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.
I wonder if you know that Scotland has been home to a dynamic Jewish community for 400 years. Or, that there was such a thing as a Jewish Kilt or Kosher Haggis. Below are some interesting tidbits about the long Jewish history in Scotland (from Aish.com):
Despite its proud history and vibrant community, the Jews of Scotland have felt more insecure in recent years. Many younger Jews have left; the community is now estimated at 7,000-8,000, with most Scottish Jews living in Glasgow. In August 2014, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities called on national bodies to recognize growing levels of anti-Semitism in the country.
Want to learn Scottish-Jewish culture? This month, in our Bodzin Gallery, check out our newest exhibit: "Scots Jews: Identity, Belonging and the Future” produced by Michael Mail and sponsored by David Bruce Smith. Read more about the exhibit, containing photography by Judah Passow, art glass by Varda Avnisan, and pottery by Susan Fox-Hirschmann.
When we think of July 4th in the U.S., we typically think of food, friends, and fireworks. Many of us don't know that every 10 to 20 years, July 4 is also a Jewish holiday and a fast day.
This year, Independence Day falls on a Saturday, which is coincidently the 17th of Tammuz and Shabbat. For observant Jewish people, the 17th of Tammuz is a fast day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans that led to the destruction of the Second Temple. The observance falls on July 4th about every 10 to 20 years, with the most famous being in 1776. The next time this will happen is in 2034, a Tuesday. Luckily, this year, for observant Jews, since the 17th of Tammuz falls on Shabbat, the fast gets a rain check until Sunday.
How can American Jews celebrate our religious freedom and retrace what we did when it was threatened? According to Jewish educator and author, Ron Wolfson, the fourth of July is a time when we can "stop and think about the blessings of freedom and independence and the great opportunities that America afforded the Jewish community." One way to do so is to "look into the journeys our families have taken to come to America.” For inspiration, he suggests checking out Freedom’s Feast, a website that implores us to “learn new ways to explore and participate in our American democratic tradition.” Also, be sure to "like us" on Facebook and "follow us" on Twitter to get inspiration throughout the week.
However you choose to celebrate, we at the J wish you a happy and healthy fourth of July!
It's that time of year when parents are making decisions about where to send their child/children for preschool in the fall. And, with recent studies showing that children with a quality preschool education do better in school and are less likely to do drugs or commit crimes, choosing the right preschool for your child is extremely important. But, with so many preschools out there, how can you choose the right one?
A good first step is visiting preschools. This will give you the chance to check out the school and ask a few questions. Below are some examples of 20 good questions to ask:
1. How long have your teachers been teaching ___ year olds?
2. What kind of background in education and experience in teaching young children do you have?
3. What is your teaching philosophy (In what ways do you believe children learn best)?
4. What is your discipline policy? (How you will handle inappropriate behavior in the classroom)?
5. What kinds of rules will you expect the children to follow and how will you help the children meet your expectations?
6. What type(s) of curriculum (if any) do you follow?
7. In what way(s) do you assess “progress”?
8. What kinds of activities will the children do throughout the day?
9. Do you have a daily schedule I can keep?
10. In what way(s) do you provide parent communication?
11. Will you be having parent/teacher conferences?
12. How do you feel about parents visiting in your classroom (Does the teacher have an open door policy)?
13. How do you feel about parents volunteering in your classroom? In what ways can parents volunteer to help out in your classroom?What age does my child need to be to enter your preschool program?
14. Do you have extended or after preschool hours (if this is needed)?
15. How many students will be in my child’s classroom?
16. How many teachers will be in my child’s classroom?
17. Do you follow the same calendar as the local school systems?
18. What are your policies about illness and keeping children home?
19. Is your preschool licensed or certified by any agency? If so, which agencies?
20. Are there any references I can contact for additional information?
Preschool is the first time in many instances that your child will be separate from you for any extended period of time. It is very important that you choose an environment that is nurturing and positive. The Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) at the J promotes developmental growth through creative interaction between children and teachers within a warm, caring environment that’s based on Jewish values. Click here to learn more about The ECLC at the J and please contact Amit Hickman at 703.537.3051 or Amit.Hickman@jccnv.org to schedule a tour!
Does your son or daughter dance? If not, they should definitely try it. Why? There are many benefits to registering a child in a dance program, in addition to having fun and acquiring new skills. A young dancer develops balance, remains active, and is generally more confident, but that's not all. Below are even more reasons you should consider enrolling your child in dance:
1. Enhances academic performance: By taking dance classes, children acquire problem-solving skills highlyapplicable in school subjects, such as mathematics. Also, a child's memory improves, as well as the listening skills it takes to retain the dance moves they learned and apply them. These skills are perfect for over the summer to prepare for the next school year!
2. Boosts self esteem: As a child executes dance steps and gets great feedback from the instructor and peers, his or her self-esteem increases.
3. Promotes physical wellness: Dancing helps prevent child obesity, because children who dance become uncomfortable with an inactive lifestyle, and tend to practice to get better and stay fit.
4. Improves social skills: Children who dance meet others with common interests, which leads to making friends they may not ordinarily meet, and enhancing social skills.
5. Enables discovery of new talents and interests: Who knows? Your child may be a great dancer, or simply love dancing. Give a child an opportunity to discover whether dance is something they love by enrolling them in dance classes.
As you can see, it is an investment into a child’s life to enroll him or her in dance. And, luckily, at the J, you can enroll your child in dance over the summer by signing up for j.dance camp! For more details about j.dance camp, please contact Barri.DeFrancisci@jccnv.org or call 703.323.0880 to register.
Camps are more than just playing silly games, making beaded bracelets, and singing crazy songs. In a world with Wii U, iPhones, tablets, and big screen televisions, camp can be a great escape from screen time, and a way to make new friends, get some exercise, and gain important life skills.
Below are the top five reasons to send your child to camp:
1. Connects kids to those they may not normally meet: Kids who attend camp learn the world is a big place with lots of people, who might do things differently than they’re used to. That includes other kids from all over the area and beyond– and counselors and leaders who serve as positive role models and can leave a huge impression.
2. Self-esteem boost: When kids are at camp, they don’t have mom and dad there to help them approach people and make connections. They have to put themselves out there, which boosts confidence and self-esteem. In addition, kids learn new skills that make them realize how capable they are to learn and grow. In fact, according to the American Camp Association, 92 percent of kids who attend camp say that the people at camp helped them feel good about themselves.
3. Creates wonderful memories: Camp builds positive memories for the future. During the summer, kids create tons of memories of the good times, silly shenanigans, and fun activities. It’s a time of discovery and self-improvement that stays with a kid long into adulthood.
4. Gets them active: In this technology-filled world, camps cut back on distractions, so kids can truly take advantage of all summertime has to offer. That means those prone to texting or playing video games are forced to get up and move!
5. Develop interests: Camps are a nurturing environment for a child to explore activities and programs that could turn into lifelong passions. With so much to do at summer camp (swimming, crafts, etc.), there are many fun activities for kids to try and further discover.
At the J, our camps are filled with opportunities for campers to play, explore and experience all that camp has to offer in an environment based on Jewish values and culture. Our camp program includes indoor and outdoor activities, singing, dancing, sports activities, swim lessons, field trips, and more! Learn more about our camps and register today!
The U.S. population is getting older, and the average life expectancy is expected to keep rising, thanks to advances in medicine, nutrition, and safety. But many of today’s seniors aren’t content to sit still and age quietly. Lately we’ve seen headlines of amazing elders who have completed marathons, won medals in waterskiing, raced in NASCAR, and more.
Here are some examples:
"I don't think I'd be living today if I didn't do this running," Harriette Thompson, cancer survivor said. Other active seniors agree. This is because physical activity and exercise has been proven to help you stay healthy, energetic, and independent as you get older.
Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. It can include anything from walking to recreational sport. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include walking fast, doing water aerobics, riding a bike, and playing tennis. Daily chores such as shopping, cooking or housework don't count towards an individual's exercising effort because these tasks don't raise your heart rate enough, although they do help break up sedentary time.
If you are a senior, or anyone who wants to get in shape and stay fit, check out the offerings through our Health, Fitness, and Aquatics Department here.
Most of us love good food, and the place to be for a variety of amazingly delicious foods is Israel! Although it was hard to narrow it down, we've come up with a list of the five best Israeli foods, which you simply must taste, including:
Although it actually originated in Egypt, falafel is one of the first things that comes to mind when it comes to Israeli foods. Falafel balls are made of a delicious mix of chickpeas and/or fava beans, with spices applied according to each falafel stand owner’s secret recipe. They are typically thrust into a pita, alongside freshly cut salads, hummus, tehina sauce, pickled vegetables, and sometimes even chips.
Hummus is a kind of dip or spread made from crushed chickpeas and mixed with tehina sauce, lemon, olive oil, salt and garlic. It can be served in many ways, including as a main dish accompanied by fava beans and hard boiled egg, as well as a side dish at a big meal. Hummus is served in many cafes and restaurants in Israel and the US, and you can also find an amazing variety of hummus in tubs in most supermarkets.
You can often find shwarma in exactly the same place as falafel, and if not, it’ll usually be very close by. Another street food extremely popular in Israel, shwarma is typically slices of turkey, chicken or lamb, which are usually shaved off a huge slab of meat rotating (vertically) on a big spit. It is eaten in much the same way as falafel, stuffed into a pita with salad, hummus, tehina sauce, pickles and chips.
There isn’t a soul out there who doesn’t love sufganiyot, or doughnuts filled with jam or custard, deep-fried and then doused in powdered sugar. This is why they have become a favorite for many during Chanukah, and are enjoyed in Israel year round. Unlike other doughnuts which are often heavy and cake-like, sufganiyot are much lighter, resembling a sweet bread than a heavy confection.
Shakshooka is a concoction of tomatoes, onions, plenty of garlic, as well as some crucial spices such as sweet paprika. It has a liquidy consistency, and is topped off with a poached egg in the same frying pan. If you order shakshooka, be sure to get enough bread to soak up all those delicious frying pan juices.
Want to try Israeli foods right here in Northern Virginia? Well, you can do so this weekend, while sampling Israeli culture at Israel Fest: Israel @ 67 in Shirlington this Sunday. There will be Israeli food, including some of the items mentioned above, available for purchase by Max's Kosher Café. Click here to find out more and to view the schedule of events. Hope to see you there!