You’ve probably already met Mary, even if you don’t know it. Since mid-April, as our new Digital Content Manager, she’s been the steady hand behind every reel, Facebook update, and eminently shareable Instagram post we’ve put out in the world. Read on to find out why Mary moved to the DMV, her favorite zoo animal, her goals for her time at Gather, and much, much more!
Samuel: Hi, Mary! I’m so glad to get you introduced here on the blog. First off – what brought you to the DMV?
Mary: DC checked all of my boxes. I wanted to live somewhere that was walkable, with good public transit. I hate driving and am notoriously bad at it. Ideally, I’d never get behind the wheel again.
I also wanted to be on the East Coast, close to my family back in North Carolina. I visited DC last year and was enthralled – the museums, the history, the architecture! In December, I moved to Adams Morgan, and I’m dazzled on a daily basis by the things I get to see, the food I get to try, and the people I get to meet.
Samuel: What else has you really excited about being here?
Mary: I’m a zoo girlie. I live ten minutes away and want to go every chance I get to hang out with the giant tortoises. I’m their biggest fan. I could sit in the reptile house all day.
Samuel: How’d you find yourself with Gather in this specific role as our Digital Content Manager?
Mary: I was at a career transition point – I was finishing up a temp position and, as I was applying to full-time roles, I was feeling really bogged down in the job application process. All the applications and interviews were starting to bleed together and look the same. But when I saw the GatherDC posting, it seemed so genuinely mission-driven. It seemed – and, now that I’m here, it feels – like a place where I can wake up every day and be excited about coming to work, doing the community-building that I’m passionate about.
Samuel: Obviously it’ll now be a huge part of your professional life, but how does Judaism show up in your life more broadly?
Mary: Though my mom’s father was Jewish, I was raised Catholic. I started the process of converting to Judaism back in North Carolina [Editor’s note: Where Mary attended UNC!] and, when I moved to DC, Adas Israel was kind enough to let me transfer my process over. My beit din is in June, and I’m so excited to officially become Jewish!
Samuel: What put you on the path to formally converting?
Mary: I’ve been dating a very nice Jewish boy named Aaron for several years, but initially neither of us had any idea that I’d convert – it just wasn’t on our radar. In 2021, he invited me to light Hanukkah candles with him, and I was like: Dope! I’ll try this out! And even though I didn’t really understand what was happening, I found it to be such a powerful experience. It awakened something in me. I went down an internet rabbit hole and just started reading and voraciously consuming information about Jewish spirituality and traditions. One thing kind of led to another – I found I was so drawn to this way of life, and I asked Aaron if we could try going to services together.
Samuel: This reminds me of a conversation we had a few weeks back about Judaism’s relationship with God compared to other versions of that relationship. Have you thought a lot about that?
Mary: I could chew on this for hours, frankly. One of the things that first struck me about Judaism is the way that asking questions is not only tolerated, but encouraged. Within the “big tent” of Judaism, there are so many conceptions of the divine, and spirituality, and what a better world could look like. Judaism cultivates this intellectual curiosity that I hadn’t encountered in religious spaces before; I didn’t know you could “wrestle with God.”
Samuel: It sounds like you’ve very quickly felt at home in Jewish communities. What is it that makes you feel that sense of belonging?
Mary: In any community, I look for people who are eager to learn and hungry for knowledge. I really enjoy hanging out with the “young professionals” group at Adas Israel. A few of us had a second-night Seder during Passover that was just so incredibly warm and welcoming and full of rich discussion, of course including the most important discourse: whether the plague of the frogs was a bunch of little frogs or one big frog.
Samuel: I think I’d be more scared by lots of little frogs than one big frog.
Mary: Someone said the one big frog would really distinguish the event. With a lot of little frogs, the Egyptians could think this was just a thing that happens. But the big frog? That’s divinely sent. That’s a big deal.
Samuel: I have a long-simmering would-you-rather with friends that this reminds me of. Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?
Mary: I don’t have the best of reflexes, so I worry that if I had 100 little creatures running around me, I wouldn’t be able to process and respond to all of them in a timely manner. I tend to be a more direct-all-my-focus-on-one-thing kind of person, so a horse-sized duck would be a more suitable adversary.
Samuel: Switching gears in a huge way: What’s something you’re excited to develop or learn through your work with GatherDC?
Mary: I’m excited to become a more effective communicator and to plug into the information needs of a community that means so much to me. GatherDC has already built a strong foundational social media presence; I’m excited to expand on it and innovate new ways to connect with Gather’s community.
Samuel: Okay, a few more: What’s a new skill outside of work you want to pick up?
Mary: Believe it or not, couponing. I have so much admiration for people who maintain those giant accordion folders of coupons and save a ton on toiletries and whatnot. I get a bunch in the mail, but I never manage to use them before they expire.
Also, I want to hone my Hebrew, in a prayer context but also learning some modern Hebrew. One day, I want to watch Shtisel without subtitles.
Samuel: What are you feeling proud about right now?
Mary: With the help of friends and rabbis and my synagogue community and my incredible partner, I have learned quite a lot about Judaism in a relatively short period of time. And the more I learn, the more I grasp just how much more there is to learn over the course of my lifetime!
Samuel: If you could invite any three people to Shabbat dinner, who would they be?
Mary: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Tony Shalhoub, and Lady Gaga.
Samuel: Last one. Finish the sentence for me: When Jews of the DMV gather…
Mary: A ton of falafel is served. And that’s a very good thing, in my book.
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