Jason Marquis: By the Time He Gets To Phoenix, We’ll Have No Jewish Baseball Players in DC

Shalom Chaver

It wasn’t exactly a shock. On the spectrum of possible events, the prospect of the Washington Nationals trading Jason Marquis, their one Jewish player, fell somewhere between “unavoidable” and “most likely.” And so when word came down on Saturday, just hours before Jason was scheduled to pitch against the New York Mets, that he had been dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a minor leaguer, no one was terribly surprised. After all, he’s a 33-year-old pitcher going into free agency, who is going to want one last big payout that the Nats were unlikely to offer given their bumper crop of young pitching coming-up from the minors. Baseball 101 demanded that you trade this guy and get some possible value for him while he’s still worth something — in this case, a Single “A” infielder you’re unlikely to see down at Nationals Park anytime soon.

Still, as a Nationals fan, I applaud the move.

As a Jew, I wonder: They had to trade him on Shabbos? Right before this kid from Staten Island was going to pitch against the New York Mets? Couldn’t they wait so his mother could shep some naches? Never mind the subtle hint of sending an aging Jew in the twilight of his career to Arizona. Any time your local team happens to have on its roster a Jewish athlete, there is a tribal feeling of pride at the accomplishment — it’s an anachronistic but widespread reaction. And while it is more in-line with the current American Jewish ethos to want your child to become a member of Congress rather than a member of the starting rotation, there’s no denying that Jason Marquis leaves Washington’s Jewish pride in better shape than Anthony Weiner did at his exit.

I enjoyed watching Jason pitch. He was no Sandy Koufax, but he was ours. And now he’s theirs.

Thankfully, G-d never closes one door without opening another. As if in anticipation of Jason’s departure (and hockey season), the Washington Capitals signed free-agent and local-boy-done-good Jeff Halpern to a one-year contract at the beginning of July. So, the region isn’t without a major Jewish athlete — (we’ll see if Jeff opts not to play on Yom Kippur again this year — the press always loves a good Hank Greenberg/Sandy Koufax Day of Atonement Dilemma).

But let me take this last opportunity to wish Jason Marquis “shalom and lehitra’ot.” He’s a good pitcher, and a mensch.

Shabbat Surfing: It’s Shabbat, Be Cool

It’s hot in DC–really, really hot. Saturday’s forecasted to be 99 degrees.

And yet, Shabbat must go on. I’ve got friends coming over for lunch, and they’ll be expecting something more elaborate than a cup of ice and a cool towel.

So what’s an overheated chef to do? Here’s a round-up of the best ways to cook cool:

-Mark Bittman’s 101 Simple Salads for the Season is an amazing collection, over half of which are vegan or vegetarian.

-The best cold soups are the ones that don’t require any heat to prepare: try a gazpacho or melon soup.

-If you’ve gotta have chicken, grill it fast and top it cool. I love Jeffrey Nathan’s  grilled chicken with mango salsa.

-Did you know that bulgur doesn’t need to be cooked? This tabouli salad is a winner.

What’s your favorite way to cook cool?

The Office – Theater J Style

From the desk of Grace Overbeke,  Theater J’s Director of Marketing and Communications

It’s a pity that you can’t see what happens offstage at Theater J. It’s often just as entertaining as what happens onstage . I suppose that’s what blogs are for, so…

For one thing, my co-workers are currently dancing around ebulliently, which is occasionally how our office responds to good news. Other times, we ring bells or bring in donuts.

For another thing, we have pet fish! I bet you didn’t know this, but the goldfish that were used as props in Mikveh are now swimming happily around the Theater J administrative office. They are named Celine and Lionel (after Celine Dion and Lionel Richie).

In my capacity as  playbill-maker and publicist for Imagining Madoff, I’ve gotten to know the cast, designers, and playwright a bit. First impressions ensue:

I met Deb Margolin [Imagining Madoff Playwright] briefly when Theater J  did a reading of Three Seconds in the Key last winter, and was immediately struck by her exuberance and creativity—she’s a walking, talking [exclaiming, interrogating, joking] creative inferno of passion, strength and insight.

Not only that, she’s one of the warmest artists I’ve ever worked with. Case in point: when she heard that she would be in town working on Madoff on my birthday, she instantly offered to take me out to celebrate.  How many people do you know who are that friendly? She must be Midwestern.

To give you guys a little preview of the awesome-ness that is Ms. Margolin, here’s a little bit of what she had to say about Imagining Madoff.

In writing for a character, one is forced to enter the body of that character, the mind and spirit of that character; one is thus enabled to look out at the world through those particular eyes, and to acknowledge the common humanity of even the most heinous villain…

As theater serves as a probe of the deepest aspects of character, I could think of no better way of trying to understand Madoff’s incomprehensible willingness, his astonishing ability, to commit fraud and betrayal on this unprecedented scale than to sit quietly and listen for his voice.

I don’t know about you, but the next time I’m upset or frustrated with someone, I’m totally going to write a monologue from their perspective.  I suspect it will make it impossible for me to hold a grudge.

Mike Nussbaum I have not met yet, but I did have a phone conversation with him that left me more than a little star-struck.

I don’t know if you know of Mr. Nussbaum [I didn’t recognize the name, and then when I saw his picture I realized that he has been in almost every film I’ve ever seen], but this is Mr. Chicago, people! This is the man from the original cast of American BuffaloDavid Mamet’s go-to-guy (evidently, he used to tease Mamet about not being a good actor), and a pioneer of Chicago’s famous theatre scene. And he’s completely charming.

So how did we get this living legend to come play with us this fall?  Mike shares,

I heard Deb Margolin discuss her play at a conference, and I immediately asked to read a copy. I knew at once that she has a powerful voice and a sensibility that informs the subject with a unique insight…

The interplay between the two men is fascinating and terrible. I told Ari Roth–for this I’ll come to Washington.

Then he told the following joke:

The Frenchman says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have wine!” The German says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have beer!” The Jew says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have diabetes”.

I can’t speak objectively about the director, Alexandra Aron, because she is a Wesleyan University graduate, which pretty much guarantees that I will find her brilliant and awesome. But….

Read a bit of the statement she wrote about the play, and you can see that even my Wes-colored-glasses reflect a very savvy lady:

[Imagining Madoff is], full of contradictory statements, discursive analogies, and perplexing symbolism. I view this play through a lens that celebrates both the elasticity and the Gordian knot-type of thinking that distinguishes Jewish philosophy.

A sentence that would make both a Classics Scholar and a Talmudist happy!

So, these are some of the motley crew who you won’t see onstage when you come to watch Imagining Madoff (well, I suppose you’ll see Mike, but only in the character of Solomon Galkin, not in his own equally snazzy persona).  But I hope you appreciate this little glimpse into the world of writers, directors, and the dancing admin-staff of Theater J. Come by and visit—there are donuts!

August 31–September 25

A Mainstage Premiere
By Deb Margolin
Directed by Alexandra Aron
Featuring Rick Foucheux, Mike Nussbaum and Jennifer Mendenhall

The much anticipated premiere by OBIE Award winner, Deb Margolin. Unrepentant Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff sets the record straight from his prison cell, recounting an all-night study session with Holocaust survivor, poet, and investment client, Solomon Galkin. With testimony from Madoff’s personal secretary before the Securities and Exchange Commission, we delve into the minds of two towering men, as their mutual will to confide and confess accelerates through the night.

Why I’ll Never Make The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful People List

I didn’t make The Hill‘s 50 Most Beautiful People List. Again.

Every year, I think, maybe this time I’ll look Southern, Republican, and heteronormatively pretty enough… But, alas, no.

Having reviewed the profiles, I think I’ve figured it out. So let me try again.

I’ve been crafting the kind of non-threatening statements about hard work and hair styles that clog the list:
I think it’s so important to remember where you come from.
(It’s true, I do.)
If at first you don’t succeed, use your family’s connections.
(If only…)
For professional reasons, my hair needed to get much dykier.
Perhaps my Hill-speak could use some work.

Maybe there’s hope, though, for a big lez such as myself. Hot Hill Guy #19 is named the “DC Cowboy.”  Now, the DC Cowboys have been welcomed to our Purim party the past few years, bringing their bare-chested, cowboy gaiety to the drag-happy annual ball. (Maybe that’s why #19 talks about loving his daily gym trips? Got to stay in shape for those big dance numbers.) I knew the guys had day jobs, but I had no idea they would include working for a senator who scored a big , whopping goose egg on the HRC’s Scorecard, due to his virulently anti-gay positions. On everything.

Now, I’ll have to pretend I’m not from blue-state mecca cities like Chicago and Boston. I did spend a weekend in college at a speech tournament in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Does that count? I’m okay at accents, but I’m pretty sure I twang more toward the Carolinas than ‘bama. Maybe I can get some farmer cred’ for a cracker jack Wisconsin dialect?

On this whole hometown issue, I’m going to need a clarification on something: a number of the Beautiful People mentioned how transient this city is, where everyone is from somewhere else. If everyone is from somewhere else, does that mean I have to pretend I don’t know about the other half of the city, or do I just need to never visit those areas?

Just when I’m starting to think I might have a chance for next year’s list, my hopes are dashed. A highly-non-scientific, random clicking of profiles did not turn up even one Jewish name. “Cohen” will never work on the list for an unknown like me. Coleman? Cooper? Clinton? (Wait, the latter? Too Jewish.)

Friday, GLOE  is proud to be going to Congress and the White House with Keshet to talk about our Jewish social justice work, with 170 grassroots leaders from around the country. Our contingent specifically will be talking about the issues that affect LGBTQ Jews, and how we can use our approaches to address the nation’s biggest challenges, as they come up in housing, education, hunger and health care. (You can follow the day’s events on Friday with live Tweets under #JewsAtTheWH and #JewishSocialJustice.)

I hope that – at least on Friday – a list of the 50 Most Beautiful People on the Hill would look a little bit different.

Maybe I’ll just make my own list…

Community Service Up Tos

By Erica Steen, Director, Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service

What we’ve been up to:We’ve had a busy summer so far, including four weeks of camp–three weeks for high school students and one for middle-school students. The four weeks took a lot out of us, but we think the students learned a bit, and so did we.

One of our favorite days of camp was volunteering with Street Sense and their Vendor-for-a-Day program. Our group paired up with local vendors (you’ve seen them on the DC streets wearing highlighter yellow vests) to help them sell their Street Sense papers. Our students are neither homeless nor hungry, but they truly got to experience what it might be like).

Students stood on the corners in their borrowed yellow vests hocking the paper: “Help the homeless; only $1” or “Buy Street Sense, a paper written by the homeless, only $1.” The students noticed many business people answered cell phone calls without the phone ringing, crossed the streets to avoid them, or just looked away. We also had people donate money and not take the paper, pay $5 for an issue (opposed to the suggested $1) and (our favorite) people who stopped to ask questions about who we were and why were selling the paper (since we didn’t seem homeless). Over the three sessions with Vendor-for-a-Day we raised over $400. It was an amazing experience for all of us.

The next time you see a Street Sense vendor on the street, buy a paper, it makes a difference.

What we will be up to: We’ve got a new volunteer project this month that you should register for! We’re going to volunteer with Common Good City Farm (CGCF). They are an amazing community garden in LeDroit Park. We’ll begin July 31, and in August we’ll be going on the 4th Sunday evening of each month. Volunteers will help the staff with whatever’s needed everything from picking the weeks harvest to helping teach a class on healthy eating. We will be at the mercy of the CGCF staff, but it will be a good time no matter what! But don’t take our word for it…the CGSF has the endorsement of the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Prince of Wales.

How you can be a part of what we’re up to: It’s easy; just visit our website to see all of our upcoming volunteer projects!

Other UP TOs…we’re on Twitter at VolunteerDCJCC and in September and October we’re doing a sock drive, drop NEW socks off at the JCC front desk and we’ll make sure they get a good home.

What We’re Listening To

A great talent lost too soon. May her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Shabbat Surfing: We love you, JDub!

Last week we received the sad news that the groundbreaking Jewish record label JDub will be closing.

Golem at WJMF 2010

The Washington Jewish Music Festival has been a huge fan of JDub for many years, and has been proud to present their passionate and innovative musicians on our stage.

Some of our favorite shows–the ones that make us say this is the future of Jewish music, that give us hope that Jewish music has a future–have been with JDub artists.

And so, in fitting tribute, here’s a round-up of listening links to all our WJMF JDub groups.  Enjoy!

2011: Clare Burson
2010 & 2002: Golem
2010: Girls in Trouble
2010: The Maccaroons
2009: The Sway Machinery
2007: SoCalled

All are available for purchase at the JDub store!

Book Trailer: A Legacy of Diamonds

A sneak peek at one of the fascinating books at this October’s Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival.

Banning Gay and Bi Men From Donating Blood is Bigoted and Homicidal – or, Why the FDA Wishes There Were More Virgins

By Halley Cohen
Director, GLOE – Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach & Engagement

If you are a man who has slept with another man since 1977, or, if you are a woman who has slept with a man who has slept with a man since 1977, you are ineligible to give blood in this country.

So sayeth the FDA.

And therefore, so sayeth every organization that runs blood donation services, which are required to follow the FDA’s guidelines and recommendations. (Section E, 1)

There is a critical blood shortage in this country. We need all the blood we can get.

Shortages are more likely in the summer, when businesses and schools run blood drives less often, and these past two months have apparently been the slowest in twelve years. Any quick search on “US blood shortage” will bring up thousands of recent articles.

There is a large, active, socially-conscious LGBTQ population in DC.

Many of us are ineligible to donate blood. Not for having any disease or traveling to “dangerous” countries or having the sniffles that day.

Being gay is an immediate disqualification.

Wait, I take that back – because they say it’s about behavior, not sexuality. So as long as you are a virgin who remains celibate, you can be gay and donate blood.

Gee, thanks.

Were they actually being logical about this screening question, ANYONE who has had sex with ANYONE would not be allowed to donate.

A virgin-only blood supply.

Because you don’t know all the partners of your partners. Like your high school sex ed teacher explained, you’re sleeping with everyone that person has ever slept with, and so on and so on.

But they probably figured out that using only celibate virgins would make the blood shortage worse, at a time when only 3 out of every 100 people in theUS donate blood. Maybe not quite a realistic solution, though it is the logical end of their argument.

The FDA policy to exclude men who have slept with a man comes from the early 1980s, when we were still figuring out HIV/AIDS and our tests for it weren’t so great.

Our tests now are pretty good. And all blood gets screened anyway.

Let me say that again:
All blood donated gets screened for HIV/AIDS anyway.

Health and Human Services could’ve changed this policy last year, but chose not to.

Non-gay men have HIV/AIDS, too. This statement should not be news to anyone (except, perhaps HHS).

In DC, where1 in20 people is infected with HIV/AIDS, it is criminal to perpetuate the stereotype that it’s “the gays” that get AIDS; this screening question does exactly that. It tells people that if you aren’t in that risk group, you can relax a little. That stereotype was why for years the rate of HIV/AIDS was going down in the LGBTQ community, while it was rising everywhere else (though there is a current resurgence).

Dawson students promote awareness for End the Ban during the blood driveI am incredibly moved by stories of gay and bisexual men (and the women who have slept with them), who have to lie on these screening questions because they know that they are as healthy as anyone else and they know how desperately the blood is needed, just so they can donate anyway. These are especially moving here in the DC area, where someone needs blood every 17 seconds.

Today at the J, there is a blood drive, from 4:30-8:30. Please know that I fully believe in blood donation and would never tell anyone not to donate when they see a local organization holding a blood drive. Many members of the blood banking industry “support a data-based reconsideration of deferral criteria.” In other words, not kicking out people just for being a guy who has slept with a guy. Or being a woman who has slept with a guy.

I am eligible to donate. Frankly, I’m healthy, have awesome veins, and am not particularly bothered by needles. I am even type O, the universal donor.

And I’m incredibly torn by this issue. I hate participating in bigotry, even bigotry by silent assent. Especially by silent assent.

Yet, not donating punishes only sick people. Not donating wouldn’t cause a shortage that might make the FDA notice; it would only make an existing shortage worse. As Jews – as people – we have the responsibility to save lives where we can. And also a responsibility to speak up for those who have been wronged.

Perhaps the FDA should consider that, in this time of the worst blood shortage crisis in over a decade, cutting out millions of potentials donors is a terrible, homicidal idea.

A 22-year old man was turned away from donating blood in Gary, Indiana this week because the workers thought that he looked gay.

From the Archives: Rebecca Goldstein discusses “36 Arguments for the Existence of God”

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein was recorded live at the Washington DCJCC on October 27, 2010 as part of the Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival.  Her appearance was part of the annual Gerald L. Bernstein Memorial Lecture where she discussed her book 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction with Ron Charles, Senior Editor of the Washington Post Book World.

Right click and “save link as” to download as an MP3.

Or listen online:

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