Meet Harry: Jewish Hill Staffer of the Week!

harry

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Harry: I’m from New York. I originally moved here for college at GW, and bounced around for a few years before coming back for law and policy school.

Allie: What are the biggest differences between New York and DC?

Harry: I miss New York pizza. But I’m very happy in DC, it’s a very livable city with a lot of hidden gems. You meet people from all over the world who speak about issues that matter.

Allie: I hear you work for the U.S. House of Representatives. What triggered your passion for politics?

Harry: I don’t like politics. I like policy. I don’t like the process of duking it out to make some ideological point. I like it when we can use our collective resources to make people’s lives better. This is very much about doing what’s right and helping people.

harry

Harry’s dreamed of being the Jewish Hill Staffer of the Week for quite some time now.

Allie: What is your dream day in DC from start to finish?

Harry: I would get out of DC and hike Old Rag.

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

Harry: I really enjoy spending time with friends – hiking, traveling, going on road trips, doing yoga.

Allie: What is one place you really want to travel to?

Harry: The next two trips I’m thinking of doing are to Guatemala and Thailand. I’m very much looking forward to those. Traveling is probably my favorite thing to do. I like the sense of freedom, the adventure of pushing myself, and rediscovering the humanity in others.

Allie: Who is your role model?

Harry: Without a doubt, it’s John Lewis. He is a civil rights icon who was nearly murdered while fighting for the right to vote. It was partially through his advocacy that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and he’s now been a member of Congress for quite some time. He is a strong moral voice, that unfortunately we need a lot of right now.

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

Harry: My goal for the year is to learn how to use chopsticks.

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

Harry: Things get interesting.

harry

 

 

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, Ben, Ben, AND Ben! (yes, you read that right)

GatherDC’s winter 2018 Beyond the Tent retreat was an amazing experience for young adults to get outside of DC for a weekend, unpack 21st century Judaism, and explore their Jewish identity over deep, meaningful conversations. Among the 30 participants, zero were named Rachel…but FOUR were named Ben! This week, the Bens of Beyond the Tent share their unique perspectives on Jewish DC and life in general – proving, once and for all, that not all Bens are the same. Get to know them…

 

Ben D. – Former Jewish Guy of the Week!

Allie: Where does your unique name come from? Do any of you have a cool story behind why you were named Ben?

Ben D.: I was going to be named after my grandfather, Sidney, which is now my middle name. As a result, my hebrew name is Simcha.

Ben F.: It was passed down from my great-grandfather.

Ben R.: I don’t know. Does that make me a bad Jew? Fake Jew? Typical Jew?

Ben L.: No, but my family and I grew a bit tired of our names last year (we’ve been using them for decades…) and so we used nicknames for a few good months. I went by Josh.

Ben F.

 

Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?

Ben D.: DC brings the best and the brightest young people from around the country, who come here specifically to make a difference in the world. DC is a springboard for young leaders.

Ben F.: Great collection of educated citizens that aren’t afraid to challenge the establishment. Ask questions, drive for change, and push forward.

Ben R.: All within a few miles and by way of a mass-public transportation train, there’s movies, comedy, craft beer, rock climbing, pour-over coffee shops, and challenging hikes. What else is there in life?

Ben L.: The monuments at night.

 

Allie: If you could pick a new name for yourself right now, what would it be and why?

Ben D.: I usually go by my full name “Ben Droz”, (rhymes with “Ben Rose”).  I like it just the way it is.

Ben F.: Staying with Ben. Simple name but yet plenty of clever nicknames.

Ben R.: When I was 26 years old, my first book was published. I had unlimited options for the name that was published on the cover: I could have chosen Ben, Benjy, Ben-jammin, Ben-jammmmmmmmmin, Benjamin, or an alias. I chose Benjamin, the name by which my loving parents chose to call me. And, I’m sticking with it.

Ben L.: Josh. Worked before. Could work again.

Allie: I hear you all recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat with Rabbi Aaron! First, how was it? Second, was it weird, awesome, or both meeting 3 other Bens?

Ben D.: Beyond the Tent was a great experience, to get out of the DC bubble and make time for deep reflection. It helped to highlight that any person can define Judaism for themselves. I am used to there being other Bens around throughout my life, which is one reason why I usually go by my full name. But this time, we made up more than 10% of the whole group, so yes, that was both weird and awesome.

Ben F.: Beyond the Tent was a mind-changing experience. Rabbi Aaron encouraged us to ask difficult questions and not to be afraid to stand behind our beliefs. In terms of meeting all the Bens, I think we embraced it – it was like our own little breakout group in itself.

Ben R.: Beyond the Tent impacted my life positively, partly because I was one of four individuals named Ben. Never again in my life, I’m certain of this, will I be in the same place with three other friends named Ben. That’s “Beyond the Awesome”.

Ben L.: It was a thought provoking weekend. I’m a regular attendee of the weekly secret underground gatherings of the Bens, so nothing too new.

 

Allie: Favorite thing to do on a free Sunday in the city?

Ben D.: There are always so many events in DC that I like to see what is going on and base my decision on that.  Last weekend I randomly went to the Zoo, which was fun.

Ben F.: Go for a run along the National Mall.

Ben R.: Watch professional football. Oh wait, I live and die by the Washington Redskins and football season is over? Dang it!

Ben L.: Park. I really enjoy not having to use the meter.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish food? Ben R., we already know you hate hummus

Ben D.: Chicken Soup.

Ben F.: Might be a classic choice, but Apples and Honey.

Ben R.: [haha. Yep]. Not hummus.

Ben L.: My mom’s challah. All of her’s are good, but I’d say that 1 out of 4 is truly something divine, especially when my two year-old niece helps. Shout out to Maya, Talia, and Andrew, my favorite Jews in DC!

 

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Ben D.: I had a spiritual experience at Burning Man and now want to incorporate spirituality into my life in new ways.

Ben F.: I was born without two normal teeth and with all 4 wisdom teeth. Call me strange I guess!

Ben R.: Every morning, I touch my three tattoos and say aloud a blessing of gratitude about having my third chance in life and about accepting myself and others as we are. Thanks to Beyond the Tent, I realize now that, for me, this is a deeply Jewish and spiritual ritual.

Ben L.: I used to tear it up at table tennis tournaments as a kid.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Ben D.: Passover, because there is so much relating to the holiday (I follow sephardic food rules so that I can still enjoy rice and lentils). I like to celebrate by re-interpreting the Haggadah from a post-modern perspective.

Ben F.: Rosh Hashanah. And I try to spend time back home to reminisce on the year prior and look at new ways to seize the future.

Ben R.: Purim because my friend is baking me hamentashen. Ask me again in April, and I may say a different holiday if a friend bakes me something else.

Ben L.: Havdalah. I like to hear the candle’s flame slowly go out in the wine. Judaism places a lot of emphasis on transitions throughout one’s day, week, or year and when in crisis, and I think that’s smart.

 

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

Ben D.: They will always find connection and meaning.

Ben F.: If meeting for the first time, you’ll probably get a first question like what you do for a living or where are you from.

Ben R.: They still congregate around the hummus.

Ben L.: You’ll never be the one with the best question or the best answer. That means it’ll be pretty exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Maxim: Russian Jew of the Week!

When he’s not running the amazing Jewish community group for Druzya DC: Jews of the FSU, hiking across Shenandoah, or working as an engineer, Maxim is…eating hamantaschen?! Get to know the founder of Druzya DC with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: I hear you helped start the group Druzya DC, tell me a little bit about this group and what motivated you to start it?

Maxim: Druzya DC was organized by two of my friends. We wanted to unite the Russian-Jewish community. I come from the NY/NJ area where the sense of the Russian-Jewish community is very strong. Growing up, if I wanted to find a Russian store, doctor, lawyer, or plumber – all I had to do was ask and the community would take care of the rest. When I came to DC, this sense of community for Russian Jews did not exist yet, and I wanted to create it. Two of my friends that founded Druzya DC with me eventually left to follow other life ambitions, but I continue to run it in my spare time. I love bringing people together. You can check out our Facebook page with events and details.

Allie: In what ways do you think Russian Jews differ from American Jews?

Maxim: If you know American Jews and Israeli Jews, Russian Jews would fit somewhere in the middle. American Jews grew up with the safety and freedom inherent in their country. Russian Jews grew up with anti-Semitism, government oppression, and The Gulag. Although many American Jews have not been tempered by these same experiences, they serve as great examples about how much you can achieve, while being Jewish. In politics and religion, I think many Russian and American Jews can be polar opposites. Many Russian Jews grew up after the monarchies fell and were replaced by a variety of socialist systems. They saw what these kinds of governments can do to people– and because of this – tend to lean right. They also differ on religion. Many American Jews believe in God and are religiously observant. In my experience, I notice that Russian Jews, who grew up in a country with no or little religion, are not as observant. Many see being Jewish as less of a religion and more of a culture with certain beliefs, spirituality, and traditions.

Allie: What do you love about the Jewish community in DC?

Maxim: Coming from a very large Jewish community in NY/NJ, it has been wonderful to be a part of a Jewish community in DC that is slightly smaller. This smaller size allows the people in it to integrate and become closer to one another. It’s nice to have a place where everyone knows each other, hangs out at events, and if they ever need something, I know someone who can help.

Allie: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

Maxim: Nature is my thing. I love getting lost in Shenandoah National Park; it is my home away from home. Nothing beats heading out into the deep woods, roasting something on a fire, and letting the sound of forest and nature engulf you.

Allie: What are you most excited about in 2018?

Maxim: New opportunities, new friends and new adventures! Life continues to move along, and we should enjoy every moment of it.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Maxim: I can eat Hamentashen all day!

Allie: What is your best piece of life advice?

Maxim: Never let life bring you down. Things happen, and you can’t control that. You should never spend your energy trying to control things. Instead, take the good with the bad and continue marching on. Sometimes, life events are like buses – if one comes that you don’t want or like, wait a little, and there will be another one in 15 minutes.  

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

Maxim: With close friends

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

Maxim: …fun and music don’t stop until the light of dawn.

 

 

 

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 the Newest GatherDC Staff Member – Allie!

Get ready, DC – you’re going to start seeing a lot more of our newest team member, Allie! She’s just come on board as our Communications Director, and she’s SO excited about her new role. From her background in marketing with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, to her unparalleled passion for the DC Jewish community, Allie is the perfect addition to our Gather team. Learn more about her path to Gather (and her obsession with all things Halloween).

P.S. Read more from the last time we checked in with her as the Jewish Girl of the Week 3 years ago! #WayBackWednesday

Shaina: Tell us about yourself!

Allie: My name is Allie of House Cossman, Friend of Bubbies Everywhere, Queen of Young Jewish Professional Events, Breaker of Fasts. My lifelong passion for Jewish culture, tradition, community, and spirituality have followed me from the faraway land of Potomac, Maryland, to Ann Arbor, Michigan (go blue!), and now to our nation’s capital. When I’m not enthusiastically promoting or attending Jewish community events, I love hiking, whipping up new vegan recipes, unwinding in Bethany Beach, practicing my downward dog, and spending time with friends and family. I also proudly maintain a ferocious obsession with (the not so Jewish holiday of) Halloween, and anything spooky, mystical, or related to the best season in the world – fall. This autumn in particularly will be a wee bit extra special because my wedding “falls” in 53 days, but who’s counting?

Shaina: What most excites you about working for GatherDC?

Allie: Well, my very favorite things in the world are meeting awesome new people, being a part of our incredible Jewish community, and letting my creative brain soar. So, being able to meld these passions as the GatherDC Communications Director is one of the most extraordinary opportunities I’ve encountered in my life thus far. I can’t wait to get to know the phenomenal Jewish young adults across DC, and help each and every one find their niche and discover a deep sense of belonging. Moreover, I hold a profound admiration for all GatherDC has done – and continues to do – to strengthen our local Jewish community and cannot wait to be a part of this remarkable mission.

Shaina: I heard you met your fiancee in a pretty cool way. Do you want to tell us about that?

Allie: Many, many years ago (3 to be exact), on a Wednesday evening in our great District of Columbia, the sun was shining, the drinks were flowing, and the Jews – were Gathering. Gather the Jews (AKA GatherDC) was hosting its May happy hour on The Brixton rooftop. Allie thought (why yes, I am telling this story in the third person. I think it gives the drama a little boost), this would just be like any other happy hour – she’d schmooze, nosh, gather, and head on her merry way. That all changed the moment she spotted one Mr. Andrew, house of Friedman, Lord of the Avocadbros, across the bar. His blue eyes glistened in the sunshine, his dimples made her swoon, and the moment he said “hey, what’s up?” she knew….she knew that one day he would become her lifelong Bachelor in Paradise viewing buddy, and also her husband. So, it’s safe to say GatherDC holds a pretty special place in my heart (back to first person now) and my Jewish journey, and I can’t wait to share this “Gather” love with others.

Shaina: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday or event?

Allie: Shabbat! I mean, yes, Chanukah latkes are quite delicious and it’s always fun hanging out with Elijah come Passover, but let’s be real…you can’t beat a holiday that happens EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. You just can’t! Plus, challah. No phones. It’s Friday – meaning the best excuse to jam out to Rebecca Black. Most of all, it is a sacred responsibility to set aside our stresses, worries, and anxieties; to power off our devices; to sit back, eat, sing, be present, and RELAX. I’m truly grateful to have this miraculous opportunity, every week, to be free from the frenzy of daily life and present with the beauty of life’s simpler things.

Shaina: What is something not a lot of people know about you that you’d like to now share publicly with thousands of our readers?  

Allie: I am very much into practicing – and learning about – mindfulness. I love listening to Tara Brach podcasts, meditating, taking yoga classes, and doing what I can to live each day as presently, fully, and wholeheartedly as I can. It’s a tall order, but I may as well give it my best shot!

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

Allie: they have lox 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.

Jewish Foodie of the Week – Hilary!

Shaina: Not to be “too DC,” but what do you do?

Hilary: I currently the Head of Development for Plum Relish; we are a women-owned and managed “corporate catering” concept currently in the DC area. Our concept is geared to make the catering process super seamless, knowing the orderer is dealing with a handful of other tasks.

Shaina: What’s your favorite place to eat in DC?

Hilary: The hardest question!  My answer will probably change depending on the day or neighborhood I am in, however one of my every day “go-tos” is Glen’s Garden Market. It’s a block from my house, they already have great prepared food at a decent price. and I am way comfortable drinking a beer there alone.

Shaina: What do you see as the intersection between Judaism and food?

Hilary: For me, food is Judaism.  All of my favorite memories surrounding my culture are all food related, eating hamantaschen at the Purim Carnival as a kid, trying chopped liver at the Passover Seder at my Grandma’s house– or more recently throwing my first break-fast and scouring DC for good bagels (for those who are reading this Heckman’s in Bethesda sells an awesome product).  I love that every celebration involves gathering friends and family to eat foods that our people have eaten for centuries.

Shaina: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Hilary: An over-sized everything bagel with way too much schmear and a mountain of lox.

Shaina: Explain your ideal Sunday in DC.

Hilary: Sleeping in (that’s until about 8:00 am for me) heading to the gym then coming back home to lounge for the day, finally ending the weekend with a dinner with friends.

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

Hilary: multiple days worth of calories will be consumed…at least that my DC Jewish friends.

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

Jewish Artist of the Week – Rose

You may not have met Rose in-person, but you have likely seen her art around the city. This Jewish Artist of the Week sits down with us to talk about the art scene in DC, where you can see her art and how she connects to her Judaism.

How long have you lived in DC?

I am a DC native! Born on Capitol Hill, and raised in NW, Chevy Chase DC to be exact. 

What are some ways in which you connect with your Judaism?

My father was (and still is) my most significant connection to Judaism. He would cook Shabbat feasts every Friday growing up, and we would host a myriad of friends and family around our dining room table. Those experiences, along with attending Sunday School, services, and of course my Bat Mitzvah, have had an influential effect on how I live my life today. I love hosting small gatherings, having critical dialogues, questioning the status quo and brainstorming action are things I feel grounded in from my Jewish education and experience. I have engaged with the amazing work of Jews United for Justice on a few occasions and enjoy returning to synagogue for high holy day services at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue each year to reinforce my connection to Judaism and the role I can play as an active participant in the narrative. 

Tell me about your art! How would you define your style and what inspires your work?

I love art with every fabric of my being! I always have. I would define myself as a painter but am recently exploring ceramics and sculpture. I love working with large scale and have about 7 murals displayed in the DC area. I am drawn to public art that can be appreciated by many people, day after day and year after year. Content wise – I enjoy people and the human figure. I strive to make art that carries a message. I never tire of a face and a story it can tell. Art for me is a form of expression that crosses language and cultural borders and a critical tool for social influence and change.  

What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on?

I painted a mural at the Mitch Snyder Homeless shelter last year as part of a MuralsDC grant. I photographed folks from the shelter and painted them on the wall. The entire experience was enlightening and solidified the importance of working directly with my DC community and using art to shed light on various populations. 

What’s it like being an artist in Washington, DC? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?

I think being an artist in DC is both excellent and tough at the same time. There is money in this city, and the DC government treats its artists quite well compared to other cities across the country. The pool of artists is much smaller than NY or LA, so I am a bigger fish. The flip side is that the cost of living is so high that it can be unsustainable for artists to live (and make a living) inside District lines.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist? How did you get started?

I started drawing and painting around six years old and haven’t really stopped. That being said, I didn’t think of it as a viable career until college. Only then did I see examples of artists making a living from their work and knew that is what I wanted to do. I hustled after college with part time jobs, building my freelance portfolio and participating in gallery shows. After four years I made the leap to full-time artist. 

Do you have any work you want people to know about right now?

I have a show coming up at the Mansion at Strathmore opening June 10th. The show runs until August 4th. Follow me for updates on @rose_inks. My website portfolio is www.rosejaffe.com

What do you love about DC?

The amount of green space, the diversity, the small size. 

What’s one thing you would change about DC?

The transient population that does not invest time or money into the rich history and culture of this city. 

What’s the one thing you can’t get through the day without?

Other than art???? Yoga. 

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.

Super-Jewish Girl of the Week: Rachel Goldberg

What do you do?

I work for a Jewish non-profit that helps ensure Jews marry Jews so we can make Jewish babies and then they can marry Jews and keep this whole thing going!

Where are you from?

Long Island. The Jewish part.

What are some of your hobbies?

Going on Jswipe, going to synagogue, going on Jswipe at synagogue, and brunching with my friends from Brandeis.

What’s your favorite part about being Jewish?

The Torah. I’m in a book club where we read the Torah each week. You really only need one book. So many life lessons!

What’s your favorite food?

OK, so it’s like a sushi roll, except it’s called a Gefilte Roll. It’s gefilte fish wrapped in lox. And no rice, which is great because I’m actually carb-free right now. Yum!

Are all of your friends Jewish?

Define Jewish. No really, I’m so interested in hearing how you understand Judaism – it’s one of my favorite conversations.

Where’s your favorite place to travel?

Thailand.

Wait, really? I would have thought Israel.

When I’m in Israel I don’t feel like I’m traveling because it’s my homeland.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are not even those of the original author. They are totally made up – Happy Purim!