Jewish Girl of the Week – Melissa

mweiss1Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at info@gatherthejews.com.

Aaron: What brought you to DC?
Melissa: I went to college at the University of Maryland, and staying in the Washington area made the most sense. However, I got a little sidetracked, and ended up spending two years working and traveling in Asia. While there, I watched all of The West Wing, and that, I kid you not, is what convinced me to come back. Real life in Washington is a touch less dramatic than Aaron Sorkin would have you believe, but it ain’t half bad.

Aaron: We heard you work for The Israel Project. What do you there?
Melissa: I’m TIP’s Strategy and Planning Associate, which means I work across all departments to make sure we’re getting the facts out there and also letting our supporters know what we’re up to. Some days I’m working at events, other days I write releases, and every so often they let me on the Twitters. I know you’re not supposed to be this happy in your first “real” job, but I truly love what I do and the people I work with, and I genuinely look forward to going to work every day.

mweiss2Aaron: Have you been to Israel? What was your favorite memory?
Melissa: I’ve been to Israel four times now, most recently on Federation’s alumni leadership mission (which you should all apply for! #shamelessplug). I don’t know about a favorite memory, but my favorite thing about Israel is that I feel like I run into friends around every corner. For someone who grew up in a very small Jewish community and didn’t even meet an Israeli until college, that’s a pretty cool thing. Oh, and the food. The food is damn good.

Aaron: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Melissa: Yom Hashoah, though I guess it’s more of an Israeli holiday than a Jewish one. Is that a weird choice? That might be weird. When I was in college, the Jewish Student Union would put on a 24-hour Holocaust vigil, and hundreds of people from the UMD Jewish community would gather throughout the day and night to read names of people who’d died in the Holocaust. Even in the middle of the night, there’d be a couple dozen students braving the cold. It was that sense of solidarity and remembrance that made me appreciate both my religion and the strength of the Jewish community.

Aaron: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Melissa: The wait time to get a drink at the bar increases exponentially.