Meet Sarah: Jewish Singer of the Week!

Singer and songwriter in local band Secret Beach, Sarah Diamond is one of the coolest DC Jews we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Get to know her…


Allie: What brought you to DC?

Sarah: I’m originally from California, but I was born in India, and lived in Ghana in high school. When it came time to go to college, I wanted to live in an international city and study international relations. I went to American University and was planning to go back to California, but ended up getting an internship in DC at NPR and decided to stay here.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC from start to finish (assuming money is no object).

Sarah: OH my goodness. Are we allowed outside the official DC borders? Hypotheticals are hard! I’d wake up, go for a bike ride to the Takoma Farmer’s Market, and get a bunch of fresh ingredients for brunch. Then, I’d hire a private chef at an outdoor kitchen to help my friends and me cook up a big brunch, and then we’d all eat together. After that, I’d sunbathe and read a good book.

In the evening, we’d put on an intimate, outdoor, backyard, concert with my favorite bands. My band would play as well, and it would be catered by Timber Pizza. We’d dance all night and stargaze through a telescope brought to the event by a member of the DC Astrological Society (not sure this exists) so they can explain all things celestial.  

Allie: I hear you perform with a local acapella group. Has music always been a big part of your life?

Sarah: I grew up playing music. My dad was my music and drama teacher in school, and I would play and listen to music with him a lot. That was our bonding thing. I was also the only Jewish kid in my choir growing up, so I had to sing the token Hanukkah songs by myself at holiday time. It was mortifying.


Allie: What is the acapella group that you’re part of in DC?

Sarah: It’s called Makela and is really fun! I also sing in a band and write music, so [acapella] really helps me improve my voice and think about cool and different arrangements for songs. [Editor’s note: Check out Makela on YouTube!]

Allie: Ohh…tell me about this band.

Sarah: We’re called Secret Beach. I’m the singer and guitarist, so acapella is really helpful for keeping my voice fit and ready to perform.

Allie: What kind of music do you play?

Sarah: We play 50% originals and 50% covers. Our repertoire includes everything from Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones, to Aerosmith, Billie Eilish, and Yebba. We like to genre-bend and put our own spin on covers. We’re playing June 2nd at Velvet Lounge, come dance with us!

Allie: Do you have a favorite type of music you like to sing?

Sarah: I like jazz and folk singing. I especially like jazz because it’s challenging and vocally, goes places you don’t expect. Female jazz singers are badass and my inspirations.

Allie: I heard that you recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat. What was that like?

Sarah: Beyond the Tent was really eye-opening. It gives you a different way of thinking about Judaism. I still think about it and talk about it.

Allie: What was your favorite memory from Beyond the Tent?

Sarah: Playing music. A bunch of us just got together to play, and at the time I thought we sounded really good. We were very enthusiastic.

Allie: If you could invite three people to your Shabbat dinner, who would you invite and why?

Sarah: Dead or alive? Do they have to come if I invite them? Important stipulations. Regardless, I would invite my mom, dad, and sister because I really really like them.

Allie: Complete this sentence, when Jews of DC Gather…

Sarah: They play Jewish jeopardy and ultimately have at least one friend in common.


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 Aliza: Jewish Rooftop Lounger of the Week!

This International Spy Museum media relations manager invites you into her top-secret world of Sydney Bristow fandom, dumplings, and DC rooftops. Get an inside look into the life of Aliza Bran!

aliza bran eating ice cream


Allie: Have you always been interested in spies?

Aliza: As a child, I wanted to be best friends with Sydney Bristow from Alias. I was obsessed with Jennifer Garner for years. Still am. I always found it fascinating that you can enter a world that is completely secret, where you can conceal devices into everyday items you own. I watched 24, and anything spy related. I’ve been intrigued by the fiction and reality of espionage for as long as I can remember.

Allie: What makes a good spy?

Aliza: Attention to detail. Being good under pressure. Really, it depends on what you’re doing. Analysts need to be inquisitive and precise – and careful not fall into mental traps or give into their cognitive biases. The spies on the ground doing human intelligence work need some serious courage and umph.

Allie: What is it like working at the spy museum?

Aliza: It is objectively the best job ever. You’re surrounded by the weirdest, craziest, and most intriguing stories from around the world. So it’s pretty amazing to do this full time and get to share those stories with others. And I get to work with really incredible people. The educational/curatorial folks who worked so hard to put together the content for the exhibit space are brilliant. Our comms team is amazing (I’m biased, but I’m also right).

Plus, I get to work closely with some of our incredible board members like Jonna Mendez, former CIA Chief of Disguise, who never fails to teach me something new…most recently from her book The Moscow Rules.

Allie: Is the new Spy Museum open to the public yet?

Aliza: Yes! It just opened this past weekend. Come join us! You can get tickets online – bring a date, your friends, your family, your Uber driver, whoever!

aliza and marissa

Allie: Describe your perfect day in DC.

Aliza: I’d wake up, do dim sum brunch and consume all of the dumplings. Then, I’d head down to The Wharf and go kayaking and make s’mores! Then, I’d go sit on a rooftop and read a book. Rooftops are my happy place. For the evening I might go to The Eleanor and bowl with friends or play some ping pong at SpinDC. Catch live music at the 930 Club or Union Stage or the Anthem. Dinner at a sushi place – Zeppelin, Momiji, etc. – anything with eel sauce is my favorite! The biggest problem would be fitting it all in.

Allie: Do you have a favorite DC rooftop?

Aliza: The one at American Son is really nice. There’s also El Techo, the Colada Shop, Crimson, Mi Vida. Really, I’ll go to any rooftop. What’s better than a good rooftop in the summertime?

Allie: What are your favorite ways to relax at the end of a long work week?

Aliza: Either I would binge watch something on Netflix or read a book. I try to read about 20-25 books a year, so I have a huge soft spot for my DC library membership. It’s the best! There is nothing that beats getting absorbed into a new world. Obviously, I would also spend time outside with friends, maybe a weekend picnic in Meridian Hill Park with tons of cheese and carbs.

aliza traveling

Allie: If you could invite three people to your Shabbat dinner? Who would you invite and why?

Aliza: Taylor Swift. Do I need a reason? She is amazing. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And Jon Stewart. He does not grace the world with his presence nightly anymore and I want to know what’s up with the animals on his farm.

Allie: What’s at the top of your life bucket list?

Aliza: Greece. I want to see the ruins, take in the history, enjoy the beaches, and eat all the food.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Aliza: Passover. It’s one of the few holidays that my extended family comes into DC for. It’s nice to have them here, and catch up with my cousins, aunts/uncles, and my grandma (who is one of the nicest, most wonderful humans I’ve ever met). It’s all about community. Plus, my mom’s food is AMAZING. And my dad is clutch at picking up some delicious desserts (meaning ALL of the ice cream)!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Aliza: They have a darn good time.

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 Jordan: Jewish Preschool Teacher of the Week!

She got a 3D tooth in Tijuana, dreams of owning a farm sanctuary for elderly dogs, and loves a good game of bubble soccer.

Meet this Moishe House Bethesda resident and maybe future rabbi(?!) in our exclusive 1:1 interview with the fabulous Jordan Snyder!


Allie: What brought you to DC?

Jordan: My sister had moved here and she had two children – now she has three! I had just graduated college and my sister said to come down for a few months and hang out with her. I came down, got a job at Beth Shalom teaching preschool, and started living with her and my niece and nephew who were 3 and 5. I fell in love with them, and decided to stay. Now I work at Adas Israel as a preschool teacher.

Allie: What do you enjoy about teaching preschoolers?

Jordan: I love that they’re honest, sweet, they live and let go, and there is never a boring moment in the day.

Allie: How did you wind up living in Moishe House Bethesda?

Jordan: I went to a Moishe House NoVA event and there was something special about the community there. It had been hard to make friends in DC, especially because I was living in Rockville with my sister. I found out there was a Moishe House near where I was living in Bethesda that had an opening, and decided to apply for it. I love planning events, I love the Jewish community, and I needed friends.

Allie: What has been like living in a Moishe House?

Jordan: It’s been wonderful. I love the craziness, and being a part of something bigger – being able to give back to the Jewish community in a way that I could.

Allie: What have been your favorite Jewish programs you’ve hosted or experienced as a Moishe House resident?

Jordan: Some of favorite programs have been the bonfires we’ve hosted. We’re actually hosting a pre-Lag B’Omer bonfire on Sunday, May 18th.

I also loved going to Camp Nai Nai Nai.

Allie: What’s Camp Nai Nai Nai?

Jordan: It’s like summer camp but with a twist. You get to be a kid. There’s bubble soccer which is really fun. There’s a pool, Shabbat services, and you just get to disconnect and feel like a kid. It’s camp minus the cliques I experienced growing up. This year I’m going as a counselor!


Allie: What’s on the top of your life bucket list?

Jordan: A few things. Traveling to Australia and Egypt, although I’m terrified of airplanes. I also really want to snorkel. My dream in life would be opening a farm and having old or sick dogs come and spend their remaining years there, like hospice for dogs. I love dogs.

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

Jordan: I used to want to be a rabbi. I still do sometimes. My midlife crisis would be becoming a rabbi. Also, I have a 3D printed tooth that I got in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s a lot cheaper to do a root canal in Tijuana. So when I needed one, I went to visit my dad who lives in San Diego and drove across the border to get my root canal. Instead of a crown like they usually put on, it’s a 3D printed tooth.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Jordan: There’s fun to be had.

Jordan Yoga

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

Meet Eric: Jewish Internationalist of the Week

Since he wakes up before sunrise each day without an alarm clock, jet lag is no match for this fitness-loving, world traveler. Also, he’s a social media rebel who prefers podcasts to television.

Meet Eric Krasnow in our 1:1 interview!


Allie: What brought you to DC?

Eric: I’m from Boston originally, but spent two years living and working in Buenos Aires, Argentina after graduating from college in 2015. I wanted to stay involved in that region but be closer to home (and my mom’s cooking!), and found the perfect solution – a position covering Latin American investments at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of The World Bank.

Allie: What do you do at IFC?

Eric: The mission of the IFC is to develop a sustainable private sector in emerging markets. The best part of the job is travelling to the countries we are investing in and building relationships with our local partners. I have worked on projects in Latin America and countries around the globe, including Morocco, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Allie: You seem like someone who truly embodies wellness. Can you run through an average day in your life to motivate me and our readers?

Eric: I am in bed every night before 9 pm, which lets me wake up without an alarm the next day before 6. Once up, I go for a 5 mile run around Meridian Hill Park, followed by weight training at the gym near my apartment. After a quick shower and breakfast – Israeli style: vegetables, eggs and salmon – I go to work.

In the evening, if I can get out of work early, I will go to a hot yoga class at CorePower; if not, I will walk home listening to podcasts. I don’t have social media or a TV, and rarely go online when home. That makes it easier to go to bed early, and start the routine over the next day.

Allie: How do you stay so disciplined?

Eric: It’s a virtuous cycle. My favorite part of the day is when the sun has not yet risen and I have already hit a new personal record. That is a psychological win. It gives me confidence that I can not only overcome being tired or sore, but also overcome whatever challenges come up during the day. I’ve found that the more disciplined I am with my fitness, the more disciplined I am with work and my emotions.

Allie: Do you have any fitness goals?

Eric: I’m going to run a half marathon in June – the Warrior in Georgetown. I’m training for that now.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Eric: Sukkot! I just planted a garden on my balcony and am diligently caring for it each day. My goal is to host a Sukkot dinner this fall, with a balcony-to-table salad for the first course.

Allie: I hear you’re co-chairing this year’s AJC Young Diplomats Reception. Tell me about that.

Eric: It’s the signature diplomacy event of AJC ACCESS DC, which is the part of AJC that focuses on developing young Jewish leaders in their communities. The reception brings together Jewish young professionals, Capitol Hill staff, and policy partners with 100 members of DC’s diplomatic community. This year, the cocktail reception will take place on the LINE DC rooftop, with a keynote speech given by AJC CEO David Harris. I encourage all who read this to attend!

Allie: Why did you decide to get involved with AJC?

Eric: Being Jewish is core to my identity, and supporting Israel is core to my Judaism. I’ve always felt deeply tied to Israel and feel like it’s my duty as a Jew to defend Israel in some capacity. Shortly after moving to DC, I attended the AJC Global Forum.

I was immediately drawn to the organization’s comprehensive efforts to combat anti-Semitism, defend Israel’s place in the world, and safeguard democracy and pluralism for all. I became an AJC ACCESS member and am now very excited to co-chair the Young Diplomats Reception.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather….

Eric: My first experience with Gather was with a fantastic group of young Jewish professionals during a camping trip in Shenandoah: when Jews of DC gather, they do so outdoors!



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 Risa: Jewish Sports Feminist of the Week

Risa Isard is one of the most passionate and fascinating women I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing over the years. As a 13-year-old, she was casually reading a WNBA collective bargaining agreement before bed and dreaming about how to leverage the power of sport for social change. As a young woman today, she is a thought leader at KaBoom!, self-proclaimed sports feminist, and lover of Passover. Read on to get to know Risa!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Risa: After college I was living in Fresno, California working for a minor league baseball team. While there, I had an opportunity to intern at the annual espnW Summit. It was there that I met my future boss. A few months after meeting, he offered me my dream job opportunity in DC and I moved across the country for it.

Allie: What triggered your passion for sports?

Risa: I grew up as the biggest WNBA fan ever. I was and am a female athlete. I grew up playing soccer and basketball with my dad and brother, and since high school have predominantly been a runner. I’ve dabbled in rowing, frisbee, triathlons, and cycling. I will play anything and everything as long as I’m having fun and being active outside. I first came at [my love for the WNBA] from a fan perspective, but I became more interested in the business of it. At the same time, I was active in community service and social change efforts and as I traveled along these parallel paths, I came to understand the role of sport in the community and the world.

Allie: How old were you when you started learning about the business of sports?

Risa: In middle school, I stumbled across the collective bargaining agreement between the WNBA Players Association and the League. I printed it out and read it before bed. That got me really into sports business. But I felt conflicted. I remember standing at my kitchen counter when I was around 13 years old, trying to figure out how I could change the world and also work in the sports industry. I developed my own personal theory about using sports for social change. In college, I designed my own major around sports and social change, gender, and culture and wrote my honors thesis on the pre-history of Title IX, which I’ve been lucky enough to be able to continue to do some work in.

Allie: How do you think sport relates to social change?

Risa: Sport is a microcosm of society and society is a macrocosm of sport.  There’s a constant, metaphorical conversation between the field and the stands, and the stands and those outside the stadium. Sport serves as a barometer of our society’s values towards race, gender, sexuality, class, bodies, ability, and so much else.

There’s a nice narrative about sport being this beautiful thing that brings people together, and I think that is true – or at least can be true – but it’s not inherently so. If we want sport to be a force for good, we need to be intentional about it. That’s my interest. Personally, I’m passionate about the human side of sports and what we can learn about ourselves, our societies, our cultures, our beliefs, and our values through sports.


Allie: If you could change one thing about the sports industry, what would it be?

Risa: Equality. Women’s sports and women athletes are not valued the same way as men’s sports and male athletes are. It mirrors the rest of our society’s gender gap, and it’s a problem. Equality also means making sure athletes with and without disabilities are valued. The first step in both is investment – by leagues and governing bodies, corporate sponsors, and media. Market demand for sport is created, and right now we’re shortchanging a lot of athletes – which perpetuates a culture of inequality off the field, too. We should be celebrating what the human body is capable of.

Allie: If you could be a professional athlete, what sport would you want to play?

Rise: Soccer. You can’t be a female athlete who grew up in the 90s and not dream of playing with Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy. Today, I’m such a fangirl for women’s running. Being a super fast marathon runner would be amazing. If I were taller, I’d say basketball.

Allie: I heard you just started an awesome new job, tell me about that!

Risa: I’m the Associate Director for Thought Leadership at KaBOOM!, which is a national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all kids grow up with the active and balanced play that they need to thrive.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC.

Rise: Waking up really early to go for a run during a beautiful sunrise with amazing friends, and brunching somewhere after — maybe the Whole Foods hot bar. Then, I’d go for an adventure in the city, making the most of who I’m with, and end with an evening theater production. Some of my best days are when I think I have nowhere to be but exactly where I am, so I’d love to have a day where I can do that with my friends. We’d probably just sit on the couch at some point, too.


Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Rise: Passover. I grew up across the country from all of my extended family and Passover was the one time we all got to be together. That was always really special. I love my family’s traditions – we dance to Dayenu, we have this big negotiation that happens with the afikomen, we tell stories about my grandparents and great grandparents, and I love that my favorite Biblical character – Nachshon Ben Aminadav – makes a small appearance in the Passover story. I love when we get to the part in the story when Nachson has the courage to walk forth into the Red Sea. Passover is an awesome opportunity to reflect on that story and what it means to me.

Allie: What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Risa: I’m a hard ambivert. People who just see me out my might think I’m an extrovert, but I have a lot of introverted tendencies. At the end of the day, I often need solo time to recharge.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Risa: I’m lucky to come from a line of amazing Jewish women. To know me is to know I adore my Bubby. I also feel really connected to my great grandmother Reisa, who I’m named for. She came over by herself in the early 1900s. She was a doctor and I’m told she spoke 7 languages. I’ve always heard people say amazing things about her.

Allie: When Jews DC gather…

Risa: There better be challah.





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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 Marc: Jewish Skydiver of the Week!

He’s jumped out of 200 planes, makes bagels from scratch, is a fencing coach, avid hiker, handyman, and nailed the best surprise proposal ever. Oh, and this is all outside of his full-time government job. Yes, this is a real human and not a Westworld robot.

Meet Marc Meyer!


Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Marc: I grew up just north of Chicago. I went to school in Seattle, then worked for the Seahawks doing field security, and then went to Georgetown and studied security studies for my masters. I focused on non-Jihadist extremism in the U.S.: hate-speech, KKK, militia movements, left-wing anarchists, and others. After school I started working for the GAO (Government Accountability Office) and met my fiancé there!

Allie: What led you to study non-Jihadist extremism?

Marc: In undergrad I majored in law, societies and justice where we explored how law interacts with people. Part of that was an internship at the U.S. Marshals Service in judicial security and intelligence. I got more involved with learning about far alt-right extremism. As a Jew, a Freemason, and coming from a family of federal employees; this was something I felt like I needed to do to give back to the communities I am a part of.

Allie: Does studying this make you more or less afraid for our country?

Marc: I think a healthy enough worry to be conscious is necessary, but to overwhelm yourself with fear is to give them credit they don’t deserve. Give them enough seriousness to stamp them down, but not enough to give them power. A lot of people are just keyboard warriors.

Allie: What can we do on an individual level to help combat extremism and hate?

Marc: I’m all about Jews being in places where you wouldn’t expect them to be: whether that’s farming, the military, construction, or law-enforcement. It’s important for Jewish people to get out into the community in unconventional spaces to help other groups recognize that we are no different from themselves or any other people.

Allie: Alright, on to lighter topics…I notice that you’re wearing a bow-tie, tell me about that.

Marc: I wear a bow-tie almost every day to work. It’s an identifier that is a way for me to connect with people. They’re fun and help to put people at ease. I see it as an approachability thing and a way for me to express my personality.


Allie: What is your favorite bow-tie?

Marc: A burnt-orange bow tie that is the first one I bought with my fiancé when we were on a road-trip down in South Carolina. It was a time when I was owning who I was and that means a lot to me. Another one that I enjoy wearing  is a wooden one that has the skyline of Chicago etched into it.

Allie: Describe your dream day in the DMV.

Marc: I’d start the morning hiking Old Rag. That’s actually where I proposed to my fiancé, at the peak.

Allie: Please tell this proposal story.

Marc: We were planning to hike Old Rag with a friend, and I told her I was refereeing a fencing tournament that day because I also help coach the Georgetown fencing team. I actually went with one of my best friends and hiked Old Rag at the crack of dawn so I could be up there when she got there. When she got to the top, I proposed. She was totally surprised.


Allie: Alright, now continue with your perfect day.

Marc: Okay, so after Old Rag, I’d get some BBQ. I’m a huge fan of BBQ shacks at the side of the road. In terms of established places, Monks, BBQ Exchange, District BBQ are all really good. After I’d get back to the city, I’ll go to a museum. One of my favorites is The National Portrait Gallery – which combines history and art and shows what makes America unique. At night, I’d bike the monuments.

Allie: I hear that you volunteer at Yachad, how did you get

Marc: I’ve been volunteering with Yachad for about a year and a half now. They’re like Habitat for Humanity but instead of building new homes, they repair and preserve affordable homes. We make sure everything is up to code. A lot of times we work on multi-generational households that have people with limited incomes living there and the house hasn’t been so well maintained  and as part of our projects, we teach and empower homeowners to do more of the continuing maintenance themselves. I’m part of the Handymensch program which is a group of semi-skilled workers who go out a couple times quarterly to tackle vital home repairs. As part of that, I get to learn skills and help others at the same time. Everyone wins. If you’re interested, you can sign up to volunteer here.

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

Marc: I’m a hobby baker. I love to bake things and going through the whole process and then having something at the end that you can give to people and spread happiness. I’ve learned how to make my own bagels that I think are pretty good.

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

Marc: I used to be a competitive sky-diver. I’ve done over 200 sky-dives. It’s the closest to nirvana I’ve ever felt. When you go up, you feel so nervous, and when you jump you have that moment of overwhelming fear. But, once you realize you’re “floating“, you realize everything is okay. Then you open the canopy, you can relax and enjoy. Everyone should do it once.

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

Marc: It feels a little more like home.




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 Stephanie: Radical Jewish Rabbi of the Week!

Think you know what a rabbi does with their free time? Think again. Stephanie Crawley is a turtle-owner, Queer Eye fan, Purim hater, and Temple Micah’s new(ish) rabbi!

Meet this radical rabbi taking DC by storm.


Allie: How did you wind up living in DC as a rabbi?

Stephanie: I knew I wanted to be a rabbi since I was maybe 12 years old. I also knew that I didn’t want to go straight from college to rabbinical school. After graduating from undergrad in Cleveland, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in that time period before rabbinical school, and decided to move to DC and do Jewish work. I wound up working at Temple Micah.

I really loved, and love, how Temple Micah is a place that challenges itself to think differently about what Judaism can look like. Its full of people who are simultaneously brilliant and super humble, and are all very invested in their Jewish life.

After working at Temple Micah for three years, I left to go to rabbinical school. When I was leaving, I worried that I would never find another synagogue that I love as much as I love Temple Micah. But, miraculously, in my fifth year of rabbinical school the Assistant Rabbi position at Temple Micah opened up and I was able to find my way back there.

Allie: Hold on, you wanted to be a rabbi from the time you were 12?!

Stephanie: When I was younger, I knew I liked the idea of doing social work, I liked acting, public speaking, and social justice. A rabbi seemed like it combined all of those things. I knew that becoming a rabbi was the only thing I wanted to do in the world.

Allie: What do you enjoy most about being a rabbi?

Stephanie: I think Judaism gives us such a good answer for how to live our lives with meaning. Particularly right now, it feels like Judaism is everything I need. Judaism reminds me that when it feels like everything is go-go-go, Judaism says stop. When I feel like I’m prioritizing the new, Judaism reminds that what is ancient has real validity. Bringing that countercultural voice to people is something that I really enjoy.


Allie: What has been the most meaningful experience you’ve had as a rabbi thus far?

Stephanie: I used to work in a Jewish addiction and rehab facility called Beit T’Shuvah. While I was there I really saw Judaism save lives. From that, I’ve thought a lot about what we want to save and reclaim in all of our lives, and how can Judaism help with that.

Allie: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Stephanie: There’s so much that I want to do, and learning what my capacity is has been a journey. Also, to be really frank, holding half an hour conversations with 12 year-olds.

Allie: As a rabbi, how do you cope with the rising threat of anti-Semitism we are feeling right now in America?

Stephanie: I do feel a real sense of purpose to figure out how and when to appropriately call out anti-Semitism without alienating Jews. You can’t just publish an op-ed every time there’s anti-Semitism, sometimes you really have to sit with the person who is saying these [anti-Semitic] things and talk to them.

There is a Jewish philosopher Simon Rawidowicz who has an essay called “The Ever Dying People” and I like to keep in mind that every generation has thought they were the last generation of Jews, and they’re not.

Allie: On to lighter things. What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Stephanie: It’s not Purim. I loathe Purim. One Rabbi once said to me you’re either a Yom Kippur Rabbi or a Purim rabbi. I’m definitely a Yom Kippur rabbi. I like this little bubble we create to focus on our community on Yom Kippur, and the catharsis that comes when we’ve done the whole thing together. I think the metaphors are really powerful, and appreciate the concept of t’shuvah (repentance).

I also love Passover. I like that the meal is such a good way of teaching Judaism and encourages children to ask questions. I like that women play an important role in the narrative, and that its one of the Jewish rituals that we’ve found a way to modernize and speak for different movements.

rabbi stephanie

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

Stephanie: I have a pet turtle who, for a long time, we thought was a girl turtle named Slowla. We recently found out the turtle is a boy and his new name is Mr. Slow. I think of turtles as puppies with armor.

Allie: What are your favorite ways to relax when you’re not at work?

Stephanie: Normal Netflix and chill, or right now Queer Eye and cry is my new hobby. I also love running and yoga, guitar, singing, and reading.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Stephanie: We make our city stronger, and highlight the beauty of the diversity of the Jewish world.



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 Josh: Jewish Wikipedia Editor of the Week

When he’s not working at innovative digital art space ARTECHOUSE, creating DC-themed pins, or eating avocado BLT bagels, you might find Josh hanging out with his sister who may or may not have invented the flat iron. You’ll just have to find out…


Allie: What brought you to our great nation’s capital?

Josh: I grew up in Rockville and have basically spent much of my life in the DC area. I spent four years in Hartford for undergraduate before I wound up back in DC. Coming back to DC was kind of a scheme planned by my friend Marc Friend [Editor’s note: Yes, that’s his real last name!].

Allie: How did you wind up working at ARTECHOUSE?

Josh: I took my wife to an ARTECHOUSE exhibit last year for her birthday and fell in love with it. I just started working there last August. It’s a very cool space that bridges the gap between art and science technology through immersive installations. We’re doing a cherry blossom exhibit right now. I can give GatherDC readers a discount on tickets! [Editor’s note: He’s not lying! Use code GatherDC for 10% off from 4/8-4/14, excluding Saturdays. Max 2 tickets per household.]


Allie: Describe your dream day in DC.

Josh: I’d wake up and get a Bethesda Bagel, an avocado BLT on a salted bagel. I know it’s not kosher. Then, I’d go to the farmer’s market and one of the record stores in the area. Then, I’d grab lunch. I’m a big fan of BIBIBOP in Dupont. I’m also a big fan of board games or having Netflix marathons with friends. In the evening, I’d grab at a cocktail at El Techo in Shaw.

Allie: I also hear you are lowkey a famous Wikipedia editor. Tell me about that.

Josh: Okay, so when my sister was in high school she was trying to cite Wikipedia for a paper. I was trying to show her that Wikipedia was not a credible source. To prove this point, I purposely edited the Wikipedia page about the flat iron and listed her as the inventor.

Today, it is an international conspiracy that my sister, Erica Feldman, invented the flat iron in the 1800s. If you Google “who invented the flat iron?”, her name will come up. She has been listed as the inventor of the flat iron by Conair, in books, tons of websites, and weird magazines even have odd conspiracy theories about it.

Allie: Are there any other strange facts people might be surprised to know about you?

Josh: I was partially responsible for changing the birthday song at Buca di Beppo. I went to school for art’s management, where a huge piece of my education was learning copyright law. I had just written a paper about the copyrights surrounding the Happy Birthday song when my family and I went to celebrate my dad’s birthday at Buca di Beppo. At the end of the meal, the waiters came over and sang the “Happy Birthday” song to us. Since I had just written this paper, I decided to go up to the manager and tell him that he should know they shouldn’t be singing that song. Flash forward to a week later, I was in touch with the Buca di Beppo corporate lawyer and I sent them proof and evidence about it. I didn’t hear anything back, but then a few weeks later I saw this YouTube campaign came out about Buca di Beppo’s new birthday song.

Allie: What are you favorite hobbies outside of copyright law and Wikipedia editing?

Josh: I collect pins, I think it’s a fun way to show a piece of your personality. I actually co-own a pin company with my wife and two of our friends called Federal Pins. It’s all DC-influenced things that a local would connect to. 


Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Josh: Latkes with applesauce. I don’t like sour cream.

Allie: What’s a piece of wisdom that inspires you?

Josh: My grandfather always taught me to soak it up and never take anything for granted.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Josh: Hilarity ensues.

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 Emily: Jewish Arlingtonian of the Week!

I met Emily Mathae back when I worked at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Since then, I’ve been blown away by how her presence has brought so much sunshine to Jewish DC and Northern Virginia. Besides making our bellies happy with her incredible talent for whipping up Jewish baked goods, she also makes our community happy with her warm smile and contagious kindness. Although Emily is soon moving out of the Moishe House Northern Virginia (MoHo NoVA), she’s not going far. So if you don’t know her yet, now is your chance!

P.S. If you’re interested in taking Emily’s spot in Moishe House NoVA, let them know!


Allie: What brought you to Arlington?

Emily: I was born and raised in Arlington; I’m what you call an Arlington native through and through.

Allie: I hear you’re soon moving out of in Moishe House NoVA! What’s been the best part about being a Moishe House resident?

Emily: I’ve been living there for almost two years and it’s been amazing. It’s been a life-changing experience. I get to create really meaningful relationships with community members and put on programs that I’m personally excited about.

Allie: What programs have you hosted at Moishe House that you’re most proud of?

Emily: I love to bake, so it’s been incredible to host programs related to that. I’ve hosted a round challah bake for Rosh Hashanah, babka-making, sufganiyot, hamantaschen, and traditional challah baking events.

I also love Rosh Chodesh and celebrating Jewish women and our lives together as a community. We’ve been doing Rosh Chodesh events since last July. It’s a very strong group of women who are very supportive of one another. I’m curious to see how things will turn out when I move out, but I’m hoping to continue to do the Rosh Chodesh events with Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW).


Allie: What’s your perfect DC – or Arlington – day from start to finish?

Emily: It would be April 25th; not too hot, and not too cold. All you need is a light jacket! Yeah, hopefully it would be a beautiful day outside, but not too much sun because I get sunburnt very easily. I would go out to Leesburg and visit a couple of wineries and just relax. Maybe I’d go for a long walk or hike. If my favorite band Judah and the Lion was in town I would go see them. That’s one of the bands I will never get tired of.

Allie: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Emily: I had struggled with my faith for a long time. I was very active in my former faith community, but started questioning some of the things that were told to me and asked some really deep questions that they just didn’t have the answers to. It felt like destiny that I wound up doing my study abroad in Israel where I studied conflict analysis and resolution. While there, I also worked at BINA and loved it so much.

When I returned home, I wrote my senior thesis on young American Jews and their relationship with Israel. This was so impactful for me that I wound up applying to work at some Jewish nonprofits after graduating. At that point, I was halfway through my conversion process. I got the job [that I currently have] at The Jewish Federation and have constantly worked to become a leader in the Jewish community since then. By working at Federation and living in the Moishe House, I feel like I’ve found my place.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Emily: I have a fabulous challah recipe that I stole from the Mega Challah Bake I went to in NoVA. I also love bagels.

Allie: What’s your perfect bagel?

Emily: An everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese, with onion, cucumber, and tomatoes. Please don’t hate me for not liking lox…

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday?

Emily: Shavuot. I love dairy and because of the story of Ruth. It connects back to my own Jewish journey and I feel like I’m Ruth in a way.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Emily: They have a grand old time.


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 Jason: Jewish Abstract Artist of the Week

I met Jason Lessans a few weeks because he was selling paintings at an art event that my mom was also a part of. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty, intricacy, and emotion that was palpable in his artwork. When I met him, I was shocked this was just an after-work hobby and not his full-time job. More than that, I couldn’t believe how humble and down-to-earth he seemed about his insane talents.

Enjoy our 1:1 interview with this gifted Jewish artist, and then check out his Instagram to follow along on his journey.


Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Jason: I actually live in Vienna, by Tysons Corner. I moved here from the Baltimore area to be closer to my office after I changed jobs and started work at as a data engineer.

Allie: Outside of work, you create some amazing art. What kind of artwork do you do?

Jason: I primarily focus on abstract painting using different techniques and styles. For some of my paintings, such as cityscapes, I use palette knives, brushes, combs, and various other tools to create different effects. For other paintings, I use fluid art techniques, pouring a paint mixture directly onto the canvas. I also enjoy working with other media like metal, ceramics, and glass.

Allie: What motivated you to become an artist?

Jason: I’ve been interested in art since I was a little kid. I went to art camps growing up and took a few classes in high school and college. Although, I would say most of what I’ve learned was just by practicing in my spare time. I wasn’t actually motivated to sell paintings until recently. I would get very attached to my paintings and didn’t want to part with them. In the past year or so I started painting more frequently and ran out of room to hang them. When they started piling up, I knew I had to start selling them.

jason lessans

Allie: What do you love about painting?

Jason: I find it very relaxing and therapeutic. I listen to music and just kind of zone out and let my subconscious take over as I paint.

Allie: What is your favorite subject to paint?

Jason: A lot of my paintings don’t have a subject. I like how they mean different things to different people. I also found that I like to paint abstract cityscapes after I made one by accident. I’d been playing with a new technique and noticed it resembled a skyline reflected on water. Since then I’ve made more and improved on the technique.

Allie: What painting(s) are you most proud of?

Jason: That’s a tough question to answer. I have a lot of paintings that I’m pretty attached to. I think sometimes I’m the most proud when I do one unlike any that I’ve done before. There is one portrait I did years ago of Arya from Game of Thrones that I really like, mostly because I never do portraits and it came out much better than I expected. I also really like the first geometric painting I did, along with some of my recent black, white, and gold pour paintings where I create a tree-ring effect. [Note: Check out Jason’s artwork on the ‘Gram @lessans_in_abstraction!]


Allie: How do you find time to paint outside of your full time job?

Jason: I try to set aside an hour or two most nights before bed. It relaxes me and has kind of become part of my bedtime routine.

Allie: Who are your artist role models?

Jason: I would say Wassily Kandinsky – his work is incredible and unlike anything before him. He is generally considered the father of abstract art.

Allie: Do you have any other hidden talents?

Jason: I’m a really good whistler. I’ll admit, it’s a pretty useless skill and but I can basically whistle any tune.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Jason: Oh man – so many good ones. I’ll go with brisket – I never get sick of it.

Allie: What’s your favorite flavor Hamantaschen and why?

Jason: Maybe strawberry. Anything other than prunes.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Jason: Bagels don’t stand a chance.

jason great falls


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.