NJP (Nice Jewish Person) Zach Goldberger
Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual.
This month, we have a conversation with NJP Zach Goldberger.
TW: How did you decide to make your adult life in Metro Detroit?
ZG: I am a recent Michigander -- and still getting used to that term! I recently graduated from NC State in Raleigh, where I lived for the past 12 years. I knew I wanted to work somewhere new and start a new chapter in my life. Through working at camp and different Jewish fellowships, I came to find Temple Israel which brought me here. The Metro Detroit area seemed to be a perfect fit, and ten months later I am still loving it. I'll enjoy it even more when the sun comes out and the temperature starts hitting 80 consistently.
TW: You spend your days working at Temple Israel -- tell us more!
ZG: I work at Temple Israel as the Youth Director. My job allows me engage and spend time with youths of all ages. It is especially interesting working with families in a community where I didn't grow up. Through working with the kids and teens, I have begun to learn about the environment I work in. There is no better group of kids in the country than here. Each one brings something new to the table and I am able to learn from them constantly. It is also not the worst thing to be able to travel to Chicago, Washington, D.C, Nicaragua or any of our future destinations with the teens. Temple Israel has been a family for me so far, and I feel so lucky.
TW: What is one adjective you use to describe yourself?
ZG: Curious. I love learning about new concepts, how certain things work and delving into unexplored areas of study. Whether it was at school while I was majoring in history or coming across something new day to day, I always need to know more. It is just how my mind works. I do not believe that we cannot learn this or cannot know about that. It has become a hobby of mine to act upon my curiosity wherever I am. We have technology that can take us anywhere we want and gain knowledge about anything, so why not use it to its highest potential?
TW: You're a graduate of NC State -- what was Jewish life like there?
ZG: Go Pack! Jewish life in Raleigh was and is “on the rise.” From the beginning of my freshman year I was heavily involved in Hillel and their spirit to grow the Jewish community on campus. Being part of the less than one percent of Jews on campus was one of my favorite parts of college. For some, I was the first Jew they met or became close with, so I always took advantage of that to share my culture and religion. When the holidays came around, I would always bring a car full of friends home for services and meals. It also created a special connection with the Jews that I met on campus. I remember being at one the biggest football games of my time there, and I heard a guy talking about Hillel and Shabbat. So, I turned around and asked if he was Jewish and we sparked a friendship in the middle of 48,000 fans.
TW: What's your favorite book and what about it moves you?
ZG: The Shining by Stephen King. I think I am more impressed by the way King writes than the plot of the book. I am someone who saw “It” at a very young age and the closest thing I come to watching a scary movie is the book that started it all. The Shining is one that captivates you from start to finish. You see a complete transformation from a father trying to right his wrongs to a psycho killer. You always hear of the term “cabin fever” and the horrors that surround it, and King ends up turning it into a bestseller. Also, fun fact: Stephen King publicly ridiculed the movie and basically said it was horrible.
TW: Where would you most like to travel to that you haven't visited?
ZG: I would love to travel to Southeast and East Asia. I love to cook, learn about, and eat Asian food. Whenever I plan a trip, I make sure the food and the views will be the highlights of the adventure. The different kinds of spices in Asian food and the history of the recipes and traditions of how to cook in that region are incredibly unique, and I would love to learn about it all in person.
TW: How do you like to give back to the community / others?
ZG: The best way to give back is to create some smiles. We just took a trip to Nicaragua with our teens to give back to a city there. The best part of it all was spending time in the public schools with the kids. Providing them with new school supplies was great, but playing with them outside and learning about who they are was what they appreciated more. Walking in the school and having a simple conversation of how their day was or what their favorite sport was felt more than just asking a question -- even if our Spanish was a bit iffy. We had a beaten up baseball bat and broken wiffle ball, yet, we still had hours of shared laughing and smiling. My perception of happiness has completely changed since we spent time with those kids.
TW: What's your favorite Jewish holiday and why?
ZG: I’m a sucker for Passover. My family was never super religious during the year, but when it came to Passover we made it count. We always made sure to get as many family members that we could to come visit and spend the holiday with us. In addition to family, we made sure to continue the car loads of friends from school to fill up the house. It seemed that each year my mom added 10 to her number attending. This past year was my first time not being there, and I for sure felt it when the day came.
TW: Fav Jewish food?
ZG: A build your own brunch bagel. I need all the add-ons right in front of me to make this work. A correctly toasted bagel with a good crunch on the outside. A plentiful shmear of jalapeno cream cheese on the bottom of the bagel. From there we add lox, red onions, thinly sliced tomatoes, a spoonful of egg salad and salt & pepper. If your mouth is not watering... something is wrong with you.
TW: Who is the coolest Jew?
ZG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There is really no explanation needed. RBG all day.
TW: If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
ZG: My pug Sophie is back in Raleigh, so of course I would ask, “How much do you miss me?” A couple of things that I really need the answers to are, “Is scratching you on the top of the head really that good of a feeling?” and “Do you like eating the same food for each meal, every day?” We need answers, pup.
TW: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
ZG: Living on my own in Michigan. For the past 12 years I lived in Raleigh, and stayed in Raleigh for school. Being on a college campus is of course a completely different experience, but I never had the chance to create something new. A handful of my good friends went to NC State and it was never a challenge to find something to do or someone to do it with. When I moved to Detroit, I knew no one. I had to create a new life for myself that I was not one-hundred percent prepared for -- even if I thought I was. Almost a year later, Michigan is starting to feel like home with new friends, family and lifestyle.
TW: How about a fun fact?
ZG: I probably put too much care into my socks. You will not find me wearing a boring pair. Instead, I will be sporting either my bagels, doughnuts and coffee pair, my alien abducting a cow pair or my ketchup and mustard pair… just to name a few. I also try to grab a pair that is themed after places I travel to for the first time. My latest were hot sauce socks from New Orleans.
TW: What are your three favorite movies?
ZG: This a tough one, but if I have to… The Town, Wedding Crashers and He Got Game (I have the Shuttlesworth jersey to prove it).
TW: When you've had a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
ZG: I stop what I am doing and go right to my running shoes. There is nothing better than a quick run to push away all the stress and clutter from the day. I make sure to take a new path on my run each time as well. You never know what you will see or who you will run into to make your day better.
TW: Would you rather win an Olympic Medal, an Academy Award, or a Nobel Prize?
ZG: Definitely an Olympic Medal. I am obsessed with sports, especially basketball. The Summer Olympics is so much fun to watch, and I love seeing certain NBA players return and play for their home country. It would be quite the dream to play alongside Russell Westbrook and John Wall as we face Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio of Spain for the gold.
TW: Finish this sentence: When I go to The Well...
ZG: I hope to meet new people! I moved to the Detroit area not knowing anyone, so it was a huge step for me. I have a mindset to always jump at the opportunity to make friends and meet Jews in the area!