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Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Jesse: Due in large part to my parents, I was (and still am) your typical idealist; I wanted to find a way to “make a difference.” You know, small aspirations, like opening a clinic or becoming a Senator or maybe the Secretary of Education. This led me to becoming a 3rd grade teacher through Teach for America – and they placed me in Washington, DC. And I never left.
Aaron: How has Teach for America impacted you?
Jesse: President Obama shared that caring for our children is society’s first task. He said, “If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.” Right now, we’re not getting it right for millions of children in this country (and sadly, around the world). So, my time as a teacher motivates me to continue working towards building a better future. But, undergirding this is the rich experience I’ve obtained fighting for causes I believe in – today, I’m a much better advocate and communicator, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with people all over the District to improve our city.
Aaron: We heard you saved “Screen on the Green.” Can you tell us more about that?
Jesse: It’s true! In 2009, I sat in my office when I heard that Screen on the Green was going to be cancelled. I’ve been going to Screen on the Green since before I moved to DC – it’s an essential part of the summer…and summers without movies on the National Mall would be tragic. By forming Facebook groups, tweeting and writing letters, we secured additional sponsorship funding and reinforced the event’s importance to the community-at-large. In fact, we were labeled the “Best Thing to Come From a Facebook Protest” by the Washington City Paper. Folks can find us at friendsofscreenonthegreen.org or on Facebook at “Save Screen on the Green.”
Aaron: So how did you become interested in Karaoke? What is District Karaoke?
Jesse: So, I really didn’t like my job at one point. Despised it. I felt like I couldn’t be creative. So, one night, when I was out with friends for a healthy karaoke “throwdown,” I got this cray idea about starting a karaoke league. It stuck with me, and after speaking with some friends (including many who called me crazy), I launched District Karaoke, D.C.’s first-and-only social, team-based karaoke league. And now, it’s expanded from one night a week to four nights a week – and we’re going to be expanding to other cities by year’s end.
When people join District Karaoke, they join a team and every week, members of their team sing! Afterwards, the entire audience gets to score the performers on their smartphones using our scientifically-tested sing it-bring it-schwing it scoring system.
We actually have quite a few Jews in DK, not to mention a few GTJ staffers are DK veterans, including GTJ President Stephen Richer, Noa Levanson and Tila Kety. And since we’re about the start the next season, any GTJ members want to sing with us, we’ll give them a 36% discount (double chai) if they use the coupon code GATHERTHEJEWS at www.districtkaraoke.com/registration.
Aaron: Where can we find you on a Friday night?
Jesse: At a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall dive bar…or at 6th and I’s Downtown Shabbat service on the 4th Friday of the month; it’s an extremely welcoming and interactive (with awesome people there to boot).
Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Jesse: Dude, the Hebrew Hammer, helping brothas in the Chood, you dig it?
Aaron: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Jesse: …You’re guaranteed a full stomach, a full glass, barrels of laughter, awkward flirting and time for (almost) guilt-free kvetching.