Meet Shoshana: Jewish Bunny Lover of the Week!

Want to bring some much needed joy to a friend right now? Nominate them to be Jewish Person of the Week! Submit your nomination here.

This week, we introduce you to a bunny-loving mensch who graces us with tips for better sleep, great podcast recommendations, and a short poem for Jewish DC!

Shoshanna

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Shoshana: I’m from New York but grew up in NEPA (Northeastern Pennsylvania) and came to DC right after college in 2009. I graduated from Penn State and applied for alternative teaching programs. The first one I got accepted to was in DC teaching science and math in inner city schools. After that, I started teaching at an all-girls Orthodox yeshiva (Jewish educational institution).

Allie: What made you stay here?

Shoshana: If I wanted to go back to school or change jobs – DC was able to offer that. I like that DC is small and easy to navigate. Also, plugging into the Jewish community here seems to be easier than it is in other large cities. You can carve out much more of a community. 

Allie: Tell me about your job and what you do.

Shoshana: I work at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and help with their online continuing medical education program. All medical professionals have to take courses to keep up their licensure. I describe my job as half curriculum design and half tech.  I also do some IT troubleshooting. All of my years of teaching have been super helpful, and since a lot of education is already very online (especially right now!), I was already managing similar systems in the classroom. This was a natural transition for me. I can do a lot of different things career-wise from here, but think I want to stay in the medical education space. My dad was an adolescent psychiatrist so I know the importance of that role. 

shoshana

Allie: Are there any helpful psychology tips you’ve learned from your job that you can share with us? 

Shoshana: One thing I tell my friends is that your bed should only be associated with sleep. If you are tired, don’t go into your bed and be on your phone. It’s better to relax on a couch, or if you can’t do that – you should change how you sit on your bed. Rearrange the pillows just to create some difference in the way you use it and that should help you sleep better. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream DC day (post pandemic of course).

Shoshana: I wake up not too early (after nine), and ideally it’s a Sunday. I would go for a run through Rock Creek Park, and then go to the Dupont Farmers Market. I would get a bagel with lots of cream cheese from Call Your Mother. In the summer, I like to go to the pool. If I feel like being more social I’ll go to the Banneker pool or if I want something more relaxed I’ll go to the Georgetown pool. Afterwards, I would go to Meridian Hill Park and check out the drum circle. In the evening I would go to The Big Hunt for a comedy show. That bar has the game Big Buck Hunter which I love!

Allie: What do you do to relax?

Shoshana: I really like to exercise. I use ClassPass and try to do workouts to break up my day. I also like to take baths when it’s cold outside. It’s really helpful to listen to podcasts. I especially like film review podcasts like Blank Check, Unspooled, and Nerd Critic.

Allie: Do you have a favorite Jewish Holiday?

Shoshana: I would say Shabbat, because I like that it’s weekly and comes often. I just really like the cathartic end of week feeling that comes with lighting candles, saying the prayers, and having a traditional meal. I don’t fully unplug, but I still try to have a good conversation and make it a special time.

shoshana

Allie: Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?

Shoshana: If you don’t know me well, you would be surprised to know I love bunny rabbits. I was raised with rabbits as pets. They lived with us like a cat or a dog would, they were litter trained. I have always loved rabbits. I would love to get one, but don’t have any currently. I like that rabbits have been really popular in movie symbolism lately.

Allie: What would you name your rabbits if you got them? 

Shoshana: I love the idea of coordinating names, especially food names like Avocado and Toast.

Allie: What is your favorite kind of rabbit? 

Shoshana: I grew up with floppy eared rabbits or lop rabbits. I follow Flemish Giants on Instagram and they can get up to 20-25 pounds and are supposed to be really smart. Sadly, this breed doesn’t live as long. Something about having an enormous rabbit seems really appealing to me. 

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Shoshana: I wrote a little poem for this! Very few tattoos / some will Booze / many will schmooze / most will share their views / all will be amused.

shoshana and boyfriend

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 Connor: Jewish Uncle of the Week

Editor’s note: Full disclosure here – Connor Jacobson is no stranger to me. In fact, we share a nephew (his brother is married to my sister)! Since moving to the DC-area and going on a Birthright Israel trip co-led by GatherDC’s Rabbi Ilana Zietman, I’ve been able to see Connor more often and get to know him as a friend. Read on to get to know him too!

connor

 

Allie: What brought you to the DC area?

Connor: I grew up in Connecticut and moved to Chicago for school, and stuck around after I got a job as a healthcare consultant. I wanted to move closer to my family. I had a nephew at the time that was 8 months old, and I wanted to find more meaning and purpose in my career. I found an opportunity working for Math Motivators – a nonprofit that helps underprivileged high school students with math.  

Allie: What has helped you find community in the Jewish DC community since moving here this year?

Connor: Going on Birthright Israel with a DC group this past winter. I had wanted to go for a while, but with a busy job, it was tough to find the time to get away. The group of 50 of us from that trip became like family in a matter of days and have kept in touch since. It was an incredible dynamic with the whole group, we love each other.

Allie: What were the highlights of your Birthright experience?

Connor: Going to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I have been spiritual and exploring religion for a while, and it all just came together that day. I’ve never really ascribed to a particular religion, but at the Western Wall, I saw other people davening and figured I’d try it. I started with saying a few prayers and had an out of body experience. It felt like I was a part of something larger.

Also, on the final day, I decided to have my bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. For my bar mitzvah, I was a little hesitant because I was raised half-Jewish, half-Christian. But I did it and even gave myself a Hebrew name, Shemiah. It was an incredible experience.birthright

Allie: Why was this so meaningful to you? 

Connor: I’m not really a believer per say but in that moment I had a wake-up call where all of the crazy chaotic things in my brain just became one and I realized what I want to be and what I want to do with my life. All my pain and the sounds around me went away and I just had one voice flowing through me. I had a thought in my head and I asked and prayed to become the person I want to be and as I did, a bird flew into a bush above my head and chirped which brought me back and I did my Bar Mitzvah ten minutes later.

Allie: Why Shemiah?

Connor:  The full name is Shemiah Haim, which loosely translates to “the listener who lives”. It was in honor of my grandfather. A year before he passed away, I was fortunate to interview him for a class. One of the last questions I asked him was “What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?” And he said, “As a good father, a good husband, and a good listener,” and that really stuck with me.

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.

Connor: The day would include a lot of time with my family and friends – particularly with my nephew Carter if he’s not napping. I would start at Call Your Mother, which I just tried and it’s phenomenal. Then, I would probably check out a museum in DC. Next, I would want to do an escape room with my brother and sister-in-law. After that, we would put Carter to bed and then head over to the whiskey bar Jack Rose for a nightcap. Somewhere in there, I would want to watch Carter watch dogs. 

connor

Allie: What do you do to relax?

Connor: Besides spending time with my nephew and other family, I like watching good shows and reading. 

Allie: Is there anywhere that you are excited to travel to?

Connor: I want to go to Australia and New Zealand at some point when COVID-19 subsides. I recently got back from Park City, Utah. I’ve been on the road for two months and it’s nice to relax for a bit, but I am thinking about doing Oktoberfest in Germany.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Connor: I have been very fortunate to celebrate Hanukkah these past few years with my sister-in-law’s family, the Cossman’s. I love their grandma, Bubbi. And more recently I’ve been trying to do Shabbat every week. 

Allie: What speaks to you most about Shabbat?

Connor: I am reading a book by Sarah Hurwitz called Here All Along. There is a whole chapter on reasons to do Shabbat. It’s a way for us to avoid consumerism and live a simpler life for a day, and make an effort to turn off technology. I like to reflect and wake up Saturday morning refreshed. 

Allie: What’s something that’s on your bucket list?

Connor: I really want to have a family and raise kids. I want to be happy in my work. I let the wind take me wherever it should. I’m not sure what the future holds but I’m excited about it.

Allie: What animal do you most closely identify with?

Connor: Definitely a giraffe. That’s what my brother Mike calls me. I saw a cute stuffed baby giraffe and then found a baby kippah in Israel and had a friend sew it on the giraffe, so it became a Jew-raffe which I named Shira after my close friend.

Allie: Tell me about this mindful masculinity class you take.

Connor: We meet every other week at Rabbi Rami’s house (The Den). We talk about toxic masculinity and how we can reshape our mind and learn ways to be mindful in our understanding of our role in society.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather… 

Connor: There is plenty of debate and partying.

connor

 

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 Maddie: Jewish Vegan Instagrammer of the Week!

Madeline Reich is the Jewish Instagram queen we didn’t know we needed, but desperately do. If you’re cooped up at home and feeling bored/hungry/cabin-fevery…Maddie Reich has ALL the scrumptious recipes (and just general food porn) you need to nourish your body and soul on her Jewish Vegan account. Bon Appétit.

Maddie

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Maddie: My partner already lived here, and I was accepted to my grad program for student affairs at the University of Maryland. I fell in love with the UMD program instantly, and feel really lucky I got in.

My masters in student affairs is about supporting students and helping them be successful while they are in college. 

Allie: How did you decide to go into student affairs?

Maddie: While at UNC Chapel Hill, I worked in the new student affairs office and helped with student welcome events, mentorship, and other programming. I got to implement a new program in the spring called Geek Week, which is a week of “geek” type activities like Star Trek trivia. Getting involved with Jewish life also helped inspire me to go into student affairs after college. 

Allie: What was your experience with Jewish life like at UNC?

Maddie: I didn’t really have a Jewish identity before coming to college, I kind of built one from scratch. I volunteered at the UNC Hillel and was part of a Jewish sorority. I helped with recruitment and programming related to Jewish identity and sisterhood. I also did Challah for Hunger, and despite never having eaten or baked challah before that, I fell in love with it and eventually became president of my chapter. All of these experiences helped me engage with my Jewish identity for the first time, and helped me become a leader. 

Allie: What was your Jewish identity like before coming to college?

Maddie: My family moved from New York to the rural south when I was 12, and we were the only Jewish family in the area. There was a lot of anti-Semitism, so I felt like I had to give up a lot of my Jewish identity. That really fueled my desire to help students have Jewish experiences that are meaningful for their identities while at college. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.

Maddie: I try to do yoga in the morning or go for a run with my dog Charlie, I usually wake up at 5:00 am! Then, I’d put on a TV show for a bit while I get ready. I’d head to Fare Well for breakfast, I’d get french toast strips and shakshuka. I have never been to the Botanical Gardens, so I would go there. For lunch, I would get Ethiopian food at Keren in Adams Morgan with my friends. They give you a LOT of food. After lunch, I’d stop by Labyrinth, the games shop in the Eastern Market, and check for board games on sale. At that point it would be dinner time, so I would try Seoul Food DC in Takoma. I’d get dessert at a bakery nearby that sells Vegan Treats. Then I would go home and try the new game I got, and be in bed by 10:00 pm. 

Allie: Tell me about your Instagram account!

Maddie: I love food, I love vegan food, and I love being Jewish. I also love photography – so I wanted an outlet for all of that. I had heard from a lot of people that they think cooking, especially vegan food, is really hard and that they had never learned how to cook and bake. I used to feel that way, and wanted to help other people learn to enjoy it. When I first started cooking and baking, I just made stir-frys and pre-packed foods. I started to get more creative and flexible with how I cook. With baking, the structure was nice because all you have to do is follow the recipe. It taught me the skills and the discipline. Cooking has helped me build confidence and I wanted to share that with others. 

Maddie Reich

Homemade vegan sufganiyot (jelly filled donuts), @thejewishvegan

Allie: When did you become vegan?

Maddie: I went vegetarian/vegan in 7th grade, so about 11 years ago. My parents didn’t know how to cook vegan, so I had to compromise with them and be vegetarian. I officially went vegan my sophomore year of college. My vegan challah recipe was the first thing I perfected. 

Allie: What is your hope for your Instagram account?

Maddie: I think that cooking and baking should be fun and not stressful. I want people – whether they are vegan or not – to learn from it. I also think being vegan is a skill that can be learned, and want to teach people how to be good at reading restaurant menus and nutrition labels. Eventually, I’m going to launch a website that outlines vegan resources, like how and where to find vegan foods. Fun fact: Disney has some pretty good food for vegans!

Allie: What is your favorite recipe?

Maddie: My vegan challah recipe. There is something really special to me about kneading the dough. I have a mixer, but I still make it by hand because I find it therapeutic. The recipe is also very versatile, you can do everything from sprinkles to vegan-beef and cheese. I want to make lavender challah!

challah

Homemade vegan challah with sprinkles, @hejewishvegan

Allie: What is something you really want to accomplish this year?

Maddie: I really want to get to 1,000 followers on my Instagram and may try to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon here in DC.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Maddie: They eat.

maddie

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 Jeff: Jewish Math Teacher of the Week

Have a suggestion for a Jewish Person of the Week? Email allisonf@gatherdc.org to nominate your friend. colleague, partner, or even yourself!

jeff levy

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Jeff: I was born in Washington, DC and raised in Silver Spring and Rockville. When I got back to the U.S. after two years in South Korea, several opportunities fell into place in the DC area. 

Allie: How did you decide to become a math teacher?

Jeff: When I studied abroad in Japan, I was a guest teacher in schools and met both Japanese and foreign teachers, and this field that I’d previously considered launched to the forefront of my priorities. I applied to teaching jobs during my senior year of college and decided to go with an offer in South Korea.

When studying in Japan and China, I realized there was a significant gap in the abilities of students (compared with U.S. students) and their math teachers’ content delivery. I have a penchant for math, having studied it as an undergraduate, and I’d previously taught English as a second language, so when I got back to the U.S. after two years in South Korea I decided to become a math teacher to try something different. I teach Algebra I at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County. In previous school years, I’ve taught Geometry and Pre-Algebra and tutor in everything from Math 6 to Calculus II.

Allie: What do you enjoy most about teaching and what is the most challenging part?

Jeff: I enjoy helping students realize the change they want to see. It’s satisfying being part of their growth. When they miss the mark, I understand and make plans with them so they can give a better effort or use a different strategy. The most challenging part is knowing all of the recent changes to the curriculum and policies and making sure I’m in compliance.  

Allie: I hear you’re going to Israel to teach English this summer, tell me about that!

Jeff: I’m going to be teaching with TALMA in Israel this summer. I’m excited for the challenge of working with low-income Israeli schoolchildren. I’ve wanted to get back outside my comfort zone and learn from Israeli educators by working with them in co-taught settings. I’ve also been to Israel with Habonim Dror and Birthright, so I’m looking forward to making a contribution to Israel society this time.  

Allie: You also coach tennis, right? Has this always been a passion of yours?

Jeff: I played high school and college tennis. I haven’t always enjoyed playing, but am glad that I did. My experiences and coaches taught me how to work with others, maintain a high level of discipline, and compete with good sportsmanship. I like the coaching model of working one-on-one with an athlete and have brought this to the classroom. I also like helping athletes improve their awareness of others and learn how their decisions have an impact on their team.

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

Jeff: This year, I plan to travel to India and Cyprus for the first time, which I’ve wanted to travel to for a long time. I haven’t kept a list, but if I did, Kazakhstan and a few other central Asian countries would be on it. Friends have told me about their travels through central Asia and it sounds like a fascinating and beautiful region. 

Allie: Where is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled?

Jeff: My most memorable trips were to Ecuador and Mongolia. The Galapagos is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Mongolia has one of the most unique cultures I’ve experienced. I enjoy meeting new people when I travel and reuniting with old friends. There are so many good people in so many places.

jeff levy

Allie: What do you enjoy most about traveling?

Jeff: I enjoy learning like a child again. I like the discomfort of stepping into a new culture and soaking it up. I like leading travel groups and planning my travels, and wandering without being aware of time.

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

Jeff: I live and work in Alexandria, but visit DC a lot on weekends. My dream day would be spent with people I care about and doing things I enjoy. I like visiting museums and would want to go back to the National Geographic Museum because I haven’t been in a while. Likewise for hiking and Roosevelt Island. Lately, I’ve been getting into book discussions at Politics and Prose, which I’ve been going to since I was a child.

Allie: What is your favorite hamantaschen filling?

Jeff: I like hamantaschen, and many other foods, with blueberry filling. 

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Jeff: We’ll see who’s the punniest. 

jeff levy 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 Elyssa: Jewish Leslie Knope of the Week!

Have a suggestion for a Jewish Person of the Week? Email allisonf@gatherdc.org to nominate your friend. colleague, partner, or even yourself!

elyssa clauson

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Elyssa: I went to GW for undergrad. I was very into service and I thought I wanted to do something in the health sector, and fell in love with the Public Health School at GW. I will probably go to grad school at GW because I really don’t want to leave DC. I love the passion and scene of this city. 

Allie: What made you interested in the health sector?

Elyssa: I really wanted to be a doctor when I was growing up and like many people, I took a chemistry class and said no way I am ever doing that again. I got really into service and volunteering, and public health was a really great combination of the science that I liked and the service element. As I got through the program I started to focus on what I wanted to do with public health. I also had a minor in theater and I was able to include that in my senior thesis.

Allie: What do you want to do in the public health field? 

Elyssa:  I want to get a PhD and go into academia. I’d like to focus on people with HIV and domestic violence survivors. Before that, I’d love to work for a local health department because I think that’s one of the best ways to reach people. I really want to be the Leslie Knope of a local health department. Everyone says that I’m like Leslie Knope.

Allie: Why do people say you’re like Leslie Knope?

Elyssa: I love local government and hope to work in it someday. I also love being super excited about things and leading events. I get very excited about my Shabbat Cluster and like making it as big of a deal as I can. I also love giving gifts. My boyfriend’s half birthday is tomorrow, I got him a gift and he didn’t even realize it was happening – I am really excited about it. I love making a big deal of people. Oh, and I’m obsessed with paninis how Leslie Knope is obsessed with waffles. 

elyssa and friends

Allie: Do you love Galentine’s Day as much as Leslie?

Elyssa: Yes, it’s so fun! My mom actually makes valentines for all of my friends. I always tell my boyfriend that my mom is my biggest Valentine and he has to get another one. 

Allie: Tell me more about your involvement with Shabbat Clusters.

Elyssa: There are different Shabbat Clusters depending on your age or interest. I’m in a young 20’s Shabbat Cluster and it’s such a great excuse to do Shabbat once a month and also get free food (thank you OneTable). I’ve made really lasting friends from it. And once a year, all the clusters meet up at the EDCJCC for dinner! (Editor’s note: Registration for spring Shabbat Clusters is now open!)

Allie: What made you seek out Shabbat Clusters? 

Elyssa: Even though I went to school locally at GW and knew some people in the city, I really wanted to make new friends. So I just browsed on the internet and found Shabbat Clusters on the EntryPoint website

Allie: Walk me through you dream day in DC.

Elyssa: The first thing I would do is volunteer with the Whitman Walker Clinic. It’s a sexual health clinic. When I volunteer there, I do HIV outreach and education and pass out condoms to people getting tested for HIV. It’s nerdy, but I really love it. Then, I’d go kayaking at The Wharf. After that, we would go back to Columbia Heights and get paninis at my favorite place – The Coffy Cafe. I always get the pesto caprese. After the panini, I would probably lie down for a bit. I really like movies, so we might go see one. And then we’d end with a show at The Kennedy Center

Allie: What are you planning now?

Elyssa: It was actually a few weeks ago, but I planned a baked ziti pajama party. My favorite food is baked ziti and my favorite clothing is pajamas. I’m not a big drinker, so I figured let’s just have this big dinner party where people can come eat. 

Allie: What do you like more – celebrating Shabbat or planning it?

Elyssa: I like both. I have come into my own in terms of what Judaism and Shabbat mean to me. Shabbat draws me closer to my Jewish identity and helps me make Jewish friends through this bond of culture. I’m not super religious, I don’t keep kosher, but I like that Shabbat helps me feel close to a Jewish community. 

Allie: What is your dream Shabbat dinner?

Elyssa: I have already lived out my dream. I planned an “Off the Kids Menu” themed Shabbat dinner recently. I made mac and cheese, vegetarian chicken nuggets, pizza bagels, fish sticks. People brought Gushers, Capri Suns and some wine. It was so fun!

elyssa in pjs

Allie: What are you looking forward to this year? 

Elyssa: I am going to take a training to do HIV testing, so I can do that in addition to the outreach and education. It involves doing the finger prick but also counseling. I am really excited to apply to grad school too.

Allie: Is there something people would be surprised to know about you?

Elyssa: I love adults with braces, I think they are adorable. It’s never too late to work on your teeth.

Allie: Do you have a Jewish role model?

Elyssa: I love my mom, my mom is great. I also love Rabbi Aaron Miller, he gave a sermon last fall at 2239’s Rosh Hashanah’s service that made me rethink my whole life. 

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Elyssa: Everyone’s just excited about being there. 

elyssa and boyfriend

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 Dog Lover of the Week

andrew cohen

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Andrew: I’m originally from Orlando, Florida and was most recently living in Boston. I moved to DC about 5 to 7 years ago for a job with Hillel International. They were building an Israel Education and Advocacy support branch and I was one of the regional support support staff. 

Allie: It seems like you’ve built a really strong Jewish community in DC. How did you do that?

Andrew: Raechel, my wife, and I are both from the Hillel world, so we are used to gathering friends. Raechel lived here years ago and met a lot of people while working at the RAC. When I started working at Hillel, I met more Jews. We also became friends with some of the DC area rabbis, and recently started doing programs with The Den. We do couples learning at our house. We hosted around 30 people for our Tu B’Shevat seder, which is my wife’s favorite holiday! She even has her own Haggadah for it. 

Allie: I hear you have a really adorable dog. Please tell me more about him. 

Andrew: Jack Banks. He took my wife’s name like a good dog should. He is a rescue, and we think he is from Georgia and about a year old. We rescued him through the Humane Rescue Alliance. I was friends with the coordinator and she sent me a picture with his little nose poking out. I called my wife and told her we were picking him up. He is 12 and half pounds and is a beast. He’s the best.

andrew dog

Allie: Walk me through your ideal day in DC.

Andrew: I would start at Call Your Mother and have the place to myself: just me, the owners, and a bagel. Like a good Jew, I would then go home and take a nap. If I’m feeling fancy, I’d do the smoked salmon and whitefish with onion on an everything bagel or I’m feeling healthy I get the Za’atar bagel with radish and carrots. Then, I would either go to the zoo or The Air and Space Museum because I’m still a child on the inside. I have to talk to people, so I’d lead or take a Segway tour. I’d have lunch at any Jose Andrés spot and then get an oat draft latte at La Colombe. We’d finish the day at my new favorite restaurant Maydan. If it’s a perfect world, I’d also get froyo. 

Allie: What do you do to relax at the end of a long day of work.

Andrew: I go to the dog park. I love that everyone knows the dogs’ names, but no one knows each others’ names. I’m also a sucker for The Great British Baking Show, it’s amazing. I also love to talk to people, so chatting with friends and catching up is nice.

Allie: If you could invite three people to Shabbat dinner, who would you invite?

Andrew: I would love to talk to Oprah, I would want Amy Poeler there to make it fun, and I’d invite the author of the Golden Compass – Philip Pullman.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Andrew: Okay, I think this is a trick question because not all traditional Jewish food is good, but lots of food Jewish people have adapted can be really delicious. I love Kubbeh soup – a great Iraqi dish. I also love Knafeh (best made by Palestinians) and hummus. You can tell I just want to be in The Shuk in Israel. 

Allie: What is on your bucket list for the coming year?

Andrew: My wife and I are going to Thailand. I’m really excited to see elephants and go scuba diving! In terms of life bucket list, I never want to stop traveling. 

andrew wedding

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

Andrew: I love gardening, I love to repot plants and arrange succulents. I do them as gifts for friends. My grandmother competes with African violets and I like that gardening is a hobby that connects me with her. 

Allie: When the Jews of DC Gather…

Andrew: We’re a force to be reckoned with.

Meet Maurissa: Jewish Millennial Grandma of the Week!

maurissa

Allie: What brought you to the DC area?

Maurissa: I’m a Northern Virginia girl born and raised. I grew up in Fairfax County (go Woodson Cavaliers!), and I live in Annandale now.

Allie: Tell me a bit about your job.

Maurissa: I heard about NGLCC (National LGBT Chamber of Commerce) through an old colleague of mine. He knew that I was looking to make a change and we had worked together at my last job, and he told me he wanted me on his team. I’m the Corporate Relations Manager and I couldn’t be happier. 

We are the only national certifying body of LGBT businesses. We look for businesses that are 51% or more owned and operated by a member of the LGBT community. I work with Fortune 1000 companies that are working to put their money where their mouth is and show that they are actively helping LGBT businesses.  

Allie: What motivated you to take on this role?

Maurissa: I am bisexual. It’s important to me that there is an organization fighting for visibility and inclusion, as well as advocating for LGBT businesses. 

Allie: I want to hear more about your side hustle.

Maurissa: It’s called Designs by Maurissa, I do makeup and clothing design. I took down my website, but one of my goals is to give it a facelift and get it back up in 2020.

Growing up, I was always doing people’s makeup and really enjoyed it. I wound up going to school to be a theater teacher but when my program was cut, I switched my track to hair and make up design. I also took a costuming class and fell in love with it. I started making my own clothes and fixing clothes I found at thrift stores. I once won a costume contest based on Purple Rain by Prince. 

Allie: How do you find clients?

Maurissa: At this point, most of what I do is theater-related or one-on-one consultations. Community theater doesn’t really pay, but it’s a fun world to be in. For consultations, I have found that very few women need more make-up, they just need help using what they already have. 

Allie: Do you do wedding makeup?

Maurissa: I try not to do weddings anymore since there is so much pressure, but I’ll do weddings for close friends and family. I joke that I haven’t paid for a wedding gift in years since I’ll offer to do the bride’s makeup. 

Allie: What are your goals for the future of Designs by Maurissa?

Maurissa: I am pretty happy with where my makeup is. I would love to be more intentional about making money from my sewing projects. I just got my first commissioned project a few weeks ago for a wedding dress. I am very excited about it. I think when my website goes back up, I’ll market more towards the sewing side and enhancing clothes that exist.

maurissa skirt

This skirt is one that I made, and was inspired by ’50s actress Vera-Ellen and the overall look of that time. I’m trying to bring more vintage inspiration into my wardrobe, and love fashion from the ’30s-’50s.

Allie: I heard you had your Bat Mitzvah in Ireland! Tell me more about that.

Maurissa: My mom’s family is actually Irish Catholic, and I’m Jewish on my dad’s side. But my mom is the most Jewish non-Jewish person ever. We were raised Jewish, but we had the opportunity to experience both. My sister is only one year younger, so when it came time for us to have our Bat Mitzvahs, we wanted to be inclusive of both sides of our family. 

We had our Bat Mitzvahs at a castle that was built by my mom’s family in Galway. It was a 3-day event for 70 people! Thursday was Thanksgiving, Friday was Shabbat, and Saturday was the service. One of my favorite memories is of my grandpa and great uncle on my mom’s side singing Danny Boy in this beautiful castle at our bat mitzvah. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC or NoVA.

Maurissa: It’s April 25th, so the weather is not too hot and not too cold. I would start with a bottomless brunch at El Centro, then visit the FDR memorial. I’d have a little picnic near there and see lots of dogs. I would then go see a matinee at The National Theater, followed by dinner and an evening performance at The Kennedy Center. I’d have drinks on The Kennedy Center balcony after that. 

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Maurissa: Passover. The traditions around the holiday itself are incredible. As a theater person I can appreciate good story-telling and my family has some cool Passover traditions. My dad is really extra and to play off of the idea that you should be comfortable at the seder, he always wears a bathrobe on top of his clothes.

My girlfriend and I are hosting this year and are making robes mandatory. Passover also has the best food. Also, my grandma makes the best brisket. Really.

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

Maurissa: I do ballroom dancing! I’m also a grandma at heart. My dream night is sitting at my sewing machine with a cup of tea watching Golden Girls and then hopping in bed by 10. 

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Maurissa: Great things happen. 

Meet Trey: Jewish Community Organizer of the Week!

trey

 

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Trey: I’m a native Hoosier (born and raised in Indiana), went to Butler University, a small liberal arts college outside of Indianapolis, and after a brief stint working for the Indiana Legislature and then a law firm, I started working in communications for Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) Fraternity headquarters. In that role, I was traveling to DC a lot, and I got this feeling that DC was the place I needed to be.

I made the move almost two years ago, got my current job at a small cancer research foundation and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Washingtonians are ambitious and passionate about the things they are doing, and I’m attracted to that. It has been a good fit.

Allie: You’ve only been in DC for two years, but it seems like you have already built such a strong foundation here. How did you do that?

Trey: Before I officially made the move to DC and when I was in town for work, I would be invited by a few local friends (h/t to Dan) to Shabbat dinner. That was a really cool way to meet friends of friends and grow my network. So when I finally moved to DC, I already had a small community, but I also wanted to get more connected to the larger Jewish community. 

I found myself on the Gather website and reached out to have coffee with Rabbi Aaron. It was kind of serendipitous because we met up right before Beyond the Tent 5, and Rabbi Aaron mentioned someone had just canceled and there was space on the retreat if I were interested. Despite being a huge planner, the weekend of the retreat I was completely free, so I ended up going and loving it! I had a great small group on the retreat. We connected really quickly and decided that we wanted to stay in contact with one another, so we made a concerted effort to do Shabbat dinner together once a month. Almost two years later, we’re still gathering for monthly Shabbat dinners (thanks, OneTable!), but we like to keep them open to new friends. We’re a welcoming and fun group, and I hope fellow GatherDCers join us.

Plug: Our next dinner, which I’m hosting, is on Friday, Feb. 21! (Editor’s note: Email Trey if you’re interested in attending.)

btt smal group

Trey and his Beyond the Tent small group

Allie: Has building and being part of community always been important to you?

Trey: Yes! I think you are the company you keep, so I really enjoy meeting new people. I find the best way to do that is finding different communities of things I’m interested in. Also, because I’m a Midwesterner, I grew up knowing my neighbors and saying hello to everyone. I think even just smiling at a stranger on the street is a good opportunity to feel connected to our shared humanity. I also find a path to Judaism that most resonates with me is community. Being a part of something bigger than yourself that can impact the world around you is an incredible feeling.

Allie: What communities are you a part of?

Trey: I have many different friend groups because I have a myriad of different interests and hobbies. I like to run with the GatherDC run group, attend/host monthly Shabbat dinners with my Beyond the Tent small group, spend time exploring the city with some of my close friends who I’ve met through work and Gather, and volunteer my time with the Butler University Washington, DC and the AEPi alumni communities as well as with B’nai B’rith Connect.

Allie: As a planner, do you have fun plans for this coming year that you’re particularly excited about?

Trey: On New Year’s Day, I was on my couch with my Google Calendar open and setting flight alerts for most of 2020. Between marriages, babies, work travel, and personal travel, there’s a lot coming up!

I’m most excited about my upcoming trip to Japan with B’nai B’rith International. I’m also hopefully going to Ireland and Croatia with family in the summer. On top of this, I’m trying to be more mindful of leaving some space on my calendar for spontaneity, which I’m pretty bad at doing. 

Allie: How do you like to relax at the end of a long week?

Trey: I’m a huge supporter of the DC Public Library. One of the first things I did when I moved was to get my library card. I prefer borrowing Kindle versions so I can read on-the-go, and then when I’m done or the loan expires, the book just disappears.

Working at a small organization means there’s never a shortage of work, so I generally find myself pretty burnt out by the end of the week. If I’m not hosting or going to a Shabbat dinner, I normally become best friends with my couch and whatever book I’m reading and/or the show I’m bingeing on Netflix.

trey

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

Trey: It would be a Friday when I’m hosting a Beyond the Tent small group Shabbat. I’d wake up early (I don’t know how to sleep-in), listen to NPR Up First and The Daily while getting ready. Then I’d go on a run — either on the Metropolitan Branch Trail or a loop I run from my apartment in NoMA down to Navy Yard and back. This day I would do the Navy Yard loop so I could end my run at The Wydown on H Street NE and get coffee and their blackberry lavender scone — it’s my favorite!

After that, I’d venture down the street to Whole Foods to get food for Shabbat and then head home to cook and clean my apartment. Whenever I host, I love being able to look around the table and watch my friends — old and new — interact over good food and good conversation. It fills my cup — literally and figuratively.

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

Trey: This might be breaking the rules a little bit, but I would invite one music group and a dog! I like all kinds of music, but my favorite group is Matt and Kim – check them out on Spotify. One of the first things I did when I moved to DC was go to a Matt and Kim 9:30 Club show with my friend Dillon. It was awesome! Matt and Kim are much edgier and cooler than me, so they’d definitely make Shabbat dinner quite the experience. My other guest would be Butler’s new live mascot, Butler Blue IV, also known as “Blue.” Go follow him on Instagram, and you won’t need to know why I’d invite him!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Trey: Friendships are made.

trey

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 Shelley: Jewish Community Builder of the Week!

When she’s not supporting women entrepreneurs in her role at the State Department, you might find Shelley spearheading JWI programs, helping out with ADL, reading at the West End Library…or walking dogs?! Get to know Shelley Greenspan!

P.S. Have a suggestion for a Jewish Person of the Week? Email allisonf@gatherdc.org to nominate your friend, colleague, partner, or even yourself.

shelley in dc

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Shelley: A chance meeting with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz during my freshman year of college at the University of Florida. I was speaking at a UF Hillel event in her honor and we really connected about our shared experience in UF Student Government. A few weeks later I moved to D.C. to intern for her in the Capitol and I was hooked!

Allie: I hear you just started a new job, MAZEL! Tell me a little bit about it.

Shelley: Thanks! I’m working at the State Department in the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, building out the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs, a new program supporting women entrepreneurs around the world. Through an inclusive learning community, we teach women the fundamentals of business – including how to create a business plan and how to best raise capital. 

Allie: Outside of work, you’re a JWI board member and co-chair ADL’s Glass Leadership Institute. How and why did you get involved with those organizations?

Shelley: A friend of mine recently said that Judaism is a gateway drug to public service and I couldn’t agree more. The two organizations I dedicate most of my personal time to, JWI (Jewish Women International) and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), both have missions I care deeply about. They are simultaneously committed to the Jewish people and humankind as a whole – encapsulated in ADL’s work to “secure justice and fair treatment to all” and JWI’s work to “ensure that all women and girls thrive in healthy relationships, control their financial futures and realize the full potential of their personal strength.”

I once heard Congressman John Lewis say that to be an effective public servant, you must love people. Serving in leadership roles with JWI and the ADL has given me a sense of purpose and the opportunity to build a community that actively engages in these ideals. If you want to learn more about getting involved with the ADL or JWI, please reach out.

Allie: Do you have a Jewish role model who inspires you?

Shelley: I have many, but two women stand out – Wendy Singer, Executive Director of Start-Up Nation Central, and Anne Neuberger, Director of Cybersecurity at the U.S. National Security Agency.

shelley and friendsAllie: Describe your dream DC day from start to finish.

Shelley: I’d start the morning with a run around the Mall, head to brunch at Le Diplomate, meet a friend for coffee at the Eaton Hotel, then head to the courtyard of the Portrait Gallery to read.

I’d end the day with drinks at Fig & Olive before seeing a play at either the Kennedy Center or Arena Stage, or if it’s Friday host Shabbat dinner in my apartment!

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

Shelley: I’ve recently become a bit of a bookworm. I discovered the newly remodeled West End Library and created a Goodreads account last year, which has significantly accelerated my reading motivation. I’m participating in their Reading Challenge this year – follow my progress and join me on Goodreads!

shelley

Allie: Do you have any book recommendations?

Shelley: “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks. “Educated” by Tara Westover. “Catch 67″ by Micah Goodman. “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker.

Allie: Do you have a resolution, intention, or word for 2020?

Shelley: My word for 2020 is “infrastructure.” I finally feel like I’m home in D.C. – I officially became a resident this year! I want to focus on the community I have here and build upon its robust foundation.

Allie: Speaking of the new year, what motivated you to go on Awakening the Divine, the silent, Jewish meditation retreat over New Year’s this year?

Shelley: For some unknown reason, I had a deep yearning for an intense spiritual experience. I was considering either going to Burning Man or seminary in Israel. I couldn’t secure a ticket to Burning Man and seminary was too complicated logistically – I strangely viewed this Jewish silent retreat as an in-between experience that would scratch my itch. I actually originally read about the retreat in Sarah Hurwitz’s book, “Here All Along

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

Shelley: I’m a dogsitter! I have a very active Rover account and usually have a new pup every weekend.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Shelley: It’s at my apartment for Shabbat dinner!

 

 

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 Ethan: GatherDC’s Newest Team Member!

Last week, we welcomed a brand new member of the Gather team to serve as our first-ever NoVA Community Manager. We are so excited to introduce him to the community! Jewish DC/NoVA – meet Ethan Litvin, lover of meeting new people, the dancing person emoji, and everything bagel sandwiches. Ethan just moved to Arlington and is eager to take you out for coffee to learn more about Jewish NoVA and connect with some awesome friends. Reach out to welcome him to the team and set up a time to grab coffee!

ethan

Allie: How did you wind up living in Northern Virginia?

Ethan: I’ve moved around to several different states growing up so I can’t say that “I am from” anywhere in particular. (If you want the entire list of all the places that I’ve lived, we can chat over coffee!) Most of my family lives in Virginia, so I tend to associate myself with being from Virginia.

When I was looking for jobs after completing my Masters degree in Israel, I knew I wanted to be closer to family in a city that offered a  thriving young Jewish professional scene. The DMV definitely offers that. Also, NoVA is close to the mountains, the beach, and other cities outside of DC. To be able to hop on a train and go anywhere is amazing. It seemed like the perfect place for me at this stage in my life, and I’m so excited to now be living in Arlington/Clarendon! 

Allie: Tell me more about your experience living in and getting your master’s degree in Israel. 

Ethan: I lived in Jerusalem for a year and a half where I studied Hebrew and received my master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University. Living in Israel was an incredible experience both personally and professionally. I strengthened my Jewish identity and connection to Israel, and found an incredible community of Israelis who I consider to be my family now. I highly recommend everyone study or live abroad for a time, because it can and will change your perspective on life.

ethan israel

Allie: Why did you apply for GatherDC’s NoVA Community Manager role? What excites you most about this position?

Ethan: I’ve always had a passion for building Jewish communities and helping others find their place in different communities that interest them. I also get a high off of meeting new people and networking, so I felt this job was perfect for me. I am most excited about creating something completely innovative and magical in NoVA to the point where people from DC will want to venture South of the Potomac more often because of all the amazing things that are happening in Jewish NoVA. 

Allie: What are some ideas and dreams you have for Jewish NoVA this coming year?

Ethan: I would love for NoVA to become this platform where every geographic region in NoVA has Jewish life to offer. For example, in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, etc…there will be regular Shabbat dinners, minyans, social and volunteer programs, and anything that the community is interested in doing. I think this can happen best through grassroots relationship building and organizing. I see my role as connecting community members to each other so that they can start their own initiatives in the Jewish community. 

Allie: What’s the best way for someone to connect with you if they want to chat about Jewish NoVA life and how to get involved?

Ethan: Set up a meeting with me for coffee! Just email me and we can find a time that works for you.

Allie: What is your favorite way to relax at the end of a long work day?

Ethan: Music is a huge part of my life. I love coming home to my guitar to learn a new song or attempt to write one. Music is very therapeutic for me, I depend on it to relax. 

Allie: How do you like to celebrate Shabbat?

Ethan: I love attending Kabbalat Shabbat services and then either hosting or joining community members for a Shabbat dinner or lunch. I also love to take long walks around my neighborhood, or in a new neighborhood that I want to explore without any form of technology. Just me trying to appreciate the world around me on Shabbat and live in the moment after a busy week.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Ethan: Shoshanna Schechter. She encouraged me to do Birthright, helped me start the Hillel at my college. She’s been and still is a major support system for me in my Jewish professional and personal life. 

ethan

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

Ethan: I want to take a cross country trip around the USA, especially to the national parks. Also, I would love to go to Asia because it is so culturally different, and I hear the geographical landscapes are phenomenal. 

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

Ethan: I have a twin brother. 

Allie: What is a quote or piece of wisdom you love?

Ethan: I am a huge fan of many of John Lennon’s quotes. One in particular is “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” 

Allie: Describe your perfect bagel sandwich.

Ethan: An everything bagel with lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and maybe a fried egg. 

Allie: What is your favorite emoji and why?

Ethan: The dancing person emoji because it makes me smile and laugh at the same time. 

Allie: If you could pick a superpower, what would you choose and why?

Ethan: To be able to disappear in awkward situations. 

Allie: When Jews of DC (and NoVA!) Gather…

Ethan: They talk about their favorite Jewish foods. 

ethan

 

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.