On a scale of 1 to Cool, we’re pretty tight

Pandora Tim is a crazy genius. Seriously, if you were at the Pandora Meetup on Thursday, July 23 you would agree with me, no questions asked. This casual, laid back guy from Northern California wandered to the front of the room and, without pause, began talking about his degree from Stanford, his life as a poor musician, the ridiculous debt in the beginning stages of Pandora Radio and finally, his experiences being wined and dined in Las Vegas, eating truffle-infused Kobe beef sliders.

There were seniors and there were 20-somethings, all coming together around their love of free streaming music and to learn about the incredibleness that is Pandora Radio. Did you know that 10,000 songs are added manually each month? That is a bunch of people sitting around wearing headphones, hand marking the “genetics” of each song. If not enough consensus is built, they have to do it again. Tim taught us all about his IP-protected Music Genome. The meeting was about technology and a social network made up of musicians and fans. And it all happened here.

Being in a fantastic location gives us the opportunity to participate in culture that is happening now. We tweet, we Facebook friend, we blog; we follow DCist, and we stream Pandora into our offices on a daily basis. These days, none of these things are particularly unique for nonprofit and community organizations. But to have Pandora call you up and ask to use your space – now that is special. You’re part of the “in” crowd. We are, in a word, cool.

Growing up, I never thought my JCC was all that cool. Sure they had trendy California Quivers at the Yom Ha’atzmaut fair, but the JCC was far out in the wealthy area of town. It was not hip; it was where your parents dragged you every so often to community theater or the Jewish book fair.

And, I still admit that when I walk into work, I don’t feel transformed by this “cool” factor. But there are times when I hear of something we’re doing – or something that is happening in our building – and I am really struck at how contemporary we truly are. This Pandora meeting was SO COOL. My friend and I went together: we listened, we learned and we got free t-shirts. When I attended the J-on-Demand inaugural ball – that was also cool! Not many cities could get 100+ 20-somethings to dress up in their formal best on a weeknight and trot on out to the JCC (not to mention after hours in the freezing cold standing on the National Mall).

So all I ask is this: don’t dismiss us before you research a bit. Yeah, when I tell people what I do their words say “cool” but their glazed over eyes say “books? Boring.”  But take a moment to Google that book or that author. Sometimes the program is just your standard Hebrew class, but maybe it’s a controversial dialogue. Perhaps it’s a loud, rock-out-with-your-bad-self kind of band or a really great film that gives you a glimpse at modern Israeli life.

And maybe, just maybe, it will be the cast of MTV’s The Real World DC poppin’ by for a little Jewish flavor. Fingers crossed – we can only hope.

Bonus: Leave a comment! What has been your favorite program here? What program are you most looking forward to?

Fiona Chutney (aka Iris Bahr) Tries to Score Tix to an Inaugural Ball

We all know that our Inaugural Ball for Rest of Us attracted a varied audience and spawned many a misadventure. Here’s but another.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

…and we’re back

It’s been too long.

Why the long silence? What can we say but, “Woe is the plight of the institutional blogger.”  We were still working. We swear it. Unfortunately, the blogging fell under the category of “other duties as assigned” and there was stuff further up the list to attend to.

But that’s no excuse.

Well, maybe it is. A bad excuse.

But we’re back. Why? Because there’s just too much going on at the 16th Street J both out front and behind-the-scenes to keep it to ourselves. Because we want a conversation between and amongst the people who use our building and its programs. Because, when we’re not on the job, stuff like this happens and there’s no one else to stand in the gap. Or the following occurs on Craigslist:

Jewish girl who passed out in my bed – m4w

Date: 2009-01-21, 12:25PM EST
You: Jewish, attractive and drunk
Me: Not Jewish (Gentile), dashing, gazelle on the dance floor and drunk
In case you were as blacked out as I think you were, I feel as though I should reintroduce myself. You were dancing around and enjoying the festive cake and brownies at the JCC inaugural bar mitzvah…I mean inaugural ball, before cabbing to Chinatown and passing out in my bed. Nothing makes me swoon for interfaith relationships like a girl who passes out in my lap in the back of a cab.
You might be asking yourself “why did that sweet boy not call me?” or “did I really wake up in a random guy’s bed in Chinatown?” and other important questions to gauge whether or not last night was a dream, drunken haze or bittersweet reality. Allow me to answer those questions.

You can read the rest of the listing, (juicy enough to make the Best of Craigslist) but allow us a moment in our own defense.

Bar mitzvah? What did you think an inaugural ball was? Okay, there probably weren’t many other balls where a person was hoisted on a chair and carried around the hall, but as you yourself noted, a good portion of the crowd was deep in their cups. In those situations, we tend to reduce ourselves to sterotypical behavior. Greeks break plates, the French surrender and Jews lift people on chairs. The reality is that most of these events are variations on the bar mitzvah. In most cases they only vary by the amount of alcohol imbibed. Examples:

  • Sweet 16 — Bat mitzvah for a non-Jewish girl.
  • Quinceañera — Bat mitzvah for a Latina chica.
  • Prom — Bar/Bat mitzvah with the greater possibility of sex
  • Charity Gala — Tax-deductible Bar mitzvah.
  • Wedding — A Bar mitzvah with the even greater likelihood of sex.
  • Inaugural Gala — A Bar Mitzvah for the President (at some point, perhaps a Bat Mitzvah)

Regardless, we’re back in the blogging business. We’re kicking ass and taking names. We’re coming to a blog near you.

March Madness, Purim Pandemonium

PurimbasketballThere’s something poetic in the nearly simultaneous launching of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the holiday of Purim. They both herald times of great revelry and amusement, behavior just outside the norm, and of course, the dutiful consumption of alcoholic beverages. Beyond that, both contain stories of underdogs triumphing over greater powers to ensure their “survival” –whether in bracketology or ancient Shushan. Okay, maybe that pushes it a bit far, but seriously, is there a better time of year? Add to that the fact that three local schools (including George Mason and American) have made it to the big dance, and that one of them, Georgetown, is a decent bet to make it to the Final Four for a second straight year, and these are pretty good times. (In all honesty, I have the Hoyas losing to Memphis in the Finals in one of my brackets. In another, they lie down like dogs to a certain Big Ten school my wife attended.) 

But Purim at the 16th Street J is crazier than imagining a Mount St. Mary’s vs. St. Mary’s championship game. We’ve got not one, but two totally cool events happening on Saturday night to help you get your Purim on. First, there is the J on Demand staged reading of The Playdough Golem beginning at 9:00 pm. When a Hebrew School rents space at a Catholic Church the young Jewish boys are predictably attracted to the tartan-clad females of the resident St. Thomas Augustine Cathedral School. Seeing their crushes being swept away from them, a trio of girls, Leah Goldstein, Rebecca Goldman and Abby Goldberg go Kabbalistic on the competition by creating a golem out of Playdoh to mete out justice in the name of endogamy.  

Also on Saturday night is the Kurlander Program for Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement’s Purim Party — featuring a schpiel by the members of Bet Mishpachah, entertainment by the DC Kings, a piñata, a deejay and music to dance the night away. Of course, both events will feature ample libations in the spirit of the holiday.

It’s March Madness. Catch it!

A Brief Interview with Max Brooks, Zombie Expert

Max Brooks, Zombie ExpertQ: Since the release of your books, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and The Zombie Survival Guide have you seen a greater public awareness of the zombie threat? In other words, how goes the struggle?
A: Very good, but never good enough. If you can’t save everyone, you’ve saved no one.

Q: How does a nice Jewish boy become a zombie expert?
A: I think the answer lies in the question. Protecting yourself from zombies means always worrying that something will go wrong. Oy!

Q: Over the past seven years we’ve all stocked-up on plastic sheeting, bottled water and flashlight batteries for our “emergency kits.” What’s in your emergency kit?
A: Dry socks, multivitamins, a water purification pump… and NO duct tape!

Q: A rabbinical question: If my grandma became infected by the zombie virus, should we or should we not sit shiva? Isn’t she really undead? At what point is it safe to order the deli trays?
A: Depends how much you like your grandma.

Q: Your books really freaked me out. I seriously considered buying a gun and I’m a total bleeding heart liberal. Do you get that reaction a lot?
A: Red states love me.

Q: Your IMDB bio says you went to film school at American University. How did that prepare you for your current career?
A: To never expect help from the authorities.

Q: When people come to see your lecture what can they expect to take away from the evening?
A: Solid, practical, life saving advice for the coming zombie war!

Max Brooks will be lecturing at the 16th Street J on Monday, March 24 at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased online.

This Week at the 16th Street J

Some of the highlights from the upcoming week at the Washington DCJCC…

Monday, March 17

The Screening Room Presents: His Wife’s Lover–One of the first Yiddish musicals restored on a new 35mm print.His Wife's Lover

Tuesday, March 18

Purim Gift Basket Workshop–Create your own custom baskets for delivering mishloach manot this Purim.

Wednesday, March 19

Hamentaschen Bake-In–Join our resident expert Jean Graubart for a how-to session of the signature Purim cookie.

Thursday, March 20

Hunger Action–Prepare food for the homeless which is distributed through DC Central Kitchen. FULLY SUBSCRIBED.

Friday, March 21

Spring Fun Days–Spring Break is here and we kick it off for your Pre-K through 6th Grader by celebrating Purim in style.

Saturday, March 22

Two can’t miss Purim events in one evening!

J On Demand Purim Party and Theater J presentation of The Playdough Golem–Leah Goldstein, Rebecca Goldman and Abby Goldberg plot to win their Hebrew school crushes by destroying their non-Jewish competition. When their plot to make a female Golem succeeds they must stop her before she destroys the entire neighborhood.

Masquerade & Mischief–The premiere LGBT Purim Party in DC sponsored by the Kurlander Program for Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement, and co-sponsored by Bet Mishpachah, Nice Jewish Boys, Nice Jewish Girls and Nice Jewish Men. Ample libations, bawdy schpiels, DC Drag Kings and a Haman Piñata.

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