Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Josh: I knew that upon graduating from the University of Maryland in 2003, that I would want to stay close by and not return to the diaspora’s Jewish homeland better known as 5 Towns, Long Island. I got accepted into a Master’s in Education program at Trinity University and started taking night classes while working at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School during the day. I have since taken up residence in Bethesda, I have been teaching for the Montgomery County Public Schools for 7 years, and I was able to convince my parents to move just 20 minutes away in Gaithersburg. The rest is history.
Aaron: How have you gotten involved in the Jewish community?
Josh: It wasn’t until going on the first DC community Birthright trip in 2005 and then going on to staff a Birthright trip a couple of years later that my appreciation and passion for Jewish community, or kehila, was developed. With the amazing partnership of the professional staff at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, I immediately got involved in Jewish communal work and in time took on leadership positions with such cornerstone programs as Birthright Israel NEXT and the Reverse Mifgash. When seeing how such programs have gone on to shape not only the young Jewish community in DC, but also my own life, I was so hooked. Since then, I have had the privilege of being a part of some of Federation’s most impactful programs and committees such as the Birthright Alumni Leadership Mission, the Israel Engagement Committee, NEXUS and NEXUS Next-step, the overall Young Leadership division of JFGW, and most recently Good Deeds Day. Finally, after being an observing member on the board at Capital Camps and Retreat Center, I figured that there was no better way to spend my summers than to go back to Jew camp. Being the Kaufmann village leader for 8th and 9th graders at Capital Camps during this past summer completely redefined my understanding of kehila and the significant role that camp plays in a child’s life. It looks like I’m going to be a Jew Camper for life!!!
Aaron: What’s your favorite memory from one of your Israel trips?
Josh: Almost an impossible question to answer since I love every moment that I am there. There is something about that moment on Birthright when the bus starts rolling and you manage to escape the emotional whirlwind ensuing around you to look outside the window and let reality hit that you’re actually in this place. Eretz Yisrael!! You feel something hit you; a feeling who’s origin and cause is unknown, but you know it comes in the form of a connection. I also love shopping on an early Friday afternoon in Mahane Yehuda, a little shuk in the center of Jerusalem. A buddy of mine lived in an apartment right above the egg stand. One day we had lunch and some hookah on his roof and just watched the influx of shoppers whose only goal is to get the best prices on their food for the upcoming Sabbath. I was mesmerized by the hodgepodge of the market’s more than 250 vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, fish, meat and cheeses, nuts and seeds, spices, wines and liquors, clothing, Judaica, etc. The pushing, screaming, sampling, bargaining, and just the daily conversing among neighbors with very similar agendas. To me, that’s Israeli culture at its finest.
Aaron: Registration for Good Deeds Day is open now. Can you tell us more about the day?
Josh: Oh my, what a day it is. Basically, Good Deeds Day is an annual celebration of good deeds. GDD was initiated in 2007 by Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison, as an annual day of mitzvah. All over the world, hundreds of thousands choose to volunteer and help others, putting into practice the simple idea that every single person can do something good, be it large or small, to improve the lives of others and positively change the world. In 2012, Good Deeds Day was the biggest ever: some 250,000 Israelis and thousands more worldwide joined in to do a good deed for others. In Israel alone, nearly all local authorities, some 584 schools, 121 teen groups, 200 military units, and 330 business companies volunteered, participating in a wide range of Good Deeds Day projects. Over 3,600 projects were organized for Good Deeds Day 2012, including painting homes of senior citizens, cleaning beaches and parks, renovating community centers, and creating public gardens. Last year alone, more than 150,000 volunteers from the Greater DC area participated. I feel so honored to be co-chairing this year’s GDD with my amazing mentor Robert Burman. Because of our extraordinary success last year, Shari Arison has decided to come to our community and showcase our work as the model for the program. This day will offer our entire community a variety of hands-on volunteer projects where they can roll up their sleeves and make an impact. Whether you want to play bingo with senior citizens, make sandwiches for members of our community, or prepare packages for sick children, there’s a variety of projects available in DC, MD, and NoVA—find one that is meaningful for you! Join us on March 10, 2013 because YOU are the best gift anyone could ask for! Registration opened January 10.
Aaron: Who is the coolest Jew?
Josh: Moses, Sammi Davis Jr., and Avital Ingber (in no particular order).
Aaron: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Josh: Shidduchs are made.