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.


For Purim: Getting Beyond the Latke-Hamantaschen Conflict

The good folks at the Jewish Study Center had the badly misguided idea to invite me to participate in their Annual Latke-Hamantaschen Debate which took place last week. In this spirit of representing a Community Center, I presented an argument that the Jewish community can ill-afford to allow these kinds of schisms to divide us. I think I was being serious. You decide.

Happy Purim.

Purim Recipe: Hamantaschen

From the desk of Jean Graubart, Director of Jewish Living and Learning

My mother burnt Sara Lee.  I worshipped Betty Crocker.  I wanted family recipes, so anything I enjoyed at someone’s house, I asked for the recipe.  I would create a collection of other people’s family recipes and make them my own.  As a graduate student in Social Work in San Diego, I interned at Jewish Family Services.  When the board president was going on a safari to Africa, she asked me to visit her elderly Orthodox parents.

My first visit to the Brosloff’s apartment was like stepping into a time warp.  San Diego was sunny and filled with military men in bright white uniforms or too thin young women, all tan and smiles.  Upon entering the apartment I found a scene out of Eastern Europe.  Mrs. B always met me at the door with her thin white hair brushed back into a little bun, wearing a floral housedress and a mismatched floral apron. Mr. B sat in an ancient armchair with hand embroidered doilies on the arms and back.  The lamp, on the end table next to him, seemed to be the only light in the room.  He had a black nylon yarmulke on his head and work a short sleeved once white button down shirt.  He was totally focused on the heavy Hebrew book on the TV table in front of him, drinking a glass of tea and nibbling from a plate of his wife’s sugar cookies.

Mrs. B and I would walk into the kitchen where she made me a glass of tea and served a plate of light yellow sugar cookies, always fresh.  Each visit, she presented me with a small brown paper bag filled with a few cookies.  It was a touching ritual that I looked forward to.

On a visit in early March, Mrs B was making hamentashen out of the sugar cookie dough.  When I asked for the dough recipe, she looked at me as if I had asked for her pocketbook.  “Watch me,” she said.

With a pencil and pad from her telephone table, I watched.  She used a glass for measuring and I had no idea of it’s size.  She had hands that could comfortably tell when the dough felt just right.  I asked if I could return the next time she was baking, with a measuring cup and spoons to figure out her measurement.  Mrs. B smiled, a bit puzzled, and assured me we could make hamentashen the next day.

Geared up with my recipe card and utensils, I returned.  She put the flour in her glass (whatever was convenient at the time) and I poured and measured and wrote.  She always used vegetable oil because in the old country there was no “parve” margarine and her cookies were eaten after all meals.  Also oil allowed the baking to stay fresh longer than butter.

Years later as a rebbetzin in my husband’s synagogue, I sat at Shabbat morning services and heard him read the names of those who had died that week.  He mentioned a congregant who had lost her grandmother Lillian Brosloff.

I went up to Mrs. B’s granddaughter and told her sorry I was and how I knew her grandmother.  I spoke of the warm visits I had to her apartment years earlier.  She asked me if I ever had her grandmother’s sugar cookies or hamentashen.  Teary eyed, she told me that no one in her family had the recipe though they always meant to get it.  I felt great joy as I told her how I had captured the dough recipe and that it was indeed alive.

The next day I dropped the recipe off at her home, alone with a plate of the sugar cookies and the hamentashen.

Mrs. B’s Recipe

3 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (my addition)

Lemon rind from a whole lemon  (Mrs. B said, “Use an orange if you don’t have a lemon”

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

Mix eggs, oil and sugar until lemony looking

Add lemon rind and vanilla

Add 3 cups of flour and baking powder

If dough is sticky, add a little more

Roll out on a floured board

Use a jar or glass to cut in circles

For sugar cookies place on greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar (cinnamon too if you like)

For hamentashen, put a teaspoon of filling, poppy seed, prune, any jam or chocolate spread

Pinch the corners to make a triangle

Place on greased cookie sheet and bake cookies (about 8 minutes) and hamentashen 15-20 minutes until golden

Make this part of your Purim baking and enjoy!

Why I’ll Never Make The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful People List

I didn’t make The Hill‘s 50 Most Beautiful People List. Again.

Every year, I think, maybe this time I’ll look Southern, Republican, and heteronormatively pretty enough… But, alas, no.

Having reviewed the profiles, I think I’ve figured it out. So let me try again.

I’ve been crafting the kind of non-threatening statements about hard work and hair styles that clog the list:
I think it’s so important to remember where you come from.
(It’s true, I do.)
If at first you don’t succeed, use your family’s connections.
(If only…)
For professional reasons, my hair needed to get much dykier.
Perhaps my Hill-speak could use some work.

Maybe there’s hope, though, for a big lez such as myself. Hot Hill Guy #19 is named the “DC Cowboy.”  Now, the DC Cowboys have been welcomed to our Purim party the past few years, bringing their bare-chested, cowboy gaiety to the drag-happy annual ball. (Maybe that’s why #19 talks about loving his daily gym trips? Got to stay in shape for those big dance numbers.) I knew the guys had day jobs, but I had no idea they would include working for a senator who scored a big , whopping goose egg on the HRC’s Scorecard, due to his virulently anti-gay positions. On everything.

Now, I’ll have to pretend I’m not from blue-state mecca cities like Chicago and Boston. I did spend a weekend in college at a speech tournament in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Does that count? I’m okay at accents, but I’m pretty sure I twang more toward the Carolinas than ‘bama. Maybe I can get some farmer cred’ for a cracker jack Wisconsin dialect?

On this whole hometown issue, I’m going to need a clarification on something: a number of the Beautiful People mentioned how transient this city is, where everyone is from somewhere else. If everyone is from somewhere else, does that mean I have to pretend I don’t know about the other half of the city, or do I just need to never visit those areas?

Just when I’m starting to think I might have a chance for next year’s list, my hopes are dashed. A highly-non-scientific, random clicking of profiles did not turn up even one Jewish name. “Cohen” will never work on the list for an unknown like me. Coleman? Cooper? Clinton? (Wait, the latter? Too Jewish.)

Friday, GLOE  is proud to be going to Congress and the White House with Keshet to talk about our Jewish social justice work, with 170 grassroots leaders from around the country. Our contingent specifically will be talking about the issues that affect LGBTQ Jews, and how we can use our approaches to address the nation’s biggest challenges, as they come up in housing, education, hunger and health care. (You can follow the day’s events on Friday with live Tweets under #JewsAtTheWH and #JewishSocialJustice.)

I hope that – at least on Friday – a list of the 50 Most Beautiful People on the Hill would look a little bit different.

Maybe I’ll just make my own list…

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!

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.

This Week at the 16th Street J

A sampling of what’s available this week at the 16th Street J:

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