Meet Stephanie: Jewish Hip-Hop Dancer of the Week!

Move over Channing Tatum, this extroverted, Israeli chocolate loving hip-hop dancer is ready to take center stage. Get to know Stephanie Aseraph, because she’s one of the most vivacious, sweet, passionate women you’ll meet – and has a not-so-secret party trick of being able to kill it on the dance floor.

Allie: I hear you’re quite the dancer. Tell me about that!

Stephanie: I love hip-hop dancing. Dancing is a huge part of my life. I started dancing after seeing the movie “Honey” in second or third grade, and deciding that I wanted to be just like the star of the movie.

Allie: What do you love most about dancing?

Stephanie: When I dance and am on stage, I just forget about everything and all the troubles in the world go away – nothing else matters. Dancing has also given me so many amazing opportunities. In high school, I was a part of a dance troupe called Future Shock DC, and we went all around the country for showcases… and one year went to Barcelona!

In college, I had a lot of friends from Latin America and they helped me get into salsa and bachata and merengue. Hip-hop is my favorite though. Now, I’m not taking dance classes anymore, but I can go out dancing with friends– to places in the DC area like The Salsa Room, Cuba Libre, and El Centro.

Allie: Who are some dancers you admire?

Stephanie: Matt Steffanina is my favorite choreographer. Also, Channing Tatum is amazing. I love all the movies he’s in when he dances.

Allie: What motivated you to work for Masa Israel Journey?

Stephanie: Coming from an Israeli family, Israel is a really strong part of my identity. I went on a Masa program when I was a Junior in college at Tel Aviv University…and then, when I came back my senior year at Towson University, became a campus ambassador and did recruitment for Masa. After college, I did my Master’s in Leadership in Jewish Education and Communal Service, and knew I wanted to work in the Jewish professional world. When this job opened up at Masa, it was perfect because not only does it allow me to work with others with a passion for Judaism, but with a passion for Israel as well. Being able to support an organization that allows American Jews to connect to Israel and bring them on programs that can change their life, like Masa changed mine, is an amazing opportunity.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Stephanie: My mom. She’s a wholesome person that I’ve always admired and looked up to. She contributes very significantly to my love for Judaism and Israel, and she has always been my role model and my best friend.

Allie: What do you love most about Jewish DC?

Stephanie: There’s so much going on! I feel like I’m always learning about a new young Jewish professional group. It’s incredible to see so many people connected to the Jewish community, and that it’s such a broad network that there’s an event for everyone.

Allie: What’s your favorite Passover food?

Stephanie: Matzah with chocolate spread. But not just any chocolate spread…it has to be Hashachar spread – which is an Israeli chocolate spread. I love it because I can spread it on matzah and eat chocolate for breakfast…when else do I get to do that?!

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

Stephanie: Greece has been on the top of my travel bucket list since I saw “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. After that, I really want go to South America and explore Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala, Panama, and Brazil.

Allie: Favorite show to binge watch?

Stephanie: “Friends.” I cannot get enough it. But, of new shows, I’d say “This Is Us.” Randall is hilarious, and Jack is just amazing.

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

Stephanie: They become connected!

 

 

 

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 Francophile of the Week

Le Diplomate, Croissants, French coffee, party buses to wineries – these are a few of Jason Sarfati’s favorite things. I met this super cool French-Sephardic-Arlingtonian/Jewish Lawyer at our last GatherDC happy hour (PS – next one is March 15th), and decided to find out more about his European roots over cups of caffeine at Dupont Circle’s charming French coffee shop – Un je ne se Quoi. After ordering his coffee in French, Jason opened up about his love of Jewish DC, Virginia wineries, and cyber security.

—–

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Jason: When I was applying to law schools, I realized I wanted to be back home –  I grew up in DC – so I applied to George Mason. I was really fortunate to live with all of my college friends in Arlington through all of law school, so I didn’t have to feel like I was outside of my comfort zone. And I wound up staying here because DC has so many opportunities in the legal field.

Allie: What do you like most about the DC Jewish community?

Jason: Its a large community, yet at the same time it feels close-knit. There are a lot of different events – any weekend there’s something going on. Also, it feels like DC has a lot of transient people who show up here looking for a place to fit in, and the Jewish community is that perfect landing spot.

Allie: If you had a free day in DC to do anything, how would you spend it?

Jason: I’m a huge fan of the vineyards out in Virginia. Every April, I organize a wine tour with my friends on a party bus. Its crazy, its a lot of fun, and it’s a whole day thing. After that, I’d have dinner in DC at Le Diplomate – obviously. Then, after a day of drinking French wine, I’d pass out.

Allie: I hear you have some French heritage…, tell me about that.

Jason: Most of my family lives in France, in a city called Lyon. The Jewish community there is actually smaller than one you would see in Paris – everyone kind of knows each other. I go to France once a year or so…otherwise I wouldn’t have a connection with my [extended] family.

Allie: How do you carry your French identity with you into your life in DC?

Jason: Well, growing up, we spoke probably 70% French in the home. And my family’s synagogue, Magen David in Rockville,  caters to Sephardic Jews. If you go there, you’d hear kids being yelled at in French. It’s very loud and close-knit, and I try to go as much as I can.

Allie: Would you ever want to live in France?

Jason: No, I’m very happy here. Also, my law degree would be useless there – and there are no Gather events there!

Allie: What are your favorite French foods?

Jason: Croissants and French coffee, like right here [at Un je ne se Quoi]. DC has some great French spots. Le Diplomate is, in my opinion, genuine French food.

Allie: And what about your favorite Jewish food?

Jason: The Jewish food I’m used to is very different than what most Ashkenazi Jews are used to. I had my first kugel when I was a sophomore in college. Where I lived, we would have marinated lamb or shawarma, which is more my speed. The spicy, north African foods that I’m used to is what I’ll go back to. A lot of beans, couscous, falafel.

Allie: What are you looking forward to most for the upcoming year?

Jason: I’ve noticed that DC kind of hibernates from January to February, and then in March it wakes up again. We’ve got the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Nats start playing again. DC is definitely a place that relies on the weather to be fun. And this year the Southwest waterfront is open, so there is a lot to do. Also, I’m excited for the coming year because just last week I started a data privacy and cyber security practice at my law firm, which is always going to be a field that’s relevant.

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

Jason: They make genuine connections and it can translate into business opportunities, marriages, and lots of good things!

 

 

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 Monica: Jewish DC-Lover of the Week!

Monica Arkin is DC’s biggest cheerleader. Although she currently lives – and works – in Bethesda, Maryland, she never ceases on an opportunity to take full advantage of all that our great nation’s capitol has to offer. From day-dreaming of free afternoons laying on the National Mall to enthusiastically attending Jewish events across the city to taste-testing hamantaschen at local DC bakeries, Monica is here to reinvigorate your love for the District. Read on to get to know this vivacious human!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Monica: I’m from Cleveland originally and went to University of Michigan (go blue!), where I majored in Psych and minored in Hebrew. After college, I knew that I wanted to go to Israel to learn more about PTSD in kids and adolescents. In Israel there is so much trauma, which is unfortunate, but given the circumstances they do a really good job of producing research about trauma and resiliency.

I went to Israel after graduating, and it was great. After a year in Israel, I decided to come back to the US, I and started looking for jobs online. My cousin sent me an opening for a job in Bethesda – to be  a research assistant for a nonprofit, nonpartisan social science research organization called Child Trends. My first thought of Bethesda is that its where Carmen lived in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but when I looked it up on GoogleMaps I realized how close it was to DC! The job description was amazing, and I knew I liked DC from the two times I had been here. I got the job, and moved here, and have been pleasantly surprised time and time again with DC.

Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?

Monica: Honestly, I think it’s really special that our Jewish community has GatherDC, and no other city has anything like that [Editor’s Note: Monica received zero compensation for this shoutout — #humblebrag.]. It is really cool that every week I get one email that shows me what’s going on across the spectrum of observance levels, across all these different areas. One weekend, there might be a sephardic dinner and a social action Tikkun Leil Shabbat. If I wanted to, I could go to two Jewish events in DC every night.

Allie: Speaking of your passion for Jewish DC life, what was it like to be a part of GatherDC’s Open Doors Fellowship? [NOTE: The Open Doors Fellowship is a 6-month fellowship that trains a group of 8-12 young adults from across DC to become go-to leaders, conveners, and facilitators of DC Jewish life.]

Monica: It was really fun! We had a really good group of people. It was cool meeting other people in the Jewish community, and we did a lot of community mapping so I was able to learn about every Jewish organization in DC. Now, when I meet someone new, I’m able to be a sort of unofficial ambassador for Jewish life and can connect people with things they might like.

Allie: I hear you volunteer for the Israeli American Council (IAC) – tell me about that!

Monica: I volunteer for a youth group – Eitanim – through the IAC. It’s a biweekly youth group for high schoolers, half of whom are American Jews and half of whom are Israelis. It’s cool because I get to interact with people of different ages, not only those in their 20s and 30s.

Allie: Awesome! Now, let’s get to know some of your favorite things…what’s your favorite show to binge watch right now?

Monica: Blackish. I love it.

Allie: Favorite way to spend a free Sunday in the city?

Monica: I would probably sit outside at Tryst and each lunch. Then, I’d walk all the way from Tryst to the National Mall and just sit on the Mall with friends.

Allie: Favorite Jewish food?

Monica: At the moment, I’m into hamantaschen. Yesterday, I got these amazing hamantaschen from Sunflower Bakery – triple chocolate and cookie dough filled.

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Monica: Passover! This year, I’m celebrating it in a very special way. we’re doing Pesach in Cleveland for Seder, which we always do. But, the week before we’re doing a huge “Pre-sach” (AKA: pre-Pesach) ski trip in Breckenridge, Colorado. My cousins are all going – family is coming in from California, Cleveland, and London. We’re going to do a Seder the week before Passover when we’re all together.

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

Monica: Jewish geography is played.

 

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 Ben, Ben, Ben, AND Ben! (yes, you read that right)

GatherDC’s winter 2018 Beyond the Tent retreat was an amazing experience for young adults to get outside of DC for a weekend, unpack 21st century Judaism, and explore their Jewish identity over deep, meaningful conversations. Among the 30 participants, zero were named Rachel…but FOUR were named Ben! This week, the Bens of Beyond the Tent share their unique perspectives on Jewish DC and life in general – proving, once and for all, that not all Bens are the same. Get to know them…

 

Ben D. – Former Jewish Guy of the Week!

Allie: Where does your unique name come from? Do any of you have a cool story behind why you were named Ben?

Ben D.: I was going to be named after my grandfather, Sidney, which is now my middle name. As a result, my hebrew name is Simcha.

Ben F.: It was passed down from my great-grandfather.

Ben R.: I don’t know. Does that make me a bad Jew? Fake Jew? Typical Jew?

Ben L.: No, but my family and I grew a bit tired of our names last year (we’ve been using them for decades…) and so we used nicknames for a few good months. I went by Josh.

Ben F.

 

Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?

Ben D.: DC brings the best and the brightest young people from around the country, who come here specifically to make a difference in the world. DC is a springboard for young leaders.

Ben F.: Great collection of educated citizens that aren’t afraid to challenge the establishment. Ask questions, drive for change, and push forward.

Ben R.: All within a few miles and by way of a mass-public transportation train, there’s movies, comedy, craft beer, rock climbing, pour-over coffee shops, and challenging hikes. What else is there in life?

Ben L.: The monuments at night.

 

Allie: If you could pick a new name for yourself right now, what would it be and why?

Ben D.: I usually go by my full name “Ben Droz”, (rhymes with “Ben Rose”).  I like it just the way it is.

Ben F.: Staying with Ben. Simple name but yet plenty of clever nicknames.

Ben R.: When I was 26 years old, my first book was published. I had unlimited options for the name that was published on the cover: I could have chosen Ben, Benjy, Ben-jammin, Ben-jammmmmmmmmin, Benjamin, or an alias. I chose Benjamin, the name by which my loving parents chose to call me. And, I’m sticking with it.

Ben L.: Josh. Worked before. Could work again.

Allie: I hear you all recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat with Rabbi Aaron! First, how was it? Second, was it weird, awesome, or both meeting 3 other Bens?

Ben D.: Beyond the Tent was a great experience, to get out of the DC bubble and make time for deep reflection. It helped to highlight that any person can define Judaism for themselves. I am used to there being other Bens around throughout my life, which is one reason why I usually go by my full name. But this time, we made up more than 10% of the whole group, so yes, that was both weird and awesome.

Ben F.: Beyond the Tent was a mind-changing experience. Rabbi Aaron encouraged us to ask difficult questions and not to be afraid to stand behind our beliefs. In terms of meeting all the Bens, I think we embraced it – it was like our own little breakout group in itself.

Ben R.: Beyond the Tent impacted my life positively, partly because I was one of four individuals named Ben. Never again in my life, I’m certain of this, will I be in the same place with three other friends named Ben. That’s “Beyond the Awesome”.

Ben L.: It was a thought provoking weekend. I’m a regular attendee of the weekly secret underground gatherings of the Bens, so nothing too new.

 

Allie: Favorite thing to do on a free Sunday in the city?

Ben D.: There are always so many events in DC that I like to see what is going on and base my decision on that.  Last weekend I randomly went to the Zoo, which was fun.

Ben F.: Go for a run along the National Mall.

Ben R.: Watch professional football. Oh wait, I live and die by the Washington Redskins and football season is over? Dang it!

Ben L.: Park. I really enjoy not having to use the meter.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish food? Ben R., we already know you hate hummus

Ben D.: Chicken Soup.

Ben F.: Might be a classic choice, but Apples and Honey.

Ben R.: [haha. Yep]. Not hummus.

Ben L.: My mom’s challah. All of her’s are good, but I’d say that 1 out of 4 is truly something divine, especially when my two year-old niece helps. Shout out to Maya, Talia, and Andrew, my favorite Jews in DC!

 

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Ben D.: I had a spiritual experience at Burning Man and now want to incorporate spirituality into my life in new ways.

Ben F.: I was born without two normal teeth and with all 4 wisdom teeth. Call me strange I guess!

Ben R.: Every morning, I touch my three tattoos and say aloud a blessing of gratitude about having my third chance in life and about accepting myself and others as we are. Thanks to Beyond the Tent, I realize now that, for me, this is a deeply Jewish and spiritual ritual.

Ben L.: I used to tear it up at table tennis tournaments as a kid.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Ben D.: Passover, because there is so much relating to the holiday (I follow sephardic food rules so that I can still enjoy rice and lentils). I like to celebrate by re-interpreting the Haggadah from a post-modern perspective.

Ben F.: Rosh Hashanah. And I try to spend time back home to reminisce on the year prior and look at new ways to seize the future.

Ben R.: Purim because my friend is baking me hamentashen. Ask me again in April, and I may say a different holiday if a friend bakes me something else.

Ben L.: Havdalah. I like to hear the candle’s flame slowly go out in the wine. Judaism places a lot of emphasis on transitions throughout one’s day, week, or year and when in crisis, and I think that’s smart.

 

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

Ben D.: They will always find connection and meaning.

Ben F.: If meeting for the first time, you’ll probably get a first question like what you do for a living or where are you from.

Ben R.: They still congregate around the hummus.

Ben L.: You’ll never be the one with the best question or the best answer. That means it’ll be pretty exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Jourdi: Jewish Food-Instagramer of the Week

Food lovers rejoice! The amazing human behind @District_Foodie is ready to set down her plate, set aside her iPhone, and chat with a big fan (me) about her successful Instagram account, favorite Jewish foods, and why Bruce Springsteen holds a special place in her heart. Dig into this exclusive interview with Jourdi Tobias, AKA: @District_Foodie! WARNING: Food cravings may ensue – so, we encourage you to #treatyoself to a Valentine’s Day goody while reading.

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Jourdi: I went to University of Maryland – go Terps! And I got a job here after school, am from the area and have always loved it, so I wound up staying.

Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?

Jourdi: I love that it feels like a city, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. It’s been easy to find great friends and feel a part of the community, and I also really enjoy the food scene here.

Allie: So I hear you run a popular food Instagram account…..

Jourdi: Yes! One night, my friends and I were in New York and trying to figure out where to go out to eat. They were all looking at photos on Instagram to decide where to go. As someone who has always been passionate about trying new foods, and loves going out to eat, I realized that I wanted to be that person in DC who helped others figure out where and what to eat. So, I started a food Instagram account, District Foodie.

I was going out to eat and taking photos of the food anyway, so the account happened pretty naturally. The more I kept posting, the more popular the page started to be. Today, we have 15,000 followers! I think it’s been so successful because it’s food I actually try, and restaurants I go to and love, so everything is real!

Allie: Top 3 favorite DC restaurants?

Jourdi: Little Cocos – a really delicious Italian restaurant in Columbia Heights; Rasika – incredible Indian food; and Red Hen – also amazing Italian food.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Jourdi: Shawarma! I’d love a shawarma platter with everything – hummus, pickled onions, tzatzi, banana peppers, spicy peppers, and a pita on the side. I also am a big fan of potato latkes.

Allie: If you had a free day in DC to do ANYTHING you wanted, how would you spend it?

Jourdi: I’d start the day at a fun all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink brunch place, like AmBar in Eastern Market. Then, I’d walk around Eastern Market for a bit. After that, I’d head down to the National Mall and walk around the monuments. Even though I’ve lived in the DC area for most of my life, I still feel like a tourist every time I go see the monuments. I also would love to go to the Botanical Gardens because I love flowers. I’d unwind from the day with a nice dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant like Pineapple and Pearls, which I’ve never been to.

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself you’d like to share?

Jourdi: My mom went into labor with me at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

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

Jourdi: There should be food and drinks!

 

 

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.

DOUBLE FEATURE: Meet Mollie and Julie – GatherDC’s Newest Team Members!

So, we have a pretty exciting life update. Are you ready for it? Okay, here it goes.

This week, GatherDC is super pumped to announce that we recently welcomed not one, not three, but TWO NEW STAFF MEMBERS! “What? That’s crazy! Two people get to work at the coolest company in DC?! What are they going to do?” You may be asking.

Well, lucky for you, our brand new team members –Mollie Sharfman and  Julie Thompson – are here to give you insight into their roles, their lives, and world traveling. NBD.

Read on to get to know our amazing new staff members, and then be sure to say “HOWDY!” when you see them around Jewish DC.

Meet Mollie: Jewish Educator of the Week!

 

Meet Julie: Jewish World Explorer of the Week!

 

 

Meet Maxim: Russian Jew of the Week!

When he’s not running the amazing Jewish community group for Druzya DC: Jews of the FSU, hiking across Shenandoah, or working as an engineer, Maxim is…eating hamantaschen?! Get to know the founder of Druzya DC with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: I hear you helped start the group Druzya DC, tell me a little bit about this group and what motivated you to start it?

Maxim: Druzya DC was organized by two of my friends. We wanted to unite the Russian-Jewish community. I come from the NY/NJ area where the sense of the Russian-Jewish community is very strong. Growing up, if I wanted to find a Russian store, doctor, lawyer, or plumber – all I had to do was ask and the community would take care of the rest. When I came to DC, this sense of community for Russian Jews did not exist yet, and I wanted to create it. Two of my friends that founded Druzya DC with me eventually left to follow other life ambitions, but I continue to run it in my spare time. I love bringing people together. You can check out our Facebook page with events and details.

Allie: In what ways do you think Russian Jews differ from American Jews?

Maxim: If you know American Jews and Israeli Jews, Russian Jews would fit somewhere in the middle. American Jews grew up with the safety and freedom inherent in their country. Russian Jews grew up with anti-Semitism, government oppression, and The Gulag. Although many American Jews have not been tempered by these same experiences, they serve as great examples about how much you can achieve, while being Jewish. In politics and religion, I think many Russian and American Jews can be polar opposites. Many Russian Jews grew up after the monarchies fell and were replaced by a variety of socialist systems. They saw what these kinds of governments can do to people– and because of this – tend to lean right. They also differ on religion. Many American Jews believe in God and are religiously observant. In my experience, I notice that Russian Jews, who grew up in a country with no or little religion, are not as observant. Many see being Jewish as less of a religion and more of a culture with certain beliefs, spirituality, and traditions.

Allie: What do you love about the Jewish community in DC?

Maxim: Coming from a very large Jewish community in NY/NJ, it has been wonderful to be a part of a Jewish community in DC that is slightly smaller. This smaller size allows the people in it to integrate and become closer to one another. It’s nice to have a place where everyone knows each other, hangs out at events, and if they ever need something, I know someone who can help.

Allie: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

Maxim: Nature is my thing. I love getting lost in Shenandoah National Park; it is my home away from home. Nothing beats heading out into the deep woods, roasting something on a fire, and letting the sound of forest and nature engulf you.

Allie: What are you most excited about in 2018?

Maxim: New opportunities, new friends and new adventures! Life continues to move along, and we should enjoy every moment of it.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Maxim: I can eat Hamentashen all day!

Allie: What is your best piece of life advice?

Maxim: Never let life bring you down. Things happen, and you can’t control that. You should never spend your energy trying to control things. Instead, take the good with the bad and continue marching on. Sometimes, life events are like buses – if one comes that you don’t want or like, wait a little, and there will be another one in 15 minutes.  

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Maxim: With close friends

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

Maxim: …fun and music don’t stop until the light of dawn.

 

 

 

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 Evan: Jewish Mensch of the Week!

Evan is the kind of guy your Bubbe dreams you’ll bring home to Passover seder: he loves Debbie Friedman, Chicken Matzo Ball Soup, and playing Bridge with his family. He’ll also keep you on your toes with his expert Poker playing skills and not-so-secret obsession for White Ford Bronco concerts. Get to know this mensch (Yiddish for “person of integrity”) with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What motivated you to work in DC government?

Evan: I’ve always been interested in government affairs and understanding how politics and business can work together. When I graduated from the University of Maryland 8 years ago, I got a job at a trade association that represents the world’s 200 largest global companies in the US. Today, I’m breaking Millennial barriers because I’ve been here for 8 years.

Allie: What do you love about Jewish DC?

Evan: The DC Jewish community has given me so many platforms to find new friends in a city that’s very transient. It’s been such a blessing for me to build new relationships with awesome people across the city. It’s also pretty cool that in DC, if you wanted to, you could go to a Jewish event every single night of the week.

Allie: We hear you volunteer for the group JNFuture…tell me a little bit about that.

Evan: In 2011, myself and two friends – Corey Jacobson and Danielle Traub – created JNFuture in Washington, DC. JNF works to grow and develop Israel from all different angles – planting trees, ensuring water availability, building bomb shelters, etc. For four years, I worked with Mindy Reinstein to connect young professionals to JNF’s work. The highlight for me was planning Anchor DC for two years – a big Saturday night party on a boat along the Potomac River to celebrate JNF’s tremendous work on the water.

Allie: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Evan: Spain, because I’m working on my Spanish and because I’m a foodie.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Evan: I’m in love with Chicken Matzo Ball soup!

Allie: What’s do you like to do for fun in DC?

Evan: When its nice weather here, I love to grab brunch with friends in awesome outdoor spaces, and spend nights rocking out to 90s cover music with my favorite band White Ford Bronco.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Evan: My parents – they’ve created a wonderful environment bringing Judaism into our homes, and filling our lives with ruach. My parents hosted Shabbats regularly, never missed an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish holidays, and on Sunday mornings my mom frequently played Debbie Friedman songs.

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Evan: I’ve been a card shark my whole life. My father taught me how to play Bridge when I was in fifth grade. Today, I play a lot of poker and spades.

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

Evan: It leads to new friends and memories.

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 Rachel: Jewish Bicyclist of the Week!

Finishing the RAGBRAI at the Mississippi River

She rode her bike across Iowa. She hosts themed Shabbats. She volunteers for her temple. She writes for Petworth News. Is there anything the marvelous Ms. (Rachel) Maisler doesn’t do?! Find out with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Rachel: I’m originally from Jupiter, Florida, and came to DC after college because there were jobs. It was during a recession so those were hard to come by. And I wound up staying because I started to get involved with aging policy at the Department of Health and Human Services right before the Affordable Care Act was passed. I got to get both a front row seat of history, and got to actually help write history.

Allie: How did you become a DC bicyclist?

Rachel: I’ve always liked riding, and I eventually realized it was much quicker to get to work for me via bicycle than metro, so I started bike-commuting. I actually started a social media account called “View from the Handlebars” with pics from my commute. Then, I wound up getting involved with a group called “DC Jews on Bikes” that was created by past Jewish Girl of the Week Lisa Kaneff [Editor’s Note: Lisa started this group as part of her Open Doors Fellowship capstone project]. Lisa was so friendly and had so much energy that motivated me to get involved in the group. I loved it – we would ride bikes on Saturday at sunset, and then celebrate havdalah together.

Allie: What’s the coolest bike ride you’ve ever done?

Rachel: Last summer, I rode my bike across Iowa (411 miles) as a part of RAGBRAI.

Allie: I hear you do some pretty cool advocacy work in DC on behalf of cyclists, tell me a little bit about that. 

Getting sworn into the BAC with Council member Brandon Todd

Rachel: I was politically appointed to work on the DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) as a representative of Ward 4. The BAC is tasked with advising the city council with bicycle transportation matters, and I’m very passionate about finding ways for bicyclists to share the street. 

Allie: What are your goals on the Bicycle Advisory Council?

Rachel: To make sure that we’re aware of the barriers facing cyclists, and how we can continue to integrate cycling into our neighborhoods as a viable means of transportation and recreation. And to make sure we educate people about cyclists and safety.

Ball themed Shabbat during the World Cup

Allie: Tell me a little bit about how you stay connected Jewishly in DC?

Rachel: I’m part of a monthly Shabbat club, which is an amazing group of friends who get together one Friday a month. It’s been going on for 6-7 years now! Every Shabbat we have a theme, from using special ingredients like beer to making foods that are different colors of the rainbow. We always pick a “best dish winner” and said winner gets an amazing prize –  like a jar of gefilte fish.

I’m also a member of Ohev Sholom synagogue, which I love. There are a lot of incredible people there, like the Maharat – Ruth Friedman, who is an amazing ordained female rabbi. I’m part of the synagogue’s Tzedek Committee, which helps our friends and neighbors who need it.

Allie: What do you do as a part of the Tzedek Committee at Ohev Shalom?

Rachel: We do what we can to help those who most need it. Right now, we’re helping to resettle a family who immigrated here from Afghanistan. We recently helped a wounded warrior family for Christmas through the Operation Ward 57 program, and we coordinate our shul’s Good Deeds Day efforts – like making sandwiches, doing a coat drive, collecting school supplies, etc.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Rachel: My grandmother. She’s a Holocaust survivor and has been through more than anything I could ever imagine. But she wakes up with a smile on her face every day. She continues to be an inspiration, and is never afraid to tell her story.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax and destress?

Rachel: It’s always nice to go on a long bike ride with good friends on a great trail. Also, hiking in Shenandoah, or kayaking on the Potomac or Anacostia rivers. I also enjoy writing, and am a contributor to Petworth News!

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

Rachel: Anything is possible.

 

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 Truman: Jewish Matzah Ball Lover of the Week!

From WWOOFing on an organic farm in Texas, to working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to meeting his girlfriend on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat – Truman Braslaw has some fascinating life stories to share. Also, he really likes matzah balls. So if you know epic recipes for matzah ball soup – please share in the comment section 🙂

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Truman: I’m from California originally. After living there for a while, I had an itch for adventure. I wanted to move to a  new city, have new experiences, and reinvent myself. So, I moved to Texas and lived on my aunt’s couch for a while, and spent a few months WWOOF-ing on an organic farm. After that, I decided to move down to DC because I’d always been interested in politics. Since moving here, I’ve had amazing opportunities in politics – from working on the Hillary Clinton campaign, to interning at a local Think Tank, to now, becoming a staffer for Virginia’s House of Delegates member Wendy Gooditis.

Allie: What is the most challenging part of working in politics?

Truman: The path to winning can be pretty demanding – it takes a lot of administrative, non-glamorous work. But, when you have legislative success and make policy changes that will impact people’s lives – it’s totally worth it.

Allie: How did you get involved in DC’s Jewish community?

Truman: When I moved to DC, I went to a couple of the Moishe Houses – Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill. From there, I went to coffee with someone from GatherDC, which is how I wound up getting involved in the local Jewish community.

Then, I heard about GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat through a friend, and applied because I was interested in connecting to other young Jewish people. I didn’t know many other people who were going, but I wound up meeting a few amazing people who I’m still really close with — including my girlfriend of over a year now, Molly Cram.

Allie: What would be your dream day of fun in DC if money and logistics were no object?

Truman: I’d start at Open City for brunch and order everything on the menu – since I can never decide what to get. I’d take a few bites of each, and take the rest home as leftovers. Then, I’ll fulfill one of my long-standing dreams to take an open air bus tour of DC on a nice, sunny afternoon. Finally, I’d go somewhere relaxing, like Tryst, and reminisce on the wonderful memories of those experiences.

Allie: What is your Jewish food?

Truman: I’d have to go with matzah balls. Especially the kind when you pack them in so they’re really dense – that’s probably like one half of what I need in life. My dad makes really great matzah ball soup. My girlfriend Molly also makes some matzah balls that are pretty good – for vegetarian ones.

Allie: Any resolutions for the New Year?

Truman: One, learn to make my own matzah ball soup. Two, do what I can to contribute to finding justice in our society with all the racism and intolerance going on.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Truman: Sometimes, I’ll read statistics textbooks because it’s nice to focus on something completely different for a little, and it helps me figure out answers to so many types of questions. I also like doing ink drawings of weird, abstract shapes. And I love listening to Podcasts, like “Rationally Speaking,” “Freakonomics,” and “Rabiolab.”

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

Truman: People can find a place where they belong.

 

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.