Spotted in Jewish DC – (Israeli) Woman Power

Israeli women are on my mind. Maybe it’s because of all of the recent hype of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. But regardless of the reason, I seemed to find Israeli women in pop culture wherever I turned this weekend. Here are two specific run-ins…

On my way into the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema, planning to see another screening of Wonder Woman (yes, twice – it is amazing), a poster with Hebrew writing caught my eye. Fortunately for this non-Hebrew-speaking Jew, it was also translated. It was called The Women’s Balcony, and it’s playing in Bethesda and at Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market only through this Thursday, June 22nd.

This adorable film is about how the women of a small Israeli synagogue lead a resistance against a young new rabbi and his belief that women’s religious needs should come after all others. It’s a commentary on the dangers of religious figures who push an agenda, about how we think about bettering ourselves, and, at the end of the day, what we ultimately decide to stand for. It was super-empowering in an unexpected way, and also provided some nice eye candy of the streets of Jerusalem.

My other run-in with (Israeli) woman power was at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I was there for non-art reasons (a friend had bought me a change purse from their gift shop that said “Bitches get stuff done,” and I wanted to get one for a friend) but ended up spending a lot of time in their permanent collection. All the way on the back wall of the 3rd floor, in front of the restrooms, I stumbled across a glowing message in neon lights that read “What if Women Ruled the World”. At that moment, I might as well have been wearing those golden wrist cuffs that possess demi-deity powers. Only after walking closer and reading the description did I learn it was an installation piece created by Yael Bartana of Israel.

So, if you’re looking for a little female power or Israeli influence in your life this week (and just can’t bring yourself to go see Wonder Woman for the fifth time), check out The Women’s Balcony and the National Museum of Women in the Arts to get your fix!

Don’t forget to Insta your #SpottedinJewishDC and get some free Gather goodies!

 

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.

Intermarriage Isn’t Good, Or Bad

The conversation in the Jewish community around intermarriage is extremely polarized and seriously lacking nuance.

One side wonders, “How are we still talking about this?” To them, the idea of telling someone to only marry Jewish is antiquated and even racist.

The other side thinks, “Those who are intermarried have rejected Judaism and are actively contributing to its destruction.”

Both are wrong.

For some Jews, Judaism is a central, if not the primary, piece of their identity. For them, wanting to marry someone who shares their values, traditions, worldview, etc. is certainly not racist. In fact, it’s actually a good idea. Data suggests that children of intermarriages are far less likely to raise their children Jewish. If building a Jewish home is extremely important to you, you should probably marry someone Jewish.

For other Jews, Judaism might not be as primary. For them, finding a loving partner is more important than concerns of Jewish continuity. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about Judaism or that they aren’t committed to building a Jewish home. It certainly doesn’t mean that they are rejecting their Judaism. It simply means that they prioritize romantic connection over religious affiliation, and it’s perfectly reasonable for these Jews not to limit themselves to a Jewish partner.

Will any particular interfaith couple successfully raise a Jewish family? That depends on many factors, including: Is the Jewish partner able to share Judaism with the non-Jewish partner? How does the non-Jewish partner relate to Judaism? Does the non-Jewish partner actively practice another faith? Does the couple actively talk about religious differences? Do they have a plan for how they will incorporate Judaism into their home?

These are important factors for those who are in (or looking to be in) a serious relationship to consider. There is no guaranteed formula for successfully building a Jewish home or raising a Jewish family, though depending on the answers to these questions, couples will have an easier or harder time navigating their differences. What’s important is acknowledging that intermarried couples are not a homogenous bunch. It doesn’t make sense to have a blanket view on intermarriage – you cannot draw conclusions about people’s connection to Judaism without knowing their backgrounds or the complexities of their particular relationships.

I’ve become much less interested in the question of whether one should date or marry Jewish. By focusing on the act of intermarriage, we ignore the far more significant questions: what role does Judaism play in your life, and what do you want your Judaism to look like in a romantic relationship? Though our answers may evolve over time, we don’t have to wait for a relationship to address these questions. They are arguably the most important Jewish questions we will ever ask ourselves.

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.

If A Fish Could Talk

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers, founder of person-centered psychotherapy

You might be surprised to learn you can have a conversation with a fish that is swimming in a fish tank. I know because I once had one.

During the ages 16 and 17, I walked past a fish tank hundreds of times as I came and went to clinic at the National Institutes of Health, where I received treatment for my bone cancer. The tank stood against a wall in the waiting room, in between the elevators and the bathroom. For a cancer patient, no room is more important than the bathroombesides the infusion room which was down another hall.

One fish in the tank was bigger and, I thought, uglier than the others…. which led me to follow my dad’s logic that the bigger and uglier a creature, the older it is. This one must’ve been the Donald Trump of fish.

“You lucky fish,” I told this big ugly fish one afternoon on my way to the bathroom after I finished getting my chemo drips for the day. “You can just pee right there in your tank, but I must get up to pee in a specific porcelain bowl while groggy, on crutches, nauseous and exhausted.”

The fish didn’t respond. I didn’t think he would, though he did follow me with his eyes by pivoting in his pee water.

The next morning before I got my chemo, I sat in the red cushioned chair that faced the tank and watched this big ugly fish in the waiting room. He recognized me, I’m sure of it, because he started spinning and doing flips. I guess not all big old ugly things lose their charm.

I peered around to see if anyone was nearby, but it was just me and the big ugly fish. I looked right at him. His wrinkly mouth puckered, and I thought maybe this time he might actually respond. “What are you thinking?” I said to him.

No response.

“Do you, too, laugh at the guy who gets so nervous getting his blood drawn that he sweats?”

Nothing. I was getting mad and thinking this fish was mocking me.

“What’s it like to live in your own filth and pee?”

Yes, even cancer patients can be mean.

“Bah! You’re just a big ugly fish living in water.”

With the help of my crutches, I stood up tall on my strong right leg, tucked the crutches under my armpits and started towards the infusion room. That’s when I faintly heard from the direction of the fish, “I don’t know I’m in water. What’s water?”

Shocked, I turned towards the fish tank so quickly that I almost toppled over. I returned to the chair and my attention to the talking fish. “What do you mean? You’re clearly swimming and living in water and you can’t survive without it.”

“Listen to me, I don’t have much time left as I am old.”

I knew it!

“This is my environment, it is all I know, and I can’t change it. Here, I simply am.”

I gasped. The way he said it reminded me of the meaning of that word I’m not supposed to say. “Are you . . . God?” I asked.

The big old ugly fish did a somersault, I think just to keep me waiting for his response. He was such a ham. When he settled again, he looked back at me. “No, I’m not God. I’m just an old fish living in this great big world and looking at you in your strange, even bigger world. Our worlds are different, and we each see each other’s world differently because we’re seeing it through the lens of our own world.

“You say I’m in water. I say I just am. I say you’re in a happy, sociable room where kids get to play with toys like those sticks you’re holding and the pole you push with hanging bags of colorful liquid and stamped with the biohazard symbol.

“Now, tell me about your world. I want to learn.”

And that was the one time in my life I talked to a fish. I told him all about our cancers and how we poisoned them to hopefully make them go away, and how once we were done poisoning them, we went off into a much bigger world he would never see.

Since then, a new National Institutes of Health Clinical Center replaced that one, and I haven’t been a patient at NIH in over 14 years. That fish tank is long gone. So is that big old ugly fish, though I sometimes think about him. The older I have gotten, the more I have thought that fish was trying to teach me a lesson about acceptance. No matter that fish’s faults, like his living space being filled with urea, he wholeheartedly accepted that which he could not change. And for that which he could change—in other words, the things he didn’t have to accept—he kept an open mind about, challenged himself to learn from, put in the work to improve on, and ultimately grew from until he could reach a point of acceptance. Self-acceptance is a path to happiness.

Now, some 16 years later, I want a daily reminder of that unique world I briefly inhabited, that world filled with toys like wooden crutches and IV poles. I want to always remember that big old ugly fish. And, I want to remind myself that I’m ready to radically accept those pieces of myself which I cannot change, and choose the challenging path through life to positively change those pieces of myself I can change.

So—and Mom, this is when you should sit down and brace yourself—five years after getting my first tattoo and two years after getting my second, I got another.

 

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.

Top 4 Jewish Podcasts You Should Download Right Now

We’re big fans of podcasts here at GatherDC. As you may remember, we love Marc Maron of WTF, and Rabbi Aaron has waxed poetic about S-Town. Now, we bring you our list of the top 4 Jewish-themed podcasts that you should download right now.

#4 – Seincast

Think you’re a big Seinfeld fan? “You got nothing, Jerry, nothing!” Compared to Matt Williams and Vinnie Freda from Seincast, that is. Williams and Freda, hosts of this sometimes hilarious, sometimes fascinating, and sometimes painful podcast, analyze the nothingness of a specific Seinfeld episode.

Favorite episode recommendation? Start with the one where they discuss your favorite Seinfeld episode. Need some inspiration? We like The Switch.

#3 – Ronna and Beverly

This one’s a bit hard to explain. It’s a comedy podcast hosted by UCB comedians and longtime friends, Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo. The entire podcast is performed with them as their alter-egos, Ronna Glickman and Beverly Ginsberg– two 50-something best friends and co-authors of You’ll Do Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Re-marriage for Jewish Singles (It Says ‘Jewish’ in the Name but It’s for Everyone). In each episode, they bring a comedian or pop-culture guest in and ask them Jewish-mother-like questions…and then interrupt them constantly with hilarious side stories from their lives.

Best episode to start on? A Beginner’s Guide to Ronna and Beverly, of course!

#2 – Imagine ISRAEL | Podcast

While fairly new, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Imagine ISRAEL | Podcast is produced locally. Creative Director of Makom, Robbie Gringas, hosts the podcast and features intimate interviews with Israel’s top innovators.

As part of Federation’s continued focus on bringing Israel to DC through programs like Reverse Mifgash and theChangemakers Series, this podcast does a great job at connecting its audience to a modern and relatable Israel. Check out the episode with Kaynan Rabino, creator of Good Deeds Day, an international day of community service.

#1 – The Tablet‘s Unorthodox

Unorthodox is brought to us by the writers of Tablet, a daily, Jewish online magazine you should check out ASAP. As described by the podcast producers themselves, “Jews (& friends) talk news, arts & other stuff.” If you like discussion-style podcasts like Slate Culture Gab Fest or NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, you’ll like this.

Check out Ferris Bueller and the Chamber of Secrets, Episode 70 for a good intro to the show.

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.

Spotted in Jewish DC – Make Your Own Judaica

Did you just move into a new place and need a mezuzah? At All Fired Up, this week’s #SpottedinJewishDC, you can make it yourself. Along with mugs, plates, pitchers and more, this decorate-it-yourself pottery store has all of your Judaica covered. You can use paint, mosaics or fused glass to decorate anything…from menorahs, to kiddush cups, to tzedakah boxes. Most of their Judaic items are in the store at all times, but owner Liz Winchell, recommends calling ahead just to make sure they have what you need.

Until the end of July, they’re offering 10% off for GatherDC readers at their Cleveland Park location, so go in, mention us at checkout and start crafting. Tag #SpottedinJewishDC when you make your masterpiece!

Spot something particularly Jewish in DC? Let us know about it by emailing or snapping a photo and posting it on social with #SpottedinJewishDC. You may see it here!

 

 

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.

Spotted in Jewish DC – Shouk

If you’ve walked around Mt. Vernon Square lately, you may have run into our latest #SpottedinJewishDC, Shouk. Shouk, a fun (and delicious) spot, refers to itself as a “modern eatery and market offering a new take on comfort food.” What’s the “new take?” Well, for Shouk, it means everything served is plant-based. Vegans and Vegetarians rejoice!!!  And carnivores, don’t worry…our tasting indicates that your palettes will be satiated too!

Named after the open-air markets of Israel, where founder, Ran Nussbacher grew up, Shouk opened just over a year ago in May 2016. Both Ran and his Executive Chef, Dennis Friedman, are Jewish. When we asked them about how Jewishness plays into their restaurant, they said, “In typical Israeli – and Jewish – fashion, Shouk is all about playing with tradition and mixing up culinary influences.”

We highly recommend their cashew labneh, which has just as much cream and tang as the traditional yogurt dish, and, the Shouk Burger, which contains 15 different veggies and beans. So head there today and take an Insta-worthy picture and tag us (@Gather_DC), we’d love to see your creations!

Spot something particularly Jewish in DC? Let us know about it by emailing or snapping a photo and posting it on social with #SpottedinJewishDC. You may see it here!