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.

 

Find your Inner Olympian

Sue Bird

As it hits Day 4 of the Olympics, most of the talk has been surrounding the USA swim and gymnastics teams, and whether or not they are competing at the level that many people want them to.

But let us focus on athletes who have not gotten as much attention–mainly the USA Women’s Basketball team and, for us here at the DCJCC, one of the players, Sue Bird.

Sue Bird, who currently plays for the WNBA team Seattle Storm,  holds a dual citizenship to both the USA and Israel.  The USA Women’s national team has so far cruised in their first two games of the preliminary rounds.

Aly Raisman

Not only do we have Sue Bird to root for, but  in the Women’s Gymnastics team final, we have yet another athlete to cheer for: Aly Raisman, who is competing for Olympic gold tonight and in the next few days for the All-Around Gold medal in gymnastics.  In this year and years past, many Jewish athletes have medaled in the Olympic games.

Join us here at the DCJCC as we start our very own fitness challenge next week–we’ll walk, bike, run and swim the length of England to meet our athletes at the games.

Find your inner Olympian!

Shabbat Surfing: Summertime and the Living is Groovy

Prehensile-tailed Porcupine

The National Zoo recommends fruitsicles. As do we.

Now that we can turn from serious conversations about healthcare for just a moment, this heat is keeping us on some lighter, more summery topics.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn – aka Rabbi Reefer* – is among the first to be opening a medical marijuana dispensary in DC, after an epic process. “Our midlife quest for a new way to make a positive difference in people’s lives and a lifelong commitment to pushing the envelope to help others made this the obvious path to follow.” (*Okay, no one has actually called him that before now.)

If you come up with a better nickname than I did and it catches on worldwide, you might be the first winner of the new million-dollar “Jewish Nobel Prize,” actually called the Genesis Prize. “The international prize will be awarded to Jews who win global recognition for their achievements in the fields of science and the arts.” I suppose “good nicknaming” doesn’t really count as an achievement in the arts…

However, creative labeling might be: Hebrew National is under fire for its kosher hotdogs not being quite so kosher… as Jon Stewart reported on The Daily Show.

And if it’s all too much, follow Nora Ephron’s advice. As she once told an audience, “I’m very into denial.” Hide out inside with the a/c this weekend, pop in “When Harry Met Sally,” and dream up how you’re going to win that million dollars.

 

Body Pump Breakthrough

By Lynda Espada
Director of Sport and Fitness, DCJCC

Les Mills Body Pump

photo credit: Les Mills Body Pump

In the 20+ years I’ve been a group exercise instructor, I have taught some form of just about every type of group exercise. Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to certify for Les Mills Body Pump.

Did I really want to get another certification?

I have seven certifications already, but I was getting bored teaching the same Hi-Low and Step classes every week. Maybe, it was time for something new and challenging? I accepted their invitation.

I attended the three-day certification training, and the first day of training was tougher than any other certification I had ever done. Many times throughout the day I kept asking myself, did I really want to do this? But I somehow finished the days of training, plus all the other requirements, and got my certification.

And… I have since loved every freakin’ moment of teaching Body Pump.

What do I love about Body Pump?

  1. It WILL change the way your body looks because it works all major muscle groups to fatigue. You will “feel the burn” in every muscle group if you perform the reps, moves, and form correctly. (And I’m a stickler for form in my classes!)
  2. There will ALWAYS be a challenge awaiting you! It keeps your muscles/body guessing (i.e. the overload principle) so your muscles have to work harder, thus becoming stronger and more toned. You can always go up in weight (without sacrificing form!) or perform the movements at the correct pace. Body Pump is designed to move through different speeds to work the muscles differently, thus producing faster changes in the body than otherwise could be accomplished with some other weight training programs.
  3. It is a fun, upbeat, and motivating atmosphere! I try to keep my class motivated and challenged throughout the 55 minute class and keep them coming back and looking forward to the next class – and most of them do!
  4. It challenges your mind AND your body. As you perform the moves correctly and with the right form, you get to make your MIND decide how your MUSCLES move. The body likes to cheat. Yep, the body WANTS to cheat, so the mind has to take over and decide that, no, the muscles will slow down and perform the proper speed with the proper form. But of course, no cheating in my class!
  5. It gets you out of an exercise rut, my friends!  Every quarter, we change routines and music so your mind and muscles get challenged a bit differently each time.
  6. It is the best way (I have found) to work every muscle group without boredom and without having to have a lifting partner. It is a muscular strength AND endurance class, so remember, it will work the entire body, it does have a slight cardio component in some tracks (depending on how fast the movements are). You WILL burn an average of 450-650 calories per class (ALL dependent on body size, weight lifted, body weight, fitness level, correct form – and of course, your effort).

So maybe today or next week, if you are looking for something new and challenging like I was, consider a Body Pump class.

You’ll thank me… after that initial soreness goes away.

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.

Recognizing Current Issues this Yom Hashoah – Part I

Part I: On Connection

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a time for commemoration and reflection about the Holocaust and the six million men, women, and children who lost their lives because they were Jewish.

Yom Hashoah, which falls on Thursday April 19th, is also a day to honor the survivors and listen to their stories. I love working at a place where we get to look at these stories in multiple ways, knowing that everyone connects to it in different ways – whether it’s through film (Nicky’s Family) or art (Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland), or through conversations.

The important part is that the connection happens.

My own interest in Holocaust studies began in my eighth grade Holocaust course with my teacher Mrs. Silverman. Unlike other projects in the past, the research projects in her class did not feel like homework, but rather like an opportunity for meaningful exploration – not something that junior high students often get to experience.

That eighth-grade project on survivors impacted the rest of my life: I’ve been studying and teaching the Yom Shoah ever since in some way or another – the power of having an amazing teacher!

My goal is to help others have similarly resonant experiences with this survivor community.

In Jacksonville, Florida, I brought my public school students to a Yom Hashoah program at the Jewish Community Center there. The majority of them were Muslim Bosnians whose parents were subjected to ethnic cleansing in the 1990s. These students really responded to class lessons on the history of the Holocaust, and asked to volunteer at the ceremony.

At the program, they were in awe because for the first time, they were able to put a face with the  Shoah history, and could personally connect to another group that understood genocide, first-hand.

The Passover seder, which talks about freedom from oppression, is often used as a time for Holocaust reflection. In fact, many Haggadot include passages about the relationship between the Holocaust and Egypt. Some Haggadot even explain how victims observed the holiday in Nazi occupied Europe.

A few weeks ago, just before Passover, one of my best friends, a 27 year old young professional working in Finance, discovered her own family’s experience in the Holocaust. It had a huge impact on her and inspired her to lead the seder at her home for the first time, and to intertwine the two histories.

She wrote me:
‘After lighting the candles and saying a prayer, the first thing I said to initiate our Passover 2012 was: “These are the traditions our grandparents celebrated with their families before the war, and it is important to preserve these traditions and honor all of those we have lost.”

I then passed around a framed photograph (that came into my possession only a few days before), with a picture of my grandfather’s immediate family. Being able to see six individuals who did not survive enabled everyone else at our seder to truly feel the importance of this night.’

These are the vital connections we need to make with our survivors – teaching lessons to young people and within our own families – so that no future generation has to have first-hand experience with genocide again.


Read Part II: On Action Here

Shabbat Surfing: What We Talk About When We Talk About Women

International Women’s Day (IWD) this week prompted the blogosphere to challenge what we think about women, and who we call women.

In fact, this challenge is covered in the questions from the Jewish Organization Equality Index survey, which is currently trying to hear from every Jewish organization in the country on questions of gender and sexuality inclusivity. As Jewish organizations, in what ways do we embrace those in our community when they don’t express their gender in the most common ways? Do we make people check boxes when asking questions about gender, or is it a fill-in line? Do we give everyone something as basic as a safe place to use the restroom?

We often use the phrase b’tzelem elohim, that every person is created in God’s image, and kavod habriyot, that everyone deserves basic dignity and respect. Some trans women and allies took their communities to task this IWD, about how it seems trans women are often excluded from that respect when we police gender in our women’s communities.

Relatedly, Huffington Post featured an excerpt from Joy Ladin’s new memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, which explores her transitions with her wife and God and career as a professor at Yeshiva University. Regularly, Joy’s wife asks what is so bad about being a man.

“There’s nothing so bad about being a man.” I try to sound like I’m joking when I add, “as long as you’re a man.”

A body is there, but it’s not yours. A voice is coming out of your throat, but you don’t recognize it. The mirror contains another person’s face. When your children wrap their arms around you, they seem to be hugging someone else. Every morning you wake up shocked to find that parts of you have disappeared, that you are smothered in flesh you cannot recognize as yours. That you have lost the body you never had. This isn’t me, you say to yourself. This isn’t me, you say to anyone you trust. Of course it isn’t. There is no “me,” no body that fits the map, no identity that fits your sense of self, no way to orient yourself in a world in which you exist only as an hysterical rejection of what, to everyone around you, is the simple, obvious fact of your gender.

This week was also Purim – the holiday that includes plenty of joyous play around bending gender and celebrating the power in creating different views of ourselves and each other. Though trans identities are obviously more complex that simply Purim costumes, as we honor the women of our communities this week, my hope is that the drag-tastic embrace of Purim can spill over into how we think about women – all women – and the joy found therein, in that inclusiveness.

 

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