Shabbat Surfing: Leap Year Edition

  • Dr. Marion Usher, our interfaith guru, was interviewed on NPR’s Tell Me More. According to a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religious Life, 44 percent of adults change their religious affiliation from that of their childhood. A roundtable of spiritual counselors discusses how the challenges of intimate interfaith relationships might support the new findings.  It airs today on WAMU at 2pm but can be heard on their website as well.
  • The blogosphere has been buzzing with posts analyzing Barack Obama’s positions on Israel and Tim Russert’s injection of Louis Farrakhan as a campaign issue. The JTA has a decent round-up of all bloviators and a follow-up post with more reactions. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton’s Jewish supporters soldier-on in Ohio, and John McCain’s  campaign, in a weird manuever, suggests a tri-lateral debate between the candidates’ Jewish surrogates and then withdraws at the last moment.
  • Prince of Petworth asks a question that’s occurred to me every time I’ve walked out our Q Street entrance for the past 11 years.
  • Jehan Harney, a local filmmaker, gets selected for an online film festival for her documentary, Soul Mechanic that tells the story of a Muslim mechanic who creates artworks inspired by three religions in his garage.
  • The National Capital Memorials Advisory Commission rejected a sculpture as a memorial to victims of terrorism designed by New York sculptor Suse Lowenstein, whose son was killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The commissioners said they preferred something more abstract and timeless than Lowenstein’s 76 figures of women locked in the pose they were in when they learned their loved one had been killed. The figures in the work, Dark Elegy are nude, which the artist says reduces them all to the same level, but which the commission feared would offend some sensibilites and encourage distasteful vandalism. While I understand the commission’s decision, I was profoundly moved by Lowenstein’s work when it was displayed in my home town some years ago, and hope it can find a home somewhere in the DC-area.

Creating “Orange Map” by Avner Bar Hama

L(a)titudes - Orange Israel

“L (A) T T I T U D E S”–an exploration of maps of Israel and Palestine created by ten contemporary artists, opened last week in the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery. You can view elements of the entire show at their virtual gallery.

Unquestionably the boldest piece of work on display, both for its physical presence and unambiguous ideological declaration, is Avner Bar Hama’s “Orange Map: Today Gush Katif–Tomorrow Jaffa.” And while the works on display are in several different media including photography, fresco on wood; paint, ink and goache on paper and collages using all sorts of maps; undoubtedly the most unusual medium is Bar Hama’s use of artificial oranges and “Jaffa” stickers to create a 25-foot map of Israel on the floor of the gallery. For the uninitiated, orange was the color embraced by Israeli settlers opposed to the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Israeli army’s dismantlement of the settlements (among them were some 17 that comprised a bloc known as Gush Katif). Once you know that, and that in addition to being a variety of orange, Jaffa is also a city located directly next to Tel Aviv, the title sort of says it all.
Rather than delve more deeply into the political culture behind the work (or for that matter, the politics behind works in the exhibit that come from a markedly different perspective), we thought it would be interesting to post a brief photo essay of how 1300 artificial oranges become a map of Israel.

L(a)titudes - Oranges in Boxes

The oranges arrived in two large cardboard boxes and each item of fake citrus was individually labeled with a “Jaffa” sticker. (More after the jump)

Continue reading

We Want To Give You The Best Damn Jewish Sports League. Period.

Best Damn Jewish Sports LeagueAllow us to acknowledge the proverbial elephant in our communal room.

Tomorrow, the Washington Jewish Week will be running an article about the formation of a new organization created to run Jewish sports leagues in the Washington-area. The group is headed by some former participants in the Washington DCJCC softball league who, unhappy with their experiences with us over the past season, have decided that they can do better. And hey, that’s probably good for all of us. Our capitalist system depends on competition. It’s American.

We acknowledge that we allowed the administration of our softball league to fall below our standards. We’ve made staffing changes to address this failure and given our new Leagues Director the mandate and authority to make improvements beginning immediately. To begin with, we’re offering a significant discount for those who register for our co-ed softball league prior to March 1. A lot of people have already taken advantage of this offer, so perhaps you should think about it too. Other specific areas we’d want you to consider include:

  • Beautiful, manicured fields for play
  • A revitalized Task Force designed to aid in the effective administration of the League
  • Three levels of play, including a NEW Social League with a more equitable 6-to-4 male/female ratio
  • A developing Social Committee, for those interested in brainstorming fun social events for the League
  • A league-wide “Happy Hour” in late March to open the season, with others to follow
  • An up-to-date League Website, updated every Monday with scores, standings, and schedules
  • NEW “Early Bird” rates for those signing up prior to March 1
  • NEW 35% discount for full-time students

This is our 25th year running our softball league. We weren’t the only softball league in town when we started, and we’re not the only softball league in town now. New competition for sports league participants is something we welcome, because it pushes us out of complacency and back in the direction of excellence. If we became too comfortable in our niche, that’s a mistake we’ll have to learn from. But more than learning, we’re working right now to make our 25th season our best ever.

Sign up now. Or if you still have questions, contact Mark Gray-Mendes.

Free Community Service Trip to Israel

Community Service Trip to IsraelJoin the Washington DCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service and the Washington DC post-college community (ages 22-26) trip this summer! Register now through February 29.

Experience the awesome adventure of Israel through the eyes and hearts of Israeli peers as you travel with them and with fellow Washingtonians to see the country and make a difference through community service. Travel for 10 days; see the beauty, excitement and complexities of Israel. See the land through hikes and tours, and compare the modern Israel of Tel Aviv with the diversity and spirituality of Jerusalem. You will also learn first-hand about the people of Israel as we do hands-on service learning projects throughout the trip. Each trip is a gift from Taglit-Birthright Israel and covers round-trip airfare plus 10-days of programming in Israel.
We will partner with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and trip provider Shorashim. For more information, please contact Jackie Terry at

Eligibility: Jewish, live in the greater Washington area, 22-26 years old and never been to Israel on a peer-led educational trip.

Live Blogging: A Guide to Jewish References in the Oscars Broadcast

Translations for the Hebraically challenged appear in purple.

*8:36 pm–Jon Stewart “Atonement captures the raw sexuality of Yom Kippur.” Yom Kippur is translated as the “Day of Atonement.”

8:40 pm–Jon Stewart “Gaydolf Titlar” Adolf Hitler was an infamous 1930s and 40s dictator with a bad mustache. Also a murderous antisemite.

8:47 pm–Bob Hope “Welcome to the Academy Awards, or as its called in my house Passover.” Passover seders tend to run a little long. Updated: Were told from the Washington Post live chat that this is actually a pun on the fact that Hope was perennially “passed-over” for an Oscar. This disqualifies the reference from being Jewish as we just don’t think puns are all that funny.

10:00 pm–Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen as Dame Judy Dench and Halle Berry. Not technically a Jewish reference except that instead of being classy and sexy they are chunky and Jewish.

10:43 pm–The Counterfeiters wins Best Foreign Film. The story of the counterfeiting operation at the Ravensbruck concentration camp — I saw the film last year at the Berlin Film Festival and thought it was amazing. Sony Pictures Classics which opened it this weekend in NY and LA will probably do a bigger rollout very soon. Too bad that Beaufort, from Israel didn’t win. It would have been nice to have a Jewish film not about the Holocaust win the Oscar. I guess the Academy just isn’t ready for Jews as soldiers–flawed ones at that.

10:52 pm–Spielberg talks about winning the Oscar for Schindler’s List and we get the delicious juxtaposition of him (in flashback) dedicating the award to the six million, and then declaring (in 2008) “It was the best night of my life.” Interesting editing choice.

10:56 pm–Most Menchlik Moment (M3) – Jon Stewart brings Markéta Irglová back onstage to say her brief thank you’s. Jon, your mother should be so proud.

11:01 pm–Kaddish

11:43 pm–The Coen Brothers win Best Director and Best Picture for No Country For Old Men (they picked up Best Adapted Screenplay earlier). They’ve recently signed-on to adapt Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policeman’s Union (see Shabbat Surfing).

11:48 pm–Roll credits. The show ends before midnight. We can all go to bed.

*All times Eastern

Adoption Stories from Israel, The Girls From Brazil

An interview with Nili Tal, director of The Girls From Brazil

Q: Tell us a little about how you decided to make the film, The Girls From Brazil.Nili Tal - Director of “The Girls From Brazil”

A few notes about Israel. We do not have children up for adoption here. The reasons will be given later. So, Israeli families, who wanted children, traveled to third world countries before Madonna and Angelina ever did. In the 80s, they discovered the opportunity to adopt in Brazil. It was far and expensive, but they went for it.

As mentioned in my film, 3,000 families adopted their children there. In 1988 this international adoption stopped because of one baby.
And that is the cause of my film.

It was 1986, when the Tourgeman family adopted baby Bruna. She was 4 months old. One shiny morning in 1988, Rosilda Vasgosales, a Brazilian woman, arrived in Israel accompanied by a British TV crew and demanded the baby back. She pleaded Habeas Corpus in the Israeli High Court. It was a modern Solomon trial that shook the entire country. At the end, the judges ruled to return the child to her biological mother. Everybody cried when Bruna left Israel.

20 years later, I was eager to know what happened to Bruna?
I pitched the Bruna project to channel 2 in 2006 and they accepted the project and funded it.

In May 2006 I flew to Curitiba, Brazil to look for her. When I returned to Israel I found a letter on the web from a young man telling that he tried to locate his biological mother in Brazil. Then I read another letter. I started to research the matter and met 22 young women and men that wanted to find their biological mothers. I decided to help four of them. I pitched the story to Yes Docu and they accepted the film.

When I went to Brazil again for the Bruna story in October 2006, I took the four young adopted women and one adoptive mother with me. I wished for luck. Continue reading

Shabbat Surfing: Academy Award-Winning Links

Joseph Cedar's Joseph Cedar director of the Academy-Award nominated Israeli film Beaufort (featured in the 2007 WJFF) resolves his shabbat dilemma. Meanwhile, there is another Jewish-themed film competing for Best Foreign Film – The Counterfeiters. The Austrian/German co-production is in limited release this weekend from Sony Pictures Classics, which had hoped to have three films nominated in this category, but The Band’s Visit was disqualified for having too much English, and Persepolis was a surprise exclusion from the final nominees. Naturally, we’re all rooting for Beaufort and the good folks at Kino Films. Meanwhile, we ask, is host Jon Stewart Jewish?

Washington DCJCC Sports Leagues: Spring Training Begins Now

DCJCC Sports Leagues

Pitchers and catchers have been reporting. The Grapefruit and Cactus leagues will begin their exhibition games next week (the Nationals demonstrate their competitive ambitions by taking on the squad from Georgetown University on Feb. 28). Yes. Snow is falling even as I type this. Yes. The glaciers will be upon us by Friday. But these are but momentary meteorological distractions, because spring is on the way. We know this for certain because registration for the 16th Street J’s DC Spring Sports leagues is underway. The best news is that in the J’s co-ed softball league, we still have no policy regarding testing for HGH (last I checked there was also no testing in the co-ed outdoor soccer league either).

We’re in our 25th year of bringing people together to build a stronger community through recreation, and we have leagues for adults of all ages and skill levels!  Join one of our basketball, softball, volleyball, and bowling leagues either with your friends or as an individual – teams are forming right now!  Great discounts are available for seniors, college students, and 16th Street J Fitness Members, as well as for those who sign up before March 1! 

Questions?  Comments?  Ideas for a new league?  Email Mark Gray-Mendes, Director of Sports Leagues or call (202) 777-3279.

Spend Tuesday night with Sabrina

Ari Roth writes on the Theater J blog:

But the main reason for my waxing ecstatic is the performance last night of Swiss film and stage star, Grazziella Rossi, in the duet for actress and saxophone, the monodrama SABINA SPIELREIN, running for one more night — tonight — at Theater J. 

Check out this amazing clip, in German, to begin to appreciate the intelligent beauty of this performer, who is launching the world premiere of the English-language touring production of this riveting and informing play.

Spielrein is one of those fascinating historical characters who has been popping-up in movies and plays increasingly over the past five years. The WJFF screened a documentary about her life a few years back and a feature film which I didn’t think much of, also played the Festival circuit around the same time. She is one of those figures who is fascinating for the unique historical moment they shared with others, and for the thrill we receive from re-discovering their contributions.

Post-Presidents Day Salute: A.L. Levine

Barack Obama may very well become the first African American President, or alternately Hillary Clinton may become the first woman elected President. It is even possible that John McCain may become the first, well, really really seriously old white guy to be elected President (72 on inauguration day). It is safe to say however, that the first Jewish president is yet to be on the ballot.The Wanting of Levine

So for the time being Jewish Presidents belong to the realm of fiction, which brought to mind Michael Halberstam’s 1978 bestselling novel The Wanting of Levine. It is long out of print, though it appears in the catalog of the Montgomery County Public Library system. When I went seeking a copy this weekend, the librarian I consulted noted the book had not circulated in five years and was probably long-gone from the shelves. Lucky for me, she was wrong.

Set ten years in the future from its publication date (and twenty years before our current quadrennial contest), the novel presents a United States that is well on its way to being a second-rate power. Energy rationing is in effect, standards of living are declining, racial violence is increasing, individual states are involved in border wars over trade and tariffs — there’s a general sense that things are going to hell very quickly. To top it off, the Democrat’s front-runner for the nomination has just stabbed his wife to death in a drunken rage. Enter the mercurial figure of A.L. Levine, until now a back-room DNC committeeman after a fortune made in sales and real estate development. When circumstances thrust him into the spotlight, Levine begins his own unlikely candidacy.

The novel is one-part political insider fiction, one part-late seventies sex romp, one part liberal Jewish wish-fulfillment and one-part a canny take on the rhythms of political enthusiasm and what Americans want from a President. Written as it was in a pre-AIDS, pre-Reagan, pre-Internet and pre-collapse of the Soviet Union (just to mention a few epoch shaping “pre’s”) era, the novel obviously has limits when applied to today’s political landscape. Certainly, Levine, with a libido Bill Clinton could only envy, would not be electable, never mind even runnable in today’s climate. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: