Attention Jewish DC: The one-and-only Josef Palermo has made his way onto the GatherDC team, and we COULD NOT BE MORE THRILLED. All caps are 100% necessary to express our uncontainable excitement.
If you don’t know Josef, read on. If you do know Josef, read on and you might learn something new. Either way, email Josef to welcome him to the team or grab coffee. Okay enough with this intro, onto the interview…
Allie: What brought you to DC?
Josef: I’ve been in DC for about 11 years – I came here right after undergraduate as a part of a fellowship with Greenpeace. I started to carve out a career path for myself in activism and community organizing because, like so many young people, I wanted to have some kind of positive impact on the world. I had a 6-month stint in San Francisco, but kept my place in DC so I could come back. DC really feels like home!
Allie: Tell me more about your interest in activism.
Josef: I really started to dive into activism in college, organizing my college campus community on issues related to human rights and genocide prevention and awareness.
From there, I just kept going! I’m from Florida, so I decided to intern for a Florida state senator, then in 2008, I worked for a presidential campaign. After that, I went back to Florida, and just a few months later I was in DC advocating for the environment at Greenpeace.
Allie: Did you think about going into politics?
Josef: Yes, but I ultimately found it wasn’t for me. My interests are more in advocating for specific issues and causes that I believe in.
Allie: What ultimately led you to find your career path as a Jewish professional?
Josef: I was hired to run GLOE, the Kurlander Program for GLBTQ Outreach and Engagement at the EDCJCC. It was the first, and for a long time, only, full-time LGBTQ outreach program at any JCC. This position really spoke to where I was in my life, and my passion for working with the community at the intersection of LGBTQ and Jewish identity.
I recently started at Gather as the 30s Community Engagement Director, and am excited to continue working in a space that speaks to where I am in my life.
Allie: What are you most looking forward to in your role at Gather?
Josef: I’m excited to connect with other folks in their 30’s who are still connecting to their Jewish journeys and looking for more meaningful engagement with those journeys. Often in your 30s, you focus your time differently and may search for new ways to engage in Jewish life. I’m very excited to innovate opportunities for Jewish 30s to think differently and challenge themselves more in connecting to their Judaism.
Allie: Outside of work, what are your favorite ways to relax?
Josef: I love to cook! I’m not someone who follows recipes, I just like to open the cupboard and whip something up. I also like to explore museums, hang out with my friends, take books to the park and read.
Allie: Describe your dream day in DC…
Josef: I recently discovered how fun the electric scooters are, and love scootering to places I’ve never been to before. My dream day would include scootering to Roosevelt Island or Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. It would also include the Potomac – I love being on the water. I would get a boat with some friends and head down to Old Town Alexandria. We would end the day with a potluck dinner on a rooftop. I love the DC skyline, especially when you can see the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.
Allie: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Josef: I try to include at least one person who is new to the Shabbat experience whenever I host. I like sharing Jewish traditions and rituals with people and helping them learn about it.
Allie: What is at the top of your bucket list?
Josef: I want to sail the Amalfi Coast. I would love to spend a couple weeks with friends, making stops along the way to explore!
Allie: Is there anything else you would you like to share?
Josef: I’m openly queer identifying, and I’m excited to join the Gather staff and bring those experiences of mine to the team, and connect with others who have an LGBTQ identity in the Jewish community.
Allie: Complete the sentence! When Jews of DC gather….
Josef: …There will be several rounds of Jewish geography!
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