Meet Lilly: Jewish Outdoorswoman of the Week!

When she’s not running around to one of the EIGHT different hotels she does HR for, you might find Lilly Andorsky trekking through Harper’s Ferry, biking around the city, or enjoying a delicious Chinese food dinner. Get to know this happy-go-lucky, nature loving woman!

lilly

Allie: What led you to DC?

Lilly: I grew up in Columbia, Maryland and went to school in Charleston, South Carolina, and after graduating I decided to come back home. I was having FOMO being away from my family.

Allie: How did you get involved in hospitality?

Lilly: I went to school to be in event planning, and after doing internships with event planners I realized it was not what I wanted to do. So, I started working at a resort in Charleston, South Carolina and realized I really liked the HR aspect of that job. I work for Crestline Hotels and Resorts, and support 8 hotels in the DMV area.

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day:

Lilly: I would wake up and have a cup of coffee. It would be a beautiful fall day. It would be a weekday so everyone else is working and it wouldn’t be crowded in the city. I would go for a 20-25 mile bike ride around DC, and then stop for some lunch. I’d like to get in a little hike as well, and at the end of the day have a massage. For dinner, I’d go out for Chinese food.

lilly

Allie: Where are your favorite places to hike?

Lilly: I like to hike in Shenandoah, especially Old Rag. I love Sugarloaf because it starts out very woodsy and then there’s a beautiful overlook. I also like Harpers Ferry, my friends and I camp the night before and then do the Overlook Trail in the morning. I just like being being outdoors and around nature, especially when I can be without my phone and computer.

Allie: What’s on your bucket list for this year or goals you have?

Lilly: I don’t really like to set goals. I just want to be happy and keep it simple.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Lilly: My mother. She’s just great. She enjoys life and makes sure to uphold her Jewish identity. She’s a first generation American and her father was a Holocaust survivor. As I’ve grown older, I’ve gained a deeper understanding about how life wasn’t so easy for her. She had a very different upbringing than normal American children. When I was growing up, my mom made an effort to create a Jewish household and I appreciate that. She’s my best friend.

lilly

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Lilly: Passover. The second night my parents always host Seder, and I love it because my dad leads us in “Pesach Jeopardy”. We start off with a shot of tequila. It’s just 30 adults having a really great time. He used to do it on notecards but now he does it on a PowerPoint. It’s really fun.

Allie: What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Lilly: My birth story is in the Library of Congress. My dad was in Desert Storm when my mom went into labor with me. And through a small coincidence, he was able to come home for my birth. My mom reached out to StoryCorps to tell this story, and everything they record is in the Library of Congress

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Lilly: They laugh.

 

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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 Andrew: Jewish Home Chef of the Week

andrew

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Andrew: It’s been my dream to move to DC ever since I interned here during college for House Majority Leader Pelosi at the time. I fell in love with the city, it was easy to navigate and fit me so well personality-wise. I love politics, and DC is the political epicenter of the nation. Plus, there’s so much action here which is great because I’m someone who likes to be very involved. After graduating, I got a job working for HUD (Housing and Urban Development department). 

Allie: Have you always been interested in politics?

Andrew: Ever since high school I’ve known I wanted to work in the public sector so I could do something to improve people’s lives and give them better opportunities. I was very inspired by the 2008 election and got into politics after that. 

Allie: What was it like interning for Nancy Pelosi?

Andrew: I had the time of my life. It was a part of a Semester in Washington program that I did during college. I was on Capitol Hill and I learned so much, both in terms of policy and politics, as well as expectations and professional decorum. I gained more maturity and broader perspectives on things.

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day.

Andrew: I would check out one of the farmer’s markets and Trader Joe’s in the morning, and then play basketball with my friends. After that, I’ll have a nice light lunch and then go to a cultural event at an embassy or museum. I love doing things where I can learn and feel awe-inspired. Then, I might ride my bike to a new area of the city. Since I’m still relatively new, I’m amazed by all the different pockets of DC. 

Later, I’ll go out to dinner with friends at Zaytina. I started going there during the government shutdown because José Andrés had free sandwiches, and just kept going back. If it’s a Sunday, I would also prepare my dinner list for the week and do some cooking. 

andrew

Allie: Is cooking a big hobby of yours?

Andrew: Yes, I love cooking – it’s very rewarding. I have a whole spice and cutting board area set up in my apartment and love experimenting with different spices, seeds, and mustards. I love chopping produce, and making recipes that are healthy and fun. I’m always trying new things. 

Allie: What inspired your love of cooking?

Andrew: I grew up in a house where we were all foodies, and my mom was a very big advocate for cooking. She taught me a lot. I’m also someone who has struggled with weight and lost weight, and don’t want to regress and go back. To maintain my healthy lifestyle, I’ve learned to make dishes that are nutritious and enjoyable.

I also love cooking for others and hosting them for Shabbat or Havdalah. Hosting is such a nice way to welcome people into your how and show a different part of your personality. I think that how and why someone cooks says a lot about their values.

Allie: Do you have any cooking goals for yourself this year?

Andrew: I’d like to get into baking, which is much more scientific and you really have to follow instructions. Baking will be a new challenge for me, and I think will give me a big sense of accomplishment and joy.

Allie: What are your favorite ways to spend free time in the city?

Andrew: I love going to the embassies, or new exhibits at museums like the Freer Sackler Gallery. I really like to pursue things that get me out of my comfort zone, and DC has so many educational opportunities that help me see things from different angles. I also love the incredible diversity of speakers in DC. I went to see Hilary and Chelsea Clinton a few weeks ago and am going to see Nikki Haley this week. 

I’ve also been inspired by DC’s fitness culture. Biking seems like a religion down here, and I’ve been trying to pick up my biking pace on a daily basis. I love long extended bike rides.

Also, I enjoy relaxing at Compass Coffee. That is where I do some of my best decompressing, reading, and thinking. You can almost always find me there during a free weekend afternoon.

Allie: What are you looking forward to this coming year?

Andrew: Since I’m still pretty new, I really am excited about all of the young Jewish professional events around town. I like the more meaningful, intimate gatherings that create a sense of camaraderie. I’m hoping to get more involved with FIDF’s young professional arm.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Andrew: It brings out the best of us. We build a sense of community, camaraderie, and friendship – which is exactly what we need more of. 

andrew

 

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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 Mollie: Jewish Foodie of the Week

When she’s not empowering women as the president of JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network, Mollie Bowman is taste-testing the best of the Michelin Guide in DC, enjoying the monuments at night, or dreaming of becoming a comedy writer.


mollie 2

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Mollie: I’m from Atlanta, and moved to DC for school at GW. I have no intention of leaving anytime soon.

Allie: I heard you worked on the Hilary campaign in 2016, do you still work in politics?

Mollie: I currently work in consulting but all of my clients are government. I’ve always loved politics. I worked on Hilary’s campaign in 2016. We’re in a tumultuous time right now – and there’s so much opportunity to do good. 

Allie: Are you planning to work on a campaign for the 2020 election?

Mollie: Maybe. I have my candidate, I would love to see a woman as president. 

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day from start to finish.

Mollie: I would wake up early, I’m definitely a morning person. I’d go to pilates or SoulCycle. I think I would have breakfast at Blue Duck Tavern. If it’s beautiful, I’d love to walk on the Mall or Arboretum. I’d go to the American History Museum, National Gallery of Art, or the Newseum. Then, I’d have dinner with friends. I’ve built such a network in the city over the past 7 years and feel like my friends are my family. We’d go somewhere really delicious for dinner, maybe Tail Up Goat. I’m such a foodie. After, maybe I’d walk around the monuments. There’s a lot of power in seeing the monuments for me. 

mollie

Allie: As a foodie, what is your favorite dish or cuisine?

Mollie: I love sushi. I would eat sushi every meal if I could. I just made reservations at Sushi Taro. I live by the Michelin Guide. In DC, food has such a unique ability to bring people together. You can be fighting across the aisle in politics, but you can come together across the table. Really good restaurants play a big role in the city. You see José Andrés give so much back – he’s like a one man FEMA. 

Allie: I hear you’re the new JWI Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) President. How did you get involved in JWI?

Mollie: I went to my first JWI event last year. It was a Jewish Women in Policy event, there were three members of Congress speaking, many women involved in advocacy at the top levels. It didn’t feel like an elite gathering, it felt like real women talking about their experiences in that space and how Judaism has connected them to giving back. I fell in love with JWI from that one event. JWI’s events put an emphasis on mentorship, intergenerational leadership, and engaging young women. I applied to be on the YWLN Board after the conference and have loved it so much that I am now the board president (as of August)!

mollie

Allie: Are there any JWI events coming up that our community should know about?

Mollie: One event that just passed was in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence is a big pillar of JWI. We recently assembled care kits for women in domestic violence shelters and collected children’s books to go in libraries in those shelters. We have our Young Women’s Leadership Conference coming up on December 15th. That’s our biggest event of the year where we hear from the Women to Watch who are such incredible, accomplished Jewish leaders. I’d encourage any young, Jewish woman in Washington to attend. 

Allie: Do you have any goals for the coming year?

Mollie: I want to start writing more to give myself a creative outlet. I’d love to get into comedy writing. I’ve never dabbled in it before, but it would be a dream of mine. I’d also like to try to focus on putting out gratitude more than apologies. This year I’m trying to deserve to occupy the spaces I’m in, not have imposter syndrome, not feel like things are always my fault.

Allie: Do you have a Jewish role model?

Mollie: My mom. I grew up reform, but with so much reverence for Judaism. My mom always made Judaism such a special part of my childhood. We did Shabbat every Friday night, and Passover was so fun. She made Judaism so important to me. I’m like a carbon copy of my mom and take this with so much honor. I would also say Rachel Gildiner. She’s been such a grounding force in my life. She serves with so much grace as the leader of GatherDC.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Mollie: There’s power in numbers to make a difference. I was at the Return Again Service at Adas Israel for Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Hotzblatt mentioned that there were thousands of Jews worshipping publicly and how that in and of itself is a redemption. I was overwhelmed by that.

mollie and shelly

 

 

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 Blake: Jewish Gifting Pro of the Week

blake band

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Blake: I grew up in this area, went to Wootton High School and then University of Florida for college.  I stayed at UF for grad school in entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial marketing. I came back to DC to get a job, and interned for Cava Restaurant Group before getting a job at a startup. I stayed because I like DC, I like the vibe. I’m not a New York person.

Allie: As someone who studies entrepreneurship, are you a big “Shark Tank” fan?

Blake: Yes – I love “Shark Tank”. I was in school in 2014, which was the “Shark Tank” era. My house is littered with “Shark Tank” products, whether they’re gifts or things I bought for myself. I’ve always really enjoyed new products and tech.

Allie: Have you put your entrepreneurship skills into action?

Blake: I’ve had a lot of lemonade stands. My latest endeavor is IGiveCoolGifts.com. It’s a one-stop shop for your gift-giving needs. It’s a clean, simple, easy-to-use interface with cool ideas for things your friends could actually use and won’t throw away. I’ve always loved giving gifts. I think if you put in a little effort, it can really make a big impact for someone. On the site, I also give custom gift suggestions. So if you have a wedding coming up, a White Elephant exchange, or a housewarming party – I’m happy to lend my skills. This site has also been a great way to connect with different makers and small businesses who are doing really cool things, and give them a publication to get a little more out there. 

Allie: Is gift giving your love language?

Blake: Definitely. I’m terrible at receiving gifts, but I love giving them. Growing up, for birthdays or Hanukkah, my family made it a big gifting thing. My mom celebrates my birthday as a national holiday in her mind. There were always multiple layers of gifts for it. My mom has an art and design background, and my dad has a quirky side – growing up with that led me to want to give cool gifts to people as a way to connect with them. 

Allie: What are a few good gift suggestions for a Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving host?

Blake: An electric chainsaw carving knife is fun – I saw this on The Grommet. There’s a company called Muirwood Reclamations, and they do a concrete cake stand. I’d maybe bake a cake and bring it on a concrete cake stand that I’d give as a gift. Or you could give a smart thermometer that goes in the oven, and syncs up to your phone and will tell you when the food is done. Stressed out around family? There’s CBD gummies for that. 

Allie: Walk us through your perfect day in DC.

Blake: I’d wake up a little late and grab breakfast at Dupont Market, then go to the gym so I can feel better about the things I’m doing the rest of the day. I’d go to Union Market and spend hours there, then meet up with a friend and explore a new museum or exhibit at the Hirshhorn or the Arboretum. I’ll bring my camera and take photos. I’ll probably take a nap, and then have dinner somewhere low key like Bar Charley. I’d find an Old Fashioned somewhere like Two Birds,One Stone – which is now Destination Wedding. The drinks are still incredible. Then, I’d be home relatively early.

Allie: You mentioned photography in your perfect day. Is that a hobby of yours?

Blake: Yes, I really like photography and using it as a mechanism to explore. I like to bring an actual camera rather than using my phone, because I find that gives me a good excuse to take photos of random things and people.

blake with camera

Allie: What are your go-to ways to relax?

Blake: I play soccer every week through District Sports. I like working out when I can. And I’m a huge movie and TV fan. Right now, I love “Fleabag” on Amazon Prime and “Peaky Blinders” on Netflix. For movies – I just watched “Yesterday”, “Book Smart”, and “Spiderman Far from Home”.  

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Blake: Hanukkah. My family does a big Hanukkah party every year. We do a Secret Selma, which is just a Jewish version of Secret Santa. We pick names out of a hat on Thanksgiving and then exchange gifts during Hanukkah. I take it very seriously. Also, my aunt is a great cook and she makes us a mean red velvet cake. 

Allie: What’s on your bucket list?

Blake: I have a list of things I want to accomplish before turning 30 – skydiving, sliding across the hood of a car, tying a bow-tie, traveling to a city alone, and changing a tire. In life, the bucket of my bucket list would be to host SNL. I’d also love to start a business – whether it be opening a restaurant or making a really great product.  

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Blake: Someone will know my grandpa or uncle. My uncle is an OBGYN in the area at Capital Women’s Care and there’s always someone who went to him or knows someone who has been to that office.

blake

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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 Nikki: Jewish Teacher of the Week!

nikki

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Nikki: I applied to be a part of the Avodah Jewish Service Corps, which is a year-long Jewish service program. At 22, didn’t know what I wanted to do professionally, but knew I wanted to be part of repairing the world and Avodah gave me the opportunity to figure it out. I appreciated that it had a Jewish lens because Judaism has always been very important to my life.

Allie: Why is Judaism important to you?

Nikki: My answer changes depending on where I am in life. Right now, my first thought is my wedding, future family, and future career path. But, 10 years ago, it would have been about how I’m building relationships with people and what volunteer work I’m doing. 10 years before that it was “Who am I?”.

At this point in my life, I’m planning a Jewish wedding with my fiancé, but what an interfaith marriage means to us is different from what our parents had. I’ve been thinking about what my parents did for me in creating our home – like having family dinners consistently be a part of our Jewish practice and valuing education so much. It’s no mistake that I wound up working in education as a profession.

Judaism has always been an easy thing to turn to if I was scared, or unsure, or joyful. It’s very moldable and flexible.

Allie: Tell me about your experience with Avodah?

Nikki: It was kind of like Real World: the Jewish DC edition. 24 of us in two houses; where people explored their faith and things got real. It was an awesome experience where we learned how to use our Judaism to be agents of change.

We had house meetings, everything was communal. We once had a 2-hour long discussion about whether or not to buy a crock pot for the house. We all had jobs outside the house, and mine was at DC SCORES as the Community Outreach Coordinator.  That professional experience was transformative for me. 

Allie: What led you to work as a teacher in special education?

Nikki: I knew from an early age I wanted to be a teacher, and my job at DC SCORES allowed me a chance to work within schools all over the city. My biggest reason for specializing in teaching students with disabilities was my younger sister, Dana. She has ADHD and always struggled in school growing up – mostly because the environments she was in could not adjust to her style of learning. It was then I knew I wanted to be a part of creating a more inclusive learning classroom for all the Dana’s out there that just needed a teacher who “gets it” – and many of us do!

So I made a decision to get a Masters in Teaching Students with Moderate Disabilities at Lesley University and go into special education, specifically inclusive education using Universal Design to fit the classroom to my students’ needs. It was the best decision I ever made.

I’ve enjoyed working to unravel the science of learning with my students – it’s similar to taking apart a puzzle and rebuilding it in a totally different way. Watching students make progress who previously believed they couldn’t is always the best part of my day.

My partner also works in the disability field, and he recently started a unified rugby team for kids of all abilities called Washington Wolf Pack. I’m their social media manager. 

nikki and fiance

Allie: What’s your dream DC day from start to finish?

Nikki: I’d wake up without an alarm, and immediately have a delicious espresso. From there, I’d walk to the Arboretum and spend time walking and reading there. I’d have some delicious sandwich for lunch – I love sandwiches – and then spend time with people that I like. It seems simple, but so are the best things in life.

Allie: What do you do to relax?

Nikki: I love reading science fiction, especially on a hammock. Science fiction has a way of taking me away from whatever I’m feeling or thinking. 

Allie: What are you most excited about for the coming Jewish New Year?

Nikki: I’m excited that, this year feels like a big personal year. I’m excited to be in my 30’s and take more time for me this year.

Allie: What’s on your life bucket list?

Nikki: I want to start learning rock climbing. And pottery. I have a whole list of “maybe this is my new thing” hobbies I want to check off this year!

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Nikki: I love Passover. It’s so moldable to whatever is happening is the world now. I’ve seen some pretty interesting ways to interpret Passover to understand various human rights issues that are closer to us (in time and location) than our Exodus from Egypt. My partner and I have taken our own approach to celebrating Passover a little differently and added new items to the seder plate. That has been the first time I’ve seen him get really engaged in our Jewish home. It feels like something we’ve built together. My favorite new seder plate item of ours is something he came up with: a radish to represent people with disabilities. Often overlooked in value or placed there to be a decorative item, the radish offers incredible nutritional value when fully included in the dish.

passover nikki

Allie: What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Nikki: I was an All-American cheerleader in high school, and used to competitively dance. I channel a LOT of that team spirit and kinesthetic movement in my teaching.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Nikki: There’s a lot of laughter and delicious food!

nikki

 

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 Miriam: Jewish Internationalist of the Week

miriamAllie: What led you to live in DC?

Miriam: I grew up in Silver Spring and wasn’t planning to come back after graduation, but there were a lot of jobs here in international affairs. I don’t know if DC will be my forever place, but it’s great for now.

Allie: What led to your passion in international affairs?

Miriam: I’ve always been interested in it, especially since I grew up in DC and there are lots of embassies and a big international community here. I was lucky enough to be able to travel while I was in college, and became really interested in how other people are living around the world. 

Being exposed to different countries, geographies, and lifestyles made me want to study this on an academic level. I want to get a macro look at the systems and institutions that create the state of international affairs, how countries interact with each other, and then how people interact with each other. Specifically, my interests lie in studying gender, inclusion, and religions and how those forces influence what people value, and how that has a ripple effect on policy, government, and diplomacy

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC from start to finish.

Miriam: I’ll start with bagels because that’s very important to me. My personal loyalty lies with Bethesda Bagels, but for this dream day I might go to Bullfrog Bagels at Eastern Market and then walk around the market, try some produce samples. I’d then go be on the water – maybe get a sailboat, or kayak. I would bring a picnic of things I got from Eastern Market to Kingman Island. Then, I’d pick a nice rooftop to watch the sunset and have dinner at Maydan. After dinner I’d go get a drink somewhere.

Allie: How do you relax?

Miriam: I love to walk, which is such a great way to get to know new places. I also love to lie on my hammock and read. I love to cook as well. Since I’ve started working and am looking at a computer all day, cooking allows me to not look at a screen, decompress, and then get some good food at the end! 

Allie: What are your favorite things to cook?

Miriam: I’m a vegetarian, and I love making spaghetti squash with caramelized onions and adding maple syrup and brown sugar – it’s like dessert spaghetti. I love baked mac and cheese. I think that might be my favorite food. I also make green curry now and then when I have the patience.

miriam

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish dish?

Miriam: Apple strudel. My mom makes to for Sukkot every year.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Miriam: One of the rabbis at Tufts Hillel, Rabbi Jordan, who focuses a lot on building community and meeting people where they are. He works hard to expand the idea of what being Jewish can mean. During Elul, he sends journal prompts to this email list and every day there’s a new prompt to reflect and journal on. Its my most regular spiritual practice, it’s such a nice way to inspire so many people to participate.

Allie: What are you looking forward to this coming Jewish New Year?

Miriam: I want to go on a solo backpacking or camping trip. I love being outdoors but have never done something like that on my own. I’m also excited about an interfaith summit that I’m working on this year through the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington. It’s a multi-faith conference for young leaders to come together and dialogue. It will be a lot of work, but hopefully will turn out well!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Miriam: Hopefully somebody knows how to bake challah.

 

miriam

 

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 Joe: Jewish Social Butterfly of the Week!

joe

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Joe: I’m originally from Connecticut, and then my family moved to North Carolina. I was most recently living in Baltimore and working for Hillel, but saw my social life continually shift more and more towards DC, and sometimes I found myself here 5-7 times a week. Eventually, I decided I might as well move here. 

Allie: What’s your favorite part about living in the District?

Joe: I really like the hustle and bustle of DC. It’s not quite NYC hectic-ness, but there are a lot of things going on, and so many different types of people and diverse international cultures. I have a hard time staying focused on one thing. I like to have lots of different passions, and feel like I’ve been able to pursue those in DC.

I lived in Moishe House Columbia Heights when I first moved here which was a huge passion of mine. I also love to perform and see shows and there are just so many wonderful theaters here. I also sing in the Gay Men’s Chorus here which is massive and has so much going on. Not to mention the DC food scene – I’ve become such a foodie, especially when it comes to brunch and ramen.

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

Joe: It would start at 801 DC for their bottomless brunch, they give you entire bottles of champagne and carafes of strawberry puree, grapefruit, orange, and peach or apricot juices, and you can make your own mimosas. The food is great, and there is a rooftop you can sit on so you can get a fresh breeze. After a couple of hours there, I’d see what kind of festivals are going on. I love people watching. Then, I’d go to a wine bar where I can sit outside with friends. I’d definitely get ramen at Haikan for dinner. Their ramen melts in your mouth, it’s delicious. After that, I’d go see a couple of drag shows and almost certainly end the night doing karaoke at Dupont Italian Kitchen.

joe

Allie: I heard you started Capital Qvellers. Tell me about this group and what inspired you to create it.

Joe: Capital Qvellers is an open group for anyone who identifies at LGBTQ+ and Jewish and is a young adult. It started because we were a group of people who got grouped together for Shabbat dinners because we were all queer-identifying. We realized there wasn’t really a space that we felt encompassed an open, inclusive community for LGBTQ+ young Jewish adults in DC where they could feel celebrated, reaffirmed, and be able to reconnect with their Jewish identity. 

We started just doing Shabbat dinners once a month with support from Moishe House and OneTable. Then, Moishe House gave us a grant to do our first leadership retreat last year for young adults who were all really interested in building and creating a strong LGBTQ+ Jewish community. It became apparent that there was a large number of people who needed and wanted a space like this. If you want to get involved, email DCLGBTQJews@gmail.com, friend me on Facebook, or check out our Facebook page.

Allie: Has Judaism always been such a central part of your identity?

Joe: Being Jewish is very much a core part of who I am today, but no, it has not always been that way. I was adopted by distant, non-Jewish relatives and was raised in a Christian home. I didn’t even find out about my Jewish heritage until I was in high school. At that point, I already felt like Christianity didn’t vibe with me, but wasn’t sure what I believed. 

When I went to college, I had a Jewish suite mate my freshman year who used a little electric menorah to do the Hanukkah blessings, which was my first time lighting a menorah. I went to a Hanukkah party at Hillel, and then wound up dating a Jewish guy, singing with the Jewish acapella group, and it just sort of snowballed from there. 

The Jewish community was so affirming and accepting of my queer identity, and I was very appreciative of that. I also lost my biological mom when I was in college and the Jewish community was so there for me during that time. I did an alternative spring break trip with AJWS through my Hillel and it really opened my eyes to Judaism’s focus on charity, dignity, and ultimately led to my decision to commit to my Judaism and have a bar mitzvah. 

So, I went to the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) that summer, and in the span of two and half weeks I learned to read Hebrew, studied my Torah portion, and had my bar mitzvah at BCI.

Allie: With the start of the Jewish New Year, what are you excited about or hoping for this coming year?

Joe: I’m excited to see Capital Qvellers go into year two and see the growth this organization has. We want to start doing more Jewish learning, and trying out new events.

Personally, I’m hoping to pause a little more this coming year. I’m always on the go and love being busy, but am excited to take moments to reflect on the beauty of the world and recognizing how much good can come from those pauses. When you pause, it creates an opportunity for someone else to do.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Joe: The earth begins to quake!

joe

Meet Lisa: Jewish Relationship Journalist of the Week!

lisa

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Lisa: I’m from California and went to UCLA where I had been writing a dating column for the student newspaper. Then, I got an internship at The Washington Post right out of college. So, I packed up my stuff and moved out here for what I thought was going to be three months and have been here for 14+ years.

Allie: What inspired you to become a journalist?

Lisa: In second grade, we had to write a story about our worst day – like “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. I included everything “bad” that had ever happened to me into the chronology of one day. My teacher showed it to another teacher and was like “isn’t this so good?!” I decided right then that I wanted to write stories. 

Allie: Tell me about the Solo-ish column you started at The Washington Post?

Lisa: I wrote an op-ed once on Valentine’s Day about how people should be picking up the phone to ask people out on first dates, and then a couple years later I got dumped by email and wrote a piece about the art of digital rejection. I was writing these one-off stories as I was continuing to edit stories about the budget and the War in Afghanistan. 

In 2014, I had a really great editor who asked me if I wanted to write a dating column. I realized I wanted to write a singles’ column that was about more than just dating, but also incorporated friendship, travel, personal finance, and figuring out your life as a person. We launched this in 2015 and called it “Solo-ish”. It’s now under “Relationships.”

Allie: What are your favorite pieces you’ve written for “Solo-ish”/”Relationships”?

Lisa: I wrote a piece about going to my college boyfriend’s wedding. The wedding was fun but also kind of terrible. In part, the wedding made me feel like I was behind in my life because I hadn’t been in a significant relationship since that relationship, but it also helped me reflect on how great it is that we have this friendship that spans over a decade. Writing helps me process my emotions. 

I also love writing pieces where I can talk about the larger culture that we’re in. Dating and relationships might seem frivolous or non-essential, but they’re really not. They’re what we live for. There’s hope and despair and sadness and discovery and joy and friendship – all the elements that are in every good story happen in love stories.

Another favorite piece is from a few months ago. I got to go to a romantic comedy festival in LA this past summer. The woman running the festival was in a relationship with her high school crush. She sent him a letter at the end of high school that was like, “I really like you, but you missed your chance with me!” They stayed in touch, and eventually decided to date when they were in their late 20s. Now they’re together and he was there following her around all weekend. I asked her boyfriend why he didn’t swoop in and propose to her during the festival, and he said that he didn’t want to take the spotlight off of her and become focused on their relationship. I realized that this woman was living in a 2019 romantic comedy. If it were set in 1999, her boyfriend would have proposed and made it a big spectacle. Since its 2019, love is a little quieter and more equal. 

lisa

Allie: What is your favorite part about being a journalist?

Lisa: I’m super nosy, and it’s my job to ask the most personal questions of people. Having those really deep, intense conversations with anyone who is willing to have them with me is super rewarding and interesting.

Allie: What is one dating tip you’ve taken away from your years of writing about relationships?

Lisa: Everyone has something interesting about them. They might not be the person for you, but everyone has something interesting and lovable to discover.

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day from start to finish.

Lisa: It would start by a friend texting me, “Want to go have brunch at the diner?” It would be unplanned. When you’re in your late 30s, you don’t really do planned brunches anymore. I might wander over to La Colombe for a tan-line. I would gather some friends to act out a famous movie. We did this to commemorate the 30th anniversary of “When Harry Met Sally” in July, which is one of my favorite movies. Most recently, we did this with “Princess Bride”. It was amazing with the drum circle behind us making the whole thing feel more intense. Everyone brought their own special flavor, energy, and voice. Then, I would bring people over to grill on my rooftop where we have a view of Adams Morgan. I would end the day by spending some time with a novel.

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

Lisa: I’m still playing Pokémon Go.

Allie: Anything else you want to share? 

Lisa: I have to share some of my favorite Jewish pick-up lines I’ve heard at events. Someone once came up to me and said, “So, where did you go to camp?” Another time someone walked up to me at a Moishe House event and asked, “Sarah? Rachel? Rebecca?”

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Lisa: Chaos ensues.

lisa and friends

————

 

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 Aurell: Jewish Doctor of the Week

aurellAllie: What brought you to DC?

Aurell: I’m from Kansas City, originally, went to medical school in Tel Aviv. Most recently, I was living in Denver after residency but had no family around because they’re all in DC. I also wanted to find a place with a bigger Jewish community. So, I looked for jobs in DC and found a hospital that fit what I was looking for, and moved here. 

Allie: What kind of medicine do you practice?

Aurell: I did my residency in internal medicine, and practice as a hospitalist, which is basically an internal doctor who only works in hospitals. I see a lot of cancer patients, and patients with pretty challenging cases.

Allie: What’s your favorite thing about being a doctor?

Aurell: I feel like it’s something I can become better at all the time as I deal with challenging situations and learn to problem solve. I can feel myself becoming a better physician each year, and that’s the best gift you can give to a future patient. I really like interacting with patients and collaborating with the people on my team. It’s very rewarding.

What’s your favorite way to relax after a long work week in the hospital?

Aurell: I like treating myself to spa days. A facial, massages, anything involved in going to a spa. I also recently started playing golf which is very fun.

Allie: Describe your perfect DC day from start to finish.

Aurell: I’d wake up very late. I really enjoy sleeping in. Then, I’d work out. I like doing lots of different types of exercises like spinning, boxing, lifting weights. I’d pick one of those to do. At night, I’d probably go see an artist I like at the 9:30 Club. I like upbeat, dance music, but have pretty eclectic taste. I recently saw Zara Larsson there and have tickets to see Lauv at The Anthem

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Aurell: When I lived in Israel my favorite Jewish holiday was Shavuot because it was widely celebrated, but since moving to DC my favorite holiday has shifted to Hanukkah. There are just so many fun activities and the whole thing seems to last a month. I see my friends more often around Hanukkah time because there are so many fun events for young adults.

aurellAllie: Do you have any Jewish New Year resolutions?

Aurell: I don’t. I’m not into making resolutions because I feel like you should always be working on and for yourself. My mantra is to continuously be better, learn from others, and not wait for a certain time to work on yourself.

Allie: Do you have anything on your bucket list?

Aurell: I want to go on a big Scotland, Ireland, England trip. There is a lot of history and scenery I want to see.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Aurell: Babies are made.

 

 

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 Carolyn: Jewish Influencer of the Week!

She’s wielding her Instagram powers for communal good. Get to know Carolyn Becker, the fashion forward, plant-based brains behind @DCVeganLife, @FindingYourGood, and @Petite_Punk.

WARNING: This interview may cause hunger.

carolyn

Photo by @Petite_Punk

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Carolyn: I was born here, raised in Bethesda, and then went to American University. I’ve always loved this city so I never moved. I joke that rather than move to different states, I just moved from State Street to State Street.

Allie: Tell me how the @DCVeganLife Instagram account came to be.

Carolyn: I’ve been a vegetarian since college and had a lot of vegan friends. Then, one of my best friends said that for her birthday she wanted her friends to try going vegan for a week. So I said, “heck yes” and went to Yes! and bought all the Daiya cheese and vegan deli meats. I love deli sandwiches! But, being the petite size that I am, I had leftovers after the week ended. I hate wasting food so I just continued begin vegan. 

Shortly after that, I started @DCVeganLife. I was already active on Instagram documenting my thrifting adventures, so I figured this would just be one more account to run – it’s fine. Mostly, I was so excited about the foods I could have as a vegan – like fried ice cream and donuts. I also really love supporting local vegan businesses and wanted to help fuel the local DC vegan community. I made a strict posting schedule and tagged other brands – and it just started to grow from there. 

Photo by @DCVeganLife, from Sugar Shack Donuts Arlington

Allie: What’s your favorite part of running @DCVeganLife?

Carolyn: Supporting and connecting with the DC vegan community, specifically with businesses who do not have as big of a budget as other companies. There are some brands that I hold dear to my heart like Donut Run and Pow Pow, because I’ve been able to help them grow, and that brings me so much satisfaction.

Allie: Walk me through your dream DC eating day.

Carolyn: I’d start with a dope breakfast bagel sandwich at Bethesda Bagels. I’d get a whole wheat everything bagel with creamy veggie tofu cream cheese with a side of fruit salad. For lunch, I love Little Sesame. I’d get their cauliflower hummus bowl and their tahini soft serve. It’s so fresh and healthy and feels good. I’d get a snack later on at Sticky Fingers; either a calvin cookie or a cupcake. Or maybe both! For dinner, I’d get Menomale pizza with vegan cheese. They have scissors so you can cut your own slices. Or Roscoe’s Pizzeria in Takoma Park. Then, I’d have to get a slice of vegan funfetti cake at Fare Well for dessert.

vegan pizza

Photo by @DCVeganLife, from ROSCOE’S Neapolitan Pizzeria

Allie: On top of running your vegan food Instagram, you have a full time job; tell me about that.

Carolyn: DC Vegan Life is my 6pm-8am. From 9-5pm, I’m the DC Communications Manager for Goodwill of Greater Washington. I run their social media platforms, and am one of their in-house photographers and event planners. In that capacity, I get to connect with the local DC community from a sustainable fashion capacity through their lifestyle community brand, Finding Your Good..

Allie: Why is sustainable fashion and veganism so important to you?

Carolyn: It all goes back to supporting community and loving your home. When you make a purchase, you have a lot of power. I think it’s so important to take a moment to think about whether your purchases are supporting organizations that are doing good in the community, supporting animals or people, or not. In regards to fashion – when you buy something new, that leads to more trash, which creates poison in the world. You don’t have to buy, buy, buy to have interesting fashion. I actually think it’s really cool to have the confidence to repeat outfits. Buying recycled fashion from local thrift stores can make such a difference – both for the people in the community and for the environment.

Allie: What are some things you like to do to relax?

Carolyn: Walking. It is one of the most therapeutic and invigorating activities; you’re exercising, exploring your city, all while saving money on a gym membership. I also love to thrift. I love finding that gem in the rough, and have a passion for one-of-a-kind finds and vintage fashion. I love being outdoors – hiking, urban foraging, discovering edible trees and plants, and baking vegan treats with my boyfriend, Steven.

Photo by @DCVeganLife, vegan funfetti cake from Farewell

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

Carolyn: I do have time to watch Netflix! 

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the Jewish New Year?

Carolyn: To slow down and relax.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Carolyn: We can foster a greater sense of community and build a stronger DC.

Photo by @Petite_Punk

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.