Shabbat Surfing: DC Chefs Go Kosher Part II

Jewish food is “in” right now and we couldn’t been happier. Combine that with top-n0tch DC chefs and we’re anxiously awaiting the fine kosher fair to be had at our annual gala on April 3. Two weeks ago we featured the first half of our accomplished chefs. We are now at the second half and have no doubts that their creative takes on traditional Jewish favorites will have us even more excited about this new food trend.

Chef Billy Klein is a passionate supporter of local food and uses ingredients from neighborhood farmer’s markets in his incredible dishes at Cafe Saint-Ex.

Chef Barry Koslow of DGS Delicatessan (coming to Dupont Circle this summer) was recently named DC’s best Jewish chef by Forward Magazine.

Chef Harper McClure once worked on an organic farm and skillfully brings style to the “historic-gets-hip” cuisine at The Federalist.

Seasonal Pantry, the brainchild of Chef Dan O’Brien, hosts incredibly successful supper clubs three times a week. Chef O’Brien draws up fully-illustrated menus to feed his innovation.

Chef Robert Weland plans to plant an on-site garden at Cork. He is driven by finding new things to incorporate into his dishes, such as the recently highlighted tangerine lace.

Creative, talented chefs paired with reinvented kosher Jewish favorites spells a true foodie’s delight. Bon apetite!

Shabbat Surfing: DC Chefs Go Kosher

DC is known for many things–but not for it’s glut of kosher restaurant options (currently the District boasts all of two, including our own Distrikt Bistro). That’s why this April 3 is so special. This year the DCJCC’s annual gala features some of DC’s hottest chefs as they take a fresh look at traditional Jewish cuisine. We’re  honored to be featuring some of the finest chefs in town:

Chef Phillip Blane’s Unum Restaurant was recently featured by Tom Sietsema in his Washington Post review. Readers have ranked it 4/4 stars and we’re all looking forward to visiting his tasting station.

Chef Tony Chittum’s Vermilion hosted the Obamas for Valentine’s Day dinner last month. Presidential Seal of Approval!

Greg Engert, Beer Director of Neighborhood Restaurant Group (which owns Birch and Barley, right in the J’s neighborhood!), is a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional. He’ll be joining us to provide some outstanding pairings for our chefs’ original creations.

Chef Todd Gray of Equinox took home the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s 2011 Chef of the Year RAMMY Award. We’re honored that he’ll be joining us again this year and are anxiously awaiting his reinvented Jewish classic.

With this sampling of culinary achievement, we’re counting down the days until the Gala. Stay tuned for more news on the second half of our featured chefs.

Shabbat Surfing: They Get to Play

Earlier this week we were introduced to the boys’ basketball team from the Orthodox day school Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, Texas. The team had made it to the semi-finals but couldn’t play because the game was scheduled for 9pm tonight (Friday). Throughout the season several of Beren’s opponents had agreed to reschedule games to avoid conflicts with Shabbat, but the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) would not budge on this tournament game. TAPPS shot down Beren’s appeal to play the game in the afternoon in a 8-0 vote, with one member absent. It seemed certain that the 23-5 Beren team would have to forfeit.

Petitions circulated, inflammatory blog posts were published, and Houston mayor Annise D. Parker expressed her disappointment in a letter to TAPPS. “It is also my understanding that TAPPS teams are not allowed to play any sports on Sundays,” Parker wrote. “Which I presume is out of respect for the Christian Sabbath.”

Yesterday it was decided that the game would be rescheduled for 2 pm. In the end, however, TAPPS cited legal concerns as their reason for rescheduling. DC-based father-daughter legal team Nathan and Alyza Lewin contacted a pair of attorneys in Texas to take on the case. Together and pro bono, the lawyers filed a complaint and application for a temporary restraining order  on behalf of Beren Academy players and their parents.

Players and parents are happy that TAPPS, whatever the reason, finally made the right decision. The future will likely bring up more issues and discussions of pluralism in the organization but in the meantime: GO STARS!

Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Note: Nathan and Alyza Lewin will be going head-to-head about Baruch De Spinoza’s excommunication in Theater J’s Spinozium on April 1. Find out more about the Spinozium and Theater J’s production of New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza here.

Shabbat Surfing: Presidents’ Day Edition

 In honor of Presidents’ Day on Monday, this week’s Shabbat Surfing brings you a sampling of fun facts about the Jews and the Racing Presidents.

Image from Flickr user Scott Ableman via

George Washington wrote his famous letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island following his visit the state after its ratification of the Constitution. Citizens of Newport, including Congregation Yeshuat Israel of Touro Synagogue, greeted Washington and offered their support of his presidency. Washington’s famous reply not only thanked the Jews of Newport for their hospitality, but also reassured them of religious freedom.   

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson appointed the first Jew to a federal post when he appointed Reuben Etting as United States Marshal for Maryland.  Etting’s appointment is also significant because at the time, Jews were unable to hold elected office in Maryland due to a required oath of Christianity.  

Abraham Lincoln was in office when rabbis were first able to serve as chaplains in the United States Army. Lincoln’s original chaplaincy bill stipulated that chaplains must be “regularly ordained clergyman of some Christian denomination” was replaced by its amended version that a chaplain must be a “minister of some religious denomination” in 1862.  

Teddy Roosevelt really won when he appointed Oscar S. Straus to his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce and Labor. According to the 1906 New York Times article regarding his appointment, Straus “will be the first Jew ever appointed to a Cabinet position by a President of the United States. Judah P. Benjamin was in the Confederate Cabinet under President Davis.”

Shabbat Surfing: Feeling Good

Earlier this week, NPR aired a story about the new Pakistani Muslim owners of Coney Island Bialys and Bagels. A family business started in 1920 by a Polish immigrant from Bialystock, the shop claims to be the oldest bialy bakery in New York City.  The new owners have promised to keep everything the same: the ingredients and suppliers, hand-rolling and properly boiling the bagels, and the kosher supervision.

In the Bronx, an Islamic Center has opened its doors to a  Chabad synagogue so that they have a place to hold Shabbat services. The two houses of worship have a history of supporting each other and  have formed a deep bond.

The New York Times  took its sports section readers to Kiryat Shmona, one of Israel’s smallest cities, in a feature about its professional soccer team. The small club beat power team Hapoel Tel Aviv to capture the Toto Cup and sits atop Israel’s Premier League with an 11-point lead. The club is full of promise  and on the course for its first league championship. If Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona captures the championship, it will certainly be well-deserved.

Shabbat Surfing: The Jewish Vote and Obama

Image from USA TODAY

While the four remaining GOP hopefuls are rallying supporters in South Carolina, President Obama and his supporters are ramping up his re-election campaign. Yesterday the Obama campaign ran its first television ad in six states, including swing states with significant Jewish voting populations. These voters in swing states are important to both Democrats and Republicans because Jews have historically voted at a higher rate than the general public and they are concentrated in states with a high number of electoral votes. As national voting trends shift and change, it leaves one to wonder: what about the Jewish voter? (“Jewish voter” being a monolithic entity and painted with broad brush strokes, of course).

In September Gallup released an analysis which concluded that “although Obama’s approval rating among Jewish Americans has been declining, it has generally declined no more than it has among all Americans.” Yesterday, news broke that some staffers at the Center for American Progress, a think tank closely associated with the White House, publicly used language that could be construed as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic…potentially complicating the president’s reelection outreach to some Jewish voters. But, wait! President Obama traveled down the East Coast yesterday to announce executive orders to boost international tourism in Florida and the up the East Coast to attend some fundraisers, the first of which was with “about 100 Jewish supporters.”  Not so fast! Shmuel Rosner includes some great graphs and interesting explanations to unpack the question of  whether or not Jews are “trending Republican” in his post on Wednesday.

Is there anyone out there who can explain how Jewish voters feel about Obama and/or predict the group’s voting patterns in 2012? Maybe this post by Brent E. Sasley will clear things up.

Shabbat Surfing: Observing and Commemorating

Some political news you’ve probably already heard is that President Obama has appointed Sabbath-observant Jacob (Jack) Lew as his new chief of staff. Neighbors of his home in the Bronx may not be very familiar with him, but Mr. Lew is a familiar face at Rosh Pina, an independent Minyan that will start meeting at the DCJCC this spring. Perhaps he will maintain his familiarity if President Obama follows President Clinton’s lead and automatically defers to Lew’s Shabbat observance.

While three-day weekends sometimes just seem to mean that public transportation is a bit spottier than usual, MLK weekend is full of meaning for the Jews. Martin Luther King, Jr. was very connected with the Jewish community when he was alive and we can only wonder what the world would look like if it were not for his untimely death.

Still running on the tremendous energy of our 2011 December 25th Day of Service, the DCJCC’s Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service is at it again on Monday with a sold-out Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service project at Community for Creative Non-Violence. Looking for another way to honor Dr. King and connect with the Jewish commitment to social justice? Congregations around the DC area are commemorating his legacy and dedication to love and justice with special Shabbat services tonight and tomorrow morning. It is a “perfect coincedence” that this Shabbat we start reading Exodus which, like Dr. King’s legacy, reminds us of the importance of human dignity.

Shabbat Surfing: Post-Iowa Caucuses

This week, Iowa finally got the ball rolling on the 2012 Republican nomination. While Jews make up just 0.2% of Iowa’s population, the internet was still abuzz about implications for the Jewish community as we get closer to a nominee.

Next stop, New Hamphire. Shabbat Shalom!

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