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Meet Ike – Jewish Journalist (and Newbie) of the Week!

Ike Swetlitz is a man of many talents. A contra-dancing aficionado, world traveler, Jewish music guru, medical journalist – just to name a few. Though he is brand new to our nation’s great capital, he seems to be taking full advantage of what DC has to offer. Get to know him, and welcome him to the city!

Allie: I hear you have a pretty cool job as a journalist. Tell me a little bit about that.

Ike: I’m a health and medical journalist for STAT, which is part of The Boston Globe Company. Before this, I was majoring in Physics at Yale and doing a lot of journalism on the side – trying to decide if I wanted to be a Physicist or a Journalist. In the end, I realized I prefered developing relationships with people instead of a computer, so I figured it would be a lot more enjoyable to work as a journalist. I’m still really fascinated by science, so getting to be a health/medical journalist is a wonderful opportunity for me to pursue both of these interests.

Allie:  Where is the coolest place you’ve ever traveled?

Ike: I have two: The Point Reyes National Seashore, on the coast of California, just north of San Francisco. It was such a beautiful place, and has an incredible sea lion reserve. The second is my visit to the the Jewish community in rural Ghana – Sefwi Wiawsoin. While I was spending a few weeks in Ghana working for an agricultural news radio station, I had the opportunity to travel to the Jewish community and spend a Shabbat there.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Ike: I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago, and after college was looking for journalism jobs. STAT was just starting up in Boston, and I got a job there as a medical/health journalist, and moved to Boston. I started working on many journalism projects related to DC, and wound up moving down here just a few months ago to pursue these projects at STAT’s DC-office.

Allie: Being new to the city, what is your take on DC so far?

Ike: DC reminds me of when I first moved to Boston, and I’m in this period of meeting a lot people and trying to figure out where I fit into the community. It’s a different kind of city than Boston though. In Boston, every other person works for a university or health company, and in DC every other person works for the government or an organization related to the government.

Allie What are your favorite things to do in the city?

Ike: I really enjoy going to the farmer’s markets in DC, and checking out the many Jewish community programs, and folk dance communities.

Allie: Folk dancing? How did you get involved with that?

Ike: Well, I learned square dancing in ninth grade, because we were told it was was the State Dance of Illinois. Then, when I was at college, I discovered this small, nearby town that had contra dancing – which is sort of like square dancing, but more fun – and every so often, I took part in that. While living in Boston after college, there was a big dancing community, so I started doing contra dancing, and have been happy to see there are lots of those communities in DC too.

Allie: How do you connect to Judaism in your own life?

Ike: I love Jewish music, Jewish ritual, and find that Jewish communities I’ve been a part of are really welcoming. It’s refreshing to spend time with a group of people who can be intently focused on one thing at hand.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Ike: I’d say the founders of Nava Tehilah – a song-based community in Jerusalem. They’ve created this incredible group that brings people together who normally have different religious practices, and show one another the beauty of each other’s traditions.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Ike: Sweet potato latkes. They’re basically like gigantic sweet potato fries.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Ike: They’re surprised by who they recognize.

 

 

 

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.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Judaism

Okay, given the seemingly infinite nature of Jewish text, history, and interpretation, there may be more than 5 things you didn’t know about Judaism. But, here are 5 things you can learn more about at Federation’s ROUTES: Day of Learning on Sunday, November 5th at George Mason University! ROUTES is a full day of classes led by world-famous presenters from all walks of the Jewish world – including many from right here in the DC area. So, did you know…

“JewBarrassment” is a thing. It’s that uncomfortable feeling most of us get when we think we’ve said or done something wrong with regard to Jewish practice. It was coined by Archie Gottesman, founder of JewBelong.com and a featured speaker at Federation’s ROUTES, who will discuss her vision of making Judaism more accessible. (Search Class 1A and 3A)

You can use rhythm and movement to engage with Torah. Jewish tradition has a long history with using rhythm to evoke meaning in Torah texts through cantillation and Chassidic niggun, a form of religious song. Matisyahu Tonti will lead a ROUTES session where participants will use a classic Torah story, and musical techniques from the Orff Approach to music education, to learn and create a short performance that will be fun, kinesthetic, and intellectually stimulating. (Search Class 1B)

The Torah is green. Jewish tradition teaches us to protect the environment through a wide range of lessons about how to conserve resources and use them responsibly. Eating locally and sustainably is tied closely to a Kosher diet. In Evonne Marzouk’s ROUTES class, you can learn about what Jewish wisdom says about protecting the environment and using resources sustainably, then see pictures and learn about the “ingredients” of sustainable home improvement. (Search Class 1E)

The Statue of Liberty is totally Jewish. Kerry Brodie’s session at ROUTES will discuss the brief life and legacy of Emma Lazarus, the Jewish woman behind the words etched into The Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” (Search Class 2F)

Jewish Washingtonians held a vigil outside the Soviet embassy in DC every day for 20 years. GatherDC’s Jewish Teacher of the Week(!), Aaron Bregman, will explore the time when Soviet Jews were fleeing the Iron Curtain, American Jews in DC responded to the reports of harassment and oppression by organizing a resistance movement that included vigils, protests and more. Come ready to discuss questions like, “Was this experience the last time diaspora Jewry bonded together over such an important topic?” and, “What does it take to galvanize or unify our Jewish community?” (Search Class 1D)

Check out all the details and register here. Plus, get $20 off your registration with code GATHERDCROUTES2017. Heads up – if you use the code, lunch will not be included with your ticket (but you can BYO). Online registration closes Wednesday, November 1st, but young professionals (under 40) can show their IDs at the door to receive $20 off the door price of $54. This discounted price does not include lunch.

 

This is a sponsored post. 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.

PREVIEW: Take a First Listen of the Washington Jewish Music Festival!

Good news for music lovers! The 19th edition of the Edlvatich DCJCC’s Washington Jewish Music Festival (WJMF) kicks-off on November 2nd with a concert by Tararam, the Israeli group known as “Israel’s Stomp.” If you like unconventional instruments and drumming, go check it out and be ready to enter into a world of fire drumsticks and mesmerizing sound.

Is your musical taste more oriented toward jazz and classical? Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of choices, and could even attend multiple concerts a week! For example, the Festival’s Centerpiece Hours of Freedom: The Story of the Terezín Composer, features pieces by fifteen composers who were survivors of the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Jews at the Theresienstadt concentration camp were allowed to possess instruments – likely for propaganda purposes. Some of the best Jewish composers of the time had been deported to Theresienstadt. In the midst of brutality, pain, and death during the darkest time for humanity, these artists somehow found the inspiration to compose exceptional pieces full of depth and sentiment.

If, like me, you spend your day stuck at a desk staring at a computer and would like to shake your body, show up to dance to the rhythm of klezmer-ish international music with either Yasmin Levy and the Klezmatics or – for the closing night – Nomadica (just to name a few!).

The year’s festival features a diverse mixture of genres, composers, players and performers connected by their Jewish background and influenced by worldwide trends and rhythms. As Festival Director Ilya Tovbis said in the official press release:

The 19th Washington Jewish Music Festival’s lineup is a very exciting alchemy – it brings together some of the most prestigious, original, and boundary-pushing artists from around the world working in the Jewish space, and encourages them to experiment in the nation’s capital. Additionally, we’re doubling down on highlighting and elevating the work and artistry of local DC musicians whose output spans hip-hop, klezmer, bossa nova, and cantorial repertoires. The Jewish sound being celebrated at this year’s Festival is as eclectic, multicultural, and global as the Jewish diaspora itself.”

A tradition of the WJMF is the Day of Education on Arab Citizens of Israel. This year’s edifying day will include a performance by flutist Mais Hriesh and violinist Tal First, of the Polyphony Foundation, as well as a post-concert discussion about the importance of art in building a multicultural society.

I am planning to attend a number of shows and chat with the artists, so stay tuned on GatherDC’s blog for more news – and buy your tickets quick! My first spotlight on the Festival will be a brief interview with artist-in residence Simone Baron who will perform on November 11th with David Buchbinder at the world premiere of their concert.

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About the Author: Daniela is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you! She is a “retired philosopher” who works as an executive assistant and loves to write about Italian and Jewish events happening in DC. She was born and raised in Sicily (Italy) in an interfaith family and moved to D.C. with her husband after studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where they met. They have a wonderful Siberian cat named Rambam! Daniela loves going to work while listening to Leonard Cohen’s songs and sometimes performs in a West African Dance group.

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.