Meet David: Jewish Gym Owner of the Week!

[WARNING: The following interview may induce feelings of inadequacy.]

Okay GatherDC-ers, this week, we have the utmost pleasure of introducing you to the one-and-only David Magida. If you’re in the fitness scene, you may have seen his name before as the author of the book “The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training”, or on Facebook Live as NBC Sports’ Spartan Race host, or as a founding member of the Reebok Spartan Race Pro Team, or at one of the two locations of Elevate Interval Fitness – which he owns, runs, and coaches at. If you’re not in the fitness scene, maybe this interview will inspire you. If not, well, you can always work out your taste buds at Shake Shack.

david

Allie: What triggered your passion for fitness?

David: I’ve always loved fitness. Being active is me in my most natural state. Competing and testing my limits is a big thing for me. Whenever I’m down or in a funk, I just sign up for a race. It’s like therapy for me. It clears my mind, and mentally resets me. I try to make working out one of the first things that I do each day, and it sets me on a very positive track. Days when I don’t exercise I’m kind of a hot mess.

Allie: Were you this passionate about fitness when you were growing up?

David: I was really small as a kid, but was always athletic and loved sports. I was a soccer player, swimmer, and wrestler. In middle school I discovered running. By sixth grade, I was already training with the varsity cross country team. I would run with them after my middle school soccer practice and travel to meets with them, even though I had to be marked as ineligible until 9th grade. I loved workout out so much that my wrestling coach made me team captain as a freshman so I could lead team conditioning. It wasn’t over until I said it was over. I wasn’t super popular with the guys.

Allie: Wow! What sport did you like the best?

David: Running. [In high school], I made the choice to commit to running. My junior year I had to give up wrestling for a year so I could focus on my running career. I went to run collegiately, but only briefly. I did one season and was so fed up with the way the team was coached and so I fell out of love with running. I didn’t run for several years.

Allie: What did you do to replace running?

David: I got really into strength training and even joined the football team for a season. I ended up getting certified as a personal trainer at 19, and took a break from school to do that. But, I didn’t think there was long-term career viability in fitness so I went back to school to get my undergraduate degree. Then, I went to grad school at University of Miami and got my master’s degree in public relations. While I was in Miami I started running Spartan races.

david spartan

Allie: What’s a Spartan race?

David: It’s a running race with a series of military style obstacles, anywhere from 3 miles to marathon distances. In 2012, I did the Spartan Ultra Beast which is 31 miles of ski slopes, obstacles, and overall just pure torture. I also completed the Death Race, which is well over 100 miles in the wilderness over several days of no sleep.

Allie: The Death Race?! That sounds insane. Tell me more.

David: It’s appropriately named. It’s backpacking through the woods with a map and compass, and there’s no set course. It changes each year and sometimes mid-race, at the whims of the directors. You don’t know what it’s going to be and they do crazy things to mix it up. The race is full of time cutoffs, crazy physical tasks, and mental challenges. One year, they took our shoes from us for 20 hours and we were in the Vermont wilderness running barefoot on a trail known as Bloodroot. It’s crazy. All the while you’re filtering water out of rivers and chopping wood and basically running around in survival mode.

Allie: After you survived the Death Race, how did you wind up in DC?

David: I got a job working at a public affairs firm. Around that time, I was also offered a professional contract to race in 2013 for the Reebok Spartan Race Pro Team, so I was doing 25 or 30 Spartan races a year.

Allie: How did you manage to keep up with your job while also racing professionally?

David: I was run-commuting to and from work every day, about 3.5 miles each way, and skipping happy hours with my co-workers to go to the gym. I had very little semblance of a social life. But the run-commuting barely took longer than riding on the metro. It was about efficiency. I still often run-commute to this day.

Allie: Tell me how Elevate came to be.

David: I basically hated my job and wasn’t happy. But my success racing garnered some interest. People started asking me if I would coach them. I eventually started leading some outdoor classes. I was having more fun with this than anything I had done before. It’s really fulfilling work. So, I found this spot on 14th street, left my job, and just went for it. Elevate (a studio with high intensity circuit and interval workouts) opened in October 2014. We opened a second studio in Southwest this past August.

Allie: What’s the best part of running Elevate?

David: Getting to do the stuff that I love and connect with people on a deep level. And actually having an impact on people’s lives in a positive way. I like to help people change the way they look at fitness. People look at fitness as this thing they dread or do for body image issues, which is completely backwards. My goal is to teach people to embrace the process and find the joy in the workout and their own personal improvement. Community is also such a huge part of it. It’s difficult to meet other people in a big city. You go to work and go home, but you need a third place. For some people, that’s a bar. But going into a gym and sweating together can bring people closer and builds really dynamic communities.

Allie: What’s been the biggest challenge?

David: Time and stress. When you’re a business owner, you’re working 24/7. You’re never really off.  Fitness in particular, because the days start early and end late. The first year I felt like I was at work from 5am to 10pm every single day, and it can wear you down.

david

Allie: What advice would you give to someone hoping to kick-start a fitness routine?

David: Don’t try to do it on your own. Consult an expert and go to a class or get a trainer. You need direction. Don’t worry about what other people think about you in the gym. If you’re working hard, people will respect that. If you focus on frequency (how often you go), intensity (how hard you go), and duration (how long you go for) you will be successful. And then get your eating in line. Try to meal prep if you can.

Allie: Not sure if it ever happens, but if you had a free day in DC. How would you spend it?

David: First thing, coffee. I make a double or triple shot Americano and then go for a run. Then I wouldn’t mind going out on the river and go boating. If I could do some wake-boarding or wake-surfing that would be ideal. As weird as it sounds, I’d probably do an hour or two of work so I could feel productive. I’d want to go out to the rec center and play pickup basketball with some friends. Then, go out to a meal or happy hour with some friends at Grady’s. And then, play some board games.

Allie: Do you have anything still on your life bucket list?

David: I want to climb some of the world’s biggest peaks, like Matterhorn. I’d love to go running through Mont Blanc. I’d like to do some SkyRunning series, or a century which is a hundred miles. There’s a lot of the world I want to see. I’m going to Japan at the end of February with the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership Network. Maybe one day I’ll live in another country or on the West Coast just to do something different. I don’t see myself being limited to just working in fitness. I’d like Elevate to be a self-sufficient thing so I can go on to explore other client-facing business ventures.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

David: They have great conversation.

david and dog

David and his dog Oscar

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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.

The UK’s Only Ultra-Orthodox Stand-Up Comedian: Ashley Blaker

Ashley Blaker is really funny.

This London based, international award-winning comedian has headlined off-Broadway’s “Strictly Unorthodox”, recorded a radio show for BBC, written and directed acclaimed comedy “Little Britain”, and performed stand-up on four continents. Next stop, a synagogue near you*.

Lucky for you, we scored a one-on-one interview with Mr. Blaker so you can get to know the man behind the kippah.

Oh, and if you’re in need of an afternoon pick-me-up but are desperately trying to avoid having another cup of coffee at 5:00pm (no, just me?) check out these videos of Ashley talking about sushi, driving, and music.

*Mr. Blaker will be performing at Sixth & I on Sunday, February 10th at 7:00pm. Get $10 your ticket price with this exclusive promo code for GatherDC-ers: ASHLEY.

ashley

Photo Courtesy DDPR

Allie: You didn’t grow up as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. Why did you decide to become frum later in life?

Ashley: I compare [my relationship with religion] to drug addiction. I have an addictive personality, and the rabbi [at the Orthodox synagogue] who was kind of a pusher tricked me into a free sample. When I got married the rabbi gave me a free membership for a year and I kept going. I was hooked.

Allie: What inspired you to become a stand-up comedian?

Ashley: It happened entirely by accident. I’ve only been doing it for four years. Before that I was a writer and producer of comedy for TV and radio. I’ve always wanted to do stand up, and when I was 16 or 17 I performed a bit, but was too young to take it too seriously. Someone once suggested I speak at an event and I found myself getting back into [stand-up comedy]. I wasn’t thinking I wanted to do this as a career. Now, it’s all I do. Soon, I will have performed comedy on five continents!

Allie: What is your favorite part of performing stand-up comedy?

Ashley: The feeling of performing for an audience if they’re laughing. If they’re not laughing, it’s not so fun. I love bringing people together. I’ve done a lot of shows where you see an incredibly diverse group of people in one room. I did a show in Newcastle where there was a traditional Jewish audience, some non-Jews as well, and sitting across from them was a female rabbi from a reform synagogue 20 miles away.

Allie: What are the biggest difference between performing in America and performing in the UK?

Ashley: Americans are unforgiving with language differences. I know when I come to America I have to say flashlight when I mean torch, or cell phone when I mean mobile. British people tend to watch American TV so we’re more forgiving with [linguistic differences]. Also, Americans don’t tend to like puns or word play so much. But our Jewish experiences are universal no matter where i go in the world.

Allie: How do you come up with material?

Ashley: Just through my daily life, I see things and make notes. I talk about things that interest me.

Allie: Your Wikipedia page says you grew up with Sacha Baron Cohen, is that true?

Ashley: Sacha and I were at school together, and Matt Lucas who I work with. The water in my high school produced a lot of comedians.

Allie: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Ashley: I really don’t know. Four years ago, I could never have imagined that I would have my own BBC show. I’ve compared myself to a gambler at the tables in Vegas. I’ve been on a winning streak for sometime. As long as I’m winning, I’ll keep playing. One thing I’d love to achieve is to go to Antarctica, and perform on all 7 continents. Even if I’m just performing for a few penguins.

 

 

 

You can see Ashley Blaker perform on February 10th at Sixth & I. A pre-Valentine’s Day date perhaps?! Get your tickets here.

 

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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 Debo: Jewish Violinist of the Week

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Debo: I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio but spent most of my adult life in San Francisco. I moved to Mexico in 2011 and spent almost five years playing in an orchestra in the Yucatan. I met my partner online in Mexico City. Then, we moved to Athens, Greece, and then to DC because my partner works for the State Department and his job brought him here.

Allie: What instruments do you play?

Debo: I play violin, viola, and my mom’s a piano teacher so I grew up playing piano. I’ve also recently started playing the ukulele.

Allie: What instrument do you enjoy most and why?

Debo: Violin. It’s very challenging. I feel like no matter how many years I practice, I can never fully master it. When I do feel good about it, it’s super rewarding. I can play violin with other people, in small ensembles, orchestras, and in the last few years I’ve been playing in operas.

Allie: How did you start playing violin?

Debo: I’ve playing since I was five. My older sister played violin, and I wanted to do everything she did.

Allie: What is your favorite kind of music to play?

Debo: I always love playing Beethoven. It’s meaty and familiar enough that you can just delve right into it without having to overthink it.

Allie: Who is one of your musical role models?

Debo: My friend David. I used to play in a string quartet with him in San Francisco, and he plays violin while he does yoga. He wears a suit jacket and yoga pants. It’s really amazing all the yoga positions he can do while he plays violin. It’s really out of the box.

Allie: How would you spend your dream free day in DC?

Debo: I would wake up, eat some avocado toast, drink coffee, and journal. Then, I would take a long walk. I like to explore and people watch. I would go to the Hirshhorn and see some modern art and talk to strangers. I would bring my tiny sketchbook with me. Then, I would go find something yummy to eat, maybe at Busboys and Poets. After that, I would go to a drag king show at Pretty Boi. It’s such a fun vibe and there’s so much diversity in those kinds of spaces.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax at the end of a long week?

Debo: I like to go to the gym to swim. Afterwards, I’ll sit in the hot tub and the sauna, get a massage, and then go home and snuggle with my dog Pippy and share a meal with my partner and niece.

debo and pippy

Allie: What is one thing you want to learn this year?

Debo: I want to take a jazz or tap dance class. I have a hard time with structured dance classes, which is why I sometimes go to ecstatic dances.

Allie: What are ecstatic dances?

Debo: You just go and there’s a DJ, you don’t talk to people, you don’t drink, you just dance it out in a free way. You can get on the floor, be an animal, there’s no questioning anybody’s expression. It’s a safe place to do that.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Debo: They have a potluck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Alesandra: Most Mindul Jew of the Week!

If slowing down, being more mindful, and starting a yoga/meditation practice are on your list of 2019 goals – Alesandra Zsiba is your woman. This zen yogi fills us in on what it’s like to direct the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington (JMCW) at Adas Israel, her dream Shabbat celebration, and tips to live more mindfully. Get to know her!

alesandra

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Alesandra: Well, like many stories, I came to DC to follow love. It was the year after my year of service with AmeriCorps and my partner from college was here, so I made the decision to come to DC. While at AmeriCorps, I started my own course for ELL students (English Language Learners) focused on healing trauma and self-actualizing through the creative process – photography, performance, documentary filmmaking, and poetry. That spring boarded me into this career developing the Identity Project, which I brought to schools and organizations around DC.

Today, I still run the Identity Project in addition to my work with the JMCW.

Allie: What does JMCW do?

Alesandra: JMCW started as a way to bring mindfulness practice into the synagogue space. We host weekly, drop-in Jewish yoga and meditation classes, Rosh Chodesh programs to celebrate the New Moon, and we’re having our first daylong retreat at Pearlstone Retreat Center on President’s Day. I’ll be co-leading it! 

Allie: How did you get into your role at JMCW?

Alesandra: After I did a yoga teacher training in 2013, I was really excited to connect what I learned about yoga to what I know about Judaism. I started going to yoga classes with Roni Zelivinski at JMCW – Roni is wonderful. She’s a doula and a midwife, and used to teach at JMCW. She got me involved. I was soaking up whatever JMCW had to offer, and then started teaching there. As I deepened my relationships with people there, I  stepped into the role of program coordinator for the yoga program and then became Director of Engagement.

Allie: What first drew you to yoga and mindfulness?

Alesandra: I had a really beautiful, deep relationship with my grandfather who was a cantor and a mystic in his own right. Everything that I learned about Jewish mindfulness as an adult I tie back to him.

Alesandra Zsiba

Allie: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Alesandra: Years ago, my partner at the time and I went to Israel with Sixth & I, and found a really beautiful Shabbat on the beach – there was so much music and dancing, and everyone felt so free. The organic and public nature of that was really appealing. I’ve always wanted to go back to that. I also would really love to have a havdalah yoga practice within community.

Allie: What does mindfulness mean to you?

Alesandra: It means creating a path to stillness inside yourself. It’s a practice of healing, self-actualizing, and maturing…it’s about pressing pause on the doing and finding calm in a busy, busy world.

Allie: What is one tip you would give for someone seeking to live more mindfully?

Alesandra: Find community. We’re so conditioned to try and do things on our own, but I really think the answer is to get excited about it through other people. All the good, juicy bits of life happen in the context of relationships. Go make a pact with a friend to be mindfulness buddies, and try out a meditation event together.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alesandra: There’s a lot of questioning, talking, and curiosity. It’s beautiful and loud.

Alesandra Zsiba

 

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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.

 

Jewish Cat of the Month: Bruce!

Want to nominate your awesome doggy (or cat!) to be featured? Email Sarah Brennan and let her know.

bruce catSarah: What is your name?

Bruce Katz.

Sarah: How did you get to DC?

Bruce: That’s a good question! I don’t really remember because I was a baby. I do remember that I used to live in the basement of an apartment building. It was very scary! Thankfully the animal shelter found me after I was injured and they nursed me back to health, but there’s no medicine as good as an owner who loves you. Except for penicillin.

Sarah: Who is your best friend?

Bruce: My best friend is my roommate Meeko! He usually eats all of the food. Sometimes, he wakes me up at dawn while meowing for food. We like to gallop around the house and playfully fight each other. I hope one day I get to make another cat friend!

Sarah: What is your biggest pet peeve that your owner does?

Bruce: I don’t understand why my owners sing to me all of the time. They sing to me in the morning when they’re getting ready to leave for the outside, and when they come back they sing at me more. I’ve always wondered if they sing to everybody in the outside too.

Sarah: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Bruce: I love Purrrrrrrrrim!

Sarah: My biggest fear is….

Bruce: FOMO!!! I hate missing out on a good time, so I like to hang out with my owners whenever they’re home or they bring over any extra humans.

Sarah: I get most excited when…

Bruce: My owner plays mid-2000s Lil’ Wayne or The Boss himself!

Sarah: What is your spirit animal?

Bruce: A ram. The Jewish significance of the ram really speaks to me. And I also head-butt others when I want attention.

cat

 

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 Amanda: Jewish Backpacker of the Week!

amanda

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Amanda: I ended up back here to live near family as I’m originally from the area. I went away for college in Ohio and after graduating, backpacked in South America. Once I had been bitten by the travel bug, I decided to live in South Korea for a year. Eventually, it was time to come home.

Allie: What led you to live in South Korea for a year?

Amanda: In high school I was very interested in anime, which was a gateway for me into Korean dramas and music. After college, I was interested in moving abroad to teach. South Korea stood out to me because of my interest in Korean culture and language. After living in South Korea, I continued traveling and went backpacking throughout Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and Myanmar. I’m very lucky that I was able to do this. I really miss traveling.

Allie: What are some of your favorite memories from traveling and living abroad?

Amanda: In South America, the salt flats in Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni) were so breathtakingly beautiful. In South Korea, teaching every day was so much fun. I taught English to children through a program with the Korean government called EPIK.

Allie: Is there anything left on your travel bucket list?

Amanda: I haven’t been able to explore the African continent, and would love to go pretty much anywhere there. I’d also like to go to Russia and Germany. I made friends from both countries while I was abroad and would love to visit them.

Allie: What life lessons have you learned from all of your traveling?

Amanda: Always keep an open mind, whether that is in response to food, cultural norms, the language, exploring a new city, or meeting people with different opinions.

amanda

Allie: What do you do to relax at the end of a long work week?

Amanda: I love playing with my guinea pigs (named Chips and Salsa), watching TV with my roommates, or grabbing a drink with friends. I try to fill up my weekend with as many friend playdates as possible.

Allie: If you could be famous for anything, what would you want to be famous for?

Amanda: I’d like to be famous for being a philanthropist. I’d love to be a crazy rich person who gives tons of money to struggling causes.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you like to celebrate?

Amanda: I guess Hanukkah! I usually have parties for both sides of my family, and we all dress in Hanukkah sweaters and eat lots of latkes and light candles. I’m lucky I have a lot of family in the area and everyone stays really connected.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Amanda: They play a very easy game of Jew-ography. Everyone knows each other here.

amanda

 

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.

Mini Gatherings: New to DC/Early 20s


Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? Looking to explore questions that matter to Jewish 20s and 30s? Afraid of commitment?

GatherDC is excited to open applications for the 17th round of Mini Gatherings. We are looking for Jews in their early 20s who are looking to connect with others over meaningful discussions!

apply now

WHAT IS MINI GATHERINGS?

Mini Gatherings is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together ~15 diverse Jews to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions, and laughed at least twice.

WHO IS IT FOR?

This Mini Gatherings cohort is for Jewish adults who are in their early 20s and new to DC, looking to explore Judaism and meet new friends in a small, personal setting.

WHEN IS IT? 

6:30 – 8 pm on Wednesday, January 23rd, January 30th, and February 6th and Shabbat dinner on Friday night, February 1st.

WHERE IS IT? 

Somewhere in Dupont Circle. TBD.

ANY QUESTIONS? 

Email Rachel Nieves at racheln@gatherdc.org

DEADLINE TO APPLY? 

Apply below by Wednesday, January 16th at midnight.

    

mm/yy

Rabbi Rant: My 2019 Resolution = Tell More Soul Stories

rabbi rant

We all have moments of feeling inadequate – whether it’s for a specific task that we have to perform or a general sense that we’re not as great as the image we project.

So, what should we do in those moments?

Modern wisdom advises to “fake it til you make it.” Highlight the best version of yourself, even if it feels untrue. After all, studies show that success “correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.” Besides, everyone else is doing it. It’s practically the new social contract – the social media contract, if you will.

Yet there’s another option, a road less taken, that’s as radical as it is simple – be honest and show your vulnerability.

Parker Palmer, a contemporary Quaker theologian, spells out these two different approaches, naming them ego stories” and “soul stories.” We can avoid our feelings of inadequacy by focusing on our ego stories of accomplishments and successes. Our soul stories, on the other hand, embrace hardships and failures. But because they aren’t stories where we come off looking perfect, we resist sharing them with others, or even acknowledging them within ourselves. It’s easier to ignore that part of our narrative.

These two competing ways of presenting ourselves to the world are also found within our own tradition, embodied by Pharoah and Moses, the two archrivals in the book of Exodus that Jews across the world began reading this past weekend.

Pharoah, who embodies the “ego story,” projects (over)confidence. He thinks of himself so highly that, according to some commentators, he claims to be a God. On the other side is Moses, who embodies the “soul story.” When God comes to him with the divine mission to lead the people out of Egypt, Moses responds: “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah?”

Pharoah leads with self-importance, while Moses leads with self-doubt. And God doesn’t correct Moses by reassuring him or assuaging his fears. There’s no: “Moses, I’ve chosen you because you’re so great” or “Moses, you should stop being so insecure.” Instead, God simply says: “I will be with you.” God lives in the places of vulnerability.

There’s certainly a time for confidence, but it might not be in our moments of insecurity. In fact, the Ishbitzer Rebbe says that it is forbidden to project confidence in moments of doubt. This is, of course, easier said than done. Still, behind his radical view is the understanding that the spiritual life begins where the ego story ends. To live a full life, we need to make space for our soul story. It might not lead to greater “success,” but it will lead us to greater freedom. It’s the path out of Egypt.

 

 

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 Josh: Jewish Athlete of the Week!

josh

Josh and I go way back. We met at age 5 when he was my down-the-street neighbor, but sadly we lost touch over the years. Recently, we discovered the we work one block from one another and happily reconnected over a delicious cup of Philz Coffee. I was stoked to make Josh a “Jewish Person of the Week”, and loved hearing about his newfound passion for fitness, travel adventures, and dodgeball. Enjoy getting to know this mensch of a man!

 

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Josh: I grew up outside of DC, up the street from you! I went to school in Philly for undergrad and law school and then returned after that to start working at my current job at a big law firm. I’m your typical Jewish lawyer.

Allie: Did you do anything fun to ring in the new year?

Josh: I booked a last minute trip to Costa Rica. I went up to the mountains and did some zip lining, and white water rafting. It was a completely solo trip and the perfect way to get out of the bustle of DC.

Allie: What would your dream DC day be?

Josh: I’d definitely wake up early and go for a nice run along the mall. I’d treat myself to a hearty Bethesda Bagel breakfast, and then check out a few museums. I’ve also never been on a Segway tour and would love to do that. Then, I’d finish it up with a dinner on 14th Street. I’m a huge fan of trying new restaurants.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you like to celebrate it?

Josh: Well, Hanukkah is what the people want to hear. I do enjoy it a lot. It’s a nice festive time of year that is not heavily focused on prayers, but rather focused on having friends and family come together. I really just like any Jewish holiday that involves fried food.

josh volunteering

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Josh: My mom’s noodle kugel with raisins. Noodle kugel without raisins is not noodle kugel. It is just pasta.

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

Josh: In 5th grade, my parents helped me create a model of the Sydney Opera House. I was fortunate enough to travel to Sydney and see that opera house first hand, and got to check that off my list. Now, I’d love to go skydiving. As a former fat kid, I was always over the skydiving weight limit, and I think now I am under it and am eligible to go skydiving. I also want to go to Colombia and am looking for a travel partner. If anyone wants to come, please comment below.

Allie: I hear you are now a big runner, what motivated you to get into this?

Josh: In high school, I sat on my butt all day and watched TV. In college, I started going to the gym and really enjoyed it. I found running and exercise to be a great stress reliever. I recently finished my second half marathon and just found out that I got into the Chicago Marathon! I’ll be running that October 2019.

josh

Allie: What do you enjoy about running?

Josh: Running is just me, my headphones, and maybe some Lady Gaga. It’s such a great way for me to release stress, get around the city, and maybe one day I’ll run into the love of my life at a stop sign.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Josh: When I came to DC I joined the Nice Jewish Boys network. Without calling out these people by name, seeing how they interact with their friends, the love they give to newcomers to DC, and their willingness to open up their homes to those who want new friends – that warms my heart. I hope to be able to emulate them.

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

Josh: I’m a pretty good recreational dodgeball player. I joined the Stonewall Dodgeball League when I first moved to dc and really enjoy it. It’s been a really good way to meet people and relieve stress. As the last kid to get picked for the dodgeball team in elementary school, I am now shining in my glory days!

Allie: Complete this sentence, When Jews of DC Gather…

Josh: There’s always good food.

With my Stonewall Dodgeball team!

 

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.

What I learned from the JWI Young Women’s Leadership Conference…

jwi

This month, I attended a conference and luncheon where something amazing happened.

No one mansplained.

No one had their ideas repeated without receiving credit.

Everyone got airtime, and very rarely was someone interrupted or talked over.

After working at this event for a second year in a row, it hit me again that in hosting the Young Women’s Leadership Conference and Women to Watch (WTW) Gala Luncheon each December, JWI creates a unique platform for women’s voices.

Thus far in my career, I’ve had the privilege to work in fields dominated by women. It means that I’m often in spaces with primarily, or only, women. Even so, I’m familiar with the experiences some women have had in the workplace – e.g. working harder to prove yourself, bosses telling you that you’re too emotional, others making inappropriate comments about your appearance. Once, I sat in a meeting listening to a male executive with no design background explain color usage to a room full of women with design degrees. I do acknowledge and feel grateful that this instance is a fairly tame example compared to what some women often experienced in their professional lives.

Reimagining our workplace

JWI’s conference and luncheon represent a unique opportunity to break down these types of common experiences, and beyond that, to reimagine what a truly equitable workplace can look like.

Conference attendees heard Ellen Stone of Bravo (WTW ‘11) talk about letting other people shine, acknowledging positive intent, and sincerely thanking your employees. Dr. Bonnie Hartstein (WTW ‘13), a physician and colonel in the Army, said, “Owning yourself and being who you are is part of your strength. Being a professional doesn’t mean you have to change who you are, but to present your best self.” At the Women to Watch Symposium, this year’s honorees agreed that teamwork has had a major impact on their professional lives. These sentiments – building positive relationships, owning your strengths, the importance of collaboration –echoed throughout the weekend.  

What we witnessed at the Conference and at WTW this year was the way that leadership and company culture changes when women lead. We’re striving for authenticity, for helping others to succeed, for bringing your whole self to work. Rather than, “every man for themselves,” we’re asking how we can create high-functioning teams where everyone brings something to the table. We’re redefining what the workplace can look like, and as a result, building better companies and organizations. And, we’re supporting each other and expanding empathy and inclusivity.

Actress and disability rights advocate Marlee Matlin took the stage at the luncheon on Monday and described how she has built a 33-year career as a successful actress, overcoming both misconceptions about herself and a personal battle with domestic violence. “I know for sure,” she signed, “that it would not have been possible without the strength and the desire to overcome barriers.”  

So, here’s to a weekend that celebrated the strength and determination of women leaders.

One last thought

I’ll leave you with one last moment that I can’t stop thinking about:

In a panel on #MeToo, a conference attendee asked, “How do you approach [sexism] in the Jewish communal world with the men on your Board of Directors?” JWI’s CEO Lori Weinstein responded, “Well, I’d like to say that you can do what I do – have a Board that’s all women.”

 

 

vbAbout the authorValerie Brown has been in DC for 3 years, and questions the decision every time the humidity acts up. She is an unapologetic avocado toast consumer, avid podcast subscriber, cat befriender, and manager of Marketing and Communications for JWI in her spare 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.