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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!

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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.