This Week at the 16th Street J

Summer’s over, but that means things are really busy this week at the Washington DCJCC:

Tuesday, September 2

1st Day of Preschool

Sunrise Boot Camp with Elana— Rise and shine for a 6am ass-kicking workout to increase your stamina, strength and cardio-vascular endurance.

Hebrew Classes Begin— From Beginner to Advanced Conversation, take your Hebrew to the next level.

Wednesday, September 3

Prep and Plan— With the Anniversary of Katrina and Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast, this emergency preparedness fair is a timely opportunity to do what you can to protect yourself and your community. Sign-up for the Blood Drive and/or CPR Training.

Interfaith Couples Workshop–Our popular four-session workshop with Dr. Marion Usher has helped hundreds of interfaith couples successfully navigate the challenges and joys of bringing together two heritages in a relationship.

J-on-Demand Movie and Trivia Night: Keeping the Faith— Free beer is just one of the fringe benefits of this classic Ben Stiller/Ed Norton film and trivia explosion.

Thursday, September 4

Hunger Action— Cook and distribute meals to he homeless of DC. Our motto, “We won’t serve anything we wouldn’t eat ourselves.”

Saturday, September 6

Little Flippers Swim Classes– Both 11:30 am and 12 noon sessions for 4-18 month children with caregivers.

Sunday, September 7

Fall Sports Leagues Begin– Co-ed Softball and 3-on-3 Basketball get-it-on.

Little Flippers and Little Tadpoles— Swim lessons for 4-18 month children and 3 to 5-year-olds.

Remembering Katrina

One of the families helped by Behrend Builders in New Orleans with (former) Behrend Coordinator Annie Mehlman and Director Randy Bacon.

One of the families helped by Behrend Builders in New Orleans with (former) Behrend Coordinator Annie Mehlman and Director Randy Bacon.

It has been three years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, so we sent the following questions to Randy Bacon, a New Orleans native and director of the Behrend Builders Shelter Repair program at the Washington DCJCC. Randy led a group of volunteers to New Orleans in May/June of 2006.

Where were you when Katrina hit? How did your family in New Orleans do both before and after the levees broke.
When Katrina hit New Orleans I was here in DC and watching the television non-stop to see what was going on.  My family waited until about 12 hours before the storm actually hit New Orleans before leaving.   They took 11 different cars filled with parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, spouses, nieces and nephews.  At some point I lost contact with every family member and once the storm made landfall they lost all cell phone reception.  It wasn’t until 6 days later that I was finally able to talk to one of my brothers.  He explained that everyone in my family was okay but scattered around at different hotels in different states.  He explained that they were running into problems accessing money from ATMs and wouldn’t be able to purchase food or pay for the hotels once all the cash on hand was gone.

What was it like the first time you went back to New Orleans after Katrina?

The first time I went back to New Orleans was when Behrend Builders orchestrated a volunteer project on which we took a total of 14 people from the DC area to go do some relief work in the hardest hit areas of New Orleans.  We intended on gutting 2 houses for families that had 8 to 12 feet of water inside the homes, but our volunteers pushed themselves and we did a total of 4 houses.  Each gutting job probably saved the families around $10,000 dollars per home.  We began by removing all personal items and then started at the ceiling and didn’t stop until we could see the concrete on the floor and in some cases the grass underneath the raised homes.  I have been back since and all of the houses we gutted have been repaired and are once again a HOME.

How did the Behrend Builder’s trip to New Orleans come-about?
The Behrend Builder trip came about when the previous Coordinator (Annie Mehlman) approached me to see how she could help me or my family.  I said we would be fine and she suggested we plan a relief trip to help those in need.
What do you think will happen if Gustav lands on the city? Is your family staying?

My family hasn’t made a decision on what they will do this time.   They will decide early tomorrow morning.

UPDATE: Randy emailed me this evening to say that his parents have decided to leave New Orleans and ride out the storm from a safer distance. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents and everyone along the Gulf Coast.

Shabbat Surfing: Veep-A-Licious Suspense

Well, we’re hours from Shabbat and still no Vice-Presidential nominee from the Obama camp. This of course, disrupts my posting plans for today in which I expected to be all over surfing tips on the Presidential shidduch. Oh well. Maybe if I take enough time writing this post something will happen. Just hoping that whoever is advising Obama on the Jewish vote has told him to get the word out before candle-lighting time.

Some non-veep links…

Jenny blogs at about the obstacles facing single, adult Jews in the contemporary synagogue, “God doesn’t look at me as a lesser Jew just because I am single with no children of my own. What our temples may not realize is that single, committed Jews provide a valuable example to the next generation on what it means to find meaning in Judaism in a society that doesn’t always outwardly value religious commitment that isn’t tied to marriage and family.”

We missed this post a few weeks ago that slams a new book in which Jewish identity is as shallow and attractive as cheap bling. (Full disclosure, the writer used to be on-staff at the J).

I may not know who the VP is yet, but I do know who the Convention Rabbis are.

I’m an adult, so I’m not all that into comic books. But, uh, if I were–and I repeat, I’m not–I would be intrigued by this.

Well, I’m getting tired of hitting “refresh” on, and; so we’ll wrap-up here.

Shabbat Shalom.

Peter Manseau’s “Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter” excerpt

Happy to read today that Peter Manseau’s debut novel Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter is excerpted on Peter, the co-founder of the religion website Killing the Buddha and author of the memoir Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun and Their Son, will be reading from his book along with poet Janet Kirchheimer at the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival on Thursday, September 18 at 7:00 pm.

The excerpt from the book deals with the famous blood libel that helped spark the Kishinev pogrom, which serves as a central plot point in the novel’s narrative.

Of course! Who else, oh wise men of Dubossary? Who but the Jews would kill a boy and leave him on the roadside for a Christian peasant to piss on? Who but the Jews would be so stealthy in their motives yet so careless in their execution? Who but the Jews would build their own gallows, tie their own nooses, and hire the hangmen to stretch their necks? All these years later, it remains baffling to me that Jews know this same lie has been told for a thousand years, while Christians hear it each time as a revelation. That we should be judged and murdered by such imbeciles is sorely vexing. With a Cossack’s boot on his neck, a Moldovan dirt farmer would strain himself to ask who was the Jew that knocked him down.

But such is the world. And such was our corner of it in those days that provisions traveled with difficulty over our rattling roads, but words moved like fire. Through the next three months, as I grew in my mother’s womb, the lies of Dubossary impregnated our city and likewise grew, waiting for the day when they might burst forth wailing in blood.

Read the full excerpt here

Bernard-Henri Lévy coming to DC via Tblisi and Gori

UPDATED: This event has sold-out, but you can submit a question for BHL and have it answered online.

This year’s Gerald L. Bernstein Memorial Lecture will be delivered Saturday, September 20 by Bernard-Henri Lévy at La Maison Française at the Embassy of France. His new book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism, “scrutinizes the totalitarianisms of the past as well as those on the horizon, and argues powerfully for a new political and moral vision for our times.”

Although BHL (as he is known in France) came to greater American attention only in 2003 for his investigative book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, he has for decades been a leading philosopher/journalist in France who cut his teeth covering the 1971 Bangladeshi War of Independence from Pakistan. So perhaps it is not surprising that he was recently in Georgia to observe the situation on the ground in Tblisi and Gori which he recounts in the Huffington Post:

As we approach Gori, the situation is different, the tension is suddenly palpable. Georgian jeeps are sprawled in the ditches on the sides of the road. Farther along is a burnt-out tank. Even farther along is a more important check point which completely blocks the group of journalists we have joined. And it is here that we are clearly told that we are no longer welcome, “You are in Russian territory now,” barks an officer puffed up with importance. “Only those with Russian accreditation may go farther.”

The post ranges from the war-torn streets of Gori and Kaspi to the inner-sanctum of besieged Georgian President Saakashvili to a suprising admission from a Russian General regarding Israel’s support for the Georgian army, “We summoned the Israeli Foreign Minister to Moscow. And he was told that if he continues to supply arms to the Georgians we would continue to supply Hezbollah and Hamas.” BHL concludes his essay with a moral charge sure to resonate with the themes of his talk on September 20, “Either we are capable of raising our voice and saying STOP to Putin in Georgia. Or the man who went, in his own words, “down into the toilets” to kill the civilians in Chechnya will feel he has the right to do the same thing to any one of his neighbors. Is this how we will build Europe, peace and the world of tomorrow?”

Used Book Sale This Sunday

UPDATED 7/6/2012:  Looking for our next used book sale?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 – 4:00-8:00 pm

(Book, CD and DVD donations accepted August 5-7.)


Looking to pick up some bargain books? Got some reading material/dvds/CDs you’re looking to unload? Then come to the 16th Street J this Sunday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for our annual Used Book Sale.

If you would like to donate your surplus books, DVDs or CDs you can drop them off at the Washington DCJCC between now and the sale (up to one hour before the start).

All proceeds from the sale go to support the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival as well as the other literary programs of the Washington DCJCC.

If you’re looking for and can’t find it…

We’re right now migrating to a new web platform. We’re told there might be some service interruptions. That means that any service interruptions are bound to be brief. It is only when they guarantee seamless migration that not even the savviest of webaholics will notice, that service is lost for days on end.

So hit refresh often. And if all else fails, feel free to go all bricks-and-mortar on us — call us at (202) 518-9400.

Ariel Sabar in the NY Times Sunday Magazine

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the great advantages of my job is being able to read advance copies of the novels, memoirs and works of non-fiction that we feature in the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival. So, I’ve already become a huge Ariel Sabar fan even though his book My Father’s Paradise, won’t be available in-stores until September. For those of you who can’t wait to read this rich and imaginative history of his father’s family’s life in Iraqi Kurdistan and subsequent immigration to Israel in the 1950s, this past weekend’s New York Times Sunday Magazine has an essay adapted from the book. I strongly recommend it. Without giving too much away, the essay serves as an overture that touches on all the major themes of Sabar’s book: the unique linguistic and historical journey of the Kurdish Jews; his own family’s dramatic history straddling Iraq, Israel and the United States; his youthful disaffection from that heritage and subsequent re-engagement; the tremendous toll taken on the individuals whose stories he shares–their difficulty belonging to the world they live in, alongside the impossibility of returning to the world the have the most affection for.

More than that, you should circle your calendar now for September 23 when Ariel Sabar will read from My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for his Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq.

Shabbat Surfing–Remember when Jeffrey Goldblum and Will Smith saved the world?

A lot of the Jewish blogosphere has gone ga-ga for Jason Lezak, and to a lesser extent his MOT teammate Garrett Weber-Gale after their amazing swim in the 4×100 relay. Observe:

Jeffery Goldberg tipped me off to perhaps the greatest headline since Independence Day was in movie theaters: “Two Jews and a Black Man Help Phelps Fulfill His Olympic Dream.”

Rachel Shukert wonders on Jewcy why Jews seem to be all over Olympic swimming. Her answer is classic, “Jews are good at swimming for the same reason I used to be good at giving hand jobs. Camp.”

Meredith Kesner Lewis at Mixed Multitudes claims to be rooting for the Red, White and Blue regardless of religion during the Olympics, but wonders, “Were Judaism to come up with a way to harness this power of peoplehood and pride that comes out during the Olympics, could we solve our continuity issues?”

Finally, the JTA has been all over the Beijing Olympics like, well, white on rice. If an Israeli or a Jew so much as sneezes near a medal stand, they’ll let you know about it.

In non-Olympics related surfing: Chaim Watzman comes up with a solution to the high-cost of Jewish living–move to Israel. None of the news coming out of Georgia is good, and Moment magazine’s new blog laid-out how it gets even worse for Israel.

Our First anti-Semitic Comment

This afternoon we got a clearly anti-Semitic comment on our post about Jewish refugees fleeing the fighting in Georgia. The commenter was responding not so much to the post, as to another comment that asserted (somewhat hysterically in my opinion) that a cataclysm of even greater proportions is awaiting the Jewish community in America.

I deleted the comment because I don’t think that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have a place on this blog. However, after hiting the delete button, I had a moment of doubt. Had I done the right thing? Should I have let the comment stand and responded? What kind of meaningful response was really possible with someone who hoped that Israel would be drawn into the Georgian-Russian War and that Putin would then, “fulfill Irans [sic] dream and most of the rest of the worlds[sic]” ?

Still, I do want this to be an open forum– I wouldn’t delete the comment of someone who had a legitimate gripe with the Washington DCJCC.  But I’m uncomfortable giving bandwidth to someone with such a hateful worldview. I wouldn’t have thought twice about deleting the comment if it had been racist towards blacks or another minority. So why should I second-guess this decision?

The reality is, if you want to find anti-Semitic canards on the web, you don’t have to look very far. Just type “Jew” into Google and see what you get. Of course, there is an argument to be made for confronting the hate-mongers head-on. I can see the logic there, and it may feel good in the moment to call a whackadoo a whackadoo. But what does it really accomplish?

What do you think?

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