Game Night With Your Cousin A.J.  Jacobs by the Forward

Game Night With Your Cousin A.J. Jacobs

Image by Emily Callahan

Julie Jacobs, 46, is the sales and business development director at . Her husband, A.J. Jacobs, 46, is a writer of books, one of which is “The Year of Living Biblically.” The two have been living together since 1999 and reside on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with their three sons: Jasper, 11, and 8-year-old twins, Zane and Lucas.

A.J. is writing a book about family and ancestry. As part of it, he’s helping to build the biggest family tree in history. A.J. just held the Global Family Reunion, the largest worldwide reunion of related people, with more than 40 simultaneous parties —including the main one in New York, which had almost 4,000 people.

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

A.J.: We met when we were both working at Entertainment Weekly magazine. Julie was on the business side, selling ads, and I was on the editorial side, writing articles about B-level TV stars. So we weren’t supposed to mix — the church and state thing. It was a very, very mild scandal.

How did you find your home?

A.J: Julie did the heavy lifting and looked at 25 apartments on the Upper West Side and narrowed them down to five. Then I came in for the final round.

Who takes out the garbage?

A.J.: I do.

How are household chores divided among you?

A.J.: I do garbage, light bulbs and disposal of insects and vermin. Julie does the rest.

Who makes breakfast?

A.J: Julie

Describe your typical week.

A.J.: We switch off taking the kids to school. Family dinner at least three times a week. Homework, chess, sports, Pokemon cards, mildly inappropriate YouTube videos. Julie and I both work from home, with varying levels of productivity. Sunday we have a family movie. Hit: “Spy Kids.” Flop: “Bambi”.

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

A.J.: The surprising percentage of money that goes toward Pokemon cards.

What do you love most about the space you live in?

A.J.: Our apartment building has a gorgeous roof where we love to have dinners in warmer weather. We have had many of the kids’ birthday parties up there. At least 10 piñatas have met their fate on that roof.

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

A.J.: The time that NBC made a sitcom pilot based on our lives. It didn’t get picked up, but it was a delightfully bizarre experience. Our three boys were not happy they changed our family structure to two kids, one of whom was a girl.

Who was first to get up when a child started crying?

A.J.: In the middle of the night? Me. During the day? Julie. Julie is a champion sleeper.

What would you serve at your ideal Sunday brunch?

A.J.: Bagels and lox, scrambled eggs and challah French toast.

Do you have an ideal Sabbath dinner?

A.J.: As long as it’s in our apartment and our children are seated for more than 12 minutes straight, the menu doesn’t matter too much.

Who’s your favorite Jewish comedian?

Julie: Jerry Seinfeld A.J.: Louis C.K. is a quarter Jewish. Does that count? Tied with Albert Brooks in his Modern Romance period.

What is your favorite room in your home?

Julie: Our living room.

A.J.: The games closet. We are a family of passionate board gamers.

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

A.J.: There’s a photo of the five of us that totally captures the chaos of our family. The kids, who were toddlers at the time, are using their parents as a jungle gym.

What is your happiest or saddest memory in your home?

A.J.: Happiest: breaking the world record for most instruments played simultaneously by a five-person band (18 – we each played three or more instruments and uploaded the cacophonous results to Saddest: the day Julie’s 26-year-old Stairmaster finally conked out. Maybe not the saddest, but still sad.

Describe your home life in three words.

A.J.: Chaotic, laughter-filled, unique. Hope that hyphenated words count as one.

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

A.J.: Would love to have a backyard where kids could go out and run around until they collapse into a deep sleep at 8:02 p.m. every night.

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

A.J.: I wish I could read Hebrew. I’ve been told that reading the Bible in English is like watching black-and-white TV. It’d be great to get some Technicolor.

Julie: We do Shabbat candle-lighting sometimes, but I wish we did it every week.

Is there an active Jewish community near you?

A.J.: Yes, our temple, Rodeph Sholom, is literally next door. And the JCC is a few blocks away, which is where the kids learned to swim and saw “Joseph and the [Amazing] Technicolor Dreamcoat” for the first time — Julie’s favorite musical.

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

A.J.: We tell a lot of stories. And Jews are a storytelling people, we think. As a culture, I think we’re especially good at reframing something tragic into something comic, or at least tragicomic.

If you would like to participate or nominate a household please contact HomeLands editor Maia Efrem at

Game Night With Your Cousin A.J. Jacobs

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