Jewish Guy of the Week – Evan

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Aaron: How long have you been in DC?
Evan: I moved here in July 2011 after graduating.  I was a Political Science and History major in college, so DC was a natural landing place for me after graduation.  I also spent two summers interning here while in college and really liked the time I spent here, so I knew I wanted to come back full-time.

Aaron: What are your favorite DC activities?
Evan: I try to get involved in a lot of activities to keep myself busy and meet new people.  I’ve played kickball and flag football the last two years with friends, which has been really fun (especially the post-game celebrations…that’s the point!).  I’m looking forward to a shuffleboard league I’m doing in January with some people from work.  I try to take advantage of concerts, sporting events, and a lot of the culture DC has to offer.  I’m also a big foodie and love trying new restaurants – I feel like I’m always giving my friends dinner recommendations.

Aaron: What is the best part of being Jewish in DC?
Evan: I like the fact that that there are so many groups and organizations that encourage young people to get involved.  I think it’s really easy to be engaged in college with an active Hillel, but that doesn’t always translate into the “real world” when everyone is on a different schedule and people live far apart.  Between Federation, the JCC, and other organizations (like Gather the Jews!), there are so many opportunities to stay connected with the Jewish community.

Aaron: Have you been to any cool Hanukkah events so far?
Evan: I went to a few happy hours over the last couple of days, like the Hanukkah Happy Hour on Monday night which was a lot of fun.  I’ve also been trying to light candles every night with friends, although it’s not as good as home when I get a present every night.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish food? Latkas?
Evan: Latkas with applesauce is definitely my favorite Hanukkah food, but for my favorite Jewish food I have to go with my grandma’s matzo ball soup and brisket.  She makes it every year for Rosh Hashanah and it’s the best part of the holiday.  Also my favorite food: the first thing to break the fast on Yom Kippur.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Evan: It really depends.  You could find me at a Shabbat dinner, a show, or going out with friends in Chinatown or on U Street, and probably at Jumbo Slice at some point during the night.  Now that it’s getting colder, Poste has outdoor heat lamps which makes it a cool (no pun intended) place to get a drink as well.

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Evan: I can’t curb my enthusiasm for Larry David.

Aaron: What happens when the Jews gather?
Evan: Eating, drinking, and playing Jewish geography (or at least that what happens to me at every Jewish event in DC!).

Mitzvah Maker – Yael

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Yael Eisenstat is a founding member of The Survivor Initiative.  The Survivor Initiative is an organization that raises money to provide support to Holocaust survivors living in poverty. 

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Yael: I moved here from California for graduate school.  I caught the “Africa bug” early on, and I knew I wanted to work in this vague world of international affairs.  SAIS seemed to be the right place to embark on that path, so here I still am.  I’ve moved overseas or elsewhere in the US several times over the years, but DC has remained my home-base.

Aaron: What’s your favorite thing about the DC Jewish community?
Yael: I love that there is such a variety of passionate Jews involved in global, national, and local issues.

Aaron: What Jewish organizations are you involved in here in DC? Do you have any current projects?
Yael: I am a founding member of The Survivor Initiative, a volunteer-led national effort that raises awareness and funds for Holocaust survivors living in poverty.  When I returned to DC last year, I was seeking a way to make more of a difference in my community.  I had focused so much on working in Africa and in the foreign policy world, that I had lost sight of also working within my own communities.  When Rachel Cohen Gerrol told me one evening about the funding shortfalls for programs supporting Holocaust survivors living in poverty, I was shocked.  I immediately knew this was the cause I wanted to dedicate myself to, and I joined her effort to form the Survivor Initiative and raise funds to support the amazing work of organizations such as the Jewish Social Services Agency (JSSA).  The idea that someone who survived such an overwhelming tragedy could possibly end his/her years in poverty right here in the US is both mind boggling and shameful, and we are dedicated to making sure these survivors are not forgotten or neglected.  In fact, we are in the middle of our Hanukkah fundraising campaign.  If I may make my plug now, you can read more about the fundraiser and even make a (tax deductible!) contribution through this link:  You can also visit the team site through that link and contribute to the pages of any of our 13 amazing members, as it all goes to our one team effort.

Yael with the Survivor Initiative co-founders, Max Lipnik and Rachel Cohen Gerrol- both JGOTW alum.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Yael: Ahh, the Friday night question.  That continues to evolve as time goes on.  These days, I try to keep my Friday evenings open for invitations to Shabbat dinners (Hint hint, GTJ readers!).

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Yael: Ever?  Yael, my namesake, from the Old Testament was a pretty butt-kicking hero, so I’ll stick with her!

Aaron: What do you want to be when you grow up? 🙂
Yael: My 8th grade yearbook predicted I would be the President of the United States.  I suppose anything is still possible.  But for me, when I grow up, I want simply to be happy.



Mitzvah Maker – Dreidel Man

Dreidel Man is a perennial favorite at the National Menorah Lighting organized by the American Friends of Lubavitch.  Two years ago Dreidel Man agreed to sit for an interview with GTJ, and has graciously agreed to do so again.  In an exclusive interview with GTJ, we get to the root of the question “Who is Dreidel Man?”

Aaron: What brings you to DC?
Dreidel Man: The Lighting Ceremony of the National Menorah.

Aaron: Tell us more about the Menorah Lighting.
Dreidel Man: It’s the greatest Chanukah event, bringing together a huge crowd with many (tens of) millions viewing on TV and through the media.

Aaron: Who will be there?
Dreidel Man: Dignitaries, communal leaders, the United State Navy Band, winners of the National Menorah Essay Contest, and.. ME!

Aaron: How can we attend?
Dreidel Man: Go to and get tickets.  They’re free, but you’ll need them to enter.

Aaron: How many times have you spun in a row?
Dreidel Man: Seventeen times, but I got dizzy so I had to take a rest.

Aaron: What is your favorite letter to land on?
Dreidel Man: Gimmel!

Aaron: Is there a cousin in Israel with different letters?
Dreidel Man: Yes, Pay. We exchange emails every once in a while.

Aaron: Got any high profile rollers that you like to spin with?
Dreidel Man: Yes.  Aaron Wolff from Gather the Jews (Aaron blushing) and all the VIPs at the event.

Aaron: If you could spin with any Jew, who would it be?
Dreidel Man: Whoever is reading this interview right now!

Aaron: What does being Jewish mean to you?
Dreidel Man: Being a carrier of a rich heritage and tradition, and a conveyor of the powerful and eternal message of Chanukah.

Aaron: What is great about spinning in DC?
Dreidel Man: I get to feel like the lobbyists and politicians, because they’re also always spinning.


Jewish Guy of the Week – Max

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Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Max: My amazing mother, she gets the credit.  I was born at Columbia Hospital for Women at 2425 L Street, and haven’t left since.  I grew up near Rock Creek Park and now I live in Logan Circle.  I’m a 3rd generation Washingtonian as well, so lots of love for The District.

Aaron: How did you get involved in the Jewish community?
Max: I was very uninvolved in the Jewish community growing up, outside of Jewish summer camp that is.  I had friends telling me left and right how amazing Birthright is, but I always figured I wasn’t religious enough or wouldn’t have anything in common with people on the trip.  Finally around thanksgiving 2011, I begrudgingly signed up for a Shorashim DC Community trip.  I figured I would just cancel the trip a week before once I figured out something better to do with those ten days.  I ended up going on the trip and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  There’s not enough room here for me to gush about how much I loved that trip.  Anyways, about 6 or 7 minutes after I landed, I got a call from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (JFGW),asking if I would be interested in getting involved in the Young Leadership Community.  Well, almost a year later I’m Jewish Guy of the Week, so I guess I’m doing something right.

Aaron: What types of organizations are you involved with?
Max: As I said, when I returned from Birthright, I sat down with some folks from the Young Leadership at JFGW to get involved.  A quick side note on how amazing everyone at the JFGW is, especially Sarah, Sara, and Avital, and how grateful I am to have gotten involved with them.  So, from there the first thing I really got involved with was the planning for  the Reverse Mifgash.  From there, I’ve worked on several committees with the JFGW, and a couple of others.  However, what I have spent most of my time on is The Survivor Initiative…

Aaron: Survivor Initiative? Didn’t you guys just have a happy hour? How did that go?
Max: So, The Survivor Initiative was born when Rachel Gerrol came to me way back in the beginning of the year and told me she found out that there are over 200 Holocaust survivors in the DC metro area alone that are living under the federal poverty line and some of whom cant even afford to eat every meal.  Well needless to say, we decided we had a responsibility to do something about it.  A little while down the road, we had a fantastic committee of folks, who I cant say enough good things about, and a plan to raise awareness and some shekels.  Our inaugural event at the beginning of the summer brought together close to 200 people to hear from a survivor as well as some of our amazing partners at JSSA.  We raised $15,000 for local survivors and picked up a new slew of people to get involved with us.  From there, we helped organize training sessions for survivor volunteering and then recently put together a happy hour at Local 16 where over 180 people came out to show their support.  I heard from several people that they thought it was best happy hour of the year, so I think it went pretty darn well.  We are planning several big things in the near future and are super excited for whats to come!

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Max: According to you guys, this week, its me. Seriously though, I would say my dad and grandfathers.

Aaron: What are you most excited for during Chanukah?
Max: Mom, if your reading this, I’m most excited for my eight presents.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Max: Why, at a Gather the Jews event, of course.