Guy of the Week – Jordon

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
A bus ticket from New Jersey that cost me $1. Literally.  The ads don’t lie! Currently, I am working as a Research Assistant at a small non-profit called the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.  We are all ecstatic to watch the first-ever Saudi women compete in the London 2012 Olympics over the coming weeks.

Aaron: How does the DC biking fare to that of New York?
In New York, the bike lanes are essential, but cars still tend to neglect your existence.  Thus far, I’ve only had one minor duel with a DC taxi driver.  I was riding along a one-way street and this guy drove up awfully close to me, causing me to lose my balance and fall into the window of a parked car on my right.  I ended up bouncing off the window, while losing a decent amount of skin near my right elbow.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Jordon: I am very new in this community so my approach has been to seek out a different Jewish crowd every week.  I have yet to pin myself down to any specific scene and I try my hardest not to do repeats, so if anybody has any ideas that fall outside the following list please let me know: 6th and I, Metro Minyan, Chabad GW, Swann House, some bearded dude named Jeff’s basement…

Aaron: What happens when Jews Gather?
Phish shows.

Aaron: So you’re a Phish Phan.  Which scene in DC are you fanatical about?
Definitely U Street on a Saturday night: the dancing at El Centro, the bass amps at Patty Boom Boom, and the hipster crowd at the U Street Music Hall. And Wild Nothing has been the soundtrack to my summer.  I have actually had their song “Live in Dreams” on loop for weeks.

Aaron: What are your favorite DC Jewish activities?
Jordon: The free ones (I’m on a student budget).  Recently, I participated in a thought-provoking, discussion-based class entitled “Jewish Philosophy After the Holocaust” at the JCC.  In the latter class of the two-part series, we focused on issues of memory in its role of “recreating” the Holocaust.  We explored whether the mass-producing of Holocaust memories (think “Schindler’s List,” the Holocaust Museum) trivializes, or cheapens the Holocaust.  As with many things in life, we are faced with the perpetual challenge between sustaining the original quality of something, and disseminating it to as many people as possible.  Yes, we should opt for both, but one is eventually going to have to budge.  In this case, I believe that the imperative to educate as many people as possible outweighs the secondary concern of trivialization.  I also love walking to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on Shabbat afternoons, and driving up to Rockville on Wednesday nights only to discover that the sushi chef is sick (hopefully not from his own sushi).

Aaron: Who was the first DC Jew that you met and what did they tell you?
Recent Jewish Girl of the Week Shoshana Weider.  I was at Chabad DuPont for my first Shabbat, and Shoshanna told me “I looked lonely” and then proceeded to gather me in.

Aaron: What makes your Jewish mother proud?
Jordon: My mother is very proud that I’ve made a great group/groups of friends down here in such a short amount of time.  I have also picked up a great degree of her culinary expertise.

Aaron: So your mother is a gourmet chef. How come you are in such great shape?
See answers to questions #2 and #3.

Aaron: Any chance of you following in her footsteps, career wise?
Jordon: Maybe.  I love to cook, but, ever since I was a little boy, I have had this dream to become Executive Director for Gather the Jews.  I could see myself pursuing both careers at some point in the near future.

Mitzvah Maker – Malka

Malka Phillips has been the Young Professional Coordinator at The Shul (Chabad) for the last two years.

Join Malka at TheSHUL’s Young Professional dinner for her last Shabbat in DC

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Actually, it was the M Street bridge over Rock Creek Park. When I was teaching in Austin in 2009, I received an award from the Grinspoon-Steinhardt foundation, and as a result I was invited to participate in that year’s GA… which happened to be in DC. At the time I was looking to move further east to be closer to my family, and during the taxi ride from the airport to my hotel, I became completely enamored with the fall colors and beautiful stone bridges in Rock Creek Park. So I decided to move to DC. True story.

Aaron: What is your favorite thing to do in DC?
That’s actually a hard question to answer, because I’m forever stumbling across cool things and saying to myself/friends/random passers-by, “This is awesome/gorgeous/fascinating! I’m totally going to come back here a dozen/hundred/thousand times and spend hours/days/the rest of my life exploring/sitting/doing tai chi here!” And then I never go back. Oops.

But my favorite place in DC is the World War II memorial at night. Absolutely mesmerizing.

Nope, not my cousins - my siblings!Aaron: We heard you keep Shabbat and kosher…why?
[Laughing] I keep a bit more than that!

Seriously speaking, though, when people ask me if I was raised religious or chose to be religious, I always answer, “both”. My upbringing and therefore de facto lifestyle was Chabad, but when I was nineteen I sat down and very seriously thought about what type of life I wanted to lead, and how much, if any, religious observance it would include. Have you ever seen those toy balls that have a string attached to a wrist band? You throw them as far as you can, and they always bounce right back to you. Well, I envisioned dozens of different paths that my life could take, but every single one eventually led back to a Torah lifestyle. I realized then that my Judaism is the most integral and precious part of my life, and moving away from it would be trying to run from myself. I also realized then that Judaism and my relationship with G-d imbues my life with an irreplaceable purpose and meaning that I’d be a fool to throw away. So yes, I’ve always been religious – but I also chose to be so.

Aaron: What is the best part about being Jewish?
Everything has meaning. Judaism teaches that nothing is random, nothing “just is”. If the world came to be through a bang, then maybe it’s all one cosmic accident. But if G-d created the world, there’s a significance to every leaf on the tree and a purpose for every ant on the sidewalk. And then there’s our part in it – the words we choose to say, the food we choose to eat, the places we choose to go, the lives we choose to live – we’re given the ability to literally change the world by imbuing it with goodness and holiness.

Aaron: What was your favorite DC Shabbat?
Sophie’s Choice?!

Aaron: What is your favorite quote?
“I don’t say we all ought to misbehave. But we ought to look as if we could.” – Oscar Wilde

I get a kick out of shattering people’s preconceptions of what my Chassidic life is like – the inevitable “Wait, you do that?!” moment when I mention NHL games, the firing range, or backpacking Ireland. Yes, it’s possible to live a fun and adventurous life while following all the rules! And no, we don’t have arranged marriages.

Aaron: If you could spend the day anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to visit the northernmost edge of Scotland. It must be stunning up there, all rugged natural formations, desolate hamlets, and blustery wind… and according to the O2 map, excellent cell phone service.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
I’ve actually only got one more Friday night left in DC… but it’s going to be an amazing one! Chabad is having a Young Professional Shabbat Dinner on August 3rd – whether you’re a regular or if you’ve never been, it’s a great week to go! Think four courses of delicious home-cooked food, dozens of fascinating young Jews (like yourself!), a warm and inviting environment, inspiring words by Rabbi Shemtov… you definitely want to be there. Seriously, go sign up now.

Aaron: Where are you headed to now?
Well, I spun a globe, and it landed on London! I’m going to spend a few months there drinking tea, minding the gap, and starting queues in random places. If I have any time left over, I may also visit the various Chabad institutions and Jewish communities and decide whether I’d like to settle there.

Aaron: Finish this sentence.  The Jews of DC…
 …are awesome. It was amazing to be a part of such a warm, welcoming, and involved community of young Jews. Stay wonderful, and remember – there’s a full Kiddush lunch at Chabad every Shabbos after davening! You know you want to be there!

Guy of the Week – Alex

Aaron: What initially brought you to DC?
Alex: Originally, undergrad studies at George Washington University. I was studying international affairs with a focus on development, but I ended up spending the vast majority of my time off-campus involved in some wild and crazy ventures and initiatives. Still, GWU was a good place to spend four years. One of the best parts was the Chic-Fil-A in our dining facilities. One of the worst parts was Chic-Fil-A leaving the facilities a year after I arrived.

Aaron: What are some of the advantages of living in DC?
Alex: In addition to the ever-growing population of food trucks I really like two things about DC. Both are super-cliche. The city is ultra-walkable (and now there’s the awesome bike-sharing program too!) And secondly, there really are a crazy amount of opportunities to learn about the world and meet leaders of all kinds. I thought my college’s admission’s slogan of “Something Happens Here”, was incredibly vague, but turns out it’s true.

Aaron: During the hours of 9-5, what are you paid to do?
Alex: Every day I get to work with and support incredibly ambitious and capable student entrepreneurs through the nonprofit I run, Compass Partners. The Compass Fellowship manages full-year on-campus programs at 15 universities in the United States (with a program in Sweden as well), supporting over 250 young social entrepreneurs this upcoming school year alone. I’ve been involved with Compass for a while (originally as  Mentor when the GW chapter started), and I’m lucky to be running the organization at-large now. It’s a daunting job but exhilarating. If anyone wants to connect up with our community, please do!

Aaron: What is the coolest project that you have worked with thus far?
Alex: I was fortunate to be involved in a great initiative connecting young social innovators with their peers in the world of next-generation philanthropy through what has become The Nexus Global Youth Summit. We led and supported gatherings at the White House, UN, and elsewhere focused on building bridges between diverse groups of amazing young leaders. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Aaron: When was the last time you were in Israel? 
Alex: A little over a year ago I traveled with a group from New England. The purpose of the trip was to get exposed  to leadership and diverse opinions from business, government, military, civil society, and beyond. Needless to say, it was action-packed and eye-opening.

Aaron: What was your favorite memory?
Alex: Practically every memory of that trip was “once-in-a-lifetime”, but one particularly amazing day started in a settlement and ended in the Palestinian Prime Minister’s office. As I said, the purpose of the trip was to get exposed to as many aspects of Israeli life and society as was possible in a little over a week. We started one of the days in a settlement talking with the leading spiritual head of the settlement movement and hearing his explanation of the movement, which was fascinating in and of itself. Immediately afterwards, we hopped on a bus and eventually found ourselves in extended conversation with Salam Fayyad about the importance of economic development in Palestine. I imagine the likelihood of these two people talking with one another is very slim, and we were able to connect directly with each on the same day.

Aaron: When are you going back?
Alex: No idea, but not soon enough.

Girl of the Week – Shayna

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
I’m from Southern Oregon and went to school in Washington State. I was living in Milan (Italy) after graduating college. I wanted to figure out whether to be a social worker or a teacher, so I joined AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps to help me decide. I fell in love with the city, so I stayed, and I’m now a preschool teacher at the DC JCC. I’m also getting my masters in early childhood education from UDC, so I don’t plan on leaving any time soon.
Aaron: What do you love about teaching?
Everything! I love that preschoolers learn through play. My workday is full of laughter and hugs, and I get to go to thepark every day. Best of all, I know that what I’m doing is helping to shape the life of someone who will make a difference, because I’m making sure that part of what I teach is that it’s their job to help make the world a better place. What could possibly be better than that?

Aaron: What is the best part about being a Jew in DC?
We have a vibrant, young community here. I was raised Jewish Renewal, and my favorite Jewish events in DC are theShabbatlucks a bunch of Avodah alums started hosting. There’s a tight-knit group of us who rotate houses and hosting duties. We’re starting to put together our own siddurim full of additional songs and prayers and readings that have meaning for us. And a lot of people we invite ask to join us the next time we get together, which is always a nice feeling. Plus, the food is delicious. Naturally.

Aaron: What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m already living the dream.
Aaron: Who is your favorite DC Jew?
 I’m a big fan of the Avodahniks in town. But I’m a little biased about that.

Aaron: What is your favorite summer activity?
Ultimate Frisbee is my favorite year-round activity, and summer is a great time to play. I also slow down my half-marathon training in the summer and go hiking in Rock Creek Park on the weekends. The shaded trails are fantastic for beating the heat.
Aaron: Finish this sentence:
When the Jews gather…
there will be food and adult beverages.

Guy of the Week – Matt

Aaron: Mazel Tov on your engagement. How did you propose?
Matt: I had some help from some friends at the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office, where I clerked during spring (I’m in law school). My kallah, Sumi, and I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival and ran into a “stranger”—Henry—who asked Sumi to sit down so his art student girlfriend could draw a portrait of Sumi in front of the Washington Monument. Henry then told Sumi that the portrait would be better if she wore a funny hat and a feather boa. Sumi did not even notice that I was on one knee next to her when I said, “I think the portrait would look better if you wore an engagement ring.” Sumi was so surprised when I asked her to marry me that she responded with “Yes, of course! Wait, is this a joke?” Hilarity ensued.

Aaron: Who was the first person you told about being engaged?
Matt: There was actually a big group of friends from Kesher Israel and the Public Defender’s Office around when I proposed so I guess they were the first to know. After that we called both our families. Everyone was super excited for us, and Sumi’s mom told me about the importance of marriage as a commitment to her family.

Aaron: What is it like being engaged?
Matt: It is a lot of work planning a wedding and sometimes Sumi and my mom feel the need to ask my opinion, which forces me to pretend to care about the specifics. Honestly, I’m more interested in being married than getting married. On the other hand, it should be fun—we are thinking about a Rudyard Kipling-themed wedding because we have photos of ourselves with nearly every animal in The Jungle Book (yes, even tigers).

Aaron: We heard you were in law school. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Matt: When I was in fourth grade, I taught a class in “How to be a Lawyer” based on my extensive experience watching “Perry Mason” and reading You be the Jury. With one year left until I take the Bar, I can honestly say that I am closer than ever to achieving my lifelong dream. When I was really young, I wanted to be either a secret agent or a clown. I often unintentionally make people laugh during legal meetings so I guess I am in the ball park of the clown profession.

Aaron: If you could invite two famous Jews to your Shabbat table, who would they be?
Matt: My first choice is our man in Damascus, Eli Cohen, who was an Israeli spy in the 1960s, because he had really interesting life story that met a tragic end. He convinced the Syrians to plant trees next to their forts in the Golan Heights ostensibly to provide shade to the soldiers. In reality, the Israeli Air Force used the trees as targets during the Six Day War. Cohen was pretty ingenious and was third in the Syrian government before counter-espionage caught him transmitting information to Israel. I would also have Joshua and Caleb from the Torah at my table because they began Jewish espionage by spying on the locals before the conquest of Canaan. The group could trace the evolution of Jewish espionage from the Land of Canaan to the recent past.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Matt: Definitely Purim. Who doesn’t like drinking, dressing in funny costumes, and laughing at crazy shpiels?

Girl of the Week – Jen

Aaron: Mazel Tov on your engagement. Who is the lucky man?
Jen: Thanks!  The lucky man is my awesome fiancé, Yoni! If you didn’t meet him at last November’s Israel party, we hope to do another one before the summer is over.

Aaron: What can we expect at your wedding in Israel?
Jen: Well, first of all, if you’re in Israel at the time (October), you can probably show up…it’s going to be a big wedding. Yoni’s family takes up about two villages! It will (hopefully) be a very fun wedding, with lots of dancing and music and food and love! Also, because Yoni’s family is originally from Yemen, we are going to do a Henna ceremony, so you may see a picture of me on Facebook at some point wearing a very interesting costume with henna on my hands…

Aaron: What is your favorite part about being Jewish?
Jen: I actually enjoy both the intellectual/philosophical/spiritual part of being Jewish and the fun cultural aspects. I relate to Judaism as a menu of options from which I can choose the things I believe will best enrich my life. So, for example, even preparing to get married, as I’m doing now, is pretty amazing in itself, but when you add the Jewish philosophical and spiritual perspective, it can add a layer of richness to what is already a beautiful thing. I also love some parts of Jewish culture — I think Jewish music and art are both beautiful, and certain traditions, like the Mimounas I went to in Israel (Moroccan end-of-Passover parties), just make life more fun. So, my favorite parts of being Jewish involve having access to a specific perspective from which to think intellectually and philosophically about life, and also to simply have fun!

Aaron: Favorite DC moment?
Jen: Hmmm, well, I grew up here, so I have had many DC moments, but I particularly enjoy the open embassy weekend when I can visit all the embassies. In general, I also love going out and being able to discuss international affairs or politics as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Aaron: Where can we find Jen on a typical week night?
Jen: Well, for the past two years, you could have found me studying on the eighth floor of the SAIS library. But, now that grad school is over, I’m trying to get back to dancing! I’ve been a dancer since I was three, and my  past two years of grad school were the first time that I had almost completely neglected dance. So now, my body is yelling at me to pay attention to it after so long, so hopefully, you’ll find me in the dance studio taking a  ballet class instead of the library these days!

Aaron: Tell us about your cool SAIS life/friends?
Jen: Haha. Well, SAIS life was both wonderful and slightly exhausting — I just graduated this past May with my masters in international relations (concentrating in Conflict Management and Economics). In order to get to that point, I spent the past two years with a brilliant group of students at SAIS (the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies) where I had some of the best intellectual experiences of my academic life. As someone who has always traveled, learned languages, and been a little obsessed with what was going on in international politics, I knew I had found “my people” when I walked out of the library to take a phone call in French, and was surrounded by tons of other people doing exactly the same thing in all of their languages.

Guy of the Week – Roey

Aaron: Finish this sentence, DC Jews are…
Roey: …onto some truly terrific ideas, and it excites me to imagine how the DC Jewish scene (and  others) will look like five years from now as a result of their efforts.

Aaron: We heard you hack computers, is that true?
Roey: Only for the powers of good though!

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Roey: Probably at Sixth & I.

Aaron: What is the best part about being Jewish in DC?
Roey: There is such a big framework of Jewish programs and events here, even non-Jewish friends seem already familiar with Jewish culture and concepts.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Roey: Pesach, because my family traditionally holds large Seders with friends from diverse backgrounds.  We go around the room reading the Haggadah in many different languages.

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew in DC?
Roey: In the aftermath of the recent storm, I’d say probably me, since unlike the rest of the area, my apartment never lost power.  But really, the coolest Jews are those who really invest themselves in their causes, like the folks behind Gather the Jews (editor: “win!”), Moishe House, and the Lone Soldier Project.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish food?
Roey: Falafel.   Every Israeli will tell you that the best falafel in Israel is on their street corner (but for the record, the best falafel in Israel is Kaduri’s on Ramatayim Street in Hod Hasharon).


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Girl of the Week – Dina

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Dina: Let’s just say I didn’t travel too far! I am originally from Maryland and I went to University of Maryland for my undergrad degree.  Now I’m living in Bethesda and I love it here.  My family is close by and it’s great that I get to see my nephews, Ben and Josh, and my niece Ava.

Aaron: As a teacher, do you have a favorite student?
Every year I have a new class and there are new favorites. They are your favorite because they are really cute, smart, funny, ridiculous, or just plain awesome.  It’s hard to say I have one favorite student the whole year. Each kid is unique in their own way and that’s how we make up Miss Manevich’s class. I will say this though; I had a lot of fantastic kids in my class this year but there were probably 7 that could be described as favorite.

Aaron: Has anyone ever brought you an apple?
Dina: As a teacher you get lots of presents, some expected and some not expected.  I have received many different types of apples from my students. It’s usually the students you don’t expect anything from who are the ones that bring you apples. They always have the biggest smile on their face when they are handing it over to you. I’ve also gotten flowers picked from the ground on the way to school, lots of candy, drawings, toys, and books. My favorite present I got this year was a picture my student drew of me eating at California Tortilla because it was her favorite place to eat. She did such a great job that I have it hanging in my apartment!

Aaron: What are your summer plans?
Dina: Well school is out and I should be traveling the world, right? I’m currently taking some grad classes till mid July, and then I’ll be hanging out in Bethesda and DC. You will probably find me at the pool or playing with my nephews and niece during the day and at night enjoying happy hours or spending time with friends. One of my favorite summer activities is attending Jazz in the Garden on Friday nights! It’s a nice way to start the weekend and be with friends.  Later in the summer I am going on a cruise with some friends to the Caribbean.

Aaron: During the year when you are not teaching, what could we find you doing in your free time?
Dina: One thing you may or may not know about me is that I LOVE to dance! Growing up I took different types of dance classes. You would always find me taking tap, jazz, ballet, and sometimes modern. I’ve also tried ballroom dancing and Latin dancing. Currently you will find me dancing at the gym or Joy of Motion because I’ll be in a Zumba class. I started Zumba almost 3 years ago with my roommate Courtney, and I have been going ever since! I recommend everyone to try it because you do not have to be a dancer to do it; you just have to know how to have fun!


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