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:

Monday Media: Jews & Christmas Songs

Did you know that some of the world’s most beloved Christmas songs were actually written by Jews? What’s that all about?

InterfaithFamily.com takes a look at this surprising phenomenon in this article. You can also learn about the Jewish songwriters of Christmas and more at A Kosher Christmas on December 17!

And on the flip side, did you know “I Had a Little Dreidel” was written by a Christian songwriter?*

*No, not really.

Modernity and Tradition: Our Struggle for a Modern Jewish Identity

By Tami Wolf
Director, EntryPointDC

It might seem crazy, but the daily struggle we have today over the balance between tradition and modernity and identity is not new to the Jewish people.

Torah is full of examples of Israelites trying to live in the bigger world while maintaining their ways, not always successfully. Even the story of Chanukkah, which starts on December 8 this year, is about how one group of people thought Jews should balance tradition and modernity. If it weren’t a struggle, if we didn’t have conflicting feelings about this, it wouldn’t still bother us today, and that is why it is still so important.

This afternoon, the DCJCC hosted Anat Hoffman for a lunchtime update on the current state of pluralism in Israel. Hoffman works with two organizations that are working for change, i.e. changing tradition, in Jewish life in Israel. One is the Israel Religious Action Center.

The IRAC, as it’s affectionately known, is the legal arm of the Union for Reform Judaism in Israel and addresses issues of religion and state in Israel, including social justice, equality, and religious pluralism. They are trying to find a way to balance traditional and modern values and make religion in Israel something all Jews can feel comfortable with.

Hoffman is also the head of an organization called Women of the Wall (WoW), whose mission is “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.”

Women of the Wall meet every rosh chodesh (new month) to pray at the kotel together. From my own experiences with them, the Women of the Wall are not looking to start a fight with local police officers or upset other worshipers; they merely want the right to pray in a way that is meaningful to them.

This afternoon, Hoffman talked about how Israelis are attempting to maintain traditions while living in a definitely modern state. She talked about the work IRAC and WoW are doing on things we think of as extremist – things we would never dream are happening in a place we see as so western and modern:

  • segregated busses, where women sit in the back and men in the front;
  • uncondemned racism from state-employed rabbis towards Arabs;
  • and, of course, the hold a small group of ultra-orthodox extremists have over all religious aspects of the country, including over the management of holy sites.

Hoffman’s struggles with the IRAC and Women of the Wall are two windows on the struggles we face between living our traditions and embracing the modern world we live in today.
Anat’s visit kicks off a slew of upcoming Israel programming at the DCJCC.

Theater J, the DCJCC’s professional theater company, will be staging two plays about life in Israel, and it is one of those that I want to talk about specifically.

Apples from the Desert, by Savyon Liebrecht, is a story of a search for balance. The protagonist is Rivka, a young Sephardic religious girl, whose life is turned upside down when she meets and falls in love with a secular kibbutznik from the south, Dooby.

Rivka has to do what all of us strive to do: find a way to maintain her religious identity in a way she feels is appropriate without dismissing the expectations of her family and community or turning away from what she really wants.
I don’t think there’s a “right” or a “wrong” solution to this problem, but I do think we can all arrive at answers we are comfortable with, at least for the moment. I have no doubt this is a daily struggle, something that as individuals we always have to come to terms with and re-evaluate as our lives move on.

Personally, I’m very much looking forward to exploring how DC’s young professionals see this issue and have made choices for themselves, on December 22 after a performance of Apples from the Desert, and especially how Israel has been a part of that process. (That means you’re invited, so come talk this out with me.)

And on that note, Happy Thanksgiving from EPDC!

Monday Media: A Genetic History of the Jewish People

Are Jews a people, an ethnic group, or a family? Medical geneticist Harry Ostrer explores this fascinating issue. Still have questions? Ask him in person on December 5!

Polish Poster Design

When I first discovered Polish Poster design some five or six years ago, I wasn’t sure that what I was seeing was to be believed. There’s a certain tendency to be skeptical of things you find on the Internet, and here was a collection of Polish Posters – most of which were menacing and ambiguous in equal measure – created to market movies as different as Blow-Up and Weekend at Bernie’s. Perhaps, in their time, these posters were nothing more than a minor curiosity, destined to be rediscovered by the Tumblr set.

Actually, the Polish Poster movement represented one of the most important graphic design developments in the 20th Century, and in their hay day, these works were as visible as any poster created for a summer blockbuster today.

So how did the Polish School of Poster come about?  In 1945, Nazis destroyed most of Warsaw during their retreat, leaving nearly 80% of the city in ruin. The rebuilding effort resulted in fenced-in construction sites all over the city – in effect creating a city-wide gallery tailor made for hanging poster art. There was also a backlog of American and Foreign films waiting to be seen in Poland, all of which required accompanying promotional materials created in Polish. With virtually no Polish art market to speak of, artists turned to the only game in town, poster design.

Below is a selection of Polish Film Posters, including a poster for Agnieszka Holland’s Europa Europa. We will welcome Holland to the DCJCC on November 30 for a screening of Europa Europa and a discussion with Aviva Kempner.

You can read more about Polish Poster Art at Adrian Curry’s Movie Poster of the Week blog, which informed much of this blog post.

  Tootsie                                                           Europa Europa

 

Rosemary’s Baby                                        Sunset Boulevard

 

Blow-Up                                                        Weekend at Bernie’s

Spotlight on Samuel Popkin

Just in time for election season! In The CandidateSamuel Popkin, Professor of Political Science at UC San Diego, draws on a lifetime of presidential campaign experience and extensive research to analyze what it takes to win this upcoming Presidential campaign. In the above video, Popkin explains how to judge an incumbent’s campaign from a challenger’s method of attack, dissecting Obama’s Presidential campaign strategy.

Come hear Popkin give his take on the second presidential debate on October 23.

The Lonely Life of the Lone Samaritan

There are about 730 Samaritans remaining in the world today.  LONE SAMARITAN offers a rare look at the community and its traditions while looking at the broader issues of identity and conflict and the cost of assimilation.  Take a look at this beautiful scene from the film.

The WJFF is co-sponsoring a screening at the All Roads Film Festival at The National Geographic’s Grosvenor Auditorium on Sept. 30

Monday Media: Barbra Streisand’s Private Vault

Barbra Streisand’s private music vault holds all the master tapes she’s recorded for five decades. Now, she’s sharing 11 previously unreleased songs, spanning a cross-section of her career from 1963 to today, in her new album Release Me.

This track, “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today,”  was recorded in 1971.

“The thing I’m happiest about is that I still have great affection for all these songs,” said Streisand. “They appealed to me at the time…and still do. Listening now, I actually think to myself, ‘The girl wasn’t half bad.'”

Learn all about Barbra’s amazing rise to stardom with biographer William Mann on October 24 at the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival.

Monday Media: Telegraph Avenue

Attention Michael Chabon Fans!!

Check out NPR’s exlusive First Read of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue.  You can read or listen to an excerpt of Michael’s magnificent new novel (yes, I’ve read it, and no, I’m not exaggerating) here. Below is a sneak peek:

“Hello?” Gwen called, letting herself in the front door. A small black Buddha greeted her from a low table by the front door, where it kept company with a photograph of Lydia Frankenthaler, the producer of an Oscar­-winning documentary film about the neglected plight of lesbians in Nazi Germany; Lydia’s partner, Garth; and Lydia’s daughter from her first marriage, a child whose father was black and whose name Gwen had forgotten. It was a Chinese Buddha, the kind that was supposed to pull in money and luck, jolly, baby­faced, and potbellied, reminding Gwen of her darling husband apart from the signal difference that you could rub the continental expanse of Archy Stallings’s abdomen for a very long time without attracting any flow of money in your direction. “Somebody having a baby around here?” continued on npr.org…

Michael opens the DCJCC’s Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival on October 14. Tickets go on sale September 1–don’t get closed out!

%d bloggers like this: