Yom Kippur: Apologies, Technology and More

Yom Kippur 5773 begins at sundown on Tuesday and Jews are currently in the midst of reflecting on the past year, clearing their schedules for holiday observance, and seeking to be included once again in the Book of Life.

JTA has put together list of the top apologies of 5772. We might question the sincerity of some of them, but either way it’s a good recap of those who have wronged us.

Chicago White Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis is pleased with the resolution to change the time of the September 25 game against the Cleveland Indians to 1:10 pm to accommodate the observance of Kol Nidre. Called “The Sandy Koufax question” the Yom Kippur vs. baseball dilemma is nothing new.

Techy generation: A rabbi at a Miami Beach Rosh Hashanah service encouraged twenty-somethings to engage with the service by anonymously texting their regrets, goals, musings and blissful thoughts for everyone to see.

The Huffington Post is Live-Blogging the High Holy Days and incorporating pluralistic thoughts and all kinds of online mediums into this communal celebration.

Finally, if words fail you, Tablet’s got some punchy ecards to send to your family and friends:


Shana Tova and Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Surfing: History

This year marks the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812 and today marks the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Bladensburg. After defeating the Americans, British troops marched to Washington and set fire to many public buildings (most notably the Capitol and the White House).

Tom Freeman’s painting of the August 24, 1814 burning of the White House by British troops during the War of 1812.

Though there were perhaps fewer than 10,000 Jews living in the United States at the time of the war that inspired our national anthem, Jewish soldiers and volunteers contributed their strength and helped to defend against the British.

Today also marks the centennial of Alaska’s granting of territorial status.  Jews first arrived in sizable numbers during the Gold Rush and set up stores and mining operations. Today’s Alaskan Jews only number about 6,000 but they still have made a their mark on The Last Frontier.

Speaking of frozen… it’s still summer and the season for frozen treats. Did you know that Jews helped launch the craze over premium ice cream? Yum.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Surfing: The Ties That Bind

As the Olympic Games are winding down, moments of awe come hand-in-hand with moments of human solidarity. The Jewish community has rallied behind golden girl Aly Raisman not only for her gymnastics prowess, but also for her widespread appeal (not just to Jewish mothers) and maturity that has accompanied her elevation to stardom.

Raisman’s floor routine set to “Hava Nagila” was not the only nod to Jewish heritage to capture the attention of the Jewish community: interest in French swimmer Fabien Gilot’s Hebrew tattoo helped to soften the blow of American defeat in the 4×100 relay. Gilot’s tattoo translates to “I am nothing without them,” and is a tribute to Gilot’s grandfather figure, a Holocaust survivor.

While athleticism serves as a common thread amongst the Olympic athletes in London, the Washington Post reported on a special meeting bound by a very different common thread.  This past weekend Holocaust survivor and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum volunteer Margit Meissner gave a very special tour to Freddy Mutanguha, Rwandan Genocide survivor and director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The two first met when 90-year-old Meissner was visiting Rwanda and share an interest in survivor testimony and educating others about preventing genocide.

Tragedy unfortunately brings us together and reaffirms our shared values. Following Sunday’s shooting at a Sikh temple, Milwaukee’s Jewish community has shown great and respectful support to the Sikh community by commemorating the lives lost and reaching out in solidarity.

NASA’s Curiosity rover  successfully made it to Mars and now begins its new phase of discovering the Red Planet. As a “world asset” Curiosity is already sending back incredible photos to satisfy Earthlings’ curiosity.  Despite the fact that the mission is a NASA project, Israeli software played an important part in its success. Software company Siemens develops all of its Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software in Israel and Siemens PLM Israel helped to develop the system “needed to figure out how to ensure that Curiosity could stand up to the harsh conditions on Mars.”

Shabbat Surfing: Olympics

Today marks the first day of the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 B.C.E , where they were held for nearly 12 centuries before being banned due to their pagan roots. The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896 and have evolved and grown ever since.

Tisha B’Av is also this weekend. At the same time when the Jewish community will be participating in communal mourning of the destruction of the Temple and the loss of thousands, the 11 Israeli athletes killed 40 years ago at the 1972 Munich Games will also be on many people’s minds–official recognition or not.

Looking back to more uplifting Olympic moments, this story of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team certainly highlights a proud achievement in the face of adversity. Called the “high spot” of the Games by sportswriter Grantland Rice, it must have been an especially uplifting moment for the USA as a group of college rowers from the University of Washington came from behind to defeat Germany as Hitler and other Nazi officials looked on.

And lastly, if you were ever curious about Jewish Olympic athletic prowess here is a list of all Jewish Olympic medalists. Feel free to tally up the total number of golds, silvers and bronzes.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Surfing: Summer Begins

Wednesday brought us not only a heat wave but also the official start of summer. Our summer camp, also known as “Hot Times in the City,”  started this week as temperatures in DC broke a record high.

Dupont Circle Fountain by Glyn Lowe Photoworks, on Flickr

Summer also brings cookout season and, this year, a lawsuit that alleges that Hebrew National products are not living up to their 100% kosher promise. Triangle-K, the agency that certifies Hebrew National products, does not claim to be glatt kosher and the nuances and personal nature of kosher observance will be interesting as this case plays out in a secular setting. To circumvent all of this and still enjoy your cookouts, there are always delicious salads.

Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld takes us back to summers of yore in the Borscht Belt in her haunting photos. These former summer resort colonies in the Catskill Mountains just north of New York Citywere tremendously popular with Jewish-American families and are now in ruins; many have been vacant since the 1960s and 1970s.

Have a fabulous weekend. Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Surfing: Ahava

Mazel tov to Vice President Joe Biden, who danced the Horah at his daughter’s interfaith wedding to Jewish surgeon Howard Krein.

Actress Drew Barrymore also married one of our own in a Jewish wedding ceremony, officiated by her new husband’s rabbi and featuring a custom-made chuppah.

If there wasn’t enough love to go around, the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards—the Conservative movement’s authority on halachic policy—has unanimously approved ritual guidelines for same-sex weddings.  

This announcement came just in time to celebrate at Pride this weekend. Israelis flocked by the thousands to Tel Aviv’s 14th Gay Pride Parade today.  We’ll be celebrating locally this weekend in the Capital Pride parade and street festival.  

“AHAVA – LOVE – Israel Museum” by Brian Negin, on Flickr

Have a LOVEly weekend. Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Surfing: Long Weekend

This weekend has got it all going on: Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, and Shavuot.

Memorial Day was originally observed to commemorate fallen Union soldiers following the Civil War. After World War I it was expanded to honor soldiers from all American wars and in 1971 was declared a national holiday.

Jews have been a part of American military history since the colonial era, when many served in General Washington’s Continental Army. On August 1, 1776, Francis Salvador was the first Jew to be killed in the American Revolution as he led a small army of 330 men.

Songstress Regina Spektor is releasing her new album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, on May 29. NPR is currently streaming it and if the album’s third track “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” doesn’t make you want to go outside and bounce around, I’m not sure what will.

Shavuot, the holiday in which we celebrate by eating dairy, is sadly still a bit of an underdog when it comes to popularity among American Jews.  The theological significance of the holiday is certainly noted by the Chag Sameach greetings I received from my mother in my inbox this morning: a Photoshopped picture of Charlton Heston as Moses in Mel Brooks’ The Ten Commandments clutching a pair of iPads.

Lastly, here is a photo of the cheetah cubs  that recently arrived at the National Zoo:

Photo by Adrienne Crosier, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

We are so lucky to be in DC, where we’ll be able to hop on the metro for one stop and check them out when they join the others in the cheetah den in a few months!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Surfing: Tributes

The Jewish community felt some heavy losses this week with the passing of three “iconic misfit Jews”

The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch, also known as MCA,  passed away last Friday after a hard-fought battle with cancer. The Beastie Boys were just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April.

Maurice Sendak,  children’s book author, died Tuesday. President Obama has made it a tradition to animatedly read Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. In a 2011 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Sendak said of his life: “There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

Hair revolutionary Vidal Sassoon passed away in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Sassoon is probably best known for his wash-and-wear cuts that freed women from hours in a salon and Mia Farrow’s pixie cut in Rosemary’s Baby . However, he was also involved in fighting against British fascists and a veteran of the Israeli War of Independence.


Shabbat Surfing: Nutella

One of my favorite things about working at the J is our once a month staff Shabbat in the Q Street Lobby. We gather together at the end of the afternoon to say prayers, sing some songs and eat challah spread high with Nutella.

As I was getting ready for work this morning, NPR aired a story about the California mom who sued the maker of Nutella for falsely advertising the chocolate hazelnut spread as a healthy choice. I smiled as I remembered that today is a staff Shabbat day and reminded myself to follow my mother’s mantra of “everything in moderation” and to try my hardest to use a reasonable amount of Nutella on my challah.

When I was in Israel last year, I indulged in bread with the chocolate spread Hashahar Ha’oleh nearly every morning. It is a bit different than Nutella but equally as delicious. The makers of the spread are a family business headquartered outside of Haifa and they make three varieties: classic dairy, parve and nut. Their sales double during the two months around Passover, as the spread serves as a perfect matzo topping.

It is a good thing Hashahar is so delicious because Israelis pay about 20% more for Nutella than we do in the United States. Kashrut approval and importing the product impact the price in Israel, of course, but it doesn’t mean that Israelis will blindly accept the higher prices. In 2008, Nutella was at the center of a very different class action lawsuit in Israel than its maker just settled in the US. Its Israeli importer was forced to give out 91 tons of Nutella for free after consumers rose up and protested the fact that jars were reduced in size but not in price.

Nutella lends itself so well to inclusion into Jewish holidays, that it’s no wonder it is so popular here, in Israel, and around the world:

Nutella braided into challah

Donuts filled with Nutella 

Nutella Hamentaschen

Nutella Rugelach

If you’re here at 16th and Q on a Friday afternoon and find us celebrating in the lobby, please come join us.  Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Surfing: DC Chefs Go Kosher Part II

Jewish food is “in” right now and we couldn’t been happier. Combine that with top-n0tch DC chefs and we’re anxiously awaiting the fine kosher fair to be had at our annual gala on April 3. Two weeks ago we featured the first half of our accomplished chefs. We are now at the second half and have no doubts that their creative takes on traditional Jewish favorites will have us even more excited about this new food trend.

Chef Billy Klein is a passionate supporter of local food and uses ingredients from neighborhood farmer’s markets in his incredible dishes at Cafe Saint-Ex.

Chef Barry Koslow of DGS Delicatessan (coming to Dupont Circle this summer) was recently named DC’s best Jewish chef by Forward Magazine.

Chef Harper McClure once worked on an organic farm and skillfully brings style to the “historic-gets-hip” cuisine at The Federalist.

Seasonal Pantry, the brainchild of Chef Dan O’Brien, hosts incredibly successful supper clubs three times a week. Chef O’Brien draws up fully-illustrated menus to feed his innovation.

Chef Robert Weland plans to plant an on-site garden at Cork. He is driven by finding new things to incorporate into his dishes, such as the recently highlighted tangerine lace.

Creative, talented chefs paired with reinvented kosher Jewish favorites spells a true foodie’s delight. Bon apetite!

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