Meet Allen: Jewish Real Estate Guru of the Week!

 

Temporary Matt Corrado Mural at the Carnegie Library

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Allen: I went to school at The University of Maryland and was offered a job with a real estate developer doing an enormous mixed-use, multi-phase development project in Montgomery County. It was exciting, so I stuck around.

Allie: Do you still work in real estate?

Allen:  Yes! I had spent years working with restaurants on their design, construction and real estate expansions all over the east coast and have since started a company, Concept Lab CRE, which focuses on real estate, design and analytics consulting, primarily for restaurants, retail businesses and small multi-family projects.  

There are a lot of businesses that have great concepts, but need help developing processes to grow and evolve efficiently. I am always excited to talk to business owners interested in growth or addressing issues affecting their businesses.

Allie: Outside of work, I hear you’re also involved with Bridge To Health. Tell me about that.

Allen: Bridge To Health USA is a charity that provides sustainable healthcare to underprivileged communities in the US and around the world. I really wanted to be involved with a non-denominational, results-focused organization, and I’m a founding board member of BTH USA and serve as our Director of Fundraising and Development. We are setting up programs in Peru and Ohio and having worked in countries like Kenya and Uganda in the past.

We’re actually holding an event on September 26th at Prather’s on the Alley and we still looking for corporate partnerships, so if our mission resonates with you – reach out to me.

Rosenthal Vineyard, Malibu, CA

Allie: Wow! You must stay pretty busy.  What is the number one superpower you wish you could have?

Allen: I definitely try to stay active. If I could have a superpower it would be the ability to slow down time.  By the time the week starts it’s so packed with work and activities I always feel like I need more time in my day! I feel like you can never spend too much time with the people that you love and sometimes you just want time to stand still so you can really savor those moments.

Allie: If you could have a totally free day in DC, what would you do?

Allen:  I’d start out grabbing an espresso at Kafe Leopold in Cady’s Alley. They have a courtyard terrace where you can sit outside and relax listening to their fountain, you might as well be in Europe. From there I’d go to The Phillips Collection and sit in the Rothko Room for 15 minutes before biking the Mount Vernon trail – I try to do a 40 mile ride every other day. Then, I’d pick up lunch and go to The Graham Rooftop in the afternoon, which has one of my favorite views in the city and is probably my favorite place to throw parties during the day.  

After that, it’s dinnertime. Making dinner plans is one of my favorite things to do so I’d probably have made a reservation somewhere; favorites include Spoken English, Maydan and Kinship. Anyone who’s been out to dinner with me knows I’m also a big fan of the legendary tea menu and apple pie at Blue Duck Tavern for afterwards, and then drinks would continue after that.

Dinner and drinks with Friends at Bourbon, best fries in town included

Allie: What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?

Allen: I’m a huge post-war modern art fan, particularly hard edge pairings and minimal art from artists like Flavin, Kelly, Stella, Serra, Yves Kline, and Rothko. I’ve always been fascinated by beautiful architecture, design, and art, and it’s amazing showing up to the Hirshhorn or National Gallery of Art and seeing some of the most impressive works in the world. Big fan of The Whitney in NYC and The Broad In LA as well.  

Allie: Do you do art yourself?

Allen: I used to work on mixed-media pieces. I did some painting, worked with paper, and cut-out work. I also collect DC street art, but I really should be doing more of it. It’s funny you ask that actually, I was just speaking with a friend and DC street artist this weekend, we are going to work on a piece together.  

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Allen: I really love the water, especially shallow reefs, so most of the travel items on my list involve the ocean. I’ve always wanted to dive the Maldives or the Great Blue Hole in Belize. They are supposedly some of the most beautiful reefs in the world, and great beaches to relax on afterwards. Also, I’m a huge fan of Japanese culture, architecture, and food, so I’d love to spend time there as well.

allen

Swimming at Caneel Bay, St. John

Allie: Which 3 people would you invite to Shabbat?

Allen: I’m not much of a small group person, so let’s call it a party and invite a bunch of people: I’d invite Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Hilton Founder Conrad Hilton, Actress and Honest Company Founder Jessica Alba, Real Estate Developer Donald Bren, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat, Danish Architect Bjarke Ingels, and have Off-While Founder Virgil Abloh spinning records. 

Definitely a fun night.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Allen: A tie between Passover and Hanukkah. Passover because I love drinking around the table with my cousins and friends we invite over. And Hanukkah because I enjoy thinking of very personal, specific gifts to give to people.

Allie: Complete the sentence: when Jews of DC gather…

Allen: We make fun of everything and everyone.

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Sarah: Jewish Shark Cage Diver of the Week

When she’s not getting up close and personal with Great White Sharks, you might find Sarah Graham watching Hannah B. find love on “The Bachelorette”, playing with her adorable pups, or enjoying Sofar Sounds shows on the reg.

Allie: What brought you to the DC area?

Sarah: I grew up in Manhattan, and then went to American University for undergrad. I loved DC so much that I decided to stay. I’m coming up on my 6 year DC anniversary in August.

Allie: What do you love about DC?

Sarah: As a millennial and recent graduate, there are so many things to do for free or cheaply, which is incredible. The circulator is now free which makes it easy to explore new neighborhoods. It seems like every week I’m finding cool new things to do, like a feminist woodworking workshop, Jazz in the Garden, or GatherDC events.

Allie: What is your dream day in DC? 

Sarah: Ideally my perfect summer DC day would be jam packed! If I had all the time in the world I would wake up early and take my dogs Porkey and Cuddles (@dogstagraham) along the Rock Creek pathway by my house. I would eat a true Israeli breakfast on my rooftop before going for a dip in the pool and a tanning session while reading a great book (currently Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”) or listen to a fun podcast (Michelle Buteau’s “Adulting” or “Pod Save America”).

Then, I would stop by Dupont Circle Farmers Market for a second breakfast of “Call Your Mother” bagels and Zeke’s iced coffee. Next, I would grab my friends and walk along the monuments making stops at The HirshornThe Renwick Gallery, and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. After, we would picnic in Meridian Hill Park eating Little Sesame‘s hummus bowls and listening to the Meridian Hill drum circle. I would hit up Rewild DC for one of their awesome plant classes, catch a movie at Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, and grab happy hour on Takoda’s rooftop bar. I would run to Georgetown for their kayaking on the waterfront and hit up the Sculpture Garden for Jazz in the Garden!

At night, I would have Shabbat dinner with my lovely Gather friends, attend a DC United game, go to a Capitol Laughs stand up comedy show, attend a rooftop Sofar  concert, catch a Story District show, go dancing at Brixton, eat a jumbo slice and ideally be in bed by 1am. Impossible? Definitely (but amazing nonetheless).

Allie: What do you do to relax? 

Sarah: Swim. I’m a water person, so I’d sit in the pool all day if possible. I also love spending time with my dogs and unfortunately have to admit that I watch “The Bachelorette”. 

Allie: What are you most looking forward to this summer? 

Sarah: I’ve been going to a lot of Sofar Sounds shows, which I actually found out about through GatherDC. And I love going to outdoor movies in the city.

Allie: So, tell me about these dogs of yours…

Sarah: Their names are Porkie and Cuddles. Porkie is a terrier mix and he’s about 8 years old. He has a beautiful beard, very well-crafted. He has a Napoleon complex. He’s very sassy, smart, and loves attention. Cuddles is a shitzu and she’s black and really small. She has no teeth and is so sweet. They were a bonded pair that I fostered in college. They’ve been through a lot with me. 

Allie: What is something people would be surprised to hear about you? 

Sarah: My favorite sport is scuba diving and I love sharks. I once traveled solo to Australia and did a shark cage dive there. 

Allie: What interests you about sharks? 

Sarah: The interest came from scuba diving. Being underwater is where I feel very calm, and I get to focus on this world that I don’t usually get to see. Sharks have a scary reputation, but they’re beautiful. It’s cool to see them in their natural habitat.

Allie: What was the shark dive like?

Sarah: It’s a very heightened experience. There were Great White Sharks that came and tried to bite the cage. You can look into their eyes and take pictures, and see these beautiful creatures up close without hurting them. It was funny to see men who are big wrestlers get into the cage and panic, while me as a 5’4” Asian girl gets into the cage and thinks “this is so cool!”. 

Allie: Would you do it again? 

Sarah: Absolutely! 

Allie: Complete the sentence: when Jews of DC gather….

Sarah: There is a lot of laughing!    


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Rose: Jewish Summer Intern of the Week!

GatherDC is lucky enough to have the one-and-only Rose Haas interning with us this summer. Get to know her below, and then follow a day in the life of her DC intern adventures as she takes over Gather’s Instagram this Friday!

rose

Allie: What led you to DC?

Rose: I initially moved to DC from California to attend American University and have been here for about three years. I’m a senior now, studying Jewish Studies and Special Education.   

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC from start to finish.

Rose: It would definitely be in May, so that the weather would be warm and the sun out. It would also have to be a Sunday, so that I could go to Washington Hebrew Congregation in the morning and teach my class (4th grade Judaic Studies). Then, I’d go to Silver for brunch, because brunch is my favorite meal of the day! After that, I’d go swimming on a rooftop pool overlooking the city to sunbathe (I’m a California girl). Next, I’d go to dinner at Filomena in Georgetown – the best pasta restaurant – and then stroll by the Georgetown waterfront. After dinner, I’d swing by a GatherDC happy hour to meet some new friends, before going dancing anywhere that plays reggaeton music.    

Allie: What are you looking forward to you as an intern for GatherDC this summer?

Rose: I’m excited to help GatherDC on their mission to create a welcoming, inclusive, vibrant space for Jewish life in DC. I also want to continue their work in my personal life post-internship. I’d like to be someone that people come to when they are new to the city and looking for opportunities to explore and express their Judaism. I also hope to meet new friends and foster relationships with many of the people and organizations that Gather is connected with.  

Please email me if you want to grab coffee! I’d love to get to know you.

Allie: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Rose: I love scuba diving! I haven’t been in a couple years, but I love observing marine life and spending time in the sun, sand, and salt water.

Allie: Oh! Tell me more about that.

Rose: I have an open water diver certification and I’ve been diving on family trips a few times to places like Cozumel, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, and of course the freezing waters in California. My favorite trip was definitely Honduras, because the water was so warm and clear and they had amazing food. On one trip, I got to swim with a whale shark which was one of the coolest experiences of my life!  

rose scuba

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Rose: Passover! It’s always been my favorite holiday because my family gets together for a delicious meal and we celebrate our freedom. We use this time to think of others who may be experiencing some form of bondage (literal or metaphorical) and how to help them. And let’s be real, what other Jewish holiday has songs that are straight BANGERS?! I start singing Dayenu in the shower at least a couple weeks in advance.    

Allie: What three people would you invite to your Shabbat dinner and why?

Rose: I don’t have three individual people’s names in mind, but I have three types of people who would make my dinner table more interesting. First, I’d invite someone who knows a lot about Judaism and could teach me something new and help facilitate an interesting discussion. Second, I’d invite someone who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on Judaism, someone who can challenge my opinions and perspectives. And lastly, I’d invite someone who knows nothing about Judaism so that they might leave the dinner having learned something new.   

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rose: You’re bound to meet either a long lost cousin or your beshert.

rose

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Rachel: Jewish Trapeze Artist of the Week!

Rachel Erlebacher flies on ropes through the sky, should have already been featured on The Great British Bake Off, and is training for her first marathon. Meet this amazing woman!

rachel

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Rachel: I majored in environmental studies in college, which led me to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). I kind of knew that my home [after college] would be in DC, because I love the political scene.

Allie: What sparked your interest in politics?

Rachel: I wanted to be able to make some sort of positive change in society. And I liked the idea of working with other people and collaborating on big ideas.

Allie: I bet working in government can get stressful at times. What are some of your favorite ways to relax when you’re not in the office?

Rachel: There’s three things. The first is running. I’m training for my very first marathon which is exciting. I’m running The Chicago Marathon in October, which is great because I can indulge in some deep dish pizza afterwards. I’m a firm believer that Chicago deep dish pizza is better than New York pizza, and that the Cubs are THE best baseball team.

All of my family is in Chicago, so it’s a very fitting place to run my first big marathon.

rachel

Allie: That’s amazing! What are the other two things you do to relax?

Rachel: The second is flying trapeze. That was something that had been sitting on my bucket list for a couple of years. I finally went to a class by myself this past December at the trapeze school in Navy Yard and fell in love with it. I loved the instructors and that feeling of being free. The school is in the dead center of DC, and the minute you walk in you just kind of feel like you escape.

Sometimes, I need to get away from the stress and the politics of the city, and trapeze lets me do that. Flying trapeze has also been a great way to connect with new people.

rachel trapeze

Allie: What do you enjoy most about flying trapeze?

Rachel: It’s a no judgment zone. You sign up for a class and there are no levels. The instructor will help you with whatever activity you are working on. There are no more than 10 people to a class and you have three instructors. You go up one at a time, so you get to cheer each other on. There is a very welcoming, communal spirit.

Allie: What’s the third thing you do to relax?

Rachel: Baking. My granny is an amazing baker and when I was little, she taught me the skills to make brownies. I’ve since expanded my repertoire. During the Shutdown, I actually started a small baking business to keep me busy, aptly named the Shutdown Sugar Shack. Now, I’ve started hosting Shabbat dinners through OneTable so I can practice new baking techniques, and don’t have to eat all of the sugary foods myself. Plus, I’m social and really enjoy hosting and bringing people together.

Allie: What do you bake for your Shabbat dinners?

Rachel: This year, I hosted a crazy cookie party themed Shabbat where I created homemade versions of your favorite store-bought cookies like those Little Debbie cosmic brownies, Oreos, things like that. I think I baked 200 cookies that week, it was so fun! Most recently, I planned one that was Great British Bake Off themed.

rachel baking

Allie: How do you find time to sleep?

Rachel: I sacrifice that a bit. I’m someone who over commits and really likes to keep busy. I’m Monica Geller in a nutshell!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rachel: The Jewish geography game is super real. Every time I meet someone new in this city, we always have a new mutual friend. I recently invited a girl from my trapeze class to my Shabbat dinner!

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Aliza: Jewish Rooftop Lounger of the Week!

This International Spy Museum media relations manager invites you into her top-secret world of Sydney Bristow fandom, dumplings, and DC rooftops. Get an inside look into the life of Aliza Bran!

aliza bran eating ice cream

 

Allie: Have you always been interested in spies?

Aliza: As a child, I wanted to be best friends with Sydney Bristow from Alias. I was obsessed with Jennifer Garner for years. Still am. I always found it fascinating that you can enter a world that is completely secret, where you can conceal devices into everyday items you own. I watched 24, and anything spy related. I’ve been intrigued by the fiction and reality of espionage for as long as I can remember.

Allie: What makes a good spy?

Aliza: Attention to detail. Being good under pressure. Really, it depends on what you’re doing. Analysts need to be inquisitive and precise – and careful not fall into mental traps or give into their cognitive biases. The spies on the ground doing human intelligence work need some serious courage and umph.

Allie: What is it like working at the spy museum?

Aliza: It is objectively the best job ever. You’re surrounded by the weirdest, craziest, and most intriguing stories from around the world. So it’s pretty amazing to do this full time and get to share those stories with others. And I get to work with really incredible people. The educational/curatorial folks who worked so hard to put together the content for the exhibit space are brilliant. Our comms team is amazing (I’m biased, but I’m also right).

Plus, I get to work closely with some of our incredible board members like Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise, who never fails to teach me something new…most recently from her book The Moscow Rules.

Allie: Is the new Spy Museum open to the public yet?

Aliza: Yes! It just opened this past weekend. Come join us! You can get tickets online – bring a date, your friends, your family, your Uber driver, whoever!

aliza and marissa

Allie: Describe your perfect day in DC.

Aliza: I’d wake up, do dim sum brunch and consume all of the dumplings. Then, I’d head down to The Wharf and go kayaking and make s’mores! Then, I’d go sit on a rooftop and read a book. Rooftops are my happy place. For the evening I might go to The Eleanor and bowl with friends or play some ping pong at SpinDC. Catch live music at the 930 Club or Union Stage or the Anthem. Dinner at a sushi place – Zeppelin, Momiji, etc. – anything with eel sauce is my favorite! The biggest problem would be fitting it all in.

Allie: Do you have a favorite DC rooftop?

Aliza: The one at American Son is really nice. There’s also El Techo, the Colada Shop, Crimson, Mi Vida. Really, I’ll go to any rooftop. What’s better than a good rooftop in the summertime?

Allie: What are your favorite ways to relax at the end of a long work week?

Aliza: Either I would binge watch something on Netflix or read a book. I try to read about 20-25 books a year, so I have a huge soft spot for my DC library membership. It’s the best! There is nothing that beats getting absorbed into a new world. Obviously, I would also spend time outside with friends, maybe a weekend picnic in Meridian Hill Park with tons of cheese and carbs.

aliza traveling

Allie: If you could invite three people to your Shabbat dinner? Who would you invite and why?

Aliza: Taylor Swift. Do I need a reason? She is amazing. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And Jon Stewart. He does not grace the world with his presence nightly anymore and I want to know what’s up with the animals on his farm.

Allie: What’s at the top of your life bucket list?

Aliza: Greece. I want to see the ruins, take in the history, enjoy the beaches, and eat all the food.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Aliza: Passover. It’s one of the few holidays that my extended family comes into DC for. It’s nice to have them here, and catch up with my cousins, aunts/uncles, and my grandma (who is one of the nicest, most wonderful humans I’ve ever met). It’s all about community. Plus, my mom’s food is AMAZING. And my dad is clutch at picking up some delicious desserts (meaning ALL of the ice cream)!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Aliza: They have a darn good time.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Mayoral Candidate of the Week – Dustin

I met Dustin at our November happy hour at Hill Country BBQ. Our conversation began with Dustin sharing some of his favorite things about DC. And as our conversation progressed, he divulged that he was running for mayor of this great District! I couldn’t have thought of a better person to be GatherDC’s Person of the Week. Read more about him, his leadership journey, and his love for this city below…

Shaina: I hear you’re running for mayor of DC! What made you decide to do this?

That’s the question a lot of people have been asking! I just posted my bio on DustinForDC.com and the whole story is in there, but it all started when I was on a journey in Central America in early 2016. I was teaching yoga and doing a lot of meditation. While I was going through deep self-reflection about my purpose and my future, I began thinking about many of the great leaders in the world who inspired me in my life.

I was thinking about how I could apply the lessons they learned along their journeys in my life, and I started getting a lot of ideas about my community and my city – Washington DC!

My path led me to decide to put myself on the ballot and step-up as a leader. I knew that I had to get out there and tell people about my vision for the city.

Shaina: What has most excited you throughout your campaign?

So many things! The most innovative thing that I am super-excited about right now is Dustin For DC’s commitment to a “clean campaign.” The team has designed an unprecedented fundraising model that goes above and beyond in meeting all explicit, implicit, and just plain common sense standards for campaign finance ethics.

We accomplished this by designing a subscriber-based donation model where we build strong relationships with our “subscribers” who commit to provide a small (so small) monthly donation to the campaign so that we can fund predictable monthly expenses. And in this “all-volunteer campaign,” we have no salaries to pay and this enables us to deploy 100% of donations to campaign infrastructure and projects.

We will publicly release detailed analytics on this innovative campaign, as it happens – and everyone can watch it grow!

Shaina: How long have you been in DC?

I grew up in Rockville, MD but due to family ties to the city, I always had a strong affection for DC and this whole metro area. I was in the Midwest for college but moved back to the area in 2011 and began working and living in DC. I fell in love with the technology community, the arts community, the fitness community, the startup and business community, and – especially – the AMAZING non-profit organizations and PEOPLE who have true spirit and compassion. We have some problems but I am so proud of DC!

Shaina: What’s your favorite part about this city?

This will probably sound sad – but I love our sports! I have been playing sports and doing athletic activities my whole life. I know we can’t ever bring home a championship – but maybe things will change if I’m the Mayor!

Shaina: If you got accidentally got locked in any museum in DC overnight, which one would you hope to get stuck in?

I would pick the National Air and Space Museum. I really enjoy the advance of technology and the story of the human race’s 

drive to gain flight – and space exploration! I am fascinated by the early space program, particularly the imagination and big-thinking involved. Those American heroes had a wonderful “overcome at all cost attitude” and look what they accomplished – wow!

Shaina: What’s your favorite brunch in the District?

My favorite would be teaching an early yoga or meditation class and just enjoying a coffee and healthy recharge meal with friends – and conversation! I don’t have a particular place but sometimes I’ll definitely get a craving for an Affogato from Dolcezza on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in DC.

Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…  According to the Washington Jewish Week, we volunteer!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Library Lover of the Week – Sally

Most days, you can find Sally at the library… organizing scavenger hunts, punk shows and 3-D printing classes. We sat down to hear more about her position as Development and Communications Specialist for DC Public Library Foundation and to learn about her life in DC!

You’re from NY originally. What brought you to DC and how long have you been here?

I moved to DC a little over four years ago at the beginning of Obama’s second term – it felt like a lot of millennials were making the same move during this time. It’s a bit cliché to say I came to DC looking for more meaningful, mission-driven work, but that’s basically the truth! I was ready to leave my corporate marketing job in NYC. I also had a couple of very close friends from college who were living here, so having some built-in support made the transition easier. I began applying for government and non-profit jobs, and I ended up accepting an offer from the DC Public Library to help launch a city-wide early literacy initiative. I love NYC and my family is near there (in the suburbs), but I have no plans to move back.  

You just returned from a trip to Morocco. What did you see or learn that you will bring back to your life here?

Before this visit to Morocco, I hadn’t left the country in six or seven years. The trip was a good reminder for me to prioritize travel a little more and save/budget accordingly because there is no substitute for physically visiting and absorbing a new place. The culture in Morocco is perhaps the most hospitable I have ever experienced. Everyone is very warm and eager to share their cities, food and traditions with tourists. There’s always time for afternoon tea; no one is ever in a rush. This is very different from the east coast mode of operation!

Since my return, I’m trying to slow down, enjoy more simple moments, and take time for mint tea breaks.  I was reminded of another lesson that always seems to come up when traveling abroad. You have to be at peace with what you cannot control because things almost never go according to plan, especially when relying on public transportation and Mother Nature.

Tell us about your job with the DC Public Library! What do you do there?

After working in the Library’s Marketing Department on the initial phase of the Sing, Talk and Read DC early literacy campaign, I moved over to the DC Public Library Foundation – the Development Department at the library. My role focuses on developing public and private programs designed to attract the next generation of library users and supporters. I get to work with our brilliant librarians and community partners to market and execute a variety of programs including free concerts, co-working for local creatives, author events, Fab Lab happy hours, fundraisers, and more. Come fall, I’ll be working on our second annual city-wide banned book scavenger hunt in celebration of Banned Books Week.

Every day is different and our program offerings are always evolving. I created the @dcpl_literati Instagram account as a way to promote some of these unique library programs to a new audience. I also manage less interesting but necessary administrative stuff, like the Foundation’s accounts payable and receivable and our donor database.

When many people think about a library, they think–obviously–of books , but DC’s library is so much more, right?

Public libraries are safe, egalitarian spaces that cater to the needs of the community. Nowadays this increasingly includes digital literacy and access to technology.

The DC Public Library is a very innovative system when it comes to leading the makerspace movement in libraries. With a DC Public Library card, you can take classes ranging from PowerPoint Basics to 3D printing, record music in the Studio Lab, print your own novel using the self-publishing machine, and so much more. As a history nerd, I love our Washingtoniana and Black Studies Special Collections, which house everything from the DC Music Archive to old photographs and oral histories. Library visitors can come for the free internet and stay for the documentary screening or the punk show in the basement. This intersection of free educational and cultural opportunities is what makes the DC Public Library such an important, local institution. 

Are the renovations at MLK making things crazy for you right now?

Definitely! From a public perspective, that location, at the convergence of every metro line, was the most central in the city. The departments and resources that were housed at the MLK Library are now scattered throughout the District in interim spaces. Communicating all of these changes and updates to the public is challenging. We also no longer have a central, free space to host author events, job trainings, story time, art exhibitions, etc. Internally, this forces us to be creative and thrifty, and engage the community where they already are. Although there is a void downtown left by the temporary close, the library is so much more than just a physical building.

What is your favorite thing about living in DC?

The diversity and access to cultural events. It’s hard to be bored here. There’s always something new to explore, like an exhibit or live show. I really appreciate the music scene and love how the city celebrates with different festivals like the Funk Parade, H Street Festival, Bluegrass and Folk Festival and Capital Pride Festival. I’ve also met a lot of passionate and interesting people here. So many people who live in DC are working and fighting for a greater cause. You don’t see that in every city.

What is one thing you would change about DC if you could?

Obviously the cost of living is high and only continues to go up. I also wish the food scene was more accessible. There are tons of ‘buzzed about’ trendy restaurants for foodies, but DC lacks a wide variety of affordable places that offer quality basics. My taste buds are not very sophisticated but the New Yorker in me would like to see more options when it comes to delicious and affordable bagels, bakeries, Italian and Chinese food. That’s not to say these places don’t exist, but they are just fewer in number. I realize it’s probably difficult for small, independently owned businesses to meet rent and charge reasonable prices, but I wish that could change. It all ties back to cost of living being high. On Rye feels like a little taste of NY, and I am excited about Shouk.

What does being Jewish mean to you?

Like a lot of secular young Jews in the States, being Jewish is a big part of my cultural identity and has shaped my personality, values and sense of humor. I definitely take an interest in Jewish history, tradition, food, arts and culture and like to see what’s happening at Sixth and I and the DCJCC, which is just a few blocks from where I live. I really love the Washington Jewish Film Festival at the DCJCC as a lens into the Jewish experience across the globe, from Israel to Europe to Africa.

I also have a close group of friends in DC (Jews, non-Jews, half-Jews) with whom I celebrate the holidays when I can’t make it home to family. This year we started doing a friends-Seder for Passover, and I think it will become an annual tradition.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That’s always a tough question, it’s hard to set expectations for the future. Where do I realistically see myself vs. where I’d like to be – these are probably two different projections! I hope I’m in a funky, cool city with access to nature. Maybe that’s DC or somewhere new. I hope I’m surrounded by close friends, not too far from family, maybe starting my own family, who knows!? I hope my work is creative and benefits society in some way. I do see a dog in the picture, that’s about all I can guarantee.

What is one thing you couldn’t get through the day without?

Coffee incentivizes me to get out of bed every morning, and I usually have to cater to my sweet tooth on a daily basis. But it’s my wonderful friends, boyfriend, family and coworkers who provide the comic relief I need to get through the day-to-day. Times are tense, so a good laugh and some nonsense is paramount.

Our Hilarious Chat with the Author of ‘Mother, Can You NOT!?’ (and her mom)

“She’s an evil genius,” said Kate Siegel about her mother using text to reach her. The 28 year-old continues, “With a phone call, I can screen. With an email, I can not open it…”

“But with texts, she thinks they’re from a friend, so she looks down and BAM!, gets the message!” mother Kim cuts in.

Author, Kate Siegel with mom, Kim Friedman

This dynamic, mom-daughter duo know a thing or two about texting. Their text exchanges were the inspiration for Kate’s New York Times Bestseller, “Mother, Can You NOT!?” The book is based on Kate’s Instagram account, @CrazyJewishMother, which is rapidly approaching 830,000 followers. The account are compiled screenshots of Kim’s ‘colorful’ texts to her adult daughter about things like her drying up eggs, meeting “Mr. Right,” and the questionable safety of her neighborhood.

Currently on a book tour (stopping in Northern Virginia next Thursday), Kate and Kim sat down to chat with GatherDC about their texts – the good, the bad, and the “still single.”

GatherDC: What sparked the idea for you to originally post your mom’s texts to Instagram?

Kate: My mom has been a lunatic forever. She discovered texting a few years back, and I’ve been screenshotting them ever since. It wasn’t until I received a text from her while at my friend’s bachelorette party... (In the text) she expressed her congratulations for my friend and concern for my eggs…

Kim: …I’m still concerned.

Kate: (Audible eyeroll) I shared the text with the group, and they loved it. This gave me the idea to post it to my personal Instagram account, where it got a lot of likes too. From there I started a designated account for them, @CrazyJewishMom, and when that got popular, published the book. And now, I’m currently working on a television script based on it with CBS/Ryan Seacrest Productions.

GatherDC: Kim, what do you think of this project? 

Kim: I’m so proud. She’s a New York Times bestselling author! But…she’s still single. So I have to balance the good with the bad.

Kim and Kate

GatherDC: Was there ever a feeling of invasion of privacy?

Kate: One of the things I admire about my mother is her fearlessness. We only had one instance where she called me, upset after her friend flagged a text she thought crossed the line. I explained that if this whole thing was making her uncomfortable I would stop immediately. But, I also said that if she liked parts of what I was doing, that I felt it was important to share all of it – the good and the bad. She agreed and it’s never been an issue since.

GatherDC: Kim, do you keep up on the Instagram account?

Kate: I created her an account of her own so she could follow along, but she promptly lost her password so…

GatherDC: Do you have favorite texts?

Kate: Oh, that’s a hard one. I think my favorite is a text she sent telling the story of her recent encounter with a stranger reading my book in public. My mom approached her and, remaining anonymous, asked how she was liking it. The reader said something to the effect of this mother needs therapy, to which my mother proudly took a bow, and walked away. Another favorite…She used to give my number out all the time to eligible bachelors. Now that we’re sort of in the public eye, she can’t really do that anymore. But, I did get a text from her recently that said something to the effect of, I just gave your number to a 27 year-old Yale Law School graduate! I replied telling her she couldn’t do that anymore. She replied with one word… “YALE.”

 

From @CrazyJewishMom Instagram account

GatherDC: Why do you think your Instagram account got such a huge following, and not just among Jews?

Kate: One of the most popular types of comments I get is about how my mom could be their “crazy Catholic mom,” or “crazy Mexican mom,” etc.  The complex relationship we have with our mothers is universal. It’s a combination of love and throw-her-against the wall hate. It’s complex because for all that drives you crazy about her, you know she has your best interest in mind. Of course, I think my mom is an extreme version, but really the relationship is universal. There is so much love there.

GatherDC: What’s next for you? Any projects in the hopper?

Kate: We have a lot going on the with the brand, building vertically and laterally. There is a lot on the website including our advise column, “Mom & Spawn,” which happened organically, with followers writing me asking what my mom and I would do about a certain situation they found themselves in. It’s a continuation of our dynamic where my mom will say things like, “Key his car!,” but I reign her in.

GatherDC: Thanks so much! Anything you want to add?

Kim: Yes! She’s single!

Kate: Except, I’m not. I’ve been in a committed relationship for three years now.

GatherDC: Kim, why do you say she’s single?

Kim: She’s not married!

Kate: She doesn’t like that he hasn’t proposed yet. She keeps sending me guys’ numbers.

GatherDC: What does your boyfriend think of that, Kate?

Kate: He is a very good sport. After all, he is quite familiar with pushy mothers.

Get more of this hilarious pair just in time for Mother’s Day. Kate and Kim will be in Arlington on May 11th as part of the JCC of Northern Virginia’s  j.talks author series. The evening is presented by JCCNV Cultural Arts in partnership with NOVA Tribe and Moishe House Arlington. More here.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.