Jewish Guy of the Week – Eli

How long have you been in DC?
I’ve lived in DC for three years. I moved here from Israel, where I was on a fellowship at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I’m a Chicago native — West Rogers Park represent.

Why did you move here and why are you moving to Texas?
I moved here to work for the American Jewish Committee, where I most recently served as Assistant Legislative Director — the organization’s lobbyist responsible for foreign affairs issues. I’m moving to Texas next week to begin my next adventure, as AIPAC’s Area Director for Houston, Austin, South Texas, and Louisiana.

Will you miss DC?
I will miss DC tremendously. This is a phenomenal city, especially if you venture outside of the confines of Dupont and check out the myriad of fascinating people, places, foods, and other gems around town.

I’ll miss the energy of the Sunday drum circle at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park. I’ll miss exhausting, fulfilling days on Capitol Hill. I’ll miss the many people with whom I’ve built relationships over the past three years — I’m humbled to have worked with and learned from undoubtedly some of the most passionate, intelligent and eloquent individuals in the country.

 

Where do you currently live, and who is your favorite roommate?
I’ve lived at Moishe House DC for the past thirty-four months, working to build an eclectic, vibrant Jewish community based in Adams Morgan. And in that time, I’ve shared the house with 13 people, so it’s hard to choose — everyone with whom I lived brought something special and unique to the house. I suppose the safest answer is Potus, our 2-year old Husky mix. Appetite-wise, I’d say my favorites were Emi and MP, the Japanese electropop duo who fled Japan after the earthquake and stayed with us for a few months.  They are incredible chefs.

What has been your favorite thing about being Jewish in DC?
I’ve been inordinately fortunate to be part of the Moishe House movement – an organization that grants unparalleled resources and autonomy to the residents of its nearly 40 houses around the world allowing them to build welcoming Jewish communities as they see fit. Along with my housemates, I’ve been proud to offer creative and unique programming — whether slam poetry, home beer brewing, art gallery openings, text study about ethical kashrut, outdoor havdallahs, movie screenings about the punk rock community in Israel, Kenyan and Haitian Shabbat dinners, basil gardening, and more — that, for the most part, wasn’t being offered elsewhere, and for many young Jews in the area who, for a variety of reasons didn’t participate in “mainstream” Jewish offerings.

 

What does being Jewish mean to you?
Being Jewish to me has always meant, to paraphrase Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “praying with your feet.” I owe it to my parents — my mother, a social worker who helps children with autism, and my father, a ketubah artist — who immersed me in an environment rich in Judaism, community volunteerism, and a commitment to social, economic, and racial justice. I began my involvement with the Labor Zionist movement Habonim Dror at age 11, and began to lead Jewish and advocacy groups in high school, during which I travelled twice to Eastern Europe to trace my roots — and bear witness to the death camps and mass graves where my family was exterminated. I made a commitment then to devote myself to combating injustice and to work to safeguard Israel and the Jewish people.

Where will we find you during your last Shabbat in DC?
At my farewell party, from 10pm-3am this Friday, September 23rd , featuring one of DC’s most talented DJs – Danny Harris of Fatback DC and People’s District . All of you GTJ enthusiasts should stop by.

If you could live with any six Jews, who would they be?
While I don’t necessarily endorse their political or personal inclinations, I think it would be interesting to live with Theodor Herzl, Abbie Hoffman, Ernestine Rose, Arthur Szyk, Abba Eban, Ari Gold, and, to teach me how to be a true “Texas Jewboy”, Kinky Friedman. That would be a hell of a Moishe House.