Meet Lena Beth: Newest Jewish Baker of the Week

by Rachel Kriegsman / January 5, 2021

Like many of us, Lena Beth Schneider has gotten really into baking during the pandemic. But she has taken her baking efforts a step further and perfected the art of guerilla gifting her treats. On a perfect day in DC, catch Lena Beth picnicking in Malcom X Park, biking through Rock Creek, or dreaming up plans to hike the Pacific Coast Trail (a la Cheryl Strayed).

Read this week’s 1:1 interview to learn more about Lena Beth, including her passion for creating a more inclusive Jewish community.

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

Lena Beth: After years of volunteering and interning on various political campaigns which occasionally brought me to DC, I knew I wanted to come back longer-term. The District always struck me as a vibrant city with innumerable opportunities to continue learning informally. Which I’ve found to be true! After graduating from Muhlenberg College, I immediately packed everything I owned – which fit into a duffel bag and a backpack – and crashed on a friend’s couch while I interviewed for a full time position. Within a month I was hired at the local Planned Parenthood, where I’ve been ever since. 

Career aside, I’ve also formed really deep connections in DC’s sober and Jewish communities (in which there seems to actually be a growing overlap)! Once DC re-opens, I plan to start hosting a ‘Sober Shabbat.’ It’ll be even better now that I’ve learned to make challah during lockdown.

Rachel: Describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish. 

Lena Beth: Wow, love this question. It would start with a coffee to go from the Sylvan Cafe in Bloomingdale, and at least an hour curled up back home reading a book. In non-COVID times, I’d hit a class at OrangeTheory (which I miss so much), then bike to Dupont to meet up with a friend and grab more coffee and a late breakfast either at Bethesda Bagels or Emissary. From there, either a picnic in Malcolm X Park with friends or ride through Rock Creek Park before returning home for some introvert time. I’d meet up with friends at the Black Cat later in the evening. I’m devastated that two of my favorite spots – 18th St Lounge and Kith/Kin – both closed earlier this year. I’m still hoping I wake up and find out that the news was all a dream. 

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

Lena Beth: Okay, I know this is the most 2020 answer, but I have gotten really, really into baking.  I find it’s a great distraction and way to pass the time. I wish I had more of an attention span for painting or other arts like I used to, but I find baking to be a great creative outlet and one that’s rewarding to share with others. In the first month or so of the pandemic, I gave away all of the books on my shelves that I’d already read by biking them to friends around DC. I biked a total of nearly 100 miles! So now that I don’t have any more books to bike around, dropping off baked goods is a good new way to let people know I’m thinking of them.

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

Lena Beth: Several! The person I’ve learned the most from over the last year – including how to be more boldly Jewish after years of internalizing antisemitism – is Yasmine of @yasmine.dreamz on Instagram (she’s not public with her last name). Her work as an educator has really pushed my understanding of Judaism, Jewish history, and ashkenormativity. Alongside GatherDC, I attribute so much of my return to Judaism to Yasmine’s writing. She unapologetically calls out and unpacks classism and anti-Blackness in Jewish communities, which can be equally insidious as in any other community. Her level of commitment to creating a more inclusive community really draws me in to Judaism. It’s something I try to emulate by checking myself when I’m making assumptions about Judaism globally, based on my experience of Judaism in America.

Rachel: What’s at the top of your life bucket list or where are places you’d love to travel? Why?

Lena Beth: As a native Oregonian, I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors. It’s been a long-time dream of mine to through-hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexico/California border to Canada.  I’ve read every book I can get my hands on about it and have even started saving the money and gear.  Now it’s just a matter of finding a ~5 month period I can commit to it. 

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

Lena Beth: …hopefully we’re following CDC guidelines!