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Noa: I grew up in a smallish town in North Carolina where I kind of lived in a bubble. My dad was the community rabbi, and my mom was the head of a Jewish day school. In North Carolina there are not that many Jews, but I really loved the Jewish community there. I loved growing up in a small town and being able to walk around, and enjoyed the community feeling.
Every summer, I went to Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia and loved the southern Jewish community that was created there. I went there for 12 summers and worked as a counselor for 5, and owe so much of who I am to my time there. I stayed in North Carolina for college where I went to UNC Chapel Hill (Go Heels!) and when it came time to graduate, I knew I wanted to get out of North Carolina and be somewhere bigger, but not too big. DC felt like the perfect in-between, and still has that summer charm that I love, and a Jewish community that is now really special to me.
I feel so lucky that I have family here (my brother, my sister in law, and my brand new nephew!), my camp friends, my school friends, and a new community of DC friends too.
Noa: Throughout COVID, I spent so much time looking on Yelp and DC Eater planning out restaurants to go to when I could go out again! My dream day would be a Sunday—I would walk through the farmer’s market with some nice coffee in the morning, and then get in a CorePower Yoga class. Then, I would walk through Meridian Hill Park and people watch. I’m excited to get back to the days where I always run into someone I know!
I’d make my way to Mount Pleasant for some ice cream at Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream they always have these really fun crazy flavors, and then maybe go to Frugalista with my roommates. I would squeeze in a Wizards game (growing up in NC, you just have to be a basketball fan, PLUS how could you not cheer for DC’s own Israeli Deni Avdija?), and finally finish off the night with a sushi dinner with my boyfriend Andy.
Noa: I’ve always been into fitness, exercise, and wellness. It started as a form of stress relief, and I love how exercise makes me feel. I love getting a good sweat in and being outside. I studied exercise science and psychology in college.
Once upon a time I wanted to be a sports psychologist and work with athletes with eating disorders and post-injury getting back into the game. So, I also really like working out because I know all about the muscles and recovery. Pre-COVID, the social aspect of being able to go to classes with my friends was also really fun.
Noa: I always knew I wanted to work with people. I was a camp counselor for several years and loved it. After graduation, I worked at a physical therapy clinic for a year, and it just wasn’t for me. I was debating going to PT school to get a degree in sports psychology, but that’s a 6 or 8 year PhD and I wasn’t ready to commit to that.
Then, I went back to camp for my last summer as a counselor and I was a unit head. I felt like I was re-rooted in what I really cared about. So, I came back to DC after that summer and landed a job at Maryland Hillel, and I absolutely loved every second of it. I was planning programs, taking students out to coffee, staffing Israel trips and Shabbat dinners, and really creating lasting relationships with students who I am confident will be leaders in our community soon!
Now, I work at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. I helped implement our community’s Good Deeds Week, where over 60 organizations united around the common goal of combating food insecurity, and 2,300 volunteers helped collect and donate over 3,000 meals and 37,000 canned goods for people in the Greater Washington area who are hungry. Now, I’m working with organizations in our community to continue responding to the poverty that has risen due to COVID. We’re looking strategically at issues like food insecurity, financial instability, and mental health, domestic violence, housing, and job placement and the resources that exist in our community to help those in need. It’s very meaningful work, and I’m thankful to be a part of it.
Noa: Yeah. Both of my parents are Jewish professionals and I spent so long thinking that wasn’t going to be me. But today I feel really confident that this is the space I’m supposed to be in.
Last summer, when I was in between jobs, I did Hebrew yoga and cooking classes, and it felt like the best of both worlds.
Noa: I have a few. One is related to yoga—I want to be able to go upside-down. Another is to spend less time on my phone, and instead spend time reading, being outside, going out to eat. Alongside that, I want to live more in the moment. I’m a huge planner so I’m constantly looking at my calendar, planning way out. I like that part of me, but I also think I need to spend more time enjoying the present.
Noa: In COVID, I’ve started to make challah as part of my Shabbat ritual to try and make Friday feel different. Even if I’m just getting takeout from Taïm, I’ll still make challah. So, if I was having people over, I would definitely take advantage of the opportunity of making a real meal, clean the house, get flowers, and make some good challah.
In terms of company, I would love to have Adeena Sussman or Michael Solomonov. They’re two of my celebrity chef inspirations. I love their cookbooks and I follow both of them on Instagram. They do amazing work in Israel and especially now with the conflict they are awesome voices that I really like listening to. I’m going to count my parents as one person, I’d love to host them at my table because so much of my love of hosting and Shabbat dinners comes from them. Third would be Nyle DiMarco. He won America’s Next Top Model, is from DC, and is deaf. Watching him inspired me to learn more about the deaf community in DC and start learning sign language. And, I actually ran into him last week!
Noa: You know, I really love summer in DC and feel like I missed out last year because everything was closed. As hot as it is, I’m planning on really enjoying some time here. I’m also going to Seattle at the end of the summer for one of my best friend’s weddings. Since I’m going out there, I’m making a trip out of it. I’m hoping to do some hikes and take a ferry. If anyone has recs, especially for restaurants, please comment below!
Noa: they swap recipes, play Jewish geography, and connect.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 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.