Creating a new project with Sarah Rabin Spira, Director of Family Enrichment and Community Outreach

By Dr. Marion Usher
DCJCC Interfaith Connections, and Director of Jewish Interfaith Couples

(Cross-posted from JewishInterfaithCouples.com)

There is nothing that brings a bigger smile to my face than a gurgling baby.

So when Sarah and her beautiful daughter came into my house last Monday, I was delighted to see them both. In a nanosecond, we were settled around my kitchen table, and the baby was cooing away and batting her precious little hand at the toy suspended from her carrying basket. What a wonderful way to start the week!

Sarah and I were meeting to see how we could do some programming together. She is now the DCJCC’s Director of Family Enrichment and Community Outreach, and she was very interested in providing more services to the interfaith families that use our JCC.

I was thrilled to hear of her interest.

After reviewing many ideas and options, we settled on doing a “hands-on” project for families that included both the parents and the children, had a learning component, and also a “take home” for both the parents as well as the children. I love these kinds of projects, where the activity will be appealing to families that already use the DCJCC AND also to new families who have not yet stepped into the building.

With that in mind, we brainstormed about all the social media available to us including the DC parent list-servs, blogs, Google ads, our own DCJCC website, my website and many other web locations that might get to our target audience of interfaith families.

Here’s to more great collaborations and programs that reflect the beautiful diversity of our Jewish community!

 

Make Room for Matzah


Make Room For Matzah

Families Together Learning about the Passover Seder
March 17, 2013 |10:30 am–Noon
Ages 2 and up

Come and learn how to create a fun Passover experience for your family!

Parents will leave this experience with new ideas to implement and a complete book of tried and true recipes. Children will take home special hand make objects to use during the Seder.

We welcome all families with young children, especially interfaith families.

Facilitated by Sarah Rabin Spira, Director of Family Enrichment and Community Outreach and Marion L. Usher, Ph.D., creator of “Love and Religion: An Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners.”

(Learn more and register)

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SmartParenting (?)

As a parent, I’ve found my smart phone to be a god-send.  If it’s in the middle of the night, and my child is up for a feeding, I can check email or play a game so that I’m not “engaging” her when she should be eating and then falling back asleep.  Or the light is great for when I can’t find her pacifier.  Or the web app is ideal for 3:00 am searches if I can’t get back to sleep after she’s asleep because I’m wondering (worried?) about some development question.  Or my children love the sound of Atlanta Nana’s voice, and I’ve been known to call her or play her voicemails over the Bluetooth in the car to soothe them while I drive.

You can always tell when I’m on maternity leave by my Facebook activity, not just the endless pics of my cute kids but also how often I can be on.  I tend to have a lot of “free time” at odd hours.

But then, what about the other times?  When it’s in the middle of the day, and I’m thinking, “Please just go back to sleep so I can play Freecell?”  Or saying, “Mommy just needs to send this text of your cute face to your grandparents and aunts, I’ll be with you in a sec”?  It seems natural in this “connected age,” but then I think, am I a bad parent? (For the former scenario, probably.  For the latter scenario, can you blame me?)

There was a blog post not too long ago about “Texting While Parenting,” which noted the psychological and socio-emotional effects of using a smart phone while your child is awake instead of engaging them. This was followed up by numerous articles in October about the physical danger of smartphone use.  Great—now parents need to add another reason to feel guilty or fear about their parenting skills?

Then I remembered a Yom Kippur service years ago, before I was a parent to a 2-year old and 3-month old.  The rabbi said something about “10% is showing up, 90% is being there.” (I didn’t write it all down, something about not writing on a High Holy Day…)  And that makes sense to me.  You can’t always be the perfect parent.  And sometimes you need to put your screaming child in a safe place and walk away.  But you can be present when you’re with them.  Drop7, email, SongPop and Facebook can wait.  Your children and mine should not.

Instead of just saying children should honor their mother and father, let’s add Commandment 5 ½:  honor your children.  Think of it as a lasting Chanukah present.

And don’t worry—I’ve never texted while driving or when my child is in the pool or bathtub. (Though I keep it on the bathroom counter because I always worry that something might happen, and I’ll need to call 911—I’m Jewish, I worry, it’s part of the deal).

Shabbat Surfing: What’s New?

Suze Orman thinks you should be going to a cool Jewish summer camp.
Image (c) suzeorman.com

Shana tova!

We’re days away from the Jewish New Year and it seemed the right time to focus on all things both Jewish and new.

Because it’s hard to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Suze Orman just making lanyards…
New Camp: Four new Jewish summer camps are gearing up to create more memorable overnight camp experiences for underserved populations, thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, in the areas of business and entrepreneurship, health and wellness, sports, and science and technology.

Because it’s about time…
New Name: “Jew Pond” in New Hampshire, named as a pejorative in the 1920s when the hotel to which it was connected was bought by two Jewish businessmen from Boston, has been officially renamed Carleton Pond.

Because sexism and agism are so passe…
New Shofar Blowers: DC Congregations, including Adas Israel and Tifereth Israel, are seeing more and more women, plus young and older adults who want to blow the shofar, and are learning for these High Holidays.

Because we notice when one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Middle East is denied the right to worship…
New Place Without a Minyan: “For the first time in some 2,000 years, Alexandria [Egypt] will not have a minyan,” as Egyptian authorities cancel services at Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue and deny visas.

Because welcoming all Jewish families is a core value…
New Info on Interfaith Families: With interfaith relationships making up a not-insignificant amount of the Jewish community, new survey data helps Jewish organizations engage these families, who are looking for outlandish things like a welcoming attitude, invitations to learn about Judaism, and events for interfaith families.

 

A Day at the White House, Part 2

By Xani Pollakoff

While tomato seeds dripped down the faces of our two year-old students, Bill Yosses, The White House Executive Pastry Chef, squatted down to show them the inside of a blossoming green pepper. Our curious kids, more engaged than ever, experienced a private tour of a lifetime, one that many families only dream of.

Standing on the narrow path between yellow squash and baby watermelons, the kids, parents and teachers of the Etzim class touched and smelled the herbs, vegetables and fruits growing in the White House Garden. They spent the morning learning about how pumpkin seeds are made, why tomatoes have green leaves at the top, and that much of the fruit and vegetables grown in the garden are from seeds descended from President Jefferson’s garden. Guarded by the quiet presence of three secret service agents, we listened as Bill enlightened us with details about making honey, composting, and how he transforms the plants in the garden into his famous White House pies. The children chimed in with stories of their own growing experiences, including how they carefully watered our own parsley garden inside of the Etzim classroom at the DCJCC over the Passover holiday season.

Our classroom name, Etzim, means trees in Hebrew. Our walls, stories and explorations during this past year have expanded the theme of growing. During the year we sang Tu B’shevat tree songs, used measuring sticks to create an Etzim height chart on our wall, and created a huge classroom tree out of recycled artwork. Our students explored growing when we planted seeds, took care of our very own plants, and observed changes as the plants grew over weeks and months. This most unique and memorable experience gave us a sweet end to a year full of learning.

We used all our senses during our once-in-a-lifetime trip. We tasted the most amazing tomatoes, smelled (and nibbled) lemon verbena leaves, and rubbed our tiny fingers along the flowers of a lavender bush. Our pictures are just small reminders of the huge memories of the most amazing day we spent learning and bonding at the White House!

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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.

Shabbat Surfing: When the Lights Went Out in DC

While Europe was discovering the power of the universe with the Higgs boson breakthrough, back here in DC, many of us spent days without power in the aftermath of the storm – including a simcha or two that went forward even without electricity.

If the storm had you all shaken up, that’s okay, as we learn in the Arty Semite’s post this week, because Jews are awesome at anxiety – recognizing it, dramatizing it, grasping it, differentiating it, talking about it, and even dealing with it.

Dan Fishback, who joined us last year at the Washington Jewish Music Festival, is taking that anxiety and putting it to productive use in The Material World, which “features an anachronistic cast of neurotic Jews, all trying to save the planet. (…) And unlike other pop musicals about Madonna and socialism, this play has scenes in Yiddish.”

For those still feeling unsettled and needing more assurances about the future, Jewcy has begun prognosticating, introducing Jewcy Horoscopes, and explaining the Jewish astrological tradition, which has been around for centuries, apparently.

Since my horoscope is warning against ruining things by over-analyzing, I’ll sign off with a final Shabbat wish: may your A/C be humming, your summer salads be chilly, your swimming pools open for everyone.

 

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:

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