Ari Katz

Written by Interview by Batya H. Carl on . Posted in Young Professionals Spotlight

Ari, 27, has worked in consulting for defense and homeland security solutions development since college. A Maryland native, he attended Berman Hebrew Academy and Churchill High School and spent time learning in Israel. Ari currently works in data science and strategy for Scale Up Global, a startup that specializes in bringing global cybersecurity innovation into the U.S. commercial and government markets. He loves science and philosophy, and the philosophy of science; he also loves basketball, hanging with friends, eating, learning Torah, playing guitar, cracking jokes, and singing and thinking about cross-domain problems and ideas. 

 

Questions:

1.) What energizes/motivates you?

I feel driven by playing a critical part in interesting, challenging, important, and dynamic work. This has previously manifested in things like being core staffing on a fire truck [Ari used to work as a volunteer fireman and paramedic], spearheading a client consulting engagement, helping direct rescuers in Japan, learning about a new technology or trying to harmonize approaches in philosophy, Torah, or both. Also steak and potatoes.

2.) What memory would you relive if you could?

Learning about David and Goliath from Tanach, on my grandfather’s lap. The combination of our strong connection, his love for Torah and insight into what aspects of Tanach would hold the interest of an elementary school boy was formative for my faith.

3.) What will be your next adventure?

There are some big things on the horizon for work, but I’m also looking forward to learning more Rav Kook directly from his texts. The concepts and language are notoriously difficult, but his learning his insights on the metaphysical and Torah significance of things like evolution, science, pluralism, meaning, and the search for knowledge has been massively rewarding.

4.) What student activities were you a part of in college/graduate school?

Not too many. I had my hands full early on with the fire department, paramedic class, and later with work.

5.) What is your favorite Facebook group?

I enjoy sometimes posting in “God Save Us From Your Opinion: A Place For Serious Discussion of Judaism.” Since we are on the general topic, here are some highlights from an excellent “If Chuck Norris was yeshivish” thread I found on Facebook: 

“He would be koneh his house with a kinyan hagbah.”

“When he says he’s staying by you, it’s grammatically correct.”

“When he does hagbah, he opens from Bereishis to V’zos Habracha.”

Geshmak, no?

6.) You are hosting a dinner party. Who do you invite if you can invite anyone?

At the risk of sounding pretentious (though that ship has probably sailed) I would invite people I consider intellectual luminaries such as Max Tegmark (physics, Theory of Everything), Andrew Gelman (Bayesian statistics), Scott Aaronson (quantum computing), Deborah Mayo (frequentist statistics philosophy), etc. on the one hand, and others that would balance this with levity and humor — many of my friends fall into this category.

7.) What are your family origins?

My father is Ashkenazi by way of eastern Europe. My mother’s family hails from the current cities of Tehran and Esfahan, in what was once the Persian empire.

8.) What is a pet peeve of yours when it comes to dating? What makes a good impression?

My dating history has been relatively pleasant and date dead ends have been generally due to broader compatibility issues. The pet peeves have been mostly with the (mostly amateur) shadchanim who gave me lots of “you’re looking for a wife, not a chavrusa.” Well, I’m looking for both.

9.) What personal value is the most important to you?

Singling one out is tough. Loyalty comes to mind first. Loyalty to G-d, country, morality, friends, etc.

10.) Where would one find you when you aren’t at work?

Either learning with a chavruta, playing basketball, furthering work-related skills, eating, or hanging out with friends, while eating.

11.) What was your favorite part about growing up in Maryland?

Montgomery County has almost everything, including proximity to DC. I like to explore the arts, chill in the suburbs, hang out in the city, and shteig in the yeshiva.

12.) Name a fun fact about Ari.

John Travolta flew me (and parenthetically, other medical providers) to Haiti as a rescuer on his private 707. We chilled on the tarmac a bit and discussed his firefighter movie, “Ladder 49.”

13.) Three things on your Amazon wish list:

Every “Star Wars” movie — self-explanatory.

“Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” — classic must-read book about logic, meaning, intelligence, and formal systems.

“Homo Mysticus: A Guide to Maimonides’s Guide for the Perplexed” — an illumination of Moreh Nevuchim by Hacham Jose Faur, a rav and scholar with a strong connection to the Maimonidean Gaonic tradition.

14.) What do you miss the most during Sefirah?

Kumzits jam sessions with friends. Helps me relax and connect in a different way than learning Torah.

15.) “What’s love got to do with it?”

Generally, a fair bit.

 

Interview by Batya H. Carl