Jewish Guy of the Week – David

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Aaron: What brought you to DC?
David: I got an awesome job working at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC.  Growing up in New York, I always said that I would never ever live anywhere else but New York.  Then I came to DC… I looked around me and saw museums, theatres, monuments, little European-style neighborhoods like Georgetown and DuPont – and I was hooked.  DC is the perfect blend of city and quiet neighborhoods.  You can be strolling along a calm, quiet street and suddenly stumble into the heart of Adams Morgan or DuPont Circle as opposed to Manhattan, where it’s all or nothing.

Aaron: How did you get involved in the theater world?
David: Yeah, I have no problem admitting that the Tony Awards are my Super Bowl Sunday.  It is what it is.  When I was five years old, I got a part in a school musical and never looked back.  I’ve been performing, singing, writing, and acting all my life.  I went to LaGaurdia High School for Performing Arts and Atlantic Acting Conservatory with NYU Tisch School of the Arts before focusing on Communications.  I’m a Shakespeare nut, a Chekhov nut, and a Musical Theatre nut in particular.  Although, ‘Big-Ups’ to Tennessee Williams and Clifford Odets as well.  Working at the Kennedy Center and at Arena Stage was perfect for me because I was able to blend my communications proficiencies with my undying passion for live theater.  And DC theatre is awesome by the way.  If you’re not going to a lot of shows in DC, you’re missing out.

Aaron: What made you want to get involved in the Jewish community?
David: Judaism.  Judaism is the only other focus besides theatre that could really hold any professional interest for me.  So, here it is… Judaism, to me, is not some dogmatic museum relic that we come to gawk at twice a year on the Jewish High Holidays.  The ancient and ingenious technology of Jewish living, the richness of the traditions, the sensory experiences of our food, our spices, our candles, our sukkas, our tallit, our transcendent melodies and stories- these are all unbelievable gifts.  They’re living, breathing tools for experiencing each moment, for improving our quality of life, and for connecting, on a deep level to something greater than ourselves (however you define it).  It is also one of the best tools I can think of for connecting to each other as well.  As Director of Communications at Adas Israel (an amazing Shul, one block from the Cleveland Park Metro), I’m very lucky in that it is my job to be a Jewish outreach man and to spread the word about all the amazing and fulfilling opportunities there are for experiencing deep, personal Yiddishkeit in this city.  When I re-discovered my own Judaism not too long ago, I found what I was always looking for in the theatre: a chance to experience true transcendence in this life… Deep man.

Aaron: What programs to do you recommend for young Jewish professionals?
David: There’s an awesome Young Professionals’ Shabbat Service at Adas Israel called Shir Delight.  It touts over 300 YP’s per service and features a Happy Hour Oneg, Lay-Led Kabbalat Shabbat, and a full catered dinner for everyone.  Go to www.adasisrael.org for service times.  I’d also recommend checking out the Tuesday night Jewish Meditation sessions offered through the new Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington at Adas.  It usually features silent meditation, discussion, and exploration of sacred Jewish texts with one of our Rabbis.

Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
David: I’m a Shul-hopper.  I look forward to Kabbalat Shabbat all week. You’ll usually catch me at Adas Israel, Sixth & I, or Kesher Israel.  I think one of the best Friday Nights in town is at JewishROC (the Jewish Rockville Outreach Center) in Rockville.  It’s got an ecstatic, Sephardic vibe with raucous singing, table slapping, dancing around the Bimah, and a delicious Israeli feast cooked fresh by the Rebbetzin each week.  Loves it.

Aaron: What are you looking forward to most during Hanukkah?
David: Seeing my new home lit by the warmth of the Hanukkah flames is going to be pretty sweet.  About as sweet as it gets in fact.  Very few rituals capture the symbolism of tradition, miracles, and an inner glow more poignantly than the lighting of the Hanukkiah.  Of course, a gift card to Bed, Bath, and Beyond wouldn’t hurt either- I did just get a new apartment after all!  But as Rabbi Gil Steinlauf (Senior Rabbi at Adas Israel) often says, “It’s not the flame of the Shabbat candle or the flame of the Hanukkiah that creates the presence of God in our lives, it is the witnessing of that flame reflected in another’s eyes.”  I’m superbly fortunate that I have a lovely lady in whose eyes I look forward to experiencing that warm Jewish glow this Hanukkah.  So basically, it’s all good, and all’s well.

Shalom DC & L’Chaim!