Commemorate MLK Weekend and Tu B’Shevat 5777 in DC!

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel with Martin Luther King, Jr in 1965 / photo courtesy of wikipedia

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel with Martin Luther King, Jr in 1965 / photo courtesy of wikipedia

Happy 2017! As this is my first post of the year, I thought I’d share a few stats from 2016. According to WordPress, JewishDC got 1,901 views and 1,356 visitors, with the largest numbers coming from the US, Brazil, Russia and India. Wow! My most popular post of the year was Black Jews Documentary and More at the Washington, DC Jewish Film Festival.

Thanks so much for your support, everyone, and I look forward to a fruitful new secular year! Let’s get into some holidays and community service.

As we enter the second half of January and the first half of February, one secular and one religious holiday crop up on the horizon. The long weekend set aside for commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. starts Saturday, Jan. 14, and Tu B’Shevat commences on Feb.10. Check out ways to get involved with the local community! Note: some events may be sold out.

Please feel free to add more events in the comments.

MLK Weekend

  • Sixth & I’s Visions of Freedom and Justice. In conjunction with Turner Memorial AME church and featuring their two choirs. Also focusing on the work of Civil Rights activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
  • Washington Hebrew Congregation’s MLK Shabbat Dinner. Hosting partner churches and mosques, with special guest Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Rev. Dr. Barber was the architect of the North Carolina-based Forward Together Moral Movement and was a keynote speaker at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, amongst other things. Followed by Shabbat service.
  • Adas Israel’s Weekend of Tikkun Olam. Featuring a Friday night Return Again Shabbat service, dinner, and a Saturday morning service with guest speakers. On Sunday, a service at the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ with guest speaker Charles Cobb, former activist, senior analyst at, and more.
  • Also check out Monday days of service with WHC and the EDCJCC (links courtesy of

Tu B’Shevat

Chag Sameach!


DC Chanukah Happenings 5777!

Graphic courtesy of Webweavers

Graphic courtesy of Webweavers

The multi-holiday season is upon us; weather is occasionally fluctuating towards the cold, and people are counting the days, if they’re not there already, until they get a little time off from work or school. It’s time to fry those latkes and kindle the Chanukah lights! Local Jewish groups are rolling out the red carpet for this well-known Jewish holiday, which will take place this year from sundown Dec. 24 to sundown Jan. 1. Check these out! Feel free to add more in the comments, and chag sameach.

Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill
Annual young adult shindig sponsored by several Jewish organizations. Bring warm clothing for collection boxes headed to DC homeless community, sponsored by the EDCJCC.
Tuesday, Dec. 20, 6 pm, Capitol Lounge and Hawk N’ Dove

Chanukah at the Ellipse
American Friends of Lubavitch starts off the holiday season with this annual ceremony on the White House lawn.
Sunday, Dec. 25, 4 pm, the Ellipse

Community Chanukah Lighting
Family friendly inclusion & disabilities programming event, featuring lighting the menorah, eating Chanukah foods, spinning the dreidel, and more!
Wednesday, Dec. 28, 6:30 pm, EDCJCC

Hanukkah’s Extra Flame
Adas Israel, the EDJCC and other organizations team up with Sephardic Heritage in DC to provide a holiday concert, featuring internationally recognized Syrian opera singer, Lubana Al Quantar. The event will also center around relief efforts.
Wednesday, Dec. 28, 7 pm, Adas Israel

Adas Israel Hanukkah Events
Featuring info about observance, themed community events and more.

Check out more events for young professionals provided by Gather The Jews here!

Commemorate MLK Weekend and Tu B’Shevat 5776 in DC!

Traditional Tu B’Shevat bounty / photo courtesy of wikipedia

Happy 2016! As we enter the second half of January, one secular and one religious holiday crop up on the horizon. The long weekend set aside for commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. starts tomorrow, Jan. 16, and Tu B’Shevat commences on Jan. 24. Check out ways to get involved with the local community! Note: some events may be sold out.

Please feel free to add more events in the comments.

MLK Weekend

  • Sixth & I’s MLK Shabbat: Visions of Freedom and Justice. In conjunction with Turner Memorial AME church and featuring their two choirs.
  • Washington Hebrew Congregation’s MLK Shabbat Dinner. Hosting partner churches and mosques, with special guest William Jelani Cobb. Professor Cobb is director of the University of Connecticut’s Africana Studies Institute, amongst other things. Followed by Shabbat service.
  • Adas Israel’s Weekend of Tikkun Olam. This weekend of learning features a such guests as Imam Talib M. Shareef of Masjid Muhammad, the Nation’s Mosque; and Jared Jackson of Jews in All Hues. (I attended one of their programs a few years ago and wrote about it here.) Also a joint service at the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, and more!
  • Gather the Jews compiled a list of links to sign up for various days of service this Monday.

Tu B’Shevat

Chag sameach!

Wrapping up on Chanukah and looking forward to upcoming events in 2015

Regarding current events, this certainly wasn’t the way that I had hoped to start off the secular new year. So before we get into that, allow me to recap on Chanukah 5775.

The Chanukah candles burn low and this printout explains Chag HaBanot / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

I spent a fair bit of the holiday at home, as I was slowly unpacking my new condo. But I did make it out to two larger events in the Jewish community—a celebration with the Sixth & I’s Not Your Bubbe’s Sisterhood and a lighting/civil rights vigil at Adas Israel.

The Sisterhood event, as led by Rabbi Sarah Tasman, chronicled Chag HaBanot, the Festival of Daughters, which was celebrated in North African countries on the seventh night of Chanukah. It’s also a commemoration of the story of Judith, who through subterfuge killed a general in an enemy army. A similar concept to the story of the Maccabees, which is the story of Chanukah proper.

Although we had our event on the second night of Chanukah, traditionally it’s celebrated on the seventh. As a group we lit our entire menorahs, stopping at each candle to reflect on various women—teachers, leaders, family members. There were around 20-30 women in attendance and it was such a nice environment of camaraderie. I look forward to attending more Sisterhood events in the future!

Congregants stand vigil for the Adas Israel civil rights solidarity Chanukah lighting / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

On the next night of Chanukah I was on the steps of Adas Israel for Light Up the Darkness! A Chanukah Solidarity Gathering for Civil Rights and Human Life. As led by Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, we sang Hebrew prayers and “This Little Light Of Mine,” specifically invoking the protests in Ferguson and the recent deaths of unarmed Black men. After the candle lighting, some members of the community took signs and stood on the sidewalk near the synagogue for a short vigil.

Disregard for human life, unfortunately, is a global issue, as recent events in Paris have shown. The deadly attack on the Charlie Hedbo newspaper, presumably over the publication of offensive images of the Prophet Muhammad, culminated in the murder of four Jewish men on the eve of Shabbat at a Kosher market, baruch dayan emet. As the French Jewish community and the one worldwide react to this news, some organizations in DC are organizing community events to commemorate this tragedy. Please feel free to comment with those not listed here!

Tuesday, January 13
Adas Israel and American Jewish Committee’s Gathering of Solidarity and Remembrance, 7:30 pm.

Wednesday, January 14
Sixth & I’s Solidarity Minyan in the Face of Anti-Semitism and Extremism, 6:45 pm.

And coming up after is Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend! Check out these events:

Friday, January 16
Sixth & I and Turner Memorial AME Church’s MLK Shabbat, 7 pm.

Washington Hebrew Congregation’s MLK Service with the President and CEO of the NAACP, 7:30 pm.

Monday, January 19
DCJCC’s Day of Service, 10 am.

Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Day of Service, 10 am.

Tuesday, January 20
DCJCC’s Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not be Silent, 7:30 pm.

Adas Israel’s MLK Weekend:
Friday, January 16: Shabbat Services with Hilary O. Shelton, Director of NAACP’s Washington Bureau
Saturday, January 17: Shabbat sermon by Avis Buchanan, Director of the Public Defender Service, followed by a panel discussion
Sunday, January 18: Service at the People Congregation United Church of Christ

2014 in review for JewishDC!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

On a less personal but Jewish DC local note, before I get to my stats, I’d like to take a moment to comment on some of the bigger stories out of our area in the past few months–eg Barry Freundel’s voyeurism accusations and abuse of power at Kesher Israel, and more recently Ari Roth’s controversial departure from the DCJCC’s Theater J. I hope that we can all learn and grow, and find peace and renewal as a community in the secular new year.

But beyond these more negative chapters in our history, I’d like to pay credence to the overwhelming support that Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, of the synagogue to which I belong, Adas Israel, received after releasing his elegant missive about publicly coming out of the closet. I’m inspired not only by his bravery, but also by how local and worldwide Judaism is evolving to understand, respect and make room for LGBTQ people. Kol Hakavod!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Democalypse 5773: Back to the DCJCC to Herald in the Presidency

Crowds gather for politics and nosh at the DCJCC Election Night Party /photo taken by Rachel Mauro

I’m taking my title cues from Jon Stewart skits, same as I did in 2008 when, again, I joined members of the tribe at the Washington, DC Jewish Community Center to nosh and watch election returns. I’m realizing how long I’ve lived in this area!

Due to crazy scheduling (I even had to vote early, or risk not voting at all,) I only got to the Tuesday evening event around 10 pm. Returns blared at two media centers at opposite corners of the room—CNN and NBC—and NBC’s online coverage of Maryland’s state questions projected on the far wall. Occasional cheers every time a certain candidate won a state hinted at the political leanings of the majority of the crowd, but overall everyone was politely watching and schmoozing together. A great community atmosphere for this national event.

Trivia and geo-political puzzles dot the entertainment table at the DCJCC /photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Alas, I arrived yet again too late for the pizza, but I got to partake in a variety of chips, veggies, candies, soda and beer for those over age. The decorations were patriotic and festive, and although I missed the funny Biden puns from 2008 I appreciated the side table of patriotic games, even though everyone seemed engrossed in other activities. I left around 11, shortly before the election was called.

Price of admission was the best yet for a local Jewish event—a food donation for the upcoming Thanksgiving event, Everything But The Turkey. And like 92% or so of the District voted for Obama in the race, I was amused to note that 92% of attendees here donated Cheerios. 😛

All joking aside and regardless of politics, I look forward to coming together with the community to make the country great. Go team USA!

Former Hassidic Authors Break Down Insular Walls in Society-Probing Novels

Anouk Markovits and Judy Brown discuss their novels on Hassidic life with moderator Lili Kalish Gersh at the DCJCC Jewish Literary Festival /photo taken by Rachel Mauro

What is hidden, and particularly what is sexual, seem to be a common theme in two novels presented at the annual DCJCC Jewish Literary FestivalI Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits and Hush by Eishes Chayil/Judy Brown. Markovits and Brown presented in front of a packed audience at this Moment Magazine-sponsored panel on Monday, October 15.

Markowits’s novel recreates Satmar history, from its Transylvanian beginnings to its migration to Paris and New York in the wake of the Holocaust. While probing larger cultural history, she focuses specifically on two sisters: one who reads secret secular books and ultimately leaves Hassidm, the other who keeps the faith but struggles with infertility in her marriage. Brown’s novel deals with the oft-ignored problem of sexual abuse in these insular communities.

Both authors read segments from their novels and then gave statements as to their inspirations/opinions about the Hassidic world from their vantage point of leaving it. I was particularly drawn to Brown’s allegory about how in Hassidm, religious garb automatically equals “good,” and it is difficult to fathom such things as “a man wearing a Shtreimel,” aka a religious Jew, being capable of acts of violence. She also grew up thinking of the secular world as “just decoration,” which has changed over time. (Her secular editors also sat her down to write a multi-page glossary for the back of her book. :P)

A lot of the Q&A with the audience seemed to hang on smoothing out cultural differences. Markowits admitted that one of the stranger parts of leaving the Hassidic world was realizing that “secular Jews” (anyone outside of Orthodoxy, I presume,) felt Jewish as well, though we adhere to far less ritual, if any. Brown corrected the moderator when she mistakenly referred to her as part of the Satmar, and the authors tried to explain the subtle differences between ultra-Orthodox groups that are, in fact, very similar.

Identity and loyalty are tenuous, even when one chooses to leave her community, and I really appreciated these women coming to talk to us. On such a harrowing topic such as sexual abuse, the authors spoke of the Hassidic world needing to take down its insular walls, and recognize that not all societal problems come from the outside. Fiction has a unique and visceral way of exposing the underbelly of cultural issues, and it certainly leaves its mark, given the size of this audience.

The DCJCC Literary Festival continues until Wednesday.