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HomeLands: Building a Life Together

Kate Groob, 30, is an architect and project manager at Thomas A. Fenniman Architect, a restoration architecture firm in Manhattan. Her husband, Jason Groob, 32, is a data analyst at Sunday Sky, a data-driven video startup. They reside on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and have been living together for 6 years and their dog Baumer, a brussels-griffon shih-tzu mix, has been living with them for only a little less.

Forward: How did you meet and come to live together?

Kate: We met at Jason’s friend’s birthday Shabbat dinner. My college friend was dating Jason’s friend at the time.

Jason: As they say, “the rent is too damn high!”

Kate: We were spending so much time together anyway and clicked so instantly that we decided to move in together near the end of my lease.

How did you find your home?

Jason: We found our first apartment through Craigslist, our second through a neighbor who was a broker.

Kate: I found our third through another broker.

Jason: And I found our current home — our first home purchase — on StreetEasy, although I knew about the co-op development from previous work.

Who takes out the garbage?

Kate: We both do; luckily there’s a chute just down the hall.

How are household chores divided among you?

Kate: Jason walks our dog in the morning, and I walk him after work. When one of us cooks (usually Jason — I’m more of a baker), the other cleans. I do the vacuuming and clean the bathroom.

Who makes breakfast?

Kate: We both make breakfast. Depends on our moods and schedules.

Describe your typical week.

Jason: We both work full-time jobs, so our typical week involves a commute on the subway, work and whatever other social engagements we have going on. The weekend should be for catching up on housework and relaxing, but often it turns into visiting family and friends.

What’s the most unusual thing we’d see on your household budget?

Kate: I have somewhat of a crafting addiction; some employees at Michael’s might recognize me.

Jason: If we’re comparing our budget to those outside of NYC, I’d have to say our Seamless (delivery) budget.

Image by Thea Glassman

What’s the one story that gets told and retold in your home?

Jason: How we met.

Kate: That’s kind of a short story, as lovely as it is. I guess I’d say how we found our home — buying an apartment in NYC is not usually easy, but we had a surprisingly smooth process. We found an apartment on Street Easy and went to the open house. That apartment already had several bids on it, but the agent offered to show us a few others, including one that wasn’t yet listed. We loved the unlisted one, brought my parents back a week later for a second opinion, and made an offer that following Monday. Between that offer and the closing, we only had to wait 2 months — unheard of in an NYC co-op. The seller was downsizing and buying another apartment within the co-op, so he was motivated, and the co-op was motivated to get us approved.

If you have children who is/was first to get up when a child started crying?

Kate: No children, however, when our dog, or “furbaby” as I refer to him at times, is sick in the middle of the night, I’m usually the one dealing with it.

What would you serve at your ideal Sunday brunch?

Jason: Yotam Ottolenghi has a great recipe for eggs, arugula, and yogurt.

Kate: That description doesn’t even do it justice. It’s delicious. If we’re doing a big brunch with guests, I’d make some challah French toast and mimosas.

Do you have an ideal Shabbat dinner?

Kate: We participate in a group called OneTable that enables us to host large groups of friends for Shabbat dinner. We usually try to make our Shabbat meals family-style since that takes less time than plating individual portions and allows our guests some flexibility in choosing their meal. We work full days on Fridays, so it’s tough to pull together a nice, quality meal, but when we host Shabbat, we want to make sure it’s special. We’ve done pasta night with homemade pasta and sauce, fajitas, homemade pizza, and we did a Bob’s Burgers themed dinner. We even dressed in costume for that one.

Image by Thea Glassman

Who’s your favorite Jewish comedian?

Kate: Eugene Mirman at the moment.

Jason: Seinfeld. Larry David. Woody Allen.

Have you have ever experienced anti-Semitism in your life?

Kate: Having grown up in the NY-NJ area, I didn’t really experience any anti-Semitism. The only strange thing I encountered was when I went to U of Michigan for my freshman year (I transferred after), and one of my friends told me he had never met a Jew before.

Jason: I grew up in Kentucky, so I experienced many people who were not familiar with Jews, but I can’t pick out any particular incident of anti-Semitism.

What is your favorite room in your home?

Jason: The balcony.

Kate: The balcony and the kitchen I designed and got to gut renovate.

What is your favorite piece of art or photograph in your home?

Kate: Our ketubah. It was made by an artist in the East Village.

Jason: We have an illustration of the Royal Tennenbaums family that Kate and I bought at a craft fair in Brooklyn. It’s our favorite movie, and we named our dog after one of the characters.

What is your happiest and/or saddest memory in your home?

Kate: I think we were probably happiest when we finally finished building that damn Ikea wardrobe. We needed the floor space to build it before we could set up the bed, so we were sleeping on the couch and an aero bed for the first couple nights in our apartment.

Jason: I agree.

Describe your home life in three words.

Kate: Never stop improving.

If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?

Kate: I’d add on another room. Did I mention my craft obsession?

Jason: I miss the restaurants in the East Village. If we could transplant our apartment back to the East Village, that would be ideal.

If you could change one thing about your Jewish practice, what would it be?

Kate: I’d like to have more time on Fridays to prepare a nice Shabbat meal every week.

Jason: I’d like our friends to live closer so we could have a stronger community.

Is there an active Jewish community near you? If not, how do you create your own?

Kate: There is a Jewish community near us, but I don’t feel like it’s OUR Jewish community. We left a big part of our Jewish community back in the East Village. We create our own community with OneTable Shabbat dinners whenever we can.

What’s one Jewish thing you do that defines your Jewish identity?

Kate: I would say Jewish identity, or at least our Jewish identity, is strongly rooted in community. I like bringing friends together as much as possible to enjoy life together as a community.

Does being Jewish distinguish you from others around you? If so, how?

Kate: Living in NYC, I feel that we as Jews blend in. It’s not until we go out with friends at a trendy restaurant where everything is seasoned with bacon-this and bacon-that that we stand out as Jews (no pork for us).

What one moment stands out in your mind of when you felt your Jewishness the most?

Kate: My gut feeling is at our wedding during the bedeken. Then I thought—surely it should be my Bat Mitzvah — but I really think I felt the most Jewish at our wedding. We decided to have a separate tish even though we’re not orthodox, and then rather than signing the ketubah in private with only a couple witnesses, we signed it together in front of all of our guests after Jason was paraded to me, carried on a chair by his groomsmen. The band was playing traditional Jewish music, Jason lifted my veil, our beautiful ketubah was laid out in front of us for us to sign, and all of our loved ones were surrounding and supporting us, witnessing us joining our lives together.

Jason: I felt my Jewishness the most when we got married, under the chuppah.

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