Meet Amelia, GatherDC’s Office Manager! In their new position, Amelia is looking forward to facilitating a warm and welcoming space for community and connection to flourish — we can already hardly imagine the townhouse without them! In this conversation, we chat about what makes a community feel welcoming, their journey from the Bay Area to the DMV, and the value of self-expression. Read on and get to know Amelia!
Samuel: Hi, Amelia! I’m so excited to chat with you this afternoon. Tell me about how you ended up in the DMV!
Amelia: I got out of a five-year relationship in California. I’d been applying to grad school in California and had all these roots there…but I just uprooted myself and decided to futz around on the East Coast until I decided what I really want to do and where I want to be. I traveled for a summer, came back to DC, got a serving job, and started meeting people. My first community was the nightlife – bartenders, servers – and so I put down some tentative roots. But it wasn’t until I got into, honestly, the Burning Man community that –
Samuel: Hold up, Burning Man community?
Amelia: It exists. And it’s rather robust – DMV, Baltimore, Philly. There are events that model themselves off of Burning Man with a couple hundred people each. I started to meet people I really resonated with and started connecting so much more than I had in California. In the Bay Area, it seems like everyone and their mom goes to Burning Man. But it made a huge difference to meet all these people who resonate with Burning Man and its ethos not because they grew up immersed in it, but because they found their own way to it.
That became my very queer found family in DC. I love that DC is a very queer town – that’s where I found my community.
Samuel: What makes you feel welcome within a community?
Amelia: With my Burning Man community, comparing the “big event” to the small events is like apples and oranges. Burning Man is this massive, overwhelming city, while the smaller events are like a village where you know everybody. Everybody cooks for each other, makes coffee in the morning, sits around a campfire, and you get to know everyone. The smallness and closeness of that community makes it feel very inviting without feeling exclusionary. Part of the culture is openness and self-expression – celebrating the unusual, the weird, the unique.
Samuel: What drew you to GatherDC?
Amelia: I had not had Jewish connections since my 20s, post-college. It feels like a puzzle piece of my identity that had just been stagnating, so it was really cool to find an organization that I resonated with that felt approachable for someone non-normative, who hasn’t followed a particularly conservative Jewish path.
Samuel: Why this position in particular?
Amelia: I was managing a bar that shut down when Covid hit. Then, I was a case manager at a transitional living home for adults and, in the last few months in social work, I really started to burn out. It occurred to me – like for the first time, a novel idea – that work and my career shouldn’t have to be the core of my identity and my life. It would be so cool to do something meaningful without feeling drained.
When I came across Gather, it was like a part of my identity was waking back up. I had gone to Jewish summer camp, was in BBYO, Hillel…and I feel like I haven’t developed a fulfilling adult Jewish identity. But I want that. And as I applied to Gather and interviewed – which was a joy, by the way, and who says that about a job interview? – I was thinking, well, even if they don’t hire me, this is an avenue to Jewish connection that I’ve been missing. I planned to get coffee either way.
Samuel: What’s something that excites you about being GatherDC’s Office Manager?
Amelia: I’m excited about having coworkers that I work really closely with. It’s also exciting just to look around the townhouse space and see all the potential. I can’t wait to get some art on the walls and bring some creativity to the work.
Samuel: Where do you see those formative Jewish experiences showing up in your life right now?
Amelia: My connection to nature feels very Jewish to me. I love an outdoor service and built that close association growing up, at summer camp in particular. I was really lucky – I went to and then worked at a summer camp right outside Yosemite National Park. Our prayer space was surrounded by redwoods. That association of my spirituality and the natural world runs so deep for me.
Samuel: Oddly enough, I’ve talked to a few people recently who made the move from the West Coast to the DMV – is there anything that’s stood out to you as significantly different in your life here versus out west?
Amelia: It’s the DC dress code. There’s almost two cities that kind of overlap – there’s the one I got to know as a bartender and server that’s just so full of culture, and then there’s my commute into work where…
Samuel: Everyone looks right out of a Jos. A. Bank catalog. [Editor’s Note: From our seats at a window in the GatherDC townhouse, Amelia and I can see both a Brooks Brothers and Jos. A. Bank storefront. And, to be fair, the Editor definitely has a Jos. A. Bank tie or two.]
Amelia: I can’t really imagine more of a culture of self-expression and diversity and variety in Government DC, but I’d love to see it.
Samuel: Okay, a few quick questions for the end! What’s a new hobby or skill you’d like to pick up?
Amelia: Crocheting. I need something to do with my hands all the time and you can make such cool stuff.
Samuel: What are you feeling proud about right now?
Amelia: I’m a drag king and burlesque performer – I like to mess with gender. We just wrapped up a show that I and a team of people co-wrote, a science fiction show where I got to play The Doctor [Editor’s Note: As in Doctor Who!]. We’ve written a couple of shows, but the feedback we got was that this was the best one yet.
Samuel: Very cool! What’s the best piece of art – apart from your show, of course – that you’ve encountered recently?
Amelia: My partner and I went to New York for our anniversary and saw Sleep No More. It’s an immersive theater experience in a Victorian hotel in Manhattan – they release you into the hotel, following the actors around, and it is full of all these incredible sets. Very little dialogue with a lot of modern dance and an intense, moody soundtrack. You just wander through.
Samuel: That sounds incredible. If you could invite any three people to Shabbat dinner, who would you invite and why?
Amelia: I would invite Audre Lorde, so I could pick her brain about her “Erotic as Power” essay; Michelle Obama because I stan Michelle Obama; and Oscar Wilde, for the witty banter.
Samuel: Last one. Finish the sentence for me: When Jews of the DMV gather…
Amelia: Chaos ensues? It’s tough to boil it down, but you have so much diversity in the DMV – people coming from all different backgrounds, all different experiences. You get a really broad, interesting picture of what Judaism looks like and means to all different people.
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