You should know… Jackie Zais

Photo by David Stuck
Photo by David Stuck

Boston-area native Jackie Zais, 24, is busy gathering the Jews in the nation’s capital.

As an associate at Gather the Jews, an organization that connects young Jewish professionals to Jewish life in the Washington area, Zais makes sure that the community knows about the many Jewish-related events occurring on a daily basis. She distributes the weekly e-newsletter and manages the organization’s online platforms, including the website, social media accounts and community calendar.

Before joining Gather the Jews, Zais worked as an administrative assistant at the Bethesda offices of third-party apartment management company Riverstone Residential Group.

Zais graduated from Brandeis University in 2013 with a B.A. in psychology and anthropology.

We recently spoke to Zais about how Gather the Jews is opening doors, the differences between Boston and Washington and why being a vegetarian is liberating.

What is Gather the Jews currently working on?

We are about to start our second cohort of our Open Doors Fellowship. We started that last February with an amazing group of 11 people and are now launching the fellowship for eight months. Our retreat is coming up and we are just really excited to get those fellows out in the community engaging their peers in Jewish life.

How would you compare Boston to Washington?

I actually never lived in Boston. I was outside of it but I have a deep abiding love of Boston. I can’t really speak to living in it. It’s interesting the different type of history that exists in Boston vs. D.C. Obviously D.C. is our nation’s capital and has amazing monuments and museums and things like that, but Boston is very much ingrained in its colonial roots. Where I’m from in Massachusetts is right near Quincy [birthplace of Presidents John Adams and son John Quincy Adams]. They grew up near us, and lived their life near us and we’re very proud of that and excited about that.

What is your favorite thing about living in Washington?

I’m living an adult life, which sounds a little silly, but you know, I go to work, I pay my rent, I go out to dinner and I live my life, and I’ve chosen to really be involved in the Jewish community. It’s just been a really exciting time for me. I’m really coming into my adult life here and I really appreciate the city for that.

Tell us about your passion of cooking for guests.

I love having people over. I really like to cook and I also like to panic 30 minutes before everyone shows up. But I love having people over. I’m a vegetarian and I keep a vegetarian kitchen. I’m toying with being vegan, but I really enjoy bringing people over and forcing them to eat all the veggies I’ve made.

Why did you become a vegetarian?

I’m very picky with what I eat and so there was a lot of anxiety about food, especially around meat. When I cut meat out of my diet, I felt freed. I’ll try whatever. I don’t care. I’ll eat any vegetable as long as it’s not meat. So it’s been a really freeing experience for me where a lot of people find it restrictive.

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