New Podcast: Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin

Enjoy this podcast from the 2012 Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival of Joy Ladin in conversation with Susan Weidman Schneider, Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lilith Magazine.

Joy Ladin made headlines around the world when she returned to Yeshiva University to teach literature as a woman after having received tenure as a man. With humor and unsparing honesty, Ladin, the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution, takes readers inside her transition as she changed genders and, in the process, created a new self.

Click to listen (podcast will begin automatically). To download as an MP3, right click and select “Save Link As.”

Joy Ladin

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.

 

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.

 

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: 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!

Monday Media: Jay Michaelson’s God vs. Gay

Hot on the heels of the recent decision of the Conservative Rabbinic Assembly’s decision to allow its rabbis to officiate over same-sex marriages, we bring you a podcast from the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival featuring Jay Michaelson speaking on his book God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality.

This program was presented in partnership with the DCJCC’s GLOE: Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach & Engagement. In his book, which recently came out in paperback, Jay tackles the contentious “God vs. gay” divide, arguing that religious communities should favor gay rights because of religion, not in spite of it.

As both a gay rights activist and religion scholar, he explores the moral principles that favor acceptance of GLBT people, contending that these values outweigh the ambiguous verses so often cited by conservatives.

Right click and “save link as” to download as an MP3
Or listen online here

Seven Questions for: Schmekel

Schmekel is awesome. The “100% Transgender, 100% Jewish schtick-rock band” does songs about important things, silly things, and thingy things.

“Schmekel’s bespectacled transsexual singer-songwriters are guitarist Lucian Kahn and keyboardist Ricky Riot. Mohawked bassist Nogga Schwartz yells loudly, and genderqueer drummer Simcha Halpert-Hanson carries two big sticks.” (Read more about ’em here.)

And they were kind enough to hold forth on the vital topics in our Seven Questions:

1) How would you describe what you do to someone from the 19th Century?

Lucian: Oscar Wilde has written a farcical, yet appreciative, song-cycle about the polymorphous perverse.  He’s a Jew from Bukovinia, and he’s got a Dynamophone.
Ricky: We are a band of openly Jewish inverts who play magical loud instruments. Three of us are short gentlemen who are rumoured to have even shorter organs. One of us is neither man nor woman. Our songs are gay and jolly yet not suitable for the faint of heart.

2) What did you want to be when you grew up?

Lucian: A rock star!  Or possibly a Ninja Turtle.
Ricky: Some kind of performer.
Simcha: Well, it varied.  From ages 3-7 I wanted to be a painter; ages 8-12, I desperately wanted to be a famous actor, like Claire Danes.  And then from age 13 onward, I passionately devoted myself to the quest of *indie* (I abhored corporate rock) pacific-northwest stardom (I abhored the east coast). Thankfully, I no longer find the east coast an abhorrence.

3) Is there a book you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

Lucian: I spend a lot of time singing about penises.  It’s hard to embarrass me.
Ricky: Lucian, I actually gave you a book about penises once. Did you read it? I hope you’re not embarrassed. Someone once lent me Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, insisting that it’ll change my life and help me understand her better. It was really dumb and I want those few hours of my life back.
Simcha: There are a lot of trashy teens-dying-of-cancer-while-falling-in-love books I am embarrassed to admit I’ve devoured.  Unless I am trying to prove my academic prowess or qualify my halachic knowledge base, I can’t think of any basic books I ought to have read by now and haven’t.

4) Woody Allen, Pro or Con?

Lucian: Pro early Woody Allen.  He understands the importance of a good egg salad recipe.
Ricky: Also pro early Woody Allen. Biased opinion though because I have an uncle who looks exactly like him.
Simcha: A natural anti-depressant.

5) What’s your favorite non-English word?

Lucian: I identify strongly with the word feygele.
Simcha: I really love the Yiddish language.  I guess of all the words and names I’ve learned thus far, my favorite would be Faraynikte Shtaten [Ed.: United States] because it’s so long and intimidating to read in Yiddish.
Ricky: Shlemazal is a funny word and a funny concept. It’s a person with really bad luck. Also Abra Cadabra is in Aramaic. It means, “as it is said, it shall be created”. And how ‘bout some Hebrew slang: “Lefasbek” is to add someone on Facebook. And I’ll conjugate it for you. Hoo mefasbek, hee mefasbeket, anachnu mefasbekim…

6) What issue do you wish other people knew more about?

Lucian: I wish more people knew and cared about the problems facing queer homeless teenagers and trans people seeking medical care.
Simcha:  I agree with Lucian.  I also wish people had more sensitivity to gender-identity and the bathroom.  Stress is a powerfully debilitating force.
Ricky: I wish that more people including myself knew more about the process by which a capitalist economic system makes people poor.

7) Historical figure, living or not, that you’d want to share a bagel with, and what kind of bagel?

Lucian: I would like to share an everything bagel with Paul Celan.
Simcha: I’d share a garlic bagel with Rebbe Schneerson and find out whether he is actually Mashiach. 😉
Ricky: Thelonious Monk, because that dude was nuts and probably really interesting, and might have taught me a few things about music. Onion bagel, toasted, with olive cream cheese and lox.


Catch Schmekel on May 20 at Chief Ike’s with GLOE, as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival.

Read all of the Seven Questions interviews.

Yom Hashoah and the Pink Triangle

By Halley Cohen
Director, GLOE – GLBT Outreach & Engagement

credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

This Thursday, we observe Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, but for decades, LGBT people were not recognized among the groups of victims, and omitted from the Day’s observances. This erasure is why, when we now say, “never forget,” it needs to specifically include those who wore the pink triangle in the camps, the designation of “homosexual.”

The colors were not just for sorting, but rather, each functioned as a quick visual cue of your ranking in the hierarchy of the camps. The ranking had implications for your treatment and the likelihood of your survival. Homosexuals ranked at the bottom with Jews, both receiving the worst treatment and a mortality rate estimated at 50-60%.

However, unlike the Jewish prisoners, at the end of the war homosexuals were not released from the camps.

We never want to weigh suffering among groups to create some kind of hierarchy of pain. Still, for those of us who fall into both of these “worst treatment” categories, Yom Hashoah is particularly resonant, knowing that after the war, as the world “discovered” what had been happening to the Jews in the camps, that the horrors were not yet over for LGBT people.

Still seen as deviants or criminals or ill, gay prisoners often were either not released, or immediately put into prisons for the crime of homosexuality.

These “criminals” were not pardoned by German lawmakers until 2002.

That is, if they managed to survive the war in the first place. Not only were they a favorite of the German soldiers for target practice, for the hardest work details, and for surgical experiments (similar to the Jewish experience), gay men were also routinely beaten to death by fellow prisoners.

It is little surprise that we know much less about their experiences than those of others in the camps:

“Reading the many reports and asking the prisoners’ committees (which still exist today) about the prisoners with the pink triangles, one repeatedly learns that they were there, but nobody can tell you anything about them. Quantitative analysis offers a sad explanation for the extraordinary lack of visibility: the individual pink-triangle prisoner was likely to live for only a short time in the camp and then to disappear from the scene.” -Ruediger Lautmann, in his sociological research

We can only imagine how long those of us who would’ve worn a pink and yellow star would’ve lasted.

In their memory, we can all learn about – and make part of any Holocaust remembrance conversation – what happened to all of those who had another color triangle sewn to their yellow one.

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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