Who Gives?

Give_Button_2It’s the end of December,
the clock’s running down
and your inbox has pleas
from each non-profit in town.

“We need your donation!”
“Make your year-end gift now!”
“Our mission relies on you,
Don’t let us down!”

We aim for your wallet,
Via the head-to-heart axis,
And if that doesn’t work
Well, it helps with your taxes.

From charities and orgs
The appeals, they are legion
Theaters, schools, causes
From all over the region.

Each cause it is worthy
But the asks are so many
One might click “delete”
And give no one a penny.

But please take pause,
Before going back to your biz,
To answer the cynic,
Who’s snarking, “Who gives?”

Who gives matters more,
Than how much or how little
From the upper most classes
To those of us in the middle.

For behind all the asks,
Beyond the quotes from Hillel,
Are people and causes
Just trying to do well.

To make the world better
More beautiful, more healthy,
To make sure that 100% of us
Are spiritually wealthy.

Here’s the inevitable pitch:
(It should come as no shock)
We’re asking for money,
On the 2012 clock.

The gifts will still matter,
Made in January or June.
But we’re asking today,
So we hope you give soon.

Given to us or elsewhere
End-of-year asks are sincere
The need goes on long
After 2012 disappears.

So pardon the pile-on,
Do-gooders need cash too.
It’s part of the job
We don’t like it any more than you.

So Happy New Year.
Thanks for paying attention.
We’re lucky to do what we do,
And for the DCJCC’s mission.

(Did we mention gifts are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law?)

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Where Is A Jew?

One reason I love my emails of headlines from the Times of Israel is that every once in a while there’s something so ridiculously cool I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

Of course, I generally feel like I’m the only one who thinks it’s so cool, but I try not to let that small factor affect my overall enjoyment learning about something new. One of my favorite topics to read about is what can be dubbed “Jews from Unexpected Places,” i.e. not places we often associate with Jewish communities, such as the US, Israel, or Europe, which appears every so often at the bottom of the headlines.

Congregation Kahal Kadosh Shaare Shalom is Jamaica's only remaining synagogue. (Courtesy of Congregation Kahal Kadosh Shaare Shalom via JTA)

Today I was clicking my way through the ToI website and found an article about the Jewish community of  Jamaica. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about Jewish history, including the Jewish migrations to the Western Hemisphere, but I had no clue there was ever a Jewish community in Jamaica, let alone one that is active today in Congregation Kahal Kadosh Shaare Shalom, the island’s only remaining synagogue. Given the long history of Judaism and roles Jews have played as merchants over the centuries, Jewish communities in other places shouldn’t be, well, surprising.

So much of American-Jewish culture (which often means Ashkenazic culture) is focused on Europe and Israel that I think we often forget how much of a global reach Judaism has had. Most of the Jewish-American traditions I know best come from Eastern Europe and New York; and like a lot of American Jews, those are my personal family traditions.

But our knowledge of Judaism should be wider. Last year while in Israel I met a Jew from Kenya, a place I had no idea has a Jewish community at all, let alone a strong one. I read an article in September about the Jewish community of Uruguay. A few months ago I had dinner with a woman who works with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and with a Jewish Community Center in India. A Jewish man from Uganda is studying at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem this year, and every time I go to the Israel Museum I find at least one object I never would have dreamed of, especially in the Costumes and Jewelry exhibit. And the Washington Jewish Film Festival will be screening a documentary about the Jews of Nigeria. These places have their own traditions, histories, and, of course, food, all made unique by the combination of Judaism and other local customs.

There’s a whole world of Judaism out there to explore, Jewish communities in all parts of the world, and we can honor those communities when we remember:

1)      that Jews are found in cultures all over the world, and speak be’chol lashon – in every tongue!
2)      that Jews come in every color!
3)      not to ask Jews of color if they have converted, or other exclusionary questions.

Though Jews have been living on Jamaica since 1577, maybe even since Columbus’ first trip in 1492, the community is getting smaller; it’s down to about 200 people. But it is a strong, diverse group of Jews by birth and Jews by choice, many of whom have converted back to their family’s Jewish roots. They are maintaining what is possibly the oldest Jewish community in the Western Hemisphere, and a wonderful reminder of the beauty that is the multi-faceted Jewish culture.

Are My Holiday Traditions Yours Too?

Ah, holiday traditions. ‘Tis the season for them, no matter where you’re from or what you believe.

Chanukkah is over, unless you’re like my family and waiting for everyone to come home around New Years to celebrate together, and most people are putting the chanukiot and dreidels away and bemoaning the piles of latkes leftover in the fridge. Still, Jews have another holiday with its own traditions coming up. No, you didn’t forget one; it’s merely Sleeping In, Chinese Food, and Movies Day, or what most of the world considers Christmas.

Okay, so maybe not every single Jew does the Chinese Food and Movies thing, but I know plenty of people who do, and I’ve yet to meet someone who disagrees with the widely-accepted popular culture stereotype. I’ve been doing it happily since I was allowed to go to the theater without my parents. I don’t recall missing a year since, I have a regular partner-in-crime back home in New Jersey, or at least I do when we’re both in the same state at the same time, and if I’m away it’s not too hard to find someone to go with. (I don’t count last year because December 25th is no big deal in Israel.)

D25-logo2012

This year, I’ll be adding something to my Christmas Day plans: participating in the DCJCC’s annual December 25th Day of Service, which brings together over 1,000 volunteers to bring some warmth and cheer to over 10,000 DC, Maryland, and Virginia residents.

 

EntryPointDC and a grand group of good-hearted young professionals will be at Change Inc., a social services organization in Columbia Heights, throwing a party for children of local, low-income families. Not only will we bring gifts, but we’ll have snacks, art and crafts projects, and D25 Partymaybe, if they’ve been good, a visit from Santa. It’s a couple hours out of a day when we’re not at work anyway, and what mitzvah to bring some holiday cheer to kids who may not get it anywhere else! (And no one said anything about not getting Chinese food and seeing Les Miserables after…). You can sign up here to join us, spaces are still available!

Any other interesting December 25th traditions out there?

 

 

 

 

 

Something Beautiful

Grace here.  I wanted to share something beautiful today, so here is this picture from the newspaper.

Jojopic

It’s a picture of Johanna, the director of Apples from the Desert, from today’s Washington Post article about the upcoming Middle East Festival.

I love the picture because it captures so much of the play’s themes of hope, healing, and reconciliation. With all the terrible things that have happened in the news today, I needed to see something that reminded me of all the promise and beauty that exists in the world. I understand that different people find beauty in different things, but here are some more things that I find beautiful, and I hope you do too.

cute-old-cuoples-6

blackfathers12

Gay+Marriages+Begin+California+CBea0_rJdq7l1

uganda-people04

animals,ocean,peace,whales,nature,water-75bf1e946864908dbf7c8478ea02779d_h

Monday Media: The Maccabeats “Shine”

Two years ago The Maccabeats took the Jewish world by storm with Candlelight, which, to date, has been viewed over 8 million times on Youtube (and on the stage of the 2010 Washington Jewish Music Festival). This Chanukah they’re debuting their first original song. What do you think?

All Jazzed Up

I love music events in our Community Hall performance space. They’re so intimate…when else in my life will I get to see a professional opera singer or a member of the National Symphony Orchestra performing just a few feet from me? I also love the mix of people who take advantage of our affordable concert series–from preschoolers (feeling the music in their own hilarious way), to young couples on dates, to retirees. That’s why I’m so excited for our post-Chanukah concert with the Roy Assaf Trio on December 19.  Here’s a sneak peak of what’s in store:

Chanukah Recipe: Bimuelos (Sephardic Hanukkah Fritters)

bimuelosBy Jean Graubart, Director of the Center for Jewish Living and Learning

Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah, come light the menorah

Along with the songs we remember from childhood and enjoy hearing in the sweet little voices of children everywhere, we also remember what we eat during every Jewish holiday.

“And on the 25th day of Kislev….The sanctuary of G-d was dedicated anew with song and music…moreover, Judah the Maccabean and his brethren, with the whole congregation of Israel, ordained that the day of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated from year to year for eight days in gladness and thanksgiving.”
APOCRYPHA- I MACCABEES 4:52-59

Chanukah known to us as the festival of lights, is a joyous holiday that celebrates an ancient victory for freedom and peace.  It is still marked by the lighting of candles on the menorah, traditional fried foods, singing and a (hopefully) “lighthearted” exchange of gifts.

In my family of origin, my mother always had a few extra little gifts wrapped (all of our gifts were little, just a token of giving) in case and in hopes that we would bring a friend or two home for dinner and candle lighting.  Gifts were socks for the winter (prettier ones than we would normally buy), knit gloves or a scarf (in other words, things we were going to need), and, for extra pleasure, a book.  I remember opening the next volume of a Trixie Belden mystery book and could hardly wait to get into my bed and read.  Chanukah was a family time, fun because all the cousins got together, each aunt handed us a $5 bill, and we sang and played dreidel, knowing that the Sunday during Chanukah was our gathering.

My Sephardic grandmother never heard of latkas and always said the Yiddish food is not authentic.  We were treated to BIMUELOS, a fritter fried and sweetened.  Latkes were eaten in the privacy of our home, so nona didn’t know that we had a taste for the Eshkanazi.  She was proud of her culture and history, and made that clear every time we were with her.

BIMUELOS

1 1/3 cup warm water
2 envelopes of yeast
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or corn oil
3 cups flour
cinnamon for sprinkling
oil to deep fry

SYRUP

1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar, boiled and stirred
Mix 1 24-ounce jar of honey and 1/4 cup of water heated  (My nona said honey was not authentic, just as she made a syrup of sugar/water for her baklava because honey was too expensive and not the way it was done by “mama.”)

DIRECTIONS

Combine sugar and water or honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water
Add beaten egg, salt and oil to mixture
Add flour all at once and stir
Take remaining water and add gradually, mixing thoroughly
Allow to rise at least an hour, covered with clean towel in warm place
Heat oil in deep frying pan or saucepan to 375 degrees (test to see if ready by dropping a tiny bit of dough and seeing if it puffs up)
Drop dough into the hot oil from a tablespoon dipped in oil
Bimuelos puff up and need to be turned over until golden all over
Drain on paper toweling, removing with a slotted spoon
Dip into warm syrup immediately and sprinkle with cinnamon
If not serving right away, dip and sprinkle when serving

Makes about four dozen.  Everyone will eat 2-3, except those on diets or gluten free.  It is a different world from my nona’s.

Enjoy as you read a lovely Chanukah story with friends or family.  Stop at the DCJCC gift shop to buy a book you will all enjoy and have for years to come!

Chanukah brings light into our home as the menorah glows, brighter each night.  It is my sincere hope that these lights will bring lightness to your lives and to the world we live in, sometimes seeming so very dark.  And may Israel celebrate with the light of peace and hope.

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