Meet Nathan, Jewish Phone-Call Lover of the Week!

by Samuel Milligan / June 19, 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!

Nathan and I meet one unbelievably warm summer morning at A Baked Joint. Over iced mochas, we chat about Nathan’s passion for out-of-the-blue phone calls, his intentional approach to friendship-building in a new home, his work as Sixth & I‘s Director of Jewish Life, and Shabbat dinner with Shrek!

Nathan and his partner sip wine on a snowy deck.

Samuel: Hi, Nathan! Thanks so much for making the time this morning. First off, what brought you to the DMV?

Nathan: Simple answer? My partner got a job. We were long distance for two years beforehand, so when he got a job, we said: Great! We’re moving to DC.

Samuel: Did you have any connection to the city beforehand? How has the transition been?

Nathan: I have a few friends who lived here, but DC feels new. I’d visited, but nothing felt like it was mine. I’ve found that people in DC are very friendly and open to meeting, both in the Jewish community and beyond. When you go somewhere, everyone is willing to talk and have a conversation, and that’s been very helpful in my first year here. I’m still very new to the community, but I’m getting my roots down. In my next year, I’m trying to branch out and not just be meeting people, but try to be really developing friendships. 

Nathan outdoors on a sunny afternoon. Samuel: How do you move from meeting someone, being acquaintances, to be friends?

Nathan: Repetition. Some of it is on me – saying I need to get your phone number, let’s get together, following up. And then other times, I’m asking: How can I find places where I can naturally see people again and again, where it can be a little bit more passive, but still friendship-making? 

I want to push myself a little bit more. I lived in Atlanta for 8 years, so I had my sense of community, groups, and friendship. Now that I’m here and settling in, I’ll be able to try new things and meet new people more confidently. 

Samuel: I think so many people in the DMV can empathize – you live somewhere for a while, you have your community, and then when you move you have to build all of that immediate community back up. How have you navigated that, plus keeping in touch with the community you built in Atlanta?

Nathan: It’s really hard! I have friends who do a monthly call, or a game night, or Facetime after work – a sort of spur-of-the-moment thing where we all get on a call and talk for twenty minutes…or three hours. That’s how I’ve been able to still connect with people. When I was in Atlanta, I loved my commute. I would get in the car and instantly go through my list of people and call someone – friends, family. Now, it’s different…I’m not going to be the person making a phone call on the bus. 

Nathan and his partner take a selfie.Samuel: How did you approach building out your DC community once you and your partner moved?

Nathan: I did have a plan for that. When I started telling people I was moving, every single person had a friend who lived in DC, a cousin, a former roommate, an aunt. I made a list of those people who I could reach out to if I needed something. Then, I started adding places I wanted to visit, organizations, people I wanted to meet, and slowly started going through the list.

Samuel: You’re the Director of Jewish Life at Sixth & I. What brought you there?

Nathan: I’ve been working in the Jewish field for my entire career. I went to Sixth & I for Friday night services, years ago when I was visiting a friend, and something about it felt really special and unique. When I moved, one of the first things I did was to go to a Friday night service with a friend, so I knew I’d have at least one friendly face. And then I went home and had a nice dinner with my partner…but that first connection was something that I knew was interesting and intriguing.

So, when I saw the job opening, I immediately had to start figuring out how to get everything together and apply. I like the Jewish nonprofit spaces; they’re amazing, and do great work, and I wanted to be a part of that. 

Samuel: What is a dream project of yours in this new work?

Nathan: I love letting participants create their own experiences. I’d love to help people create their own experiences – go out and create their own holiday events, find a need that isn’t already addressed, and figure out how, through Sixth & I, we can build that. Where there’s a need, I’d love for us to be able to uncover it and provide a solution. 

Samuel: What’s it been like, both before your move and now, navigating your “professional” Jewish life and personal Jewish life?

Nathan takes a selfie in front of a pond.Nathan: It’s always a balance. If I’m at Sixth & I for Friday night services now, I’m working – making sure the tables are set up, coordinating with security, welcoming people, all those little details. That’s where my mind is at. But I always try, if it’s possible, to sit in on the sermon the rabbi is giving. I can just sit and listen and be reminded of why I’m there. And, the rabbi is my coworker, and it’s such a special moment to hear them do their thing. I try to find those times where I can be just a participant in the present, even when I’m working. 

I’ve also really been enjoying Capital Qvellers, which is an LGBTQ+ Jewish group that does monthly Shabbat dinners. It’s a great way to get to know other people in the Queer community and have a delicious meal. It’s low barrier, very inclusive, and home-hosted. It’s welcoming for anyone, whether you’ve lived here a long time or just moved here. There are a lot of people there that I now see regularly, and it’s great – I was talking about repetition earlier – it’s great to see those same people again and again, and to meet new people. 

Samuel: Absolutely. A couple quick ones to close. What’s something you’re feeling accomplished about?

Nathan: I feel really proud that my partner and I have been living together for a year now, and it’s going really well. When you move in for the first time, it’s always a little…How is this going to go? How is your routine with my routine?

Samuel: Suddenly you know exactly how different your philosophies on laundry are. 

Nathan: The laundry, the dishes, all those things. But it’s been great and makes being in DC completely worth it. 

Samuel: What’s something that you’re bad at?

Nathan: Gardening. I’ve given up on it. My dad has a green thumb. My sisters both love plants. My boyfriend loves plants. I just know that if I’m responsible for it, it will not get watered, no matter how many apps or alarms I set trying to remind myself. The plant will die. 

Nathan and his partner outside near a body of water.Samuel: What’s something in DC that not enough people know about?

Nathan: There’s a lot of amazing museums that aren’t on the National Mall that are so cool and so worth going to – when I have friends visiting DC I always try to convince them to go, but they always want the classics. I’m thinking of the Renwick Gallery. The Hirshhorn Museum is right there on the mall but it’s totally amazing and different. And the Rubell Museum – it’s odd, but very interesting, and I feel like not a lot of people know about it. 

Samuel: You’re hosting Shabbat dinner and can invite any three people. Who are you inviting and why?

Nathan: Sandra Diaz-Twine, the first person to win the American TV show Survivor twice. Greg Davies, host of the TV show Taskmaster. And Shrek…I can invite Shrek, right? I would absolutely love to gab and laugh and learn incredible behind-the-scenes insights into their lives.

Samuel: Last one. Finish the sentence: When Jews of the DMV gather…

Nathan: They invite each other over for Shabbat dinner.

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