A Belated Ringing In of 5777!

5777 break fast at Adas Israel / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

5777 break fast at Adas Israel / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

We may be most of the way through Sukkot now, but g’mar chatimah tova anyway. 😛 Hope you had a meaningful High Holiday season. Here are a couple of my highlights from Adas Israel:

  • I joined Adas Israel’s flash choir on Rosh Hashanah day 2 to sing a pretty, Hebrew, SATB-harmonized version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Hoping to do that again next year!
  • The “Return Again” Kol Nidre service was held in the parking lot rather than in front of the synagogue, to accommodate larger crowds. I found it a little more difficult to hear, but Rabbi Holtzblatt gave a good sermon about harnessing the evil inclination, yetzer hara and living with the good inclination, yetzer hatov.
  • Israeli settler Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger and and Palestinian Ali Abu Awwad returned to Adas for the Yom Kippur afternoon talk to plug the Roots Project, an inter-communal nonviolence initiative in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. Here at home, this program heralded in the iEngage Series, a set of Sunday classes concerning narratives about Israel, which will be led by Rabbi Steinlauf. The first event is on Oct. 30.

The EDCJCC has shifted its schedule a bit, and the 18th Washington Jewish Music Festival starts on the 26th. I’m excited, but guys…you’ll be rescheduling the Literary Festival (traditionally held around now) sometime soon, right? *puppy dog eyes* Ah well. At least I can always hole up in my sukkah with a good book. 😛

Simchat Torah begins on Monday evening! Check out what local synagogues might be doing by clicking here.

A Marriage Against the System in Israel/Palestine Documentary “Love During Wartime”

Jasmin and Osama / image courtesy of WJFF

Hope that everyone made it over to see something during the 11-day Washington, DC Jewish Film Festival! I’ve been in the midst of end-of-semester stuff for grad school, but I now have the time to promote the film I squeezed in on Saturday, December 10: “Love During Wartime.”

When I first stepped into AFI, I did harbor some doubts. There is, after all, precious little that is as polarizing as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In fact, Swedish director Gabriella Bier could not be with us, but she bid staff to read a little note that claimed, in part, that although she did not always agree with her subjects, she tried to portray them as accurate to themselves. Uh oh, I thought to myself, which side is getting the shaft?

I came to realize that the “side” getting the shaft was the marriage between two people in love. Their oppressor was the system—both Israeli and Palestinian—which could not allow them the affordance of living together in one of their home countries. On a larger scale even other parts of the world were oppressive, which surprised me the most.

Osama (known as “Assi”) in Israel moved briefly to Tel Aviv a few years back and met Jasmin. Watching the documentary, it isn’t difficult to see why they may be in love. They are both artists—Osama with his sculptures and Jasmin with her dance. When Osama’s temporary status in Israel is up, he must move back to Ramallah. The couple tries in vain to get permission for Jasmin to join him, which Israel refuses for security reasons (not entirely unfounded, since Osama himself is taken and beaten by Palestinian police forces for marrying “a Jew.”) But Israel also refuses to let him return to Jasmin’s family in Jerusalem. Out of options, Jasmin moves to Berlin, where her mother was born during the Third Reich and where she hopes to obtain a visa for Osama so they can finally live together as husband and wife.

But even when that happens, troubles still plague the young couple. Germany, which shocked me at first, but now perhaps seems part of European fear-mongering about Arabs, dragged their feet for as long as they could and only allowed Osama a temporary, student visa. This meant that he wasn’t allowed to work, putting strain on the marriage as Jasmin supported the pair of them. They finally kicked him out, citing that Jasmin’s mother was in fact not a German citizen thanks to the complications of a Jew being born there during the Holocaust. On a happier note, they moved to Vienna where Osama had success with a sculpture exhibit. The film ends by saying they now have a little girl. I left the theater in a surprisingly optimistic mood, hoping that despite all these troubles, Osama and Jasmin stayed together, and were happy.

I was also very impressed with Bier. Diligently following this couple around for sporadic stints over a few years, she nevertheless captured the complexity of their characters as they battled between love and hate for their homelands, for Germany, and for their relationship. Their families were also filmed, and from that one can see the truth behind the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—behind the rockets and the gunfire there are real families, just like any, trying to live in peace. Not exactly the major crux of the story, but it was relieving to see past the barricaded wall of the Middle East.

“Love During Wartime” was cosponsored with the Embassy of Sweden. View the “Love During Wartime” trailer on YouTube. Check out my previous coverage of WJFF films, including “Judios en el espacio” and “La Cámera Obscura.”

DC, MD and VA JCCs Celebrate Israel with Day-Long Programming

Israel@63 decor decor at the Washington, DC Jewish Community Center / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

No matter where you live in the Greater Washington area, you were probably close to an “Israel@63” Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration last Sunday, which happened to be Lag B’Omer.

Three JCCs—the Washington, DC Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, and the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia worked in conjunction last Sunday to provide various programming to all age groups, including a recreation of an Israeli shuk; showings of Shalom Sesame, modeled after Sesame Street; food and wine tastings; Israeli dance; the musical stylings of groups such as UMD’s all-female a capella Mezumenet and the hip hop/reggae duo from Israel, Axum; and more!

It was truly a community event; not only a place for people to schmooze, but local organizations like PJLL and HIAS had booths, and JNF was on call to advocate for Israeli environmentalism and the economy. Washington Jewish Week offered discounted subscriptions.

So more than just a celebration about Israel, last Sunday was a celebration about Jewish life. There’s something special about the idea that these JCCs and partner orgs banded together of a sorts; you could drive (or metro) from one place to the other and get swept up in the party anew. Two states and the District of Columbia fused into one. I hope this tradition continues for years to come!  Check out the Federation write-up of this multi-faceted event here.

Celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut 5771 in DC!

Graphic courtesy of Wikipedia

Israel’s 63rd birthday was last week, leaving local Jewish organizations to get their parties on! Check out these upcoming attractions.

Sunday, May 15
Magen David Yom Ha’atzmaut BBQ
2:30 pm

Saturday, May 21
YP@AI Yom Ha’atzmaut BBQ
9:00 pm

Sunday, May 22
Local JCCs celebrate Israel@63
DCJCC; 11:00 am
JCC NOVA; 12:00 pm
JCC GW; 2:00 pm

For more information on Yom Ha’atzmaut, click here.

Still Time to Sign up for J-Fed/Birthright’s Leadership Mission to Israel!

Image courtesy of wikipedia

Happy February, all! I took an impromptu week off in order to take care of a grad school application, but I’m back just in time to remind you of another deadline!

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and DC’s Birthright Israel NEXT are teaming up to provide the 2011 Alumni Leadership Mission to Israel this June. Applications are being accepted through Feb. 11!

The Mission, intended for Birthright alumni through 2010, is a chance to focus on leadership development and learn about the Federation’s activities in Israel. This isn’t as simple as a free trip for everyone; the point of this experience is to foster Jewish expression, connect with young, business-savvy Israelis, and to proactively benefit the DC community. All participants are required to create an “impact project” upon their return home. I wonder what type of ideas my young professional peers will come up with!

The cost is $750 thanks to a subsidy by J-Fed and the United Jewish Endowment Fund. The application is available through the link above. Or more for information, check out Birthright’s page here.

DC Birthright Tweeters!

Image courtesy of wikipedia

J-Fed’s Birthright Israel busses 248, 249, and the Alumni Leadership Mission, are all in Israel as I type, and I can prove it by following their live blogging and tweeting.

…can I just backtrack to say that I think I remember, back in summer of 2004, Hillel posting our itinerary online for our parents to follow, and this being the height of technology. Now I can log onto twitter randomly and pull up pictures of Masada or the Kotel taken just 15 minutes ago.

Random participants, doubtless equipped with awesome smart phones (I didn’t even have a digital camera with me!) are being re-tweeted on NextGen’s @JFGW_NextGen and Birthright Israel’s @NEXT_DC. You can also follow the blogs, complete with participant posts: Bus248, Bus 249, and the Alumni Leadership Mission.

You can even find videos posted in real time! Check out J-Fed’s YouTube page, conveniently named (a tee-hee) JewishDC. Enjoy! Am Yisrael Chai!

(More on the DC Birthright trips here.)

Israeli Wine Tasting in Honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut

Young professionals gather at the DCJCC to sample four Israeli wines / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

In an amusing twist of events, local Jewish groups hosted a Yom Ha’atzmaut Israeli wine tasting on Lag B’Omer. 😛

Hosted by Birthright Israel NEXT, J-Fed’s NextGen, and DCJCC’s EntryPoint DC Sunday night, the wine tasting included samples from the Golan to Beit Shemesh. Hoards of young professionals gathered into the DCJCC’s community hall for socialization, snacks, and tastings at four stations placed around the room.

Also joining the merrymakers were representatives of The Jewish Agency for Israel to talk about aliyah options, and Israeli composer Rami Kleinstein, who had been performing around the Greater Washington area earlier that day. Along with the mix tapes of Israeli tunes, it made for one happening party!

For more, check out the DCJCC’s own Facebook photo album of their day-long Israeli celebration here!