A Novel Debut, an Adas Class and More for 2021 DC Jewish Pride!

Picking up my copy of “Closer to Fine” at Lost City Books! /picture taken by Rachel Mauro

I’m so feklempt that I finally had the chance to engage with newish DC bookstore, Lost City Books, thanks to the Jewish and queer communities!  On June 1, author Jodi Rosenfeld, GLOE member Tamar Gasko and bookseller Shady Rose convened on Zoom to discuss Rosenfeld’s debut novel, Closer to Fine. It was named after a quintessential, ‘90s and queer Indigo Girls song you can listen to here!

Though the book has universal themes, like learning acceptance, navigating relationships and generational gaps, the ‘90s cast certain elements in a distinctive light.  The queer community, such as it was back then, solely catered to gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, and everyone had to “pick a box,” Rosenfeld said.  Conservative Judaism, the denomination to which Rachel belonged, was changing as well.  Rachel was stunned when her synagogue hired a young, progressive, female rabbi to lead the congregation.  (The conservative movement started ordaining women in 1985.  Three decades later, at Adas, most of the clergy are female!  Anywho.)

It’s the power of a strong story that although many of the situations were stuck in the last century, young, queer readers like Gasko still found it to be relatable.  Throughout the hour they talked about the novel, and the state of Jewish and queer communities from the past through today.  You can hear it for yourself by clicking on the recording here!

***

One week later, on June 8, Adas Israel closed out its 5771 adult learning series, MakomDC, with Dr. Joy Ladin.  Ladin, a poet and English professor and Gottesman Chair at Yeshiva University, talked about reading the bible from a transgender perspective.

I appreciated her broad-minded view of the Torah, noting how rare it is for any human character’s identity to make it onto the page (or scroll.) She referenced Akedah specifically, and how we never get Abraham’s perspective from his identity as a father as he is preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The reason for this broad, distant view, Ladin argues, is so we focus less on the humans and that Gd, who in Gdself is genderless and ergo “queer,” can stay in the frame.

When Ladin looks to “queer” the Torah, she focuses on in-text examples of characters who do not conform to gender and identity expectations.  Our patriarch Isaac’s immediate family is a good example of that.  His two sons, Jacob and Esau, present very different versions of masculinity—Esau is a  burly, hairy, hunter; and Jacob is a more slender shepherd.  Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebecca (who, in and of herself, strikes me as a biblical female character who is most proactive with her own agency,) steals the birthright from the older son, Esau.  To break this social order, Jacob dresses in animal skins while visiting his father, in what some might term an over-performance of masculinity.

Isaac himself is the product of a woman, Sarah, who could be termed a “gender failure” by society’s expectations, in that she is unable to get pregnant for most of her life. When she finally conceives Isaac, at 90 years old, two different female identities—that of young mother and of old woman—come together as one. Isaac’s Hebrew name, Yitzhak, which means “laughter,” may be a nod to the absurdity of the situation. Absurdity, Ladin argues, not unlike transgender and non-binary people trying to fit themselves into a world that often relies on narrow definitions.

There were around 25 people in the Zoom chat, and during one discussion section, someone pointed out how Jacob, much like many transgender people, underwent a transformation and gained a new name.  Jacob wrestled with…someone (most interpret this to be an angel,) and was renamed Israel.  Was an illuminating moment in the discussion, where Dr. Ladin (and later Adas’s Rabbi Aaron Alexander,) shared with us the joy in uncovering new layers of Judaism’s holy texts.

The month continues with more local programming.  You can join GLOE, Bet Mishpachah and the community this Friday at Pride Shabbat (and/or for a pre-Shabbat virtual cocktail mixer,) drag bingo and games next Tuesday, and a community service option for DC’s LGBTQ+ nonprofit, Casa Ruby, on Sunday, June 20.

The Capital Jewish Museum recently highlighted collections from David M. Green, a DC Jew and gay activist who died of AIDS complications in 1989, z”l.  They encourage the local, queer community to donate archival materials in order for the museum “to reflect the community we represent.”

Happy Pride!

The JxJ Festival Resumes Course in 2021, with Mix of Live and Virtual Events

JxJ brings back the in-person events! / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Having vanquished—with thanks to the vaccine roll out—the scourge of coronavirus, JxJ almost fell victim to a new villain: the weather!

Two of it’s eleven outdoor events in fact had to be postponed.  (Luckily, there were plenty more talks and screenings online this last week of May.)  But on the afternoon of the final day of the festival, Sun May 30, Yiddishist Miriam Isaacs and virtuoso Vladimir Fridman dutifully turned up at the Bender JCC in Rockville, for an hour of Yiddish music.  At the end of the performance, Isaacs pointed out that several of the songs in fact referenced inclement weather.  Although the skies remained overcast, no rain fell.

“For the best experience, bring your own beach chairs and/or picnic baskets!” JxJ extolled us.  A handful of the 20-30 socially distant audience members brought their own chairs, and the Bender JCC provided seating as well.  Thankfully the concert was held on asphalt and not in the grass, which was likely wet from the weekend.  I brought and ate some Panera, feeling conspicuous, though I believe someone behind me also had food on a picnic table.

Songs ranged from Czarist Russia to Second Ave New York, with Isaacs providing some context before Fridman performed on guitar and vocals.  The day was chilly enough that some of us who brought blankets used them over our legs.  But nothing could quell the excitement of getting to attend an event in person again.  It almost felt like the last time I braved the world for JewishDC was when my ancestors were coming over from the old country!  (Or, er, February of last year. :P)  Taking in the age of most audience members I assume we were all vaxxed, and only one woman was wearing a mask.

Another woman danced, and we collectively tried a little bit of tepid call and response with the performers.  In all honesty, the hour just kinda washed over me, and I think most people were mostly basking in the forgotten feeling of in-person entertainment.  Ilya Tovbis, JxJ’s Artistic and Managing Director, said that the Dupont-based Edlavitch JCC should be fully open in September!  Exciting news!

For more JxJ coverage, check out my inaugural post from 2019!

2021: Another Virtual Year for Jewish American Heritage Month

National Museum of American Jewish History / picture courtesy of Wikipedia

May is just around the corner, and though Covid is still with us, National Jewish American Heritage Month is on!

In 2021, NJAHM is being led by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Pa. One might ask: then what does this topic have to do with Jews in DC? Well, for one thing, everything’s still virtual. 😛 So we can all take part in this month of celebrations!

One of the big streaming events is definitely DC based: U.S. Rep’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Brenda Lawrence are convening Monday May 10 at 1 pm to discuss Black-Jewish relations in America.

Others include lessons about the Soviet Jewry movement, stories of the Asian American Jewish experience and the first community-based inductee into the Ed Snider Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame.

From the website:

The month will showcase contemporary stories of communities transcending difference to come together in mutual support and solidarity and amplify diverse voices within the Jewish community. JAHM will work to fight not only explicit antisemitism, but also its insidious influences and discrimination against people of all races, religions, and walks of life.

If you’re looking for local events, the Capitol Jewish Museum is hosting a virtual tour on Tuesday, May 11!  Find out more details here.

Also, it’s not directly NJAHM-related, but the 2021 JxJ Film, Music and Art Festival is convening for the last week of the month…and it includes some in person, outdoor events!  Check back for some coverage on this blog!

Also, check out my past coverage of Jewish American Heritage Month under the “Annual Events” tab.

Sixth & I Zoom Classes, Fresh Seder Ideas, Second Passover of Covid-19!

Rabbi Shira starts off the Seder Says class on Zoom / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

And Gd willing, it will be the last!

Had to dust off a few gears in order to write this post. Barring the (in-person!) Adas Israel Purim funhouse, I haven’t been attending many happenings in the Jewish DC community. It’s been months since I’ve “gone” to any Zoom events, like at all! But when Sixth & I touted a class on sprucing up Passover Seder conversation, which took place a little over a week ago, I couldn’t resist.

It was robust and fun, as well as being informative.  The five main presenters, as moderated by Senior Rabbi Shira Stutman, were obviously part of a tight-knit group with several of the 30ish people in attendance.  Conversation bloomed through the video and in the chat.  Certainly one of the most intrinsic examples I’ve found of community continuing to proliferate in this pandemically mandated virtual space.  And I gotta say: as much as I appreciated the presenter who had the parting of the Red Sea as his Zoom background, my heart went pitter patter over another one whose cats were present and lounging in a cat tree. 😛

These five speakers, aided by their Power Point presentations, were compelling and well-spoken, too.  They covered such topics as The Four Questions (and the always-active argument about what those four children represent,) the song “Dayenu” (and what is enough, or is it enough, in the Passover story and in our current reality,) and the phrase “L’shana haba’ah Yerushalayim,” or “next year in Jerusalem” (and how to reconcile that with complicated feelings about the modern state of Israel, or if the phrase has to be literal at all.) 

The topic that has stuck in my mind the most regards violence in the Passover story. Specifically, this discussion started by describing the Shfoch Hamatcha prayer. This is traditionally recited before opening the door to Elijah the Prophet near the end of the Seder (that being one of my favorite parts because the melody is so pretty. And because opening the door and singing out to the world reminds me that Jews are doing this everywhere, too.) But anywho, the prayer actually asks for Gd to “pour out thy wrath” on our enemies, eeesh.

My own thoughts gravitated towards the idea of vengeance, which is actually something I’ve been grappling with more when it came to the last majorish Jewish holiday, Purim. Purim is pretty standard when it comes to Jewish history; the Persian version of “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” But we talk less about this fact: once the bad guy, the one who wanted to commit genocide against the Jews, was executed, the people didn’t stop there. Megillat Esther maintains that they went on a killing spree against non-Jews. Vengeance is quite obviously a theme here.

The violence in the Passover story is different.  First of all, these acts performed by Gd (who is totally absent from the Purim story.)  But more importantly, the violence therein can largely be chalked up to self-defense.  Gd closed the Red Sea over the advancing Egyptian army, lest the Israelites be dragged back into bondage.  Then Gd commands said Israelites to not celebrate their deaths, since the Egyptians were still people, after all.

It’s just something I’ve been thinking about, and I’m glad the Seder gives space to grapple with these issues. Purim, in contrast, has a bit of a carnival air, and it can be difficult to take an introspective moment. (In terms of drunkenness, Purim=very drunk, and Passover=slightly buzzed. :P) Anywho, I’m very grateful to the Sixth & I class. Passover is now less than a week away, giving me limited time to perhaps hash out my own talking points on Hagaddot.com for my first Seder night (and second will be spent, virtually, with Adas!)

For DC (and worldwide) mishpacha: also check out the Gather the Jews Passover guide for upcoming events and other ways to commemorate the holiday. Chag sameach, and Next Year Without Covid!

Celebrate Purim in 5781!

graphic courtesy of Vecteezy

Purim starts on February 25, a festive holiday of rejoicing, yet again, in the fact that we (the Jews) have survived a persecution attempt. Huzzah! Though not as noticeable to the outside world as, say, Chanukah, it is definitely as fun—allowing people of all ages to dress up, eat special sweets, and wave noisemakers called groggers as the Megillah (book of Esther) is read out enthusiastically.

You don’t have to wait until the 14th of Adar to participate in this holiday. Enjoy these local offerings of Purim-related festivities leading up to and encompassing this holiday event! It’s a strange, almost nostalgic year, as Purim 2020/5780 was the last Jewish holiday before coronavirus shut down everything in the U.S. But as you can see below we’re still going strong–in person or otherwise! Chag sameach.

*note: GatherTheJews already captured a lot of events, and other things, on their annual Purim guide! Here’s just a few more.

Sunday, February 21

Purim Carnivirtual
A collaboration between the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, PJ Library, and various local synagogues and other Jewish centers. Family-centric with games and other entertainment!

Sing Along with the Hazzan for Purim
At Agudas Achim

Monday, February 22

EDCJCC’s offerings for the kids include Bim Bom Purim Bags and a holiday story time! Older folks can try their hand at hamentaschen making with Baked by Yael.

Tuesday, February 23

Shalom Chaverim: Purim Edition
With EDJCC: Families can virtually join in with making wearable art like crowns and necklaces perfect for a Purim parade!

Thursday, February 25

2000s Purim Power Happy Hour
EntryPointDC celebrating culture from 20 years ago before you go back way further for the megillah reading. 😛

Drag Queen Esther-Fest: A Purim Maskerade
Joint between GLOE and Bet Mishpachah. Virtual fun with the “Dragillah,” local celebs, and raising funds for LGBTQ causes.

Purim Puppet Production
Full Purim schedule for Tikvat Israel.

Temple Shalom is featuring a Tot Purim and an all-ages affair.

Manna Food Drive
At B’nai Israel.

Purim Celebration
Full schedule, for Hill Havurah.

Esther: A Persian Musical
Look at the artwork and you can guess what this Kol Ami Purim spiel took as inspiration! 😛

Sunday, February 28

A couple of post-holiday carnivals, courtesy of Washington Hebrew and Temple Shalom!

Commemorate MLK Weekend 2021 and Tu B’Shevat 5781 in DC!

image courtesy of allfree-clipart.com

Under the circumstances, it feels strange to write “happy new year.” 2021 has gotten off to a rocky start, especially in DC. I’ve personally felt indebted to Rabbi Aaron Alexander and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, of Adas Israel, who checked in on Facebook Live with messages about loving support and the true meaning of teshuva (repentance.)

Hopeful things are on the horizon, at least in terms of upcoming holidays. But before I go there, allow me to step back into the anomaly that was 2020. Here are some stats! According to WordPress, JewishDC got 559 views and 457 visitors, with the largest numbers coming from the US, Germany, Canada, Finland, India, the UK and Israel. My most popular post of the year was my perennial on The Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Most years, this festival would be taking place on the National Mall, but this year the Smithsonian thought up the virtual Beyond the Mall. They specifically highlighted the United Arab Emirates and Brazil, and I stepped in with the Jewish histories of those two countries.

Thanks so much for your support, everyone, and here’s to hoping for a fruitful secular new year, sooner or later! Starting here with some holidays and community service.

The Jewish community commemorates two significant holidays—one religious and one secular—in January. MLK Weekend takes place this weekend, from Jan 16-18. Tu B’Shevat occurs between Jan 27 and 28. 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 Visions of Freedom and Justice. In conjunction with Turner Memorial AME Church. Includes their annual focus on the relationship between Dr. King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Also sermons and singing. More uniquely this year, includes virtual travel to Philadelphia and places of historical significance to Blacks and Jews.
  • Washington Hebrew Congregation’s MLK Shabbat Service. In conjunction with faith leaders from about two dozen partner churches and mosques, featuring capstone speaker Jelani Cobb. Cobb, a staff writer for The New Yorker, is known for his work on racial justice, and has published the book, The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.
  • Adas Israel’s 2021 Weekend. Including a Friday night musical Shabbat service with virtual breakout sessions about the congregation’s social action projects. Saturday morning will feature guests Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky and Reverend Brandon Harris, as well as Roderick Giles & Grace Gospel Choir. On Sunday congregants are invited to join the People’s Church virtual service. And on Monday it’s Adas @ Home: cooking for the Hesed community, as well as the online debut of the Soul to Soul concert for African American and Jewish music.
  • Also check out the EDCJCC’s virtual volunteering option of knitting for the homeless! Plus, their Holiday Story Time Series for MLK Day, aimed at kids from 1-6 years old.

Tu B’Shevat

DC Chanukah Happenings 5781!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Chanukah is imminently upon us! It lasts between Dec. 10 and Dec. 18. It’s almost time to fry those latkes and kindle those menorah lights! Alas, with covid raging strong, there won’t be as many community events around town, but check out what the DC area does have to offer! Please add any I missed in the comments!

Thursday, December 10-Friday, December 18
Adas Israel Chanukah
Events include a #HanukkahLights Drive Through in the parking lot, a livestreamed concert, a virtual candle lighting and more!

Washington Hebrew Congregation Chanukah
Events include a scavenger hunt, contact-free meal pick up, a magician over zoom, a young adults gift exchange and more!

Chanukah Virtual Scavenger Hunt
The three JCCs are partaking in a virtual scavenger hunt, through the ap GooseChase, emphasizing team work! There will be missions to complete, raffles and prizes.
Ongoing, DCJCC, Pozez JCC, Bender JCCGW

8 Nights of Lights
Join your local JCCs on Zoom to light Chanukah candles this holiday!
5:30 pm, DCJCC, Pozez JCC, Bender JCCGW

Light the Night
More candle lighting, this time on Facebook, with different departments of the DCJCC!
6 pm, DCJCC

Thursday, December 10
Chanukah on the Ellipse
American Friends of Lubavitch starts off the holiday season with this annual ceremony on the White House Lawn, this year with covid-19 restrictions.
4 pm, The Ellipse

Kids Chanukah Activity Bag
Aimed at kids; they will virtually share art projects, read books and sing songs.
4 pm, DCJCC

Count Every Night
Virtual singalong, candle-lighting and meet & greet! Including Chanukah cocktails and holiday recipes.
7 pm, Sixth & I

Friday, December 11
Tot Shabbat
The local JCCs are gathering virtually for a toddler Shabbat with Chanukah themes.
4 pm, DCJCC, Pozez JCC, Bender JCCGW

Saturday, December 12
Chanukah Havdalah
A Chanukah theme to this traditional way to end Shabbat. Virtual.
5:30 pm, Sixth & I

Sunday, December 13
Songs of Light
Through EventBrite, here’s a singalong featuring a wide array of music, with the theme of “light” along the way.
4 pm, Pozez JCC

Monday, December 14
Story Time: Chanukah
Reading Chanukah books with the kids!
3 pm, DCJCC

Chanukah cooking with the Kagins
Open up your Zoom account and fry some latkes with a group!
4:30 pm, DCJCC

Tuesday, December 15
GJF Bite Size Fun: Chanukah Edition
This regular kiddie staple involves making edible, Chanukah-flavored crafts. 😛 Virtual.
12 pm, Pozez JCC

Six Picks: Chanukah Edition
As a counterpart to Christmas movies, this virtual event is all about unpacking Chanukah moments on the screen! You can submit favorite Chanukah clips through Friday, Dec. 11.
7 pm, Sixth & I

Wednesday, December 16
Virtual Author Talk: The Ninth Night of Hanukkah
This children’s book involves a case of a family that moves and then can’t find its Hanukkah box! Copies are available through Politics & Prose
4 pm, Pozez JCC, Bender JCCGW

Chanukah at Home
Rabbis of the Jewish Emergent Network will lead a virtual soiree with learning, lighting and singing.
7:30 pm, Sixth & I

Thursday, December 17
GJF Virtual Sillies: Chanukah Edition
Through zoom, kids can get those sillies out with Chanukah-themed play.
4 pm, Pozez JCC

Firelight Flow: A Yoga Class
This popular event goes virtual!
7 pm, Sixth & I

A Young Australian Teen Tries to Bring Her Family Together in the Whimsical Film “H is for Happiness”

“H is for Happiness” movie poster / courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

Coronavirus is so entrenched now that the DC Edlavitch Jewish Community Center has had time to adapt. Back in the day, one could catch Jewish-inspired films at the Cafritz Hall movie theater. Now, through the “Happen At Home” program, patrons from around the world (so long as they have access to an internet connection) can rent and download from a selection of films.

I decided that I had to check this out, because I miss my seasonal Jewish film at the EDCJCC! I chose “H is for Happiness,” because it seemed light and uplifting, and ergo a salve for most of 2020.

It’s Jewish connection is tenable at best. Based off of a young adult book written by Barry Jonsberg… yeah, that’s it. 😛 Jonsberg, unless I’m mistaken, is one of the tribe.

Maybe, if I stretch things a bit, I can claim cultural kinship with Candice Phee’s (Daisy Axon) desire to claim life–L’chaim! 😛 But she’s fighting an uphill battle. Her mother, Claire, (Emma Booth) has been fighting depression ever since Candice’s baby sister died of infant mortality syndrome. Her father, Jim, (Richard Roxburgh) and her uncle, whom she affectionately calls “Rich Uncle Brian,” (Joel Jackson) have been estranged ever since a business deal gone bad.

It also stands to reason that Candice has no friends, perhaps because she spends all of her time in class acting like Hermione Granger. 😛 But then (well, at the inciting incident at the beginning of the film,) Candice meets her Harry Potter—er, Douglas Benson (Wesley Pattern.) (I’ll remind folks of the strong Harry/Hermione inclinations in the movies.) Douglas and Harry do share black hair and thick glasses, as well as a sense of arriving on set from another dimension. Douglas believes he was jolted from his “real” world when he fell from a tree, and what else could Harry be feeling that first time he walked through Diagon Alley? 😛

(A bigger part of the inciting incident, just to be clear, is that Candice is given an assignment that’s part family history / part public speaking gig / part…alphabet soup?, and this is what inspires her to finally fix her broken family.)

If my review is a bit whimsical, then that’s only par for the course. This entire film feels like something that Wes Anderson might have been cooking up in his teen years. Candice’s neighbors are folks like a flamboyant crossdresser and the “get off my lawn” old man trope. Most of her scheming fantastically backfires—from painstakingly cooking a subpar meal for her mother to jumping into the ocean so her father and uncle will be forced to bond over rescuing her. (Instead they bang heads together and Candice is only saved by the inflatable boobs that Douglas got her as a birthday gift.)

Young love is indeed in the air throughout. I’m not prudish enough to object to 13-year-olds flirting (sidenote, but I’m mighty obsessed with Lyra and Will from the His Dark Materials adaptation right now) but some of the gross-out humor—the puking, the pooping—took me out of the story more than anything. Ah well. Those were pretty small moments, over all.

Sooner or later, though, Candice’s parents have to start responding to her entreaties in order for the plot to, well, advance. What accomplishes that is Candice basically giving up—and going to a lawyer in a doomed attempt to try and “divorce” her family. It’s an odd twist (or maybe I’m just saying that because I watch too many Lifetime movies) but it never takes itself that seriously. Later, Jim takes Candice with him while he flies his remote-control plane, but he can never actually look at his daughter because he feared losing control of said plane. It’s only when Candice introduces Douglas to the picture that Jim falls for the boy’s scientific theories (and feels compelled to protect his daughter from Douglass’s offer of marriage. :P)

Claire is even more difficult. How can a “feel good” movie make room for a woman suffering through such a profound loss? She more or less oscillates between catatonia and an attempt to engage with the present, and she refuses to see her baby’s life as anything but a travesty until the end of the movie. Interestingly enough, it is trauma again that pulls Claire most outside of herself—when Douglass injures himself in an attempt to re-enter his home dimension, Claire drives Candice to the hospital and stays with her there.

By the end of the film, Candice lays out the moral of the story with all of the subtlety of someone reading from a prepared speech for a school assignment. 😛 Happiness is not something that one can force upon another. Happiness is something that lives inside of you. It takes time to find it again, if it has been lost. And that’s what the movie most offers—it lays out time for the Phees to test the waters of moving on with life.

Stay tuned, because in just a few days, the EDCJCC is heading to the next level, and virtually opening their annual JxJ festival! (Also in partnership with the Bender JCC of Greater Washington and the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia!) Running between December 3 and 10, just before Chanukah, it will feature films, music, talks and more, only available on Eventbrite! Check out the link for more info.

Jewish Newspapers and Periodicals at the Library of Congress!

Back in 2013, which more or less feels like a millennium ago, started contracting at the Library of Congress. Now, after a six-month Covid furlough, I am back, but in a different division.

So I thought I’d take this time to specifically highlight Serial and Government Publications! They offer access to thousands of digitally and physically available newspapers, periodicals, and government docs. I took some pictures of Jewish-themed publications, which you can see below!

photo courtesy of Rachel Mauro

photo courtesy of Rachel Mauro

For more information on how to search for newspapers and periodicals at LOC, click here and here.

Stay safe out there, and don’t forget to vote!

A Belated Ringing in of 5781!

Adas Israel’s remote "Renewal, Courage, Faith" theme / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Technically, not as late as my usual. Sukkot hasn’t even begun yet! 😛

But it certainly is an unusual year overall. Coronavirus has shuttered my synagogue for six months. So instead of cramming into the building for High Holidays, I watched streaming services on my tv of the clergy with empty sanctuary seats behind them. Surreal.

But there’s a lot to appreciate about this sort of experience as well. For example—posterity! Even as early as the end of Yom Kippur, the Adas staff was able to put together a “highlights reel” from our holy week. You can watch it here! (I’m feklempt to be included as part of the virtual flash choir, from our summer video of “Halleluyah.”)

Here are some of my other High Holidays highlights:

  • Unfortunately, we cannot talk about this holiday season without mentioning the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of blessed memory. Adas clergy found out about this event during the Erev Rosh Hashanah service, and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt was able to provide some remarks before the recitation of the kaddish, the prayer for the dead. Rabbi Holtzblatt has some personal connections to the Justice, particularly from when her husband clerked for the judge, and later Ginsburg and the rabbi co-wrote an essay on the women of Passover. On the 23rd, Holtzblatt officiated at RBG’s funeral in the Supreme Court. You can find video here.
  • I already alluded to the fact that the technical quality of services was outstanding. I think Rabbi Aaron Alexander said it himself at the end of Yom Kippur; the Adas staff turned the Smith Sanctuary, and surely other parts of the building where services were held, into a television studio. Maybe not what one traditionally associates with a synagogue, but in this time of forced separation, it’s nice to see some dynamic Judaism on the air waves. Case in point: this beautiful rendition of Shechecheyanu (a prayer for new beginnings) that debuted during Rosh Hashanah services! There were a lot of other great vids, too, but I’ve fallen hard for this melody.
  • On Yom Kippur afternoon, Rabbis Holtzblatt and Alexander talk with prominent members of the greater DC community. This year, they chatted remotely with Attorney General Karl A. Racine, about racial justice and criminal justice issues. Regarding the latter, Racine spoke of the District’s commitment to “Restorative Justice” in the juvenile justice system. He cited a specific example where a 15-year-old offender entered into a mentorship program rather than traditional prosecution. The teenager, and society, benefited greatly from that. This reminds me of reading Charged by Emily Bazelon earlier in the year, and the impact it had on me. I’m heartened to learn of positive changes happening so close to home.
  • I usually stick to three points, but a special addendum: my mother watched most of the High Holiday services with me. Well, remotely, because she was in Baltimore and I was in Silver Spring. But ever since I started attending Adas, I’ve missed her presence. Particularly during Yom Kippur Havdalah, which brings congregants out of the sacred and back into the mundane. It’s a time of wrapping your arms around family members and singing to candlelight. My mom and I resorted to texting a bit, and she said she really enjoyed the services. Meant a lot to me, since Adas is a focal part of my Judaism.

What were your favorite experiences of High Holidays 5781? Feel free to share in the comments!

Sukkot runs from Friday, October 2 to Friday, October 9, followed by Simchat Torah on the 10th! Check out what local synagogues are up to by clicking here.