A Personal Guide to Being New and a Jew, in DC

by Jason Schwartz / October 20, 2021

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool: Come From Away Shabbat

A rush of excitement filled my heart as I reached out to family and friends this past spring to let them know that I would be moving to DC, a homecoming ten years in the making. To say I have been mobile is an understatement. Because of my studies and work, I have lived in seven different states over the last decade and just completed my fourth move in six years. 

In each of the three places I lived during the last six years (North Carolina, Cincinnati and Albany, NY), I started out knowing slim to no one. When I feel connected to my local community I am at my happiest and most at ease, so it was paramount for me to find people with similar interests. I find that sharing a connection to Jewishness makes it easier to connect with people, and I quickly feel at home. So an easy way for me to find common ground with people is through Jewish programming for young adults. 

Knowing this about myself, within the first two months of arriving in DC I went to ten Jewish community events aimed at young people, hosted by a slew of organizations (full list below). I attended lively happy hours, reflective holiday gatherings, and evening get-togethers filled with laughter. My experience overall has been very enjoyable, and I credit that to the attitude I bring to each event. 

Benjamin Banneker Park: Tashlich Gathering with GatherNoVA & Rodef 2100

Going out to an event, especially when you don’t know anyone, can put you in a vulnerable position, which may seem daunting. However, I find that remembering a simple truth can help a lot: the value of our community is the total value we each individually bring, so if you don’t bring value, it can make for a sub-par experience. This does not mean that you need to be a social butterfly, flawless conversationalist, or musical genius to belong. Honestly, I have yet to go to any Jewish gathering that didn’t have that somewhat awkward tinge. What it means is that if you bring the best version of yourself, be present, open, and willing to engage both in the event activity and people around you, you will likely have a great time.  It’s okay to feel a little uncomfortable at first, as it takes time to build connections, but once you get started, it only gets easier. I have found that DC really is such a tightly-woven and welcoming community. 

As I ground myself in the city, I look forward to continuously investing in myself and others around me to elevate our sense of belonging. I hope to be an active part of this wonderful young adult Jewish fabric and beyond. Together, when we support each other and welcome those newcomers into our circles, we can foster crucial connections that greatly impact our well-being.  

Metrobar: End of the Line: A Simchat Torah Celebration with Sixth & I

Locations & Events 

  • Benjamin Banneker Park: Tashlich Gathering with GatherNoVA & Rodef 2100 
  • Caboose Commons: GatherNoVA Happy Hour 
  • Capitol Cider House: GatherDC Happy Hour 
  • Edlavitch Jewish Community Center: Shabbat Cluster Kickoff  
  • Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool: Come From Away Shabbat 
  • Metrobar: End of the Line: A Simchat Torah Celebration with Sixth & I
  • Moishe House NoVA: Shabbat Dinner
  • P Street Beach: Havdalah & Hang in the Park 
  • Sixth & I: Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur Morning Signature Services
  • Wunder Garten: Israeli Embassy Olympic Baseball Celebration Metrobar: End of the Line: A Simchat Torah Celebration

Jason Schwartz is a graduate student studying urban planning and works as a research assistant. He loves to immerse himself in the cultural amenities of DC and go for long runs through the dense cityscapes and urban parks.