Purim, which is celebrated this month, is a Jewish holiday where one is commanded to “eat, drink, and be merry.” During the holiday, Jewish people observe the mitzvah of reading the Scroll of Esther (the Megillah) and using noisemakers to drown out the name of Haman (the evil vizier).
One of the traditional foods of Purim is a pastry called a hamantaschen. The three corners, depending upon custom, are either for Haman’s pockets, Haman’s ears, or Haman’s hat. Below are the top five hamantaschen flavors, in my opinion with links so you can make them yourself:
1. Rainbow/Tie Dyed hamentaschen: Purim is a noisy, happy celebration - so these tie dyed hamataschen fit right in! They are not quite rainbow – but more like marbled with rainbow colors, so my kids describe them as “tie dyed,” rather than simply rainbow (but you can call them either)!
2. Coconut Cheesecake Hamentaschen I love these because the filling is creamy, with a hint of coconut inside, and the perfect amount of toasted coconut on top.
3. Cannoli Hamantaschen: There is something about a sweet, creamy cannoli filling, rich chocolate chips, and crunchy shell has always been the trifecta of what a dessert should be. So why not put that delicious filling into an iconic Jewish pastry–hamantaschen!
4. Red Velvet Hamentaschen: Anyone who knows me knows that I love red velvet anything. And, hamentaschen is no exception! These are red chocolatey cookies feature a cream cheese filling and chocolate drizzle- YUM!
5. Cheddar Biscuit Hamentaschen: For those who like savory hamentaschen and cheesy deliciousness, these contain flaky buttermilk biscuits, mashed potatoes with broccoli, and lots of cheddar cheese!
If you like Hamentaschen and everything else about Purim, join Growing Jewish Families this Sunday for an exciting Purim celebration that will be fun for the whole family!
Purim — It’s a Laugh
Sunday, March 6, 3pm–5pm
Location: Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, 8900 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax, VA
There will be:
• Take and Bake — make your own hamantaschen (triangle cookies) with Lauren Katz, the winner of ABC’s Great Holiday Baking Show!
• Experience The Great Zucchini; no one makes preschoolers laugh as much as he! Voted Best Children’s Entertainer by the readers of Arlington Magazine
• Dress children in their favorite costume for the Purim Parade
• Mishloach Manot (food gifts) Mitzvah (good deed) — help make bags for the hungry
• Crafts for all ages even your newborn
Fee: $5 per person; Adults and children 2+ (including snack); FREE Children under 2 Register online at: JCCNV.org, code#7343; or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2506048
A traditional Jewish wedding is full of meaningful rituals, symbolizing the beauty of the relationship of husband and wife, as well as their obligations to each other and to the Jewish people.
Albeit, a while ago, I had a traditional Jewish wedding, so I can tell you a little bit about what to expect (with help from Aish.com):
1. The Wedding Day: This is the happiest and holiest day of one’s life. On this day, the chatan (hebrew for groom) and kallah (bride) forgive past mistakes as they merge into a new, complete soul.
2. Badeken: The Ashkenazi custom is that the chatan, accompanied by family and friends, proceeds to where the kallah is seated and places the veil over her face. This signals the groom's commitment to clothe and protect his wife.
3. Chuppah: The wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah (canopy), a symbol of the home that the new couple will build together. It is open on all sides, just as Abraham and Sarah had their tent open all sides to welcome people in unconditional hospitality.
4. Circling the groom: Under the chuppah, the Ashkenazi custom is that the kallah circles the chatan seven times. Just as the world was built in seven days, the kallah is figuratively building the walls of the couple's new world together. The number seven also symbolizes the wholeness and completeness that they cannot attain separately.
5. Blessings of betrothal: Two cups of wine are used in the wedding ceremony. The first cup accompanies the blessings, recited by the rabbi. After these are recited, the couple drinks from the cup.
6. Giving of the ring: In Jewish law, a marriage becomes official when the chatan gives an object of value to the kallah (and of course, I gave him a ring too!). This is traditionally done with a ring. The ring should be made of plain gold, without blemishes or ornamentation (e.g. stones) ― just as it is hoped that the marriage will be one of simple beauty.
7. Ketubah (Marriage Contract): The ketubah outlines the chatan's various responsibilities ― to provide his wife with food, shelter and clothing, and to be attentive to her emotional needs. Protecting the rights of a Jewish wife is so important that the marriage may not be solemnized until the contract has been completed. The document is signed by two witnesses, and has the standing of a legally binding agreement. The ketubah is the property of the kallah and she must have access to it throughout their marriage (Ours is hanging in the living room!). It is often written amidst beautiful artwork, to be framed and displayed in the home.
8. Breaking the Glass: A glass is placed on the floor, and the chatan shatters it with his foot. This serves as an expression of sadness at the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and identifies the couple with the spiritual and national destiny of the Jewish people. This marks the conclusion of the ceremony. With shouts of "Mazel Tov," the chatan and kallah are then given an enthusiastic reception from the guests as they leave the chuppah together.
If you have a simcha, such as a wedding or a bar mitzvah coming up, we wish you mazel tov! As you probably know, a lot goes into planning such occasions. Let us help you this Sunday at our Simcha Expo, from 12-4 at the J! This one-stop shopping expo will feature invitations, DJs, party favors, caterers, photographers, venues, decorations and much much more… we’ll have it all! For more on the Simcha Expo experience, please read our previous blog post on the subject.
With our "Jews and Jazz with the Roy Assaf Trio" event coming up on Saturday night, it's a great time to look at the Jewish origins of what many of us believe is America's greatest single musical innovation - jazz.
It is widely believed that jazz originated in New Orleans in the late 19th century. What many of us don't know is that during that time, Jewish immigrants from Europe mixed in New York and Chicago with black immigrants from the Deep South to write songs and create unique sounds, blending urban jazz and klezmer riffs with gospel harmonies and African rhythms.
A couple of decades later, Jewish singer and entertainer, Al Jolson, popularized jazz and was best remembered as the star of The Jazz Singer (1927), the first full-length 'talkie' movie (movie with sound), which tells a fictional story about a cantor's son who becomes a jazz singer. Classically trained and musically innovative, Benny Goodman, was also one of the first major white musicians to play openly with black colleagues during the swing period. George Gershwin also incorporated jazz motifs in compositions like ‘American in Paris’ and ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. His brother Ira continued with the Tin Pan Alley tradition. Several Jews were also modern pioneers, such as saxophonist Kenny G, the Brecker brothers, saxophonist Herb Geller, Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin, pianist Stu Katz, and even Jewish rock stars with a jazz background, such as Billy Joel.
Join us on Saturday Night!
As performers, producers and educators, Jews remain deeply involved with jazz. To see for yourself, we hope you'll join us this Saturday for "Jews and Jazz with the Roy Assaf Trio." In their performance, award winning Israeli jazz pianist, Roy Assaf, drummer Jake Goldbas, and bassist Ravi Markovitz, deliver fresh color to the world of music. In the past, they have performed at venues such as The Blue Note and the Rubin Museum of Art, and recently toured to the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Finland. No matter what song or style they play, there are always elements of melody, emotions and groove in their music. Learn more and buy your tickets here.
Last year, we were two years away from my son's bar mitzvah. We just received his date, and as someone who plans in advance, I wanted to see what's out there (since Bar Mitzvahs now are much different then they were in the 80's!) My family decided to attend the Simcha Expo at the J, and will be doing so again this year! I highly recommend it to anyone who has a wedding, b'nai mitzvah, bris, sweet 16, or any occasion in the near or distant future, for the following reasons:
So, what's not to love?! Now that my son's bar mitzvah is next year, things are getting serious! So, hopefully, I will see you at the Simcha Expo this year on February 28 from noon–4pm at the J. If you attended in the past, please indicate in the comments some of your best takeaways! Thanks in advance and mazel tov on your upcoming simcha!
"People with disabilities live in our neighborhoods, go to school with our children, shop at our stores, but too often, we don't know them. We notice their presence, of course, but we don't always consider how to accommodate their needs so that they can participate fully in Jewish life. We too often don't look at our institutions of Jewish life and ask whether these places and the programming they provide are accessible to everyone."- William Daroff, in Washington Jewish Week
This week marks the start of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), a time when the American Jewish community comes together to raise awareness about disabilities and to promote support efforts. The goal of JDAIM is to provide meaningful inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities and their families in Jewish life.
JDAIM started seven years ago, when the Jewish Special Education International Consortium decided to encourage inclusion programming to raise awareness in one single month in our own communities. It has grown to include individual organizations, Jewish communities, organizations and the movements. JDAIM is meant to be a call to action, challenging us to go beyond awareness to action all months out of the year.
According to J Connect, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, "an inclusive community is a stronger community." Jewish people with disabilities and their families have needs that are universal to all families and should be included in all aspects of the Jewish communal life. To advance this ideal of disability inclusion requires the active involvement of those already involved and those outside the disability community.
At the J, we are committed to helping those with special needs through activities designed to develop physical and social skills for especially for them. The program features small participant-staff ratios and offerings such as adapted aquatics, social groups, family events and recreational social skills classes. As a result of the increased demand and support by the community, we are excited to grow the program this year. Learn more about special needs at the J, our special needs camps, and about our upcoming Reelabilities Film Festival in September! Also, learn how you can get involved and be part of our Special Needs Committee!
Many of us view snow days as an unexpected gift. Suddenly, for no reason you get a WHOLE DAY off! But after six days in the house, including the weekend, many of us start to go a little stir crazy!
As adults, we have to do our best to let go of anxiety about all the things we're “supposed” to be getting done and enjoy these special days to connect with our kids. With a little thought and inspiration, you can use snow days to build special memories!
To get you started on your own snow day fun, here are 25 fun things to do:
1. Stay in your PJ’s all day.
2. Make homemade play dough.
3. Build a snow fort.
4. Too cold outside? Build an indoor fort out of old boxes & sofa cushions.
5. Build a tent with a sheet.
6. Watch old musicals like “Singing In the Rain.”
7. Have an indoor picnic.
8. Make challah. For extra fun, let the kids “sculpt” with the dough — their creations can be baked & eaten.
9. Bake cookies or brownies.
10. Make snow cones and use coloring/flavors to try new varieties. Remember, to avoid yellow snow. yuck!
11. Curl up on the couch with a hot cup of tea (or hot chocolate) and read a good book. Or two. Or three. (My kids probably won't let me do this. Not sure about yours?)
12. Make homemade soft pretzels, like from the mall.
13. Write letters to Grandma or to your congressman.
14. Play board games. Maybe have a tournament.
15. Play card games. Teach your kids how to play Go Fish or Crazy 8s, or another fun game you played growing up.
16. Do snow art. Paint and sculpt in the snow! Post your creations for us to see on Facebook!
17. Play video or computer games.
18. Make a torn paper mosaic.
19. Feed you bird friends by stringing popcorn to hang on a tree or making a pine cone birdfeeder.
20. Let the kids choose the dinner menu and have them help you cook.
21. Have a pretend fashion shoot.
22. Have a snowball fight!!!
23. Make a snowman.
24. Make snow angels.
25. Go snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
So, what are some of YOUR favorite ideas for fun things to do on a snow day with kids? Please share them with us in the comments or on Facebook. Hope you have fun and safe snow days with your children (however many more there end up being this week!) We look forward to seeing you at the J soon!
Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day became a federal holiday in 1986, making 2016 its 30th anniversary! For many, MLK Day means a welcome break from work. For Jewish people, there are hundreds of questions to be asked about the intersection of Judaism with King’s work and legacy, and his support of Israel.
MLK had expressed support for Israel throughout his life, believing that that the history of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust made it a moral cause worth defending. According to King, "Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality."
In fact, in 1967, on the eve of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, King lent his name to an open letter published in The New York Times urging U.S. support for Israel. But, according to experts, King privately rued the decision, worrying that Israel might itself become the aggressor.
Despite King's changing views, according to Clayborne Carson, a leading King historian at Stanford, “I think he was for the Zionist project as he understood it.” And, today, Israel’s more ardent Jewish supporters are more likely to quote a pro-Israel statement King made months after the Six-Day War ended. In fact, in a letter written to Morris Abram, president of the American Jewish Committee and a longtime King supporter, King wrote that “Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable.”
In addition to MLK's support of Israel, he preached "repairing the world," which aligns with the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam. He also brought people from diverse backgrounds together to discuss questions of racial justice and equality, as Shabbat dinners “open up a space for respectful, passionate, and structured conversations about racial injustice in America and beyond.”
In recognition of MLK day, the Maccabeats teamed up with Naturally 7, an African American a cappella group, to produce a touching cover of James Taylor’s “Shed a Little Light” for this Martin Luther King day. The music video, which sees the two groups on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where MLK delivered his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” and in front of the relatively new MLK Memorial, is a hopeful, joyful reminder of the historic collaboration between African Americans and Jews. Check it out here.
Whatever you're doing to celebrate MLK day, hope you enjoy a peaceful day with loved ones.
Are you a new or expecting parent raising Jewish children in Northern Virginia? If so, a j.family ambassador could be the person you are looking for to make connections with other families to chat about local Jewish family programming, the experience of becoming a parent, available resources, and more.
The j.family ambassadors program began when The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington awarded a two-year grant to the JCCNV. This initiative, to make connections — one family at a time — gave the J the opportunity to hire five part-time “ambassadors” who are each assigned to a “zone” around Northern Virginia. Once relationships begin to form, the j.family ambassadors program will help families become part of the larger community through the J’s very popular Growing Jewish Families network which provides ongoing programs and activities for families with young children up to 8 years old.
The j.family ambassadors include:
For a bio of each of the j.family ambassadors, please click here.
How were the j.family ambassadors selected? According to Eliza Berkon, j.family ambassador and community engagement coordinator, "We have chosen ambassadors who have warm and welcoming personalities and who are eager to provide the support needed by the families to make connections to the Jewish community.”
Laurie Albert, the J’s community engagement director, said that she is excited about the initiative that builds and fosters relationships between individuals, families, and the community. This program, and the J’s Growing Jewish Families program, help fulfill the J’s strategic plan to meet people where they are both within and beyond the walls of the JCC.
Ready to sign up? Our j.family ambassadors are here for you. Whether delivering j.baby goody bags, chatting over coffee, or joining you at a playdate, j.family ambassadors are terrific new-parent neighborhood resources. Click here to sign up, and you will receive:
The j.family ambassadors program is made possible thanks to the generous support of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
For more information about the j.family ambassador program, please visit the New Parents page on our website and read the article about the program in Washington Jewish Week.
As part of our new years resolutions, many of us set goals to get fit or lose weight. Since the holidays are over and 2016 is here, now is the time to begin the journey to stick to these resolutions. But, with excuses like “it’s too much money” or “I don’t’ have the time” how can we motivate ourselves to do so?
Below are some helpful tips to stay on track:
• Set attainable goals: Some may not meet their expectations because the benchmark they set for themselves is not attainable. To be realistic, make sure your goals are measurable and specific.
• Stick with what you want to accomplish: Try something new, such as a fitness class or a new machine, so you can find the right fit for you. You may find something you didn't know was fun and exciting, which will keep you coming back.
• Work with a trainer: Working with a trainer is one of the best ways to stay motivated. They will tailor a program to your individual needs.
• Build it into your schedule: If you work out first thing in the morning, you're less likely to have other things pop up during the day that might interfere with exercising. Studies have shown people who work out first thing in the morning are more likely to stick with it. Pick a class and put it on your calendar
• Find a buddy to work out with: This will keep you both accountable! If you don't have one, attend group fitness classes. You'll get to know people and make new friends.
• Join a fitness community, like the J: You have a better chance of reaching your goals if you surround yourself with others who have similar goals.
The top things people typically say are important to them in their lives is the health of themselves and their family. Therefore, health and fitness is an investment, and it's certainly worth it. We hope to see you at the J in the new year!
January New Membership Special
Join the J in the month of January and you'll pay no registration fee and receive 10% off* your membership dues! Such a deal.
*Cannot have been a member in 2015. Not eligible for Teen, Au-pair, J-Friend, Kehilla, and Silver Sneakers Upgrade categories.
For Jewish people, Rosh Hashanah marks the new year. In September, we dipped apples in honey to celebrate 5776. Three months later, we dip chips in salsa to ring in the secular new year. Should we be participating in such customs since we already celebrated the Jewish new year?
According to Wikipedia, January 1st as New Years day has a clearly pagan origin, as follows:
The Romans dedicated this day to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings. The month of January was named after Janus, who had two faces, one looking forward and the other looking backward. This suggests that New Year’s celebrations are founded on pagan traditions. Some have suggested this occurred in 153 BC, when it was stipulated that the two annual consuls (after whose names the years were identified) entered into office on that day, though no consensus exists on the matter. Dates in March, coinciding with the spring equinox, or commemorating the Annunciation of Jesus, along with a variety of Christian feast dates were used throughout the Middle Ages, though calendars often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December.
However, according Rabbi Michael Broyde, a rabbi and law professor in Atlanta, the reality seems to have completely changed. New Year’s Day – like Valentine’s Day and unlike Christmas – seems to have completely lost its Christian overtones. According to Broyde, "In contemporary America, there is little religious content or expression to New Year’s Day." and "few would classify it as a religious holiday." In fact, he cites the following three reasons why it's okay to celebrate the secular New Year:
So, keep making those resolutions, kissing loved ones at the stroke of midnight, and dipping those chips! We, at the J, wish you and yours a happy and healthy secular new year! See you at the J (to keep the gym resolution :) in 2016!
Special Offer to Keep Your Fitness Resolution
Join the J in the month of January and you'll pay no registration fee and
receive 10% off your membership dues! Such a deal.
Cannot have been a member in 2015. Not eligible for Teen, Au-pair, J-Friend, Kehilla, and Silver Sneakers Upgrade categories.
Also, if you are already a member of the J, join us on Monday-Friday, January 4-8 for Members Matter Week: Come to the J all week for treats and giveaways. It's our way to say, "THANK YOU for your continued support and for being a part of our J family!"
The school's winter break can be an enjoyable time for families with young children, but it can also be a stressful time for some of us. With schedules and routines being disrupted and bedtimes being pushed back, it can be challenging for children (and parents) to survive the winter break in one piece. Here are some tips:
Sticking to routines: Kids love the much-needed break from school and everyday schedules, but, at the same time, it can be comforting to children to stick to some routines, if possible. If you have an event or a family gathering that forces your schedule to go completely off track, try to get routines back on course as soon as possible. For example, if you are out late for a function past your child’s bedtime, try to stick to quiet, calm activities the next day and get your child to bed on time the next night.
Keep kids busy: If you are traveling for an extended period of time during your child’s winter break, make sure to pack multiple activities for him or her to do, and plan for plenty of breaks. Fresh air and exercise can boost a child's mood and allow him or her to run around and play to get a much-needed break.
Avoid over-scheduling: As appealing as it may be to accept every invitation for social engagements for your family, particularly for your kids, try to limit holiday parties and activities so that you and your child are not overwhelmed. A couple of events over the holiday break may be completely fine, but having a commitment most days of the vacation can lead to extra stress and anxiety in children.
Keep an eye on your child's diet: Along with the change in your child’s normal routine, can come a change in your child’s healthy diet. Add in the extra sugary holiday foods and the lack of time to engage in family meals regularly, and it can be easy for kids to eat less healthy foods. Whenever possible, offer healthy snacks, especially when traveling, and try to limit the sweet stuff and extra treats.
Manage your own expectations: Give your kids the space to not be perfect, and appreciate the ways in which they find joy and contentment in the things that make them happy.
Family time and giving back: A great remedy for the stress that comes at this time of year is to spend some quality family time together and to give back in the community! Look for ways your family can help others in need through your synagogue or local charitable organizations.
Looking for something to do with the family on December 25? Come on down to J Fest, and enjoy spectacular fun, food, and entertainment! There is so much fun to be had at the J, including arcade games, moon bounces, and other inflatables. Plus, you can enjoy the magic of Benjamin Corey — a comedy magician/illusionist who also includes mentalism in his performances. Come have some delicious pizza from Ben Yehuda's, and bring new or gently used coats to donate for those less fortunate. Then, stay for Yentl, a classic movie starring Barbra Streisand. Find out more about J Fest/Yentl here. Hope to see you there!
What happens on December 25 and the days leading up to Christmas, if you are Jewish? Do you ignore Christmas altogether because it's not your holiday, go to a movie and eat Chinese food, or celebrate the holiday with non-Jewish friends or family? (Read the last paragraph for another really fun option!)
The weeks leading up to Christmas are a time when some American Jews feel conscious about not being part of the Christian majority. With all the lights on houses and in stores, holiday music playing, cookie baking, and parties, parents of young children often feel pressure to make Chanukah extra fun, which it undoubtedly can be. With Chanukah being over already, how can you teach your children to respect other people's holidays and traditions, even if you don't celebrate them yourself?
One of the most important Jewish values you can give your child is that we treat everyone with respect, no matter their religion. Reassure your children that we’re all made in G-d’s image — whatever g-d we believe in — and so we all deserve respect. This basic Jewish value is in style year-round, but can feel even more important during the holiday season.
So, what is your family doing on December 25? Come on down to J Fest, and enjoy spectacular fun, food, and entertainment! There is so much fun to be had at the J, including arcade games, moon bounces, and other inflatables. Plus, you can enjoy the magic of Benjamin Corey — a comedy magician/illusionist who also includes mentalism in his performances. Come have some delicious pizza from Ben Yehuda's, and bring new or gently used coats to donate for those less fortunate. Then, stay for Yentl, a classic movie starring Barbra Streisand. Find out more about J Fest/Yentl here. Hope to see you there!
Sunday night was the first night of Chanukah, an eight-night celebration commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and "rededication" of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Many families want to make the most of this fun holiday, but don't know where to start. On Monday, December 7, our very own Executive Director, Jeff Dannick, and Community Engagement Coordinator, Samantha (Sam) Brown, appeared on WJLA-TV (ABC) Good Morning Washington to discuss things to do with your family on Chanukah. Jeff educated viewers about a brief history of the holiday and how it centers around family. Sam talked about upcoming events in the community, demonstrated how to make a LEGO® menorah, and revealed the trick to spinning a dreidel. In their accompanying article, WJLA stated that "The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia is a great resource to take part in the celebrations and learn a little more about the holiday." We were so thrilled by this endorsement, and to have had the opportunity to appear on the show.
Jeff and Sam hope they provided families in the area with ideas for fun things to do on Chanukah. One of the things they mentioned is the upcoming Chanukah event, "Light Up the Night! Community Menorah Lighting at Mosaic," at Mosaic District on Sunday, 12/13, at 4 pm. Participants can see the lighting of the candles, sing songs, enjoy entertainment, eat sufganiyot (donuts), and spin the dreidel! We hope to see you there.
We wish the entire Jewish community a Happy Chanukah!
Chanukah (which means "dedication") is a joyous eight-day celebration during which the Jewish people commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E., and the subsequent liberation and "rededication" of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern celebration of Chanukah in the United States centers around the lighting of the menorah; foods prepared in oil including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); singing songs and playing dreidel (spinning top game).
Some Jewish people in other countries have their own customs and traditions to celebrate Chanukah. Here are 5 customs and ideas to help make your celebration just a little more global. (from My Jewish Learning):
1) Israel: There is a custom of placing your menorah in a place where people will be able to view the lights burning and appreciate the miracle of the holiday. In some neighborhoods, there are spaces cut into the sides of buildings so people can display them outside. In addition, from the early days of nation building in Israel, the orange came to be associated with the holiday of Chanukah, as the famed Jaffa oranges came into season in time for the holiday celebrations.
2) France: In Alsace, double-decker Chanukah menorahs are common with space for 16 lights. The two levels, each with spots for 8 lights, allowed fathers and sons to join together as they each lit their own lights in one single menorah.
3) Morroco and Algeria, and even some communities in India: Some Jewish people hang a menorah on a hook on a wall near the doorway on the side of the door across from the mezuzah. In addition, in Morocco, the rich culinary traditions of the Jewish community knows not of potato latkes or jelly doughnuts. Rather they favor the citrusy flavors of the Sfenj doughnut, which is made with the juice, and the zest of an orange.
4) In Yemenite and North African Jewish communities, the seventh night of Chanukah is set aside as a particular women’s holiday commemorating Hannah, who made sacrifices rather than give in to the Greek pressure to abandon Jewish practice. The day also honors Judith, whose seduction and assassination of Holofernes, the Assyrian emperor Nebuchadnezzar’s top general, led to Jewish military victory.
5) In Santa Marta, Colombia, Chavurah Shirat Hayyam (a Jewish community) has started their own traditional Chanukah recipe: instead of eating fried potato latkes, they eat patacones, or fried plantains.
No matter how your family celebrates, we at the J hope you have a Happy Chanukah!
Come Celebrate Chanukah With Us
Our Chanukah Lights and Lego Party is this Sunday, December 6, 2015, at Gesher Jewish Day School. Bring your family and join us for an afternoon of exciting Chanukah fun!
Highlights include spin art with dreidels and other cool crafts, latke (potato pancake) bar with 8 toppings, music, dancing, and singing for all ages, and more. For an additional fee, children who are age 6 and up can build their own Lego® menorah and dreidel to take home (MUST RSVP in advance).
To register visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/, or call the J at 703.323.0880 and our staff will be happy to assist you. This event is in partnership with the JCCNV’s Growing Jewish Family, Gesher Jewish Day School and PJ Library®
Picture from delish.com
With Thanksgiving being this week and Chanukah following shortly after, it's that time of year when extra calories lurk around every corner. What happens when co-workers bake cookies and bring them to the office, your neighbor invites you over for eggnog, or you find yourself snacking on the Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins) you bought for playing dreidel (a spinning top)? All these extras add up, and if you're like most Americans, you'll put on a pound or two by New Year's Day.
So what's the harm in a little holiday weight gain, especially if it's just a pound? According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most Americans don’t lose the weight they gain during the winter holidays. The pounds add up year after year, making holiday weight gain an important factor in adult obesity.
But you don't have to fall into this trap. It is possible to enjoy holiday goodies without putting on a single pound. Below are tips to help you avoid overindulging (from WebMD):
1. Never arrive hungry: Don't go to a party when you're starving. Try to have a nutritious snack beforehand. If you do arrive hungry, drink some water to fill up before filling your plate.
2. There's more to a holiday party than food: Don't look at a holiday party as just a food event. Enjoy your friends' company, and take your mind off of food and focus on the conversation.
3. Pace yourself: Putting your fork down between every bite gives you more control and enables you to pace yourself when you are eating.
4. Outsmart the buffet: When dinner is served buffet-style, use the smallest plate available and don't stack your food. Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables and watch out for sauces, dressings, and dips.
6. Limit alcohol: Avoid drinking too much alcohol at holiday parties. It's not just about calories but about control. Remember, if you drink a lot, you won't have as much control over what you eat.
7. Be choosy about sweets: When it comes to dessert, limit your indulgences to small portions and only on the things you truly love (like chocolate, for instance!) If you know you're the type who can't stop at one bite, you're better off taking a small portion of a single dessert than piling your plate with several treats you plan to "try."
8. Bring your own treats: Whether you're going to a friend's party or an office potluck, consider bringing a low-calorie treat that you know you'll enjoy. Bringing your own dessert will make the more fattening alternatives less tempting.
9. Limit 'tastes' while cooking: If you do a lot of cooking during the holidays, crack down on all those "tastes." Instead of tasting mindlessly every few minutes, limit yourself to two small bites of each item pre- and post-seasoning.
Walk It Off
Come to the J and walk off the calories. Walking not only benefits you physically but also puts you in a mindset to be more careful about what you eat. There's something about activity that puts you in control!
P.S. If you haven't been a member of the J in 2015, you can take advantage of our RED HOT BLACK FRIDAY SPECIAL (only on Friday, November 27). Waive the registration fee and take 50% off. Call 703.323.0880 for details!
Image source: unitedwithisrael.org
Many of us have fond memories of time spent with family, indulging in turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and whatever else has earned a place on our family's Thanksgiving dinner table. As decades have passed, Thanksgiving has retained less of its original English Pilgrim origins and most American Jewish people have absorbed the holiday into their own traditions. We know Thanksgiving is an American holiday, but is it also a Jewish holiday?
Some rabbis argue that, yes, it can be! Setting aside the feasting and football, we discover that there is a way to bring Judaism into our observance of this traditional American holiday. How?
Even Jewish Americans living in Israel get together to celebrate Thanksgiving, often ordering turkeys months in advance and going out of their way to find American staples like canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin.
For more details on the chronological history of Thanksgiving and the Jewish people, please read our previous post on the subject. At the J, we wish our entire community a Happy Thanksgiving! We also would like to take this time to express our gratitude to all of our members, supporters, Board, and staff.
Graphic from Aish.com.
To many American Jewish parents, Halloween is viewed as a secular holiday, no different than Thanksgiving or July 4th. However, many rabbis and educators have challenged Jewish participation in Halloween activities, due to it's pagan origins. Whether or not you decide to celebrate Halloween with your family comes down to what feels right for you.
Here’s some background on the different Jewish approaches to Halloween:
To understand why traditional Jewish law might forbid the celebration of Halloween, we must look at the history of the holiday. Halloween originated with the ancient Celts and their celebration of the pagan festival, Samhain, as the harvest season ended. When the Romans conquered Britain, they added the worship of Pomona, the "goddess of fruits and trees," to the holiday. In Judaism, idol worship is one of the three worst sins. On the basis of this, and the belief that there are no real reasons for a child to dress up and collect candy on this specific day of the year, most traditional rabbis argue that trick-or-treating is best avoided.
For most children, free candy and dressing up with friends are reasons why a person would celebrate Halloween. This may be why many Jewish families still decide to partake in trick-or-treating and parties on October 31. Those who think that Jewish children can go trick or treating have no problem separating Halloween’s origins from what it has become–an American holiday of collecting candy and dressing up.
Should Jewish Children Go Trick-or-Treating, or Not?
There will always be those who view Halloween as a pagan holiday that should hold no place in a Jewish home, and others who view the holiday as a secular tradition that children can enjoy. As with most parenting choices, you must decide for yourself how you view the holiday, and how you would like your family to celebrate, if at all.
Whether or not you choose to celebrate, we hope you have fun and safe weekend!
With violent clashes on the rise in Israel, many Americans who support Israel are feeling frustrated and helpless. Why? We want to do something to show our support for our Jewish sisters and brothers in our Israeli homeland, but don't feel like we have much influence.
Many are unaware that, yes, we can help and show our support. While we may not be able to stop the violence, we can still take action to lift Israel's spirits and help it contend with an increasingly uncertain situation. And, even if our actions do not appear to influence the overall outcome of events, at the very least, we can offer our support.
Below are 18 ways we can make a difference (adapted from Aish.com):
While Israel is surrounded by countries and organizations committed to her destruction, we hope you will show support and stand by Israel, as we do at the J!
Upcoming Event: "Israel- Let’s talk about it."
Our shlicha, Na'ama Gold, is hosting an event on Friday, October 23 and Sunday, October 25, titled, "Israel- Let’s talk about it."
Description: You see that something is going on in Israel but don't understand what? You feel like you want to talk about it, but don't know where or with whom? Let's talk.
Friday, October 23rd, 10:15-11:15 AM
Sunday, October 25th, 7:30- 8:30 PM
Open to everyone who wishes to know more. Click here to register.
The Maccabeats aren’t your grandfather’s synagogue choir, but according to them, their ideology and identity play an important part in what they do.
Originally formed in 2007 as Yeshiva University’s student vocal group, the Maccabeats have since emerged as both Jewish music and a cappella phenomena, with a large fan base, more than 20 million views on their YouTube channel, numerous TV appearances (including The Today Show), a visit to the White House to croon for President Obama, and proven success with three albums, 2010′s Voices From The Heights, 2012′s Out Of The Box and 2014′s One Day More.
Many of the Maccabeats got their musical starts at the Shabbat table and shul, places where they still perform. The Maccabeats have emerged as both Jewish music and a cappella phenomena. They perform an eclectic array of Jewish, American, and Israeli songs. They have played sold-out shows to thousands at JCCs, temples, synagogues, shuls, Chabads, Hillels, jazz clubs, festivals, conventions, and theaters across five continents and over thirty states and provinces.
The Maccabeats were such a hit last time they came to the J that we brought them back for two more shows! Lucky for us, they will be back at the J on Sunday, October 18, for two performances at 1:30pm and 4pm! It's not too late. Find out more and buy your tickets today!
Yom Kippur is the day when Jewish people atone for the sins we have committed over the past year. Jewish tradition believes that, on this day, G-d places a seal upon the "book of life," affecting each person for the coming year. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and lasts through Wednesday, Sept. 23.
So, why do Jewish people fast on this holy day? Fasting is an opportunity for each of us to observe Yom Kippur in a most personal way. As we seek reconciliation with G-d and humanity, fasting touches the biological, as well as the spiritual, aspects of our being.
Why else do we fast? (from Our Jewish Learning)
So, what do you say when you see someone who is observing Yom Kippur, since "Happy Yom Kippur" doesn't seem appropriate. You can say, “Have an easy fast” or “May you be inscribed for a good year." It’s also acceptable to say “shana tova” (happy new year). With that, we hope everyone who celebrate has an easy fast, and that EVERYONE is inscribed for a good year!
In observance of Yom Kippur, the J will be closing at 3pm on Tuesday and will be closed all day Wednesday.
Rosh Hashanah (or the anniversary of the creation of the world) is a time when Jewish people reflect on their actions and try to make amends with each other and G-d. It is the most famous of the Jewish new years celebrations, but what many don't realize is that it is one of four times we celebrate the Jewish New Year throughout the year.
In ancient times, as the body of Jewish law was developed, the Jewish calendar served to demarcate both holiday observances and numerous time-bound obligations. To ensure that certain commandments were completed at their appointed times, four different Jewish new years were established to provide boundaries and markers for these activities. Below is a brief description of each (research from National Jewish Outreach Program (now NJOP)):
Whether you celebrate New Years once a year on Rosh Hashana, only on the secular new year, or all four times, as described, we wish everyone a happy and healthy year!
Since 2006, we have been fortunate to host six creative and passionate shlichim, who connected Israel to our community by spearheading programs, leading meaningful discussions, and engaging with local synagogues.
This year, we are thrilled to welcome Na'ama Gold, who will continue the important work of our shlichim by working at the J, with area synagogues, Jewish agencies/organizations, and at other locations throughout Northern Virginia.
Na'ama was born in a little town named Arad, located near the Dead Sea in South Israel. She served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as an officer in the field intelligence unit. After three years in the IDF, she studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in a multi-disciplinary BA program called PPE (political science, philosophy, and economics). Along with her studies, she also worked as a guide in the Knesset and the Israeli Supreme Court.
Na'ama has a deep connection to the American Jewish community. In fact, she participated in a delegation to the US from "Partnership 2000," was a counselor for Camp Ramah, and took part in a yearly internship of diplomacy with the Israeli-American Organization, "Stand With Us." In her free time, she loves to dance, sing, and travel, and is getting married this month!
Na'ama is excited to share her passion for Israel with our community. Please join us in welcoming Na'ama to Northern Virginia later this month! Learn more about our JCCNV-JAFI Shiri Rahamim Shlichut Program here.
Like all big transitions in life, the start of a new school year can be scary for kids — and for parents too! How can parents help their kids cope, while keeping their own anxieties in check?
Have no fear! Below is some advice on how to minimize back-to-school jitters:
1. Discuss with your kids what to expect: Allow your child to express what they're afraid of, and make sure to follow-up with validating statements such as, 'I know that must feel so scary. When I was a kid, I felt that way, too.' If they don't open up, try asking, 'How are you feeling about going to school?' but avoid leading questions like, 'Are you nervous about going to school?'"
2. Try a dry run with role-playing: Act out what's going to happen on the first day by driving/walking the route you'll take in the morning and taking turns role playing as the teacher, the child, and even a new friend. This is a great tool to teach empathy as well!
3. Prepare kids for what the morning routine will be like: If your summer mornings were lazy and unstructured, being rushed to get dressed, eat and being shoved out the door might be an unpleasant shock to your child's system. Run through the morning routine and go to sleep/wake up earlier to get your child ready these last couple of weeks of summer.
4. Teach your child how to make friends fast: Give your child topics of conversation when meeting someone for the first time, such as asking others the best thing they did all summer. Also, suggest that by saying hello first, they will bring relief to other kids who are anxious like they are.
5. Open up with your kids about your own experiences: Share a story of your childhood of a time when you did something that was hard to do, but was worth the nervousness.
6. Get things ready the night before: Make sure the backpacks are packed with whatever they're supposed to be packed with, that lunches are made and in the fridge, and that school clothes are laid out the night before.
7. On the first day of school, say a quick goodbye: As tempting as it is to give a few extra hugs, or chat with the other moms in the class, try to keep the goodbyes as quick as possible. Lingering can send mixed messages to your son/daughter, and you want them to feel your confidence, not your hesitation.
8. Parents, it really is OK to cry: It's amazing to see our children grow up — it's what our job is all about. My one piece of advice to parents after sending my own daughter to kindergarten last year: Stock up on the good tissues.
More than anything, let your child know they can talk to you about anything that's bothering them. Provide them with extra encouragement and a kiss and a hug that first morning of back to school. Tell them you can't wait to hear about their first day back and that anyone would love to have them as their friend.
Looking for a warm environment for a preschool-aged or school-aged child? Limited spaces are still available for our Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) or our Before-and-After-School Enrichment Program (BASE) program! Good luck on the first day of school!
It is incredible how much of an impact theater and the arts has on families with children. In fact, getting kids involved in the arts not only makes them more well-rounded individuals, it also helps them do better in the classroom.
According to "Growing Up in the Valley," a family magazine in Roanoke, VA, students who attend performances and study the arts, including dance, are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, and three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance. This is why exposure to the arts and music is mandatory in countries ranking consistently among the highest for math and science test scores, like Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands. And, experiencing the arts isn't only good for a child's learning skills, but also his or her social skills, creativity and self-esteem.
Below are some tips for attending performances with children:
At the J, we recently released our cultural arts schedule for the fall, and it includes several great performances for the entire family, such as the Maccabeats! It also includes programs for adults, so mark your calendars and schedule your babysitter (if needed!) In addition to our shows, another great way to get children involved in the arts is by signing them up for j.dance classes. Learn more about our dance classes here!
Teens from Northern Virginia are among 1,500 participants, ages 12-17, from all over the world, who are competing in this week's annual JCC Maccabi Games® This past weekend, teens from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Israel, Australia and Poland kicked off the event before 8,000 spectators, during the opening ceremonies held at the BB&T Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Olympic-style competition offers sports, including baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, tennis, lacrosse and more. The JCC Maccabi Artsfest® portion offers acting/improv, culinary, dance, visual arts, vocal music and more.
Since it's inception, the event has come a long way. It was created in 1982 and featured 300 athletes from 21 North American delegations and one foreign delegation. Fast forward 27 years, and the games are attended by 4,000 to 5,000 Jewish athletes from around the world and held in multiple sites around the country. Asked how the games evolved from 300 athletes to the thousands that compete today, organizers attributed the success to “positive word of mouth” and the extraordinary “hospitality of the host families.”
"What makes the Maccabi games special is that unlike other sports tournaments, there is a common bond between athletes [other than playing the same sport], and that is their heritage. During the game, you want to win, but the difference is that after the game there is this connection,” said 16-year-old Sam Elias, a baseball player participating the event. “There aren’t many Jewish athletes in professional sports, so it’s special to get to play with so many and against so many. You don’t get that too often.”
According to the organizers, the JCC Maccabi Games® "offer much more than sports competitions for Jewish teens. The Games are an exceptional experience that provide Jewish youth with a supportive environment that fosters mutual respect and sportsmanship, where they can interact in an atmosphere of fun, democracy, and peace, all while developing an appreciation of Jewish values."
Are you an athlete who is participating in the 2015 event? If so, please comment to this post and let us know about your experience! Want to train for the 2016 JCC Maccabi Games® or simply participate in some of the activities it features? Come to the J and check out the sports and arts offerings here. We offer a variety of sports, aquatics, and dance to help you learn and hone your skills!
Picture from Haaretz.com
Guess what? For the 3rd time, Israel is among the happiest places in the world. The 11th to be exact. You can understand the Netherlands and Australia making the list. But with war, terrorism, international condemnation, mandatory army service, high taxes, etc., what could Israelis have to be so happy about? A lot!
So what is it that makes Israelis so happy? (from Kveller.com)
Want to learn more about Israel. You will have an opportunity to do so throughout the year when our new shlicha, Na'ama Gold, arrives! Our community shlichim educate and increase awareness, knowledge and pride about Israel’s history, culture and current events, and to promote a better understanding of Israel and its ideals. The program also serves as a catalyst for igniting Jewish journeys, encouraging people to learn more about Judaism and Israel, and finding their own way to connect to the Jewish homeland. Learn more here.
The dog days of summer are upon us. For a short number of weeks, we enjoy hot days, warm nights, splashes around the pool, and the children home on summer break.
During the sizzle of summer, the last thing many of us are thinking about is exercising and healthy eating. However, summer is actually a wonderful time to enjoy fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs available from farmers markets and backyard gardens, and to exercise (outside with lots of water, or in the AC!). These summer health tips will make yours a happy and healthy season!
Engaging in at least 30-60 minutes of exercise daily is recommended for everyone. The list of health benefits to be gained from regular daily exercise is as long as the list of activities available at the J, so come by, take some classes, work out in our gym or swim laps in the pool, and have some fun.
In addition, each month the Health, Fitness & Aquatics department creates a special “Shabbat Workout” to engage the mind, body, and spirit. Be sure to check out these videos, on topics including posture, breathing techniques, setting goals, staying hydrated, and more, for some great tips for the summer and all year long!
Do you enjoy riding a bicycle? If so, you probably know that cycling has all sorts of health benefits, such as engaging your legs while being easy on the joints, and providing a sense of freedom and enjoyment. If you still need convincing or are unaware of all the benefits of biking, here’s a list of reasons to hop on your bike:
For all experienced bikers out there, we hope to see you at the Northern Virginia Cycle Fest, an annual community ride that is open to all riders, 12 and over, who are comfortable riding on roads with traffic. Set in October, the ride enjoys the fall temperatures and scenery through Molon Lave Vineyards, in Warrenton. Learn more here.
Do you have a teenager who spends most of the day texting on their phone, lounging in front of the television, playing video games, or posting messages on social media? If so, you are not alone. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, only about a half of boys and one-third of girls, ages 12 to 15, have sufficient levels of exercise. This is down dramatically from just ten years ago. How do we inspire our teens to add more physical activity to their daily lives?
Below are some tips from WebMD to help get teens up and moving:
1. Start small: Teens who aren't used to exercising may only be willing to tolerate a little physical activity before wanting to quit. So, it is a good idea to start with small steps, such as a 10-minute walk every day after school. Add a minute more of walking each time, and have your teen track their progress.
2. Limit screen time: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of watching TV or playing video or computer games. So work together to set house rules on screen time. If your family doesn’t want to limit screen time, challenge your teen during commercials. See who can do the most push-ups, sit-ups, or leg lifts!
3. Be a good role model: If your teen is reluctant to exercise, he or she will notice if you do. Routinely do crunches or other exercises in front of them. Show your teen you are dedicated to your workout regimen, and he or she will hopefully follow suit.
4. Make workouts enjoyable: The best exercise program is the one your teen actually enjoys. Does he or she like nature and animals? Then, check out local outdoor clubs or organizations that sponsor hikes. Does he or she enjoy martial arts, dancing, or gymnastics. If so, look for classes that would be of interest. Also, be sure to check out our fitness classes at the J!
5. Encourage participation in sports: If your teen enjoys watching sports, he or she may enjoy playing them just as much. Overweight teens may benefit from joining a sports team that is grouped by skill instead of age. If your teen dislikes or is uncomfortable with the idea of competitive sports, encourage a sport such as cycling or running.
6. Consider Weight Training: Strength training, or resistance training, may be a good activity for teens who are not yet used to aerobic exercise. Call us today to make an appointment with one of our personal trainers!
The J’s Personal Training program provides clients (preteen and up) with the motivation and direction they need to achieve their health and fitness goals! After an initial evaluation to establish baseline health and fitness level, we design a program to meet your individual needs — whether that’s weight loss, recovering from an injury or surgery, cardiovascular fitness, strength training, or just general health and fitness. Learn more here. Click here to find out more about our group fitness classes.