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?)

Shabbat Surfing: Tu B’Av – It’s All About the Love!

If you’re feeling an extra bit love and affection floating around today, it’s the effects of Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love.

(Or as other Jewish denominations pronounce it, lurve.)

If you want to pass along the love, you can send a free Tu B’Av ecard to your special someones, designed by contest winner, Rachel Scheer.

Tu B'Av ecard by Rachel ScheerAnd isn’t a Day of Love the perfect time for a Kiss-In?

The Jewish community was recently polled to find that 81% support equal marriage for all. Some will be celebrating the today with National Same-Sex Kiss Day, in support of equality for all, and in response to Chik-Fil-A’s Chickens for Bigotry* campaign. It seems all expressions of affection (kisses, hugs, holding hands) will be welcome, as will as any and all who would like to come and kiss.
*Not the actual name

Whether you are celebrating with a quiet dinner at home, or a huge white party with hundreds of your nearest and dearest, our Tu B’Av wish is that you know how much we love our readers and all who join us at the DCJCC.

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

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: 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.

It’s OK To Have Fun!


Anne Frank said “Give of yourself. You can always give something, even if it is only kindness. No one has ever become poor from giving.”

 
These words mean so much in so many different aspects of our world. Everything from cooking for the homeless to sharing your business skills to just saying hello to someone living on the street. Every little thing we do makes a difference. Whether you want to think of it as the domino effect or a ripple in the water; everything we do makes a difference.

Recently a volunteer at our Handmade for the Homeless project asked me if her knitting for others really counted as volunteering. She was concerned that if she was truly enjoying herself while knitting and schmoozing with the other knitters that maybe she wasn’t doing something so great.

I think having fun while doing for others makes your giving even more special. Growing up I was taught to give tzedakah. I always thought this just meant to give money. The literal definition of Tzedakah means justice or fairness; making things equal amongst the masses. Not only is what we do is tzedakah but is truly G’milut Chasadim, giving kindness, benevolence, giving of ourselves.  And in this, I think it only means more if we truly enjoy what we are doing.

Not only will the hats and scarves knitted and crocheted by our volunteers bring warmth to those living on the streets in the winter but hopefully they will be filled with the love and fun that the volunteer who made them put into it.

Have you volunteered lately? There are so many things you can do to make a difference in our world, in our city! Find something that you enjoy and put your heart into it.

Recognizing Current Issues this Yom Hashoah – Part II

(Read Part I: On Connection here.)

Part II: On Action

Young professionals and college students are taking a deep interest in connecting to our remaining Holocaust survivors.

For example, in New York City, hundreds of volunteers team up with the iVolunteer organization to visit often-lonely Holocaust survivors and become like family.

According to the 2009 Claims Conference, survivors are “more likely than other elderly to be socially isolated, and as a result, are more likely to live in poverty and be in poorer health.”

While health and financial needs plague today’s survivor population, the worst poverty is loneliness. These feelings are greatly alleviated through volunteer visits. But honestly, I feel like the volunteers get more out of these visits than they could ever give.

However, while Jews across the world remember the Shoah this week, there is a large number of people who are unaware of the critical need for basic safety net services for many of the frail and aging Holocaust survivors who live right here in our own community.

According to the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA), DC’s community safety net organization, there are hundreds of survivors in the DC-area in need of critical homecare and medical support services.  In fact, JSSA is reporting a dramatic increase this year in the number of survivors requesting care. As a result, JSSA is now facing critical shortfalls as the need is outpacing available funding.  (Learn more about the issue here.)

In light of all these issues, EntryPointDC partnered with JSSA to create an Inter-generational Passover Program with Silver Spring-area Holocaust survivors on Good Deeds Day. This was a memorable event not only for the Holocaust survivors, who were elated to have the opportunity to tell their personal stories and socialize with each other, but also for the young professionals who got to connect with them.

For one participant, it was his first time meeting a survivor, never having had the opportunity first hand. For a young woman, who is an Iraqi Jew , it was important to her to come because her own family had been persecuted in Iraq. Another came to connect with his Jewish heritage for the first time since the passing of his father.

Others came as proud representatives of their own survivor grandparents. After the event, one shared, “I just wanted to thank you for organizing this event; it really was so special.”

These connections are so important to our community. This June, we’re trying to make more of these inter-generational exchanges happen.

Service for SurvivorsWe want to connect survivors and young professionals with our Service For Survivors Trip – a Service Learning Trip to Miami Beach, Florida. Participants from EntryPointDC, GLOE, Community Services, and other partners will be joining us. Truly, we welcome anyone in their 20s & 30s to join us  in this mitzvah.

One of my favorite things about this project is the chance I’ll get to interact and connect with individual survivors, knowing that this is a population deeply in need, AND that there is something we can do about it. (The fact we’ll all be hanging out in Miami Beach doesn’t hurt either.)

As the last generational link, we are almost out of time to hear their stories.

And then, when the time comes, we’ll pass those stories on.

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