Yom Hazikaron

Today is Yom HaZikaron, The Day of Memory established by the government of Israel to commemorate the soldiers who have lost their lives in defense of the State of Israel.

LET THE MEMORIAL HILL REMEMBER
Let the memorial hill remember instead of me,
that’s what it’s here for. Let the park in-memory-of remember,
let the street that’s-named-for remember,
let the well-known building remember,
let the synagogue that’s named after God remember
let the rolling Torah scroll remember, let the prayer
for the memory of the dead remember. Let the flags remember
those multicolored shrouds of history: the bodies they wrapped
have long since turned to dust. Let the dust remember.
Let the dung remember at the gate. Let the afterbirth remember.
Let the beasts of the field and birds of the heavens eat and remember.
Let all of them remember so that I can rest.
Yehuda Amichai

This animated video is a poignant expression of the individual anguish of a parent for the loss of child in support of the State of Israel.

Carole R. Zawatsky is the CEO of the Washington DCJCC

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The Bread of Affliction

Passover has two critical teachings. The first is that in every generation, l’dor vador, we retell the story. But it’s not just enough to recite the words—we need to help the listener understand, reinventing and reimagining the story of the Exodus for this generation in a way that resonates. you have to tell it effectively. Like any good story, it has to have drama and meaning, heroes and heroines. The Haggadah has it all: Who could argue that the story isn’t dramatic? It also has meaning—after all, our identity as a people grows out of this experience. Moses and Miriam also emerge as leaders for the ages.

The Passover seder is filled with symbols of both oppression and freedom that help us tell this story—for instance, the parsley connotes springtime, the egg reminds us of the possibility of rebirth, and the maror (bitter herbs) give us a literal taste of the bitterness of slavery.

The second lesson lies in the ultimate symbol of the Passover seder, the matza. Sometimes referred to as the Bread of Affliction, it is a sobering reminder of our experiences as slaves. As we hold up the matza we say, “This is the bread of affliction, the poor bread, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in want, share the hope of Passover.” (URJ Haggadah)

The Haggadah’s statement “This is the bread of affliction,” Ha Lahma Anya, contains one of the most significant lessons of the Passover story. In my own childhood, we had seders of thirty-five or more people, and yet my mother always found room for anyone who found themselves in need of a seder. Here at the DCJCC, Passover is not the only time we think about Ha Lahma Anya. There are hungry people in our community every day. The drama and the lessons of Passover remind us to reach out and help those whose basic needs aren’t being met on a daily basis.

My mother’s example helps me guide the mission of the Center, as we continue to go into our community and take notice and action on behalf of those in need.  As you celebrate Passover, take a look around and reach a hand out to those in your community and beyond.

Carole R. Zawatsky is the CEO of the Washington DCJCC

Israel, Dialogue & Our Community

by Carole R. Zawatsky
CEO, Washington DCJCC

The Washington Post has an article today about the challenges facing Jewish institutions and Jewish artists who seek to engage with the difficult issues surrounding Israel and its quest for peace and security with the Palestinians. The case-in-point concerned the controversies that arose from this past spring’s presentation of the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv’s production of Return to Haifa at our resident, professional theater company, Theater J. We are at a unique moment in American Jewish life. The reality is that in the process of seeking to understand and grapple with this large issue facing Israel and ourselves, our community is still searching for a safe way to engage in this discussion with honesty, civility and respect for the passionate sincerity on both sides. This conversation goes beyond the boundaries of our local Jewish community and speaks to its importance and relevance.

Thus, the Washington DCJCC is committed to inspiring balanced, thoughtful and relevant Jewish culture through film, theater, literature and music, that welcomes all perspectives both from right and the left living up to the highest principles of our Jewish tradition.

Monday evening as we observe Tisha B’av – the anniversary of one of the most calamitous dates in Jewish history that marks the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem, it is taught that the Temple was destroyed because of the “senseless hatred of one Jew for another.” (Yoma 9b) It is tempting to conclude that the past is prologue and that the strains placed on the ancient Jewish community by Babylonian and Roman invasions parallel the threats of today. Our Jewish future continues to hold great promise when we encourage all those who hold a stake in our destiny the opportunity to immerse their intellect, their creativity and their spirit in preserving and enriching the Jewish present.

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