Dylan Morpurgo has only lived in Washington for a year, but he’s already thrown himself into at least one local institution: Date Lab. The 27-year-old Philadelphia native met WJW at the La Colombe coffee shop around the corner from his Chinatown office to talk “converting back” to Judaism, being on Date Lab and finding a long lost relative.
How do you think about your Jewish identity?
My family — the Morpurgos — emigrated from South America at the turn of last century. My great-grandfather and his family when they came here converted to Catholicism. So we have this really rich and amazing family history. But I’ve gone back and have converted [to Judaism].
Oh, so your family was Catholic for the past couple generations and you went back and rediscovered Judaism?
Yeah, I say I’ve converted back.
Wow. What brought you back to Judaism?
So, my work [at Hillel’s David Project] is intertwined with this just because it gave me the opportunities to experience things I wouldn’t have otherwise, like going to Israel so many times. Myself and my family, we love genealogy and history and I was like, “This is so cool. I can go and see these Morpurgos in this kibbutz.”
I had heard so many tell the story of going to the Kotel and [being] the first person in generations to come here. Finally I was like, “Wait, I’m a part of this story. This is my family’s story.” It was little things like that where I came to see myself as a part of this larger story of the Jewish people. Once I saw myself as part of that, it was like, “That’s what I want.”
That’s such a unique story, with your family connection.
When I was talking to my dad about it, he was like, “You’re going home to somewhere you’ve never been, but when you get there you know it’s home.”
Full disclosure: I saw you in Date Lab. So, what was that experience like?
It’s definitely a fun party story. My roommates are two really good friends of mine from college and we all moved here together last April. One of the first things we did was subscribe to The Washington Post for the online and Sunday delivery. So, it was the first Sunday we had it delivered and there was a special edition with like six Date Labs. And we were like, “Oh my God, this is so great.”
We talked to a few people about it and they were like, “Yeah, it’s a D.C. cult classic.” So, a couple weeks go by and my roommates — they’re a couple — are getting on me about getting out there and dating. They sort of joked, “Oh, do that Date Lab thing.” I looked it up and it’s like this super long profile you have to fill out. So many questions. And then two months later, I got an email that’s like, “We found a match for you.” [But] they don’t tell you anything about the person.
No, it’s a totally blind date. You have a pre-date interview with the author and she told me that he was taller than me. And I knew his first name. So, technically, I think I knew more than most people. They tell you a place and time. They pick the restaurant and they pay for it. The photographer meets you there and the first thing they do is take the photo that’s in the magazine. We shook hands and then were posing for a photo.
How did people respond?
The people that are fans of Date Lab were really excited they knew someone in it. But I was actually kind of shocked that after the fact I had people say to me, “That’s really cool that you did that. That took some chutzpah.” And I didn’t think of it that way. I just thought of it as here’s this fun thing. If it goes well, I went on a good date. If it doesn’t, I got a free dinner and a good story.
It sounds like internet dating, but even more blind and with a lot more publicity.
Yes. And that’s kind of what I thought. Like, I’ve been on an app-based date before. And, if anything, at least The Washington Post has vetted that this person is real.
Yeah, you’re not being catfished.
Oh yeah. I also forgot that they publish your full name. And then I was getting these Facebook messages afterwards. I actually got this message from a woman in Bethesda who is related to me.
She just messaged you out of the blue?
Yeah, she was like I saw your name and I never see our name anywhere. So, I have to meet her and figure out how we’re related.
What do you do when you’re not working, or in Israel?
I love to travel. I try to plan a trip that’s not for work as much as I can. I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve done a lot of traveling in Europe. My dad’s mom is from Ireland, so I have Irish citizenship.
Do you still have some family in Ireland?
Yeah, I have a lot of family there.
And you have dual U.S. and Irish citizenships?
Yeah, it’s great. After high school, I moved to London and lived with my dad’s brother and then some cousins and then I was backpacking and I was living in Ireland and I was an au pair in Hungary. And I didn’t need a visa for any of it.
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