Mitzvah Maker – Elie

What led you to Adas Israel Congregation?
After graduating college I moved to Israel for six months to do some soul searching. While there, I decided I wanted to pursue a job in the Jewish community once I returned to the States. Coming from Israel where I was surrounded by Jewish people and culture, I felt a strong desire to do my part to re-create that feeling for the youth and young adults of a Jewish American community. Adas Israel seemed like a perfect fit – Washington is a great city with a large young Jewish population, and I wanted to take advantage of that. I started at Adas six years ago as a youth and family program director, and now that position has evolved into focusing more on the lively DC Jewish young adult scene, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

We heard you had your wedding at Adas. What was that experience like?
Yes indeed, I got married at Adas three years ago August. What can I say? It was an amazing experience. We don’t have much family in town, but relatives from all over the country and from Israel flew in for the long weekend to celebrate with us. Holding the ceremony and reception at Adas definitely made planning slightly easier than it would have been, and the best part about it was that on that night, I didn’t feel like we were in the Adas Israel building at all. As soon as our guests started arriving and the cocktail hour began, I could have been anywhere. And in case anyone is interested, if a couple meets at an Adas young professionals event, they can get married at Adas free of charge! Any takers?

You’ve been very active in Adas’s community service efforts. Tell us about them.
Adas Israel’s young professionals group has spearheaded a number of social action programs in our community. Additionally, our youth programs at Adas Israel have a strong focus on tikun olam and tzedakah. In general, I always try to incorporate several tikun olam events into our calendar year. For example, we organized an event called Soups for Soupless where YPs came together for a lesson on how to cook chicken soup, which was then donated to a local shelter. We’ve hosted concerts that had a food drive component: each person that brought a can or cans of food received a discount on their tickets. This event brought in over 100 pounds of canned food! Last year, we co-sponsored an event with Yachad, a DC Jewish nonprofit committed to affordable housing and community development. Some 30 young professionals came out to rehabilitate an old northeast DC building, which houses an exceptional local nonprofit organization called STRIVE DC. I am always looking for new innovative and meaningful ways of using our programs at Adas to better the world, one project at a time.

What new initiatives can we expect to see?
The YP program recently started a couples division of the larger group. Last Saturday night I organized a YP@AI (Young Professionals at Adas Israel) Couples Club event. This club is a smaller group within YP@AI created last year for couples to come together and meet new couples in the community. A bunch of young Jewish couples went to see Idan Raichel and India Arie perform at the Strathmore music center. The show was great and there were a lot of new faces.  This year you can expect to see it expand with new events and hopefully a larger crowd. Last year, Adas also started a Friday night service and monthly dinner program called Shir Delight. The program is starting up again the first week of November (Nov. 4, 2011) and will be held the first Friday of every month after that. We kick off the evening with a happy hour oneg followed by lay-led services and a nice catered Shabbat dinner. If you haven’t tried it yet you should definitely give it a shot…I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I am also working on year two of Kol HaOlam: the first ever national collegiate Jewish a cappella competition. Last year’s program was an overwhelming success with over 900 people in attendance and we’re expecting to double that this coming year (Editor’s Note:  This was seriously AMAZING. Click here to listen to the songs).  I basically have at least one Jewish event  going on every week – we are always doing something at Adas!

Where can we find you when you’re not at work?
When I’m not working, I spend my time with my beautiful wife, Samara, either cooking, hiking, or working on projects around our new house. We’re in the middle of a major renovation downstairs and we’re doing most everything on our own. We’ve become very skilled at knocking down walls! I also play my guitar and record in my studio as often as I can. Samara and I just last month adopted a cat, Boris, so lately we’ve been kickin’ it with him in our spare time.