Jewish Guy of the Week – Rich

What brought you to DC?
During the summer before my senior year of high school, I interned for a local open-seat congressional campaign and fell in love with politics and public service. The candidate pulled out a squeaker, 51-49, and after college I came out to DC to work in his congressional office.

Despite what people think, we at GTJ like to talk about religion and politics. How are you involved in US politics?
Remember that candidate who became a congressman… Well he’s a senator now and I serve as his Deputy Chief of Staff in DC. Before that, I was back home in Illinois for 15 months serving as Deputy Campaign Manager on the Senate campaign.

Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Either the Carlebach minyan at Kesher Israel, Chabad of DC or a fun and l’chaim-filled Shabbat dinner with friends.

Should American Jews be involved with Israel?
In every way possible. As both Jews and Americans, support for Israel is deeply rooted in our shared values. Israel is not only the Jewish State our people waited centuries to restore, it is the outpost of freedom and democracy in a part of the world where neither is prevalent. In every way – morally, politically and spiritually – Israel stands as a “light unto the nations” – and she needs us now more than ever.

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
That definitely fluctuated by the month and year. I remember going through phases that included being a biochemist, a Wrigley Field bleacher bum, a website designer, a lawyer and a journalist.

What is your favorite sports team?
The Chicago Cubs

Bagels and lox, or just cream cheese?
Lox and cream cheese, hold the bagel.

Where is the most unique place you’ve been for Shabbat?
Afghanistan, hands down. I can’t even begin to describe what an incredible feeling it is, in the middle of a war, to sit down on a Friday night with fellow Jewish soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, sing Kabbalat Shabbat prayers together, make kiddush and hamotzi and then crack open some no-refrigeration needed gefilte fish packages. I’ve never been prouder to be both a Jew and an American.