In the Gallery – Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women

By Sarah Lightman,  Co-Curator and Artist in Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women

(c) Sarah Lightman – Graphic Details

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the show, and why it is so different from what I was just watching on TV last weekend.

Back home [in Britain] the celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee have just come to an end – having flooded every TV channel, newspaper and magazine. Yet amongst all this colour and pageantry, it is also widely acknowledged just how little we know about what the Queen thinks and feels. For she is, and here I quote a columnist from last weekend’s Guardian Newspaper, “one of the last silent celebrities.”

The artists in Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, as you may have already seen already, are quite the opposite.

(c) Corinne Pearlman – Graphic Details

Here on the walls of the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery at the Washington DCJCC, are comics that delight in the scatological, emotional, political, and sexual messiness of life. And in the need to tell of their lives, these 18 artists from Israel, UK, USA and Canada reflect not only a very Jewish nuance to living, but also some radical innovations.

Jewish life and experience is a constant litany of retelling and reliving stories: of what happened to us. For example, we are encouraged every Pesach around our seder tables, to feel like we personally came out of Egypt. The weekly Torah readings at synagogue are extrapolated in sermons to ensure the experiences of our forefathers relate to our very own lives, even though we are separated by thousands of years. Jewish life is a training ground for us to learn to tell our own stories, with both a personal, yet also wider, relevance.

(c) Sharon Rudahl – Graphic Details

Critically, however, it is predominantly the male experience, the male story that is passed down. The female experience is not recorded, vocalized and explored.

And I consider the description of Teresa de Lauretis of female characters in ancient mythology to be very apt – she writes in Alice Doesn’t how the female characters “have survived inscribed […] in someone else’s story, not their own; so they are figures and markers of positions […] places through which the hero and his story move to their destination and to accomplish meaning.”

But here in Graphic Details we have heroines.

These heroines survive and thrive the onslaught of daily and domestic life. The Graphic Details artists recognize that the comic offers a stage set where they as artists and writers are both directors, and stars.

(c) Lauren Weinstein – Graphic Details

An autobiographical comic is an empowering space, where for those pages, it’s their version of life and their life journey, that takes precedence.

Another way in which these comic artists voices are radical is because they tell of troubling experiences that are experienced by many, yet are frequently undiscussed. Miscarriage, divorce, coming out, failed relationships, complex friendships and regrets fill the walls.

These personal and resonant stories are able to fill the work because of the intimacy and safety of the comic.

(c) Diane Noomin – Graphic Details

As you can see, often comics pages are structured around a grid shape like a waffle. The square paneling of these comics pages are safe and controlled spaces for stories that are conflicted and painful. The size of the images and texts requires us to get close so we can read and see the work – forming a physical closeness like a friend whispering a secret.

In a world where being Jewish and a woman in society brings complicated expectations and resistance, comics offer a safe space to begin a confession, and find a voice for previously silenced fears, feelings and memories.

So I would like to conclude by suggesting that in visualizing and vocalizing their lives, the 18 artists of Graphic Details are reconfiguring a central concern of Jewish life – a commitment to History – but here it is a Herstory. As they take their own experiences and bring them to the wider Jewish and non-Jewish world, they are following a traditional and untraditional path.

Sarah Lightman is both a co-curator and an artist in Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, on display through September 2, 2012.

(c) Graphic Details

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Shabbat Surfing: Bat Mitzvah Edition

This week, we’ve all been acting like teenagers around here – sneaking out (because the weather has been so gorgeous, any excuse to get outside will do), obsessing about what we’re wearing (in last week’s Pride photos that came out this week), and gossiping about the varsity athletes (because how is it possible that the Nationals are still in first place?).

Maybe the teen behavior is just spilling over from of all these bar mitzvahs in the news right now.

Today I am a man. In a loin cloth.

Also feeling youthful this week is Kirk Douglas, who has just set a bar mitzvah date for later in the year, when he will be 96 and celebrating his third bar mitzvah. (His second was at the traditional 83.)

Douglas returned to his Jewish roots as an adult, about 20 years ago. David Arquette has also been inspired to connect to his Jewish side as an adult, having an impromptu bar mitzvah in Jerusalem at age 40. Using that most “teen” of media, Twitter, he told his followers, “Finally I’m a man.”

And in other “bar-mitzvahs-of-people-I-didn’t-know-were-Jewish” news: Muhammad Ali’s grandson, Jacob Wertheimer, became a bar mitzvah in Philly, with his family’s fab multi-culti support.

If your teen wishes their own year of bar mitzvah boogie-ing wasn’t behind them, they can now turn their Jewish dance floor moves into cash. Parents and DJs are now hiring teens to be dancers at the receptions, so no one is left out of any given Chicken Dance, Electric Slide, or even a Champagne Snowball.

Or you could just hire these two:

Recipe: Five Israeli Salads

By Jean Graubart
Director, Leo & Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

(c) PBS

Thinking about the beautiful days we are having and the joy of being surrounded by friends, eating and laughing and talking and crying… all that is missing is good food.

When the weather begins to warm up, I picture salads of all kinds and colors and tastes.  Perhaps more than any other food, salads are the typical Israeli dish.  The evening meal is often a variety of salads consisting of many vegetables, grains and fruits.

I remember my days on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra and Kibbutz Hanaton, working in the communal kitchens there, where I would find freshly picked vegetables and be told, “create a salad.”

The most typical salad – and an accompaniment for most all meals – is the Israeli Salad.  We made bowls of it for breakfast, lunch and supper for the hungry kibbutzniks who piled their plates with this salad.

Little dishes of many tastes is very middle eastern.  It is fun to create various salads, many tastes and highlight the wonderful produce that is part of this season.

There are few other sights in Israel or the world that can compete with the color and clamor of their fruit and vegetable markets.  The produce tastes as good as it looks!

ISRAELI SALAD
3 to 4 cucumbers (the Persian are the best, sweet as sugar and delicious whole or in this salad)
3 firm ripe tomatoes  (grape tomatoes make slicing easy, cut in 1/4s)
3 to 4  peppers (mix yellow, orange, red, green)
6 scallions sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped

Cut all vegetable into small pieces or cubes Add 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper.
Taste and add whatever your palate calls for

Tehina dressing can also be used:
2 teaspoons tehina paste (available in most markets) Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cold water
Salt, pepper and paprika.
Mix well and pour over vegetables.

ZA’ELUK SALAD
3 red peppers
3 green peppers

Char peppers on the grill until the skin is black
Remove from the fire and peel
Cut the peppers into strips
Add 3 tablespoons oil, 3 garlic cloves crushed, salt, pepper and juice of 1 lemon

Great on the side of fish, chicken or with other salads!

BEET SALAD
4 to 6 beets (any color) roasted on a cookie sheet (rub with olive oil) Bake in 400 degree oven for about an hour Cool and slice or dice
1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 to 1 cup vinegar (Balsamic is perfect)
2 small onions (red or white) sliced thinly into rounds
finely chopped parsley or cilantro

Mix and chill.

SMOKED EGGPLANT SALAD
2 small firm eggplants
1/2 cup grated onion
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tehina
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Grill or broil eggplants 15 minutes turning for even cooking
Test for tenderness and then let the eggplants rest on grill or in the oven
Peel the skin and discard the liquid
Chop the eggplant by hand (not in the processor) so small pieces are formed
Mix the eggplant with all other ingredients
Refrigerate and enjoy with crackers or pita

And what salad table in Israel would be complete without hummus? Make your own easily!

HUMMUS
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans drained
1/3 cup tehini
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar salt and pepper

In a processor, drop in garlic and mince, add chickpeas, tehina and lemon juice
Process until mixture is smooth
Add roasted pepper and process until finely chopped
Season with salt and pepper
Transfer to bowl and pour olive oil in a swirl on top
Sprinkle sumac or zahtar to taste

Enjoy these tastes from Israel and surprise family and friends with a table full of healthy and fresh salads to accompany any other foods or as a meal itself.

Summertime means salads!  Start early mastering your favorites!

Seven Questions for: Schmekel

Schmekel is awesome. The “100% Transgender, 100% Jewish schtick-rock band” does songs about important things, silly things, and thingy things.

“Schmekel’s bespectacled transsexual singer-songwriters are guitarist Lucian Kahn and keyboardist Ricky Riot. Mohawked bassist Nogga Schwartz yells loudly, and genderqueer drummer Simcha Halpert-Hanson carries two big sticks.” (Read more about ’em here.)

And they were kind enough to hold forth on the vital topics in our Seven Questions:

1) How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?

Lucian: Oscar Wilde has written a farcical, yet appreciative, song-cycle about the polymorphous perverse.  He’s a Jew from Bukovinia, and he’s got a Dynamophone.
Ricky: We are a band of openly Jewish inverts who play magical loud instruments. Three of us are short gentlemen who are rumoured to have even shorter organs. One of us is neither man nor woman. Our songs are gay and jolly yet not suitable for the faint of heart.

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

Lucian: A rock star!  Or possibly a Ninja Turtle.
Ricky: Some kind of performer.
Simcha: Well, it varied.  From ages 3-7 I wanted to be a painter; ages 8-12, I desperately wanted to be a famous actor, like Claire Danes.  And then from age 13 onward, I passionately devoted myself to the quest of *indie* (I abhored corporate rock) pacific-northwest stardom (I abhored the east coast). Thankfully, I no longer find the east coast an abhorrence.

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

Lucian: I spend a lot of time singing about penises.  It’s hard to embarrass me.
Ricky: Lucian, I actually gave you a book about penises once. Did you read it? I hope you’re not embarrassed. Someone once lent me Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, insisting that it’ll change my life and help me understand her better. It was really dumb and I want those few hours of my life back.
Simcha: There are a lot of trashy teens-dying-of-cancer-while-falling-in-love books I am embarrassed to admit I’ve devoured.  Unless I am trying to prove my academic prowess or qualify my halachic knowledge base, I can’t think of any basic books I ought to have read by now and haven’t.

4) Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

Lucian: Pro early Woody Allen.  He understands the importance of a good egg salad recipe.
Ricky: Also pro early Woody Allen. Biased opinion though because I have an uncle who looks exactly like him.
Simcha: A natural anti-depressant.

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

Lucian: I identify strongly with the word feygele.
Simcha: I really love the Yiddish language.  I guess of all the words and names I’ve learned thus far, my favorite would be Faraynikte Shtaten [Ed.: United States] because it’s so long and intimidating to read in Yiddish.
Ricky: Shlemazal is a funny word and a funny concept. It’s a person with really bad luck. Also Abra Cadabra is in Aramaic. It means, “as it is said, it shall be created”. And how ‘bout some Hebrew slang: “Lefasbek” is to add someone on Facebook. And I’ll conjugate it for you. Hoo mefasbek, hee mefasbeket, anachnu mefasbekim…

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

Lucian: I wish more people knew and cared about the problems facing queer homeless teenagers and trans people seeking medical care.
Simcha:  I agree with Lucian.  I also wish people had more sensitivity to gender-identity and the bathroom.  Stress is a powerfully debilitating force.
Ricky: I wish that more people including myself knew more about the process by which a capitalist economic system makes people poor.

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

Lucian: I would like to share an everything bagel with Paul Celan.
Simcha: I’d share a garlic bagel with Rebbe Schneerson and find out whether he is actually Mashiach. 😉
Ricky: Thelonious Monk, because that dude was nuts and probably really interesting, and might have taught me a few things about music. Onion bagel, toasted, with olive cream cheese and lox.


Catch Schmekel on May 20 at Chief Ike’s with GLOE, as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival.

Read all of the Seven Questions interviews.

Recipe: Granola Cheesecake for Shavuot

By Jean Graubart
Director, Leo & Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

 

(image: ynetnews.com)

Not a month has gone by without a Jewish holiday celebration and it is lovely to look at the calendar and see the dates to remind us of our history and traditions.

Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks is on May 26-May 28, the culmination of the SEVEN weeks since Passover.  Mysticism makes everything a little more spiritual and since  the Kabbalists consider the number SEVEN very powerful (a reminder of the week of creation), we feel the impact of the mystics .

As a mother who gave each of her children two names, I like that Shavuot also has a second name, Festival of First Fruits, Yom Ha-Bikkurim.  This was the time that the first grain and fruit crops were harvested.

Just as Pesach brings us to spring, Shavuot ushers in the summer season. But before it gets too hot and in honor of the holiday when we celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments, the laws given to Moses on Mount Sinai, enjoy this unusual cheesecake in commemoration of the holiday.  It is customary to eat dairy foods as the Torah is traditionally compared to milk and honey, with their ability to nourish and to sweeten our lives.

GRANOLA CHEESECAKE

CRUST
3 cups granola
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger (dried)
1 stick butter melted

FILLING
2 pounds cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
4 eggs
2/3 cup whipping cream

TOPPING
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
Strawberries or other berries to top off

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9 inch springform pan or a deep dish pie pan.
Grind granola in a processor and put in bowl.
Add sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger and melted butter
Mix and press into the bottom of pan and halfway up the side.
Chill.
Beat the cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and honey until smooth and blended.
Add eggs one at a time beating lightly after each one.
Put in cream and mix briefly.
Pour batter into chilled crust and smooth top.
Bake for an hour, test with toothpick which should come out clean but a little wet.
The center will sink a little and the cake will shrink some from the sides of the pan.
Turn off oven and let cake sit in oven for 20 minutes.
Remove and cool at room temperature.
Set oven to 300 degrees.
In small bowl, mix sour cream and sugar very well.
Pour over the cake and smooth.
Bake 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.
Sprinkle with crystallized ginger and chill until firm.
Cover with plastic wrap when firm and chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Remove and enjoy!

Serving suggestion: Top with berries or serve them on the side.

This recipe will delight your friends and family and hopefully sweeten your celebration.

Shavuot is such a special time that I remember my grandmother picked the holiday for her birthday, having no record of her birth date in Turkey.

She said she wanted to be born when the Torah was born.

Shabbat Surfing: Shabbat Shalom… or whatever

In these last minutes before Shabbat begins, we wanted to wish you a Shabbat Shalom.

I thought I’d greet you with this phrase in as many languages as possible, but as it turns out, the actual words are the least complicated part.

There are whole subcultures around how one behaves when saying it, the accent one uses, your type of eye contact, length of greeting, and how you size up the other person.

There are greeters who run the gamut from a quickie drive-by, mumbled, “shbbs,” to long extended versions that say it multiple times or turn it into a new-best-friend hug.

Timing can be a problem, seeing someone approaching on the sidewalk who you will certainly greet, but you’ve made eye contact too soon, and it would be rude to look away.

Frum young boys sexually harass young girls with it, “Sha-butt shalom!,” and – being the subtle creatures young boys are – motion towards her frum behind.

Some will pick the “modern Hebraic tuf pronunciation instead of the shtetl suf” of the Shabbat/Shobbos options, depending on how they Jewishly “profile” the other person.

So however you choose to greet one another tonight, we wish you a restful Sabbath:

Gut Shabbos. ভাল সব্বাত. Bon Sabbat. Buen Shabat. добра шабат. Bydd Shabbat da. 良い安息日. Καλή Σαμπάτ. Geras Šabatas. Dobre Szabat. Nzuri Shabbati.

Shabbat Shalom.

Yom Hashoah and the Pink Triangle

By Halley Cohen
Director, GLOE – GLBT Outreach & Engagement

credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

This Thursday, we observe Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, but for decades, LGBT people were not recognized among the groups of victims, and omitted from the Day’s observances. This erasure is why, when we now say, “never forget,” it needs to specifically include those who wore the pink triangle in the camps, the designation of “homosexual.”

The colors were not just for sorting, but rather, each functioned as a quick visual cue of your ranking in the hierarchy of the camps. The ranking had implications for your treatment and the likelihood of your survival. Homosexuals ranked at the bottom with Jews, both receiving the worst treatment and a mortality rate estimated at 50-60%.

However, unlike the Jewish prisoners, at the end of the war homosexuals were not released from the camps.

We never want to weigh suffering among groups to create some kind of hierarchy of pain. Still, for those of us who fall into both of these “worst treatment” categories, Yom Hashoah is particularly resonant, knowing that after the war, as the world “discovered” what had been happening to the Jews in the camps, that the horrors were not yet over for LGBT people.

Still seen as deviants or criminals or ill, gay prisoners often were either not released, or immediately put into prisons for the crime of homosexuality.

These “criminals” were not pardoned by German lawmakers until 2002.

That is, if they managed to survive the war in the first place. Not only were they a favorite of the German soldiers for target practice, for the hardest work details, and for surgical experiments (similar to the Jewish experience), gay men were also routinely beaten to death by fellow prisoners.

It is little surprise that we know much less about their experiences than those of others in the camps:

“Reading the many reports and asking the prisoners’ committees (which still exist today) about the prisoners with the pink triangles, one repeatedly learns that they were there, but nobody can tell you anything about them. Quantitative analysis offers a sad explanation for the extraordinary lack of visibility: the individual pink-triangle prisoner was likely to live for only a short time in the camp and then to disappear from the scene.” -Ruediger Lautmann, in his sociological research

We can only imagine how long those of us who would’ve worn a pink and yellow star would’ve lasted.

In their memory, we can all learn about – and make part of any Holocaust remembrance conversation – what happened to all of those who had another color triangle sewn to their yellow one.

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