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.

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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!

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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 Matt: Jewish Linguist of the Week!

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Allie: What brought you to DC?

Matt: I’m a DC area native. I grew up in Potomac, MD so for me, coming back to DC was a sensible step to be closer to my family. I missed DC after being away for a while in Israel and then Philly. I missed the greenery, the funky neighborhoods, the beautiful architecture, and the incredible bookstores.

Allie: What were you doing in Israel?

Matt: I was in Israel for a year and a half starting in July 2017. I speak a bunch of different languages including Hebrew, Arabic, and Yiddish, and while living there, I got to use these languages almost every day. I was working as a PR freelancer to fund my experience there, and was mostly there to travel and explore. I traveled to 120 different towns and cities in Israel and 10 different European countries. I blogged about all of it, so you can read about some of my adventures

Allie: I hear you recently landed a job as the new director of GLOE. Tell me about that!

Matt: Full disclosure, today is my second day on the job. But, GLOE is the Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement program of the EDCJCC. It’s the only program of its kind through a JCC in the country. It’s social, cultural, spiritual, and offers people an opportunity for queer Jews to really plug into a Jewish space. It also offers Jewish institutions that are not specifically from this community an opportunity to make their spaces more welcoming and engaging for the LGBTQ+ community. If you’re interested in plugging in, reach out to me!

Allie: What are you most excited about for this role?

Matt: I get to be in my space! I’ve spent a lot of time working in refugee and immigrant communities, where I was in a mostly Latino community, so it’s very different that I get to work in a Jewish and gay space where I don’t have to explain anything about myself. I have so many allies around who get it.

Allie: Are there any GLOE events coming up people should know about?

Matt: Nice Jewish Boys is hosting a Latke Cook-off on December 14th. GLOE is hosting a volunteer event at the Edlavitch DCJCC on December 25th as part of the broader D25 community event.

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Allie: Describe your perfect DC day.

Matt: First, I’ll go to Torah Brunch at Bread Furst, and then walk around the Hillwood Estate. Then, I’ll go to a few bookstores. Some of my favorites are The Lantern, Second Story Books, and Kramer Books. I might read at Teaism after the bookstores. For dinner, I’ll go to Paragon Thai. The people there are so nice – for my birthday one year, they gave me gifts. I love Paragon Thai – go visit! After dinner, I’d like to go to my favorite language exchange event where you write the languages you speak on a nametag and can walk around and practice with people.

Allie: What are all the languages do you speak?

Matt: English, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Catalan, and intermediate Yiddish. 

Allie: What about language interests you and how did you ever manage to learn all of these?!

Matt: I love language because it just opens your mind to a different world, you can meet new friends, and you learn about different ways of being and thinking. For me, I’m a big music fan so I will sometimes learn a language because I like the music that it’s sung in. I usually learn languages from a private tutor, and practicing and teaching. I actually teach Hebrew, Spanish, and French. If you want to learn a language – contact me. I think private tutoring is the most effective way to learn, and then you need to use it.

Allie: Are there other languages you want to learn?

Matt: Oh my god, yes. I’ve studied some Greek and am considering taking German or Italian. I found a language exchange person who knows Romanian and wants to learn Spanish, so hopefully we will get together and learn from each other. 

Allie: What’s your favorite language?

Matt: I like Spanish because you can use it almost everywhere in America. French makes me relaxed. But I love all of them.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Matt: They can and should find interesting questions to ask each other besides “What do you do?”

matt

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 Sam: Jewish Moishe House Resident of the Week!

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Allie: What brought you to DC?

Sam: I was living in Indonesia as part of the Boren Scholars, which is a year-long post-grad language program. I went before officially graduating from the University of Maryland because I wasn’t ready to enter the workforce just yet. I decided to go, learn a new language, and then would work for the government in DC when I came back. 

While I was in Indonesia, I felt far removed from any sense of Jewish community, and decided to apply to be a Moishe House resident in DC. I’d heard about Moishe House from my friend Alyssa Silva, a former resident. I applied to live in Moishe House Capitol Hill and unfortunately didn’t make the cut, but luckily they forwarded my application to Moishe House Northern Virginia and I got in! 

Allie: What was your experience like in Indonesia?

Sam: It was a small cohort of 11 people, and was unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I lived with a host family, and spoke Bahasa which is the national language. But, there are hundreds of local languages in Indonesia, and where I lived most people spoke Javanese. 

Before that experience I had always lived in very Jewish environments, growing up in Jewish day school and then going to the University of Maryland. When I get to Indonesia, people didn’t know anything about Jews or if they did, it was likely a conspiracy theory. Judaism is not one of their recognized religions, which is a problem for the underground Jewish communities there. I told my host family about my Jewish religion after the Pittsburgh massacre, because my grandparents live in Pittsburgh and it was a very emotional time for me. I was really lost and didn’t know what to do, and tried explaining to them where I was coming from and how I was feeling. They were understanding about it. 

Allie: Was that your first experience studying abroad? 

Sam: No. After high school, I went to Bar Ilan University for their Israel Experience One Year Program and took college classes and Judaic studies classes. In the evenings I was a volunteer first responder

Allie: Describe your dream day in NoVA.

Sam: Waking up at 9:00am and then finish prepping the food I’d started last night for a Moishe House brunch event. My friends would come and we’d have a lot of people enjoying brunch, and maybe get tipsy on mimosas. Then probably walk around Arlington with my girlfriend Sarah, maybe do some jump roping. I’d end the day going swing dancing in DC.

sam

Allie: Why did you decide to apply to Moishe House?

Sam: At college, I studied International Development & Conflict Management, and Global Terrorism. I dedicated a lot of my academic career to understanding extremism, and how to combat it by taking a whole society approach and mobilizing communities to create acceptance and strive for dialogue. Part of why I joined Moishe House was so I could take what I learned from a community building perspective and put it into practice.

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

Sam: It’s a surprising adventure every day. It’s been a real growth experience from a personal standpoint and a programmatic standpoint as I learn to create events people actually want to go to, manage a budget, and send newsletters. It wouldn’t be successful if we didn’t put in the effort to build relationships with people, go to other events, and make things happen. I’m eternally grateful for this opportunity. 

Allie: What’s your favorite Moishe House event you’ve planned?

Sam: I love our Shabbat dinners. Our Shabbat dinners can get even rowdier than our parties. Some of our community members aren’t Jewish and come because they’re just interested in exploring Judaism or are in interfaith relationships, and I love opening the door and helping other people experience Shabbos.

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Allie: Are there any fun Moishe House events coming up you want people to know about?

Sam: Yes, we are partnering with the Anti-Defamation League on Sunday, December 8th to do a Words to Action training on Anti-semitism. The following Sunday we’re hosting a Babka and Bonfires event in our backyard. We’re also looking for a new resident, so if you’re interested, please fill out this application to join the house!

Allie: What’s on your bucket list?

Sam: Go skiing in Switzerland, where my dad is from. This year, I also want to go to more swing dancing classes.

Allie: If you could invite anyone, what three people would you want to invite to your Shabbat dinner?

Sam: I’d want to build the best conversation that can actually go somewhere. So I’d say Barack Obama, Israeli author Etgar Keret, and Harvard professor Ruth Wisse.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Sam: Connections are made. 

moishe house

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.

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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 Andrew: Jewish Home Chef of the Week

andrew

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Andrew: It’s been my dream to move to DC ever since I interned here during college for House Majority Leader Pelosi at the time. I fell in love with the city, it was easy to navigate and fit me so well personality-wise. I love politics, and DC is the political epicenter of the nation. Plus, there’s so much action here which is great because I’m someone who likes to be very involved. After graduating, I got a job working for HUD (Housing and Urban Development department). 

Allie: Have you always been interested in politics?

Andrew: Ever since high school I’ve known I wanted to work in the public sector so I could do something to improve people’s lives and give them better opportunities. I was very inspired by the 2008 election and got into politics after that. 

Allie: What was it like interning for Nancy Pelosi?

Andrew: I had the time of my life. It was a part of a Semester in Washington program that I did during college. I was on Capitol Hill and I learned so much, both in terms of policy and politics, as well as expectations and professional decorum. I gained more maturity and broader perspectives on things.

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day.

Andrew: I would check out one of the farmer’s markets and Trader Joe’s in the morning, and then play basketball with my friends. After that, I’ll have a nice light lunch and then go to a cultural event at an embassy or museum. I love doing things where I can learn and feel awe-inspired. Then, I might ride my bike to a new area of the city. Since I’m still relatively new, I’m amazed by all the different pockets of DC. 

Later, I’ll go out to dinner with friends at Zaytina. I started going there during the government shutdown because José Andrés had free sandwiches, and just kept going back. If it’s a Sunday, I would also prepare my dinner list for the week and do some cooking. 

andrew

Allie: Is cooking a big hobby of yours?

Andrew: Yes, I love cooking – it’s very rewarding. I have a whole spice and cutting board area set up in my apartment and love experimenting with different spices, seeds, and mustards. I love chopping produce, and making recipes that are healthy and fun. I’m always trying new things. 

Allie: What inspired your love of cooking?

Andrew: I grew up in a house where we were all foodies, and my mom was a very big advocate for cooking. She taught me a lot. I’m also someone who has struggled with weight and lost weight, and don’t want to regress and go back. To maintain my healthy lifestyle, I’ve learned to make dishes that are nutritious and enjoyable.

I also love cooking for others and hosting them for Shabbat or Havdalah. Hosting is such a nice way to welcome people into your how and show a different part of your personality. I think that how and why someone cooks says a lot about their values.

Allie: Do you have any cooking goals for yourself this year?

Andrew: I’d like to get into baking, which is much more scientific and you really have to follow instructions. Baking will be a new challenge for me, and I think will give me a big sense of accomplishment and joy.

Allie: What are your favorite ways to spend free time in the city?

Andrew: I love going to the embassies, or new exhibits at museums like the Freer Sackler Gallery. I really like to pursue things that get me out of my comfort zone, and DC has so many educational opportunities that help me see things from different angles. I also love the incredible diversity of speakers in DC. I went to see Hilary and Chelsea Clinton a few weeks ago and am going to see Nikki Haley this week. 

I’ve also been inspired by DC’s fitness culture. Biking seems like a religion down here, and I’ve been trying to pick up my biking pace on a daily basis. I love long extended bike rides.

Also, I enjoy relaxing at Compass Coffee. That is where I do some of my best decompressing, reading, and thinking. You can almost always find me there during a free weekend afternoon.

Allie: What are you looking forward to this coming year?

Andrew: Since I’m still pretty new, I really am excited about all of the young Jewish professional events around town. I like the more meaningful, intimate gatherings that create a sense of camaraderie. I’m hoping to get more involved with FIDF’s young professional arm.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Andrew: It brings out the best of us. We build a sense of community, camaraderie, and friendship – which is exactly what we need more of. 

andrew

 

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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.


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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)!

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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 Blake: Jewish Gifting Pro of the Week

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Allie: What brought you to DC?

Blake: I grew up in this area, went to Wootton High School and then University of Florida for college.  I stayed at UF for grad school in entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial marketing. I came back to DC to get a job, and interned for Cava Restaurant Group before getting a job at a startup. I stayed because I like DC, I like the vibe. I’m not a New York person.

Allie: As someone who studies entrepreneurship, are you a big “Shark Tank” fan?

Blake: Yes – I love “Shark Tank”. I was in school in 2014, which was the “Shark Tank” era. My house is littered with “Shark Tank” products, whether they’re gifts or things I bought for myself. I’ve always really enjoyed new products and tech.

Allie: Have you put your entrepreneurship skills into action?

Blake: I’ve had a lot of lemonade stands. My latest endeavor is IGiveCoolGifts.com. It’s a one-stop shop for your gift-giving needs. It’s a clean, simple, easy-to-use interface with cool ideas for things your friends could actually use and won’t throw away. I’ve always loved giving gifts. I think if you put in a little effort, it can really make a big impact for someone. On the site, I also give custom gift suggestions. So if you have a wedding coming up, a White Elephant exchange, or a housewarming party – I’m happy to lend my skills. This site has also been a great way to connect with different makers and small businesses who are doing really cool things, and give them a publication to get a little more out there. 

Allie: Is gift giving your love language?

Blake: Definitely. I’m terrible at receiving gifts, but I love giving them. Growing up, for birthdays or Hanukkah, my family made it a big gifting thing. My mom celebrates my birthday as a national holiday in her mind. There were always multiple layers of gifts for it. My mom has an art and design background, and my dad has a quirky side – growing up with that led me to want to give cool gifts to people as a way to connect with them. 

Allie: What are a few good gift suggestions for a Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving host?

Blake: An electric chainsaw carving knife is fun – I saw this on The Grommet. There’s a company called Muirwood Reclamations, and they do a concrete cake stand. I’d maybe bake a cake and bring it on a concrete cake stand that I’d give as a gift. Or you could give a smart thermometer that goes in the oven, and syncs up to your phone and will tell you when the food is done. Stressed out around family? There’s CBD gummies for that. 

Allie: Walk us through your perfect day in DC.

Blake: I’d wake up a little late and grab breakfast at Dupont Market, then go to the gym so I can feel better about the things I’m doing the rest of the day. I’d go to Union Market and spend hours there, then meet up with a friend and explore a new museum or exhibit at the Hirshhorn or the Arboretum. I’ll bring my camera and take photos. I’ll probably take a nap, and then have dinner somewhere low key like Bar Charley. I’d find an Old Fashioned somewhere like Two Birds,One Stone – which is now Destination Wedding. The drinks are still incredible. Then, I’d be home relatively early.

Allie: You mentioned photography in your perfect day. Is that a hobby of yours?

Blake: Yes, I really like photography and using it as a mechanism to explore. I like to bring an actual camera rather than using my phone, because I find that gives me a good excuse to take photos of random things and people.

blake with camera

Allie: What are your go-to ways to relax?

Blake: I play soccer every week through District Sports. I like working out when I can. And I’m a huge movie and TV fan. Right now, I love “Fleabag” on Amazon Prime and “Peaky Blinders” on Netflix. For movies – I just watched “Yesterday”, “Book Smart”, and “Spiderman Far from Home”.  

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Blake: Hanukkah. My family does a big Hanukkah party every year. We do a Secret Selma, which is just a Jewish version of Secret Santa. We pick names out of a hat on Thanksgiving and then exchange gifts during Hanukkah. I take it very seriously. Also, my aunt is a great cook and she makes us a mean red velvet cake. 

Allie: What’s on your bucket list?

Blake: I have a list of things I want to accomplish before turning 30 – skydiving, sliding across the hood of a car, tying a bow-tie, traveling to a city alone, and changing a tire. In life, the bucket of my bucket list would be to host SNL. I’d also love to start a business – whether it be opening a restaurant or making a really great product.  

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Blake: Someone will know my grandpa or uncle. My uncle is an OBGYN in the area at Capital Women’s Care and there’s always someone who went to him or knows someone who has been to that office.

blake

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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 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.