Pensacola, Fla., native Ben Rosenbaum came to Washington a decade ago in search of a job on Capitol Hill. Since then, the 34-year-old has worked for two members of Congress including his current boss, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.). Rosenbaum is a senior legislative staffer during the day — and occasionally at night, too. His work involves handling issues related to transportation and infrastructure, and responding to constituent concerns. When not on the job, Rosenbaum directs the group Nice Jewish Boys DC, a social group for gay, bisexual and transgender Jewish men.
What is life like today for young LGBT Jews living in D.C.?
The benefits are easier to describe. So this is a young town. It’s a very diverse community. You see a lot more synagogues doing programming and outreach to LGBT Jews, letting them know that they are part of the community. You’ve seen our past Federation president who is out and gay [Stuart Kurlander, a member of the ownership group of Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes Washington Jewish Week, is the founder of GLOE — the Kurlander Program for GLBTQ Outreach & Engagement], you have an out gay rabbi at one of the major synagogues [Rabbi Gil Steinlauf at Adas Israel]. You’re seeing more and more leaders in the community and I think that makes a huge difference.
Why do you like politics?
I’ve always been kind of political. My father took over our family business, which is a scrap recycling company, so the idea of conservation and the environment has been part of my life growing up. And so coming from a very conservative part of the country and being Jewish, which oftentimes is more progressive, I’ve always been attracted to the politics. In college, I was a political science major and wanted to get involved in policy.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
Early on, something that helped with my professional career is that I had a theater background when I was young. I was really involved in theater and drama in school and in the community. I think the skills you kind of learn are things I’ve used in my professional career. The creativity and being able to adapt to situations and work with different kinds of people is something I learned growing up. In my work here on the Hill, I always have to answer questions you may not know the answer to and just sort of deal with situations that are challenging.
Would you ever start doing theater again?
Maybe. This job is very demanding. It’s 24/7.
Sometimes. If something happens you got to be responsive.
So you could get a call at 2 a.m.?
You could get a call at 2 a.m. Especially in times like this where there’s news all the time, you just have to be ready. People want to know where their members of Congress are all the time and to respond the things that are going on in the community. It’s a public service.
I understand you enjoy singing in the shower.
It kind of goes back to my theater background. My mom was a ballerina, so I’ve always come from a theatrical household and grew up going to see plays and concerts and shows. Even in a small community like Pensacola, you would still get a Broadway tour coming through or go see the orchestra or a jazz festival. I’ve always loved the arts and I’m a frequent singer in the shower. If I commuted in the car as opposed to taking the Metro, I’d definitely be singing to the radio.
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Singing in the shower is pretty conservative. I thought Ben was supposed to be progressive.