Meet Joe: Jewish Social Butterfly of the Week!

joe

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Joe: I’m originally from Connecticut, and then my family moved to North Carolina. I was most recently living in Baltimore and working for Hillel, but saw my social life continually shift more and more towards DC, and sometimes I found myself here 5-7 times a week. Eventually, I decided I might as well move here. 

Allie: What’s your favorite part about living in the District?

Joe: I really like the hustle and bustle of DC. It’s not quite NYC hectic-ness, but there are a lot of things going on, and so many different types of people and diverse international cultures. I have a hard time staying focused on one thing. I like to have lots of different passions, and feel like I’ve been able to pursue those in DC.

I lived in Moishe House Columbia Heights when I first moved here which was a huge passion of mine. I also love to perform and see shows and there are just so many wonderful theaters here. I also sing in the Gay Men’s Chorus here which is massive and has so much going on. Not to mention the DC food scene – I’ve become such a foodie, especially when it comes to brunch and ramen.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC from start to finish.

Joe: It would start at 801 DC for their bottomless brunch, they give you entire bottles of champagne and carafes of strawberry puree, grapefruit, orange, and peach or apricot juices, and you can make your own mimosas. The food is great, and there is a rooftop you can sit on so you can get a fresh breeze. After a couple of hours there, I’d see what kind of festivals are going on. I love people watching. Then, I’d go to a wine bar where I can sit outside with friends. I’d definitely get ramen at Haikan for dinner. Their ramen melts in your mouth, it’s delicious. After that, I’d go see a couple of drag shows and almost certainly end the night doing karaoke at Dupont Italian Kitchen.

joe

Allie: I heard you started Capital Qvellers. Tell me about this group and what inspired you to create it.

Joe: Capital Qvellers is an open group for anyone who identifies at LGBTQ+ and Jewish and is a young adult. It started because we were a group of people who got grouped together for Shabbat dinners because we were all queer-identifying. We realized there wasn’t really a space that we felt encompassed an open, inclusive community for LGBTQ+ young Jewish adults in DC where they could feel celebrated, reaffirmed, and be able to reconnect with their Jewish identity. 

We started just doing Shabbat dinners once a month with support from Moishe House and OneTable. Then, Moishe House gave us a grant to do our first leadership retreat last year for young adults who were all really interested in building and creating a strong LGBTQ+ Jewish community. It became apparent that there was a large number of people who needed and wanted a space like this. If you want to get involved, email DCLGBTQJews@gmail.com, friend me on Facebook, or check out our Facebook page.

Allie: Has Judaism always been such a central part of your identity?

Joe: Being Jewish is very much a core part of who I am today, but no, it has not always been that way. I was adopted by distant, non-Jewish relatives and was raised in a Christian home. I didn’t even find out about my Jewish heritage until I was in high school. At that point, I already felt like Christianity didn’t vibe with me, but wasn’t sure what I believed. 

When I went to college, I had a Jewish suite mate my freshman year who used a little electric menorah to do the Hanukkah blessings, which was my first time lighting a menorah. I went to a Hanukkah party at Hillel, and then wound up dating a Jewish guy, singing with the Jewish acapella group, and it just sort of snowballed from there. 

The Jewish community was so affirming and accepting of my queer identity, and I was very appreciative of that. I also lost my biological mom when I was in college and the Jewish community was so there for me during that time. I did an alternative spring break trip with AJWS through my Hillel and it really opened my eyes to Judaism’s focus on charity, dignity, and ultimately led to my decision to commit to my Judaism and have a bar mitzvah. 

So, I went to the Brandeis Collegiate Institute (BCI) that summer, and in the span of two and half weeks I learned to read Hebrew, studied my Torah portion, and had my bar mitzvah at BCI.

Allie: With the start of the Jewish New Year, what are you excited about or hoping for this coming year?

Joe: I’m excited to see Capital Qvellers go into year two and see the growth this organization has. We want to start doing more Jewish learning, and trying out new events.

Personally, I’m hoping to pause a little more this coming year. I’m always on the go and love being busy, but am excited to take moments to reflect on the beauty of the world and recognizing how much good can come from those pauses. When you pause, it creates an opportunity for someone else to do.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Joe: The earth begins to quake!

joe

Meet Lisa: Jewish Relationship Journalist of the Week!

lisa

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Lisa: I’m from California and went to UCLA where I had been writing a dating column for the student newspaper. Then, I got an internship at The Washington Post right out of college. So, I packed up my stuff and moved out here for what I thought was going to be three months and have been here for 14+ years.

Allie: What inspired you to become a journalist?

Lisa: In second grade, we had to write a story about our worst day – like “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”. I included everything “bad” that had ever happened to me into the chronology of one day. My teacher showed it to another teacher and was like “isn’t this so good?!” I decided right then that I wanted to write stories. 

Allie: Tell me about the Solo-ish column you started at The Washington Post?

Lisa: I wrote an op-ed once on Valentine’s Day about how people should be picking up the phone to ask people out on first dates, and then a couple years later I got dumped by email and wrote a piece about the art of digital rejection. I was writing these one-off stories as I was continuing to edit stories about the budget and the War in Afghanistan. 

In 2014, I had a really great editor who asked me if I wanted to write a dating column. I realized I wanted to write a singles’ column that was about more than just dating, but also incorporated friendship, travel, personal finance, and figuring out your life as a person. We launched this in 2015 and called it “Solo-ish”. It’s now under “Relationships.”

Allie: What are your favorite pieces you’ve written for “Solo-ish”/”Relationships”?

Lisa: I wrote a piece about going to my college boyfriend’s wedding. The wedding was fun but also kind of terrible. In part, the wedding made me feel like I was behind in my life because I hadn’t been in a significant relationship since that relationship, but it also helped me reflect on how great it is that we have this friendship that spans over a decade. Writing helps me process my emotions. 

I also love writing pieces where I can talk about the larger culture that we’re in. Dating and relationships might seem frivolous or non-essential, but they’re really not. They’re what we live for. There’s hope and despair and sadness and discovery and joy and friendship – all the elements that are in every good story happen in love stories.

Another favorite piece is from a few months ago. I got to go to a romantic comedy festival in LA this past summer. The woman running the festival was in a relationship with her high school crush. She sent him a letter at the end of high school that was like, “I really like you, but you missed your chance with me!” They stayed in touch, and eventually decided to date when they were in their late 20s. Now they’re together and he was there following her around all weekend. I asked her boyfriend why he didn’t swoop in and propose to her during the festival, and he said that he didn’t want to take the spotlight off of her and become focused on their relationship. I realized that this woman was living in a 2019 romantic comedy. If it were set in 1999, her boyfriend would have proposed and made it a big spectacle. Since its 2019, love is a little quieter and more equal. 

lisa

Allie: What is your favorite part about being a journalist?

Lisa: I’m super nosy, and it’s my job to ask the most personal questions of people. Having those really deep, intense conversations with anyone who is willing to have them with me is super rewarding and interesting.

Allie: What is one dating tip you’ve taken away from your years of writing about relationships?

Lisa: Everyone has something interesting about them. They might not be the person for you, but everyone has something interesting and lovable to discover.

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

Lisa: It would start by a friend texting me, “Want to go have brunch at the diner?” It would be unplanned. When you’re in your late 30s, you don’t really do planned brunches anymore. I might wander over to La Colombe for a tan-line. I would gather some friends to act out a famous movie. We did this to commemorate the 30th anniversary of “When Harry Met Sally” in July, which is one of my favorite movies. Most recently, we did this with “Princess Bride”. It was amazing with the drum circle behind us making the whole thing feel more intense. Everyone brought their own special flavor, energy, and voice. Then, I would bring people over to grill on my rooftop where we have a view of Adams Morgan. I would end the day by spending some time with a novel.

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

Lisa: I’m still playing Pokémon Go.

Allie: Anything else you want to share? 

Lisa: I have to share some of my favorite Jewish pick-up lines I’ve heard at events. Someone once came up to me and said, “So, where did you go to camp?” Another time someone walked up to me at a Moishe House event and asked, “Sarah? Rachel? Rebecca?”

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Lisa: Chaos ensues.

lisa and friends

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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 Aurell: Jewish Doctor of the Week

aurellAllie: What brought you to DC?

Aurell: I’m from Kansas City, originally, went to medical school in Tel Aviv. Most recently, I was living in Denver after residency but had no family around because they’re all in DC. I also wanted to find a place with a bigger Jewish community. So, I looked for jobs in DC and found a hospital that fit what I was looking for, and moved here. 

Allie: What kind of medicine do you practice?

Aurell: I did my residency in internal medicine, and practice as a hospitalist, which is basically an internal doctor who only works in hospitals. I see a lot of cancer patients, and patients with pretty challenging cases.

Allie: What’s your favorite thing about being a doctor?

Aurell: I feel like it’s something I can become better at all the time as I deal with challenging situations and learn to problem solve. I can feel myself becoming a better physician each year, and that’s the best gift you can give to a future patient. I really like interacting with patients and collaborating with the people on my team. It’s very rewarding.

What’s your favorite way to relax after a long work week in the hospital?

Aurell: I like treating myself to spa days. A facial, massages, anything involved in going to a spa. I also recently started playing golf which is very fun.

Allie: Describe your perfect DC day from start to finish.

Aurell: I’d wake up very late. I really enjoy sleeping in. Then, I’d work out. I like doing lots of different types of exercises like spinning, boxing, lifting weights. I’d pick one of those to do. At night, I’d probably go see an artist I like at the 9:30 Club. I like upbeat, dance music, but have pretty eclectic taste. I recently saw Zara Larsson there and have tickets to see Lauv at The Anthem

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Aurell: When I lived in Israel my favorite Jewish holiday was Shavuot because it was widely celebrated, but since moving to DC my favorite holiday has shifted to Hanukkah. There are just so many fun activities and the whole thing seems to last a month. I see my friends more often around Hanukkah time because there are so many fun events for young adults.

aurellAllie: Do you have any Jewish New Year resolutions?

Aurell: I don’t. I’m not into making resolutions because I feel like you should always be working on and for yourself. My mantra is to continuously be better, learn from others, and not wait for a certain time to work on yourself.

Allie: Do you have anything on your bucket list?

Aurell: I want to go on a big Scotland, Ireland, England trip. There is a lot of history and scenery I want to see.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Aurell: Babies are made.

 

 

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 Carolyn: Jewish Influencer of the Week!

She’s wielding her Instagram powers for communal good. Get to know Carolyn Becker, the fashion forward, plant-based brains behind @DCVeganLife, @FindingYourGood, and @Petite_Punk.

WARNING: This interview may cause hunger.

carolyn

Photo by @Petite_Punk

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Carolyn: I was born here, raised in Bethesda, and then went to American University. I’ve always loved this city so I never moved. I joke that rather than move to different states, I just moved from State Street to State Street.

Allie: Tell me how the @DCVeganLife Instagram account came to be.

Carolyn: I’ve been a vegetarian since college and had a lot of vegan friends. Then, one of my best friends said that for her birthday she wanted her friends to try going vegan for a week. So I said, “heck yes” and went to Yes! and bought all the Daiya cheese and vegan deli meats. I love deli sandwiches! But, being the petite size that I am, I had leftovers after the week ended. I hate wasting food so I just continued begin vegan. 

Shortly after that, I started @DCVeganLife. I was already active on Instagram documenting my thrifting adventures, so I figured this would just be one more account to run – it’s fine. Mostly, I was so excited about the foods I could have as a vegan – like fried ice cream and donuts. I also really love supporting local vegan businesses and wanted to help fuel the local DC vegan community. I made a strict posting schedule and tagged other brands – and it just started to grow from there. 

Photo by @DCVeganLife, from Sugar Shack Donuts Arlington

Allie: What’s your favorite part of running @DCVeganLife?

Carolyn: Supporting and connecting with the DC vegan community, specifically with businesses who do not have as big of a budget as other companies. There are some brands that I hold dear to my heart like Donut Run and Pow Pow, because I’ve been able to help them grow, and that brings me so much satisfaction.

Allie: Walk me through your dream DC eating day.

Carolyn: I’d start with a dope breakfast bagel sandwich at Bethesda Bagels. I’d get a whole wheat everything bagel with creamy veggie tofu cream cheese with a side of fruit salad. For lunch, I love Little Sesame. I’d get their cauliflower hummus bowl and their tahini soft serve. It’s so fresh and healthy and feels good. I’d get a snack later on at Sticky Fingers; either a calvin cookie or a cupcake. Or maybe both! For dinner, I’d get Menomale pizza with vegan cheese. They have scissors so you can cut your own slices. Or Roscoe’s Pizzeria in Takoma Park. Then, I’d have to get a slice of vegan funfetti cake at Fare Well for dessert.

vegan pizza

Photo by @DCVeganLife, from ROSCOE’S Neapolitan Pizzeria

Allie: On top of running your vegan food Instagram, you have a full time job; tell me about that.

Carolyn: DC Vegan Life is my 6pm-8am. From 9-5pm, I’m the DC Communications Manager for Goodwill of Greater Washington. I run their social media platforms, and am one of their in-house photographers and event planners. In that capacity, I get to connect with the local DC community from a sustainable fashion capacity through their lifestyle community brand, Finding Your Good..

Allie: Why is sustainable fashion and veganism so important to you?

Carolyn: It all goes back to supporting community and loving your home. When you make a purchase, you have a lot of power. I think it’s so important to take a moment to think about whether your purchases are supporting organizations that are doing good in the community, supporting animals or people, or not. In regards to fashion – when you buy something new, that leads to more trash, which creates poison in the world. You don’t have to buy, buy, buy to have interesting fashion. I actually think it’s really cool to have the confidence to repeat outfits. Buying recycled fashion from local thrift stores can make such a difference – both for the people in the community and for the environment.

Allie: What are some things you like to do to relax?

Carolyn: Walking. It is one of the most therapeutic and invigorating activities; you’re exercising, exploring your city, all while saving money on a gym membership. I also love to thrift. I love finding that gem in the rough, and have a passion for one-of-a-kind finds and vintage fashion. I love being outdoors – hiking, urban foraging, discovering edible trees and plants, and baking vegan treats with my boyfriend, Steven.

Photo by @DCVeganLife, vegan funfetti cake from Farewell

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

Carolyn: I do have time to watch Netflix! 

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the Jewish New Year?

Carolyn: To slow down and relax.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Carolyn: We can foster a greater sense of community and build a stronger DC.

Photo by @Petite_Punk

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 Elissa: Jewish Economist of the Week

She may seek balance, but this thoughtful PhD candidate can already perform a headstand with ease! Read all about Elissa Cohen and her secret past life as a saber fencer!

Allie: What brought you to DC? 

Elissa: I originally moved from Philly to DC in 2012 to work as a welfare policy researcher at the Urban Institute. At the time, I totally thought I was going to be a member of the transient DC community, and leave after a couple years for grad school. Yet here I am, seven years later; a legit DC resident with a DC driver’s license and all! So, in case you were wondering about DC Statehood – vote yes! 

Allie: Tell me about the PhD you are currently pursuing? 

Elissa: I’m pursuing my PhD in Economics. I had been on the fence about whether a doctoral degree was the right path for me. Ultimately, I decided a research path would allow me to make the impact I wanted on society. Being able to rigorously evaluate the policies and programs we have in place is extremely important to me. So, one day, you know, post dissertation, I hope to use my skills and knowledge to improve the quality and structure of our safety-net and financial systems.

Allie:  What led you to your interest in economics?

Elissa: I was in college during the Great Recession and wanted to understand why socioeconomic systems broke down and led to widespread turmoil. I also observed how the burdens of these system failures were unevenly distributed across the income and wealth distributions. I felt compelled to understand which policies could best help those most vulnerable. 

Allie: What was this awesome program you participated in this past summer in Santa Fe?

Elissa: The Santa Fe Institute’s Complex Systems Summer School! It was basically a nerdy adult summer camp. It brings together an interdisciplinary group of people from around the world come to learn about complexity science, including chaos theory, network theory, and information theory. I was able to start – and am now continuing – to collaborate on projects with some of the incredible people I met from this program.

In addition to all the learning, I managed to find some free time to explore the area! I attended my first rodeo, hiked amazing trails, and got to view inspiring local Native American art. The only thing I wish I could’ve done was go to the Santa Fe Opera, of which RBG is a regular patron! Everyone should find time to go to Santa Fe.

Allie: I hear you’re also a certified yoga instructor, tell me about that!

Elissa: I did my teacher training in 2013 at Studio DC up in AdMo, and it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made in myself. Having practiced yoga for eight years already, I had a strong desire to deepen my physical and meditative practices, and to be able to share the passion I had cultivated for yoga with others.

I love that yoga is a forever practice; there’s always something fun and new to discover within it. There’s this intrinsic recognition that our bodies differ every day, so when we’re flowing through the same sequence again, our experience changes. We inevitably learn – and it’s definitely a learning process – to appreciate the experience in the present, letting go of expectations.

I also love being able to empower my students to have fun and feel comfortable in their own skin. I often hear new students say, “I’m not flexible, so that means I’m bad at yoga”. Having been at that stage myself, I get from where they’re coming; but I also know where they’re going! Yoga is a process…and, you gotta trust the process.

elissa yoga

Allie: It seems like you’re someone who stays pretty busy. What is your favorite thing to do to relax at the end of a long work/school week?

Elissa: Honestly, I really enjoy going to Kabbalat Shabbat services and then having a chill Shabbat dinner with friends to catch up.

Allie: What are some of your favorite Jewish dishes to cook?

Elissa: I’m going to have to say shakshuka. I make my own harissa paste, and there’s something incredibly satisfying about being able to develop layers of flavor in a shakshuka. I’m also of the camp that one should cook the egg in the shakshuka and not separately.

Allie: With the Jewish New Year quickly approaching, what is something you want to achieve in the coming year?

Elissa: I’m seeking balance. The past two years of grad school were quite rough, and so it’s my intention to do a better job this year of making time for friends and family. 

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

Elissa: In an earlier life, I used to be a saber fencer, and got to go to Junior Olympics! Perhaps if, and when I have time, I’ll find a fencing club in the area to join. At this point I’m definitely rustier than my sabers.

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

Elissa: …let the Jewish geography games begin. 

elissa c

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 Dan: Jewish Dog Lover of the Week

dan

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Dan: My job, and the fact that I absolutely love DC. I came here a number of times while I was in college and got to know the city. I’m originally from Philly, so it seemed like the perfect place for me to live because it’s an easy trip home, and is the center of politics. As an international politics major that was something I looked for and enjoyed. I love the fact that we have Hollywood for ugly people here in DC, which is what one of my former bosses – a congressman – used to call it. 

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC.

Dan:  I’d wake up, let my dog Archie out of his crate and he’d be willing to cuddle with me for more than two minutes. I’d go for a hike in Rock Creek Park or Great Falls. Then, I’d go to a brewery where we can sit outside and enjoy great weather, like Dacha or Wunder Garten. Then, take a solid nap by a rooftop pool. At night, I’d have friends come over for a small get together or maybe we’d go bowling, which I secretly love. 

Allie: Tell me about your dog Archie.

Dan: Archie, or Sir Archibald. He’s a golden-doodle: half golden retriever, because that’s the kind of dog I had growing up, and half poodle because I was looking for a dog that didn’t shed per my roommate’s request. Unfortunately, Archie sheds. He’s adorable, but there is hair all over the place.

dan

Allie: Have you always been a dog-person?

Dan: Oh yes, I was the crazy guy in college that would seek out any opportunity I could find to bring puppies to my fraternity, to my residents when I was an RA, or to my volunteer group. 

Allie: What do you love about dogs?

Dan: They just make your day better. I’ll come home from work so exhausted, and Archie will be there when I open the door with the cutest, funniest look on his face. He doesn’t care that I had a bad day, we can just go for a long walk and not think about work. He gives me unconditional love.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Dan: Sweet kugel. It’s delicious, but I don’t really want to think about what it’s made out of.

Allie: What’s on your life bucket list at the moment?

Dan: Hike the Appalachian Trail, from the bottom to the top. I grew up going to Camp Ramah in the Poconos and as a part of camp there was a yearly 3-day trip where we hiked along the Appalachian Trail. I fell in love with it. I think it would be such a cool and unique experience to hike the whole thing, but logistically I’d have to do a lot of thinking to figure out how to actually do it. I also really want to go to India. I went to Japan last year, and I’m going to Portugal next!

Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the Jewish New Year?

Dan: I use the High Holidays more as a way to reflect, rather than set resolutions. I feel like we all suck at sticking to resolutions. I’d like to think about how I can reset, and become a little bit more involved this year.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Dan: They party like no other. The amount of bottles of wine I go through when DC Jews come to my apartment is absolutely insane.

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 Jana: Jewish Doctor of the Week

Jana Bregman recently moved to DC for her fellowship and is looking to make some awesome new friends – preferably those who enjoy early morning runs, cross-country bike rides, and handmade knitted sweaters as gifts. Read on!

Want to nominate someone to be featured as Jewish Person of the Week? Click here!

janaAllie: What brought you to DC?

Jana: I’m originally from Nashville and went to Vanderbilt for both undergrad and medical school. I recently moved to DC after my residency in Baltimore for my fellowship at Children’s National in pediatric ophthalmology, aka medical and surgical eye-care for little kids. 

Allie: What did you like about pediatric ophthalmology? 

Jana: What’s cuter than a tiny kid in glasses?! I chose pediatrics because within ophthalmology it’s an underserved field, and one that provides opportunity to make a lifelong impact on people by helping to preserve their eyesight from a young age.

Allie: What are the biggest differences between living in Nashville versus DC?

Jana: When I was growing up in Nashville, there were way more differences than there are today. Back then, Nashville was still quintessential south with a slower pace of life. Now it’s more of a sprawling, cosmopolitan city. I think that the Jewish community in DC is better and it seems like there are more young people walking around here.

Allie: Describe your dream DC day from start to finish?

Jana: I would get up early before it gets too hot and go for a run or bike ride in Rock Creek Park. After that, I’d host brunch for some friends, and then take a nap. Later in the afternoon, I’d let out the nerd in me by knitting while watching a movie. Then, I’d go to the pool for a while before heading to a local brewery. After some beers, I’d go out to dinner with friends, followed by some live music. I’d go to sleep by 10 o’clock.

Allie: Is knitting one of your favorite pastimes?

Jana: Yeah, I’ve been knitting since I was in high school. I knit sweaters, socks, pretty much anything. I most recently knit a sweater vest for my brother. I find it really relaxing, especially because I’m not very good at just sitting still. I also like the idea of taking a ball of nothing and turning it into something really pretty. It makes great presents for people!

Allie: What’s your go-to ways to relax at the end of a long work day?

Jana: Running or swimming. I love just reading a book and drinking a beer outside, preferably while sitting by a pool. Banneker Pool is probably one of my favorite places in DC so far. 

jana

Allie: Do you have a favorite Jewish holiday?

Jana: Shabbat. I have so many fond memories around it – Shabbat was always a priority for my family when I was growing up. My mom is a really good cook and would make delicious vegetarian meals. 

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

Jana: I’d love to go to Acadia National Park in Maine, and break 20 minutes in a 5K.

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

Jana: I’ve biked across the country. When I graduated from high school, I took a year off before college. I spent the first part of that year with an organization called Bike and Build – we biked and built houses with Habitat for Humanity. It was a two month long trip – we started in Jacksonville, Florida and ended in San Francisco, California. We would bike between 80-100 miles everyday. I sported the proudest farmers tan of my life 🙂 

Allie: Do you have a Jewish role model?

Jana: My cantor growing up. He is someone who truly acts out what it means to be Jewish. He connects with people on a very personal level, he’s there when you need him during both happy and sad times, and always has the right reference to Jewish teachings for the moment.

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

Jana: Friendships are made!

jana

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 Politician of the Week!

This musical theater lover, soccer-playing, “Jane the Virgin” fan is running for DC Council. Upgrade from his past job as a bar-mitzvah dancer? Read on to get to know Jordan Grossman.

jordan

 

Allie: What led you to DC?

Jordan: I’m the 5th generation in my family to live here! My great-great grandparents and great grandparents immigrated to DC in the early 1900’s. My great-great grandpa was a kosher butcher in Georgetown, my great grandma had a grocery store called Sherman’s Market, and my grandpa had a store on H Street. I also work in politics and government, which is part of why I live here. 

Allie: What interests you about working in politics?

Jordan: I’m a true believer that if you do it right, the government can make people’s lives better. Growing up, I learned all about the importance of participating in public life and strengthening our community through tikkun olam (repairing the world). So it wasn’t an accident that I came to care about all of these things. My dream is to work on things that make services easier to access, and make life better for my neighbors.

Allie: What was your first segue into government?

Jordan: I did internships in DC while I was in college. My first full-time job was as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. I spent most of my time in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and had an extraordinary experience. 

jordan obama

Allie: I hear that you’re now running for DC Council. What exactly is the DC Council?

Jordan: The DC Council is the legislative branch of the DC government and is made up of 13 members – eight are elected from specific wards and five are elected city-wide. I’m running to represent Ward 2, which includes neighborhoods like Chinatown, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom, and Georgetown. The Council votes on things like affordable housing, child care, healthcare, safety, and really anything that affects you in your day-to-day life in the city. In DC – it’s a unique situation because technically everything the Council passes, Congress can reverse. This is one of the main reasons I think DC should be a state – we deserve the right to govern ourselves and to have full representation in Congress. 

Allie: Do you have a job outside of campaigning? 

Jordan: Yes, I work for a nonprofit called Co-Equal. We help members of Congress with accountability, oversight, and policy research. 

Allie: Tell me about your dream DC day.

Jordan: I’d start the day at Buttercream Bake Shop, my favorite place in my neighborhood. My wife and I love walking and being outside. So, we would probably walk to the National Mall or to Rock Creek Park. We’ll play tourist and go to a cool museum, and then – if it was a special occasion – have a meal at Rose’s Luxury. After, I’d love to go to a show at The Kennedy Center – I’m a huge musical theater fan. 

Allie: What’s your favorite musical? 

Jordan: The Last Five Years

Allie: What do you do to relax? 

Jordan: I love playing soccer with District Sports here in DC, and watching Netflix with my wife. Jane the Virgin is one of our favorites.

Allie: What is at the top of your travel bucket list?

Jordan: I’d love to go to China and Japan. 

Allie: Do you have a piece of Jewish wisdom that inspires you?

Jordan: It comes from my Jewish grandmother, who grew up here in DC. She always says, sometimes in Yiddish, “if you give a smile, you get a smile.” 

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

Jordan: In high school I was a part-time bar mitzvah dancer. So I wore sequin shirts and danced to Motown medleys. 

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Jordan: I’m a huge fan of Call Your Mother. An everything bagel with lox from there makes it a very good morning. I can’t wait to go to their second location in Georgetown when it opens! 

Allie: Complete the sentence! When Jews of DC gather…

Jordan: They have a great time! 

jordan

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 Shira: Jewish Travel Lover of the Week

shira

Allie: Tell me how you ended up in DC.

Shira: I like to base my life choices on the show I’m binge watching at the time. During finals my senior year of college, I was watching “The West Wing. I thought every day in DC would have an invigorating Toby-Sam argument. Spoiler alert: After working as a policy fellow in DC for a few years, I got into “Mad Men” and moved on to an ad agency.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC from start to finish.

Shira: I’d embrace my inner “basic-ness” for a day: I’d start with an early morning hike, drink just the right amount of coffee to feel cool with my friends but not enough to start up my Ashkenazi stomach, skip brunch (that’s my one non-basic move), and get free samples at the farmer’s market. After such a stressful morning, I’d need to take a load off at a local beer garden. Dacha, anyone?

Allie: What outdoor adventures have you loved the most?

Shira: Hiking Old Rag is a classic, and Old Town Alexandria is fun when I’m not there for work. Outside of the DC-area, I try to go on two big trips every year. One of last year’s trips was the Grand Canyon. Next week, I’ll be traipsing my way through Sweden and England with my high school frienemy Laurie Hunt (shout out). Boys – don’t worry if you see me disappear from the JSwipe scene. My distance filter is only 1,000 miles, but I’ll be back in two weeks.

shira

Allie: What has been your favorite trip?

Shira: Peru. I’m a history nerd, so I loved going to Machu Picchu and learning about the earliest religions. I also loved hiking Lake 22 outside of Seattle.

Allie: What do you love most about traveling?

Shira: The fact that I am traveling. But really, I just love learning about history and language, and I love seeing how others live and exploring the beautiful views while hiking. I especially love visiting the Jewish communities for a Friday night dinner when I’m abroad.

Allie: Where do you most want to travel to next?

Shira: My new client project might be taking me to Bethesda, and I hear it’s hopping there. Other than that, I’m hoping to plan a trip to Spain and Portugal soon, as well as go hiking in Switzerland one day.

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

Shira: I got an A+ in my hip hop dance class in college. And I’m really good at Super Smash Bros.

Allie: What is at the top of your DC bucket list? 

Shira: Take an improv class. I’ve read Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Mindy Kaling’s books, so I think I’m ready.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Shira: Sukkot; specifically in the Atlanta weather with my mom’s butternut squash pie. October 2019: You’re all invited.

Allie: Complete the sentence: when Jews of DC gather…

Shira: They refuse to acknowledge their previous conversations on JSwipe.

shira

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 Josef: Jewish Community Engagement Director of the Week!

Attention Jewish DC: The one-and-only Josef Palermo has made his way onto the GatherDC team, and we COULD NOT BE MORE THRILLED. All caps are 100% necessary to express our uncontainable excitement.

If you don’t know Josef, read on. If you do know Josef, read on and you might learn something new. Either way, email Josef to welcome him to the team or grab coffee. Okay enough with this intro, onto the interview…

Allie: What brought you to DC? 

Josef: I’ve been in DC for about 11 years – I came here right after undergraduate as a part of a fellowship with Greenpeace. I started to carve out a career path for myself in activism and community organizing because, like so many young people, I wanted to have some kind of positive impact on the world. I had a 6-month stint in San Francisco, but kept my place in DC so I could come back. DC really feels like home! 

Allie: Tell me more about your interest in activism.

Josef: I really started to dive into activism in college, organizing my college campus community on issues related to human rights and genocide prevention and awareness.

From there, I just kept going! I’m from Florida, so I decided to intern for a Florida state senator, then in 2008, I worked for a presidential campaign. After that, I went back to Florida, and just a few months later I was in DC advocating for the environment at Greenpeace. 

Allie: Did you think about going into politics? 

Josef: Yes, but I ultimately found it wasn’t for me. My interests are more in advocating for specific issues and causes that I believe in. 

Allie: What ultimately led you to find your career path as a Jewish professional?

Josef: I was hired to run GLOE, the Kurlander Program for GLBTQ Outreach and Engagement at the EDCJCC. It was the first, and for a long time, only, full-time LGBTQ outreach program at any JCC. This position really spoke to where I was in my life, and my passion for working with the community at the intersection of LGBTQ and Jewish identity.

I recently started at Gather as the 30s Community Engagement Director, and am excited to continue working in a space that speaks to where I am in my life. 

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

Josef: I’m excited to connect with other folks in their 30’s who are still connecting to their Jewish journeys and looking for more meaningful engagement with those journeys. Often in your 30s, you focus your time differently and may search for new ways to engage in Jewish life. I’m very excited to innovate opportunities for Jewish 30s to think differently and challenge themselves more in connecting to their Judaism.

Allie: Outside of work, what are your favorite ways to relax? 

Josef: I love to cook! I’m not someone who follows recipes, I just like to open the cupboard and whip something up. I also like to explore museums, hang out with my friends, take books to the park and read. 

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC…

Josef: I recently discovered how fun the electric scooters are, and love scootering to places I’ve never been to before. My dream day would include scootering to Roosevelt Island or Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. It would also include the Potomac – I love being on the water. I would get a boat with some friends and head down to Old Town Alexandria. We would end the day with a potluck dinner on a rooftop. I love the DC skyline, especially when you can see the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.

Allie: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?

Josef: I try to include at least one person who is new to the Shabbat experience whenever I host. I like sharing Jewish traditions and rituals with people and helping them learn about it. 

Allie: What is at the top of your bucket list? 

Josef: I want to sail the Amalfi Coast. I would love to spend a couple weeks with friends, making stops along the way to explore! 

Allie: Is there anything else you would you like to share? 

Josef: I’m openly queer identifying, and I’m excited to join the Gather staff and bring those experiences of mine to the team, and connect with others who have an LGBTQ identity in the Jewish community.

Allie: Complete the sentence! When Jews of DC gather….

Josef: …There will be several rounds of Jewish geography!            

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.