Meet Sam: Jewish Twin of the Week!

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Sam and his twin sister, Hannah

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Sam: When I graduated, I got a job in DC doing higher education research with EAB. I grew up in Westchester, New York – and found DC to be a lot more diverse and fun than I expected!

Allie: What does higher education research entail?

Sam: EAB does education and technology research and provides services to make academic institutions more financially sustainable. It might sound a little boring, but one of the cool things about it is that most finance people are not going to work at a university if they’re in it for the money. Finance officers at colleges are there because they value the importance of higher education. So, when we talk to them, we talk about finance as a means to provide more education to more students in a more sustainable way.

Allie: Awesome. Okay, new topic – what’s your favorite smell and why?

Sam: Vanilla. It brings back memories of baking in my kitchen with my family. I personally love baking – making pies, cakes, and cookies. My twin sister is also a pastry chef, and I’m often told that I’m not allowed to bake because it’s her thing. She is pretty legit, she went to culinary school and got a degree in baking and pastry arts.

Allie: What is it like being a twin?

Sam: I loved being a twin up until teenage angst happened. [When we were teens], both of us were not the biggest fans of each other. It often felt uncomfortable in high school because the other person was always there. My twin sister and I have become a lot closer over the last five or six years, and it’s great having someone my age to talk to about the issues we both deal with.

Sam on Beyond the Tent

Allie: In other news, I heard you went GatherDC’s last Beyond the Tent retreat. What was that like?

Sam: A friend of mind from college (and previous Jewish Person of the Week Margaret), went on Beyond the Tent with GatherDC and had a great experience. Because of her, I met a bunch of people who also went on Beyond the Tent, and they convinced me to go. In college, I spent a lot of time doing dialogue intensive programs with race groups, and was missing the opportunity to develop strong relationships through dialogue experiences.

I really didn’t know what to expect from Beyond the Tent. Immediately, when I arrived, Rabbi Aaron started to facilitate an intensive ice breaker experience. I was hooked on trying to unpack my own experiences, and prior understanding of what my personal American Jewish identity was. This was something that fascinated me, and I was really eager to get into it. I’ve never taken the time to unpack what Jewish culture, tradition, and morality meant to me. It was really great to have the opportunity to do so in an environment where I was pushed to think about those ideas.

[Editor’s Note: Applications for the next Beyond the Tent are now open. You can apply to be a part of Beyond the Tent this July]

Photo Credit: Skidmore Women in Business

Allie: If you had an entirely free day to do whatever you wanted in DC, how would you spend it?

Sam: I would start by kayaking on the Potomac River and then have brunch at “Farmers, Fishers, Bakers” in Georgetown. Then, I would walk along the National Mall and play frisbee with some folks. After that, I would go back somewhere and play board games for a little while, and then see where the night takes us.

Allie: Do you have any favorite board games?

Sam: Right now, I’m in the middle of Season Two of Pandemic Legacy. I’m playing it with three good friends. 

Allie: What 3 celebrities would you most want to have as a part of your entourage?

Sam: Anna Kendrick. Chris Pratt. Lin-Manuel Miranda. That would be a weird and fun group of people to hang out with. My sisters and I were very into the show “Everwood”, and there is an amazing scene of Chris Pratt doing karaoke in one episode, so I imagine he could join in with any random singing that may break out and be fine.

Allie: What is a skill you want to learn this year?

Sam: I grew up going to a lot of improv and comedy shows in New York City, and when I got to DC I decided it was something I wanted to learn. I started doing improv with the Washington Improv Theater, and want to spend more time working on that this year.

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

Sam: I want to move to London.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Sam: We go deep

 

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 Alissa: Jewish Sports Fan of the Week!

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured with GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

German opera singing. Indigenous language preservation. Aaron Judge wedding fantasies. Alissa Platz is one unique lady. Get to know her in this exclusive interview!

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Alissa: I’m from central New Jersey, went to college at American University and have been here ever since.

Allie: I hear you work at AJC. What motivated you to become a Jewish professional?

Alissa: Growing up, I was the only Jewish person of my friend group, so Judaism took a back seat. But, my mom always instilled in me that it was important to be proud of my Judaism. I associate the Jewish community with positive childhood memories, and I love the values of being Jewish, like tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedakah (charity).

When I went to college, I really tried to get involved in the Jewish community in as many ways as I could. My Hillel director once said to me, “Why don’t you consider being a Jewish professional? You could make a great impact.” So, when I was looking at jobs, I looked in both International Relations (my major) and Jewish professional jobs – and landed at Sixth & I [and later went to AJC].

Allie: What do you do at AJC?

Alissa: I manage the young professional division at AJC called ACCESS, which empowers millennials to advocate for the values of AJC. On May 22nd, we are having a Young Diplomat Reception at Social Tables. This is one of our signature events that brings members of the Jewish young professional community together for a night of conversation around a specific theme. This year, the theme is sports and diplomacy. I’m personally a really big sports fan, so I’m excited to use a lot of sports puns in my Facebook posts [to promote this event].

Allie: What are your favorite sports?

Alissa: I’m a really big Yankees fan, and I love the Chile National Futbol team. I love watching sports in general, and am really excited to watch the World Cup this summer. I’m also a big Nationals fan. I love Mark Teixeira, Rhett Gardner, Derek Jeter is a classic, and Aaron Judge is my future husband.

Allie: Do you play any sports yourself?

Alissa: I’m in a rec softball league with DC Fray, we play each week next to the Washington Monument which is really beautiful. We haven’t won a game yet, but we’re working on it.

Allie: If you could be amazing at any sport what would it be?

Alissa: Baseball. But, that would require me being a lot taller than I am. I’d want to be catcher because you have to know what’s going on and strategize with the pitcher.

Allie: Where did your love of baseball come from?

Alissa: In middle school, my teacher always talked about the Yankees, and I wanted to be a part of the conversation. So, I started watching Yankees games with my dad every night. My dad turned 65 last year, and I took him to a baseball game and surprised him with his own personalized jersey.

Allie: What are you most excited about summertime?

Alissa: Warm weather, the heart of baseball season, and going to Italy with my friends! We’re going to go to Venice, Florence, and the Alps.

Allie: What’s your favorite smell and why?

Alissa: Freshly cut grass, I love warm weather and that smell signals to me that warm weather is coming.

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

Alissa: I love singing opera style –  in German.

Allie: Is there a quote that inspires you?

Alissa: Ellen Degeneres, who is a phenomenal human being, and the voice of Dory, says to “be kind to one another.” Today, politics can be pretty divisive, people are segregating themselves based on their political beliefs, and a lot of nasty things are being said by our elected officials – and we should all try to be kinder.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend free time in the city?

Alissa: I love being outside in nature. I love Rock Creek Park, the National Mall, and still have on my bucket list to go to Great Falls and Shenandoah. DC always has new festivals or activities happening, and I like to check the events section of Facebook or GatherDC’s calendar and see what’s coming up.

Allie: If you could be anything (besides an awesome Jewish community professional) what would you want to be?

Alissa: I’d want to live in an indigenous community in Latin America studying indigenous languages, and how to preserve them.

Allie: What do you find funny?

Alissa: A combination of 6-year old boy humor, SNL, and observational humor. I love John Mulaney, and also really love a good pun. I feel like an old soul trapped in a 24 year old’s body.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alissa: We play Jewish Geography.

 

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 Alyssa: Jewish Moishe House Resident of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Alyssa Silva is a woman of many talents. She can plan a 300 person Jewish event, sell kosher meats to farmer’s market samplers, and dominate on the softball field. This is why we’re pretty bummed she’s leaving us this summer 🙁 Before she goes, we wanted to make sure all of our readers have the chance to get to know her, and both meet and say goodbye in person at her going away party this coming Sunday. Alyssa – thanks for all you have done and continue to do to make Jewish DC so incredible! We will miss you.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Alyssa: I was coming from Tucson, Arizona. When I decided I wanted to move to DC, I reached out to my friend Tiffany Harris  – who I met at a Moishe House retreat in Arizona – to see if she knew of any housing or job opportunities. She told me there was a resident opening at Moishe House Columbia Heights. One thing led to another, and I moved into that house with Tiffany soon after!

When the Moishe House Columbia Heights accepted me, I drove cross-country to move into the house and figured I would find a job later.

Allie: What is it like living in a Moishe House?

Alyssa: It’s been a whirlwind. I’ve lived here for two years and have seen four different people move in and out as residents. I’ve seen our community change a lot in two years, everything from people who just want to party and meet Jewish singles, to people who want to pursue Jewish learning. I’ve hosted over 168 programs since being here! Overall, I’ve made some really good friends, and met hundreds of people who I’ve connected with in some way.

Allie: What Moishe House program stands out the most?

Alyssa: The Syrian Sweets Soiree. This event went viral. We released the event and overnight there were over 3,000 people said they were interested on Facebook. The event tickets were donation-based and would go to the Syrian American Council, and we had a speaker who was speaking about Syrian refugees and the crisis there. We had sold over 500 tickets and raised over $5,000 to help Syrian families trying to resettle in the U.S. Since we couldn’t fit 500 people in the Moishe House, we held it at Hawthorne, which gave us their rooftop space for free.

Allie: I hear that you’re soon going to be leaving us to live in Israel. Tell me about that!

Alyssa: I’ve decided that it’s time to continue my education and am going to be doing a Jewish Experiential Educators program at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem! I’ll be moving out of Moishe House at the end of May, and you’re all invited to my going away party this coming Sunday!

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Alyssa: With people that I love, having a beautiful song-led Kabbalat Shabbat where everyone is singing followed by a delicious dinner with lots of wine and talking.

Allie: I hear you keep pretty busy in DC, tell me about that.

Alyssa: I have four jobs! My main job is at Maryland Hillel where i am the Programming and Operations Associate. I’m also a peer-led retreat mentor with Moishe House, and a Moishe House resident so I plan programs programs [as a part of this role]. I also work at the Bethesda Central Farm Market for a kosher meat distributor called CWS where I help him sell kosher sandwiches and ribs.

Allie: Wow! How did wind up working at the Bethesda Central Farm Market?

Alyssa: I was on JSwipe one day and swiped right on a guy named Hillel. He then messaged me and asked if I wanted to help him sell meat on Sundays. I didn’t totally get what he meant, but he explained that his brother owns a meat business and wanted someone to help with sales. This was before I found my job at Maryland Hillel, so I said “sure”! It was a way I could make some easy cash on Sundays. It’s super fun and the guys are awesome.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Alyssa: I play softball every week with DC Fray (just like Alissa!). Finding this team was one of the first things I did when I moved to DC. I played softball in high school, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I didn’t know anyone on the team, and now I’ve been on the same team for two years! I also wind down by being a the farmer’s market on Sundays. It’s super calm and just fun. I’m your typical extrovert – so sitting in my room not talking to anyone would make me stressed out.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model and why?

Alyssa: My mom. Growing up, it was really important to my mom that I learn about my Jewish heritage, because she didn’t grow up with that. My mom and I learned about Judaism together. When I was in middle school, my mom taught a class called Social Action Sunday at my Hebrew School. Instead of sitting in a classroom, she had us go to a men or women’s shelter or animal rescue and actually do tikkun olam together. My mom has always pushed me to be the ultimate kind person and be a Jewish role model to my peers.

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

Alyssa: Portugal. My last name is Portuguese, and there’s all of this history we don’t know about my father’s side of the family. I’d love to do some digging on that.

Allie: if you could eat only 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

Alyssa: Sushi, specifically salmon sashimi. Gefilte fish. And brisket.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alyssa: We make noise.

 

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 Valerie: Jewish Real Estate Agent of the Week

Get to know Valerie Bluestein, and then meet her – and other Jewish People of the Week – in person at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Valerie: I’m one of the very few DC natives! I was born at Georgetown Hospital, spent most of my childhood in Bethesda, and then went to college at University of Maryland. I’m pretty convinced that my parents brainwashed me into never moving more than 30 minutes away. Although, DC is a great place to live. So, if I’m going to be stuck somewhere, I’m glad it’s here.

Allie: What is it like to be married to the Pickle Eating Champion of DC (AKA: Max Bluestein)?

Valerie: My grocery bill has tripled, and I’ve learned to eat fast. Max is the eating champion of everything, not just pickles. I remember we had just started dating when he participated in one of the pickle eating competitions –and I was simultaneously impressed, revolted, and intrigued. But being married to Max is wonderful. We really have the best time together.

Allie: How did you meet Mr. Bluestein?

We have differing perspectives on whether our first date was a date. As someone who was taught to be courted, I didn’t count “lets meet up after my friend’s birthdayday dinner at 11pm” as a date. I thought that was just a friendly get-together. So, when I texted him before that “get-together” that I couldn’t make it, he thought I stood him up (I thought we could just reschedule)…so we didn’t talk for 3 years. Luckily, we reconnected at a Jewish event and were able to explain each of our sides of the story, confess that we both had crushes on each other, and seal it with a kiss. Good thing he’s already had his Jewish Person of the Week interview, so I’ll get the final say on this :).

Allie: Why – did you become a real estate agent?

Valerie: I’ve always been fascinated by real estate, and HGTV was always in the background at home. I’m not sure why I never considered it as a career before now. But, I decided it was time to change gears after being at my job for 8 years. After having lots of informational interviews, I decided to dive into real estate sales since it incorporates all of the skill-sets I’ve developed, and I would be doing what i love most.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Valerie: Enjoying a dinner with close friends.

Allie: What is your number one piece of house-hunting advice?

Valerie: You’re going to have to think with both your head and your heart. There’s so much that goes into the process – financial, emotional. It’s exciting and scary, and really important that you find  a real estate agent who understands what you want and need, and gets your personality.

Allie: What is your favorite show to binge watch?

Valerie: I’ve already watched “Veronica Mars” 3 times, and I would be down to watch it again anytime.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Valerie: A combination of exercise, reading, or napping.

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

Valerie: Being married to Max has increased my travel 1,000%. I’d love to go to Hawaii next.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Valerie: There’s a lot of food and a lot of fun.

 

 

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

Meet Sarah: Jewish Defender of the Week

After living in Lebanon, walking with lions in Africa, and trying to retrace her grandfather’s historical trek around the globe, this worldly woman found her homebase at the U.S. Department of Defense. Get to know Sarah Geller, a far from #basic, multilingual, workout-loving fashionista in our 1:1 interview…and then meet her in person – and other Jewish People of the Week – at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

At my best friend’s wedding in Philly

Allie: How did you wind up working at the Department of Defense?

Sarah: I was a Middle Eastern Studies and Politics major at college, which is part of what led me to study abroad in Lebanon. Although I think my mom had a heart attack every day while I was there, [being in Lebanon] was incredible. It reminded me a lot of Israel. I met great friends, and I worked on my Arabic.

When you step away from your normal culture and way of life, you appreciate and have a different perspective on things. While in Lebanon and traveling through the Middle East, I developed a unique appreciation for American values and the freedoms we have. I decided that the best way for me to contribute to society would be working for the Department of Defense – behind the scenes, not on the front lines. But, I am deeply in awe of the people who can be on the front lines.

Allie: How have your Jewish values informed your career?

Sarah: It might seem ironic–because the Department of Defense may bring about images of war and guns – but what we do is about making a positive impact on the world. I believe in the bigger American picture, and see us as working towards a peaceful solution in the end, which relates to the Jewish idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

Allie: Do you have a favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Met Jordan Klepper of Comedy Central at the Newseum

Sarah: Eating challah and having dinner with friends. I’m not super religious, but I appreciate taking that time to step back from the day-to-day craziness of life and have a good meal with friends. And if Judaism says you have to, then alright, I’m going to eat and drink wine with friends. It’s simple, but I like it.

Allie: How would spend the day in DC if you had an entirely free day and money was no object?

Sarah: I would get breakfast at A Baked Joint, which has really good food and coffee for a good price. Hopefully it would be a nice day in DC, and I’d just walk the entire city. I’d love to go to the monuments, maybe go to a museum, and then walk to Georgetown for some shopping. At night, I’d start with a nice dinner somewhere at Le Diplomate, someplace you can get dressed up for. Then, I would get drinks at a cocktail or hotel bar like POV at the W, and then go out with friends.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax?

Sarah: Working out – I like FlyBarre, Solid Core, and exercising with my roommate – who’s not currently my personal trainer, but I really want him to be! After a good work out, I like taking a long hot shower and sitting in my room with a candle, reading a book…or just taking a nap.

Allie: If you could only eat 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Sarah: My grandma’s french toast, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cauliflower. I love cauliflower. I prefer my cauliflower stir-fried, with basil, salt, pepper, and cumin (it might be basic but I think it’s delicious).

Walked with lions in Zambia, Africa

Allie: Where’s the coolest place you’ve traveled?

Sarah: My mom used to live and work in Zambia, Africa, and we went there as a family trip. I got to walk with lions while I was there, which was terrifying and exhilarating.

Allie: What else is on your bucket list of places to travel?

Sarah: My grandfather was in the Coast Guard during WWII. From that experience, he traveled almost the entire world. I’m trying to follow his footsteps of where he went. I’ve been to India, Nova Scotia, England, and South Africa – where he docked. I have Australia, Italy, and Morocco left on the list and then, I will have completed where he’s been. It’s really cool to be a part of that history.

Allie: Who are your Jewish role models?

Sarah: Outside of family, I’d say Diane Von Fürstenberg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They are strong women who have overcome a lot to get to where they are, and they have shown that you can be successful and do well with integrity and perseverance.

Allie: Complete the sentence…When Jews of DC Gather?

Sarah: They make Jewish babies

 

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 Valerie: Jewish Woman (International) of the Week!

Meet Valerie and other Jewish People of the Week at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

Get to know Valerie Brown – lover of “brinner”, The New Yorker, re-runs of The Office, and empowering women and girls nationwide. Read on for our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Valerie: I was living in France, and a bunch of my college friends had all moved to DC. It seemed like they were having a fun time out here, and I was having a lot of FOMO. So, on my way back from France, I stopped in DC and wound up getting a job here doing design work.

Allie: Why did you transition from design work to the nonprofit organization you’re at now?

Valerie: After the 2016 election, I really wanted to see my work affecting people and feel like I was making a positive difference. I wanted to be at a company that had specific goals to improve the world. JWI (Jewish Women International) – an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering women and preventing domestic violence – was a perfect fit.

Allie: What has most inspired you at JWI?

Valerie: Women to Watch, which happens annually in December, is when we honor 10 Jewish women in our community who are leaders in their field. Getting to interact with them was incredible. They have so much good advice and insight, and are so successful in both the business world and in life. Rabbi Dana Saroken was really amazing; she runs The Soul Center in Baltimore, and I just really connected with what she had to say.

I also admire the Mother’s Day Flower Project that JWI does every year. People donate $25 and JWI sends a Mother’s Day card to whoever you choose. The donation helps send bouquets and financial literacy resources to domestic violence shelters across the country. A lot of time, women who have experienced domestic violence have never received flowers with love, and this shows them that we hear you, we are here for you, and we support you. This year, it feels more relevant than ever. Also, I also designed some cool shirts, sweatshirts, and tank tops to benefit the project.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Valerie: With my good friends (and past “Jewish People of the Week”!) Molly Cram and Jackie Zais. We rotate hosting and making dinner for our friends. Recently I made “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) for everyone. This is one of the reasons we put together the upcoming Reclaiming Ritual Retreat – we love spending Friday nights celebrating Shabbat together, and we want to explore Jewish rituals like this with others.

Allie: What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Valerie: Go to a cozy coffee shop and read a book! I’m plagued by “New Yorkers” stacking up every week and would also love a chance to read those.

Allie: What’s a quote that motivates you?

Valerie: “This too shall pass.” It’s reminds me to lean into those moments when you’re feeling really down, and just be present – feel all the feelings. Being able to embrace the painful feelings ultimately helps inform who you are.

Allie: What is your favorite Disney movie?

Valerie: “Moana”, definitely because of the song ‘You’re Welcome’ – I just really identify with that.

Allie: Who is the coolest Jew you know?

Valerie: My brother/future rabbi, Timmy. He inspires me to be a better Jew every day.

Allie: How do you like to relax and destress?

Valerie: When I’m not out at a Jewish happy hour, I’m probably watching Netflix and crocheting on my couch. Right now, I’m rewatching “The Office”.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Valerie: I want to quote my pal Liz Lemon and say “I want to go to there.”

 

 

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 Jess and Sophie: Jewish Do-Gooders of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Sophie and Jess are Do-Gooders. In their spare time, they do things like volunteer at local soup kitchens, give back to Jewish non-profit organizations, and plan community-wide days of service. Get to know these two mensches as we chat about french fries, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and giving back.

From left: Jess Sher and Sophie Buslik

Allie: Describe each other in one word.

Jess: Radiant, giving off good, positive vibes. Sorry, that’s more than one word!

Sophie: Dedicated, driven.

Allie: Where does your passion for volunteering come from?

Jess: Volunteering – whether serving on a board or helping with a one time event – was really important in my household growing up. Learning this from my grandparents and parents is what led me into the social action world.  Community service is for others, but it also feels really good to make small changes and small positive impacts.

So, when I moved to DC, I started volunteering for The Jewish Federation and ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). I also enjoy volunteering at places like N Street Village, or helping build homes where you can get your hands dirty and know that you’re making someone’s home a happy place.

Sophie: I love being a part of making our community better and engaging other people to do that. When I started working after college, I felt like I had a lot of free time outside of work so I started volunteering with my company (Booz Allen Hamilton) at places like SOME and Miriam’s KitchenLater on, my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to Federation, and I wound up getting involved with the volunteer aspects of the organization. I love the idea that even if you don’t have money to give, you can give in other ways to help those who can’t help themselves.

Allie: I hear that you’re volunteering to make Good Deeds Day happen this year. Tell me about that!

Sophie: Good Deeds Day (which is Sunday, April 29) is DC-area’s day to give back, and is part of the global day of service where millions around the world volunteer to help their community.

Allie: What Good Deeds Day service project should our GatherDC readers sign up for?

Jess: I’d say the project with N Street Village, to prepare/serve meals to homeless and low-income women. There’s also an opportunity to make meals for those facing homelessness at DC Central Kitchen.

Sophie: There’s a service project specifically for young adults to help out at Covenant House, which provides resources to homeless, disconnected, and exploited youth.

Allie: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Sophie: “Be where your feet are.”

Jess: I really like that! So important to be present, be in the moment.

Allie: If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be?

Jess: Taylor Kitsch, but only if he came as his character Tim Riggins from “Friday Night Lights”.

Sophie: JTT. Jonathan Taylor Thomas circa 1997.

Allie: If you could eat only 3 things for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Jess: My mom’s challah. Summer strawberries. Chicago Giordano’s deep dish pizza.

Sophie: Crabs. French fries. I really only have two.

Allie: Who is the biggest Do-Gooder you know?

Sophie: Jose Andres – I always see him giving back locally and around the world. I love how he uses his work and passion for food to help others.

Jess: My parents. They give a lot of their time, talents, and treasures to make an impact in St. Petersburg, FL (where I grew up). I’d be lucky if I could make just part of the impact that they’ve made.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Sophie/Jess: They Do Good!

 

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 Eric: Jewish Board Gamer of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to info@gatherdc.org.

Meet Eric: A mensch who hosts game night Shabbats, enjoys Latino Disney movies, and dreams of celebrating Passover “next year in Barcelona”.

Side note: Eric is also helping plan the Jewish People of the YEAR Celebration where we’ll toast to awesome young adults (like Mr. Schwartz) who have been featured as Jewish Person of the Week this past year, and everyone who makes our community so amazing!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Eric: I moved down here for a job after graduation and moved in with a friend from college. I spent the first year in DC hanging out with work friends and friends from college, and then I discovered GatherDC.

Allie: How did you get involved with GatherDC/ DC’s Jewish community?

Eric: My Jewish life was very ingrained in my college experience at Cornell. But, after graduating I had almost no Jewish friends, so I went to a GatherDC happy hour by myself. I saw one person at the happy hour who I knew and he who told me about GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat. I didn’t know anyone else going, but ended up making a lot of close friends, some of which I’m still friends with today – almost 2 years later.

Allie: What was your experience like on Beyond the Tent?

Eric: Beyond the Tent was a lot of fun, and a way to escape the busy life in DC, and have introspective conversations that we don’t get to do in our normal day-to-day life. The retreat showed me that there is a lot in DC in terms of Jewish life. I learned about Mesorah DC on the trip, and went on a Miami trip with them where I met a lot of other friends. These two trips were the avenues from which I built my social circles in DC, and then I became an Open Doors Fellow for GatherDC because I was interested in helping others have the same experience that I had.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Eric: Game night. Some friends and I will host a Shabbat dinner through OneTable, and we’ll play CodeNames, Avalon, Drunk/Stoned/or Stupid, What Do You Meme, and Cards Against Human.

I’ll take on cooking with my roommate or girlfriend, we’ll do a small reflection on everyone’s week, eat, and then head to the game part.

Allie: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Eric: A life quote I always live by, and has been recently popularized by my favorite NBA Team (The Philadelphia 76ers) is “trust the process”. To me, this means doing everything and anything it takes to get to your long term goals. At the end of the day we all want something, and it may not look like it’s the clearest road to that path, but if you keep driving down that road – with hard work and good timing – you can get there.

Allie: What’s your favorite Disney movie?

Eric: “The Three Caballeros” – I’m Latino and grew up watching this movie, it was made in the 1940’s I believe, and I highly recommend this movie!

Allie: If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be and why?

Eric: I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain and would give anything to be back there.

Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food?

Eric: I was just introduce to it this weekend. My girlfriend’s family makes gravlax which is sushi grade salmon with dill, and avocado.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Eric: They are welcomed with open arms.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Carly: Most Dope Jew of the Week!

To be blunt – Carly likes weed. When she’s not fighting for a future of marijuana legalizations, you might find her bottomless brunching, jamming out to Drake, or binge-watching “New Girl”. Get to know Carly Wolf with our 1:1 interview!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty, um, dope job. Tell me about it!

Carly: I’m a political associate with the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Our mission is to change federal laws to legalize marijuana. We do grassroots advocacy on behalf of the cannabis consumer – rather than businesses. My goal as a lobbyist is for marijuana users to be treated fairly in every aspect of their lives.

Allie: Where do you see the future of marijuana legalization going in DC, and beyond?

Carly: It’s definitely going to be legal everywhere soon, it’s going to continue incrementally on a state by state basis. And government will just have to respect that, and not interfere. It’s tricky in DC because we’re not a state so our budget is controlled by Congress, and they blocked us from using our local money to set up regulated marijuana market – so there’s nowhere to legally buy it.

Allie: How did you wind up working for NORML?

Carly: I used to want to be a cop, so I studied criminal justice in college. I wound up interning at NORML my last semester of college, and got offered a job when I graduated! [My criminal justice background helps me] come at my job from a social justice perspective.

Allie: If you woke up and had a totally free day in DC, beautiful weather, and unlimited money, what would you do from start to finish?

Carly: I’m not a morning person, so I’d sleep in. I’d do a bottomless brunch at Sixth Engine – I’d get a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on a pretzel roll. Then, I’d go to the Newseum which is my favorite museum in the city. Then, I’d hit up Georgetown for some shopping. I would tell myself I don’t need it, but would end up getting Georgetown Cupcake. Then, I’d end the day at one of my favorite restaurants RPM – they have really good meatballs.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Carly: Drake. He’s my favorite – he’s so talented, and never forgets his roots.

Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food or tradition?

Carly: Hands down, favorite food is my grandma’s brisket.

Allie: What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming year?

Carly: The midterm elections. With all the controversy in the White House, I think this is a year the Democrats will take back the majority and I’m excited to see how the results will play out. And, it could be the year for marijuana legalization!

Allie: What are your favorite ways to relax and destress?

Carly:  I like to cook Italian food – lasagna in a crockpot. I’m a Netflix binger, right now I’m watching “New Girl” because I love Zooey Deschanel. And also, smoking pot.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Carly: The world gets a lot smaller. Actually, at the first GatherDC happy hour I went to, I met someone who I found out was my next door neighbor from when I grew up in New Jersey!

 

 

 

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 Ben: Jewish Eastern-European Buff of the Week!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ben: I grew up in a Suburb of Philly called Moorestown and lived there pretty much my whole life. I moved away to LA for college, and after graduating, lived overseas in Ukraine for a year on on a Fulbright research grant pertaining to Holocaust remembrance, Jewish heritage, and other Jewish community topics. I was fortunate enough to find a job in DC at The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, which does similar things to what I was doing in Ukraine. So, I moved here pretty much straight from Ukraine to start working there.

Allie: What spurred your interest in Russia and Eastern Europe?

Ben: In college I had to pick a language, so I signed up for a Russian on a whim. I loved it so much, I made it a second major. I’ve always been interested in that region because my great grandparents are from Eastern Europe, so in some small way it’s a part of who I am. I liked that I could explore that part of myself in an academic setting, and to be able to communicate with people who live there opened up this whole world to me. Also, the language is fun!

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time outside of the office?

Ben: I like cooking and entertaining for people. I’m like a reincarnated Jewish grandmother. I make a mean roast chicken, stews, soups, you name it. And I made really good hamantaschen during Purim. I’m also trying to become a runner, which I’m really enjoying.

Allie: Well, on top of your job, cooking, running, and entertaining, I also I hear you’re a part of TWO Jewish fellowships, tell me about those!

Ben: I’m in a leadership training with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called the Glass Leadership Institute. We learn about the different programs and issues that ADL works on, and go to ADL events, and volunteer with them. It’s a way to develop the next generation of leaders within ADL.

I’m also a part of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship, which is a way for me to help people grow into and with the Jewish community, and a way for me to grow into a Jewish community in DC too. Before this, I didn’t really know how to meet other Jews, and have been on the search for a community that works for me. This is what I’ve been looking for! I’ve been given access to cool community spaces that I would never have known about before or approached on my own.

Allie: Wow! Where does this passion for the Jewish community come from?

Ben: I grew up with a pretty cookie cutter Jewish childhood – I went to a conservative shul, Hebrew school twice a week, celebrated all the holidays with my family. But, I hated Hebrew school, and I really drew away from Judaism throughout college.

But, when I lived in Ukraine, I started to re-engage with Judaism in a much more personal way. Being there made me realize how fortunate we are to have different Jewish community resources – to have choices. The Jewish community in Eastern Europe was almost completely wiped out by the Nazis, and then the Soviet Occupation made being a Jew a huge liability. The country is still dealing with that history, so there’s much less variety, and a struggle for resources when it comes to Jewish life. When I came back to DC, I decided to make Judaism a priority.

Allie: If you could trade places with any celeb for a day who would it be?

Ben: Jeff Goldblum. I don’t fully understand why people love him so much, but they do, and he’s Jewish so it sounds like a sweet deal to me. Sign me up.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Ben: Three-words. Shelsky’s of Brooklyn. They have the most amazing selection of bagels and smoked fish that I’ve ever had in my life.

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

Ben: Southeast Asia – Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma. I’ve never been to that part of the world before and would love to spend time there.

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Ben: I played the oboe in orchestra for almost 6 years.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Ben: You always find someone who knows someone else from another time in your life.

 

 

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.