The Only Pitch For An End-of-Year Donation You Need to Read Before 2012

Gotten enough emails yet? From us? From other Jewish organizations? From your favorite environmental/advocacy/performing arts/social service non-profit? From every 501(c)3 with an internet connection and a functioning keyboard? Can you hear me now?

How about now?

The end-of-year donation solicitation email has joined Dick Clark, the Times Square Ball and a plethora of Top Ten of (fill-in-year) lists as one of the most reliable countdown to New Year’s institutions. And because you respect the mission of these correspondents, you overlook the awkwardness of repeated emails appealing to your noble philanthropic impulses which also subtly remind you that these impulses have a positive (if time-limited) tax-liability impact.

And you know what? That’s okay.

The end-of-year appeals are really no different than the work-a-day fundraising that goes on year-round and which is necessary for our society to have functioning religious institutions, cultural organizations, non-governmental social safety nets and issue-oriented activism. It’s the clustering of so many appeals in the fading days of the expiring year that can overwhelm. It’s the distillation of the entire non-profit sector’s life-blood into a potent stream of emotional appeals and idealistic blackmail that can cause us to shut down and turn away.

So I’m here to remind you not to.

Charitable giving is one form of tzedakah — which has many translations in English, but no one definition really suffices to encompass the totality of the word. The best I can say here, is that tzedakah is the moral imperative to complete the work of creation: to make the world a more just, compassionate, creative and healthful place. The work of tzedakah happens in large and small ways every day — from small acts of kindness to large donations of money. They’re all necessary. And when any of the work goes undone or underdone, the world is poorer for it.

We send these emails to you at the end of the year because we are hoping to get your donation for our benefit and for your own as the Gates of Tax Deductions are closing. But I like to think that we also send these emails to you at the end of the year because it is a time of reflection, a time of resolutions and coming as it does on the heels of Chanukah, a time of re-dedication. It is our hope that our message at the end of this year, will carry over to a resolve in the new year to remember the responsibilities we all have to create and support the communities we desire for ourselves and our loved ones.

So yes, it would be great if you would make a donation right now.

But better than that would be if you resolve that in 2012 you will make a contribution — be it of time, of money, of spirit to helping us continue the never-ending work of creating this Community Center…

…but you can also donate now.

One More Look at December 25th

We just had to share some more of the amazing photos taken by Lloyd Wolf of our 2011 December 25th Volunteer Project. Looking through the photos really brings home just how important and moving this experience is for those who volunteer and for those who benefit from their service. This is Lloyd’s 20th year photographing the project and we’re displaying a small number of the stand-outs from that enormous collection in our Community Hall and Distrikt Bistro for the next few weeks. You can read all about it in the current issue of the Washington Jewish Week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Adding Your Light to Chanukah

Our Chanukah prayersOur prayers range from lofty (“world peace”) to social-justice-inclined (“equality for all”) to personal (“have a baby”). Together, they make up a portrait of who we are.

This week at the DCJCC, during every night of Chanukah, our community added our own prayers, hopes and wishes – lights for the season – a project that was kicked off by GLOE’s program on the first night: 8 Ways to Make Your Chanukah More Meaningful. One of those ways was to consider, beyond the usual brachot, what do we want to consider? What hopes do we want to put out into the world? As a group, let us set our intentions, and work towards them in whatever way we can.

In a happy accident, the display board was positioned under an air vent, so our flames actually flicker. Throughout the week, I saw people drawn to the menorah, reading someone’s prayer for unity, a child’s hope for a turtle and that no one gets hurt, others’ hopes for the messiah, disarmament, political wins, food for the hungry, a job.

I was drawn to one in particular: “Peace of heart for everyone.” I liked that it’s both lofty and pragmatic: we need to hope for the big things – peace, love, life – but in the unlikely event that all those big things don’t happen right away, let’s also find a way to be at peace with whatever’s happening now in our lives.

Our lights will be on display in the lobby until the end of the week, and I hope you’ll come and read a few.

Then, we’ll take down these little sticky notes, put the board away and collapse the easel it stands on. As for the “lights” themselves, they’ll flicker as long as we remain dedicated to whatever it was we hoped for and took the time to write out.

JAMming in Franklin Park

By Danny Obeler
Behrend Builders and Community Service Coordinator

After wrapping up my December 25 Day of Service (D25) project at The Creative Center for Non-Violence, grabbing a quick bite at the D25 epicenter, and delivering gifts and foods to local families in need, I suddenly found my self at Franklin Park with JAM DC, a group that brings together Muslim and Jewish young professionals through social, educational, cultural, and service activities.

The JAM DC crew went to Franklin Park and spread holiday cheer by handing out gift bags with toiletries and socks, holiday cards created by younger D25 volunteers, and sandwiches that the group had prepared at the DCJCC.

The response at the park was joyous, overwhelming, and exhilarating all at once.  Hugs were exchanged, a dance party broke out, and what “community” truly means was exemplified by a Muslim and Jewish group celebrating Christmas and the holiday season together with those less fortunate.


(Check out more great photos from Lloyd Wolf, on more D25 projects.)

Shabbat Surfing: An Unbelievable Bounty of Jewish Music

It’s programming season for the Washington Jewish Music Festival. Next month I head up to the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in NYC, but this week I’ve been doing some virtual scouting. And I’m reminded of what an amazing amount of exciting, creative new Jewish music there is today. Check out a few of my favorites–some may wind up in the Festival, some won’t, but they’re all superb in their own way.

Yiddish Princess offers up Yiddish Power-Pop done right. It’s like Pat Benetar meets Your Bubbe.

Saul Kaye is singing the Jewish Blues. With a history like ours, who wouldn’t?

Yael Naim‘s “New Soul” was made famous by an Apple commercial. Her new album features songs in Hebrew and English!

Moshe Hecht describes himself as a Hasidic indie-folk artist. Perhaps he can help us survive in the post-Hasidic-reggae-superstar era.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!

Paula Hyman: A Reflection

By Ilana Weltman
Director, EntryPointDC

Paula Hyman was certainly my go-to when I needed to reference Jewish women’s history in graduate school.

I was very saddened to hear that she had died this week. One of her most significant impacts on me came in my second year at NYU.

My fellow graduate students and I curated the NYU Grey Art Gallery exhibition, “Art, Memory, Place: Commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist  Factory Fire.” Alongside the curatorial process, my classmates and I analyzed the history of the fire heavily. Our exhibition documented a century of commemorations, tracing the many social and political advances inspired by the tragedy, and the myriad ways in which its memory has been claimed, contested, and re-invigorated.

Paula Hyman raised an interesting question on the fire’s history:
Who owned the memory of the fire?

She argued that rather than the Jewish community claiming it (most of the women who died were young Jewish immigrant women), labor activists and social reformers had declared the lessons of the fire. She pushed me to think about the way that histories get told and shaped, and to dig beyond a single version of an event.

In her honor, I hope you’ll take a moment to consider an historical event that has been “owned” by a specific group, and imagine who the other lesser-heard voices may have been.

(Read more about Hyman’s argument.)

8 Ways to Make Your Chanukah More Meaningful

It’s easy for Chanukah to fly by in a blur of wintry celebrations. We wanted to create ways that got at the spirit of the holiday and made celebrating Chanukah mean more than our usual routines.

  1. Remember what Chanukah is about: visibility! Not only put your menorah in the front window, but also talk to friends and family about issues that are important to you.
  2. Volunteer! Help at the DCJCC on December 25 or pick another organization that could use your help.
  3. Remember what Chanukah is about: shedding light into the darkness! Reach out to a friend who could use your shoulder now.
  4. Make a donation to a nonprofit or charity in place of a regular gift, especially now when the tough economy has meant fewer donations.
  5. Remember what Chanukah is about: fighting back! Talk to your schools to see what they are doing about bullying and suicide, especially among LGBT youth.
  6. Tzedakah means justice! Think about ways you—yes, YOU!—can make the world a more equitable place… and then do them.
  7. Learn a new Chanukah tradition from a group that celebrates differently than you!
  8. Create your own prayer! What does the holiday mean to you? What would you like to see  change? What do you hope for?

What We’re Listening To: Stereo Sinai Sings Mi Yimalel

Stereo Sinai is a “Biblegum Pop” band that fuses traditional gospel, rock, and pop music with modern themes. They created this fantastic re-imagining of the Hanukkah classic Mi Yimalel  (Who Can Retell) for You can even download a copy to keep!

Paula Hyman z”l

A Scholar’s Legacy: Paula Hyman helped integrate gender analysis into mainstream Jewish historical research.

Because of the work of Paula Hyman, I – and other women who grew up in the past few decades of the Conservative movement – never had to fight to be counted as part of a minyan.

Her tenacity, scholarship and deep belief in the power of women’s equality in all aspects of the American Jewish movement will continue to have a profound effect for generations to come.

And she coined a new word for “gender” in Hebrew, which is so bad ass.

Read her obit in the Forward to find out all the ways she impacted your life and those around you, perhaps without your even knowing.

Remembering Paula Hyman, Pioneering Historian and Feminist

By Deborah Dash Moore

Published December 15, 2011.
Paula Hyman, a pioneering historian of modern Jews, published “My Life as a Radical Jewish Woman,” in 2001. Without its subtitle, “Memoirs of a Zionist Socialist in Poland,” it could stand as an apt characterization of Hyman herself.

The Yale University historian chose to edit the English translation of Puah Rakovsky’s Yiddish memoir because she sensed a kindred spirit whose feminism and dedication to Jewish education, Zionism, family and community paralleled her own commitments. In doing so, Hyman, who died of cancer December 15 at age 65, found a way to marry her two passions: Jewish history and feminism.

Hyman wanted to reclaim Jewish women activists of yore for contemporary Jews as part of her lifelong mission to challenge received ideas about leadership, values and ways of doing things in the United States and Israel. Her work ultimately transformed Jewish historical scholarship by bringing gender analysis into its mainstream. The Hebrew translation of Hyman’s 1995 book, “Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History: The Roles and Representation of Women,” helped coin a new Hebrew word for “gender.” And her two-volume “Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia,” published in 1997, opened up the field of Jewish women’s history.

Born in Boston on September 30, 1946, the oldest of Sydney and Ida Tatelman Hyman’s three daughters, Paula attended public schools and supplementary Hebrew schools. She enrolled simultaneously at Radcliffe College and Hebrew Teachers College of Boston, earning undergraduate degrees at both institutions. She went on to Columbia University, where she studied alongside such scholars as Gerson Cohen and Ismar Schorsch, and where she received her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Jewish history.

Her years in New York City, during the 1970s and 1980s, proved formative. She joined the New York Havurah, an experimental Jewish religious community, and helped found Ezrat Nashim, a Jewish consciousness-raising group that advocated for women’s equality in American Jewish life. Hyman quickly emerged as a leader of a burgeoning Jewish feminism, pressing the Conservative movement to count women in a minyan and ordain women as rabbis.

Her activism did not derail her pursuits of a sustained scholarly career and of a rich family life. In 1969, she married Stanley H. Rosenbaum, then a medical student, and the couple had two daughters, Judith and Adina.

In 1974, Hyman accepted a position on the history faculty at Columbia. She went on to adapt her doctoral dissertation into a book, “From Dreyfus to Vichy: The Remaking of French Jewry, 1906-1939.” Published in 1979, its breadth and innovative social history method quickly established her as a rising star in Jewish history. She then embarked on a micro-history of small Jewish communities in Alsace, publishing “The Emancipation of the Jews of Alsace: Acculturation and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century” in 1991.

She also deployed her considerable historical acumen to bring immigrant Jewish women’s history into the consciousness of American Jews. An article on the New York kosher meat boycott of 1902 became her most anthologized work.

Hyman pursued such trailblazing activities and broke numerous glass ceilings, even as she faced multiple bouts of cancer. She battled illness courageously, refusing to slacken her pace. But living with an acute consciousness of her mortality toughened her, making her impatient with tokenism involving women even as she treasured the blessings of family and friends.

Hyman nourished several generations of students at Columbia, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Yale University. In 1981, she became first woman to serve as dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies, and in 1986, she joined the faculty of Yale University. At Yale she was, until her death, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History. Three years after coming to Yale, she was appointed director of the Jewish Studies department, becoming the first woman to lead a major university Jewish studies program; she held that position for more than a decade.

Paula served on numerous editorial boards of journals and co-edited the Modern Jewish Experience Series at Indiana University Press for almost 30 years, publishing a steady stream of books that helped to launch aspiring Jewish historians. Until October, she was a member of the Forward Association’s board of directors and its publications committee.

Elected a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research in 1995, she became the society’s first female president in 2004. Recognition of Hyman’s work came through honorary degrees, awards for books, and honors from major national Jewish organizations.

Paula Hyman leaves behind an extraordinary legacy: a body of scholarship that radically altered modern Jewish studies, a large cohort of students and colleagues profoundly influenced by her insights, and a transformed American Jewish community that recognizes the principle, and even the necessity, of women’s equality. She also leaves behind deep friendships, a loving husband and two daughters pursuing creative careers.

Deborah Dash Moore is the Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of History and Director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan.

The G-d Project: Mrs. Goldberg’s Take on Flawed Omnipotence

The Washington DC JCC’s Associate Executive Director, Joshua Ford, talks about God, his professional life and Mrs. Goldberg as part of Punk Torah’s The G-d Project. Filmed at the Washington DCJCC. Watch other videos from The G-d Project here.

%d bloggers like this: