Meet Sara: Jewish Program Director of the Week 

by Rachel Kriegsman / August 12, 2020

Meet Sara Evangelista! Her passion for the Jewish community runs as deep as her love for DC. Theater performer turned Jewish professional, Sara has a passion for Judaism and inspiring others. She also knows the best places to find good food and is forever dreaming up creative recipes in the kitchen!

Rachel: What brought you to the DC area and what made you stay?

Sara: I went to George Washington University (GW) for undergrad. My sister is 12 years older than me, and she went to GW for undergrad and grad school, so I grew up visiting her. I always loved the city and wanted to follow in her footsteps. After graduation in 2016, I moved to NYC for a year to begin my Masters in Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). From the first week there I really missed DC, so I moved back after school and I’ve been here ever since. It’s definitely the people and community – my college friends and colleagues – that keep me here.

Rachel: I know it’s the most “DC” question, but what do you do and how did you get into that?

Sara: Currently, I am the Program Director at Johns Hopkins Hillel in Baltimore. I love DC, but under normal circumstances, I do spend my days working in Baltimore. Before that, I worked at Hillel International in DC as part of their conference and events team. I originally wanted to be a high school theater teacher, but in college I realized that being a Jewish professional was a viable career option; I’ve been hooked ever since. Jewish professionals were incredibly influential in my life, and I wanted to have the same impact on others. I love working with college students – college is such a great time in their lives where they know so much but are also so curious about the world around them.

Rachel: I love that. So, when you’re not at work in Baltimore, describe your dream DC day from start to finish. 

Sara: First, I would sleep in! And then grab a bagel and coffee at Call Your Mother. I’m from Jersey, so it was exciting to me to find a delicious bagel here in DC. Then I’d head home and hang out with my dog Orli. After that, I would pack some snacks and spend the day at the pool with my friends – part of what I love is that I have my closest friends in my neighborhood. I totally live the DC version of Friends! Then I’d go to a sports bar with some good bar food and drinks to watch Sunday football. Willie’s BBQ in Navy Yard is a favorite spot.

Rachel: What do you do to relax or for fun at the end of a long week?

Sara: I love to cook! My dad is Italian and everything I know about good food and cooking, I learned from him. I am notoriously bad at following a recipe, but I’m really great at just dreaming up my own dishes. There is nothing more exciting to me than coming home to a fridge full of food waiting to be made into something delicious, turning on whatever reality tv show I’m binging at the moment, and bringing my food idea to life. 

Rachel: Do you have a Jewish role model who inspires you?

Sara: Jewish Girl Bosses totally inspire me. The people who motivate me the most are the women who hold executive and senior level roles in Jewish spaces. The world, and more specifically the Jewish world, doesn’t have enough strong female representation, and when there is a woman in a role like that I have such deep respect and admiration for them. I’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by such empowering female leaders through connection to GW Hillel and Hillel International.

Those women have been some of the most influential people to me in shaping my goals and my dreams and I feel really lucky to be able to think of a list of strong Jewish women leaders that I am so inspired by. And, I always love to ask them two things. 1) What advice would you give to the 26-year-old version of yourself? And 2) What is one tangible thing I can learn so I can advance my career in the way you have?

Rachel: How do you like to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays?

Sara: I have a solid Jewish community at the Chabad in New Jersey where I grew up, so part of me will always love being with them for the High Holidays. But last year was the first time I spent the High Holidays with my students at Hopkins Hillel, which was so special. My students are so smart and so passionate about building their Jewish community on campus. I felt like a proud stage mom watching them take ownership of different parts of the service. Some of the best moments came from sitting around in the building in-between services just chatting. 

Rachel: That’s so great! From High Holidays to Shabbat, if you could invite any three people to your Shabbat dinner, who would you invite and why?

Sara: For Shabbat dinner, I would invite my grandfather, my nephew, and my niece. I love being surrounded by the people I love most, and I think this would be such a meaningful and beautiful Shabbat moment. I lost my grandfather when I was little, but his values have been so ingrained in me for my entire life. He was really passionate about education, and I think that’s part of why I love being in school. He was a hard worker and deeply dedicated to his family.

My nephew Leo is 6, and my niece Julia is 3, they are absolutely incredible. They amaze me every time we talk. Leo is named after my grandpa. He is so curious about the world around him. And Julia is really my mini-me, she is totally going to grow up to be the most incredible girl boss. Both of them are so smart and they love each other so much and I know it’s because of the values that my family shares because of my grandpa that we are like this.

Rachel: What is something people might be surprised to know about you? Slash do you have any hidden talents?

Sara: Totally! As I mentioned, I wanted to be a high school theater teacher! I spent many years super involved in musical theater and dance growing up – I was even in a Jewish a cappella group my first year at GW. In the end, I abandoned that career path, but it still surprises people that I love theater so much. 

I’ve also deemed myself “the perpetual student.” I went to GW, I have a Masters from JTS, and now I’m working on my certificate in nonprofit management from the Harvard Extension School. I love learning – I will always be working on some kind of degree!

Rachel: It’s clear you love DC, but if you could live anywhere else in the world for a year, where would you live and why?

Sara: I want to preface this by saying that I hate flying. So, most of the places I love are within driving distance. I love a road trip. I am a huge camp girl, I spent 10 summers at my sleep-away camp, and to this day, it’s my favorite place in the whole world. So recently, I’ve been dreaming about getting out of the city and living in the Pocono mountains for a year. My camp was right near Lake Wallenpaupack which is such a fun and cute area. I’d love to be in a cute little Airbnb in the mountains, make a campfire, go out on the lake or just sit outside and enjoy relaxing.

Rachel: Anything else you’d like to share with the DC Jewish community?

Sara: The best thing about the DC Jewish community is that there really is a space for everyone. My biggest word of encouragement is to find the space you love. Not every space is right for every person, but keep trying until you find your people. I promise there is something for you in the DC Jewish community.

Rachel: Complete this sentence – “When Jews of DC Gather…

Sara: They bring their whole selves to the space. Most of us are not DC natives and we come to the DC community with our own Jewish journeys and our professional roles and so many other things that make us unique. And hopefully, when Jews of DC Gather, they all bring their favorite DC restaurant recommendation. 


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