The Epichorus Blends Judeo-Arabic and Area Music at 2015 Washington DC Jewish Music Festival

The Epichorus performs an encore at the DCJCC/ photo taken by Rachel Mauro

New York-based The Epichorus performed to a full auditorium at the DCJCC Washington Jewish Music Festival Wednesday night. Heavy on instrumentals, the group also featured the soulful vocals of Priya Darshini.

Zach Freedman, rabbi at the New Shul in Manhattan and player of the oud and guitar, composed much of the music. Other group members in attendance included Daniel Ori on bass, Megan Gould on violin, Hadar Noiberg on flute and Rich Stein on percussions.

Among the songs they performed for their hour and a half long concert, Freedman had the audience sing along to a rendition of Lecha Dodi, a traditional Jewish piece for welcoming Shabbat, that he composed for his wedding. Other pieces he spun from such religious texts as verses of the Song of Songs and the Jewish blessing after meals. The group also touched on melodies from Syria and Pakistan.

Although beset with very minor technical difficulties, I was very taken with the instrumental harmonies, particularly by the flute and violin in tandem. The musicians all performed with evident, physical passion for their work, which made it all the engrossing and enjoyable.

This program was promoted in part by the Foundation of Jewish Studies. The Washington Jewish Music Festival continues through the weekend; click here for more information.

Lincoln’s Jewish Legacy and Jews in Pa Mining Towns Among Local Lectures for Jewish American Heritage Month

Lincoln’s Jewish podiatrist, Isachar Zacharie / courtesy of Jewish World Review

May heralds in the ninth commemoration of Jewish American Heritage Month! The official website has been updated with upcoming events at venues such as the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is teaming up with two of these organizations to present events:

The Society is also hosting a challah sale—four loaves for $24 to benefit it’s educational programs with pick up at their offices or free delivery in Penn Quarter. Deadline is May 4; sign up here.

On May 3, the Foundation for Jewish Studies and Congregation Beth El in Bethesda are co-hosting Jews, Protestants and the Secularization of Modern America with historian/professor Dr. David Hollinger.

Please comment with any other area events below!

Past JAHM coverage on JewishDC: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

Book talks, Panels, Walking Tours and Plays for Jewish American Heritage Month 2014

April 30 commemoration of the Days of Remembrance at the Capitol building/ photo courtesy of USHMM

Today, in honor of the Days of Remembrance for the Holocaust, the Capitol building hosted a memorial ceremony, complete with speeches and a U.S. Infantry presentation of the flags of the liberating divisions. But tomorrow is May, and ergo the eighth year of the commemoration of Jewish American Heritage Month! The official website has been updated with upcoming events at venues such as the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is teaming up with two of these organizations to present events:

For hyper-local history, sign up for the May 4 Walking tour of Arlington Cemetery, or meet up with young adults from DCJCC’s EntryPoint DC for a downtown walking tour of Chinatown. Only a few spots left!

If you’re free tomorrow evening, the Foundation for Jewish Studies and Washington Hebrew Congregation are co-hosting Beyond the Battlefield: The Legacy of the Civil War for America’s Jews with historian/author Adam Mendelsohn.

And finally, Arena Stage presents the world premiere of Camp David, a historical drama about the meeting for Middle East peace with world leaders Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat. JHSGW is offering a discount on ticket prices; click here for more! The play continues until May 4.

Past JAHM coverage on JewishDC: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

Modern-Day Learning at Adas Israel’s MakomDC

Several months ago, shortly after High Holidays, in fact, Adas Israel launched a new series of innovative learning programs, largely for adults, in their renovated beit midrash (study center.) These monthly programs revolve around a theme, and include lectures, panels, screenings and more in what they hope will be more of a 21st century, “coffee house” environment. This month’s theme was justice, and I figured it was time to review some events.

“Justice” is a rather versatile subject and Adas embraced many aspects—from Rabbi Steinlauf’s exploration of the mitzvah of tzedakah to the reading of a play on interfaith conversations. In keeping with the 21st century gestalt, I decided to zero in on two events that were about including marginalized groups in the modern Jewish community—LGBT and people with disabilities.

Studying Jewish religious texts through “a different lens,” as presented on our handout / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Dr. Jay Michaelson, who recently published the book God vs Gay? The Religious Case for Equality, was the keynote speaker on Tuesday, Feb. 4, who sat down with Rabbis Steinlauf and Holtzblatt to discuss progressive advances in the Conservative Jewish community, issues LGBT people face when approaching Jewish communal life, and even a thoughtful, broad-minded stance on the issues facing Orthodox groups.

My favorite part was breaking off into traditional Jewish study groups of 2-3 called “chevruta” where we provided with biblical verses about gender, specifically as it applies to the patriarch, Jacob. We also had access to quotes from scholarly thought on these passages, ranging from the modern to a surprisingly homoerotic interpretation in the Zohar of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Our concluding group discussion touched upon how ideas of gender and sexuality are intertwined, among other things. Certainly more useful for a longer, more in depth series of study sessions, but the evening was a great way to get our feet wet! The event was presented in partnership with Bet Mishpachah, Nice Jewish Boys DC and Nice Jewish Girls DC.

On the Shabbat of Feb. 22, I attended a more insular event on making the synagogue and community more accessible to people of varying disabilities. Rabbi Feinberg officiated over a panel of five congregants advocating for various physical and intellectual issues, plus the director of the Interfaith Initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities. It was a good chance for this smaller cache of members to take stock of what they as a group had accomplished and what they had left to do, broadly speaking. I enjoyed getting the chance to hear from a diverse group of people about their experiences in the Jewish community at large, and their hopes for Adas specifically.

Justice month wraps up with another biblical class this Wednesday, Feb. 26, about divine justice, in conjunction with the Foundation of Jewish Studies. Next week brings a new month and a new theme: Israel. Check out the programming here!

Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month with Local Benchmarks

President Bill Clinton and Holocaust survivor and founding chairman Elie Wiesel help dedicate the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in April 1993 / photo courtesy of USHMM

In perhaps the most fitting way to herald in May as Jewish American Heritage Month, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, today and tomorrow, celebrate their 20th anniversary in downtown DC. Click here for their national calendar of events, Museum timeline, multimedia coverage of public programming and collections building, and an online form to submit your own impressions.

Be sure to visit the official site, and JAHM pages at the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Park Service and USHMM.

And in local fare, a look at what’s coming up at The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington:

May 5: Walking Tour, Arlington National Cemetery, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Studies and the Jewish Museum of Maryland

May 9: Featured Speaker: Gerda Wiessman Klein—Author, Humanitarian, Holocaust Survivor, hosted at the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives

May 19: Walking Tour, Downtown Jewish Washington, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Studies, Jewish Study Center and the Jewish Museum of Maryland

And in more fortuitous timing, Sixth & I is currently a contestant in the Partners In Preservation’s competition for a $100,000 prize. If the synagogue wins, it plans to use the funds to repair the historic stained glass windows. You can vote daily through May 10 by clicking here!

***

Past JAHM coverage on JewishDC: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

Jewish American Heritage Month Enters Sixth Year

Following on the tail of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day,) I’m expecting U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)’s annual press release for the stateside Jews any day now! Meanwhile, I’ve gone digging myself through my grad school’s digital archive to contribute a little something—an image of the yearbook page from the first anum where Hillel was a club at the University of Maryland College Park (1940. Hillel itself came into existence in 1923 in Champaign, Ill. Click here to read a booklet on Hillel’s history, including rare documents and photos from the archive. B’nai B’rith International, which Hillel was part of until the end of the last century, published a list of 31 days of Jewish facts and firsts to coincide with the heritage month. And click here to view the UMD 1940 yearbook in full.)

The Jewish American Heritage Website has been updated with events and exhibits taking place around the Washington, D.C. area. Also check out JAHM sites at the National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Park Service and The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

And in local fare, a look at what’s coming up at The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington:

May 3: Book Reading: When General Grant Expelled the Jews, in partnership with the National Archives, co-sponsored by the DCJCC, National Museum of American Jewish Military History, Jewish War Veterans, Jewish Community Relations Council, Foundation for Jewish Studies and Washington Jewish Week

May 6: Walking Tour, Arlington National Cemetery

May 8: Exhibition Lecture: Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community,, hosted at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library

(2011 coverage)
(2010 coverage)
(2009 coverage)

Upcoming Events: January 23-29

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!

Tuesday, January 24

The Search for Jewish Identity Using the Short Stories of Sholem Aleichem
http://www.foundjs.org/calendar.php?evntId=635

Music and the Jewish Immigrant Experience: Jewish Sources in the Music of Gershwin, Copland and Bernstein
http://www.foundjs.org/calendar.php?evntId=628

Hub DC Citizen Circles Peer Learning Launch Group
http://www.jufj.org/event/hub_dc_citizen_circles_peer_learning_launch_group

ROC-DC and Occupy Supporters’ Worker’s Rights Protest
http://www.jufj.org/event/roc_dc_and_occupy_supporters_workers_rights_protest

Delta Rae Concert
http://www.sixthandi.org/EventDetails.aspx?evntID=712&dispDt=1/24/2012%208:00:00%20PM

Har Shalom: Making Modern Midrash
jconnect

Locally Grown Festival
http://thejdc.convio.net/site/Calendar/456722507?view=Detail&id=131205

Wednesday, January 25

Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood: Are You a Football Girl?
http://www.sixthandi.org/EventDetails.aspx?evntID=715&dispDt=1/25/2012%207:00:00%20PM

The Network Power Lunch: Executives Making a Difference—Educating, Engaging and Advocating for Israel
http://www.jcouncil.org/site/Calendar/695054896?view=Detail&id=105301

JCCNV: Life on a kibbutz
jconnect

Avalon Theater: “Salsa Tel Aviv” screening
jconnect

Locally Grown Festival: The Prostate Dialogues
http://thejdc.convio.net/site/Calendar/456722507?view=Detail&id=131207

Thursday, January 26

Hafla Israeli Cultural Celebration
http://www.birthrightisrael.com/site/Calendar/464156347?view=Detail&id=214804&whence=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.birthrightisrael.com%2Fsite%2FPageServer%3Fpagename%3Dnext_local_dc_calendar

The Insider Briefing, premier for Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day
http://www.jcouncil.org/site/Calendar/695054896?view=Detail&id=105063

Kennedy Center: Michael Winograd Klezmer Trio
jconnect

PJLL: Melton Israel Seminar Information Session
jconnect

PJLL: May 14, 1948: What did those 28 minutes represent?
jconnect

Jubilee Jobs
http://thejdc.convio.net/site/Calendar/456722507?view=Detail&id=131142

Friday, January 27

Downtown Shabbat with Larry Paul and Robyn Helzner
http://www.sixthandi.org/EventDetails.aspx?evntID=609&dispDt=1/27/2012%206:45:00%20PM

Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy: My Grown Up and Me
jconnect

Friday, January 27-Saturday, January 28

Learning and Connecting with Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Salomon
http://www.aishdc.org/2011/event.php?id=165

Saturday, January 28

Brad Mehldau concert
http://www.sixthandi.org/EventDetails.aspx?evntID=659&dispDt=1/28/2012%208:00:00%20PM

Jewish Primary Day School: Trivia Night!
jconnect

Sunday, January 29

Zbigniew Brzezinski Reading
http://www.sixthandi.org/EventDetails.aspx?evntID=719&dispDt=1/29/2012%203:00:00%20PM

Beth El: Healing Service
jconnect