Recently we spoke with Wendy Low, an educator, organizer, and rock climber. Wendy is passionate about so many things and is always working on a project. Read the full interview to discover how Wendy likes to spend her time, what her ideal Shabbat dinner looks like, and so much more!
Hannah: What brought you to DC?
Wendy: I moved to DC after I graduated college to do a year of service with Avodah. I stayed because I had built such an incredible community with the people here. I couldn’t imagine leaving that behind. I didn’t have a full-time job at the time so I worked many different jobs at museums, in a non-profit promoting civic engagement, and facilitating educational programs.It wasn’t always easy, but staying in DC with my community was really worth it. Nowadays, I’m in DC working at the Close Up Foundation to inform, inspire, and empower young people to accept the rights and responsibilities of participating in democracy. I think it’s really important that we meet and listen to people with whom we disagree so I feel fortunate to help facilitate those types of connections every day.
Hannah: Could you describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish?
Wendy: My dream day in the DMV definitely includes a really good breakfast. Currently, I’m obsessed with the Baker’s Daughter. My day would have to include rock climbing, maybe top roping at Great Falls or going to the climbing gym where I also work. I really like seeing shows at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre. I love boating on the wharf or at Key Bridge in the spring months. My perfect day involves getting outside, getting some really good food with friends, and maybe some special craft cocktails on a fancy outdoor patio.
Hannah: Can you tell me more about how you got into climbing?
Wendy: I started climbing when I was really little and continued throughout my life. When my service year with Avodah ended I saw a job posting at a climbing gym. I started working there in 2016 and discovered I’m an excellent coach for both youth and adults.I fell in love with working at the gym, the community there, and helping people reach their goals on the climbing wall. Eventually I started working full time at the gym.
Over the last several years, the climbing gym industry has changed rapidly. Climbing is now an Olympic sport, Oscar-winning documentaries about climbing have been produced, and there are now about 600 climbing gyms in North America. My company expanded rapidly and while employees benefited from the growth, there were some downsides to being part of a rapidly-expanding company. My co-workers and I saw full-time opportunities disappearing and our voices carrying less weight. About a year ago, we decided to unionize. After months of dedicated work, we have become the first unionized climbing gym in North America! If folks want to support us or learn more, they should follow Movement for Equal Footing on Instagram! We are on Twitter too.
Hannah: Wow, sounds like climbing and working at the gym has been a super important part of your life! Besides climbing, what do you like to do in your free time?
Wendy: When I’m not climbing, coaching climbers, working my full-time job at Close Up, or organizing a union I really like playing indie video games, going to museums, and seeing friends. I love modern art and just got a membership to the Hirschorn– the Laurie Anderson exhibit that is up right now is amazing. During the pandemic I realized how much I missed live theater so I’ve been trying to see more shows recently. I also facilitate programs with Resetting the Table, helping to build communication across divides.
Hannah: How do you connect with your Jewish identity or the Jewish community?
Wendy: For me the most important part of Jewish community is getting together to celebrate holidays and traditions. I love having people over or going to people’s houses to have a meal. Shabbat dinner is really important to me. Song is also an important part of my connection to Judaism and I think that’s true for my whole family–especially my incredibly talented brother and sister-in-law, Sheldon and Hadar.
Hannah: Do you have a favorite food to eat on Shabbat?
Wendy: When I was growing up, every Friday my mom put rice, potatoes, and chicken all into one pot and the pot in the oven. Nowadays, my amazing sister Flo and I do Shabbat together nearly every week. We usually make chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, though we do a good salmon and delicious vegetarian meals too. Anyone who knows us knows we are always happy to host Shabbat meals on Friday and love having guests! Flo is really a fabulous host so I feel lucky that we get to have meals together weekly.
Hannah: What is one thing you can’t get through the day without?
Wendy: I’m a daily Wordle player. I love that you can only play once a day. I have a word list and strategy and a group chat with friends where we share our scores.
Hannah: Do you have a favorite Jewish tradition?
Wendy: In my family, Passover is the most important holiday. I’ve only missed one Passover seder at my house during my whole life. My grandfather used to lead our seders and now my dad leads them. A few years ago, my sister and I started collaborating to write our own family Haggadah each year, picking a central theme and choosing our favorite readings. Now we lead the second night of our family seders together and it’s been really meaningful.
Hannah: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Wendy: My first boss said to me, if no one’s gonna die, it can wait ‘til tomorrow. That was extremely helpful advice as someone who is prone to overworking. The idea that I can wait ‘til tomorrow and it’s okay to go home and have boundaries was very helpful. The other piece of advice is always negotiate. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a flat rate. Always negotiate.
Last question: Complete this sentence – When the Jews of DC gather…
Wendy: They cooperatively overlap!
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