Cherry Blossoms and Jewish Advocacy

With the Cherry Blossom Festival commencing and the flowers out in full force, it’s no longer doubtful (despite the recent weather) that Spring is officially here. Author Rob Sachs posted an article, “An Afternoon of Cherry Blossoms and Swastikas,” on The Huffington Post about his unique experience at the annual festival this past weekend.

He discusses his weekend jaunt through the Tidal Basin and then, unexpectedly, into the adjacent United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Sachs juxtaposes the joyful nature of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival to the pain and suffering on display within the neighboring museum and draws a comparison to the Jewish tradition of stepping on a glass; he attributes this tradition, as do many, to the call from the Jewish community to remember the pain of the past even in the most joyous moments of our lives.

To that end, springtime – for Jews – is all about celebration and juxtaposition.

During Purim, for example, we are literally commanded to eat, drink, and throw raucous parties, while simultaneously crying out the name of our enemies and exterminators over and over until we’re numb to the sound.

Likewise, Passover, which is right around the corner, requires us to eat and drink like Kings and Queens. However, we still must dip our greens in the tears of our ancestors and spread the bitter pain of the Jews of yesteryear all over our matzot.

While these are the traditions many of us grew up with, maybe it’s time to consider adding some new traditions to our beloved springtime regiment of Food with Reflection. Bad things happened in the past, and it’s important to remember them, nevertheless it’s also important to reflect and act upon the struggles our communities face today.

There’s no better time than Spring – the season of renewal and hope – to get involved.

This April, for example, consider coming out to volunteer with the DCJCC’s Spring into Action program on April 10th (or other new volunteer opportunities). This annual event raises awareness about local environmental issues while providing opportunities for the community to engage with each other and work hand-in-hand towards a solution.

This year, our 2011 theme is around urban agriculture, community gardening, and park restoration. With oil prices, obesity rates, and unemployment all on the rise, it’s important to remember that our food system isn’t just about food; the way we grow our food impacts the environment, our health, and the economic and employment stability of our communities.

Local and sustainable agriculture is a great source of fair employment, healthy food, and community-building throughout the greater Washington DC area – it’s a great chance to meet some local farmers, advocates, and other families in your own neighborhoods. And bring the kids! This year, Spring into Action falls at the same time as Earth Day and Global Youth Action Day, to get all ages involved in sewing some seeds of change.

If you’re looking for a new, conscientious twist on Passover, also consider heading over to the National Rainbow Seder with DCJCC’s GLOE, or the Labor Seder with Jews United for Justice. Both of these seders are fun, meaningful ways to explore some of the most important social issues of our time – this year focusing on the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ international community, and the struggle to find – and keep – good jobs.

(And there’s nothing like Jewish guilt and copious amounts of food to drive a movement, so don’t wait to jump on board: both of these events tend to sell out every year.)

At the end of Sachs’s article, he pondered that maybe his detour into the museum wasn’t so random after all; as Jews, we are inexplicably tied to a history of people that have sought justice for themselves and their communities for millennia.

No matter what your favorite part of Springtime is – the eating, the socializing, or the reflecting – take a break from the normal routine and make this holiday intentional by exploring not just the issues of the past, but those pertinent to our communities today.

And don’t forget to stop and smell the blossoms! Spring is as fleeting as it is special. Take advantage of it.

By the DCJCC’s Behrend Builders coordinator, Michal Rosenoer. Contact her with comments, concerns, or for more information at

Bacon-Cubed and Cleaning the Anacostia

If you take your blog-reading seriously, then at this point you’ve probably heard about the bacon bra–the sort of bizarre cultural curiosity that only internet can make possible. Last week we mentioned the rise of a new and disturbing bacon lollipop. Now word reaches us of bacon vodka. Isn’t there some rule of three that should have us all very, very worried right now? According to Arlo Guthrie, doesn’t three incidents of gratuitous and bizarre bacon usage indicate an underlying organization?

Ask Randy BaconFor answers we suggest you speak to our resident expert and New Orleans native, Randy Bacon, the Director of the Behrend Builders and co-director of the 16th Street J’s Spring into Action Day of Environmental Service. There are still some slots left for this project taking place this Sunday, April 13 at the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Volunteers will clear litter from the Anacostia, (both from the shore and from canoes and kayaks in the river) help remove non-native, invasive plants and renew recreation areas throughout the park. If you’ve never been, the Aquatic Gardens are one of DC’s hidden gems, and your volunteer work is needed to help it continue to shine. Tucked away in Northeast, the gardens are the only Federal Park that displays cultivated aquatic plants. They’ve got waterlillies you could float a large child on (not recommended). It’s a day to reconnect to our city, our environment and to our responsibility to both.

And if you see Randy, you may also learn what is behind the preponderance of pork products in posts here and elsewhere.

This Week at the 16th Street J

Some highlights from the coming week of programming at the Washington DCJCC.

Monday, April 7

  • The Women Who Kept the Songs: From India to Israel — The Musical Heritage of Cochin. A unique partnership between the Embassies of Israel and India provides the rare opportunity to hear the songs of traditional Jewish communities from India’s Malabar Coast. Members of the Nirit Singers from Israel will perform songs in Malayam, recovered through a unique collaboration between the Cochin Jews and dedicated anthropologists and musicologists

Tuesday, April 8

  • Passover Wine Tasting with Jay Caplan. Each Seder calls for four cups of wine (and potentially more than that depending on how close you are with your family). Gone are the days when you needed to choke down sickly-sweet Concord grape, choose from Cabernets, Merlots, Chardonnays, Rieslings, and then if you must have sweet wine, try some specially vinted for dessert.
  • Israeli Rock Singer Etti Ankiri– A Spiritual Songstress. Combining a rare combination of spirituality, feminism and Israeli rock ‘n roll chops, Etti’s music is reminiscent of the Idan Raichel Project, with a Kabbalistic twist.

Wednesday, April 9

  • Seven Strategies for a Succesful Seder with Sarah Gershman. We’re not talking about how to respond when your Aunt Selma asks why you’re not pregnant yet. Rather, come learn how to make your seder experience more meaningful, with special readings, games, songs and my favorite: props! As for Aunt Selma, see Passover Wine Tasting (above).

Thursday, April 10

  • Jewish Flavors From the Silk Road with Susan Barocas. There’s more to Jewish food than gefilte fish. In fact, there’s a whole culinary tradition beyond the shtetl that encompasses Jewish communities from Rome to Tehran to Tashkent, Bombay and beyond.

Sunday, April 13

  • Spring Into Action–Day of Environmental Community Service at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. Spend the day outdoors helping to beautify one of the District’s hidden gems along the Anacostia River. There are tasks appropriate for the whole family from litter collection, to non-native plant removal, to a flotilla of kayaks and canoes cleaning trash from the river

Spring Into Action

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