Recently we spoke with Jonathan, a Jewish professional, comedian, and trained chef. Read the full blog to learn about Jonathan’s work with Honeymoon Israel and his many, many fascinating talents!
Hannah: What brought you to DC?
Jonathan: I spent the first 18 years of my life here before I went to college, then eventually came back to work on political campaigns in Maryland. For the past five years, I’ve lived all over the country: Nevada, Missouri, and Minnesota. After being far away from home for so long, I wanted to come back and do work within the Jewish community and give back in any way I could.
Hannah: Could you describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish?
Jonathan: I would start the day by going to a farmer’s market and getting whatever fresh ingredients are available because I do a lot of cooking in my life. After that, I would probably meet up with friends for brunch. We like trying new restaurants and exploring. At the end of the day, I would take all the ingredients that I got from the farmers market and make a completely new recipe. I like trying out something new so I can add it to the recipe book and take advantage of whatever ingredients are growing in DC at that specific time.
Hannah: If time and money were no object what would you be doing right now?
It’s my dream to start a bunch of little pop-up farm-to-table restaurants, open them up for two weeks, make zero money and just close them. It’ll never be financially viable, but it would be so much fun. I’d also find some way to combine my love of cooking with my love of comedy. I would love to have a comedy show where I perform and cook at the same time.
Hannah: Being a comedian, would you rather be the funniest or the smartest person in a room?
Jonathan: The funniest person because you can bring joy to any room. You’ll never have a boring meeting because you can tell jokes and everyone’s laughing by the end of it.
Hannah: Switching gears a bit. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do for work?
I work for an organization called Honeymoon Israel, which connects people to Jewish community by running trips to Israel for couples with one Jewish partner. After the trip, the couples come back to the DC area and are able to build Jewish community their own way. We’re not prescriptive – we support couples however they’re looking to create their Jewish life here.A lot of our couples are trying to balance different faiths in their lives, and we try to make sure that they’re able to grow together.
Hannah: Do you have a favorite Jewish tradition?
Tashlich is one of my favorite traditions [Editor’s Note: tashlich is the High Holiday ritual of symbolically casting off one’s sins by throwing pebbles or bread crumbs into flowing water]. I like the act of putting the previous year into perspective before sending it out into the water. I like how you can hone in on yourself and feel refreshed looking into the new year.
If you could invite any three people to your Shabbat dinner, who would you invite?
Jonathan: I’d have to go back to my campaign world. I used to work for Elizabeth Warren. She is the most incredible person and she’s the sweetest human being in the world. She’s definitely on the list. Then I would have Shaquille O’Neal there because he is maybe the funniest person. And the third would have to be Mel Brooks. I would love to hear him talk about his life and about how he brought comedy to so many people with a very Jewish lens.
Hannah: What’s one thing you can’t get through the day without?
Jonathan: Music! The second I wake up I am playing some kind of music across the entire apartment. Even when I work I always have some kind of music playing.
Hannah: What is one thing you do to relax or for fun at the end of a long week?
It’s always going to go back to cooking; it’s my personal stress relief. Whenever you cook anything, you’re starting from absolutely nothing and you’re allowed to be creative. You’re doing something that takes a lot of focus but in a way that’s relaxing. Then you get to eat it at the end!
Hannah: What are your simple pleasures?
Jonathan: Really good wings. Gardening, for some weird reason. And I really, really like the sound of a fan when you’re falling asleep.
Hannah: Final question! Complete this sentence: When the Jews of DC gather…
Jonathan: They build community in a way that makes everyone feel included.
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