Jason created a video in answer to the question of why he should be Jewish Guy of the Year:
1). GTJ: We hear you just got back from staffing a Birthright trip. Can you tell us something about it?
It was — and still is — great. We traveled across the entire country, including going to this amazing organic farm kibbutz in the south. It was the closest that I’ve ever been to the Gaza border. But like most Taglit-Birthright trips, the country is only half of the experience. The people that joined me were smart, fun, enthusiastic, brought their own wealth of knowledge, and they were incredibly friendly. I couldn’t have picked a better group of Americans and Israelis if I tried.
2). You said, “it still is great.” What does that mean? Did you stay in Israel?
It was actually a community trip organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, so we were all from the DC-metro region. I loved the concept of a community trip because the trip and friendships didn’t end on the 10th day. Since we have been back home, we see each other weekly — if not daily. A few people joined a DCJCC basketball team; we go to services together at 6th & I; two became roommates; a couple are dating; and we’re always getting together for HHs and other social events. Four of the participants even organized a Passover Seder that was attended by 35 people from our bus.
GTJ:. That’s a lot of brisket.
Yes, we had 25 lbs of it. And half had bacon in it.
3). How did you get involved with Birthright and The Federation?
I grew up in a secular household. I knew I was Jewish, but I didn’t know what it meant ‘to be Jewish.’
After I went on my own Birthright in 2006, I wanted to learn more about Israel and Judaism. I attended my first Federation event, a fund raiser photo exhibit, and made my first gift that night. I didn’t know what Federation was exactly, but I knew they supported Birthright financially and I thought it was a small token of thanks for just going on a free $3,000 trip to Israel. I stayed passively involved for a couple years, while I was finishing my masters at Georgetown, and then I became a fellow at the Embassy of Israel in DC. There I met GTJ co-founder, Stephen, and a bunch of other great friends. I started to feel part of the Jewish community – not just locally but globally. This opened the door for me to go back to Israel on a Federation sponsored leadership mission for Birthright alums, which was my tipping point onto the Young Leadership Board of Directors. The whole experience has been incredibly rewarding – personally and professionally.
Some friends and I created a mentoring program in The Federation called ConnectGens, where connects generations within our Jewish community. We launched it in January, as a sub-committee of Federation’s The Network program, and we have high hopes of taking it to the next level. We’ve had a couple events but we’re still beta-testing it to learn from the experience before scaling it up at the start of the Jewish New Year. When I first moved to DC, I had no idea how to get involved. I didn’t know who to reach out to or what organizations to support with my time and/or donations. I hope this program can help a few people with that; and while doing so, also give them someone to guide them professionally. My mentor is awesome. We actually are working together now too. I’m learning a lot from him. Beyond ConnectGens, I’m going to The Federation’s Annual Meeting on June 2nd where David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, will be speaking. After that, I’m thinking about participating in a young professionals inter-cultural and inter-religious program in Berlin for American Jews, German Muslims, and Christians from Israel.
5) Any final words or thoughts about being the GTJ Guy of the Week?
Two of my friends broke the mold last year when they collectively were the Jewish Girl of the Week. So if Jane and Yael can bend the rules…so can I. Therefore, as my first order of Jewish Guy of the Week, I am nominating my Birthright Bus, Shorashim 240, to be the first GTJ Taglit-Birthright Bus of the Week.