Meet Lane! Coming to DC via Dayton, Ohio, Lane is GatherDC’s Education Intern for Summer 2023. We talk about their journey to the DMV, practicing Shabbat as a full-time student, why they make their own clothes, and more!
Samuel: Hi, Lane! We’re so glad to have you with us this summer. What brought you to the DMV?
Lane: I came for American University! I started as a Political Science major, but I’m studying Sociology now. I just finished my sophomore year.
Samuel: What is your dream DMV day?
Lane: I love going to the museums and genuinely just walking around with people. I went to the Air and Space Museum with a friend and, growing up in a military pilot family, it was like: Oh, I can tell you all about this!
I hate car-centric infrastructure, but I can generally walk where I need to go. It’s nice being able to get out and about and not feel so sedentary. My favorite farmer’s market is the one in Mount Pleasant – it’s chill, and there’s good variety, and I didn’t expect to find that in a city that’s so dense.
Samuel: What drew you to the role as GatherDC’s Education Intern?
Lane: I started the process of converting to Judaism in March 2021, when everything was virtual. I really appreciated the work that my rabbi did, and the classes and learning I was able to be part of through my synagogue and Hillel. I met a lot of Jewish people who felt behind on their education or cultural literacy and realized that we have a lack of accessible Jewish education. I got involved with Hillel’s Jewish Learning Fellowship as a facilitator. I want to offer people the same educational opportunities and purposeful community that I’ve found.
Samuel: What brought you to the conversion journey?
Lane: I was raised Catholic. We went to church occasionally, and I did Sunday school. Once I was confirmed, I didn’t really have to do anything within my Catholicism. There were years where I was sort of uninterested and unaffiliated. But then in high school, a couple things happened. I started reading a bit of Jewish philosophers, like Spinoza. As a longtime German student, I was learning a little bit of Yiddish on the side. Then, it sounds so silly to say, but my high school did Fiddler on the Roof and between that, and my reading, and having close friends who were Jewish, there was all this cultural information that felt so compelling to me. I was like: Let me investigate this a little bit, and I started doing more research and feeling more drawn to Judaism.
Then, when I was accepted to American University, I also found Washington Hebrew Congregation, and began meeting with a rabbi once every few weeks. I would read and incorporate some new practice in between our meetings. Then, in August of last year, I officially had my beit din. There were a couple moments that specifically spoke to me, drawing me to Judaism, but, overall, it just felt weird for me not to investigate Judaism.
Samuel: What role has Jewish community played in your life for the past few years?
Lane: I’ve felt so welcomed. People are always asking me – in a very nice way – about why I converted, what I like about Judaism. Jewish community has been a place where people are always looking out for you, always caring about your wellbeing. Community and doing things together are baked into every aspect of observance. No matter how strictly you observe Shabbat or holiday practices, you’re taking time to be mindful; it’s antithetical, in a good way, to the hustle-and-bustle grindset kind of society we live in.
Samuel: What does your Shabbat practice look like as a student?
Lane: Shabbat is a reclamation of space and time. I turn my notifications off. Nobody is reaching me unless I want them to. I take that time, especially after services on Saturdays, to connect with people and put aside school. It also reminds me to pace myself and have better time management throughout the week because I know I’m going to set everything aside.
Samuel: What other Jewish practices have become really meaningful for you?
Lane: I enjoy Purim – I have a friend who I’ve been able to rope into dressing up with me. I converted right before the  High Holidays, so this past year has been my first official blue-checkmark observance of the holidays. I’ve tried to enjoy them and attend as many services and programs as I can.
I do really enjoy the High Holidays, including fasting on Yom Kippur. It was meaningful to honestly retrain my brain and spend a day thinking more deeply about the year ahead and what it means to be a person.
Samuel: Was there a moment where you felt that “official” or “blue-checkmark” Jewish life had begun for you?
Lane: There was something coming out of the mikveh – it felt like something had shifted. But I think it’s like a birthday. You don’t just wake up and feel whatever age you are. But when I was home for Hanukkah, having my mom be very welcoming of my new reality – she got me candles and asked if or how my family should participate – that felt like a first step.
Then, having Passover Seders, even though I didn’t grow up with those practices and traditions, the people I was with made it really easy to participate and figure out what was going on. It felt like a family. I felt like I was making up for lost time.
It’s also interesting and meaningful to decide what traditions I want to set for myself in the future. I have an opportunity to do Judaism with a purpose and think about where I am and what things will look like the next time around.
Samuel: What are you excited to develop personally or professionally through your time at GatherDC?
Lane: I’d love to get better at email. I feel like I have to read everything a million times to make sure I didn’t include, like, my social security number, or say “I hate you!”
I’m thinking about how I can become more attentive to people’s needs, whether it’s immediate coworkers or community members. I want to be able to listen to folks and implement what they need, or deal with conflicting feedback and find a happy medium of what people need and want.
Then, I’m also excited for the Beyond the Tent retreat. It sounds like an incredible, well-developed experience for everyone involved and that’s the type of intensive – but inviting and warm – work that I appreciate.
Finally, I’m excited to talk more about RAM [Editor’s note: Relevant, Active, Meaningful] philosophy. It’s just such a good framework for approaching Jewish community and experiences. I’m interested to see what it looks like in practice and think about how to apply it in my future.
Samuel: You mentioned earlier that you make a lot of your own clothes — tell me about that!
Lane: I have a very particular vintage style that can be hard to find on the shelf. I also just got so tired of going into a store and finding pants that I loved…and they don’t fit. Or they have small pockets. Then, with fast fashion, it’s like…I get better clothes that I’m happier with, and hopefully it makes the planet happier, too.
Samuel: What’s the best piece of art you’ve encountered recently?
Lane: A friend of mine turned me on to Sturgill Simpson’s Cuttin’ Grass: Vol. 1. I’ve always been a bluegrass fan. I love the lyrics and instrumentation. It reminds me of home.
Samuel: You can invite any three people to Shabbat dinner. Who would they be?
Lane: Daniel Kahn, the musician. He’s a talented klezmer musician and Yiddish speaker. Gesa, my exchange student friend from Germany. She was raised lightly Protestant, but I’m like: Hey, come to dinner. Bring some baked goods. And then…Abby Stein. Her story shows that queerness and Torah observance don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and that our textual traditions have plenty of space to accommodate queer people. We just have to be willing to build an inclusive framework.
Samuel: Alright, last one. Finish the sentence for me: When Jews of the DMV gather…
Lane: You can guarantee we’ll complain about the commute.
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