Jewnity DC Brings Vibrancy to the Summer

Graphic courtesy of

Summers in DC can be pretty slow for the Jewish community. Increased vacation time and a lack of major religious holidays thin out the crowds and the community offerings. So what intrigued me most about Jewnity DC 2011, tomorrow night’s big bash sponsored by 18 local organizations, is that it reminded me of the annual Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill,another party scene offered annually during one of the most popular times of the Jewish year.

Jewnity DC might come without the dreidels and latkes, but it’s still about showcasing the local Jewish community. Held tomorrow at 5 pm at Public Bar, it is an alcohol-serving, over-21 event. It also features local artists and socialization, the usual hallmarks of the vibrant, young professional scene.

So if you’re still in town and want to escape the heat, this may be something to check out! Find out more on Facebook, including mini bios of the sponsors.

Upcoming Events: July 25-31

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

Monday, July 25

DC Metro Forum Planning Meeting

Tuesday, July 26

Library of Congress: Sephardic-Ladino-Judeo-Spanish-Song: Myths and (Relative) Realities

Ohr Kodesh: Israeli Dancing for Kids

GLOE: Night OUT at the Mystics

Wednesday, July 27

Sixth & I Running Club

This is NPR…An Evening with Planet Money

Har Shalom Family Fun Night

JewishROC: Jeremiah the Prophet

Gesher Jewish Day School Parlor Meeting

ReelIsraelDC: Screening of “The Little Traitor”

Thursday, July 28

Jubilee Jobs

Friday, July 29

Club Getaway Young Pros Weekend Vacation

Social Justice Shabbat

Saturday, July 30

Jewish Thirties and Forties Singles Seated Speed Dating

Sunday, July 31

Jewnity DC

Training for Understanding and Combating Racism

Common Good City Farm

Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington Launches Its Online Archives!

Archivist Wendy Turman speaks about the launch of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington's online archives / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

So how’d you spend your lunch hour yesterday? 😛 Me, I jetted down to the Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum to hear archivist Wendy Turman talk about the launch of a digital project years in the making.

The pews were packed with board members, museum and cultural professionals, and other enthusiasts that staff of JHSGW documented on their own blog here. They provided drinks and cookies as a respite from the seriously blinding heat outside—over 100 degrees in Washington!

Turman displayed slides that showed the various ways that one could find their materials online—everything from a random search that will pull up a page of various artifacts, to highly specific field searches based on object name, collection, subject, donor and more. Each scanned and catalogued image of this growing collection comes with tons of descriptive data entered in by the tireless staff.

JHSGW live-tweeted the event and shared info on all of the specific artifacts we saw on the slides, including pictures from Giant Food, founded in DC by Nehemiah Cohen and Samuel Lehrman in 1936,to 1950s camp bracelets and political pins from the 1980s/90s vigils for Soviet Jewry, and much, much more! It’s all there in the digital collection!

As someone who worked on archiving projects at the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum and Moment Magazine these past several years, I sat in fascinated, nerdy awe during this hour-long presentation. I’m starting a graduate program in Library Science at UMD this fall, and I can’t wait to learn more about how this is all put together!

The event concluded with a special lunch to honor the collections committee and chair, Janice Goldblum, for her 20 years of service.

Upcoming Events: July 11-17

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

Monday, July 11

Panel on Transit-Oriented Development

Tuesday, July 12

Caring Across Generations Campaign Launch

Washington Peace Center Activist Awardees Reunion Party

DC Central Kitchen Food Recovery

Hebrew Class: Beginner to Advanced; July 2011

Wednesday, July 13

DC for Democracy Meet Up

The Art of Social Media

JewishROC: Idol Worship—Historically and Today

Beth El: Preventing the Declaration of a Palestinian State at the United Nations

Little Flippers I and II July 2011

Jubilee Jobs

Thursday, July 14

Hebrew Literacy: Aleph, Bet, and Beyond

Friday, July 15

Club Getaway J-Weekend Vacation

Breger-Marks Foundation Announces Edna Award

6th Street Minyan

WHC 2339 Movie Under the Stars in Rosslyn

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival: Jewish Culture in Unusual Places

Smithsonian building / image courtesy of Wikipedia

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival takes place every summer, bringing amazing world cultural events to the National Mall! Every year has specific themes, and in 2011 they are focusing on Colombia, the Peace Corps, and rhythm and blues.

Doubtless the festival will do a great job covering many aspects of these communities. But allow me to help out! It is a personal passion of mine to show to the world that Jews are more than Eastern Europeans descendants eating bagels and lox. 😛 Jewish culture has touched almost every region of the world, and of course, visa versa. So let’s begin.


According to the Jewish Virtual History Library, Jews first came to Colombia in the 16th century as Spanish settlers. Though outwardly Catholic due to forced conversions, many still practiced Judaism in secret, a phenomenon so large that the practitioners came to be known as “Marranos.”

Immigrants from the Caribbean brought open Jewish practice to the country in the 18th century, though it took awhile to be legalized. Jew-immigration started en mass in the 20th century, first by Sephardim from Spain and North Africa, and then by Ashkenazim fleeing Hitler.

Antisemitic attacks are a problem in Colombia, not because of the Catholic history and culture of the country, but because of the Jews’ largely well-off socio-economic status. Twenty Jews have been kidnapped in the last decades, including more violent attacks, which leaves the community dwindling. Most have left for the United States; the 4,200 who remain largely live in Bogota.

Intermarriage rates are low, though the community is largely unreligious. Still, you can find lists of Columbian Jewish resources here, here and even here!

Peace Corps

The Peace Corps, which entered its 50th year of service this year, has undoubtedly attracted a number of Jewish volunteers. Volunteerism is a big to-do in the Jewish community; in fact just recently, Repair the World released a study on volunteering trends in the young Jewish adult community.

Highlighted here are some individual stories…last November/December, DC-based Moment Magazine published an essay by Carl Hoffman, detailing how his Peace Corps stint in the 1980s led him to embrace the Jewish Philippines community (full disclosure: I helped fact check this publication). Across the country in Los Angeles, The Jewish Chronicle profiled Lillian Mizrahi in February, a current Peace Corps volunteer in the small but significant bracket of participants over the age of 50. She is currently serving in Macedonia, and has also become part of the Jewish community there.

Rhythm and Blues

Jews have a long history of writing music that, stereotypically speaking, wouldn’t seem culturally appropriate. Take, for example, the large number of Christmas classics penned by members of the tribe. 😛

Rhythm and Blues, aka R&B, has undergone many changes in the past several decades, but is largely seen as an African American variety of music.

One such “Jewish crossover” was Jerry Leiber, fellow Heeb from my hometown of Baltimore, who was inspired by the music of his African American neighbors. He’s responsible for hits such as “Hound Dog.” Tablet Magazine has a blues-and-rhythms rendition of the song, as sung by Big Mama Thornton and predating the Elvis version.

In 1997, Leiber offered this cultural connection to The Baltimore Sun:

Leiber…said he learned only recently that his father had sung at synagogues in the family’s native Poland. He said traditional Jewish music shares many traits with rhythm and blues. “Listen to any cantor, any good hazan, sing and you can hear a little bit of Ray Charles going on,” he said.

The Folklife Festival runs from June 30-July 4 and July 7-11.

(read last year’s coverage here!)