBC, written and directed acclaimed comedy “Little Britain”, and performed stand-up on four continents. Next stop, a synagogue near you*.

Lucky for you, we scored a one-on-one interview with Mr. Blaker so you can get to know the man behind the kippah.

Oh, and if you’re in need of an afternoon pick-me-up but are desperately trying to avoid having another cup of coffee at 5:00pm (no, just me?) check out these videos of Ashley talking about sushi, driving, and music.

*Mr. Blaker will be performing at Sixth & I on Sunday, February 10th at 7:00pm. Get $10 your ticket price with this exclusive promo code for GatherDC-ers: ASHLEY.


Photo Courtesy DDPR

Allie: You didn’t grow up as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Why did you decide to become frum later in life?

Ashley: I compare [my relationship with religion] to drug addiction. I have an addictive personality, and the rabbi [at the Orthodox synagogue] who was kind of a pusher tricked me into a free sample. When I got married the rabbi gave me a free membership for a year and I kept going. I was hooked.

Allie: What inspired you to become a stand-up comedian?

Ashley: It happened entirely by accident. I’ve only been doing it for four years. Before that I was a writer and producer of comedy for TV and radio. I’ve always wanted to do stand up, and when I was 16 or 17 I performed a bit, but was too young to take it too seriously. Someone once suggested I speak at an event and I found myself getting back into [stand-up comedy]. I wasn’t thinking I wanted to do this as a career. Now, it’s all I do. Soon, I will have performed comedy on five continents!

Allie: What is your favorite part of performing stand-up comedy?

Ashley: The feeling of performing for an audience if they’re laughing. If they’re not laughing, it’s not so fun. I love bringing people together. I’ve done a lot of shows where you see an incredibly diverse group of people in one room. I did a show in Newcastle where there was a traditional Jewish audience, some non-Jews as well, and sitting across from them was a female rabbi from a reform synagogue 20 miles away.

Allie: What are the biggest difference between performing in America and performing in the UK?

Ashley: Americans are unforgiving with language differences. I know when I come to America I have to say flashlight when I mean torch, or cell phone when I mean mobile. British people tend to watch American TV so we’re more forgiving with [linguistic differences]. Also, Americans don’t tend to like puns or word play so much. But our Jewish experiences are universal no matter where i go in the world.

Allie: How do you come up with material?

Ashley: Just through my daily life, I see things and make notes. I talk about things that interest me.

Allie: Your Wikipedia page says you grew up with Sacha Baron Cohen, is that true?

Ashley: Sacha and I were at school together, and Matt Lucas who I work with. The water in my high school produced a lot of comedians.

Allie: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Ashley: I really don’t know. Four years ago, I could never have imagined that I would have my own BBC show. I’ve compared myself to a gambler at the tables in Vegas. I’ve been on a winning streak for sometime. As long as I’m winning, I’ll keep playing. One thing I’d love to achieve is to go to Antarctica, and perform on all 7 continents. Even if I’m just performing for a few penguins.




You can see Ashley Blaker perform on February 10th at Sixth & I. A pre-Valentine’s Day date perhaps?! Get your tickets here.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Debo: Jewish Violinist of the Week

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Debo: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio but spent most of my adult life in San Francisco. I moved to Mexico in 2011 and spent almost five years playing in an orchestra in the Yucatan. I met my partner online in Mexico City. Then, we moved to Athens, Greece, and then to DC because my partner works for the State Department and his job brought him here.

Allie: What instruments do you play?

Debo: I play violin, viola, and my mom’s a piano teacher so I grew up playing piano. I’ve also recently started playing the ukulele.

Allie: What instrument do you enjoy most and why?

Debo: Violin. It’s very challenging. I feel like no matter how many years I practice, I can never fully master it. When I do feel good about it, it’s super rewarding. I can play violin with other people, in small ensembles, orchestras, and in the last few years I’ve been playing in operas.

Allie: How did you start playing violin?

Debo: I’ve playing since I was five. My older sister played violin, and I wanted to do everything she did.

Allie: What is your favorite kind of music to play?

Debo: I always love playing Beethoven. It’s meaty and familiar enough that you can just delve right into it without having to overthink it.

Allie: Who is one of your musical role models?

Debo: My friend David. I used to play in a string quartet with him in San Francisco, and he plays violin while he does yoga. He wears a suit jacket and yoga pants. It’s really amazing all the yoga positions he can do while he plays violin. It’s really out of the box.

Allie: How would you spend your dream free day in DC?

Debo: I would wake up, eat some avocado toast, drink coffee, and journal. Then, I would take a long walk. I like to explore and people watch. I would go to the Hirshhorn and see some modern art and talk to strangers. I would bring my tiny sketchbook with me. Then, I would go find something yummy to eat, maybe at Busboys and Poets. After that, I would go to a drag king show at Pretty Boi. It’s such a fun vibe and there’s so much diversity in those kinds of spaces.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax at the end of a long week?

Debo: I like to go to the gym to swim. Afterwards, I’ll sit in the hot tub and the sauna, get a massage, and then go home and snuggle with my dog Pippy and share a meal with my partner and niece.

debo and pippy

Allie: What is one thing you want to learn this year?

Debo: I want to take a jazz or tap dance class. I have a hard time with structured dance classes, which is why I sometimes go to ecstatic dances.

Allie: What are ecstatic dances?

Debo: You just go and there’s a DJ, you don’t talk to people, you don’t drink, you just dance it out in a free way. You can get on the floor, be an animal, there’s no questioning anybody’s expression. It’s a safe place to do that.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Debo: They have a potluck.







The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Alesandra: Most Mindul Jew of the Week!

If slowing down, being more mindful, and starting a yoga/meditation practice are on your list of 2019 goals – Alesandra Zsiba is your woman. This zen yogi fills us in on what it’s like to direct the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington (JMCW) at Adas Israel, her dream Shabbat celebration, and tips to live more mindfully. Get to know her!


Allie: What brought you to DC?

Alesandra: Well, like many stories, I came to DC to follow love. It was the year after my year of service with AmeriCorps and my partner from college was here, so I made the decision to come to DC. While at AmeriCorps, I started my own course for ELL students (English Language Learners) focused on healing trauma and self-actualizing through the creative process – photography, performance, documentary filmmaking, and poetry. That spring boarded me into this career developing the Identity Project, which I brought to schools and organizations around DC.

Today, I still run the Identity Project in addition to my work with the JMCW.

Allie: What does JMCW do?

Alesandra: JMCW started as a way to bring mindfulness practice into the synagogue space. We host weekly, drop-in Jewish yoga and meditation classes, Rosh Chodesh programs to celebrate the New Moon, and we’re having our first daylong retreat at Pearlstone Retreat Center on President’s Day. I’ll be co-leading it! 

Allie: How did you get into your role at JMCW?

Alesandra: After I did a yoga teacher training in 2013, I was really excited to connect what I learned about yoga to what I know about Judaism. I started going to yoga classes with Roni Zelivinski at JMCW – Roni is wonderful. She’s a doula and a midwife, and used to teach at JMCW. She got me involved. I was soaking up whatever JMCW had to offer, and then started teaching there. As I deepened my relationships with people there, I  stepped into the role of program coordinator for the yoga program and then became Director of Engagement.

Allie: What first drew you to yoga and mindfulness?

Alesandra: I had a really beautiful, deep relationship with my grandfather who was a cantor and a mystic in his own right. Everything that I learned about Jewish mindfulness as an adult I tie back to him.

Alesandra Zsiba

Allie: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Alesandra: Years ago, my partner at the time and I went to Israel with Sixth & I, and found a really beautiful Shabbat on the beach – there was so much music and dancing, and everyone felt so free. The organic and public nature of that was really appealing. I’ve always wanted to go back to that. I also would really love to have a havdalah yoga practice within community.

Allie: What does mindfulness mean to you?

Alesandra: It means creating a path to stillness inside yourself. It’s a practice of healing, self-actualizing, and maturing…it’s about pressing pause on the doing and finding calm in a busy, busy world.

Allie: What is one tip you would give for someone seeking to live more mindfully?

Alesandra: Find community. We’re so conditioned to try and do things on our own, but I really think the answer is to get excited about it through other people. All the good, juicy bits of life happen in the context of relationships. Go make a pact with a friend to be mindfulness buddies, and try out a meditation event together.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alesandra: There’s a lot of questioning, talking, and curiosity. It’s beautiful and loud.

Alesandra Zsiba



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


Jewish Cat of the Month: Bruce!

Want to nominate your awesome doggy (or cat!) to be featured? Email Sarah Brennan and let her know.

bruce catSarah: What is your name?

Bruce Katz.

Sarah: How did you get to DC?

Bruce: That’s a good question! I don’t really remember because I was a baby. I do remember that I used to live in the basement of an apartment building. It was very scary! Thankfully the animal shelter found me after I was injured and they nursed me back to health, but there’s no medicine as good as an owner who loves you. Except for penicillin.

Sarah: Who is your best friend?

Bruce: My best friend is my roommate Meeko! He usually eats all of the food. Sometimes, he wakes me up at dawn while meowing for food. We like to gallop around the house and playfully fight each other. I hope one day I get to make another cat friend!

Sarah: What is your biggest pet peeve that your owner does?

Bruce: I don’t understand why my owners sing to me all of the time. They sing to me in the morning when they’re getting ready to leave for the outside, and when they come back they sing at me more. I’ve always wondered if they sing to everybody in the outside too.

Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Bruce: I love Purrrrrrrrrim!

Sarah: My biggest fear is….

Bruce: FOMO!!! I hate missing out on a good time, so I like to hang out with my owners whenever they’re home or they bring over any extra humans.

Sarah: I get most excited when…

Bruce: My owner plays mid-2000s Lil’ Wayne or The Boss himself!

Sarah: What is your spirit animal?

Bruce: A ram. The Jewish significance of the ram really speaks to me. And I also head-butt others when I want attention.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Amanda: Jewish Backpacker of the Week!


Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Amanda: I ended up back here to live near family as I’m originally from the area. I went away for college in Ohio and after graduating, backpacked in South America. Once I had been bitten by the travel bug, I decided to live in South Korea for a year. Eventually, it was time to come home.

Allie: What led you to live in South Korea for a year?

Amanda: In high school I was very interested in anime, which was a gateway for me into Korean dramas and music. After college, I was interested in moving abroad to teach. South Korea stood out to me because of my interest in Korean culture and language. After living in South Korea, I continued traveling and went backpacking throughout Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and Myanmar. I’m very lucky that I was able to do this. I really miss traveling.

Allie: What are some of your favorite memories from traveling and living abroad?

Amanda: In South America, the salt flats in Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni) were so breathtakingly beautiful. In South Korea, teaching every day was so much fun. I taught English to children through a program with the Korean government called EPIK.

Allie: Is there anything left on your travel bucket list?

Amanda: I haven’t been able to explore the African continent, and would love to go pretty much anywhere there. I’d also like to go to Russia and Germany. I made friends from both countries while I was abroad and would love to visit them.

Allie: What life lessons have you learned from all of your traveling?

Amanda: Always keep an open mind, whether that is in response to food, cultural norms, the language, exploring a new city, or meeting people with different opinions.


Allie: What do you do to relax at the end of a long work week?

Amanda: I love playing with my guinea pigs (named Chips and Salsa), watching TV with my roommates, or grabbing a drink with friends. I try to fill up my weekend with as many friend playdates as possible.

Allie: If you could be famous for anything, what would you want to be famous for?

Amanda: I’d like to be famous for being a philanthropist. I’d love to be a crazy rich person who gives tons of money to struggling causes.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you like to celebrate?

Amanda: I guess Hanukkah! I usually have parties for both sides of my family, and we all dress in Hanukkah sweaters and eat lots of latkes and light candles. I’m lucky I have a lot of family in the area and everyone stays really connected.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Amanda: They play a very easy game of Jew-ography. Everyone knows each other here.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.