The Gamalim Explore the White House

By Shayna Tivona, teacher, Gamalim class (2 ½ year olds)

Our White House exploration began with an interest in the American flag. The Gamalim noticed that the DCJCC has a very large flag in front of it, and they excitedly pointed out the American flag whenever we walked to and from Stead Park. Soon they began to notice other flags as well. The Gamalim teachers found books on flags and on DC, since many books on DC have American flags in them.

Gamalim at the White House

The Gamalim walked to the White House

One of the DC sights featuring a flag is the White House, and when the Gamalim discovered that the J is on the same street as the White House, they decided we should visit! We walked a mile to the White House on the walking rope.  The Gamalim were disappointed we could not go through the gate, but they decided that they wanted to know more about what was on the grounds.

To continue our ongoing exploration, we have added more books on the White House and other DC icons. We have sketched the White House and learned all about the different rooms and who works in them. On Tuesday, we had a fancy White House lunch in the classroom, using a tablecloth and our very best table manners. One friend brought in photos of her experience at the White House Easter Egg Roll, and another friend brought in her book about the Obama’s dog, Bo.  One parent is going to help us get a tour.

The Gamalim also worked hard to craft a letter to President Obama, asking him if we could go inside the White House to see more. We wrote several drafts and spent a lot of time thinking of good questions to ask. All of the Gamalim signed their names at the bottom of the letter. We are anxiously awaiting the President’s reply!

Here is the finished letter:

November 3, 2011

The President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC  20500

Dear President Obama,

We are the Gamalim class of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Washington, DC. We are two years old. We walked to the White House last week, but we couldn’t go in. We’d really like to go inside. We want to visit the Blue Room, the Gold Room, the Yellow Room, and the Red Room. We want to see the Oval Office, and all the other rooms. Please can we go in the White House?

Here are some questions we have:

  • President Obama, why do you work?
  • What do you do all day?
  • Do you have trucks?

 We have been reading lots of books about the White House, your family, and Bo, too! We made pictures of what we saw at the White House, and now we’d like to go inside. Please? We will say “thank you!”

 Sincerely,
The Gamalim

Shabbat Surfing: Literary Blast-from-the-Past Edition

“Jewish literature” doesn’t mean just one thing. Or even a dozen things.

Jewish literature has been a home of mine both personally and professionally, and yet I am always startled at the diversity of what falls into that category. This year was the thirteenth annual Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival here at the DCJCC, and there are always more new and interesting books than we can fit into an eleven-day festival.

In honor of the great writers we’ve had here in the past, and in anticipation of the coming podcasts from this year’s festival, we’re revisiting some of the great discussions that we’ve captured in recent years.

We love a richly woven novel with challenging characters, and that was just one reason we loved Rebecca Goldstein and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. (You, too? Look out for Ursula Hegi’s Children and Fire podcast.)

There are so many sides when talking about Israel and defense. Last year, Joel Chasnoff told us about life in the Israeli Army, in hilarious and touching stories. (There were fewer laughs this year at the panel on Israel, Loose Nukes and the End of the World.)

Lucette Lagnado is a DCJCC favorite, and she spoke with us about the by-gone Jewish community of Cairo, including The Man in the Sharkskin Suit in 2009. (We liked her new memoir so much, we asked her back to the festival this year for The Arrogant Years.)

We’re moved by those who have deep passionate and personal relationships to Judaism. One of the most captivating figures of our time was Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Often known as simply The Rebbe, Samuel Heilman discussed his Life and Afterlife in 2010. (This year, Jay Michaelson’s scholarship of and intense connection to the Torah came through in his remarks on God vs. Gay?.)

But don’t knock pop culture. We had a great time with Sean Wilentz, talking about Bob Dylan. (And then this year during the World Series, we got to chat about the legendary Howard Cosell.)

Connect to “the old family business,” whatever it might be – Allegra Goodman reads from The Cookbook Collector with one family’s strange connection to the books. (More personally, Alicia Oltuski took us inside the family diamond business during this festival, and brought engaging historical insights into this traditionally Jewish industry.)

The diaspora has meant that Jews have long been a global people. Still, we always want to hear about Jews in unusual places – even if “unusual” is a relative term. We’ve learned about Iraqi Jews in Jessica Jiji’s historical novel and Jewish Gauchos in Argentina from Judith Friendenberg. (If you are similarly globally-curious, watch for this year’s podcasts that bring us to a variety of Russian empire experiences – Jews in Odessa with Charles King, and the panel on Glasnost’s Children, discussing the modern Russian immigrant experience.)

In the coming weeks, we’ll post podcasts gathered in the past two weeks. They only further the argument that there really is no one definition of Jewish literature.

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