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Meet Joe: Jewish Social Butterfly of the Week!

joe

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

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

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

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

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

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

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

joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Joe: The earth begins to quake!

joe

Meet Ari: Jewish Coffee Lover of the Week!

Before he departs our great city for the Grecian life this summer, Ari is someone you better get to know. He’s obsessed with coffee, dreams of taking a cross country bike ride, and cannot wait for his first DC Pride!

ari weinstein

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ari: I’m originally from Minneapolis and then moved to Boston. I just graduated a year ago from college, and my friend asked me if I wanted to move into an apartment with him in DC. I wound up getting a job at the EDCJCC’s GLOE.

Ari: What led you to your role with GLOE?

Ari: I had done a lot of different things related to LGBTQ programming and events. Most recently, I was involved in LGBTQ inclusion at the summer camp I grew up going to – Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. Working at GLOE was a really exciting opportunity to take my energy and excitement for LGBTQ inclusion and programming in Jewish spaces into a new capacity.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC.

Ari: I definitely know that I need to start with coffee. I’m addicted to coffee, and I used to work at Tryst which was very enabling. I’d go to the Hirschhorn for a while and get ice cream at some point. I love those electric scooters and would want to ride one of those. Sunset is my favorite time of day, so I’d go up to my rooftop with a cup of tea to watch the sunset.

Allie: I’ve heard through the grapevine that you’re actually leaving DC soon! Is this true?

Ari: Yes, I’m leaving DC in a couple weeks. I am going to Queer Talmud Camp in California, and then working at Camp Ramah. In August, I’m moving to Greece to work with an organization related to LGBTQ refugee assistance in Athens.

Allie: Before you say goodbye to the District, what’s on your DC bucket list?

Ari: I just checked off one of the things which was to go to Mama Ayesha’s, which was really good. I want to go to The Phillips Collection soon. On my life bucket list, I’d love to go on an extended, cross country biking trip.

Allie: For your last hurrah with GLOE, you’re planning a lot of fun events for DC Pride. Tell me about those.

Ari: This is my first DC Pride, which is exciting. I’m working on a bunch of things we’ll have going on throughout the week.

On Wednesday, June 5th, GLOE is co-hosting the Annual Big Queer Jewish Happy Hour in AdMo. You’re all invited and should come to that!

On Friday, June 7th, we’re having the National Pride Shabbat with Sixth & I and Bet Mishpachah.

Then, Saturday, June 8th is the big whammy day! At 11:30am – everybody should stop by GatherDC because GLOE is going to be having a bagel brunch here. It’s free, and open to anyone in the LGBTQ community and allies. Later on, we’ll have a poster-making event for LGBTQ families, then GLOE is meeting up with the RAC for an event in Dupont, and after that we’ll be marching together in the parade.

On Sunday, June 9th is the Pride Festival and GLOE will have a booth there.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Ari: I love Shabbat because of the regularity of it. It’s a reminder that you have to take a break in your life. I grew up observing Shabbat every single week with my family and the rhythm of this was ingrained in me. Finding a way to set aside time to celebrate Shabbat each has definitely been an adjustment as an adult.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Ari: There’s a lot of schmoozing!

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 Josh: Jewish Athlete of the Week!

josh

Josh and I go way back. We met at age 5 when he was my down-the-street neighbor, but sadly we lost touch over the years. Recently, we discovered the we work one block from one another and happily reconnected over a delicious cup of Philz Coffee. I was stoked to make Josh a “Jewish Person of the Week”, and loved hearing about his newfound passion for fitness, travel adventures, and dodgeball. Enjoy getting to know this mensch of a man!

 

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Josh: I grew up outside of DC, up the street from you! I went to school in Philly for undergrad and law school and then returned after that to start working at my current job at a big law firm. I’m your typical Jewish lawyer.

Allie: Did you do anything fun to ring in the new year?

Josh: I booked a last minute trip to Costa Rica. I went up to the mountains and did some zip lining, and white water rafting. It was a completely solo trip and the perfect way to get out of the bustle of DC.

Allie: What would your dream DC day be?

Josh: I’d definitely wake up early and go for a nice run along the mall. I’d treat myself to a hearty Bethesda Bagel breakfast, and then check out a few museums. I’ve also never been on a Segway tour and would love to do that. Then, I’d finish it up with a dinner on 14th Street. I’m a huge fan of trying new restaurants.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you like to celebrate it?

Josh: Well, Hanukkah is what the people want to hear. I do enjoy it a lot. It’s a nice festive time of year that is not heavily focused on prayers, but rather focused on having friends and family come together. I really just like any Jewish holiday that involves fried food.

josh volunteering

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Josh: My mom’s noodle kugel with raisins. Noodle kugel without raisins is not noodle kugel. It is just pasta.

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

Josh: In 5th grade, my parents helped me create a model of the Sydney Opera House. I was fortunate enough to travel to Sydney and see that opera house first hand, and got to check that off my list. Now, I’d love to go skydiving. As a former fat kid, I was always over the skydiving weight limit, and I think now I am under it and am eligible to go skydiving. I also want to go to Colombia and am looking for a travel partner. If anyone wants to come, please comment below.

Allie: I hear you are now a big runner, what motivated you to get into this?

Josh: In high school, I sat on my butt all day and watched TV. In college, I started going to the gym and really enjoyed it. I found running and exercise to be a great stress reliever. I recently finished my second half marathon and just found out that I got into the Chicago Marathon! I’ll be running that October 2019.

josh

Allie: What do you enjoy about running?

Josh: Running is just me, my headphones, and maybe some Lady Gaga. It’s such a great way for me to release stress, get around the city, and maybe one day I’ll run into the love of my life at a stop sign.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Josh: When I came to DC I joined the Nice Jewish Boys network. Without calling out these people by name, seeing how they interact with their friends, the love they give to newcomers to DC, and their willingness to open up their homes to those who want new friends – that warms my heart. I hope to be able to emulate them.

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

Josh: I’m a pretty good recreational dodgeball player. I joined the Stonewall Dodgeball League when I first moved to dc and really enjoy it. It’s been a really good way to meet people and relieve stress. As the last kid to get picked for the dodgeball team in elementary school, I am now shining in my glory days!

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

Josh: There’s always good food.

With my Stonewall Dodgeball team!

 

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.

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