Passover Guide 2017

Passover is the Jewish Holiday that young American Jews find the most meaningful! There are many different ways and places that Jews all over the District will be celebrating in the upcoming weeks.

Passover begins the evening of Monday, April 10th and ends Tuesday, April 18th, but there are events all throughout the week leading up to the holiday. Here is a list of what is going on in DC for Passover! Sign up early to secure a spot at one of these great events!

Have events not listed? Submit them here!

Tuesday, March 28th

Sunday, April 2nd

Monday, April 3rd

Tuesday, April 4th

Friday, April 7th

Monday, April 10th (First Night of Passover)

Tuesday, April 11th (Second Night of Passover)

Have events not listed? Submit them here!

Yes I’m Jewish, Despite the Last Name

For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been performing and traveling with some “undercover Jews” on a tour entitled, “You’re Funny, But You Don’t Look Jewish.” Our show features African American, Indian, Italian American and Vietnamese Jewish comedians. I’m the token Italian American Jew in the show.

Capozzola onstage picI’ve personally done a lot of shows at synagogues, for Hillels, and appearances at Jewish events. But a small portion of my set always needed to be wasted on explaining exactly why a guy named Mike Capozzola is booked in a show with comics named Goldman, Cohen and Markowitz.  The line up usually sounded like a law firm, plus a typo.

Sometimes the rabbi, the cantor or a congregant hosting the show would try to make a joke of it while introducing me. It was never useful, even if they meant well.  “He has an Italian name, but he assures us he’s Jewish. Maybe he’ll tell you all about it… please welcome, I hope I’m saying this right…  Mike Kap- Cap… Capo?  Capozzelli…?”

Even landing Jewish gigs, getting my info to a Rabbi or Hillel director needed a pre-emptive explanation. It meant cutting and pasting this line from other outreach e-mails: “I’m actually Jewish, despite the last name.” [In the interest of full disclosure – I’ve cut and pasted those seven words from an old e-mail for the sake of authenticity.]

At some point, I realized that it would be easier to just create a show with a title that not only celebrates a degree of diversity, but also takes away the wide eyed stares of incomprehension that have greeted me as I take the stage. Sometimes I hear (or imagine) gasps and chatter, “What’s he doing here?” How did this happen?” “Mah-Zeh?!  “Do something, Lenny..!”

Was it so unthinkable and uncommon that there were Italian Jews walking among us?  Surely there were others out there…

I’d known a few other “undercover Jews” in my life. At Hebrew School, attendance being taken put my friend David and I back-to-back: “Bloom, Capozzola, Carnicelli, Cohen, Erenberg…”  For the most part though, aside from me, my brother Steven, and David Carnicelli, Italian Jews seemed almost mythical.

Then, at Ithaca College, I encountered a stunningly beautiful Italian-Jewish girl several years ahead of me whom I met at High Holiday services my Freshman year.  (I can’t recall her name but I like to picture it as the best of both worlds, “Contessa Francesca Abromowitz.”)  She called me a “Kosher Meatball.” She may have even patted my head. It was the first time that I’d heard this term and the mere fact that it had a name at all – was very cool.  It sort of legitimized the brand.

There’s also another term, “Pizza Bagel.” I’d heard that first from my friend, Lauren, who like me, and The Contessa has a Jewish mom and an Italian dad.  I’ve tried a few times to get the term “Kugelroni” in play, but no one seems interested.

Being a Jew with a distinctly non-Jewish name has meant, regrettably, that I’ve been a fly-on-the-wall when people decide to share some anti-Semitic thoughts and leanings.   I was halfway through a haircut when the barber explained away someone’s greed with this line, “Well, he’s a Jew you know…” I got up and said, “We’re done here” and I left. It was shortsighted of me to leave as this barber is now doubly assured that Jews will do anything to save a buck, like leaving midway through a haircut.

My dad was a passionate crusader for positive images of Italian Americans in media.  He deplored the gangster, buffoon, henchman and slob stereotypes. Until 9/11 changed the face to Muslims, it was the Bad Italian that permeated network television like the smell of garlic. Any crime, superhero or legal drama in need of a bad guy could just point to the Italian. It was always a variation on this revelation of corruption: “If these documents say what I think… then this leads all the way to Senator Esposito’s office!”

Understandably, the sitcom “Happy Days” was off limits growing up.  The Fonz was not as welcome in our house as he was in the Cunningham’s. But it was endlessly amusing to me that Fonzie was a played by Jewish actor, Henry Winkler.   In addition to being a comedian, I’ve been a cartoonist all my life and I snail-mailed a FONZ spoof of mine to Mr. Winkler not long ago.  He called to thank me for the art and the note, but I was on line at the DMV and somehow missed the call and it rolled into voicemail.  Still, very cool to hear “Mike, it’s Henry Winkler…” when I played my messages.  He even included a very authentic L’Shana Tovah.

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My story: my background is just 25% of the group with whom I travel and perform in this Jewish comedy night.  The other comics all have very varied and separate backgrounds.  Samson Koletkar, whom I’ve known for years, may very well be the world’s ONLY Indian-Jewish comedian.  He usually headlines our shows and he’s found a nice niche getting booked at Indian festivals and comedy nights where they can only afford a fraction of what Aziz Ansari gets paid.

Joe Nguyen comes from Atlanta. He’s a great writer with a sly delivery and gifted comic mind.   Joe has a great stretch of material about his experiences on the Birthright Israel trip.  In 2010, we did a Hillel show together and the idea started percolating for this tour. But it wasn’t until I’d met acclaimed Bay Area storyteller Gina Gold that it all fell into place.

Gina hosts a monthly show in Berkeley, CA called “TMI: Too Much Information.”  At her show, I saw Gina tell a fantastic story about being Jewish and African American.  That was the night that I had the idea to assemble this pile of comedy crayons into a single, themed, and packaged box.

Since April of 2014, we’ve played sold out shows at JCC’s, synagogues and theatres in California, Seattle, New York and Canada.  It’s been a lot of fun, but also there are moments that transcend any intentions and hopes.

One night we received a compliment that I’ll never forget. An elderly woman told us that she had not heard the sound of her husband’s laughter in many years until the night of our show.  It was off-brand of me to get teary eyed, but I did anyway as she thanked us.

We’re headed your way very soon and we hope that you’ll give thought to attending.

Show Logo Art

“You’re Funny, But You Don’t Look Jewish.”

Sixth & I: Thursday March 23rd 8pm, Sixth & I 600 I Street, NW Washington, DC

Temple Solel: Saturday March 25th 8pm, Temple Solel 2901 Mitchellville Rd, Bowie, MD

Mike Capozzola is the producer of “You’re Funny, But You Don’t Look Jewish.” you can get more information about the show he produces on his website or Facebook.

 

 

Rabbi Rant: What Do You Worship?

It’s easy to dismiss the famous story in this week’s Torah portion of the Israelites making and worshipping the Golden Calf. I mean, do you or anyone you know really struggle with the temptation of bowing down to a statue? This story may have been relevant thousands of years ago, when people worshipped idols, but not today.

But this story isn’t only about literal idols, and interpreting it that way allows us to avoid confronting the more metaphorical idols that we do worship.

As David Foster Wallace shared in his “This is Water” graduation speech: “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly.”

We are immersed in a capitalist culture, symbolized by none other than a golden bull smack in the middle of Wall Street. Yes, it’s important to have drive and ambition. But like David Foster Wallace suggests, I worry that we have substituted God with money and things.

In that way, the story of the Golden Calf is more relevant today than ever before. To be clear, God can be made into an idol, too. The lesson for me is less about what to worship and more about what not to worship. There is nothing wrong with enjoying money and things, but when we elevate them to a sacred status – making it the focus of our life, believing it will make us happy, etc. – we are no different than the Israelites bowing down to the Golden Calf.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Here’s How You Should Use Your Tax Refund


It’s tax time! I know I’m probably one of the only people who gets excited about filing their taxes, but I can’t help it. I like to file as soon as I receive my W-2 (which your company is required to send to you by January 31st). It’s nice to know right away if I’m getting a refund and how much it will be. From there, I can start planning what I’m going to do with that money.

Don’t wait until April 14th to file your taxes. Give yourself plenty of time in order to avoid stress and plan ahead.

Wondering where to do your taxes? There are several free tax preparation programs, like Turbo Tax, H&R Block, and a brand new program from Credit Karma. Do you feel like you need help doing your taxes? If you make under $54,000 a year, you qualify for free tax preparation support.

Now, if you’re one of the lucky Americans who receives a tax return, you’re probably wondering what you should do with it.

1. Treat Yourself

It’s recommended that from any financial windfall, you should use 10% of it on yourself. It’s easier to use your money on responsible things if you’re also allowing yourself a treat. Just like it’s easier to eat healthy overall if you give yourself “cheat” days. So set 10% of that tax return aside and do something fun – buy yourself a gift, go out to eat, buy tickets to a concert… Just make sure you put the rest towards your financial goals.

2. Pay down debt

Do you have credit card, medical, or other debt? Throw your money at it!

You have a few options for how to do this:

  • If you have any bills that are in collections, pay them first. This way, the debt collectors will leave you alone, and your credit score can start to repair. Make sure you get confirmation in writing that you have paid off the items in collections. They like to keep harassing you – don’t make it easy for them. Get proof!
  • If you don’t have bills in collections, or you have money left over after paying them off, pay towards your credit card debt. You can either try to pay off your smallest balance first, or pay towards your highest interest card first. It’s really up to you and what might make you feel better.
  • If you have student loan debt, I wouldn’t recommend using your tax refund on that. Student debt is considered “good” debt, so you want to focus on “bad” debt (credit cards, medical debt, etc.) first.

3. Pad your savings

If you don’t have debt, or you want to use a portion of your tax return for savings, you can do that too! If you don’t already have an emergency savings account, this is a great time to start building one. This account can protect you in the event of a job loss, illness or injury, car repairs, etc. It can prevent you from going into debt in these scenarios, and will give you peace of mind. If you already have an emergency fund, you can put money aside to save for other goals. Perhaps you want to save for travel, or a downpayment on a house. Start now!

What will you do with your tax refund? Share with me on Twitter or below in the comments!

This post originally appeared on Maggie Germano Financial Coaching. Want to read more? Check out maggiegermano.com/blog