This Week at the 16th Street J

Click to Register for Session IIHot Times in The City Summer Day Camp

Session II Begins Monday, June 30
Spots still available in Camp Skate, JKids and for CITs (we’ll even pro-rate if you’re reading this after Monday 6/30)

Is your kid spending the summer at Camp XBox? Get them off the couch and into the best urban camp in the country.

The Annual Washington Jewish Film Festival Friendraiser: The Debt

The DebtMonday, June 30, 7:30 pm
Join past donors to the WJFF for a great film and light reception. Meet Susan Barocas, the new director of the WJFF as it gets ready to launch its 19th edition this December.

2007, Israel, 35mm,
93 minutes, Hebrew, German and Russian with English subtitles
Director: Assaf Bernstein

This thrilling drama tells the tale of three Mossad agents who capture the “Surgeon of Birkenau”, a monstrous Nazi war criminal in 1964. The agents keep him confined to their safe house on the outskirts of Berlin awaiting further instructions to return to Israel. As they watch over the captive, a psychological duel begins between the Nazi doctor and the three young agents; leading to the doctor’s eventual escape. Unable to face their horrible failure, the agents fabricate the Surgeon’s death and return to Israel as heroes. More than thirty years later, the Surgeon resurfaces in the Ukraine, claiming he wishes to confess his crimes against humanity. Gila Almagor (Munich, In Treatment) plays the ex-Mossad agent Rachel, who must take action to protect their lie by terminating a man known to be dead and redeem the debt against which she has built her life.

Hebraica Mirrors by Matatiaou in the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery

Opens July 1 through September 30
Hebraica Mirrors by MatatiaouHebraica Mirrors includes over 60 fine prints on Arches Velum and leather parchment, representing the crossroads of contemporary design and traditional Hebrew calligraphy by the French Jewish artist Matatiaou. This universal graphic interpretation is inspired by the Zohar- the direct origin of the Kabbalah, written circa 1300. The exhibition comes to us from The Jewish Museum of Florida.

Buy Our Fake Oranges

Looking for that perfect something for the person who has everything? How about 1000 fake oranges, complete with little, green “Jaffa” stickers on them?

As part of the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery’s exhibit L(a)ttitudes, Avner Bar Hama created a map of Israel entirely out of these oranges. Now that the exhibit is over, they need a good home.

We’re auctioning them off on eBay right now with the starting bid of $50 (plus $25 shipping).

What you ask, will you do with 1000 oranges? Well, we’ll be happy to tell you how best to shape them into a map of Israel, or any other country, territory or citrus-producing geographical area you might want to depict.

They make great stage props, if you have a play set in say, Florida, or a sea-drama that features the delusions of a scurvy-stricken sailor.

Thinking of opening an Orange Julius? These make excellent window dressing (very convincing too).

Big fan of Syracuse University? Become the ultimate Orange fan. Imagine your dorm room or frat house literally covered in oranges.

Keeping with the college theme, the FedEx Orange Bowl will be held on January 1, 2009 and your team could be in it (especially if your team is in the ACC and unlikely to contend for the actual national championship–I’m looking at you Terp fans). Be prepared by buying your fake oranges today at a steep discount–off-season.

Of course, these are just a few of the hundreds of uses one could put 1000 fake oranges toward. Whatever your need for fake oranges might be, there’s never been a better time to buy. So bid now.

Shabbat Surfing: Iranian Shell Game

How is Iran, with all its well-publicized economic woes financing its clandestine nuclear ambitions that so endanger Israel? Nuts. And Israel is aiding and abetting.

The first gay wedding in California happened under a chuppah. Hopefully, the happy couple received fewer lame mezuzahs than my wife and I did.

Lots of posts all over the blogosphere bemoaning the closing of the Spertus Museum exhibit Imaginary Coordinates. I’ve tried to find posts that defend the museum’s decision or the Jewish Federation of Metro Chicago’s pressure campaign to get the exhibit closed, but I haven’t been able to find any. Is there a reason the “outrage” spoken of in reference to the exhibit hasn’t found its way onto the net? Please let me know if you’ve written or seen a blog that takes the position of the Spertus board and I’ll gladly post it here.

Michael Chabon weighs in on the brilliance that is You Don’t Mess With the Zohan in an amusing back and forth with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg (whose blog is rapidly becoming one of my favorite reads).

Only 177 days until Hannukah. Have you gotten your child a GaliGirl?

Finally, this week marked the second anniversary of the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers along the Lebanon border by Hizbollah–including Gilad Shalit. While there were rumors of a possible negotiations for their release, the Israeli Consulate posted this video to YouTube, which is a story written by Gilad when he was 11-years-old and read by children in New York City public schools.

Differing (L)attitudes–Chicago and DC

Latitudes and CoordinatesIt was both interesting and sad to see our worst fears for this past spring’s Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery exhibition (L) attitudes, a show about mapping Israel/Palestine, realized in a similar exhibition at Chicago’s Spertus Museum which closed their exhibit Imaginary Coordinates early. What never happened in DC came to pass in Chicago: a controversial show, in a Jewish setting, was closed by pressure from donors and in particular, explicit criticism from its sponsor federation.

I have not seen the exhibit at the Spertus, so it is hard for me to compare it to our show–was there something that stepped over the line? From what I’ve read about the exhibit, some of the controversial material in the exhibit included:

… a collection of postcards portraying the ordinary lives of Palestinians working, playing and mourning—an attempt to personalize land disputes as battles for livelihood, not real estate.

A video installation showed a nude woman spinning a barbed-wire hula hoop around her waist against a peaceful backdrop of the Mediterranean near Tel Aviv.

Another video showed a woman driving around Jerusalem asking for directions to Ramallah, a Palestinian town in the West Bank. Everyone gives her different directions and describes Ramallah as far away, when it really is quite close by, illustrating how mental distance can affect the maps in our mind.

I’m left to wonder if those materials were so much more provocative than Alban Biaussat’s Greener Side of the Line series of photographs that depict scenes from along the unofficial border between pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank. Were they more provocative than Nikolas Schiller’s Israel/Palestine 1993 in which his geometrically altered map includes the cartouche of the Palestinian cartoon character Handala? Or were we more balanced because we also included artists like Avner Bar-Hama’s Orange Israel:Today Gush Katif-Tomorrow Jaffa, which created a map of Israel in the color of protest used by settlers who were removed from the Gaza Strip in 2006. Did we escape major criticism because along with including Palestinian narratives, we gave prominent space to an artist’s right wing politics?

While we had a minor issue with our local Federation over the exhibit concerning the Israel@60 Event Calendar–to their credit, they never even remotely implied that as our largest single donor they could apply pressure regarding what was appropriate to display in our gallery. Why the difference between DC and Chicago? It even appears that the folks at the Spertus attempted to address some of the concerns about their exhibit by closing it, tweaking it, and then reopening it. Still the exhibit was closed with chastising comments that seem to demonstrate ignorance as to the role that art plays in a healthy culture.

Is Chicago a more conservative town? I didn’t think it was. Is DC that much more liberal? Do debates over art just matter more in Chicago? Are debates about politics just too common in DC for one amongst artists to garner much heat? Perhaps the Spertus, in a brand-new $55 million dollar building was a bigger target while our proud, but far humbler Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery skated beneath the radar?

Whatever the reason, my heart goes out to our colleagues at the Spertus Museum.

And, whether the reason be tolerance or negligence, I am proud that we were able to produce a show like (L)attitudes at the 16th Street J. Check out the virtual gallery for the show.

ADDED: The JTA Blog has an excellent entry on this controversy.

What Are We Doing This Weekend? Four Seasons Lodge

Four Seasons LodgeSilverdocs always has a bunch of good Jewish-themed films and this year is no exception. One of the films we’re excited to see is Four Seasons Lodge, about a group of Holocaust survivors who meet annually at the Catskills bungalow colony that gives the documentary its name. It is screening this Sunday at 5:30 pm– the Tuesday night screening apparently sold-out, so if you want to go, we suggest pre-ordering or showing up early for the stand-by line.

The film simultaneously documents two sadly dissapearing phenomena: 1) Living Holocaust survivors capable of telling their own stories and bearing witness both to the horrors they lived through, but also the lives they managed to rebuild; and 2) the tradition of the Catskills, once the preeminent leisure destination for a generation of newly propserous (and often newly American) Jews.

It is a film that is definitely worth your while.

Shabbat Surfing–Good Idea, Bad Idea

JTA’s new blog on Jewish philanthropy The Fundermentalist (get it?) kicks-off with a bang by scooping Yossi Beilin’s claim that he invented the Birthright program sending kids on free trips to Israel courtesy of mega-philanthropists Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman. What impressed us what not the scoop itself, but where the Fundermentalist got it:

Beilin, speaking with the Fundermentalist within sight of both Steinhardt and Bronfman – at their own party, no less – said that he, Beilin, came up with the idea to send Diaspora Jews to Israel for free in 1993, when he, Beilin, was deputy Foreign Minister under Shimon Peres.

Elsewhere Joe Lieberman has been getting added grief from around the blogosphere for his continuing allegiance with Rev. John Hagee–he of the divinely inspired Hitler remarks. Daniel Koffler at Jewcy sums it up pretty well, asking “What village do you have to start a pogrom in to be called an antisemite these days?”

When Shavuot ends next week, the Jewish wedding season will get into full swing. Jewess looks at the topic from the perspective of an 1898 article in the magazine American Jewess written by “An Immigrant.” It is a great on-going feature of that blog that you should definitely check-out.

Finally, while we know it is a mitzvah to visit the grave of a Jewish scholar, this is just creepy–not to mention we question the hygenic conditions.

On Being a Jewish Artist

Posting this piece that was originally published in the Washington DCJCC’s Center in the City June edition. Even though the Music Festival is half-over, I thought it was still apt.

Artists sometimes run away from the label of “Jewish” because it can be seen as limiting in much the same way that other hyphenates can serve the dual purpose of marginalization in the guise of classification. Woman-writer. Gay-poet. African-American painter. All great art aspires to the universal, however frequently it attains that universality through the prism of specific experience. When that experience comes from outside the “mainstream” the culture tends to value it less—for many complex reasons not least of which is the insultingly reductive notion that we already know what a woman-writer, gay-poet or African-American painter has to say. That is a shame really. In the end what sends Jewish writers, musicians and artists fleeing from this identity is the fear that their art will not be read, heard or seen on its own merits.


This brings us to the Washington Jewish Music Festival, which, by design, is meant to confound our presumptions of what Jewish music is and/or should be. The Festival encompasses a patchwork of musical styles from hip-hop to pop, swing to salsa, classical to klezmer, and sacred to sensual. It is like the iPod of a polymath music fiend come to life owing as much to influences from Mix-Master Mike as Felix Mendelssohn (or Moses Mendelssohn for that matter). In other words, it is a complex assemblage of melodies that bow to tradition on the one hand, while embracing exciting new styles on the other. A classic German silent film from 1920 gets a new score from Davka which combines klezmer, jazz, middle eastern melodies and pop. David Buchbinder takes the beloved musical styles of Odessa and fuses them with the exciting tempo of Havana, while David Chevan and Warren Byrd jam off African and Jewish styles. Regina Spektor and Rachael Sage bring their Jewish identity with them as they perform in a modern pop idiom. I could go on and on.


I want to congratulate Festival Director, Tali Chitaiad for her amazing program. I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation for their support of the Festival through a major challenge grant. We thank them for their faith in us, their belief in the mission of the Festival and their creative partnership in growing the program.

Q Street Preschool Exclusive: Obama and Clinton Talk on the Phone

The Q Street Preschool\'s Primary Election MapWe’re not the first to observe that the Democratic primary season has gone on for a long time. How long? Well, in our Q Street Preschool the Yanshufim class that began a Reggio Emilia-inspired project looking at politics back in January, thinking it would be an undertaking demanding their attention for a few weeks, has seen it go on for months. While the nominating process went on and on, the children grew several inches, had new siblings join their families and doggedly stuck with their project. Now that it has “ended” with Barack Obama earning enough delegates to claim the nomination, the Yanshufim gathered in circle time this morning to consider the political moment and like alot of pundits, consider the way forward. When their teachers Jill and Gary told them that according to reports, Obama and Clinton spoke on the phone this morning, the class re-created what might have been said:

Alex- Obama will ask, “Can you be my running mate?” Clinton will say, “I would like to be your running mate.”

Anna- Clinton will say, “I want to be your running mate.”

Zoe- Obama will say, “If you want to keep running you may, but if you want to drop out you may also.”

Gabriel – Obama will say, “I think we can beat John McCain together.”

One girl in the class summed up her feelings as being, “Happy and Sad. Sad because Hillary didn’t win, but happy because Obama got the nomination.” This may have been the most apt observation, as the Democrats’ chances in November ride on whether enough grown-ups will also feel the same.

Rhythm and Ruth

The timing of Friday’s free children’s program, Rhythm and Roots: The Afro-Semitic Experience could not be more perfect. This year’s Washington Jewish Music Festival occurs immediately before the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which begins Sunday evening, June 8.


Rhythm and Roots explores the Jewish and African diasporas through interactive music-making. On Shavuot, we read the Book of Ruth, a beautiful story about the experience of being a stranger in a strange land.


It is easy to forget that the Jewish people in America are a diaspora people and that not too long ago, we were new immigrants and faced the numerous challenges that come from starting over in a foreign land. This collective memory that we share can guide us in how we treat strangers in our midst.


In the Book of Ruth, Boaz shows great kindness to Ruth and helps her succeed without ever compromising her dignity.


So please join us on Friday morning at 10am as we explore and celebrate the diaspora experience thought music – just in time for Shavuot, when we read of Ruth’s own journey to her new home.

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