Commemorate MLK Weekend and Tu B’Shevat 5776 in DC!

Traditional Tu B’Shevat bounty / photo courtesy of wikipedia

Happy 2016! As we enter the second half of January, one secular and one religious holiday crop up on the horizon. The long weekend set aside for commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. starts tomorrow, Jan. 16, and Tu B’Shevat commences on Jan. 24. Check out ways to get involved with the local community! Note: some events may be sold out.

Please feel free to add more events in the comments.

MLK Weekend

  • Sixth & I’s MLK Shabbat: Visions of Freedom and Justice. In conjunction with Turner Memorial AME church and featuring their two choirs.
  • Washington Hebrew Congregation’s MLK Shabbat Dinner. Hosting partner churches and mosques, with special guest William Jelani Cobb. Professor Cobb is director of the University of Connecticut’s Africana Studies Institute, amongst other things. Followed by Shabbat service.
  • Adas Israel’s Weekend of Tikkun Olam. This weekend of learning features a such guests as Imam Talib M. Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, the Nation’s Mosque; and Jared Jackson of Jews in All Hues. (I attended one of their programs a few years ago and wrote about it here.) Also a joint service at the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, and more!
  • Gather the Jews compiled a list of links to sign up for various days of service this Monday.

Tu B’Shevat

Chag sameach!

2015 in review for JewishDC!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

But before I herald out the secular year, a few notes on activities from December!

On Tuesday, December 8, I was at Sixth & I for an awesome, soulful, dance-y concert (made it in juuuust before getting sick with a bad cold. :D) The group in question was Bulletproof Stockings, a chasidic alt rock girls band from Brooklyn, on their first regional tour! I was able to cobble together a little teaser vid of the event; you can watch it here.

A week later, on Tuesday, December 15, I was back, at the DCJCC this time, to watch more New Yorkers (or close enough, at least, since they work for Tablet Magazine) visit the capital–the hosts of their podcast, Unorthodox. It was a rowdy, fun night, featuring such guests as Jewish food guru Joan Nathan, journalists Elizabeth Bruenig and Adam Kredo, and songwriter Jeff Knable. Also lots of great interaction with the audience, but alas, most of that got caught in the final show. Still very much worth checking out!

It’s been a great year for me, as I hope this blog indicates. I look forward to being back in 2016 to cover more DC-area Jewish events! Happy holidays.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

DC Chanukah Happenings 5776!

courtesy of

The winter season is upon us; the weather is getting colder, and people are counting the days until they get a little time off from work or school. Why not warm yourself by the kindling Chanukah lights? Local Jewish groups are getting ready to roll out the red carpet for this well-known religious holiday, which will take place this year from sundown Dec. 6 to sundown Dec. 14. Check these out! Feel free to add more in the comments, and chag sameach.

The Women of Chanukah
For members Of A Certain Age (50+) to discuss texts and stories about women in Chanukah and other times of liberation.
Thursay, Dec. 3, 7 pm, DCJCC

Faygelehs and Bagelehs
For GLOE and related LGBTQ groups, a 21+ Chanukah brunch with mimosas.
Sunday, Dec. 6, 10:30 am, DCJCC

Chanukah at the Ellipse
American Friends of Lubavitch starts off the holiday season with this annual ceremony on the White House lawn.
Sunday, Dec. 6, 4 pm, the Ellipse

Read Between the Latkes
Rabbi Shira leads discussion on Chanukah, with latkes and sufganiyot.
Sunday, Dec. 6, 6 pm, Sixth & I

Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill
Annual young adult shindig sponsored by several Jewish organizations. Collection boxes for donations to homeless community charity, D25 at the DCJCC.
Monday, Dec. 7, 6 pm, Capitol Lounge and Station & Greene

Gen X Jews Chanukah Happy Hour
Featuring board games and donations.
Monday, Dec. 7, 6:30 pm, The Board Room

Essentially Chanukah
Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood event featuring essential oils, history and benefits for modern day living.
Monday, Dec. 7, 7 pm, Sixth & I

Chanukah Yoga
Jewish-inspired yoga near the Chanukah lights. Can bring your own menorah.
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6:30 pm, Sixth & I

6th in the City Shabbat: Chanukah Carnival Edition
Musical Shabbat services followed by dinner and carnival amusements, including face painting, balloon animals and games.
Friday, Dec. 11, 6:30 pm, Sixth & I

Chanukah Celebration 2015
Family Chanukah party, featuring a moon bounce, games, crafts, treats and more!
Sunday, Dec. 13, 10 am, DCJCC

Novelist Panels at the Washington, DC Jewish Literary Festival

Jessamyn Hope, Jami Attenberg and Mary Morris in conversation / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

I had a moment on Monday, Oct 26, when I realized I’d read a novel a piece from three of the four writers on stage. This whole whipping my reading life into shape has been good for me. As much as I enjoy finding new voices and books, there’s something exhilarating about feeling in with the literary “in” crowd.

The event in question, Intrepid Time Travelers held at the DCJCC, featured Michelle Brafman in conversation with Mary Morris, Jami Attenberg and Jessamyn Hope. Their three latest novels, The Jazz Place, Saint Mazie and Safekeeping span centuries and continents, from mid-20th-century Chicago, to New York City a few decades earlier, to an Israeli kibbutz in 1994 and the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century. Much of their conversation centered on balancing research with compelling narrative, general inspiration, and an intriguingly common thread throughout the three novels involving music and sound.

The Monday previous, Oct 19, I headed to the Folger Shakespeare Library for a panel called Replacement Lives. Officially put on by PEN/Faulkner, this evening featured Jewish former-Soviet émigrés, David Bezmozgis, Boris Fishman and Lara Vapnyar in conversation with Olga Grushin. I’d previously read Vapnyar’s short story collection, There Are Jews In My House, which she referenced briefly, particularly the titular story where she explored the murky reality of a jealous 1940s woman hiding her Jewish neighbors from the Nazis. She also admitted to the anachronism of having someone do up a zipper before they were invented. :P

The three authors read from their works either recently or soon-to-be published, and then they discussed everything from personal identity to the ways that people stand up for political ideologies in various parts of the world. At one point, Bezmozgis said that if he ever became a U.S. president he’d reinstate the draft so that everyone would have some “skin in the game;” Vapnyar countered that she wouldn’t vote for him. :P

The truly amazing thing about fiction is how many realities it can emcompass—spanning issues and characters ranging across time, geography and ideology. I read fiction, in part, to see how people outside of myself view the world. If you’re interested in novelists at the DC Jewish Literary Festival, there’s still time to get tickets to see Shalom Auslander, also a recent Showtime showrunner, tomorrow at 7:30 for the closing night. Happy reading!

Jews Ring in 5776 Amidst DC Excitement!

Traditional high holidays regalia / photo courtesy of

Shana tova and g’mar chatima tova! These last few days might go down in local history as the first visit by Pope Francis, but the 10th of Tishrei is always the holiest day of the year for us Jews. :P Hope you had a meaningful fast, and a good Rosh Hashanah as well.

Here are some of my highlights:

  • I went to Adas Israel as usual, and got to see new clergy member, Rabbi Aaron Alexander, in action. He gave a moving sermon on Rosh Hashanah about ways, concerning Gd and humanity, that we can stop “being serious about taking ourselves seriously” and actually take ourselves seriously.
  • The “Return Again” Kol Nidre service, which attracts thousands of people to pray on the steps of the synagogue, wasn’t rained out or prey to technical difficulties! :P We also sang “Adon Olam” to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.”
  • Supreme Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke with Judge David Tatel for the Yom Kippur afternoon discussion. I really appreciated her measured, researched answers to the questions he posed; she didn’t seem like she just liked to hear herself talk, and she had a sense of humor, too. Kind of hearkens back to the first point. :P

Next week, the autumn Jewish holidays-palooza continues on with Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Check out the GatherTheJews calendar for some events!

The DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival is scheduled this year for October 18-28. It features famous worldwide Jewish writers such as Etgar Keret, Alan Dershowitz and Shalom Auslander, to a local writers fair. Personally, I have my eye on two panels–Eastern Europeans and women writing in the 21st century. Hope to see you there!

New Page at JewishDC!

New website header!

Summer time tends to be a slower time, so I thought why not do a little revamping of JewishDC? I’ve been blogging for several years now, and some of my favorite posts are cyclical; the various festivals and etc that mark the local Jewish calendar. I’ve compiled and grouped all of my writings over at the annual events page. Click for more details!

And as always, via social media, check out the “Tweets from the Community” and the JewishDC Facebook page, over in the sidebar. And in terms of forward thinking, check out this high holiday guide from GatherTheJews!

Thanks so much for being such great readers. I hope you enjoy the new feature.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Jewish Culture in Unusual Places

1870 synagogue in Lima, Peru / photo courtesy of

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival takes place every summer, bringing amazing world cultural events to the National Mall! Every year has a specific theme and in 2015 they’ve been focusing on Peru.

Doubtless the Festival has done a great job in covering many aspects of this nation. But allow me to expand on their efforts! For the last few years, inspired by our local Folklife tradition, I have researched and brought attention to the widely diverse world Jewish communities. Jewish culture has touched almost every region of the world, and of course vice versa. So let us begin.


In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue…and Jews were officially expelled from Spain, making the “new world” look like a good possibility. In fact, many “conversos” were on board the Spanish ships, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. These people were mostly forcibly converted to Catholicism, though many still secretly practiced Judaism. Latin America promised economic prosperity and the chance to get away from the Inquisition…so they thought. In fact Spain started limiting “conversos” emigration to “the new world,” though the Portuguese didn’t have as many restrictions, so a number of them moved into Spanish territories like Peru. For more information on “conversos,” I made a LibGuide when I was in Library School.

Jews had to live in hiding in Peru, and many Latin American countries, until the Enlightenment of the 19th century. But the community was quite small and intermarried, and much of the establishment they set up passed to new Jewish immigrants, like central European merchants whose descendants make up the bulk of the modern day community. In the latter half of the 1800s, North African Jews, also drawn for economic reasons, made their way to this country.

In the 20th century, the reason for Jewish immigration took a turn towards the attempt to escape persecution. Jews from Turkey and Syria came after World War I, expanding the Jewish presence to the entire country but eventually moving back to the well-established areas in Lima. This included Ashkenazi and Sephardi synagogues, services like homes for the elderly, and a Jewish day school that 80% of kids attend.

The community peaked at 52,000 members in the 1970s, but declined more recently due to socialist governments, neo-Nazi antisemitism, economic hardships, intermarriage, the end of emigration, and immigration to other Latin American countries and Israel. But Peruvian Jews, now numbering around 3,000, continue to own businesses and serve in the government. Former first lady Elaine Karp and former second vice president David Waisman are both members of the tribe.

As of late, indigenous Peruvians (or B’nai Moshe) are starting to turn to Judaism as well. Many see it as the best way to practice the Bible, their ancestors having been converted to Catholicism during the Spanish colonial period. Rabbi Mendel Zuber from the U.S. acquired a Bet Din from Israel in the late 20th century to convert a few hundred people to Judaism. Read more about his work and experience here.  Some of these new converts stayed in Peru, but many made aliyah to Israel as well.

For Spanish-language resources, chec out, Judios de Peru on Facebook and Museo de la Communidad Judia del Peru.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival continues until July 5.

Previous Festival Coverage on JewishDC
2014 / 2013 / 2011 / 2010