Film Trailer: The Rescuers

From the desk of Susan Barocas, Director of the Washington Jewish Film Festival

We’ve been working ‘round the clock on the great programming for this year’s Washington Jewish Film Festival. I’m so excited that Opening Night is only a few days away! One of the programs I’m thinking about a lot is THE RESCUERS on Saturday Dec. 3 at 6:15 screening here at the DCJCC. We are looking forward to having with us Stephanie Nyombayire, an extraordinary young anti-genocide activist from Rwanda. The film follows her and historian Sir Martin Gilbert as they explore some of the extraordinary acts of goodness that occurred in the face of the Nazi Death camps, and what can be done to deter future genocides. The film is so inspiring, and is an excellent introduction to this difficult subject for young people (11 and up). I highly recommend it!  Here’s the trailer:

What We’re Listening To: Light Is in the Air

This Bible Raps video is amazing, fun, hip and inspirational. A great way to kick off the Chanukah season. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving on the Lanai

This Thanksgiving has been a little different for me. I’m visiting my parents at their new place in Florida, instead going back to Chicago. Obviously, there have been some differences, not just limited to bringing the cans of pop inside to chill rather than putting them out on the back porch. Because in this case, outside is 80 degrees (not 40), and the porch is a lanai. And I think when something is called a lanai the only beverages allowed are the fruity kind.

My parents arrived in Florida only a few weeks ago, and there are still a few boxes around. Plus one whole extra bedroom that is only boxes.

But it is already starting to look more familiar. The box in the dining room held the Thanksgiving tablecloths. The tablecloths have come out every year so that those seated around the table can write out their gratitude in black Sharpie. Serious and silly, young and old.

Listed in the various years of thankfulness have been: health, harmonicas, couscous, family, TV, paid-off student loans, unexpected guests, tofurkey, being old enough to help now, still being able to help, and not being able to see Russia from our house.

I can see what mattered to me each year, if I took it seriously that year or if I was even present at all. With so many changes this year – moves, births, deaths – these table cloths are a way for everyone who I want to be with to be present. Not only do we have those people with us, in a way, we have what they valued.

Right now, GLOE is finishing up our Big Jewish LGBT Survey. The survey takes stock of what we value right now in our community. If you are Jewish and LGBT in the greater DC area, you should fill out the survey (whether you’ve attended something or never have). Anyone who has participated in a GLOE event should fill it out, too.  Of course there are prizes for filling it out, but really, it’s about hearing what people think at this moment in time. What do we want to celebrate at our metaphoric table this year? What do we wish we had here?

As you consider what you’re thankful for this year, please take a moment to reflect on our Jewish LGBT community (or pass it along to friends!).

One survey respondent, when asked what she values seeing at GLOE events, answered, “Hot butch women.” Something to write on the tablecloth, indeed.


Thanks: A DC Poem

For U.S.A. chagim
We love July Fourth
Memorial Day’s meaning
And Labor Day’s worth
Veteran’s Day’s solemn
MLK Day’s inspiring
Columbus Day is about an explorer not tiring
But of all of these days
When our offices rest,
We all should agree
That Thanksgiving’s the best.

It’s the food
It’s the family
It’s an ancestral vision
Even though most of us
Aren’t related to Pilgrims
So with belly’s a-swollen
With victuals digestible
Here are some of the figures
That we thank at our table

We’re thankful for donors,
Volunteers and teachers,
Subscribers, new members
And fitness goal reachers.
We’re thankful for films
For Authorial speakers
For treadmill addicts
Who wear-out their sneakers.
We’re thankful for Circles,
Scott, Dupont and Logan
Thanks for the ‘hood
Someone named “Borderstan

Of course we are thankful
for our partners, Federation.
For synagogue rabbis
And all congregations:
Like Bet Mish and Micah
DC Minyan and Adas
Wash-Hebrew and T.I.
With religious org status
Kesher, Sinai, Ohev
For the ‘gogue on Sixth Street
Rosh Pina and wherever more than
10 Jews can meet

Thank you Vince Gray
And to the government of DC
From our rep Jack Evans
To our local ANC.
For the folks on the Hill,
Boehner, Cantor and Reid,
It not just thanks
But a deal that you need.
Once the debt deal is done
Or before if you’re open,
Thanks, please give a vote
To Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Thanks for Obama,
And Mitt and Newt too,
We’ll see who’s most thankful
In Twenty, One-Two.
And Occupy K Street
And Tea Party Nation
And David Petraeus
And Alex Ovechkin.

Thanks to the Nats,
The Skins and the Caps
The Wizards get thanks
When the lockout gets scrapped.
So thanks to Rex Grossman,
Davey Johnson, Mike Rizzo
The Shanahan clan,
And bald Bruce Boudreau.

Thanks Michael Kaiser
A toast to Todd Gray
Thanks Reggie Love,
Who is going away.
Thanks City Paper and
The Post’s Reliable Source
Thanks weather-guy Bob Ryan
And Nat’s Slugger Mike Morse.

Thanks Wale, thanks Kojo
Thanks Hilda Solis
Thanks Justice Kagan
And the Metro Police.
Thanks Dr. Jill Biden,
And George Pelecanos,
Thanks Ezra Klein
Welcome home Wilson Ramos.

Give thanks for the thanks
That you know that you’re due.
Give thanks for the J
Cause we give thanks for you.

Just Desserts

Grace Here.

Is there anyone else out there who feels oddly guilty at the sight of a Thanksgiving table?

I may be overstepping the norm of Jewish guilt here, but something about the heaping platters and steaming kitchens is as chastening as it is appetizing.

It’s like this: Thanksgiving is all about gratitude—reflecting on all the wonderful gifts that you’ve been given: friends, family, loved ones, and pumpkin pie. It really is an embarrassment of riches!

Which can be sort of, well….embarrassing. Because (if you’re like me) then you start thinking, “Wait a second—do I deserve all this pie?”

Arthur Miller, evidently, is like me (at least in this respect).

Anyway, when his protagonist in After the Fall goes to the airport and sees the beautifully gleaming face of Holga (played by the beautifully gleaming face of Jennifer Mendenhall), he is the picture of gratitude, joy, and anticipation.

And then he starts thinking, “Wait a second (or several)—do I deserve all this love?”

In this dizzyingly unjust world, how do we accept bounty that we aren’t sure we deserve?

In After the Fall, Arthur Miller ripped his conscience (and his marriages) open and showed their raw, pulpy insides to a crowd of people looking for an answer.

Theater J’s production has produced some dramatic responses. Critics have shouted unanimous praise, and audiences are riveted. But the most dramatic responses came from the guests at Miriam’s Kitchen, a local “super kitchen” in Foggy Bottom.

Last Wednesday at 2:30, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey (who plays Quentin’s glamorous but self-destructive second wife Maggie in After the Fall) sat with Catherine Crum (who is the glamorous and not-at-all -destructive Deputy Director of Miriam’s Kitchen) and me at a table with Miriam’s Kitchen guests Randy, David, Karl, Quincy, Ronald Reagan, Jim, and some more guests whose names I unfortunately cannot remember, discussing After the Fall. Several of the MK guests had seen the show the week before, and they left with a powerful connection to Quentin’s quest to discover whether he has lived a life he can be proud of.

“I don’t care how much of a man you are,” said Randy, “You’re going to shed a tear.” We talked about guilt, about remorse, about the part of our brain that endlessly traces roads not taken and wonders what might have been if-if-if…

We told stories of memories in which we aren’t sure that we acted rightly, and then acted out those memories using one another as scene partners. The nice thing about acting out memories is that you get a second chance.  One guest acted out the story of an annoying coworker. In real life, he had punished the coworker by getting him in trouble for an act that he didn’t commit. Yet when the guest reenacted the story, he dealt with the coworker by trying to reason with him, and ultimately buying him a beer. Another guest acted out the story of being apprehended by a policeman for trespassing, this time finding humor in what was at the time a grim experience.

In After the Fall, Quentin tries to look at his life unflinchingly, recreating his own actions without revision, in an attempt to take stock of himself and figure out whether he can ever deserve the gifts that Holga tries to give.  At Miriam’s Kitchen, we allowed revision, but the core question remained the same: “Have I lived well? Do I deserve the gifts I am given?”

Like Quentin, we hold our memories close, waltzing in circles, hoping to stumble across the answers. If we’re lucky, we learn something and move forward.

I can’t tell you about what Quentin learns from his investigation of his past, because that would be spoiling the ending of the play, and there are still six more shows before we have to say good-bye (This Sunday! Eeep!)

But I’ll tell you this: I am grateful to Mitchell, who has outdone himself in a feat of acting genius that people will remember for years to come. I am grateful to Gabriela, who not only shares her electric performance with the audience, but also shared her warmth and intelligence with the folks at Miriam’s Kitchen. I am grateful to the cast and crew of After the Fall, who joke and scream and bleed together to give us access into the brilliant mind of Arthur Miller. I am grateful to Catherine and all the MK guests for diving into After the Fall with open hearts.

And most of all, I am grateful to every person who comes to our home at the DCJCC and sits at our table to share in this magnificent theatrical feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

What We’re Listening To: Jazz Talmud by Jake Marmer

We had Jake Marmer here a few years ago, and I’m still thinking about his riveting spoken word performance. Learn more about him–and check out his band Frantic Turtle–at Jake Marmer’s Bop Apocalypse.

Shabbat Surfing: Woody Allen

This weekend, Woody Allen: A DocumentaryRobert Weide‘s new film about the life and work of the much loved and much reviled Woody Allen–debuts on PBS.

-Get a first look at the film trailer

Vox Tablet interviews Weide about the new project, including how on earth he got Allen to say yes

The New York Times  and the Los Angeles Times review the documentary

-Woody Allen reads from his classic short stories

-Some of Woody’s funniest quotes of all time

So…Woody Allen, pro or con?

Book Trailer: Al Jaffee’s Mad Life

I started reading (and enjoying) MAD magazine long before I could have possibly understood it. That’s why I can’t wait to meet iconic MAD contributor Al Jaffee here next month. Jaffee’s real-life back story is darker–and weirder–than  you could imagine.

Rafael Goldchain Looks Like He Stepped Out Of A Eugeen Van Mieghem Painting…

This past week was Fotoweek DC which celebrated photography both locally and internationally. As part of the exhibition in the main Fotoweek headquarters on 18th and L, there was a great section of books featured. One of these books was photographer Rafael Goldchain’s I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions. After becoming a parent, Goldchain began to look at the role that photo albums play in the history of a family. Seeing how much of his family (and the photographic evidence of their existence) were lost in the Holocaust and later through emigration to South America, Goldchain decided to create a series of family portraits in which he became members of his family.

Though the book came out in 2008, it still feels relevant at the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery, especially since our current show, One Foot in America: The Work of Eugeen Van Mieghem, has to do with the image-based evidence of Jews emigrating to different countries. Though the time periods are different, Goldchain, when he is dressed like his great great grandparents, looks a lot like some of the men and women depicted in Van Mieghem’s paintings.

Check out a few images from I Am My Family after the jump:

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What We’re Listening To: Tania Katan at TEDx

Check out a clip from humorist, author and activist Tania Kata’s riveting TEDx talk The Power of Voice: Survivability, Sustainability and Nudity. Come to the DCJCC tomorrow night to see her perform an excerpt from her award-winning memoir My One-Night Stand With Cancer. The performance is followed by a low-key creative workshop open to everyone, of all experiences.

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