L’Shana Tova 5769!

Courtesy of Crystal Cloud Graphics

Courtesy of Crystal Cloud Graphics

I have been the lucky recipient of several Jewish organizational e-mail cards, and though I fear my graphic skillz can’t live up to that, I’ll do my best. 😛

Shana Tova! Happy new year, and happy 5769. Enjoy lots of apples and honey, and revel in the shofar’s call.

I want to thank everyone who has taken a look at my blog over the past few months. It’s meant a lot to me to have you watch my baby steps; now, sit back and enjoy what’s in store for this next year! As always, please feel free to e-mail me or get in contact concerning what you’d like me to cover about Jewish DC. I’m doing this for you as much as I am for me!

L’shana tova tikvatenu. May you have a blessed Rosh Hashanah, and be inscribed in the book of life.

Upcoming Events: September 28-October 4

Shavua Tov! Below, I’ve compiled a list of Jewish events I’ve found to be going on next week. Hope you had a nice Shabbat. Please feel free to comment with any others, and I will add them. See you around town!

Sunday, September 28

10k, 5k and fun run to support the Charles E. Smith Life Communities and the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes

Annual High Holidays Memorial Service

The Struggle for Workers’ Rights in the U.S.

Jewish Singles 35 Plus

11th Congressional District Debate

Wine Tasting in McLean, VA

Monday, September 29-Wednesday, October 1—Rosh Hashanah!

See a list of synagogues offering tickets here:

Thursday, October 2

JewishPro VP Debate Party. Biden vs. Palin on the Big Screen TVs

YPK Debate Watching

Jenny Lewis Concert Sold Out

Yardena in Concert

Friday, October 3

MesorahDC Shabbat Services

Samplings from the DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival

Eileen Pollack reads from her short story, "The Bris" / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Eileen Pollack reads from her short story, "The Bris" / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

The Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival is mere days away from finishing its run, but I can finally say that I attended a few events! A small few (or rather, two,) but both had to do with fiction, so they made me happy. 😀

The two authors whom I sat in on, Elisa Albert and Eileen Pollack, came from different sides of the fiction spectrum—Albert was reading from her debut novel, “The Life of Dahlia,” while Pollack, a veteran, shared from her short story, “The Bris,” part of the anthology, “In the Mouth.” But both women confront the idea of mortality in the family—using a mix of humor and heart-warming realism to spin their stories.

I particularly wanted to hear Elisa Albert speak on Sunday afternoon because she is editor to two of my favorite Jewish websites—Nextbook and Jewcy.com. At 30-years-old, Albert is already accomplished in life with this and a book of short stories under her belt, quite unlike the protagonist of her novel, just a year younger, whose life seems to begin when she is diagnosed with brain cancer.

Elisa Albert reads from her debut novel, "The Book of Dahlia" / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Elisa Albert reads from her debut novel, "The Book of Dahlia" / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

After reading us the first chapter, Albert explained that she wanted to analyze the “death culture” of self-help books, which, especially with cancer, seem to play “blame the victim.” They assert that if you have a good enough attitude in life, you can beat the disease, she said.

Albert, who lost a positive-attitude brother to cancer, decided to attack the problem from the opposite end—enter Dahlia, a 29-year-old pot-smoking couch potato who can’t get over her familial issues long enough to actually procure a job or income of her own. Her story doesn’t end tied up with a neat little bow of lessons learned—instead, Albert takes a grittier approach, which leaves critics (and many in the room) applauding her realism and originality.

Eileen Pollack came to us on Monday evening with short stories, a novel, and creative nonfiction under her belt.

She read from two sections of “The Bris,” which has been selected for “The Best American Short Stories 2008.” She described the story as a “fairy tale”—a middle-aged man must seek out three Jews to ask an unusual favor—to perform a bris on his dying father. Several of Pollack’s other stories deal with the relationships between senior fathers and their daughters but in this case, she thought that a son would be the better alternative. 😛

I left these two events feeling invigorated as a female, Jewish fiction writer myself. Thank you to these and other authors at the festival for sharing a bit of their creative processes. I look forward to reading their works, and in attending the literary festival next year. Kudos to all of the staff and volunteers at the DCJCC!

Upcoming Events: September 21-27

Shavua Tov! Below, I’ve compiled a list of Jewish events I’ve found to be going on next week. Hope you had a nice Shabbat. Please feel free to comment with any others, and I will add them. See you around town!

Sunday, September 21

Jewish Literary Festival:
Andrea Askowitz: http://geshercity.org/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1080.4&p_p_id=8&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=2856
Elisa Albert: http://geshercity.org/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1080.4&p_p_id=8&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=2857
Darin Straus: http://geshercity.org/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1080.4&p_p_id=8&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=2858

Opening of Exhibit: What Candidates are Really Made of and Other Famous Faces

Young Professionals Walking Tour

Hebrew in a Flash

Olam Tikvah New Members Brunch

Training Wheelers Program Through Hadassah

Celebration of Jewish Campus Life

Olam Tikvah’s ABBA Kickball

McCain Fundraiser Kosher Dinner

JCCNV Country Steppers Dance Team

PJLL: Leon Weiseltier: The Strange Silence of American Jewry

Michael Oren Lecture at Kesher Israel

Young Professional Kesher General Meeting/Calendar Meeting

Monday, September 22

Jewish Literary Festival:
Eileen Pollack: http://geshercity.org/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1080.4&p_p_id=8&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=2860
Amos Oz: http://geshercity.org/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1080.4&p_p_id=8&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=2859

Rally Against Iran

Let’s Talk About It: Jewish Literature at American University

Café Night

Jewish Think Tank

Tuesday, September 23

Jewish Literary Festival:
Hip Kosher: http://geshercity.org/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1080.4&p_p_id=8&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=2861
Ariel Sabar: http://geshercity.org/c/portal/layout?p_l_id=PUB.1080.4&p_p_id=8&p_p_action=0&p_p_state=maximized&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_pos=1&p_p_col_count=2&_8_struts_action=%2Fcalendar%2Fview_event&_8_eventId=2862

JCC of GW Focus on Vision

Jewish Stories for Younger Children

Jewish Ethics in the Modern World

Tom Friedman on U.S. Politics

Wednesday, September 24

Holiday Highlights: High Holiday Class

AIPAC Washington Club Briefing

Thursday, September 25

Twenties and Thirties Mixer

Four Approaches to Studying the Torah: Rashi, Ba’al Ha’Turim, Malbim, and Aviva Zornberg

JFGW Lawyers Lunch and Learn: Presidential Lecture Debate

Friday, September 26

Presidential Debate Party: Obama vs McCain on the big screen

Friday, September 26-Saturday September 27

Kidding Around Film Festival

Local Book Publication: Inspired Jewish Leadership

Graphic courtesy of Jewish Lights Publishing

Graphic courtesy of Jewish Lights Publishing

OK, so I’ve been a bad girl, and not made it to the Jewish Lit Festival yet this season (though I’m on my way to buying some tix. :D) But while we’re on the subject of books…

…allow me to pimp this one; Inspired Jewish Leadership: Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities, just published by PJLL director of adult education and J-Fed scholar in residence, Dr. Erica Brown.

Before I get to my own thoughts, here’s a quote from the introduction…

“Great Jewish leadership has helped us survive slavery, guided us to the Promised Land, given us hope through exile and oppression, helped us enjoy membership in a nation of overachievers, and given birth to the State of Israel. Great Jewish leadership generates vision and, as a result, followers. It inspires us and helps us to stretch higher, see farther, and reach deeper.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a handful of Dr. Brown’s lectures, and I’ve always left them feeling both impressed and connected to the subject at hand. She has a way of encouraging casual dialogue about Bible stories, Jewish history, whatever, and even if you’re not relatively well-versed, you don’t sit there feeling dumb. Her lessons weave into life’s meaning in the here and now, not just stuffy rabbinic rhetoric, and they certainly play into the idea of Jewish community. Which is what, after all, Jewish leadership strives for.

Dr. Brown will be lecturing in several locations around the D.C. area for the next several months. In particular, allow me to point out the NeXus program, which is aimed towards connecting young professionals with the local Jewish community. The six classes range from the personal journey to Israel and beyond, and take place, one per month, from October to March. Space is limited, so sign up now!

Inspired Jewish Leadership can also be purchased through Barnes and Noble, amazon.com, and hopefully many more venues as well!

Upcoming Events: September 15–20

Shavua Tov! Below, I’ve compiled a list of Jewish events I’ve found to be going on next week. Hope you had a nice Shabbat. Please feel free to comment with any others, and I will add them. See you around town!

Monday, September 15
Café Night

Jewish Think Tank

Renew Your Life at the Jewish New Year

High Holidays Meditation and Yoga

The Alphabet of Sins

DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival: Beth Kaplan

DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival: Adam Langer

Tuesday, September 16

Doing the Right Thing: Jewish Ethics in the Modern World

Edgar M. Bronfman’s “Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance”

Grandma’s Favorites: Challah

Wednesday, September 17

Forgiveness Book Club: The Sunflower

Roadmap to the High Holidays

Rabbi David Wolpe’s response to New Atheism

Wine Tasting Kick-Off at VisArts, Rockville

Olam Tikvah Book Discussion

Balkan Beat Box

JCCGW Archaeology Lecture

RNC Roundtable Discussion

DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival: Illan Stavans

DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival: Camp Camp

Thursday, September 18

Four Approaches to Interpreting Torah: Rashi, Ba’al Ha’turim, Malbim and Aviva Zornberg

An Introduction to Islam for Jews

Fall Kick Off For Jewish Professionals at Current

UJEF Legacy Society Event

Technion—Today’s Innovations and Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs

Gil Shohat and Bavat Marom Music Performance

B’nai Tzedek High Holiday Workshop

JCCGW Israel Lecture

DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival: Identical Strangers

DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival: Peter Manseau and Janet Kirchheimer

Friday, September 19

MesorahDC Shabbat Service at Sixth & I

JCA: Sam Gorlitz Kensington Club Dedication and Ribbon Cutting

Shabbat Service and Shalom Yoga

Temple B’nai Shalom Shabbat Service with Rick Recht

DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival: Thumpin It

Congregation Adat Reyim Wine and Cheese Social

Saturday, September 20

Young Professionals Kesher Mini-Golf/Dinner

Olam Tikvah New/Prospective Member Shabbat

Congregation Sha’are Shalom Kiddush Luncheon for Prospective Members

Itzhak Perlman & Pinchas Zuckerman Music Performance

Olam Tikvah Selichot: Abayudaya – The Jews of Uganda

Selichot at Adas Israel: Community Welcome of Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, New Senior Rabbi: and Joseph & Mollie Muchnick Selichot Lecture

Dinner and a Movie Cluster: The Dutchess and Bar Louie

Jewish Literary Festival: Bernard Henri Levy

Reverse Mifgash Weekend Retreat

The Israeli Birthright alums who made the weekend retreat possible for the rest of us / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

The Israeli Birthright alums who made the weekend retreat possible for the rest of us / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Perhaps slightly more tired and bug-ridden than usual, a group of 75 D.C. Birthright alums and Israeli peers just returned from Capital Camps in Pennsylvania Sunday evening after spending two days and nights on a Jewish retreat.

This so called “reverse mifgash” programming was suggested by a recent Birthright participant who wanted to provide a similar opportunity for Israelis to experience Jewish culture and peers abroad. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington helped to raise $18,000 to bring a group of 10 to the D.C. area for cultural touring, meetings with Congressmen, and finally, a weekend on this beautiful campus to contemplate Judaism and its many facets with the rest of us.

Another Federation Leadership retreat was going on at the same time, and we got to share programming with those people, including some meals, Shabbat services, and a lecture on Judaism by Rabbi Dr. Lawrence Hoffman.

Jewish musician Rick Recht performs at the campire / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Jewish musician Rick Recht performs at the campire / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

On our own, we listened to performances by racy comedian Dan Ahdoot, religious musician Rick Recht, and provocative actor Robbie Gringras. Though it rained pretty frequently, we also got to get a leg up on outdoor activities like swimming, basketball, and braving rope courses and zip lines. Nighttime was filled with enthusiastic bentsching, singing, dancing, bonfires and karaoke. And just in case you think we had too much free time on our hands, we also talked about the meaning of Jewish community with J-Fed’s scholar-in-residence Dr. Erica Brown, and EVP/CEO Dr. Misha Galperin. 😉

I can’t write a sentence further without taking the time to give props to the amazing young leadership staff who made sure that the rest of us got as much out of this weekend as possible. Their dedication is a true mitzvah.

Young Professionals stayed in these bunks reminiscent of summer camp experiences / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Young Professionals stayed in these bunks reminiscent of summer camp experiences / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

One of the main themes that came out of our retreat was thinking of ways to “pay it forward” with perpetrating our Jewish community and pride. It got me to thinking about this blog—how I started it because I love to write and I love these events, but more than that, to show my appreciation for Jewish communal workers and to provide a resource for interested Jews in the D.C. area. As I come back from my retreat, feeling refreshed through my fatigue, I am committed to continuing with and hopefully expanding this progress. Please, to anyone reading this, let me know if there’s anything in the D.C. Jewish community that you’d like me to write about!

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of my Reverse Mifgash pictures here. For more information, we have a Facebook group here, and additional social networking tools should be on their way in the near future to keep us connected to this amazing experience.

To get involved with the D.C. Birthright chapter either as an alum or a prospective participant, send an email over to dc@birthrightisrael.com. Next year, this retreat can be part yours as well!