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 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 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 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 Julia: Jewish Book Club Founder of the Week

julia

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Julia: I am from Denver and moved to DC in 2014 without a job, right after graduating with my masters in public policy because I love this city. I’d spent three college summers interning in DC and knew I wanted to be here. I moved into an apartment that I actually found through Gather’s housing board.

Allie: That is amazing! Tell me more about this apartment.

Julia: I moved into this beautiful, special apartment in Dupont Circle. It was a two bedroom apartment that was converted into a four bedroom in 2009 by a group of Jewish girls. They kept a kosher kitchen, and the apartment has since been passed down from Jewish girl to Jewish girl since 2009. I think to date, almost everyone who has moved in found out about it through Gather’s housing board. I’m not being paid to say this! In my time there I lived with 10 different women, and am still friends with all of them. 

Allie: Where did your interest in public policy come from?

Julia: I volunteered on the Obama campaign in 2008, and that’s where I started getting into policy and politics and how they are intertwined. I volunteered on a number of campaigns and government offices after that. After graduating with a masters in public policy, I worked doing natural oil and gas policy, and now work as a small woman-owned consulting firm called WWC, where my clients have been the US State Department and Navy.

Allie: Walk me through your perfect day in DC.

Julia: It would be a sunny spring-time day after the cherry blossom rush but before humidity hits. I’d go for brunch in the morning, likely at Boqueria. Then, I’d go on a monument walking tour of DC. I have a special route I like doing whenever people visit me in DC. It starts in Dupont, goes to the White House, then past the White House to the Washington Monument, then to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and then around the corner to the FDR Memorial, to the MLK Memorial, back to the Mall, then through the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. If you have it in you, we’d then walk to Baked and Wired in Georgetown for a cupcake. I’d eat at Sakana in Dupont, which is my favorite sushi restaurant. I’d end the day in Kramerbooks, followed by a White Ford Broncos concert.

Allie: With the New Year fast approaching, what are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Julia: I am getting married this year in August! I’m very excited about that. I’m also excited for a new election and being able to get a fresh start.

julia

Allie: What are your go to ways to relax?

Julia: Being busy is relaxing for me. I run a book club, we read books written by women and meet once a month. I am also involved in the ADL’s Glass Leadership Institute this year, I’ve been taking weekly Hebrew classes, and volunteer as a Sixth & I ambassador where I help out at their events. 

Allie: How did this book club come about? 

Julia: I had a bunch of friends who were moving away from DC because this city is very transient, and I wanted to find an organized way to get all of my friends together. I sent out an email to my girlfriends and said we should start a book club, I told them to bring a friend, and made the only parameter that we read books written by women because I had read an article that women authors aren’t paid as much – so I figured let’s have women support other women. We read a variety of types of books, from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood to Becoming by Michelle Obama, and we just read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I send out a Google poll for people to vote on the book we read and a Doodle poll to select the meeting dates. We meet every month where we talk about the book, drink wine, and eat cheese.

Allie: What three books would you recommend to people to read over the winter holidays?

Julia: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Educated by Tara Westover and Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Julia: My mom. She always made Judaism so fun and important for me growing up. 

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Julia: Fun is sure to be had!

julia

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 Alex: Jewish History Buff of the Week!

Alex Fosco is GatherDC’s brand new Community Coordinator and she cannot wait to meet you! Get to know all about Alex’s love of Mesopotamian pottery, costuming, and wine. Email her or comment below to welcome her to the team.

alex f

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Alex: I was planning to move to New York after graduating from Penn State this past May, but came to DC for a job and never wanted to leave. I love all of the food and breweries here. I’m very food motivated.

Allie: What did you study in college?

Alex: I studied history and anthropology. I focused on early history: the Levantine era and Mesopotamian pottery. I like history because I love understanding people. History is very informative in who we are, our current cultures, and the foundations of humanity. I like to see the trends and comparisons overtime between where we are and where we were. This has a huge impact on how I view the world.

Allie: Have you ever been on an anthropological dig?

Alex: Yes! I got to study in Israel and do a dig at Tel Akko, which was an Ottoman city. Fun fact, I broke a field record there by collecting 64 buckets of pottery shards. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.

Alex: I’d wake up and have a nice cup of coffee with my french press. Then, I’d leave the house at 11:00 am so I can make sure I’ve had enough alone time before I go out into the world. I’d hop on the circulator and meet up with my partner Tyler in Georgetown, even though it might take him an extra half an hour to get there because he’s always late. We’ll stop at a couple of the bookstores there. I’d walk out with too many books because I have no self control when it comes to buying books. 

After that, I’d go watch a $5 movie at AMC because they have that deal on Tuesdays (on my dream day it’s Tuesday). Then, go to Thunder Burger and stop by the nearby wine store afterwards. I’d like to end the evening in the Mt. Pleasant area so I can visit Tyler’s roommate’s dog, a giant Bernese Mountain dog. I’ll end the day watching something funny on Netflix or Hulu.

alex

Allie: What is on your bucket list this coming year?

Alex: I really want to do an international trip and visit my friend in Norway.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday or food?

Alex: As an adult, I’d say Purim because of the story and I love going out. From a nostalgic perspective, I’d say Passover. It’s hard because I love carbs a lot. It’s always such a wholesome, familial activity. I’d take Passover over Thanksgiving.

Allie: What are you most looking forward to in your role with Gather?

Alex: I’m excited to meet all of the vibrant personalities in DC. So far, I’ve met so many people in my personal experience and there is so much variety in terms of where people come from, what their Jewish life looks like, what their jobs are. I hope to meet you at our happy hour tomorrow night or if not, definitely email me and we can grab coffee sometime. I love coffee.

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

Alex: I used to do live action role play, which is basically an unscripted play where you get to be a character in the Dungeons & Dragons story. This was part of a full-contact sport that included sword fighting and costuming. I still enjoy costuming. 

Allie: What do you like most about costuming?

Alex: I got into costuming because of my history major, but also like pop-culture costuming as well. It’s a lot of work, but you have a beautiful final product. This year, I want to volunteer with community theater in DC and help them with their costuming.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alex: There better be bagels.

alex

 

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 Lilly: Jewish Outdoorswoman of the Week!

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

lilly

Allie: What led you to DC?

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

Allie: How did you get involved in hospitality?

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

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day:

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

lilly

Allie: Where are your favorite places to hike?

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

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

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

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

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

lilly

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

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

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

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

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Lilly: They laugh.

 

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

Meet Mollie: Jewish Foodie of the Week

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


mollie 2

Allie: What brought you to DC?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mollie

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

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

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

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

mollie

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

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

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

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

Allie: Do you have a Jewish role model?

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

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

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

mollie and shelly

 

 

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

Meet Nikki: Jewish Teacher of the Week!

nikki

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

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

Allie: Why is Judaism important to you?

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

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

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

Allie: Tell me about your experience with Avodah?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nikki and fiance

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

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

Allie: What do you do to relax?

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

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

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

Allie: What’s on your life bucket list?

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

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

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

passover nikki

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

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

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

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

nikki

 

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

Meet Miriam: Jewish Internationalist of the Week

miriamAllie: What led you to live in DC?

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

Allie: What led to your passion in international affairs?

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

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

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

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

Allie: How do you relax?

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

Allie: What are your favorite things to cook?

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

miriam

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish dish?

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

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

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

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

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

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Miriam: Hopefully somebody knows how to bake challah.

 

miriam

 

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