Editor’s note: Full disclosure here – Connor Jacobson is no stranger to me. In fact, we share a nephew (his brother is married to my sister)! Since moving to the DC-area and going on a Birthright Israel trip co-led by GatherDC’s Rabbi Ilana Zietman, I’ve been able to see Connor more often and get to know him as a friend. Read on to get to know him too!
Allie: What brought you to the DC area?
Connor: I grew up in Connecticut and moved to Chicago for school, and stuck around after I got a job as a healthcare consultant. I wanted to move closer to my family. I had a nephew at the time that was 8 months old, and I wanted to find more meaning and purpose in my career. I found an opportunity working for Math Motivators – a nonprofit that helps underprivileged high school students with math.
Allie: What has helped you find community in the Jewish DC community since moving here this year?
Connor: Going on Birthright Israel with a DC group this past winter. I had wanted to go for a while, but with a busy job, it was tough to find the time to get away. The group of 50 of us from that trip became like family in a matter of days and have kept in touch since. It was an incredible dynamic with the whole group, we love each other.
Allie: What were the highlights of your Birthright experience?
Connor: Going to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I have been spiritual and exploring religion for a while, and it all just came together that day. I’ve never really ascribed to a particular religion, but at the Western Wall, I saw other people davening and figured I’d try it. I started with saying a few prayers and had an out of body experience. It felt like I was a part of something larger.
Also, on the final day, I decided to have my bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. For my bar mitzvah, I was a little hesitant because I was raised half-Jewish, half-Christian. But I did it and even gave myself a Hebrew name, Shemiah. It was an incredible experience.
Allie: Why was this so meaningful to you?
Connor: I’m not really a believer per say but in that moment I had a wake-up call where all of the crazy chaotic things in my brain just became one and I realized what I want to be and what I want to do with my life. All my pain and the sounds around me went away and I just had one voice flowing through me. I had a thought in my head and I asked and prayed to become the person I want to be and as I did, a bird flew into a bush above my head and chirped which brought me back and I did my Bar Mitzvah ten minutes later.
Allie: Why Shemiah?
Connor: The full name is Shemiah Haim, which loosely translates to “the listener who lives”. It was in honor of my grandfather. A year before he passed away, I was fortunate to interview him for a class. One of the last questions I asked him was “What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?” And he said, “As a good father, a good husband, and a good listener,” and that really stuck with me.
Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.
Connor: The day would include a lot of time with my family and friends – particularly with my nephew Carter if he’s not napping. I would start at Call Your Mother, which I just tried and it’s phenomenal. Then, I would probably check out a museum in DC. Next, I would want to do an escape room with my brother and sister-in-law. After that, we would put Carter to bed and then head over to the whiskey bar Jack Rose for a nightcap. Somewhere in there, I would want to watch Carter watch dogs.
Allie: What do you do to relax?
Connor: Besides spending time with my nephew and other family, I like watching good shows and reading.
Allie: Is there anywhere that you are excited to travel to?
Connor: I want to go to Australia and New Zealand at some point when COVID-19 subsides. I recently got back from Park City, Utah. I’ve been on the road for two months and it’s nice to relax for a bit, but I am thinking about doing Oktoberfest in Germany.
Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Connor: I have been very fortunate to celebrate Hanukkah these past few years with my sister-in-law’s family, the Cossman’s. I love their grandma, Bubbi. And more recently I’ve been trying to do Shabbat every week.
Allie: What speaks to you most about Shabbat?
Connor: I am reading a book by Sarah Hurwitz called Here All Along. There is a whole chapter on reasons to do Shabbat. It’s a way for us to avoid consumerism and live a simpler life for a day, and make an effort to turn off technology. I like to reflect and wake up Saturday morning refreshed.
Allie: What’s something that’s on your bucket list?
Connor: I really want to have a family and raise kids. I want to be happy in my work. I let the wind take me wherever it should. I’m not sure what the future holds but I’m excited about it.
Allie: What animal do you most closely identify with?
Connor: Definitely a giraffe. That’s what my brother Mike calls me. I saw a cute stuffed baby giraffe and then found a baby kippah in Israel and had a friend sew it on the giraffe, so it became a Jew-raffe which I named Shira after my close friend.
Allie: Tell me about this mindful masculinity class you take.
Connor: We meet every other week at Rabbi Rami’s house (The Den). We talk about toxic masculinity and how we can reshape our mind and learn ways to be mindful in our understanding of our role in society.
Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…
Connor: There is plenty of debate and partying.
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