Interviews

Doree Shafrir


June 28, 2017

Doree – not to be confused with the fish nor the explorer – is the author of a brand new novel, an editor-turned-tech-writer, a dog mom who hosts a podcast about trying to have a baby, a gefilte fish fan, a summer camp lifer with mixed memories, and an NYC expat loving LA. We were particularly impressed with her cookbook and matryoshka doll collections.

Is there a story behind your name?

My mother’s grandmother was named Dora, so they named me Doree. They thought Dora was too old-fashioned, which is funny now, because old-fashioned names are cool. Growing up, no one had the name Doree, and now there’s “Finding Dory,” and everyone who has kids, it’s their immediate response.

My dad is from Israel, so my last name is an Israeli name. His family’s name was Springer, and, when his father moved to Israel, they made it Shafrir.

They Israelified his name.

Describe your kid personality.

I was a pretty serious kid. I’m the oldest of three. I had imaginary friends. I made up stories and that kind of thing. I read constantly. Definitely bookish.

When I was 2 or 3, I had a pair of imaginary friends. They were brother and sister. Their names were Joanne and Joey Shabone. I think they might have lived in California. I don’t know how I knew what California was. I was only allowed to watch “Sesame Street,” so it’s possible that that got it in my head.

Which books did you love as a child?

EloiseA Wrinkle in Time. I really liked the author Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Judy Blume. I have everything she wrote. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. You know, the classics.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Don’t take everything so seriously. Just chill out. It’s very easy to say with the benefit of hindsight. I was kind of a malcontented teenager.

I have changed. I forget how this even came up, but I said to my husband, “Well, you know, when I was a sullen teen…” and he was like, “You were a sullen teen?!” He couldn’t really fathom that, so, I think I’ve changed. There’s probably still some of that brattiness.

How did Judaism play a role in your upbringing?

When I was in 4th grade, my parents decided we should live in Israel for a year. That was a big thing. I also went to Jewish sleepaway camp: Camp Young Judaea, in Amherst, New Hampshire. I started going there when I was 9, then we moved to Israel for a year. I didn’t know Hebrew at the time, so that was an interesting experience. My parents sent us to regular Israeli school. They were like, “You’ll pick it up.”

I got bat mitzvah-ed. My mom got me a tutor. We sort of did an indie bat mitzvah, then we joined a synagogue in Boston, and I got confirmed. I did NFTY for a while.

I have very mixed camp memories.

The logical question would be, “Why did you keep going back, in that case?” I think it was just, like, I go to camp, that’s what I do.

I didn’t really like it, and the girls were very mean. That was always very stressful. They all had boyfriends, and I thought, “I’m 12 years old, I don’t want to be making out with some boy on the soccer field.” But, I kept going, and I went to Israel with YJ. I was all in. I was a counselor for a year, and then I said, “Okay, enough.” These really were not my people.

Describe a turning point in your Jewish experience or perspective.

I went to Penn, which is very Jewish. I would go to services sometimes, and, then, you graduate, and it’s not as easy to keep it up. I’ve identified more Jewishly as a grownup.

Even though I’m from Brookline, my elementary school did not have a lot of Jewish kids. The girls at camp were terrifying, and I didn’t go to Hebrew school, so it wasn’t until I got to college that I really made close Jewish friends.

Then, living in New York and working in media, everyone is Jewish.

Every so often, I think I would like to join a synagogue, but it’s so expensive. I start Googling or looking at the websites of synagogues I’m aware of, and I go to the membership page, and it’s like $4,000. Maybe I would go to services a couple times a month and go to High Holiday services, and it feels really weird to pay $4,000.

So, I don’t belong to a synagogue. I know you can just go to services without belonging, but I feel like if I’m going to do it, I want to do it. So, I don’t do anything.

I like the idea of a community, and I like services. I like the idea of volunteering with a synagogue. I like the idea of being part of a synagogue whose point of view I can get behind. It would have to be either a Reform synagogue or Reconstructionist. They have to be willing to do gay marriages, interfaith marriages. They have to be supportive of Israel, but also critical of Israel. Social justice.

Why did you move to LA?

I grew up in Boston, and I went to Penn. I lived in New York. I spent my whole life on the East Coast. Starting around 2005 or so, I was coming out to LA once a year. I really liked it out here. I wondered, “What would I do there?” It didn’t seem realistic.

Then, Hurricane Sandy happened, and that was really depressing. The infrastructure of the city is bad. I was supposed to run the marathon that year, and it got canceled. That was a big letdown. I came out here for three or four weeks in January, after the hurricane, and it was so nice. Buzzfeed needed someone to move out here, and I said, “I will do it. I’ll volunteer.” I was ready for a change.

New York was starting to get me down.

I love New York. My best friends live there. I still miss it, but the day-to-day reality of New York was draining.

My husband has never lived in New York, and I think he romanticizes it. He’ll say, “Maybe one day we could live there.” I say, “If we are billionaires.”

What do you love about your husband?

He is an extremely generous and kind person. He thinks about other people before he thinks about himself. That was very refreshing. It showed up pretty early. He was just so thoughtful, and he did the things he said he was going to do, which I hadn’t even realized was something that I didn’t think happened until he actually followed through on things, and I was like, “Oh!”

He’s incredibly smart, incredibly funny. As you can see from his guitar collection, he is an obsessive and gets super deep into things. I love that he’s creative. He’s just a good person.

Is there anything that has surprised you about being married?

I’ve been in other relationships, and I lived with someone, but there’s something about being married where you realize, “Oh, you’re my person. You have my back, I have your back, no matter what.” That little psychological shift was cool.

What is something that works for you guys as a team?

Matt really likes structure, which I don’t necessarily gravitate towards, but I’ve realized that it can work for us. Every Saturday night, we have a date. For a long time, we were staying home on weekends. Then, we decided, “Okay, Saturday nights. Those are going to be our nights, and we’re going to leave the house and do something.”

When you’re younger, you think, “You have to say you’re going to have a date night?” It seems so dumb. Then, when you get older, and you have more going on, and you get tired more easily, to know that you have that night, just for the two of you, is really nice.

What do you do professionally?

In my day-to-day, I’m a writer for Buzzfeed. I write about startups in Los Angeles. I also had my book, Startup, come out in April, which is about tech. My husband and I also do a podcast together.

We’re coming up on a year of the podcast, which is kind of crazy. In addition to date night, we record the podcast on Sunday nights, and it allows us to talk in a way that you don’t always get. I’ve been at Buzzfeed for 5 ½ years, which is a really long time for them. I’m at a place now where I can switch roles within the company instead of feeling bored or getting done with a job and feeling like I need to switch companies.

Where in your career are you?

I’m in a phase where I’m doing me. Managing and editing is great and is rewarding, but you’re working on other people’s stuff all the time.

I was ready to work on my own stuff.

I think I kind of knew when I started working on the book, but I hadn’t quite articulated it to myself. I’d written a feature while I was managing, and people really liked it, and I thought, “This is what I like to do. Why aren’t I doing this?”

Do you have a personal mantra?

I don’t have a mantra, but I have found, in the last few years, that I’ve learned to say what I want. It feels like The Secret, but I think there is something about saying what you want that makes it real. When I started working on the book, I said, “I’m writing a book,” and that made it more real, and, it also made me think, “I have to finish this book because I said I was writing it.”

What is an immediate turnoff for you?

Definitely when people talk over other people. It doesn’t even have to be talking over me, but, if I see someone talking over someone, I just think, “Ugh, stop talking.”

What is something that makes you smile?

My dog. He’s just so goofy and cute. He’s 75 pounds, and he’s a rescue. We’ve had him for about a year, and, it’s only in the last month or so that we’ve really started to understand him. His name is Beau. He came with that name, but we decided it suited him, and he knew his name, so, we kept it.

What is your biggest insecurity?

Something I’m working on? My arms. I do some yoga, some Pilates, some strength training.

There’s really only so much you can do before genetics are like, “Sorry.”

When do you feel like the best version of yourself?

When I get ready in the morning. Just showered. I’m ready to face the day. I’m all bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and, then, by lunchtime, I’m wilting. I’m totally a morning person.

What are your favorite and least favorite Jewish foods?

I love noodle kugel. I don’t love chopped liver. I have this memory of my mom cooking liver and onions for herself, and it was just so stinky and disgusting. I actually like gefilte fish, so that is not my least favorite at all.

Is there good Jewish food in LA?

There are not good bagels in LA. There’s this guy named Jason Kaplan, and he runs bagel pop-ups that I’ve not yet gone to. Supposedly, he is now making the only good bagel in LA.

What are your favorite and least favorite Jewish holidays?

Love Passover. It’s like the Jewish Thanksgiving. You get everyone together. I like Hanukkah, but it’s all about gifts. Passover is about history and storytelling and family. I like Passover food. I like matzo ball soup.

My least favorite Jewish holiday? I couldn’t even really tell you what Shavuot is for. What are we commemorating? What are we celebrating? What are we honoring?

Photos by Jonathan Shoer for Gadi Creative

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