Bowling for Bears

Teddy bears like the one pictured here will be donated to children in need, thanks to young professionals enjoying some nosh at the bowling alley. / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Teddy bears like the one pictured here will be donated to children in need, thanks to young professionals enjoying some nosh at the bowling alley. / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

…I contemplated using a picture of people actually bowling, but that might force me to confront my own poor showing. 😉

Despite my lack of skill in this area, I, along with 22 college students and young professionals, schlepped to GWU’s Hippodrome Thursday evening to throw a ball at a bunch of pins. Believe it or not, self-denigration was not our primary purpose. Our evening, complete with donations of $10 to $15, helped send teddy bears to children in need, courtesy of B’nai B’rith Young Leadership.

Each person who bowled counted for one bear being shipped off, according to the press release. And this year, bears are also being sent to Jewish military families who are “affected by the war on terrorism.” A special, cuddly way of saying thank you, I suppose. 😛

Although I personally sucked the big one on the alley, I did enjoy shmoozing with people from my work, as well as a few young professionals I’ve met around town. It’s great to spend a weekday evening both having fun and giving back. This event as also co-sponsored with student groups, JSA and GWU Hillel.

For more information on B’nai B’rith Young Leadership, check out the Facebook page. Bear in mind that there are also active communities in Florida, Chicago, and NYC! Next up for D.C.ers is August trivia night, co-sponsored with Sixth & I. E-mail Renee Howard at rhoward@bnaibrith.org to R.S.V.P.

“Unsettled” Screening at Sixth & I

A soldier hugs a man he is evicting. / Photo courtesy of Resonance Pictures and A. Hootnick

A soldier hugs a man he is evicting. / Photo courtesy of Resonance Pictures and A. Hootnick

“Before summer ends, three young Israelis will be forced from their homes, two soldiers will be sent to evict them, and one activist will fight to help her country avoid a war.”

These are the words used in the press release for “Unsettled,” an award-winning documentary about Israel’s summer 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday evening, this film came to Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (and co-sponsored with Birthright Israel NEXT) for a special screening. Dozens of people showed up to watch this heart-wrenching tale of one of the most divisive acts in Israeli history, and to Q & A with the director, former newsman, Adam Hootnick.

The story revolves around six different narrators; Lior, 20, a laid-back surfer who lives on “The Palm Beach” of Gaza, his friend, Meir, 27, a religious Jew who believes that G-d has granted his home to him, Neta, 20, a settler trying to resist the evacuation through making documentary films, Tamar, 20, and Yuval, 21, the soldiers who must put their own feelings aside to do their duty, and Ye’ela, 21, who lost a sister to a suicide bomber, and believes giving Gaza back to the Palestinians is the right thing to do.

The youth of these protagonists adds to the reality that this is their story; that the evacuation from Gaza will define their adult lives. Hootnick does a masterful job in condensing their disparate backgrounds for the purposes of the film, and stays with the characters through the moist poignant moments—from training to force settlers out of their homes, to protests for and against this unilateral action, to the very moments when the Gaza withdrawal becomes a tangible reality.

In the Q & A session, American-born Hootnick reaffirmed my hopes for this documentary—he set out not to highlight a specific ideology or interject his own opinions into the story, but to show the human side, the raw human side of the fact that Jews were once again evicted from their homes, and IDF soldiers had to turn their energies against their own people. It is, as the press release calls it, “a battle where there is no enemy.”

After the viewing, I had the pleasure of talking with two young women in my age group—a Jew who has family in Israel, and a Malaysian who has little knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I was relieved to find that they, like me, were surprised at their visceral reactions to this film, to the wholly human emotions that it evokes. This, to my mind, is why “Unsettled” is a must-see for anyone interested in the Middle East. (And perhaps a “see twice,” as I hope to do. :P) Check out the screenings to see if it’s playing anywhere near you!

For more information:
”Unsettled” on MySpace.
”Unsettled” on Facebook
”Unsettled” Trailer on YouTube

In the Spotlight: Sixth & I

The Baltimore Jewish Times reports on Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, a cornerstone institution of the D.C. Jewish community (see this blog’s header image; that’s the entrance. :P) The article goes to great length to describe the colorful history and multi-faceted programming of the synagogue; it’s really worth a read.

To quote a small portion:

Part performance venue, community center, meeting space and house of worship, Sixth & I defies the Jewish community — or anyone else, for that matter — to pigeonhole it. It’s a synagogue (in a rapidly regentrifying area) without a congregation or a rabbi, committees, dues or building campaigns; a concert/lecture venue with an aron kodesh and Jewish ritualistic flourishes; and a Jewish community of sorts that isn’t always necessarily Jewish and doesn’t always have Jewish content in its programming.

The founders and staffers consider their institution representative of an organic, pluralistic, post-denominational, new world order in the Jewish realm, a setting where virtually anyone — especially young, unaffiliated Jewish professionals living in transient downtown D.C. — would likely feel comfortable, despite the synagogue and institutional trappings.

On some nights, that might mean that MesorahDC, an Orthodox chavurah for young Jewish professionals, might have services or classes there. Another night, there might be a Matisyahu concert or a talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon. Or an open mic comedy night, or a sold-out symposium on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, featuring the leading intellectual lights of the nation’s capital.

The breadth and scope of programming is extensive, exhaustive and eclectic. “Sixth & I is the place to go for thinky lectures and edgy shows,” wrote Lavanya Ramanathan, assistant editor of The Washington Post Style section.

…stay tuned to this blog to hear more about the intriguing programming offered at this unusual center of Jewish life. To join the weekly listserv, e-mail PR and Marketing Associate, Rachel Sandor, at rsandor@sixthandi.org. Facebook groups for Sixth & I are located here and here.

Kudos to The Fundermentalist for directing me to this story.

Shabbat Hoppin Picnic

D.C. Birthright Israel alums gather at Rock Creek Park for a Shabbat-themed picnic. / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

D.C. Birthright Israel alums gather at Rock Creek Park for a Shabbat-themed picnic. / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

After a successful season of “hoppin” around to various D.C. synagogues, Shabbat Hoppin, organized by Birthright Israel NEXT, hosted a picnic in the park on Friday to enjoy the D.C. summer atmosphere.

A few dozen young professionals met at Rock Creek Park for food and schmooze. The weather was lovely, not too humid, no overcast skies, the company was great, and I lead the bracha (blessing) over the Shabbat candles!

How nice to relax after a long week at work with fellow Jews. We might not all come to the table with the desire for the religious experience, but most of us brought a dish to share and a friendly, engaging attitude. I know that at my table, we talked a bit about trips abroad to Cuba and Germany and later, an Israeli participant appraised us all with facts about Hamas. The food, needless to say, was delicious- some examples being falafel and hummus, strawberries, pasta, corn, various desserts, and of course, challah. This event was co-sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

For more information on Shabbat Hoppin, e-mail dc@birthrightisrael.com or join D.C.’s Birthright Israel NEXT Facebook page by clicking here!

Hello world!

Shabbat Shalom, and welcome to my new blog: JewishDC: What a Jew’s to do in the Greater Washington Area.

I hope that this blog will become a resource for those interested in connecting to the D.C. area Jewish community. I’ll probably be working on the this’ and thats of the blog for awhile; feel free to comment with any suggestions! In the meantime, check out the newly minted About the Blogger page. More to come soon!