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2015/5776 High Holiday Guide

This is the guide from 2015! Be sure to check out the one from 2017 here.

The coconut provides a nutritious source (2)

Erev Rosh Hashana—Sunday, September 13

Rosh Hashana (1st Day)—Monday, September 14

Rosh Hashana (2nd Day)—Tuesday, September 15

Kol Nidre—Tuesday, September 22

Yom Kippur—Wednesday, September 23

Other Resources:

  • High Holiday ticket exchange! Have high holiday tickets that you are not using? Enter them here and check out what tickets are available here!
  • EntryPointDC High Holiday Tickets – Many of the congregations in the area sell their tickets through EntryPointDC, get your tickets today!
  • 10Q – 10 Days. 10 Questions.
  • Jewels of Elul – Daily inspiration every day of the Jewish month of Rosh Hashanah (Elul)
  • Educational materials – from AJWS
  • My Bubby – offering a 20% discount off their honey card of the month. Just enter the code “sweetrosh” upon checkout by August 31.
  • JSSA – Support JSSA volunteers as they deliver baskets of traditional holiday items and food to Jewish families and individuals who are unable to afford these items on their own.
  • Jewish Food Experience – Top 10 Recipes for a Scrumptious Year

What Does an Open Doors Fellow Actually Do?

Sasha“So, what does an Open Doors Fellow actually do?”

That was a question that I was frequently asked, but could rarely come up with an answer that could adequately portray what it did for me and for others in the DC Jewish community. “We are nice to people and take them to coffee!” was my most typical answer. However, now that the fellowship is complete, I have a real answer for you: An Open Doors Fellow is a social individual who is not only interested in being a connector for Jews in the community, but also consistently interested in learning more about how to better the community. Open Doors Fellows explore the needs and interests of Jews in their 20’s and 30’s and strategize how to make life as a young Jewish professional more enriching and rewarding.

The Open Doors Fellowship was a successful and necessary next step for Gather the Jews. They have the events that cater to the interests of the community, but what was missing was connectors, people who would go with interested members of community to events that they were too nervous to attend alone; people who were trained to feel comfortable openly engaging in conversation at any size event. Gather needed individuals to help community members feel special, unique, and welcomed to an event. It is such a different experience to show up to a large event when you see a familiar face. If you have that, your comfort level can be immediately changed.

11391708_10205534827584549_6810332930038366459_nMy Capstone project was an active way to engage a small group of young Jews and allow for meaningful conversation while exploring Washington D.C. Most of my coffee conversations were with Jews who had recently moved to D.C. and were looking for a group of people to do fun activities with. That’s exactly what my Capstone was all about; participants were able to do something fun with a great group of individuals. Attendees were split into teams and asked to take a picture doing ridiculous tasks. The tasks included: making a Jewish star with your bodies in front of the Capitol building, making a pyramid with strangers, doing the Beatles walk across the street, taking a ride on the carousel, and more. They also got to know a bit about each other by finding their home states in the WWII memorial. Following the scavenger hunt, I hosted a picnic in Meridian Hill Park so that people could continue their conversations, as well as meet members of the other team. I received wonderful feedback from participants who all felt like this was a great way to get to know the city more, as well as make some great connections.11407172_10205534801183889_3892936613167266185_n

If there is one thing I would take away from this Capstone, I would say, “don’t wait, just do.” You want to go up and talk to someone, but you are scared; you want to go to this event, but maybe it’s too far. JUST GO. I always leave events, dinners, happy hours and more, feeling happy that I did it. Whether I made a new friend, tried a new food, or just felt happy to be surrounded by peers, I’ve always made the most of every experience. Stop worrying, have fun, and you never know how much a simple smile or hello could make someone’s day.

Learn more about applying to be a 2017 Open Doors Fellow HERE!

Seeking Jewish participants for online survey/doctoral dissertation exploring Jewish Identity!

star-of-david-0Dear members of the DC Jewish Community,

I am a Counseling Psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Louisville and I have always been interested in the intersection of psychology and religion, especially as it relates to my own Jewish foundation. There is a lack of psychological research that includes sizable and representative Jewish samples and I am writing to ask for your help in completing my doctoral dissertation with a strong community response.

Below is a link to an online questionnaire that explores how you define your current Jewish Identity, influences of your Jewish community, and its connections with overall personal characteristics. The only requirements for participation is that you are at least 18 years old and self-identify as Jewish, ranging from non-practicing to Orthodox. The survey will take 15-30 minutes to complete and remains completely anonymous. To thank you for your time and effort, you will be given an opportunity to enter a raffle for one of three prepaid Visa giftcard for the amount of $100 (1) or $50 (2). Only your e-mail address will be required, and it will not be connected to your survey responses.

Simply go to http://tinyurl.com/JewishIdentitySurvey to access the survey. If you have any questions or concerns, or you would like a results summary when the project is completed, please contact me at jrgold05@louisville.edu. This doctoral dissertation is conducted under the supervision of Dr. Mark M. Leach (m.leach@louisville.edu) at the University of Louisville Department of Education and Counseling Psychology. Thank you for your time and hopeful participation.

Respectfully,

Jason Goldstein, M.Ed.
jrgold05@louisville.edu

Tent – A Jewish Seminar Big Enough to Encompass It All

tent-logoIn March of 2013, I had the fortune of being invited to what was described to me as a “Jewish Comedians Seminar”.  My first reaction was, “That’s a bit redundant, ay?”

I learned about Tent via Twitter of all places after writing one of my snarky Jewish satire pieces for Gather The Jews.

What it was really titled was “Tent:  Encounters with Jewish Culture”, a new program started by the Yiddish Book Center.  The program aims at showing how a commitment to Jewish culture can be a portal into deeper and more inspired Jewish self-awareness—and ultimately professional development.

And the year 2014 is going to be a BIG one for Tent:

In 2014, 10 Tent seminars, taking place in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, and the South, will gather twentysomethings who are passionate about food, comics, music, journalism, fashion, social justice, art, history, and contemporary Jewish culture.  Applications are available and deadlines are fast approaching: http://tentsite.org/apply

Twenty applicants will be accepted for each of the week-long programs.  Tent is offered free to all accepted applicants.  Each of the seminars will explore aspects of modern culture through a Jewish lens.  Tent programs are designed to help young people to discover how much of what’s exciting in contemporary America from stand-up comedy to serious literature, from pop music and theater to film, law, and cuisine – have rich Jewish histories.

My experience?  I attended the Tent: Comedy Seminar.

When I applied, I only knew a few details: The Seminar would last one week.  It would be held in Los Angeles.  There would be twenty Jewish comedians between the ages of 21 and 30.  We would meet established Jewish comedy writers in LA.  Tent would pay for many of the meals.  So free food.  Funny people.  Schmoozing with funny people with my dream job.  And a week away from the daily grind of my current job.

For an entire week, we would open the morning with free food.  Score!   And then for two hours, we would have a lecture and discussion on topics such as “what is Jewish comedy?” and “why us?”.  A prominent Jewish Cultural History professor, Tony Michels of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, would lead us from the comedy scenes of Ellis Island to the Catskills to Carnegie Hall to Tinseltown.  From Groucho Marx to Lenny Bruce to Jerry Seinfeld to Sarah Silverman.

To compliment the morning lectures, Tent arranged to have an established figure in the Los Angeles comedy scene do a question and answer session with us.  One question I recall was asked of Simpsons writer Ken Levine, “what’s the best way to network in the comedy scene?”  Levine replied, here’s what not to do:  “shortly after a parent died, I was at the funeral home picking out a casket, and one of the funeral home workers asked me if I would read his script.”  Point noted, Ken.

We also met with a writer from The New Yorker, an improv workshop from a former Saturday Night Live performer, and several television actors.

In the evenings, we would attend comedy shows, and several Tent members had the fortune of meeting Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin, comedian Todd Glass, Sarah Silverman, Ed Helms, Kevin Nealon, and Pete Holmes.

We also visited Cantors Famous Deli, and toured historic Boyle Heights, the former epicenter of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

By the end of the week, I could hardly stop repeating to my new friends, “If I found out about this program next week, I would be SO jealous of me.”  Modest?  No.  Honest?  Definitely.

And now, eight months later—-and a week before I move to LA to begin a dream career in a new city—- I am confidant that the new friends I made, the introspective Jewish identity I cultivated, and new career goals I visualized while at Tent Comedy will serve me splendidly on my next journey.

If you haven’t already checked out the 10 programs in 2014, do it now–and if you haven’t applied do that now too. Where else will you get the chance to spend a week with a cohort of like-minded Jews–and it’s all free!

 

Importance of a Minyan in Akko

image

The Jewish sages would kiss the rocks of Akko upon entering the Land of Israel.

Adverse possession is a centuries-old legal theory that transfers valid title in real property to a squatter. The rationale is that good land shouldn’t go to waste. Hence, the true owner’s neglect is said essentially to have invited the encroachment. Many parts of undisputed territory in Israel appear to be undergoing this phenomenon in spirit if not in law. The old city of Akko represents but one example.

During a recent backpacking sojourn through Israel, I myself debated whether to visit this city. Five days earlier, three southbound rockets had been launched from Lebanon toward Akko with only one of the explosives having been intercepted. Nevertheless, I risked the trip, reasoning that, if my time had come, I would be equally vulnerable at a café in Haifa as I would 30 minutes northward, exploring streets the Rambam walked nearly 1,000 years ago. Besides, after three weeks pinging around Eretz Yisröel, only two days remained until my return flight to the United States. So, I took my chances and caught the train.

image (1)The Akko train station lets out across from the parking lot of an open-air meat market. It was nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit that day and the smell of dead chicken blood overpowered. A five-minute cab ride later, though, I was inside the old city, admiring the historic markers affixed to fortress walls barely worn despite centuries of relentless seaspray. The engraved plates told of many sages who over the last 5,000 years had passed through this, one of the oldest working ports in the world.

Sadly, the series of engraved plates — some of which have been scratched out — is the extent of the Jewish imprint on this town. Indeed, local synagogues are listed on a legend at Akko’s front gate amid other “Places of Interest” directly following sections labeled “Churches,” “Mosques,” and “Parking Lots,” respectively.

Yes, there are tunnels built by the Templar Knights and Inns in existence since the Ottoman Empire. But what I was there to see could only be reached by tripping over Tonka trucks and tricycles down a little-used alleyway. Indeed, so infrequently is the path to Beit Ramhal traveled by Jews in search of a place to daven together that Arab children have claimed its front door as a vacant play yard.

Beit Ramhal's caretaker

Beit Ramhal’s caretaker

Granted, the tiny gem that is Beit Ramhal cannot compare with the artistic splendor of the Tunisian synagogue just beyond Akko’s old city walls. In fact, in absence of the Beit Hamikdash, the Or Torah is easily the most glorious shul one could hope to ever see. Still, Ramhal, however humble, easily fits ten men. Ten men who never come, according to the Ramhal’s faithful caretaker. Between lessons about the deerskin Torah on display, and the pomegranate ink with which it was inscribed, he shrugged at my persistence about the shul’s disuse and waved that it hasn’t had an active minyan in decades.

Now, I am not a man and do not plan to move to Akko just to make sure someone says Shema there twice daily. But the sudden realization that this gateway to Israel for so many ancestors has been given up for lost to the forebears of its one-time conquerors grieves me to no end. I am not a woman who succumbs easily to tears and, yet, I wept deeply at Ramhal’s house of study and several times since then over the lack of a religious quorum in Akko.

"Beit Knesset Ramhal": Knesset means Assembly

“Beit Knesset Ramhal”: Knesset means Assembly

Ultimately, my great epiphany that day was that our ongoing struggle over borders and territorial authority is a farce for so long as Jewish men willingly surrender town by town, inch by inch, in Israel and in America, through their failure to appear. In a city such as Akko, where Jews comprise roughly 75% of the population, but largely live at the margins of history (i.e. outside the city gates), a new history is being written of a people who gave away their hard-won political and property rights by exhibiting inertia in later asserting them.

I can only hope when I return to Israel in Spring that I find a miraculous reversal of the despair-worthy trend I have recounted here. In the interim, I would entreat you to consider whether Judaism generally and Israel specifically, Sir, isn’t worth your vote. If you find that it is, I would encourage you to make the time — whether it’s thrice a day or once a month — to vote with your feet and show up, as G-d commanded, for your minyan and for your community at large. I’ve seen with my own eyes the negative impact your absence is having already.

Lisette García is earning a master’s degree in political management from The George Washington University.  She anticipates putting her additional skills as a Freedom of Information Act attorney to work for NGO Monitor in Jerusalem from May through July 2014.

Reviewing “Our Political Nature”

OurPoliticalNature

Learn more about Our Political Nature here.

Our Political Nature is evolutionary anthropologist Avi Tuschman’s first book. In the work Tuschman posits that there are underlying causes that explain the political orientation of each individual across religious, cultural, and national boundaries. The book is organized into six sections that relate to the evolutionary and personal origins that contribute to political personality: tribalism, tribalism’s biological origins, tolerance of inequality, biology of family conflict, biology of altruism and perceptions of human nature.

Dr. Tuschman introduces the reader to the scientific evaluation of an individual’s conservatism. Tuschman argues that an individual’s results are less a personal choice than a factor of genetics and are relatively immutable throughout the course of one’s lifetime. Tuschman synthesizes the combined research of many to support his theory of human expression of political identity.  Tuschman pulls global examples citing studies from places varied such as Israel, Libya, Peru, Pakistan and the United States to support his findings across religious groups, political systems and climates and establish the universality of the left to right spectrum of liberal to conservative thought he argues we all fall upon. He argues that a conservative outlook, which can be scientifically tested on an unbiased scale, encourages ethnocentrism that can reinforce tribal nature whereas more liberal attitudes tend to express xenophilia, the interest in out-group people, and are more likely to partner with people from other groups. Relatedly, where ethnocentrism and conservative behaviors are prevalent, so are rates of religiosity. Where religiosity is high, so are rates of childbirth relative to the secular population and as well as negative attitudes towards non-reproductive sexual behaviors.

In the examination of a hypothesis it can be challenging to avoid letting one’s assumptions sway the outcomes of the study. Reading the work I felt that Tuschman did a good job of letting the research speak for itself with scant assumptions. One assumption, that though I agreed with, seemed to stand without fact. In the examination of the conflict in Israel between Ultra Orthodox Ashkenazim who refused to allow their children to study with Ultra Orthodox Sephardim and Mizrahim the book states that the reason the Ashkenazim protested was that the Sephardim and Mizrahim allowed televisions in their homes and they did not want their children’s minds to be corrupted by ideas they felt to be unsuitable in an atmosphere of shared learning. Despite both groups being religious Jews, Tuschman argued there is an ethnocentricity that intensifies with religiosity that impedes the expanding of the tribe. The irony of course is that given that the relative newcomers of European descent think that the Jews who have stay localized during the past two millennia are not as good Jews as they. From this, Tuschman made the judgment that the actual underlying cause was that despite the words used to argue, the true fear was based in tribalism that was unwilling to allow for the eventuality of friendships that may later in life result in marriage. Although this may sound like a reasonable deduction it was conveyed in a manner that felt like speculation.

Overall, the work is a captivating study that combines interdisciplinary research across the sciences to create a more complete picture of the human psyche as we relate to others and ourselves. I was intrigued by the examples cited and felt myself largely convinced of Tuschman’s arguments. My greatest critique of the work is the editing. There is high quality research however in the presentation of facts the tone sometimes shifts from academic to informal. Additionally, there were instances where sentences should have combined into one fluid thought instead of fragmented throughout a paragraph.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is tired of hearing outdated and unhelpful ideas of why certain groups behave as they do. This work portrays no one as a victim of their position and circumstance but rather explains how those conditions work in tandem to influence thought and perhaps even predict reactions. Our Political Nature excels in taking the fear out of the ‘other’ by creating context for political identity. The work enables the reader to evaluate their position on the spectrum, which facilitates the respect of the placement of another at a different point across cultures, both domestic and abroad, due to a better rubric for evaluating the factors that shape our political personality. Our Political Nature has the potential to make us more understanding of difference and less critical of the choices of other by encouraging healthier ways to judge behaviors among less familiar populations. If for no other reason, that point is why I think this book provides valuable information to the whole of humanity that makes it worth the read.

Courtney D. Sharpe is a world traveler who has spent extensive time in the Middle East studying, traveling and working with the Peace Corps. She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she pursued a double degree in International Studies and Religion. 

From the Four Corners of the Earth: At the Crossroads of Ghana and Judaism

Deep in a rural and remote area of Ghana, a community has existed for centuries called the Sefwis. They’ve been practicing a religion unlike any of those around them – and just within the last twenty years, realized that this religion is Judaism.  An even more profound discovery among the Sefwi’s was the realization that they aren’t alone, as millions of people around the globe are following the very same religion.

Along with the help of Toronto based Filmmaker, Gabrielle Zilkha, a documentary entitled “From the Four Corners of the Earth” aims to film the Sefwis’ journey to self-discovery of Judaism – from the past to the future as they embark on their very first trip to Israel.

“From the Four Corners of the Earth” is currently in its first phase of production, as the focus is on the Sefwis’ telling their story and journey of discovering their Jewish roots, and will also paint a vivid picture of their life today.  The goal is to explore how Judaism has shaped who they are, their understanding of the world, and their place within it.  Gabrielle and her crew plan to have just 2 people working on this phase of production, to take place over 3 weeks.  Additions to the first phase will include key interviews with experts in African Jewish history and past visitors to the Sefwi Wiawso community.

Delving deeper into the project, Gabrielle and her team seek to enhance the creation of “From the Four Corners of the Earth” by employing techniques that use a variety of digital, social media, and communications technologies to enable deeper and ongoing communication between the Sefwi community and people around the world.  One solution to this is to provide members of the Sefwi community with video-enabled smartphones and enable them to post their own video diaries online.

Why is Gabrielle and her team so interested in the Sefwi’s?  A little back-story reveals that as a young Jewish Canadian, Gabrielle was six weeks into a five-month volunteer placement in Accra, Ghana when the Jewish High Holidays came around.  The prospect of finding a group of Jewish people was looking grim, until she discovered the Sefwis.  Whilst Gabrielle was looking for nothing more than to celebrate a holiday with others, what she found was a community with an incredibly touching story.

Though Jewish traditions such as celebrating the Sabbath, circumcision, and kosher dietary laws have been followed for generations by the Sefwis, it was only in the last twenty years that they came to the discovery of Judaism and its worldwide belief.  Driven to find out more about who they are and to find others like them, the Sefwis embarked on an incredible journey of self-discovery, which leads us to the premise of this upcoming film.

Gabrielle Zilkha and her crew have started to raise money to fund the first phase of “From the Four Corners of the Earth”, but unfortunately still haven’t reached their financial goal.  They’ve recently started a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to ask for help, which can be seen here for more information: http://kck.st/U0BhF5

First JAM Event Rocked; Second Event Coming Soon

Last Tuesday, Jews and Muslims (JAM) DC brought together more than 70 people for its first ever Fall Mix ‘n’ Mingle at Teaism Penn Quarter. Group leaders talked about JAM’s history, purpose, and upcoming events.

For more pictures, click here.

JAM’s next event, Judaism/Islam 101, on December 8, will feature Rabbi Jonathan Roos from Temple Sinai and Imam Yahya Hendi from Georgetown University speaking and answering questions about some of the basics of each religion.

For more information on JAM DC and upcoming events, go to the group’s Facebook page or e-mail jewsandmuslimsdc@gmail.com.

GTJ featured in JPC

The oft-mentioned RJ Brodsky,  director of the Jewish Policy Center, interviewed Stephen Richer about the founding of Gather the Jews and the greater issue of Jewish community involvement among young professionals.

An excerpt:

Stephen Richer explained the dilemma: “On my December 2007 Birthright Trip, my peers and I discussed how being Jewish affected our day-to-day interactions with the non-Jewish world.  One travel mate said it didn’t affect his life at all because he never tells anyone that he’s Jewish. ‘Why not?’ I asked. He replied, ‘Because Judaism’s not exactly the coolest religion, right?  I mean it’s kinda dorky’.”

“I felt simultaneously confused, exasperated, disappointed, and motivated to do something,” Stephen said. The result was his co-founding of Gather the Jews (GTJ) in the Washington, D.C. area, where Stephen currently serves as President.

The link between this incident during his trip and the founding of GTJ was not 100 percent direct; after all, nearly 30 months separated the two.  But as Stephen notes, “GTJ is supposed to address what my fellow Birthright traveler felt – by encouraging young professional Jews to connect to Judaism in nearly any way or their own original way, GTJ promotes a Judaism that is young, cool, forceful, active, and robust.”

To read the full article, on the Jewish Policy Center blog, click here.