What We’re Listening To: The Maccabeats

Shana tova, have a happy new year!

It’s a New Year, Volunteer!

So much is happening in the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service!


Those who’ve read my blog postings, part 1 and 2, know that Luke is the name I’ve given to the recipient of my Peripheral Blood Stem Cells. On August 30, I did what I hope will save Luke’s life. What a surreal experience! Now it’s a waiting game. I was told that no news is good news, and that I will be updated on Luke’s condition the first week of October. Cross your fingers (part 3).


56 days and counting until we make Everything But The Turkey. It sort of freaks me out to think that in less that 60 days more than 500 volunteers will be joining us to prepare thousands of meals for people that are hungry in DC. I had a meeting on Friday with our partners in crime, DC Central Kitchen, and all of our plans are a go. Sharpen your knife skills (or buy us new ones from our Bed, Bath and Beyond registry) and get ready to register. Registration will open by October 31. Watch the Volunteer View for a go date.

D25 turns 25

It’s hard to believe it but the community service project that started it all here at the Washington DCJCC–December 25th Day of Service (D25)–is turning 25 this year! With only 90 days to go, we could use your help. We’re busy planning volunteer projects and making the day a bit more special that usual (with a fabulous photo exhibit and more) and could use your support. Click on the following and we’ll tell you more about being a volunteer project team captain, donating in kind to D25, or being a D25 anniversary corporate sponsor.

Behrend success story

This is the story of Gloria and her son Shane.

This mother and son moved to DC a few years ago to take care of Gloria’s dying mother. Because of this, they were living on Gloria’s mother’s disability and social security checks while caring for her. Once Gloria’s mother passed the checks stopped coming, and they could no longer afford to stay in the apartment and became homeless. Behrend Builder’s Randy met them in the dead of winter while they were sleeping in an abandoned van. We started giving them blankets, clothes, food, etc. and finally got them into one of the four transitional apartments Behrend had fixed up on Georgia Avenue.  This was the break they needed. Both mother and son have now passed their GEDs, have jobs and just recently got their own apartment.  Sometimes a helping hand and knowing that people really do care can make the difference!

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Check out our full calendar of projects.

Tomorrow Rosh Hashanah begins. This year, make your mark on the world and volunteer. Shana Tova!

Don’t Think “Diet and Long Workouts” – Think “Lifestyle Change”

Don't let this happen to youWe’ve all been there, trying the quick-fix diet plans and workouts.  We’ve tried them all – low-fat to low-carb to low-cal.  We’ve tried the “we are going to do cardio every day this week!” –  running from indoor cycle to Pilates and yoga to body sculpt. By day three we realize, UGH! – we can’t even move a muscle in our aching bodies.

This is crazy and we have not even lost a pound.

With little or no satisfaction, we are back on the couch with the remote in one hand, our favorite junk food snack in the other and lots of Advil, swearing that there has got to be an easier way.   

As a personal trainer and fitness instructor for twenty years and someone who has struggled with personal weight gain and loss issues since age five, I am able to relate to the many of the same issues as my personal training clients   Unlike most kids who have their distinct likes and dislikes of certain foods, I can honestly say there were very few foods I didn’t like… I have travelled up and down and back again on the very same path as my clients.   I was always the “healthy kid.”

Through many years of trial and lots of errors, I have figured out what works for me- but that does not necessarily mean it may work for another.  We all have different body compositions, likes and dislikes, and I have found success in making healthy lifestyle changes comes without much effort –they are just part of my every day. There really is not one lifestyle change fits all.  Even working out five times a week does not mean I do not need to watch what I eat carefully.

About two years ago, I started by making small significant changes to my diet, and not overnight, but slowly. I wanted to lose 15 lbs. as I felt my wardrobe was fitting a bit snug in all the wrong places and buying another wardrobe was just not going to be an option.  I started with eating a small healthy breakfast every morning.  But I ate food I liked.

Then, after a healthy breakfast was part of my normal routine, I started to eat both a healthy breakfast and lunch. Before long, this lifestyle change became part of my every day.  You need to do what works best for you –a lifestyle change as part of your every day life, not a crash workout binge– that will keep you healthy and motivated, at least most days.  When it comes to lifestyle change, it is all about you. 

As a personal trainer, when I start to work with a new client, we never discuss the word “diet;” we discuss lifestyle changes that are easy and do not take much effort.  If the changes you make are not easy, there is no way you are going to keep them up and eventually, most of us fall back into our old patterns.  Your diet should be balanced and healthy most days, but is definitely okay to splurge on occasion. 

Start with small steps and before you know it, the change is part of your lifestyle.  When you get up today, take a 10-minute walk, or instead of skipping breakfast, eat a small meal consisting of healthy carbs, protein, and a little fat.  Try it for a week.  When that step works for you without effort, it is time to make another small change: a 20-minute walk or a eating both a healthy breakfast and lunch. 

There’s one basic fact that can’t be denied: we are creatures of habit. To make health-conscious changes, the changes have to fit in with our habits. Quick fixes don’t exist for long-term health.

Big Conversations at Theater J

Grace here. I’m glad to be typing, and not talking, because I have a nasty cold, and seem to have lost my voice. Feel free to print out and distribute the sign posted to the right.

It’s been an odd week to be sans voce, because this has been the week of BIG CONVERSATIONS. On Monday evening, we had a public presentation of ‘Conversations with Mike Nussbaum,’ in which Ari took on James Lipton’s role and did an ‘Actors Studio’ style interview with Mike Nussbaum.  Ari uncovered some pretty shocking secrets regarding Mr. Nussbaum’s shady past!  Most people don’t know, for instance, that before Mike became an actor, he worked as a hired assassin…of bugs.

Ants Beware!

He’s directed on Broadway, played every great male role in the Western canon [Willie Loman, Teach, Shylock, the list goes on…], and refers to William H. Macy as ‘Bill’ There’s a passage from a Charles Mee play, Limonade Tours les Jours, that occurred to me as Mike invited the audience into his memories,

“with each person
you enter into their world
you live in their world for a while
to step into their lives for a while
it is to have another entire life for yourself”

After the interview, Ari and Mike joined the audience for a dessert reception, and I might have liked to linger a while longer in the glamorous life of Mr. Nussbaum, but it was time to get some rest and prepare for…


As part of the Lincoln Legacy Project, Ari, Shirley and I, along with a team of Ford’s folk, will be helping facilitate a discussion series following performances of Parade. Because Parade hits such deep emotional chords and deals with the sensitive topics of racism, anti-Semitism, vigilante justice, and a whole plethora of other thorny issues, it was important for all facilitators to have some pre-discussion discussions.

Howard Ross, the discussion leader pointed out that the most important element in facilitating a large discussion is to be aware of your own ‘buttons’ and what tends to push them.  To help us ‘know thyself,’ he introduced a concept called the Enneagram. It’s along the same vein as a Meyers-Briggs personality test.  Very fascinating, very fun stuff… definitely worth a google.  Shirley and I spent much of the bus ride back trying to figure out which Enneagram type Ari would be (we still don’t know!)  You can figure out your Enneagram type with the first test here!

Wednesday’s BIG CONVERSATION took place at the Council Retreat, as Theater J staff and Council asked what I (rather misogynisticly ) call the ‘nagging girlfriend questions:’ “Where is this going? Where do you see this in five years?” Rock-star Council Member Ellen Malasky moved all the furniture out of her living room, and replaced it with a huge circle of chairs. Then, special guest Carole Zawatsky hopped into the middle of the circle and delivered the only keynote-in-the-round I’ve ever witnessed.  If you’ve not yet heard our new CEO speak, you’ve got something to look forward to. She, like Mike, is great at inviting people to ‘step into her life for a while,’ and it’s a very smart, down-to-earth, and creatively nourishing place to visit.

Rick Foucheux

For Thursday’s BIG CONVERSATION, Rick Foucheux and I went to do a post-show talkback at Miriam’s Kitchen (you might remember them from the other blog entry I wrote about how they came to see Imagining Madoff).   At first, most of the questions people asked Rick centered on how he felt about Bernie Madoff, and the experience of playing him onstage.  One man exclaimed, “I read about an Amish scam artist who jilted other Amish people! A really good con man [and by ‘good’, I mean ‘bad, morally, speaking’] works the people he’s got an ‘in’ with.” Another noted, “You know what? Madoff had to have been a smart guy—if he had used his intelligence for good, think what he could have accomplished. But then again, maybe he wasn’t smart enough to realize the level of evil he had reached. Maybe nobody ever thinks they’re a bad person, because their psychosis won’t let them.”

When we finished discussing the play, we moved on to a conversation about acting in general. At one point, we broke up into partners, and each partner told a story. Then, we came back to the circle, and each person told their partner’s story from a first-person perspective. It was beautiful to look around the circle and see the swell of pride on a person’s face when someone else was telling his story. At another point, Rick demonstrated how the same line can be delivered in two different ways, and the whole circle burst out laughing at the second delivery.

Today, there’s a Tea@Two reading of Darrah Cloud’s play Our Suburb going on downstairs, followed by (can you believe it?) a  BIG CONVERSATION between the playwright and the audience!

Any day you happen to come by Theater J, there will be Big Conversations happening, and we want you to join in. No response is too weird (just try us!). And help me recover my voice, so that I can jump in right next to you 🙂

Shabbat Surfing: Lucette Lagnado

Lucette Lagnado, acclaimed author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, has been all over the news in the past two weeks for her new memoir The Arrogant YearsThe book, which looks at her and her mother’s lives in Egypt and America, has been extremely well received, and is finding an eager audience in an America captivated by the unfolding drama in the Middle East. Meet Lucette at our annual Bernstein Lecture on November 2.

Shabbat Shalom!

Jewish Art Around Town…Nira Pereg

While the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery may be THE place to see Jewish art and Jewish artists, there are a number of other DC area art museums and galleries that show Jewish artists. Take the Hirshhorn, for example, where you can currently see 67 Bows, a video piece by Israeli artist Nira Pereg which is now showing at the museum’s Black Box.

The video, which consists of flamingos moving to a soundtrack of gun shots, is, according to the Washington Post, “a pretty and disturbing metaphor for violence.”

If the flamingos alone don’t entice you to go see the piece, Nira Pereg will be at the Hirshhorn, speaking about 67 Bows  and her other work on October 4 at 7 PM. You can find more information here.

If you can’t wait until October 4 to get a Jewish art fix, come to the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery this Thursday (September 22) at 6 PM for the opening of our next exhibition One Foot In America: The Works of Eugeen Van Mieghem.

What We’re Listening To: Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem

Shabbat Surfing: Writing & Writers

On this crisp September morning, a few links for the writerly among us:

  • Moment‘s The Elephant in the Room contest asks: What does it mean to be Jewish without belief in God? Entries due October 7. Winner gets an Ipad 2.
  • The Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival asks: Tell us a true story—from your life or a family member’s—about something that was worth fighting for. Entries due September 26. Winner gets a Kindle.
  • Need to hone your craft before you submit your essay? Check out The Writer’s Center in Bethesda.
  • MyJewishLearning’s Bad Poetry Contest is long-since past, but the winning entries will live in infamy forever.

Shabbat Shalom!

Seven Questions For: Mike Nussbaum

Mike  Nussbaum in Imagining MadoffMike Nussbaum is currently starring as Solomon Galkin in Theater J’s critically-acclaimed production of Imagining Madoff. He’ll also be speaking about his life and career working with David Mamet, Peter Brook, Roger Stephens and more on Monday night in the free program An Evening with Mike Nussbaum, Star of Stage and Screen. We sat down with him in his dressing room before a performance to ask him the seven questions.

1)    How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?
I’m sure they would be familiar with what I do. Stage actor today is the same as stage actor then. The technical aspect of what surrounds the actor has changed, but no performance.

2)    What did you want to be when you grew up?

An actor. I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a child at camp. I went to Camp Ojibwa in Wisconsin and my first role was as a clown who introduced the show to the parents and visitors who were in the audience. I did a big cartwheel onto the stage and froze. I slunk off the stage crying. And the fact that I still wanted to be an actor after that is insane.

3)    Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

I’ve never finished A Remembrance of Things Past.

4)    Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

Pro! I love Woody Allen. His most recent film about Paris is wonderful. I auditioned for him once and I was told before I went in, “Don’t look at Woody!” He also has a giant mirror that runs the entire length of a wall behind him and you’re told, “Don’t look at the mirror.” It’s kind of limiting. I didn’t get the part.

5)    What’s your favorite non-English word?

I guess the one I’m using in the play, “menschleichkeit.” It’s become a favorite. It means compassion.

6)    What issue do you wish other people knew more about?

At the moment I’m thinking about the attitude towards unions has become so harsh and there is a failure to remember the enormous good that unions have created in this country. Standards of living. Work rules. They created the middle class for God’s sake.

7)    Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with and what kind of bagel?

Poppy seed! That’s my favorite. Right now I’d say Tony Judt, I’m reading his book Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. He recently died; a brilliant writer, a polymath, linguist and his knowledge of the political world is so deep.

Read all of the Seven Question interviews.

Book Trailer: Odessa

Tickets go on sale today for the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival. Charles King’s talk on Odessa is free, but spots are limited. Reserve yours now!

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