Posts

Jewish Salsa Dancer of the Week: Abby!

Jewish community professional by day, salsa dancer by night. Get to know this aspiring meditation guru and BBQ loving foodie. She’s pretty cool.

abbyAllie: How did you decide to become a Jewish community professional?

Abby: I went to college thinking I was going to the best physical therapist ever, and then realized science was not my thing. Then, I went on a Birthright Israel trip and it changed my life. It made me realize that I’m passionate about the history of Judaism and what it means for the rest of the world. After that, I declared Jewish Studies as my major. (Working at The Jewish Federation,) I love getting people passionate about something bigger than themselves. If you love what you do and you get paid for it, it’s a win-win.

Allie: I hear you were a part of an a capella group at college…tell me about that.

Abby: I’ve always been into the performing arts. I did show choir in high school, and musicals have been a passion of mine. At college, I auditioned for the Jewish a capella group on (Ohio State’s) campus MeshugaNotes, and I was in that for all of college. It was nice to do something that I loved and sing in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We got to travel, and it was a great group of people to be with.

Allie: What kinds of hobbies do you do today?

Abby: I was a very hyperactive child, I played lots of sports, I did dancing, musicals, pianos, all of the things. I wasn’t trained in Latin dance, but we had a family friend from Mexico and when they would have parties that would turn into a dance fest. I love watching dancing shows, and I pick up (dancing) pretty easily. I tried to seek out (places to go dancing) in DC. There is salsa dancing somewhere every single day of the week. My favorite place to go is this place called Bachata Brunch. I love it. I go as much as I can. And it’s free, there’s no cover. Since I’m surrounded by the Jewish community all the time, sometimes it’s nice to have another community I can go to.

dancingAllie: What do you like most about salsa dancing?

Abby: It’s so freeing. It’s a workout so I don’t have to run on the treadmill and be bored. There’s loud music, and it’s fun – you can just get lost in it. It makes me feel fun and empowered.

Allie: Describe your dream DC day…

Abby: I still have so much of DC I have to explore. So I would want to find a brunch place I’ve never been to before, then go to a museum I’ve never been to before, you can see a pattern. I like having adventures and trying new things. My ideal day would be to have someone take me to places I’ve never been to before for an entire day so I could get a feel for new things.

Allie: What’s on your travel bucket list?

Abby: Oh yeah. I want to hit all 7 continents and all 50 states in my lifetime. I want to get to Antarctica by the time I’m 30 because it’s a really hard trip to do and you need a lot of energy for it.

Allie: What are you most excited about this summer?

Abby: I’m excited to staff another Birthright Israel bus. And I’m looking forward to getting a new Young Leadership Board at Federation.

Allie: What is your favorite smell?

Abby: I really like warm, woody smells like teak and mahogany. Any candles that smell like men’s deodorant is a really soothing smell for me. It’s a mellow, relaxing vibe.

Allie: Do you have a favorite dating app?

Abby: Funny story, my sophomore year of college they did a pilot program for Birthright Israel ambassadors, and the marketing agency overseeing the program was the same one David Yarus (the JSwipe Founder) was working at. He posted in our Facebook group “Hey guys, I’m launching this new dating app, tell me what you think.” I’ve actually used JSwipe a lot, because it kind of works. But I’m sort of taking a dating hiatus right now.

birthright bus

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

Abby: I turn off my phone and computer on Shabbat. It’s a hard thing to do when you’re constantly busy, but I’ve been doing this for almost two years now. It’s a really good mental break during the week. Everyone is so plugged in now, and there is this instant gratification when you get a message that is very anxiety driven.

So, I don’t have a designated place I go to on Shabbat, but turning off my phone is something I do every week.

Allie: How do you like to relax?

Abby: Realistically, I play a couple puzzle games on my phone, and watch some random videos on YouTube. Ideally, I love meditation. For me, it’s really easy to get caught up in what I’m doing. So anything that I can do to take a step back, take a deep breath, and be present. Like listening to music, or going to sit at a park overlooking the water. Something that is not me having to engage, where I can just be.

Allie: If you could eat 3 foods for the rest of your life what would they be?

Abby: Oh, this is hard because I’m such a foodie. I’ll say pulled BBQ meat, coleslaw, and blueberries. Or anything my mom cooks.

Allie: Any fun facts people may not know about you?

Abby: I just got accepted to a grad program at GW! The iCenter in Chicago is partnering with GW for the inaugural academic certificate program in Israel education. I just found out about this.

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

Abby: Miracles happen.

abby drinking coffee

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 the Israeli Bringing His Culture to DC

Meet Tzachi Levy. He is a Sabra through and through. (Sabra refers to a Jewish person born anywhere in Israel.)

He can trace his roots in Israel back 13 generations, and has lived on several kibbutzim. He loves Israel so much that he has devoted his career to sharing his appreciation of Israel–the history, the culture and people–around the world. Last year, Tzachi convinced his family to pick up and move to Washington, DC to serve as Senior Shaliach (Israeli emissary) at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

In this position, he wears many hats, all of them focused on bringing Israel to the DMV by educating American Jews all-thing-Israel through first-hand perspectives.

We sat down with Tzachi to learn more about what he’s doing to connect Washingtonians to Israel, and which American items took some getting used to!  

Kendra: Why are you passionate about bringing Israel to the DC community?

Tzachi: I’ve worked for almost 20 years with Jewish communities around the world and in Israel, from the Ukraine to South Africa to Pittsburgh. I find it fascinating that no matter where you are, you can find common ground with any community on the basis of Israel. Any Jewish person can find a way to connect to the Jewish homeland, whether it be through religion, culture, etc. Specifically in Washington, people are so politically minded and sometimes forget that the news only tells one story.  When it comes to Israel, I’m so excited to share an Israel that people can find a connection to, whether it be through food, culture, or social justice issues.

Kendra: So, you help run Federation’s Imagine Israel. Can you tell us more about that and how our readers can get involved?

Tzachi: Sure! Imagine Israel is Federation’s initiative to engage Washingtonians with Israel and Israelis through a variety programs. For example, Federation’s Changemakers Series brings dynamic Israeli agents of change to DC to lead conversations about how they influence and challenge Israel’s status quo and affect social change in Israeli society.

The next Israeli Changemakers event is April 24th and 25th. On the 24th there’s a FREE special night just for young professionals with the Changemaker, Joseph Gitler. He’s the CEO and Founder of Leket Israel, Israel’s largest food bank and food rescue network. I’m excited about this because food waste is becoming an issue many Washingtonians are starting to view seriously so it will be interesting to hear the Israeli perspective.

Also, our Imagine Israel Podcast connects listeners to a modern Israel through stories from Israeli influencers in the fields of social justice and civil society. It’s covered subjects like HIV, Food Waste, Education, Diversity, and much more. There are other programs under Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative, but…how much time do you have!?  

Kendra: What is the wildest difference between Israeli and American culture?

Tzachi: I see a LOT of differences between Israel and America.  I guess if I had to pick the most wild, it would be the differences in the driving culture. First of all, I don’t really understand why traffic lights need to stay on red when the junction is completely empty. There is no reason. Also, I now realize that a 4-way stop would never work in Israel… there would be lots of car accidents and shouts of “I was here first!”. Also, the concept of turning right on red doesn’t exist in Israel. I’m thinking it would probably increase the number of people in the hospital.

Kendra: What is something about Israel that you wish was in America?

Tzachi: This sounds weird, but I really miss the dish sponges in Israel called Scotches. Seriously. Every time that a friend from Israel visits the states, the only thing I ask them to bring is the sponges (see picture below).  I don’t understand how Americans, who care about germs, can stand to use the cheap, turbid sponges that mush the leftovers on the plate and do not actually clean anything.  

Kendra: Are there any funny stories from the Shlichim Program so far this year you’d like to share?

Tzachi: I don’t really understand why every time the shlichim are invited to an event, we are served falafel and Israeli salad. I really like American burgers. Why can’t we have burgers? BTW—all the shlichim feel this way, I’m speaking on their behalf.

Kendra: Any closing words?

Tzachi: Yes! Whether you have never been to Israel and want to learn more, or have been and miss it, Federation’s Imagine Israel initiative is designed for you. Come learn more about Israel, it’s culture and people. Hey, you may even get a new sponge!

Learn more about Tzachi Levy, Federation’s Imagine Israel’s initiative, and its upcoming programs here. You can get register for the upcoming Federation Young Leadership event with Israeli Changemaker, Joseph Gitler here. It’s free!

—————-

The above is a sponsored blog post. 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.

Aaron and Brian share about their experience on the DC Community Birthright Trip…and how you can go too!

Shorashim Bus 153 January 2014 091The second to last night of our Birthright trip, 40 of our new best friends were packed into a tiny hotel room in Jerusalem, reminiscing about everything we had done in the past 24 hours: all sleeping under the same Bedouin tent, riding camels through the Negev desert, floating in the Dead Sea, and fine-tuning our impersonations of our Israeli tour guide. We never expected to feel so close with people with whom only 10 days ago we were playing the name game.

Immediately upon landing in Ben Gurion airport when our trip began, we were greeted by our seven new Israeli friends who would accompany us for all 10 days of our trip. Though we were all exhausted from traveling, we immediately boarded the bus we would call home for the next 10 days and headed north for the Golan Heights. The next 10 days took us to places we’d dreamed of visiting: the Western Wall, Independence Hall, Yav Veshem, Tel Aviv,  and Masada. The days brought us experiences we never could have anticipated: being welcomed into Israeli homes and temples,  volunteering in Washington DC’s partnership city – Beit Shemesh, hiking through a desert canyon,  experiencing Israeli live comedy theater, and even meeting the Prime Minister of the country.

Shorashim Bus 153 January 2014 055We experienced the wonders of Israel as a group, and we also took time to reflect and discuss our feelings on what those experiences meant to us personally. Facilitated by our skilled and knowledgeable tour guide, Tzach, our group engaged in meaningful and personal discussions on what we were seeing, and how these experiences affected our spiritual and cultural identities. One of our favorite discussions asked us to select the most personally important aspects of what it means to be a Jew. Coming up with our answers, and hearing the perspectives of our American and Israeli friends made us more confident in our own Jewish identity, and reignited our intellectual curiosity around the Jewish faith and culture.

Going on a Taglit Birthright trip revitalized our passion for living a Jewish life. After being challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally during the trip, we feel a deeper bond with our culture and with each other. As we  look back on our Birthright experience, we realize that choosing Shorashim and the DC Community Trip has given us a continuing community in which we can grow and flourish. We feel a renewed pride in Jewish culture, and we strongly encourage our peers in the DC area to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover a deep, meaningful connection to Israel and the Jewish community.

Want to have an experience like Aaron and Brian’s? Birthright has expanded eligibility! Learn more about the DC trip by visiting www.shalomdc.org/birthright. Returning applicants are able to apply on February 18th  and new applicants on February 19th here.  Please contact Sara Weiner at sara.weiner@shalomdc.org or (301) 230-7266 with questions.

Elise Feldman discusses her amazing journey on a Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip and how to sign up for your own!

Untitled“AAAAAAAAAACHIM, ACHIM, ACHIM, ACHIM. SIMCHA, SIMCHA, SIMCHA, SIMCHA, SIMCHA!!!!!”

These were the words chanted together at Ben Gurion International Airport as 48 jet-lagged American Taglit-Birthright members met the seven Israeli participants and Israeli guide they would be traveling with for the next 10 days. The chant echoed through the airport as we all held each other and jumped around in a circle. I could feel all of our exhaustion from the flight fade quickly into excitement. We were ready to start our 10-day journey in Israel – little did we know that each day would bring a new understanding and emotion to the words, “Achim Simcha,” which means “Brotherhood and Happiness.”

That night, we each explained why we decided to embark on Birthright. Each of us came from a different Jewish background. Some formally practiced Judaism, others explained that while culturally Jewish, they did not celebrate the holidays or rituals, yet identified with being Jewish. These descriptions also applied when we learned more about the seven Israelis that were on the trip. All were young adults like us who had either finished serving in the IDF, or were still in the IDF.

We traveled to Jerusalem on Shabbat. Before we entered the passage to the Western Wall, our guide, Iftah, stated that some of us were probably the first in our families to reach the Wall. I am not religious, and I am fortunate to say that I did not lose any of my immediate family in the Holocaust. However, going to the Western Wall for the first time brought out emotions that I had no idea ever existed inside of me. As I stepped away from the wall with uncontrollable tears coming out of my eyes, my Israeli friend wrapped her arms around me and said, “You are home.”

Towards the end of our trip, we sat looking out at Har Herzl’s monument. Iftah said to us, “I know all of you have different ways of being Jewish. Some of you say you are ‘half Jewish’, culturally Jewish, you barely identify with being a Jew – but whatever ‘Jewish’ you are, hold on to it.”

After my Bat Mitzvah, I completely stopped practicing Judaism. I stopped going to services or celebrating the High Holidays. It wasn’t until this last year that I decided to reconnect with my Jewish roots and take this trip. I have never been more physically, emotionally or mentally challenged in my entire life than I was in Israel. I don’t think I have ever cried and laughed so much in 10 days.

Israel answered a lot of questions I had, but I left with three times as many. So, I am now excited to try and answer these questions. The trip made me think about my own country in a different way and appreciate some aspects a little more than I had before. It certainly made me appreciate Israel in ways that I never thought I could.

I now have a brand new family of 57 members, and we already have plans to celebrate Shabbat together soon. I also can’t wait to celebrate the High Holidays this year and feel the love and happiness that I remember feeling as a child. That is what Israel means to me. I will never be the same because of this trip.

………………

Want to have an experience with peers from DC like Elise? Then sign up for the DC Community Trip!

This winter, travel to Israel FOR FREE with fellow Washingtonians on the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Am I eligible?

  • Age 22-26 at the time of application (If you’re under the age of 22, visit www.birthrightisrael.com to find a trip that’s right for you!)
  • Have not previously participated in a peer-orientated Israel trip
  • Local or ties with the Greater Washington area

Important Dates:

There will be trips in November, January and February. Exact dates will be confirmed soon. Registration for the trip opens…

  • Monday, September 9 at noon for returning applicants
  • Tuesday, September 10 at 10:00 a.m. for new applicants

How do I register?
To register, please visit www.israelwithisraelis.com and choose the “DC Community trip.” From there, you will begin to prepare for an unforgettable experience.

Please know that the registration process can be very competitive and only remains open for about a week, so it’s very important to register on the opening date and pay your security deposit as soon as possible. Once Shorashim receives your application, they will move forward with processing it and scheduling an interview. Once this is complete, you will find out the dates of your trip and further details.

Have questions?
To find out more about the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip (sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington), contact Sara Weiner at 301-230-7266 or sara.weiner@shalomdc.org.

 

Converge with Our Community

Adrianne and the Spring 2013 NeXus cohort at the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes on Good Deeds Day.

Adrianne and the Spring 2013 NeXus cohort at the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes on Good Deeds Day.

Last fall, I got an itch to get more involved in the young Jewish community life of DC, but I really didn’t know where to start.  I asked friends about organizations that they are involved in, went to various events ranging from social to intellectual, and did some research on what I call the “alphabet soup” of Jewish organizations in DC.  A friend told me about NeXus, a program run by Young Leadership by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and that it would give me a window into the Jewish community. He said it would show me how to build a role for myself, and I decided to go ahead and sign up.

I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but NeXus is an amazing program!  Not only did I meet about 20 other similarly excited and motivated young Jewish adults, but I learned about how I could make a difference and rise into a leadership role in any organization that I chose to put my efforts towards.  We learned about how to tell our story to get others engaged and interested.  In one of my favorite sessions, we worked with adults with special needs on Good Deeds Day in March, doing arts and crafts and helping to make their day a little brighter.  We also heard from young leaders who are involved in Federation, a local Hillel, a social entrepreneur who started her own organization, and the CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.  They all urged us to be smart and engaged young leaders, and reminded us of the importance of being involved and active in our communities.

Because of what I learned, heard and experienced in NeXus, I decided to apply for and was selected to be a board member of a Jewish organization’s DC Young Professional Chapter where I will help lead my peers in support of Israel and Jewish relations with members of other faiths and ethnicities.  Without that push from NeXus, I may not have made that leap to apply in the first place. In addition to taking this step forward in my life, I also met 20 awesome new friends who I look forward to continuing to build relationships with!

Young adults in the Washington, DC Jewish community, have the opportunity to make an impact. NeXus is an interactive program that will teach you about the work of The Jewish Federation, further develop your leadership skills and introduce you to other leaders in the DC Jewish community. For more information and to register, visit shalomdc.org/NeXus. Spaces are limited and people have already started registering! Have specific questions? Need more information? Contact Jaclyn Gurwitz at 301-348-7354.

image002

The DC Alumni Leadership Mission and Why I Decided to Go

b1Applications for the NEXT DC Alumni Leadership Mission are now open.  Space is limited so apply here today.  Check out pictures from last year’s trip here.

I applied to the trip on a whim.  An acquaintance of a friend who I ran into on the metro one night mentioned in passing that the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington sponsored a trip for Birthright alumni to return to Israel.  The trip was solely for young professionals living in the DC area who had been on Birthright before and had an interest in impacting the DC Jewish community in some way.  At the time, I was on the cusp of connecting in a more meaningful way to my Judaism and felt pretty removed socially from the Jewish scene in DC.  I had just been on Birthright the year before and welcomed the chance to return to Israel, but I didn’t really know what the Federation was or what my impact in the community here might be.  That night though, when I got home and thought some more about the chance encounter, I decided to apply for the trip.

B2When I was accepted, I was shocked and slightly terrified.  I went to the first in-person, pre-trip meeting with hesitation and a little bit of anxiety – everyone but me seemed to know at least one other person well enough to be sharing inside jokes, referencing the same mutual friends and being involved in the same Jewish programs.  But once we got through the first awkward ice breaker, my trepidation was quite quickly replaced with awe.  I was sitting in a room with 25 people in their 20s and 30s, who were Jewish, and all within them some core connection to their faith that in turn drove them outward to connect with other young people and enrich the community that brought them together in the first place.

Before applying for the trip, I knew not a single one of them.  Now, we’ve carved out our own little sub-community, sharing Shabbats together, celebrating each other’s birthdays, and supporting each other’s work.  The beauty of the trip is that the end result leaves you with a solid group of friends and supporters who share the same interest in leadership and community and who live in the same city as you.  Upon returning from the trip, you create an “impact project” that does just that; impacts the DC Jewish community based on something you experienced or were inspired by in Israel.  In our group alone, we have a diverse mix of projects in the works ranging from a comedy show that fosters coexistence dialogue through shared humor to an online forum to recognize the vibrancy of community influencers.b3

The trip itself is also its own humbling and enriching experience – on our trip, we attended a conference hosted by the President of Israel, planted fruit-bearing trees alongside the families whose yards they were growing in, and helped open a bomb shelter turned youth center for an Ethiopian Jewish community.  We spoke to young Muslim, Jewish, and Christian girls involved in a soccer program together and heard from the leaders of a nonprofit aimed at fostering social entrepreneurship.  We rang in Shabbat outside overlooking the hills of Jerusalem, we visited an Israeli micro-brewery, and we engaged in a rich dialogue about coexistence and tolerance in Beit Shemesh with members of the Haredi community that I still remember as vividly as if it happened yesterday.  In short, we experienced Israel through the lens of the people who live, work, and lead there, and we were challenged to find new connections between who we met and what we can bring back to DC.

I was asked to co-lead this year’s alumni mission trip as a lay leader, an opportunity that this time last year I would not have even known existed, and one I am honored to take on.  I hope the words I write here and my experience of coming in somewhat as an outsider will encourage you all to apply for this year’s trip, which takes place in November and coincides with the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly.b4

Whether you went to Birthright in college, last year, or last month, apply.  Whether you feel disconnected from the young leadership network and aren’t sure how you’d fit in or whether you are already immersed in Jewish programs and activities, apply.  Whether you’ve been to Israel a dozen times since Birthright or none, apply.  And if you don’t really know what’s intriguing you about the trip but you sense something is missing from the way you’re currently experiencing the DC Jewish community, apply.

I went into the trip last year feeling very much like an outsider and not quite sure what I wanted to get out of it, and I emerged with a renewed appreciation for the community we’re in here in DC, and with a clearer vision of how I might play a part in it.  I hope you’ll find the same by taking a chance and applying to go on this year’s leadership mission.  You’ll have a whole community of people ready to welcome you.

Go to Israel for FREE this summer or fall with the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Two American Jews on his back... The camel don't care. He don't give...

Two American Jews on his back… The camel don’t care. He don’t give…

 

This summer or fall, travel to Israel FOR FREE with fellow Washingtonians on the DC Community Birthright Trip!

Am I eligible?

  • Age 22-26 at the time of application (If you’re under the age of 22, visit www.birthrightisrael.com to find the trip that’s right for you!)
  • Have not previously participated in a peer-orientated Israel trip
  • Local to or ties with the Greater Washington area

image002What are the perks?

  • Get on our VIP list for priority registration processing!
  • Greater chance of being accepted!
  • Enjoy exclusive pre-trip events!
  • Have direct access to your DC-based Birthright Israel staff!
  • Expand your local network!
  • Travel through Israel with Israeli peers during the ENTIRE trip!
  • Receive personalized follow-up upon your return!
  • The trip is FREE.

Important Dates:

There will be trips in June, August, and November. Registration for the trips opens…

  • Monday, February 11 at noon for returning applicants
  • Wednesday, February 13 at 10 AM for new applicants

image003How do I register?

To register, please visit www.israelwithisraelis.com and choose the “DC Community trip.”  From there, you will begin to prepare for an unforgettable experience.

Please know that the registration process can be very competitive and only remains open for about a week, so it’s very important to register on the opening date and pay your security deposit as soon as possible.  Once Shorashim receives your application, they will move forward with processing it and scheduling an interview.  Once this is complete, you will find out the dates of your trip and further details.

Have questions?

Interested in learning more? Join us Monday, January 28 at 6:30 at Drafting Table for a Birthright Recruitment Happy Hour!

To find out more about the Taglit-Birthright Israel: DC Community Trip (sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington) and get on our pre-registration VIP list, contact me at 301-230-7266 or at sara.weiner@shalomdc.org.

Jewish Guy of the Week – Max

Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Max: My amazing mother, she gets the credit.  I was born at Columbia Hospital for Women at 2425 L Street, and haven’t left since.  I grew up near Rock Creek Park and now I live in Logan Circle.  I’m a 3rd generation Washingtonian as well, so lots of love for The District.

Aaron: How did you get involved in the Jewish community?
Max: I was very uninvolved in the Jewish community growing up, outside of Jewish summer camp that is.  I had friends telling me left and right how amazing Birthright is, but I always figured I wasn’t religious enough or wouldn’t have anything in common with people on the trip.  Finally around thanksgiving 2011, I begrudgingly signed up for a Shorashim DC Community trip.  I figured I would just cancel the trip a week before once I figured out something better to do with those ten days.  I ended up going on the trip and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  There’s not enough room here for me to gush about how much I loved that trip.  Anyways, about 6 or 7 minutes after I landed, I got a call from the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (JFGW),asking if I would be interested in getting involved in the Young Leadership Community.  Well, almost a year later I’m Jewish Guy of the Week, so I guess I’m doing something right.

Aaron: What types of organizations are you involved with?
Max: As I said, when I returned from Birthright, I sat down with some folks from the Young Leadership at JFGW to get involved.  A quick side note on how amazing everyone at the JFGW is, especially Sarah, Sara, and Avital, and how grateful I am to have gotten involved with them.  So, from there the first thing I really got involved with was the planning for  the Reverse Mifgash.  From there, I’ve worked on several committees with the JFGW, and a couple of others.  However, what I have spent most of my time on is The Survivor Initiative…

Aaron: Survivor Initiative? Didn’t you guys just have a happy hour? How did that go?
Max: So, The Survivor Initiative was born when Rachel Gerrol came to me way back in the beginning of the year and told me she found out that there are over 200 Holocaust survivors in the DC metro area alone that are living under the federal poverty line and some of whom cant even afford to eat every meal.  Well needless to say, we decided we had a responsibility to do something about it.  A little while down the road, we had a fantastic committee of folks, who I cant say enough good things about, and a plan to raise awareness and some shekels.  Our inaugural event at the beginning of the summer brought together close to 200 people to hear from a survivor as well as some of our amazing partners at JSSA.  We raised $15,000 for local survivors and picked up a new slew of people to get involved with us.  From there, we helped organize training sessions for survivor volunteering and then recently put together a happy hour at Local 16 where over 180 people came out to show their support.  I heard from several people that they thought it was best happy hour of the year, so I think it went pretty darn well.  We are planning several big things in the near future and are super excited for whats to come!

Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Max: According to you guys, this week, its me. Seriously though, I would say my dad and grandfathers.

Aaron: What are you most excited for during Chanukah?
Max: Mom, if your reading this, I’m most excited for my eight presents.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Max: Why, at a Gather the Jews event, of course.

 

Jewish Girl of the Week – Deena

Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherdc.org.

Aaron:  Where did you grow up?
Deena: I’m a Washington DC native, born and raised.

Aaron:  Where do you live?
Deena: Aside from a 4 year hiatus in Philadelphia when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, I have lived on the red line my entire life (Van Ness, Tenleytown, Dupont Circle).  A year and a half ago, I moved to Columbia Heights.  It’s been great exploring different neighborhoods throughout the city.

Aaron: What was the last Jewish event that you attended?
Deena: I attended The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Charles E. Smith Leadership Retreat at Capital Camps.  It was an inspirational weekend where community members celebrated Shabbat together, learned about each other’s passions and philanthropic interests, and strategized how to create a vibrant Jewish community full of meaningful experiences for people with diverse interests and backgrounds.  I also just went to my cousin’s bar mitzvah in New York.  With 17 cousins under the age of 13, I dusted off the ole’ Coke and Pepsi shoes, which I’ll be using for many more celebrations.

Aaron:  What is your current job/passion project?
Deena: I’m a certified Project Management Professional Consultant by day and a Jewish community organizer by night.  I am passionate about social justice and I love helping people find their connections to others with shared values.  I am involved in a number of organizations, so let me know if you are looking for a group to get involved with.  Currently, I’m volunteering with the following:

  • Holocaust Survivor Initiative to raise critical funds for holocaust survivors in the metropolitan area.
  • ConnectGens Fellowship to transform Jewish social innovators’ ideas into ventures that engage, inspire, and support the Jewish community locally, in Israel, and overseas.
  • Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) Abraham Joshua Heschel Vision Awards to honor local social justice activists and raise funds to continue our critical work in the region.

Aaron: What is a fact that few people know about you?
Deena: My exposure to football was pretty limited during my ten years at an all girls school so, in an attempt to learn new things and connect with the football lovers in my life, I joined a fantasy football league this year.  I’m in 5th place so far!!

Aaron:  What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Deena:

  1. I co-founded the DC Rape Crisis Center’s Young Professional Circle, a group of local young professionals supporting critical services of the DC Rape Crisis Center through community building, education, and philanthropy.
  2. I directed the Baker Tilly Casino Classic fundraiser after only six months at the company.  This event was so successful that firm leadership decided to host the event as an annual tradition, showcasing our commitment to stewardship in the community.
  3. After participating in Jews United for Justice (JUJF)’s Jeremiah Fellowship, I applied the community organizing skills I learned towards chairing the Heschel Awards.  With great support from other JUFJ volunteers, we raised over 25% more than the previous year!  I’m even more excited for this year’s event.  If there’s one thing I can leave you with today, I’d encourage you to join me next Sunday, November 18!  JUFJ’s Heschel Vision Awards honor local leaders who follow in Rabbi Heschel’s footsteps, including Maryland Governor O’Malley and 3 others, for their work on Marriage Equality, Maryland Dream Act, workers rights, and other progressive issues.  I highly recommend what promises to be a fun and exciting night where you can meet leaders who you not only admire, but also can actually work with in our fight for social, economic, and political justice in the DC metropolitan region!

Make an Impact with the Second Annual Impact DC!

The second annual Impact DC is on Thursday, November 15, 2012, 8:00 p.m. at The Howard Theatre, 620 T Street NW, Washington, DC.  A $50 couvert and a $100 minimum gift to The Federation’s 2012 Annual Campaign and can be bought at shalomdc.org/impactdc.  Cocktail attire.

Young Leadership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is hosting a night that celebrates the next generation’s dedication to leadership, charitable giving and, volunteerism.  This is a generation of leaders who are shaping the future of our Jewish community.  Individually they make an impact; together they will change the world.

At this second annual event, Impact DC’s hundreds of attendees will have the opportunity to show how they make an impact in the community and will network and engage with other young adults who are making a difference in the Greater Washington area’s Jewish community.

Impact DC Co-Chair Andrew Friedson said, “An effective Jewish Federation is integral to a thriving Jewish community, and engaging young leadership is key to sustaining that strength. I’m honored to co-chair this event to celebrate our generation’s impact on the community today and to inspire continued and increased involvement tomorrow.”

“Impact DC serves as a platform to showcase our generation’s young leaders who are passionate about leaving a strong Jewish legacy. As co-chair, my hope is that through this year’s event, which will be held at the historic and newly renovated Howard Theatre, Federation will be able to embrace and inspire Jewish professionals with fresh ideas looking to strengthen their connection to our community,”  stated Impact DC Co-Chair Ariana Heideman.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington cares for those in need, deepens engagement in Jewish life and strengthens the bonds among Jews in the Greater Washington area, in Israel and around the world. With more than 42 local partner agencies, The Federation offers opportunities to make an impact in our community – whatever inspires you, the Federation has a program to help you make the world a better place.

Impact DC Co-Chair Jessica Sher concludes, “November 15th will be a night to celebrate what we, as a community of Jewish young professionals, have accomplished so far and challenge one another to continue to make an even greater impact. IMPACT DC recognizes those in our community committed to building a vibrant Jewish community through philanthropy.”