Six months ago, Montclair, N.J. native Shaina Dorow began working as the community coordinator for Gather the Jews, a network for Jews in their 20s and 30s. Dorow, 22, has been passionate about Judaism from an early age. Her job entails meeting other Jews who are new to the area over coffee and making them feel more at ease here.
Why is coffee so vital to your work?
Jews are all people. The people we deal with are real people, so people want to get coffee, they want to get tea and hot cocoa. It’s not a special experience, it’s an everyday experience. We don’t want to get people out of their comfort zone. We want to meet people where they’re at. They’re going to be doing something that is not super extraordinary.
How did you hear about Gather the Jews?
I was looking at my job search engine at school and saw this job and applied to it. My title is community coordinator, and I was like, “If that’s not a job for Shaina I don’t know what is.” My job is basically working with people who are new to D.C., so I do a lot of coffee with them and kind of help people find their fit in the city. We kind of try to make D.C. more accessible to Jews in their 20s and 30s, so it’s pretty nice.
What did you study in college?
I went to Brandeis University and just graduated in May. When I studied sociology, I really understood identity, and how identity really informs people’s decisions in their life and how identify really intersects with a lot of other things that are going on, which really informs a lot of the work I do with Gather, where I can gather with people of different backgrounds and be empathetic to people.
Where does your passion come from?
From the age of 10 to the summer before I graduated college, which was 2015, I went to Jewish summer camp [first as a camper, later as a counselor]. So I always kind of thought about the Jewish professional world. I think as a [camp] staff member, seeing my [camp] kids grow up after working for four summers.
The fact that they grew up over the four years I worked and just kind of seeing that growth was really important to me and also made me believe strongly in their growth. Being a counselor and really appreciating the people I came in contact with, and just being able to really connect over something like Judaism was a really lovely experience that helped me figure out that Judaism is something I want in my life, not just in the past but in the future.
What’s your message to Jews settling in D.C.?
Every person has their place in community, and every person belongs in a community, and every person brings a different thing to the community, and that individualism is what community strives for and thrives on, and we are humans first.
What are three other things we should know about you?
I just saw “Hamilton.” I’ve seen a lot of Broadway and I really love musical theater. I was in “The Vagina Monologues” in college. [She appeared last week in the Jewrotica show “Bedside Reading.”] It’s like “The Vagina Monologues,” but in a Jewish context.
I won a contest when I was 9 for the best “Scooby Doo” impression. I was Velma and I did [her catchphrase], jinkies. So I was interviewed on the radio. I was in the newspaper. I won, like, $700 worth of Scooby Doo toys. I got the first ride on the Scooby Doo Ferris wheel in ToysRUs in New York City.
Stephen Colbert lives in my hometown. I’ve never actually seen him, but my friend has. There’s an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” where Jerry Seinfeld is in my town and goes into my local coffee shop with Stephen Colbert. I live five minutes from there.
There’s coffee again. What do you get out of all your coffee meetings, personally?
I don’t think I’ve doubled up on a coffee shop, so I’ve gotten to learn the city through the coffee, so that’s pretty cool.
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Awesome interview! And, don’t forget, Camp Harlam helped to fuel all that Jewish passion. We love you! Rosanne Selfon