Meet Arielle, Jewish Comms Professional of the Week!

by Samuel Milligan / February 7, 2024

The GatherDC blog strives to present a holistic portrait of the DMV’s Jewish community, sharing a wide variety of Jewish voices and perspectives. If you have a 20- or 30-something to nominate as our Jewish Person of the Week or for a Spotted in Jewish DMV feature, please email us!

Arielle and I meet one sunny February afternoon to chat about her work with the American Heart Association, who to call when you need chicken soup, creating a Nation of Lifesavers with Damar Hamlin, the joy of audiobooks and Redfin, and a truly crowded Shabbat dinner. Dig in and enjoy!

Arielle at the tidal basin.

Samuel: Thanks for joining me, Arielle! Tell me about your ideal DMV day. 

Arielle: It’s been seven years since I moved here. I absolutely love it, and see myself being here for a long time. I’m going to get bagels from Bethesda Bagels with friends. And, if I’m in Bethesda, Levain always calls my name – I lived around the corner from the original location on the Upper West Side for a few years. 

Then, I’m a big audiobook person – it’s a Covid-era obsession. I’d walk around my neighborhood, listen to my audiobook, and look at houses I won’t be affording anytime soon. When I’m really intrigued by one, I’ll write down the address and look it up on Redfin when I get home. I’ve been known to make crazy, rash decisions – I bought my current condo via FaceTime in 2020 – so it’s good, and very safe, that these are all, like, five million dollar houses. Not happening anytime soon. 

I’m very much thinking of a Sunday. I’m protective of my Sunday evening decompression time, so I’ll do some meal prep while catching up with my brother who is currently living abroad, and watch Suits

Arielle and her brother. Samuel: What does your Jewish community look like right now? How did you get involved after you moved here? 

Arielle: I did Shabbat Clusters for several seasons when I first got here and got back into it last year. You’re not going to become meaningful friends with everyone, but I’ve found one or two really good friends. Now, I love the feeling of hosting, and bringing together all of the different people in my life who don’t know each other. I love looking over and seeing my best friend talking to someone from work, or an Adas friend talking to a Shabbat Clusters person. It’s nice to facilitate those connections.

I’m also involved in Adas Israel’s Hesed Committee. I got involved – and this shows how wonderful the Adas community is – because I was very sick last year. I was on a trip in Florida with my parents and had to go to the emergency room, then fly back [to DC] the next day. I was really sick, couldn’t eat anything, had no groceries…so I texted Marcy [Editor’s note: Adas Israel’s Senior Director of Engagement and Programming Operations] at 12:30 p.m. on a Monday to ask for chicken soup. She was like: On it!

Arielle in London, in a phone booth. I live close to Adas, but I was not up to walking. I got a call from someone on the Hesed Committee. Do you need kosher chicken? Do you need low sodium? Do you want chicken, vegetables, just broth? By 2:30 that same afternoon, I had three pints of chicken soup, and they brought me two more deliveries over the next two weeks. 

Afterwards, I thought that being involved with Hesed was how I could pay it forward. They make it really fun and easy for someone who does not know how to cook. I’ve also been involved with 3GDC and Anne Frank House. Because everything was virtual for so long, I sort of got overly involved in things; there was no commute time! And, as an introvert, being on Zoom with people can be much easier than going to an event. But, I am looking for in-person involvement, and Hesed has been a good way to do that. 

Samuel: What else is resonating for you Jewishly right now?

Arielle: What’s so important to me about Judaism is the history and connection to my family. My grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. Especially in the last five months, I’ve really seen that intergenerational trauma present itself in me. I’m not really a Torah study kinda gal; it’s the services, practice, and the connection to people that defines Judaism to me. Though, I’ll also say: I feel like our generation can be a little detached from organized religion, but I do find a lot of value in it which can probably be traced back to my days in USY.

Samuel: What are you feeling proud about right now? 

Arielle: I’m proud of the work I do and the life I have in DC. I have amazing friends. My job fulfills me. And, I just renovated my bathroom, which is such an adult thing. I’m still really good friends with my best friend from fourth grade. All the time, we’re like: Who would have thought that this is where we’d end up? But that’s what is awesome about life.

Arielle at AHA headquarters. Samuel: Tell me about your work!

Arielle: My first job in DC exposed me to advocacy communications, but I wasn’t working on an issue I was super passionate about. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the Goldilocks experience, and working for the American Heart Association is my “just right” [Editor’s note: February is Heart Month!]. We advocate on issues that improve heart and brain health. We focus on tobacco. We’ve been involved at the federal level on rules to get menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars removed from the market. We’re also very involved in child nutrition policies, including SNAP benefits and healthy school meals. We’ve also been working on, at the state and local levels, issues related to CPR and access to AEDs

Right now, only one in ten people will make it to the hospital with a fighting chance after cardiac arrest. As we saw from Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, every link in the chain of survival has to work. We want to create a Nation of Lifesavers and double the chance of survival in the event of a cardiac emergency by 2030.

In our advocacy, we’re working on passing policies like the Access to AEDs Act, which would establish a grant program to support CPR and AED training in schools, ensuring funding for all students to be trained in CPR before graduating high school, and securing resources so that schools can adopt and implement cardiac emergency response plans. For example, it’s great if you have an AED at a school…but do they have a plan in place to know how to use it? Are they checking to make sure it’s not dead? 

Arielle at a Taylor Swift concert. I get really fired up talking about the CPR and AED stuff because it feels like something everyone can get behind; it’s very much a bipartisan effort, both at the federal and state levels. People get it. It’s tangible, and there are wins – it’s just about knowing where to look for them. 

Samuel: Okay, a couple more to finish up. You can invite any three people to Shabbat dinner. Who are they and why? 

Arielle: My first answer is Meghan Markle. She’s incredible and would have great stories. I think she’s the ultimate advocate and is so smart…I’m very proud of myself for going through [most of this interview] without bringing up the royal family. 

My second thought is that my dream Shabbat dinner is with my family. My children don’t exist yet, and I don’t know who they are, but I want to save seats for them. Then, I was named for a grandmother I never met, and I have so many questions for her. I think all the time about all my grandparents, none of whom are with us anymore, and what in God’s name they would think about what is going on in the world – from the fact that I can FaceTime with someone halfway across the world, to…I guess I have a whole table going now, but I would also love to meet my PopPop’s mother, who was killed in the Holocaust.

One of the reasons I say that is because one of my favorite people in the world is my Israeli cousin, Or. Our great-grandmothers were sisters in Germany before the war, and it would be interesting to have a conversation with him and our great-grandmothers, to be like: You went through this horrible thing, but look how we ended up as close as we did. 

Samuel: Not only something horrible, but something horrible designed specifically to fracture those relationships and prevent that from happening. 

Arielle: Exactly. My aunt says that my relationship with my cousin is our revenge on Hitler. It shows that he didn’t get what he wanted. 

Now I have what, nine people at this table? Maybe Meghan will bring Harry and the kids and we’ll have a real party.

Samuel: We can always pull up some chairs. Last one. Finish the sentence. When Jews of the DMV gather…

Arielle: It’s always an interesting time. In my ideal world, it’s a place of connection – not just for me, but making connections between other people. 

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