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.

Meet Dane: Jewish Teacher of the Week!

dane

Allie: Tell me how you found yourself in DC?

Dane: Well I have GatherDC to thank for that, more specifically Julie Thompson. She is my roommate, and my girlfriend; we share a one bedroom apartment in Columbia Heights. She sleeps in the bedroom, and I sleep on the couch. She’s the one who got me to move down here. I used to live in Baltimore and used to hate DC, but I finally came down and turns out DC is a pretty great city.

Allie: Where are you from originally?

Dane: I’m from Laurel, Maryland. It’s roughly between DC and Baltimore. Then, I went to undergrad at College Park. Living in DC is actually my first time living outside maybe a 30-mile radius. 

Allie: What inspired you to become a teacher? 

Dane: Is masochist the one where you like to hurt yourself? I just wanted to set myself up for a bad time. Kidding! 

Really, I’ve never been a big fan of school. Growing up, I had a couple of teachers that pushed me to go above the bare minimum, and it really helped me want to strive for excellence in the work I did. They paid attention, and made me feel really proud of working hard. It had a major impact on my life, and I wanted to do the same for others. So, I became a teacher.

Allie: What grade and subject do you teach?

Dane: I teach 7th grade English and 6th grade reading. I originally wanted to teach high school in New York, because I wanted to move away from this area and be on my own somewhere new. In grad school, I was placed in a middle school in the last county I wanted to be in – Howard County. They told me I would be there for one quarter and then would move to a high school. By the time that quarter was up, there were claw marks in the walls because I didn’t want to leave, and I beat down the door of that middle school when I was looking for a job. It’s such a great place to be. 

Allie: What are your favorite things about teaching?

Dane: The kids, they’re great. They are full of life, full of energy and enthusiasm – which is a blessing and a curse. High school is very grade driven, where students are constantly thinking about how to get A’s and how things will benefit them later. 

Middle school students really make me think about the purpose of what I do here: what is the meaning behind it? Why should they care? When you hit that groove it’s such a fulfilling feeling. You have a lot of freedom to make an impact and help others learn how to make an impact.

Allie: What’s the most challenging part? 

Dane: It’s a very big time commitment and it’s a very big emotional commitment. I’ve moved around to different curriculums every year I’ve been teaching, which is exhausting. You have to anticipate how things will go for the first time. Grading is ridiculous as an English teacher, and then emotionally you have kids going through the biggest changes of their lives. You have to anticipate that and work with that to help them get through it, which is worthwhile but tiring. 

Allie: Why did you choose to teach English?

Dane: My dad told me I should be an English major because I like to read and am a good writer. If I could go back I would think about science. I am not a natural scientist by any means, but I taught a sustainability course last year and it’s a really cool thing to teach. 

Allie: What is your perfect day in DC, assuming you don’t have school and have unlimited money to spend. 

Dane: I’ll wake up, feed former Jewish Cat of the Month Chloe, and then make coffee. Ideally the weather outside is low 70s – a nice, sunny day. I’ll go for a walk, and then Julie and I would go to RedRocks and sit on the patio. I’d get myself RedRocks’ hash because it’s the best breakfast food that’s ever been created. After that, I would go downtown and spend some time at the museums. I’d grab lunch at a burger joint with outdoor seating. Then, I’d find a good rooftop bar and meet up with some friends. After that, I’d go to Meridian Hill Park and watch a beautiful sunset. Then, I’d go to dinner with some friends, and be sure to crawl into bed by 9:30. 

dane

 

Allie: How do you relax after a long work day?

Dane: I like my couch. I’ll sit on the couch, close the door, and light a candle. I like to put my things away so I’m sitting in a nice clean space, and take a little bit of time to have some quiet and watch the sunset.

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the year ahead?

Dane: Oh yeah, whether or not they’re going to be fulfilled is another thing. This last decade was one of major shifts. I started college in 2010, finished in 2015 with grad school. A lot of it was very youthful – figuring out who I am. It came with a lot of anxiety around not knowing what was going to happen next. This year, I just want to think less and do more. My first instinct is usually good but I don’t always follow it, and I need to trust myself more. 

Allie: Are there any places you want to travel to?

Dane: I haven’t really been outside the country, so my next big thing is international travel. Julie loves to travel and I’ve been along for the ride with her, which has been awesome. I’d love to go to a place that’s a little outside my comfort zone, somewhere where I’m not as familiar with the language and can get immersed in a culture that’s very unlike mine. I’d also love to continue to visit national parks, especially out west. The parks there are more beautiful than anything you can see in a picture. 

dane Allie: Do you have a favorite Jewish holiday?

Dane: I would say Passover, I really enjoy having people over for Passover, and all the food that we make. I come from a family of great cooks, where there was always plenty of good food to go around. My mom makes an unbelievable brisket for Passover and my dad also makes a great matzah ball soup. I’m also fascinated by Purim, but haven’t really celebrated it before. 

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

Dane: I’m very introverted. I do not get my energy from being around people. I try very hard to be friendly, and I think people expect me to be more extroverted than I am. Julie and I have figured out that she is definitely more extroverted, whereas I am usually quite worn out after talking. 

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Dane: Hopefully it’s on M Street! 

dane

Meet Arianna: Jewish Traveler 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!

Arianna

Allie: How did you wind up living in the DC area?

Arianna: I was in college during the 2016 election and was pre-med. I was not politically active at the time, I was doing immunology research! I was able to go to the Hill to advocate for the NIH and was really moved by that experience: it seemed like staffers cared about what I had to say. After that experience, I moved to Los Angeles to intern for Senator Harris after I graduated. That brought me to my first-ever campaign, and I got bitten by the bug. After my fourth campaign in New York, I was exhausted; I wanted to be somewhere where I could be involved in politics, but not have to move around so much. So I ended up getting an internship on the Hill in DC. 

Allie: After going from pre-med to politics, do you still have an interest in the medical field?

Arianna: Yeah! I’m actually getting my Masters in Public Health and Health Policy from GW part-time while I work full-time. I’m still on a medical track and still very interested in medicine. Right now, it’s a time to keep being involved politically and that’s where my focus is. But I’ve always wanted to find a way to help people in a tangible way, and medicine makes it feasible to do this. I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon, to travel abroad and work with children.

Allie: Outside of work, are you a big traveler?

Arianna: I didn’t used to be. I did not study abroad in college. I went on one medical mission to Jamaica and then I went to Israel on Birthright. I’m so grateful I got to go on Birthright, it blew my mind. Once I started working, I didn’t really take anytime for vacations until this past year, when I went to Italy with my Nana. It was beautiful, and made me realize I wanted to start seeing places I’d always wanted to go to. So my friend Daria and I planned a trip to Bali. That was amazing. And after that, I was like “okay – where can I go next?!” 

Allie: So, where are you going next?

Arianna: I already have plans to go to Spain and Australia later this year. Australia has always been the number one place I wanted to go. I’ve always loved Outback Steakhouse. Right now I’m going alone, but I’m confident I can make friends along the way.

Allie: What else is on your travel bucket list?

Arianna: Ireland and Greece. I also really want to go to England, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine.

Allie: What excites you the most about traveling?

Arianna: The people you meet along the way. I never knew there was such a vast community of people out there who are kind of transient. It’s people our age who are taking time off, and paying their way by working at hostels or have saved up to travel for a few months. I met people who were traveling for 6 months and some up to 2 years!

arianna

Allie: Walk me through your dream DC day?

Arianna: I’d wake up, and then go for a long walk from Arlington to DC along the Mount Vernon Trail. I’d stop for a coffee somewhere. Then I’d go to the American History Museum because I love politics and history. Then, I’d walk past the old Newseum and pretend it’s not closed. I’d look at all the newspapers of the day. Then, I’d sit outside of the Capitol and read for a bit. Later on, I’ll head to dinner with some friends. I’d finish the day on the Pod Hotel’s rooftop.

Allie: Did you set any resolutions for 2020? 

Arianna: Well, one of my friends guilted me into signing up for the Chicago Marathon lottery – and I got picked! Once you get picked in the lottery, you are in. They charge you and it’s non-transferable. So, what I decided to do to prepare for the marathon is to run one race a month. I ran my January one on January 1st in DC. I have almost every month set up. I’m doing the Nashville half marathon for St. Jude’s in April. I’m not a huge runner by any means, but I do Orange Theory regularly and like running. I just started using the Nike run app to help with my training.

Allie: How do you stay so motivated?!

Arianna: 2018 was a really hard year for me and 2019 was a recovery year. In June 2018, we lost the election I was working on – so my job ended. My relationship ended, and I was supposed to move in with him. My lease was up. I kind of felt like everything was crumbling. I ended up moving to Arizona and was not happy there, so I moved home to New York. I started questioning everything and wondering if I should have stuck with the medical path. I finally moved to DC, but was living here for months without a job. My first six months in DC I hated it here. So, this past year has been a big rebuilding year for me. I forced myself to come to social events so I could make friends and build a community. I went to Gather events and JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference. I really want to get back to living the best version of myself.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Arianna: You learn a lot about yourself through others.

arianna

 

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 Corey: Jewish Nats Fan of the Week!

corey

Allie: What brought you to the area?

Corey: I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and have several friends from high school who moved back to the area after college. We’ve maintained a core group of guys who have been close for 20+ years, and that combined with DC having job opportunities in my field brought me back here. I’ve also always liked DC, it has worldly people and is a nice balance size-wise.

Allie: Tell me about where your interest in working in politics came from.

Corey: My dad is a First Amendment lawyer, and growing up – he would always cut out clips from The Washington Post and put them on my breakfast table in the morning. I always had more to read than I could possibly take on. Little did I know, I’d have my name in The Washington Post one day as a spokesperson for a politically-active organization. But originally, I wanted to be a journalist. 

When I was an undergrad at Syracuse, I began to find my way when I interned for Chuck Schumer. I was a communications and constituent services intern, and really enjoyed seeing how government responds to people’s needs and how the media can drive attention to problems in the community. That set me in the direction of working in political communications. So when I graduated from Syracuse, I got a job with a campaign. Ultimately, I worked at a political media firm and today work in media relations for a legal services  organization that specializes in election law, the Campaign Legal Center

Allie: What is it like working for Campaign Legal Center?

Corey: I’ve been there since September 2016 – it’s been a time of great change. When I started there we were a staff of 16 full timers, and today we have a total of 53 staff. Being part of the maturation and growth of an organization has been the experience of a lifetime. The 2016 election was definitely awakening in many regards. As a result, more people see the need to fund democracy work because they are increasingly aware that our election system needs the proper infrastructure in order to protect people’s voting rights. That’s what is at stake when I go to work every day. 

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

Corey: If I could pick a perfect day, it would be to re-live the day the Nationals won the World Series. But that may only happen once in a lifetime. I love seeing Nats games and also like to watch basketball, hockey, and football. A good breakfast and early start is important. I’d have bacon, eggs, yogurt, a little coffee. A good workout helps me feel more alert and present. I’d enjoy a walk through the American History Museum or the National Portrait Gallery, since people in other cities don’t get to take advantage of what we have here in DC. Dinner would be sushi or steak. After, I’d have a big party with my friends. It would be a fancy, catered party maybe at The Monaco or The Willard.

corey

Allie: Are you a big Nationals fan?

Corey: Oh, yes. I was a day 1 fan of the Nationals when they came to DC in 2005. I take immense personal credit for their victory. Baseball was the first sport that I ever loved, I played through high school. Today, I play on a softball team through Beth El, which is the synagogue I grew up going to.

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for 2020?

Corey: One of the lessons my mom used to teach me was to not wish time away, and to appreciate the regular days more thoroughly. So, I want to appreciate Mondays more. Also, I’d really like to find something in the Jewish community to get involved with that fits my personality.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Corey: My grandma. Her optimism lights up a room. She’s always upbeat and is friends with everybody. She really appreciates people and takes time to get to know their name even if they are somebody she will likely never see again. She’s also a really good cook.

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

Corey: I’m in a book club where we read fiction novels. Right now, we’re reading Midnight’s Children, which is really long! I also like watching and playing sports. 

Allie: When Jews of DC gather…

Corey: We respond with, “I know it’s a big school” when the person we are talking to at the event does not recognize the family friend’s name. Nevertheless, we proceed to list every name we know that went to the same college. When the person doesn’t know any of them, we proceed to find things in common about our shared knowledge of east coast suburbs.

corey

 

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

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

 

Meet Julia R. – Future Jewish Talk Show Host of the Week

Julia Ring (not to be confused with last week’s Jewish Julia of the Week) dreams of one day becoming a talk show host, embarking on the ultimate Italian adventure, and a future where better frozen dessert options exist in DC. Get to know this fun-loving, energetic, extroverted woman!

julia

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Julia R: I went to the University of Maryland and stuck around after graduating. I think it’s a really good sized city, but there’s still lots to do – I felt very comfortable here. For the past two years, I’ve been working at an online tech company, 2U.

Allie: What would be your dream career?

Julia: My dream, dream job would be to be a talk show host, like to have Ellen’s job. 

Allie: Walk me through your perfect day in DC.

Julia: I love when you have a Sunday and the timing of everything works out perfectly. In the morning, I’d do a workout class – probably Flywheel or 305 Fitness. Then, I’d get breakfast at the Dupont Farmers’ Market. I’d walk around with a friend and get coffee. In the later afternoon, I’d go see an improv show. After that, I’d get dinner at a restaurant that I really like, maybe Farmers and Distillers. I’d like to get a frozen dessert somewhere, but there really is a lack of good ice cream options in the city. That’s my number one gripe with DC.

julia

 

Allie: Is improv something you like to just watch, or do you also do it?

Julia: I’m taking improv with the Washington Improv Theater, that’s been really fun. I did improv stuff in high school and I had the most fun. The WIT class became a great way to meet new people as an adult. I feel like after college we have few opportunities to learn something new and get better at, and this was a chance to do that. I would also get to put my phone away for two and a half hours, which is a rarity in this day in age. Some people from my old class are forming an indie improv team and I might join it. I’m not that good though, I’d like to put that on the record! 

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for 2020?

Julia: I want to be better at planning trips. I really like traveling, but am not great about planning them. My timing always seems to be off. I’d love to go to a few national parks. I want to go to Acadia, Arches, the parks around Sedona. I also really want to plan a Europe trip. Italy has been number one on my list for a long time.

julia ringAllie: What is your favorite Hanukkah tradition?

Julia: I realize that my love language is gift-giving. I’m just like my mom and we are both always on the hunt for presents to give to friends. I’m a big board games person and want to get some people fun games.

Allie: When Jews of DC gather…

Julia: There is really good and stimulating conversation.

julia dc

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.