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How Can I Stop Gaining Weight This Holiday Season?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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I had my fair share of latkes and Chanukah gelt this year. Now, people in the neighborhood are bringing me cakes and homemade cookies, and my daughter is selling me thin mints. Then, there is the chocolate that goes on sale after Christmas. Is it ever going to end?

As you are likely aware, the holiday season is in full swing and has been since Thanksgiving. In addition to spending time with family and friends, the big events of the season seem to involve shopping and eating. This will almost certainly result in big numbers on your credit card bill. And, because holiday weight gain is a reality for most people, on your bathroom scale, too.

The good news is that, despite our worst fears of gaining 5+ pounds, the average American really only puts on approximately one pound during the holiday season — which doesn’t sound like much, unless you gain — and don’t ultimately lose — that extra pound year after year.

The good news is that the weight gain that typically occurs during the holidays can be prevented. Since people tend to gain less than 1 pound, even small changes to what you eat and your activity can make a difference, without taking away from your holiday cheer. Here are some strategies:

1. Stay active. The average holiday weight gain could be prevented by adding 1 mile of walking, or about 20 minutes, per day. Since time may be a factor, you can turn a shopping trip into a chance to be active by taking an extra lap around the mall or parking further away in the parking lot. Go for a walk when you have free time—and take your family and friends (and dog(s)) with you.
2. Stay away from the food. Most holiday parties include lots of food, and usually not the healthiest choices. You can reduce the amount you eat by limiting your time near the food—literally, fill your plate and move away from the food. Using a smaller plate will reduce the amount of food you take, too.
3. Create no food zones. Get rid of the candy dish on your desk at work or the plate of treats on the countertop at home. You are less likely to eat treats that aren’t right in front of you.
4. Don’t drink your calories. Alcoholic beverages, soda, and juice all contain calories and can add up to a big part of your total calorie intake. Many beverages, including hot chocolate and coffee drinks, can easily contain hundreds of calories. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite drinks, but enjoy them in moderation. And make water your beverage of choice at other times.
5. Plan ahead. If you are trying to watch what you eat, have a healthy snack before you go to a party. You will feel less hungry so you will probably be less inclined to eat as much. If you are bringing a dish to a party, make it something healthy that you like, such as cut up veggies and hummus.
6. Focus on family and friends, not food. The holidays are a time to enjoy special meals and events with family and friends, and that should be your focus. You should enjoy your favorite foods and drinks, just do it in moderation.
7. Give yourself a break. Healthy eating and exercise are always important, but they are more difficult to do around the holidays. According to one study, even people who were trying to lose weight over the holidays ended up gaining about a half pound. So, do your best maintaining your healthy habits, accept that you may struggle, and make a commitment to get back on track after the holidays.

Hope you and your family are having a happy and healthy holiday season! Be sure to come to the J now and in the new year to work off those extra cookies and cakes. :)

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Why do we eat Sufganiyot on Chanukah?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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It's Chanukah -- a time for latkes (potato pancakes), chocolate gelt (coins), and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). We know that we eat fried foods, such as latkes during this holiday, as a reminder of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. But, why jelly donuts?

Sufganiyot are typically deep-fried and filled with jam, and then topped with powdered sugar. Besides the fact that they are fried in oil, if you are wondering why we eat them on Chanukah, here's the history:

The tradition of eating deep-fried pastries on Chanukah was considered even in the time of the 12th-century rabbi Maimonides, whose father, Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, wrote that "one must not make light of the custom of eating sofganim [fried fritters] on Chanukah."

It took thousands of years, however, for sufganiyot to become a staple for Jewish people during Chanukah. In fact, the custom began in the late 19th century before the advent of the state of Israel. Sufganiyot were originally called bimuelos by Sephardic Jews, and ponchik by Ashkenazi Jews.

During that time, Polish immigrants brought the ponchik to Israel, where they eventually took the Hebrew name sufganiyot, from a ‘spongy dough’ mentioned in the Talmud.”

At first, jelly doughnuts were not widely eaten in Israel, even on Chanukah, as they were difficult and intimidating for many people to make. It was in the late 1920s that the Israeli labor federation championed sufganiyot as a Chanukah treat because they provided work – preparing, transporting, and selling the doughnuts – for its members.

So, in a nutshell, this is why sufganiyot take their place on the holiday table alongside latkes! For an easy sufganiyot in a bag recipe, please check our Facebook feed. We hope to see you at the menorah Lighting at Mosaic tomorrow night at 5:30 PM!

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Chanukah - There's an App for That!

Renee Eder on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Ask most Jewish children and they'll tell you that Chanukah is their favorite holiday, hands down! After all, nothing tops eight crazy nights of presents, latkes, gelt, and dreidel.

Since Chanukah is all about my kids, if I really want something, I just buy it for myself. After all, no one knows me, better than me! Last year, I bought myself a Chanukah present – a new iPhone. And, since then, its become like an appendage that's attached to my right arm at all times.

This year, using my beloved gift, I found some amazing Chanukah apps. Now, I can spin a virtual dreidel and I know the secret to making mouthwatering potato pancakes (I'll still buy them at Trader Joe's, due to lack of time and cooking ability)! I will share with you some of the best apps I found below (search the title in the App Store or Google Play to download them):

1. Chai on Chanukah

The top-rated Chai on Chanukah (iOS) educational app helps parents teach their kids about the miracle of Chanukah in a fun, interactive way using a swipe-to-spin dreidel, a menorah to light with a tap, games, rhymes, all the relevant blessings, and, of course, the story of Chanukah, complete with an interactive holiday table and orchestral soundtrack.

2. Menorah - Chanukah - חנוכה
The Menorah - Chanukah - חנוכה (Android, iOS) app will instruct you on the number of candles to light each night of Chanukah and in which direction to light. It also has the accompanying prayers and songs in Hebrew, English, and transliterated, as well as in audio form.

3. iGevalt - AR Dreidel
Even if you don't have your own dreidel, you can still give one a spin with the iGevalt - AR Dreidel (iOS) app, an augmented reality dreidel simulator. Just hold your phone or tablet over a flat textured surface to make the dreidel appear and then swipe your finger to spin. Such fun!

4. Chowhound
Food plays a major role in most Jewish celebrations, and Chanukah is no different. On the holiday, celebrants are encouraged to eat deep-fried foods like potato pancakes and jelly donuts to symbolize the oil that lasted for eight days and dairy dishes to commemorate the heroism of the Maccabees against Syrian oppression. Chowhound (Web) has both traditional kosher recipes and more innovative takes, such as Radicchio, Apple, and Squash Tempura; Chocolate Babka Pie; and a Kale and Roasted Red Pepper Frittata. Chowhound also offers easy brisket recipes (say no more!)

5. Shalomoji - Jewish Emojis
The Shalomoji - Jewish Emojis (iOS) app lets you send Jewish-themed emojis, emoticons, stickers, GIFs, and phrases for Chanukah -- or any Jewish holiday – using your preferred messaging method, with a simple copy and paste.

Hope you enjoy these apps, and have a very Happy Chanukah! Hope you can enjoy some of the holiday with us! Here's what's happening during Chanukah at the J (and nearby)!

Growing Jewish Families Makers Day Program
Sunday, December 2, 10am at the J
Best enjoyed by children ages 2+, children must be accompanied by an adult
Let your kids explore Chanukah with crafts and exciting hands-on experiences. Sufganiyot Decorating Bar (donuts), PJ Library stories, and Dredel Games!
Learn more: https://bit.ly/2SaKqAY 

Light Up the Night! Community Chanukah Celebration and Menorah Lighting
Wednesday, December 5, 5:30pm, Mocaic District, Fairfax
Entertainment, dreidel spinning, sufganiyot (donuts), lighting of the fourth candle at the community menorah lighting
Learn more: https://bit.ly/2OEXWe7 

Chanukah Celebration at the Gateway
Wednesday, December 5, 6pm
Location: The Atlas at the Virginia Gateway, Linton Hall Road, Gainesville
The J is co-sponsoring this event hosted by Chabad of Greater Gainesville and Manassas

Adult Services Department Chanukah Celebration
Author Talk with Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff
"Red Hot Mama: The Story of Sophie Tucker"

Thursday, December 6, 1pm at the J
Ms. Sklaroff will help us explore the life of Sophie Tucker - a star in vaudeville, radio, film, and television
Learn more: https://bit.ly/2QsBhqe 

Performing Arts: Memories & Miracles - A Culinary-Inspired Concert
Sunday, December 9, 3pm at the J
Experience an immersive culinary-inspired concert with Gourmet Symphony and curated food and beverage from Susan Barocas, chef, food writer, founding director of the Jewish Food Experience and guest chef at the 2014, 2015, and 2016 White House Seders.
Learn more: https://bit.ly/2radehQ 

 

 

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What's Jewish About Thanksgiving?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Did you know that Thanksgiving is the American holiday most celebrated by Jewish people in the U.S.? And, I must say, I am glad that it is! Every year, my family gathers for turkey and all the fixings. My youngest is ten, but I kept a few pairs of maternity pants just for this occasion!

You may not realize this, but there are strong historical connections between Judaism and Thanksgiving. First of all, most of the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving were Puritans. Although Puritan is a branch of the Protestant faith, the Puritans strongly identified with the historical traditions and customs of the Israelites in the Bible. In fact, in their quest for religious freedom, the Puritans often compared their journey to America to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. As analogies went, England was Egypt, the king was Pharaoh, the Atlantic Ocean their Red Sea, and the Puritans were the Israelites, entering into a new covenant with G-d in a new Promised Land. In fact, most of the Puritans had Hebrew names and there was even a proposal to make Hebrew the language of the colonies!

Many people believe that the Pilgrims modeled Thanksgiving after the holiday of Sukkot, as they are both harvest festivals that take place in the fall. In Jewish tradition, Sukkot is both historical and agricultural. We dwell in booths to remember how our ancestors lived in sukkot for 40 years in the desert. Sukkot is also known as a time of our rejoicing, as our ancestors gave thanks for the conclusion of the harvest and the bounty of the land. Both Sukkot and Thanksgiving encourage us to stop and acknowledge our blessings. Whether we accomplish that over a slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or by eating a meal with family and friends beneath the leafy branches of a sukkah roof, we understand and embrace what it was that inspired our Pilgrim and our Israelite ancestors during both of these harvest holidays.

As Americans and as Jews, we can celebrate Thanksgiving with pride. From the historical connections of the Puritans to Sukkot, to the primary importance in Judaism of saying thank you to G-d for all of our blessings, Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in Jewish values. This Thanksgiving, we at the J hope that you are blessed with the bounty of food and the blessing of family and friends.

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Is it Chanukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah or Channukah?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Hanukkah is just a few weeks away (December 2–10), and my kids sure are excited. We have our dreidels (tops) ready for spinning, chocolate gelt (coins) purchased and hidden so they make it to Chanukah :), Kitchen Aid mixer attachment ready for potato shredding, and menorahs de-waxed and ready to go!

My daughter is writing an essay about Chanukah in school. She asked me a question today, that may seem like a simple question, but it's actually complex because it doesn't have just one answer. The question is, "How is Chanukah spelled?" Is it Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukkah, Channukah, or something else? Confused? I don’t blame you. Why is this Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, spelled in so many ways?


The Right Way to Spell Chanukah

The answer comes down to transliteration. Unlike translation, transliteration is when you “change (letters, words, etc.) into corresponding characters of another alphabet or language.” In Hebrew, the language from which the Jewish festival originates, the word for Hanukkah is not easily transliterated into English. This accounts for why there are so many spelling variants. But Hanukkah and Chanukah are the two versions that are most widely used and accepted, and we typically use "Chanukah" at the J. Honestly, you can use any spelling that you are used to, and the one that works best for you!

No matter how you spell it, Hanukkah is a fun holiday. It lasts for eight days, and commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Although many scholars disagree about how to interpret the Hebrew word for Chanukah, one common interpretation is that it means “dedication.”

On each night of the holiday, a different branch of a candelabrum called a menorah is illuminated. The festival is also celebrated by indulging in latkes, or fried potato pancakes. Children play dreidel each night, and open gifts after each candle is lit. What are some of your family Chanukah traditions? Please answer in the comments. Pics are a bonus!

Looking for Chanukah gifts? Come check out our Annual Jewish Book Fair & Chanukah Sale from Sunday–Tuesday, November 18–20, 9am–noon, 4pm–7pm; Wednesday, November 21, 9am–noon.

Also, don't miss the annual Light Up the Night! Community Menorah Lighting at Mosaic District on December 5 at 5:30 pm. Join us as we light the candles, enjoy entertainment and a Chanukah sing-along, feast on sufganiyot, and spin the dreidel! Learn more here: https://bit.ly/2OEXWe7.

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Top Exercise Trends for 2019

Renee Eder on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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The holidays are almost upon us, which means it's time to start thinking about how to shed holiday pounds after all those latkes. It might seem early, but fitness professionals are already predicting top exercise trends for next year. To get an idea of what's in store for the future, the American College of Sports Medicine surveyed thousands of fitness professionals about health and fitness trends. These are the top predicted fitness trends for 2019, according to the pros:

- Wearable Technology

Wearable technology, such as smart watches, fitness trackers, heart monitors, and more, has ranked in the top three trends every year since 2016. The merging of fitness and tech shows no signs of going anywhere, so expect to see even more ways to track and monitor your fitness in 2019.

- Group Exercise Classes

Group training is any workout with more than five participants. It first appeared among its top 20 trends in 2017, and it remains in the top five for the coming year.

- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)

HIIT took the top spot in 2018 (and in 2014), but despite its small drop, experts still see it playing a big role in the industry this coming year. A HIIT workout involves "short bursts of high-intensity bouts of exercise followed by a short period of rest." They're usually 30 minutes or less, though they can be longer.

- Fitness Programs for Older Adults

Exercise is a great way for seniors to maintain bone density and muscle mass as they age, plus reap the numerous other health benefits that come with being active.

- Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight training uses just your bodyweight—think push-ups and planks—to get you sweating. And, they work. Your body itself is truly a great resistance training tool.

- Yoga

The ancient practice of yoga has been on the list for many years. Yoga has taken on many forms, like power yoga, surf board yoga, and hot yoga. Who knows what other forms of yoga the future holds?

- Personal Training

Personal training, or fitness testing and goal setting with a trainer working one-on-one with a client, has been one of the top 10 trends since the survey first started 13 years ago, and it continues to be! Let a personal trainer help you develop a program to help you meet your goals.

Looking to start an exercise program? Be sure to check with your doctor first! Hope to see you at the J as you try some of these fitness trends and other exercises that work well for you! For more details on fitness at the J, please visit https://www.jccnv.org/sportsfitnessaquatics/wellness-services/.

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The Jewish Duty to Vote

Renee Eder on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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U.S. midterm elections are just a week away! Since the year I turned 18 (many moons ago), I have voted every year. Similar to paying taxes, serving on juries, and registering for the draft, voting is a civic calling, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to vote in this country.

As you likely know, unlike other civic callings, voting is optional. Whatever the stakes, no law compels Americans to vote. In some elections, only a minority of eligible voters cast ballots. What you may not know is that voting is a Jewish duty that dates back to biblical times. Here's how:

- Civic engagement is an important part of our Jewish tradition of community. The great first-century sage Hillel taught, “Do not separate yourself from the community,” reminding us that in the ecosystem of the collective, each of us plays a role in sustaining one another.

- The impulse to participate in the public sphere has become a Jewish cultural reflex. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein taught that as an expression of hakarat hatov (gratitude) "American Jews must participate in our democracy — which safeguards our freedoms — by voting."

- The duty to create and support government is one of the few duties that Jewish law recognizes for all, Jews and non-Jews alike. To Maimonides (1135-1204), the purpose was to ensure public order; while to Nachmanides (1194-1270), the purpose extends to include all social welfare.

-Jewish tradition views government as a human partnership with G-d. Where Torah predicts that Israelites would want civil rulers instead of priests and prophets, Moses told the people: “[B]e sure to place over yourselves the king that G-d elects for you."

As you know and can see from words of wise Jewish sages, it is all of our duty to be civically engaged. On Nov. 6, be sure to to exercise your civic duty and Jewish heritage and vote!

 

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Zuzana Ruzickova -- the Holocaust Survivor who Brought Back Bach

Renee Eder on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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I remember learning about the Holocaust as a child. I asked my mother and grandparents questions, as I was inquisitive and curious. I always wondered how some people could have survived the horrific conditions in the concentration camps. Reading about Zuzana Ruzickova today brought these memories back for me, and helped answer some of these questions.


Zuzana Ruzickova survived the gas chambers, devastating disease, slave labor, and crippling hand injuries in Nazi concentration camps to become one of the world’s most renowned harpsichordists and a leading interpreter of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Ms. Ruzickova was born in Bohemia and was the daughter of a prosperous Jewish family. She always loved music and was very talented, so her teacher recommended that the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, who lived near Paris, take her as a student — that prospect was dashed by the German occupation. When she was 15, her family received what the Germans called “an invitation” to Terezin, which the Nazis considered a model concentration camp for the cultural elite. Her grandparents and father died of disease there.

Within six months, she and her mother were shipped to Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland, where she survived the gas chamber twice — first after lying about her age, and then when the camp’s routine was upset by the Allied invasion on D-Day.

Zuzana credits music with her drive to persevere and survive the concentration camps. According to Zuzana, “I was not a strong child, but I was in love with music from the beginning." With her hands badly damaged during the war, she practiced 12 hours a day to catch up after it was over. She attended the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague from 1947 to 1951, when she gave her first harpsichord recital.

Since then, she has made more than 100 recordings. Her monumental project of recording Bach’s complete keyboard works took a decade, starting in 1965. She stopped performing publicly in 2006.

Zuzana believed up until the day she died last September, at the age of 90 from pneumonia, that “Bach provides a sense of order in a world of disorder." A documentary was made about her by Peter Getzels and Harriet Gordon, titled “Zuzana: Music Is Life," which will be shown at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria on Wednesday, October 31.

If you want to learn more about Zuzana's fascinating life and enjoy a wonderful film, bagels, and a presentation from the filmmakers, we hope you can join us! Twice voted Best Documentary at the Washington and LA Jewish Film Festivals, "Zuzana: Music is Life" speaks to the healing power of music, and living for a higher purpose when brutality abounds.

The film will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers. The fee is $10 for all participants (includes movie, presentation, and bagels and cream cheese). Learn more about the film and how to register here: https://bit.ly/2EAnfy4 

 

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Man Uncovers Music from Concentration Camps

Renee Eder on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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My grandparents on my mom's side were Holocaust survivors. They never spoke much about it, because the memories were too painful. I learned a lot from books I've read and research I've done, including the fascinating information that I will describe in this post. We are fortunate enough that this is the subject of The Maestro, one of the movies featured in the 2018 Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival!
 
Jewish-Italian musicologist Francesco Lotoro has spent the past 30 years uncovering some 8,000 musical works, composed largely in concentration camps and ghettos during World War II.
 
Lotoro, a professional pianist, has scoured Europe to discover and record music composed clandestinely in World War II camps. He has made it his life’s mission to find, preserve and popularize music that was composed by Jews and other prisoners during World War II – from entire operas written on toilet paper in Nazi camps to love songs created by POWs from all sides of the conflict.
 
Aided by his wife and a handful of friends, he has archived the scores he found, including symphonies, operas, folk songs, liturgical works, and also swing and gypsy music.
 
Some songs are slow, emotional, almost weepy symphonies. Others are driving and angry pub songs. A few are sarcastic jazz numbers. Others are shockingly upbeat - happy almost - as if the music lifted the composers out of the Nazi prison camps where they lived, saved them for just a moment from their horrific, torturous existence.
 
The music of the prisoners was preserved in many ways: passed on from person to person in camps until it was smuggled out, given to family members who were safe from the Nazis or simply found after the camps were liberated.
 
Many of the songs were written in Theresienstadt, a Czech town where prisoners could stage operas, concerts and cabaret shows. The camp saw many Jewish leaders and prominent artists from all over Europe. But some songs are from prisoners who had never before written music but felt the urge to create something beautiful among their shocking surroundings.
 
Lotoro has slowly been recording all the music on a set of 24 albums whenever he can cobble together the money and the musicians. Ultimately, he hopes to record all the pieces he's found so far and estimates there are likely only another 1,500 in existence - which he says pales in comparison to the music lost during the war.
 
Want to learn more about Lotoro and his quest to find lost music written in concentration camps? Join us for The Maestro- In Search of the Last Music on October 21 at Angelika Film Center & Café at Mosaic. The movie will be paired with "Mr. Bernstein," a short film that will be shown beforehand. Learn more and buy tickets here: https://themaestro.bpt.me.
 
 
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Top Benefits of Using the Sauna

Renee Eder on Monday, October 8, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Have you ever had the pleasure of using a sauna? In my opinion, nothing is more reinvigorating! Saunas provide a deep, healthy sweat every day. Tension fades. Muscles unwind. Mentally, we emerge relaxed, revived, and ready for whatever the day may bring.

A few minutes a day is all it takes to look and feel better. The body’s response to gentle, persistent heat is well-documented. Here are some of purifying benefits of using a sauna*:

• Stress relief: Heat bathing in a sauna provides stress relief in a number of ways. It’s a warm, quiet space without distractions coming from the outside. The heat from the sauna relaxes the body's muscles, improves circulation and stimulates the release of endorphins — the body’s all-natural "feel good" chemical — and their release provides a truly wonderful "after sauna glow.”
Cardiovascular benefits: Using sauna 2-3 times per week at 174 degrees F reduces risk of fatal cardiovascular disease by 27% and 4-7 times per week reduces risk by 50%.
Reduced risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) with regular sauna use. A 3-month study of bi-weekly sauna use showed reduced occurrence of high blood pressure.
Recovery after intense physical activity. Saunas relax muscles and soothe aches/pains in both muscles and joints. After participating in physical sports, use the heat and/or steam of a sauna to promote muscle relaxation by helping to reduce muscle tension and eliminate lactic acid and/or other toxins that may be present. (Note that the J requires a 15-minute break/cool down between your workout and entering the sauna.)
Saunas flush toxins. Many — if not most — of us do not actively sweat on a daily basis. Deep sweating has multiple proven health benefits, which can be achieved via regular sauna bathing. Deep sweating in a sauna can help reduce levels of lead, copper, zinc, nickel, mercury and chemical — which are all toxins commonly absorbed just from interacting with our daily environments.
Saunas can induce a deeper sleep. Research has shown that a deeper, more relaxed sleep can result from sauna use. In addition to the release of endorphins, body temperatures, which become elevated in the late evening, fall at bedtime. This slow, relaxing decline in endorphins is key in facilitating sleep.
Sauna cleanses the skin. Heat bathing is one of the oldest beauty and/or health strategies in terms of cleansing one's skin. When the body begins to produce sweat via deep sweating, the skin is then cleansed and dead skin cells are replaced.
Saunas burn calories. While some individuals may experience high amounts of calorie burn at first — particularly those individuals in poor shape to begin with — over the long term, saunas are simply treated as one of many tools in our arsenal when it comes to burn additional calories.

*Individuals with the following conditions should not use the sauna unless authorized by their physician: high blood pressure; heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes, stress and/or emotional disorders, epilepsy or seizure disorders, pregnant, or other health concerns. If you are not certain that you should use the sauna, please consult your physician.

The J is excited to announce that as of Monday, October 8th, the saunas in the Men's and Women's Locker Rooms are open! We hope you'll come relax and enjoy the health benefits!

 

 

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Shmirat Haguf: The Jewish Value of Caring for the Body

Renee Eder on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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It's fall and soon the weather will start getting cooler. This time of year, many of us are tempted to retreat to the sofa to watch football and relax – which is more reason to eat right and continue to work out in the gym and in the crisp autumn air.

Did you know that it’s a mitzvah (commandment) in Judaism to be healthy and well? Jewish tradition calls it shmirat haguf (Shmirat means “to care” or “to protect” and Haguf is “the body.") Judaism views the human body as a precious, wondrous gift from G-d that we are to protect and nurture. It is the home of the soul, the spark of G-d within us. Our body requires care and attention, no matter our age. With proper sleep, diet and nutrition, exercise and physical activity, and by avoiding things that harm the body, we can practice shmirat haguf, helping us to thrive in our everyday lives.

How does one go about fulfilling the mitzvah of shmirat haguf? Here are some things you can do:

Diet and Nutrition: Most current recommendations of the USDA advise us to fill half our plates with vegetables and fruit; the other half should comprise grains and lean protein. Food is so essential to Jewish living, and healthier food choices help us fulfill the mitzvah of taking care of our bodies.

Exercise and Physical Activity: Physical activity and exercise reduce the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. Exercise and physical activity promote general well-being, stronger bones and muscles, improved cognitive functioning among older adults, and the creation of new brain cells in the hippocampus. Physical activity and exercise also have been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. So many health benefits accrue from physical activity that it could be the single most important resolution we make to improve our wellness.

Avoid Things that Harm the Body: Avoid excesses in food, drink, and other physical and mental enjoyments. Smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, and other forms of addiction (including workaholism) rob us of our health and well-being, and cause pain and suffering to our loved ones. Part of the mitzvah of shmirat haguf is recognizing when our behaviors have become harmful to ourselves and others, making necessary changes, and seeking professional help when needed (from physicians, mental health practitioners, or qualified addiction specialists).

Embrace Things that Benefit the Body, such as Sleep: Deprived of adequate sleep, the world can look very different. We may feel irritable, pessimistic, and less able to concentrate and focus on everyday tasks. We can feel fatigued and weak, our memory suffers, and our immune system weakens. We are more susceptible to colds and flus. In addition, sleep deprivation puts us at greater risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Drink lots of water: Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. When your water intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Fluid losses are accentuated in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults, whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.

This week at the J, we are recognizing the importance of shmirat haguf by focusing onhydration and caring for our bodies. After morning fitness classes, stop by our membershiptable for a bottle of water and sweat towel (while supplies last). This healthy break is provided by INNOVATION HEALTH, whose partnership with the J helps build healthier communities. Hope you continue to take good care of yourself now and in the future!

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Making Sukkot Meaningful for You!

Renee Eder on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Sukkot is among my favorite holidays, including Chanukah, Purim, and Rosh Hashanah. It’s a chance to gather friends, eat good food, put my husband's handyman skills to work, and enjoy nature. Sukkot is a seven day holiday that began Sunday evening at sundown, so there are still lots of opportunities to celebrate!
 
Growing up, I never had a sukkah (temporary dwelling) at my house but some of my fondest memories as a kid are going to my grandparents or the synagogue to celebrate Sukkot under the stars with my family. As I got older and learned more about the holiday, I became interested in exploring how I could celebrate it with my own family. I learned that there are lots of opportunities to experiment and try new things or re-imagine how this harvest festival could be celebrated. Below are some ideas for activities to help you make the most of the Sukkot holiday:
  1. Construct your own sukkah (there’s still time if you haven’t already done so). Don't have a lot of space? Click here for a link to plans to build a sukkah in a small space like a balcony or roof top.
  2. Make a sukkah out of graham crackers or Legos®!
  3. Shake a lulav and an etrog (click on this link for information about the correct way to do it!)
  4. Host a festive meal with lots of plant material and light the candles.
  5. Create your own personal lulav: Invite your friends over to create your own personal version of the lulav by incorporating objects or symbols that represent your own personal community. Take turns sharing and discussing your lulav. Alternatively, encourage guests to bring objects that are important for a show and tell style or storytelling event instead of creating a lulav on paper.
  6. Do something in your sukkah – eat a meal or snack, maybe even do some cooking!
  7. Sleep in your sukkah! Use this as an excuse to do some backyard camping (or even real camping) and sleep out in “nature!” Luckily, it's not supposed to rain all week.
  8. Create something in the sukkah by gathering art supplies to do harvest themed art projects like leaf prints, painting, or tie dye! Get the kids to help you make paper chains to hang in the sukkah!
  9. Gather art supplies and hold a wine and paint night in the sukkah or out in nature or at a park.
  10. Visit a farmer’s market or even a farm to buy or help harvest seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  11. Go apple picking or visit a park to collect fallen leaves and twigs to use as decorations.
  12. Create centerpieces for the sukkah with fruits and vegetables, and plan meals that incorporate a wide selection of local produce.
 
Don't have a sukkah? You can still enjoy the holiday! Make your home a joyful place with decorations in the spirit of the holiday: decorate your front door with a harvest theme, hang paper chains from your ceilings, and/or bake something delicious with the fresh fruits and vegetables you bought or gathered! We hope that you enjoy Sukkot this year, however you celebrate, and that it's meaningful for you and your loved ones!
 
 
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Staff Spotlight: Alexis Medina

Renee Eder on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Alexis Medina, who recently started working at the J as a full-time Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator. Alexis seemed quiet at first, but once she started talking, I realized she is a fascinating person who has tons of great ideas. The J is so excited to expand its marketing team and to have her creative talent working on social media (i.e., Instagram and Twitter), producing short videos to tell the J’s stories, performing website updates, and helping to market our programs and services to the community.

Originally from Fairfax, VA, Alexis attended Fairfax High School and Virginia Tech. Her hobbies include singing, film, acting, traveling, and sports. She also plays the guitar, ukulele, piano and drums. Film is another passion of hers. She loves making short films and documentaries, and believes that when it comes to film, "there are endless opportunities." Alexis loves staying active and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins fan.

Alexis was excited to work at the J because she wanted to learn more about her Jewish culture. From what she remembers growing up in our community, her grandmother, Goldie, had a J membership and she would come here often and play a lot of card games with her friends. Alexis's mother, who is Jewish, is from New York while her father is from El Salvador. To embrace her Jewish background, she joined BBYO her senior year of high school, and went on a birthright trip to Israel with her sister, Sara. She enjoyed the Israeli food and culture immensely.

So far, what Alexis loves most about the J is how everyone is so friendly. Initially, Alexis had the belief that working an office job would be boring, but, at the J, they make every day entertaining and keep her on her toes. She mentioned that if she had a Fitbit, her daily step count would be well over 5,000!

According to Alexis, "(w)hen you are a part of something great, you feel like you belong. The J is like a second home to its members. It doesn’t matter if you are Jewish or not, the J thrives on diversity!"

Since the professional marketing world is relatively new to Alexis, she has already learned that "sometimes it takes several rounds of effort to produce quality content but, that’s okay. The process helps me improve my skills and learn what works and what doesn’t." Alexis hope is that in her position, she can post more content on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube that tells the J’s story, that is fun, entertaining, and engaging!

Please join us in welcoming Alexis to our team!

 

 

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JCCNV President's High Holiday Message

Site Administrator on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 1:30:00 pm 
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The High Holidays for 5779 seems an auspicious time for my inaugural “President’s Message.” For our family, Rosh Hashanah is a time for celebration, preceded by great anticipation as we make plans to connect with family and friends. For me, it also sparks the period of introspection through Yom Kippur—as intended. Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah also present opportunities for celebration and reflection of who we are as a people. Funny how that works.  

All of the emotions sparked by Rosh Hashanah also can be applied to the JCCNV. We are indeed in a time of great anticipation for the commencement of construction of the renovation of the “white house” into the Smith-Kogod Cultural Center, the new fitness facility that will enable us to better serve our members and the community—and the new playground for our children. The Board and staff also are engaged in a bit of introspection and questioning. In light of the demographic study’s exciting findings that the Jewish population in Northern Virginia is larger than many better-known Jewish communities in the United States as well as being the largest Jewish population of the Greater Washington region, the challenge of how we connect many more Jews with our large Jewish community is both daunting but also the object of much study. Well, not necessarily one on one Talmudic study, but study, discussion, spirited conversation nevertheless.

So we face 5779 with eager anticipation. We look forward to presenting the enhanced JCCNV facilities (you can see the new sign now!) that will be better able to serve our members’ needs. We look forward to greater engagement with the Jewish community throughout Northern Virginia in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Reston, Gainesville and elsewhere. We look forward to connecting with those pockets of Jewish activity that are sprouting in many parts of Northern Virginia. And we will continue to strive to pursue all of our activities with you consistent with Jewish values and with a “Yiddishe kopf.”  

From the Board of Directors and Staff:  L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu V’Taihatem

David

 

 

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Not All Honey is the Same

Renee Eder on Tuesday, September 4, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner (Erev Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sunday, September 9). I always look forward to the tradition of eating apples and honey, matzo ball soup, brisket, and cake! Every year, many of us focus on the apples at Rosh Hashanah, since they are an important symbol of the holiday (when dipped in honey to represent the wish for a sweet year). But, with so many other important traditions, why should the apples get all the love? Today, I’ve chosen to focus on the different types of honey (there are 300, but I’ll only spotlight a handful of them!)

For many people, their only experience with honey is the kind that’s sitting on the grocery store’s shelves in a cute little bear squeeze bottle or a glass jar with flowers on the label. But, there is so much more to honey. Here is a sampling of the varieties that are available:

  • Clover honey is produced by both Canada and New Zealand. There’s a good chance that you may have enjoyed this honey previously, as it’s a very popular honey that is widely available. This type of honey will typically be lighter in color from white to light amber tones as the nectar from the clover comes from white blossoms.The taste of this honey is mild with a touch of floral sweetness. This honey is great for baking.
  • Sourwood honey comes from sourwood trees that are located in the Appalachian Mountains which run from Northern Georgia up to Southern Pennsylvania. As the flowers the nectar comes from are white, you can expect this to be another honey that comes in a very light color. This honey has a scent that evokes anise, spices, and sweetness and will leave you with a pleasant aftertaste that lingers. Despite its name, some say that it has almost a butter or caramel flavor. This is very tasty when used as a spread.
  • Buckwheat honey is a very dark honey that resembles the molasses and malt that it tastes like. This honey is another with a very strong flavor that is not popular with everyone, and it can have a lingering aftertaste that stays with you. This honey is produced in New York, Ohio, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania from buckwheat flowers.
  • Acacia honey is a light and clear honey made from nectar collected from the blossoms of the Black Locust in North America and Europe. Acacia cleanses the liver, regulates the intestine, and is anti-inflammatory for the respiratory system. The sweetness of this honey perfectly balances the salty tang of cheese.

For more details on all the types of honey available, visit https://www.bjcp.org/mead/floral_guide.pdf

Whether you enjoy your honey poured from a plastic bear, or try one of the 299 other varieties available, we wish you and your family L’shana tova — a sweet and happy Jewish New Year!

 

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Is Pilates Right for You?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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A few years ago when I was on a fitness kick, I was looking for a challenging workout class. I certainly found it when I started taking Pilates!

My friends kept urging me, and I finally broke down and tried a class. I can't remember getting a better full body workout, with much-needed stress relief. I found Pilates to be instrumental in strengthening my core, and it even enabled me to up my speed and enjoy more endurance on the treadmill.

Think you're ready to try Pilates? Pilates uses your body weight for resistance and focuses on working both small and large groups of muscles. Over time, core strength, flexibility and muscle tone will begin to increase. Pilates is not an aerobic exercise method, so it’s best to combine it with a few days of cardiovascular exercise. Although the movements are small and slow, Pilates provides an intense full-body workout.

Here are some additional benefits of Pilates:
- an increase in muscle strength and tone without creating bulk.
- improvement of your flexibility and posture, which can decrease your chances of injuring yourself.
- a way to ease chronic lower back pain and prevent future back pain and injuries.
-an increase in the ability to focus. It takes a great deal of concentration to coordinate your breath and body position during workouts.
- a reduction in stress levels, which translates to an improvement in your overall health.
- it helps you develop strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and good posture.

In my opinion, Pilates is great for individuals of all fitness levels. People who are just beginning a fitness program will find that it’s a great way to ease into more intense methods of exercise. It’s also beneficial for pregnant and postpartum women and people wishing to strengthen their muscles after an injury. As always, a physician’s approval should be sought before beginning any exercise program.

Want to take a Pilates class?
Ready to try Pilates? A new Mat Pilates Class is coming to the J this week, beginning Friday, August 31-November 16 (no class Sept. 28, Oct. 5) 11am-noon. Try a class for $20 or sign up for all of them for $180. Class will include a warm-up of the body and joints, classic mat exercises with an emphasis on core strength and balance, followed by stretching. Contact Petya.Ivanova@jccnv.org if interested.

 

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Why Do Jewish Holidays Begin at Nightfall?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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My family is looking forward to Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) this year, for the apples and honey, celebrating with friends and family, and delicious brisket dinner. The holiday starts this year on Sunday evening, September 9, and goes until Tuesday, September 11. Ever wonder why they begin the holiday at night, rather than on the next morning?  

According to the Jewish calendar, not only do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall, but every day does. This is based on the story of creation in Genesis, where at the end of each day it says, "And it was evening, and it was morning; day one", "And it was evening, and it was morning; the second day" etc. By mentioning evening before morning, the Torah defines a day as beginning with the evening, followed by the morning. 

According to Jewish theologians, the passage of time is not only relevant to how we set up the calendar. It has profound implications as to our attitude to life itself. Everyone agrees that life is full of ups and downs. We go through periods where the sun is shining upon us and we feel on top of the world, only to turn a corner and be faced with difficulties and obstacles that drag us down. But it isn't long before something pleasant comes our way to pick us up again. 

As an optimist, I really appreciate this view: First the night, then the day. Darkness is a pathway to the sunrise hiding behind it. A challenge comes our way only to help us tap in to and reveal our inner powers that have until now remained unfathomed. I enjoy the comfort in knowing that no matter how dark it may seem, it is light that will have the last word. 

Speaking of the night sky, this year, why not come join us for A Cosmic Journey Through the Fall Holidays? On Sunday, September 16, from 10am-noon at the J, discover how to spot the first stars in the evening sky. From Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to Sukkot and Simchat Torah — we’ll explore them all. We provide exciting hands-on experiences — you provide the wonder! Join us as we embark on a cosmic musical journey through the Jewish holidays and learn about the night sky with Cosmic Adventure's mobile planetarium. Hope to see you here. Learn more at https://bit.ly/2MOPrNu. 

 

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What Makes Kosher Wine Different Than Other Wines?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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My husband follows kosher dietary laws. When he eats meat, which is rare to never, it has to be kosher and he cannot have dairy until six hours later. On Passover, he only drinks kosher wine, and to be honest it's not at all like Manischewitz (sweet and syrupy). It's typically quite good. Some kosher wines I have seen in the store are even highly rated (over 90)! 

Many people, including myself, wonder what makes kosher wine different. Let's take a look at how it's made, and then you'll see why some wines are kosher, while others are not. 

It might surprise you to know that kosher wines are NOT blessed by a Rabbi. To make kosher wines, there are two basic requirements:

1. It must only be handled by religious Jews in the winery: For a wine to be considered kosher, only religious Jews may handle the wine and touch the equipment from the time the grapes arrive at the winery. Even a Jewish winemaker who is not orthodox is not allowed to draw samples from the barrels. This may be frustrating for a hands-on winemaker, but kosher producers are used to it…and it is not a restriction that affects quality.

2. There are stricter wine additive rules: Yeasts, fining, and cleaning materials have to be certified as kosher and must not be derived from animal by-products. For example, fining agents that are not permitted include gelatin (animal derivative), casein (dairy derivative), and isinglass (because it comes from a non-Kosher fish.) Many Kosher wines are perfectly suitable for vegetarians – and vegans too (if egg white is not used).

In Israel, Kosher Wine Has Even More Conditions

In Israel, Kosher wine producers also must observe agricultural laws in the vineyard that date back to Biblical times. 

 - For the first three years, fruit from the vine may not be used for winemaking. Only in the fourth year is the winery permitted to use the grapes for wine.

 - Growing other fruits between the vines is prohibited. This was something done in domestic vineyards in Spain and Italy in the past – but the practice has mostly been abandoned due to wine quality issues.

 - Every seventh year, the fields are left fallow and allowed to rest.

Currently, the Kosher wine market is vibrant and quality driven, with tasting groups, collectors, and trends, just like in the general market. Kosher wines today look and taste like regular wines. If there is a perceived problem, it is that many onlookers still assume Kosher wine = Manischewitz. As I said earlier in this article, it doesn't. These days, the quality and variety of Kosher wines is greater than it has ever been.

Come Enjoy Kosher Wine and Fun at our Chill Fest Event

Come chill on the hills of Molon Lave on Sunday, September 16, 2018 from 12:30 pm-3:30 pm. 

Join us to enjoy: 

- Swinging Live Music: Seth Kibel Music and his trio will entertain. Seth is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier woodwind specialists, wowing audiences on saxophone, clarinet, and flute. He is a 29­­­­­­­­­­­ time Washington Area Music Award (Wammies) winner. 

- A glass of wine or try a wine tasting (available for purchase). Molon Lave has kosher wines!

- Lunch and Noshes (available for purchase)

- Fabulous Raffle Prizes including...

• New bicycle of your choice from The Bike Lane ($1,500 value)

• Wine tasting and glass of wine for 8 guests at Molon Lave ($160 value)

• Handmade steel kitchen knife forged by a veteran participating in IMPart ($350 value)

• Pottery piece crafted by a veteran participating in IMPart (priceless)

Raffle tickets available only at the event. Drawing at 2:15 pm. Must be present to win.

We’ll be "chilling" rain or shine! Bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket if the weather looks promising.  If not, we’ll be indoors. Dogs welcome on the property, but they must be leashed and outdoors at all times. Water and organic dog biscuits available upon request.

The event benefits veterans and their families through support of IMPart (Injured Military Personnel +art), a visual arts education program which connects returning wounded veterans with transformative art experiences in ceramics and metals. A program of local, non-profit The Art League, IMPart is part of CREATIVE FORCES - NEA Military Healing Arts Network. 

Learn more at https://bit.ly/2B7HFgg

 

 

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The Symbolism of a Bagel

Rener Eder on Monday, August 6, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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I love bagels, especially if there is cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon) on them! I grew up in New York, where good bagels were plentiful and learned to love bagels here in Virginia, too. Plain, everything, cinnamon raisin, chocolate chip, and pretzel… I could never be on a low-carb diet!

I'm sure many people out there share my sentiments about delicious, round, boiled then baked bagels. But I wonder if you bagel-lovers know all of these really cool facts about them, and why bagels are even considered symbolic for Jewish people.

Here are the facts:

- The word bagel means “bracelet” in German.
- Because of their shape—with no beginning and no end—bagels symbolize the eternal cycle of life.
- In the old days, bagels were supposed to be a protection against demons and evil spirits, warding off the evil eye and bringing good luck. For these reasons, they were served at circumcisions and when a woman was in labor and also at funerals, along with hard‑boiled eggs.
- Similar to challah, bagels are of South German origin, but they came into their own in the Polish shtetl.
- Bagels were first sold on the street by vendors with baskets or hanging on long sticks, and they had to have a license. Illegal selling of bagels by children was common to help their poor families.
-When the Jews left Eastern Europe in great masses for America, Canada, and Europe, many sold bagels from pushcarts on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and in the East End of London.

Although so many new varieties of bagels have now appeared, purists will have only the original plain water bagels, which are made by throwing rings of risen dough in boiling water for a few seconds, then draining, cooling, and baking quickly till golden, shiny, and crisp. They are wonderful when very, very fresh and of course, delicious when served with cream cheese and lox, plain, or with other topping combinations!

Fellow bagel lovers: I invite you to post where you go for the best bagels in town!

 

 

 

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A Jewish MVP and Other Notable Jewish Baseball Stars — Who Are They?

Renee Eder on Monday, July 30, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Photo credit: JTA

As a die hard baseball fan, it was so incredibly exciting to see the All Star Game being played in our home stadium this year. What was equally great was seeing a member of the "tribe" being named MVP. His family members must've been kvelling (feeling happy and proud)!

After winning the World Series last year followed by the MVP trophy in the All Star game, Alex Bregman (Houston Astros 3rd Baseman) became a household name. It turns out that Bregman's family has some history here in Washington also. Bregman's grandfather was the general counsel for the Washington Senators, and his dad grew up with Ted Williams (the Senator's manager at the time). So for Bregman, winning the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award in DC was extra special. Bregman is sure to be a mainstay in one of the best infields in baseball for many years.

Below is a list of other Jewish baseball players currently in the Major Leagues.

Ryan Braun
Milwaukee Brewers, outfielder

The veteran all-star, who is often called the "Hebrew Hammer," has batted .303, with 302 home runs and 989 runs batted in. Last year, he passed Hank Greenberg for second on the list of all-time hits for a Jewish player, only trailing Shawn Green.

Ian Kinsler
Anaheim Angels, second base

After spending the first 12 years of his career with the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, Kinsler is now a Los Angeles Angel in 2018. Batting in front of Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Albert Pujols will add to Kinsler’s resumé. For his career, Kinsler has used his power/speed combo to bat .273 with 234 home runs, 225 stolen bases and 1,149 runs scored.

Kevin Pillar
Toronto Blue Jays, outfielder

A regular starter in Toronto’s outfield, Pillar finished 2017 with a career-high 16 home runs and 54 extra-base hits. He started off this season with a bang, as well, homering on opening day against the New York Yankees. His bat has continued to progress in his third season as an everyday player and his glove in center field is one of the best in the game.

Joc Pederson
Los Angeles Dodgers, outfielder

The “other” Jewish athlete to make it to the World Series last year, Pederson was limited to 102 games in 2017 because of injury. After hitting 25+ home runs in 2015 and 2016, Pederson hopes to bounce back and provide the Dodgers with some pop from the left side of the plate. At just 25 years old, this could still be a key year for Pederson.

Danny Valencia
Baltimore Orioles, 1B/3B/DH

The “Jewish Journeyman,” Valencia has played for the Twins, Red Sox, Orioles, Royals, Blue Jays, Athletics and Mariners. This year, he is back in Baltimore for a second tour. Valencia, who has 87 home runs and 369 RBIs in his career, will mostly be a platoon player against left-handed pitchers this season.

Other current notable Jewish MLB stars include Richard Bleier (Baltimore Orioles, relief pitcher), Zack Weiss (Cincinnati Reds, relief pitcher), Ryan Sherriff (St. Louis Cardinals, relief pitcher), as well as Gabe Kapler (Philadelphia Phillies, manager).

Do you love baseball as much as I do? Then join us for Grand Slam Sunday on August 19! You can still buy tickets through the Nationals HERE with promo code JCD. Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

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Tu B’Av (The Jewish Day of Love): Why People Wear White — and Other Fun Facts

Renee Eder on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Tu B'Av, the fifteenth of the month of Av, will occur this week on July 26-27. Tu B'Av is the "Jewish day of love," which was celebrated at the end of the Israelites' forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

I wish I knew about Tu B'Av when I was single!

In Talmudic times, young girls would go down to the vineyards dressed in white linen to dance. The eligible bachelors would then be matched up with them. This week, all over the world, white parties are taking place for Jewish singles.

Here are some other interesting facts you may not know about the Jewish day of love:
1. In biblical times, the white dresses the women wore were typically borrowed, so that no one would be embarrassed if she didn’t own the proper garments.

2. The holiday’s Hebrew name simply translates to the date: the 15th of the month of Av. “Tu” is short for the Hebrew letters Tet (which represents “nine” in Hebrew numerals) and Vav (which represents “six”), adding up to the number 15.

3. Tu B'Av is considered to be a good date for a wedding!

4. From the end of the Second Temple era until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 Tu B’Av was only commemorated by the omission of “Tachanun,” a penitential prayer included in the weekday morning and afternoon services. It’s not clear why the holiday was revived by Israelis.

5. Since the holiday falls on an evening with a full moon, the holiday provides a great setting for an evening stroll to enjoy nature’s mood lighting.

However you choose to celebrate, we hope you feel the love this year on Tu B'Av!

 

 

 

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What is Tisha B'Av All About?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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My kids heard that another Jewish holiday was coming up on July 21-22, and it's not a happy one. They wanted to know — what is Tisha B'Av all about, and why are we eating so many veggies lately?

Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the month of Av, is a day of mourning for Jews. It is the day Jews remember the destruction of both Temples that once stood in Jerusalem as well as a number of other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the course of history. Tisha B’Av is a full fast day, so the last meal must be eaten before sunset prior to the ninth of Av. The meal often is comprised of round foods like eggs or lentils, which symbolize mourning in Jewish tradition because they evoke the cycle of life. Additionally, nine days prior to the holiday, traditional Jews do not eat meat, cut their hair, or wash their clothes unless they are to be worn again during the nine days.

Similar to Yom Kippur, in addition to abstaining from food or drink during Tisha B’Av, Jewish tradition also mandates refraining from wearing leather, washing one’s body, and using perfume or other such ointments. Traditional Jews do not get married or celebrate other joyous festivities in these three weeks. All these actions are considered signs of joy or luxury inappropriate for this time of mourning.

I mentioned earlier that we eat lots of veggies during the nine days leading up to Tisha B’Av. Here are a few examples of veggie recipes you can make whether or not you celebrate Tisha B'Av:

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What the Reggio Emilia Philosophy Really Means

Renee Eder on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Ever walk by a preschool classroom at the J to see smiling children playing with natural elements in a bright, engaging classroom. The happy faces, cheerful colors, and nurturing environment will likely have you intrigued by the education method. Allow me to enlighten you about the Reggio Emilia child-driven approach to early childhood education.

What is Reggio Emilia?

Reggio Emilia is an approach to early childhood learning named after the town where it originated in Italy. Founder Louis Malaguzzi believed children were in need of a more holistic kind of education after World War II. He began the Reggio Emilia style based on the principle that every child is unique and will express their unique interests in many different ways. 

Reggio Emilia believes that children have special knowledge and are powerful in their own way. This belief expresses itself in a co-learning environment, where teachers learn with the children and work in a lateral relationship as opposed to a hierarchical one. That partnership is also intended to encompass the parents and community of each child. 

Reggio Emilia also revolves around the children’s senses, relying on sight, sound, touch and even taste and smell to assist with learning. As a result, Reggio Emilia classrooms tend to look different than your average preschool with large common spaces, natural elements and lots of light. 

Another element that sets the Reggio Emilia philosophy apart is that children can demonstrate their ideas in many different ways  other than just numbers and letters, including dance, paint, wire, clay, pencil, nature materials.  In addition, the Reggio philosophy recognizes the importance of community in a child’s life, which means teachers try to involve parents and family in the work of education. 

Reggio Emilia at the J

Reggio Emilia could very well be the perfect learning approach to encourage your little one’s development. Want to learn more? The preschool at the J follows a Reggio Emilia-based philosophy and involves the children as an active part of their own learning and the direction it takes. Our nurturing educators use a developmental approach to understanding children's abilities and enabling them to gain confidence and independence. Learn more here: https://www.jccnv.org/early-childhood-services/early-childhood-learning-center-fairfax-va/

 

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Family Fun with 0–3 year olds

Renee Eder on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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What do you do when you’re entertaining a baby or a toddler, and it's way too hot to go outside? Find fun indoor activities in the AC, of course!

I am rusty at this toddler activities stuff, but I do know as a mom of two that there are lots of games and activities you can do with your child to have fun together and get them developing important skills early on. Skills they can learn at this early age include speaking and listening and developing eye-hand coordination. Here are some ideas:

1. Sing together
Children enjoy exploring and experimenting with language and it helps them to learn new words and their meanings and also to listen to the sounds that make those words. So sing, rhyme, shout, whisper, rap and dance to the beat!

2. Painting and drawing
Give your child lots of opportunities to draw and paint. This is not only fun, but also can help to develop eye-hand coordination and control. Let them experiment with lots of different materials – paint brushes with a range of widths, pencils, crayons, chalks and finger paint. You could try playing music when they paint and draw as this can help to create a relaxing environment.

3. Hands-on games
Use non-toxic modeling clay to get creative and develop fine motor skills. Threading beads, macaroni or cotton reels on wool or string can help with eye-hand coordination and control. Joining the dots and drawing paths through simple mazes are not only fun but are a great way to develop eye-hand coordination and pen control. Enjoy jigsaws together and chat about finding the right pieces!

4. Reading books of all kinds together
Have fun reading books of all kinds to your child: picture, words and pictures, pop up, information and poetry. Why not choose a book from the local library or PJ Library® to share together?

5. Talk about numbers around you
It’s never too early to explore numbers with your child. Numbers are all around us, from calendars to the remote control, the telephone to car registration plates. Talking about numbers around you early and often will help your child to recognize numerals and show them that numbers are part of everyday life.

6. Take your child(ren) to a kid-friendly show
To The Clouds is a perfect interactive play for children ages 0-3 and their families. It's on Sunday, July 15, at both 10am and 11:30am. Through movement, puppetry, and found object animation, To the Clouds is driven by a soundtrack of classical music and creates a captivating world of transformation. This performance is presented by Arts on the Horizon. Tickets are $6/ $5 members. Learn more and buy tickets here: https://totheclouds.bpt.me/

Hope you enjoy your summer with your little ones! As you've likely heard from everyone — they grow up way too quickly! Enjoy! :)

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The 8 Best Jewish Instagram Pages

Renee Eder on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Millennials love Instagram, while Gen X'ers like me still love Facebook. I thought I'd take a look to see what all the fuss was about, and now, I am hooked on Instagram, as well! I can see why even before the photo-sharing application was bought by Facebook, it was already making waves among the masses, and now I'm one of them!

You may not realize, but fellow Jews have some fascinating Instagram accounts that are certainly worth checking out. A wide array of funny, cultural, delicious, religious and Israeli Instagram accounts have been established to illustrate what it means to be a Jew. While some use memes to relate Judaism to the modern world, others take a more traditional approach by documenting stories of the Jewish people, and sharing delicious recipes (I don't cook, but as you can tell on Facebook, I love a good recipe!)

Here’s our list of the ten best Jewish Instagram accounts out there. Note: We’ve refrained from mentioning political or news-related accounts.

1. I'll start with the most important IG account to follow, ours! (@jccnv):
If you aren’t following us already, we hope you will now! We fill your Instagram feed with only the best of the best of what's happening at the J, contests, pics, and more. You'll love it... trust me!

2. What Jew Wanna Eat
Amy Kritzer’s account, What Jew Wanna Eat, documents photos of your favourite Jewish nosh. Corned beef, shakshuka, bagels, lox and cream cheese, challah, donuts, gefilte fish, rugelach, hummus, falafel and matzo ball soup. Kritzer displays a smorgasbord of mouth-watering Jewish food to her 38,000+ followers. It’s also all kosher, which allows for some delicious recipe ideas.

3. Humans Of Judaism
A spin-off from Humans of New York, Humans of Judaism showcases Jews from across the globe with an emphasis on what Judaism and Israel means to them. With 117,000 followers, Humans of Judaism features many Jews’ captivating stories.

4. Crazy Jewish Mom
Make no mistakes, Crazy Jewish Mom is one of the funniest and most original accounts out there. The profile has over 785,000 followers who tune into the daily text conversations between Kate Friedman Siegel and her crazy Jewish mother. Kate’s mother prefers to go unnamed, though we do know that she refers to her daughter as “spawn.” Whether or not all the texts are real, the account emphasizes the quintessential Jewish stereotype (overbearing mothers), which is something we can all relate to, Jewish or not.

5. Visit_Israel
Do you love Israel? If so, this Instagram account is for you! Get updates on the latest events taking place in Israel, see pictures the most beautiful Israeli scenery, wet your appetite with delicious looking foodie photos, and imagine the sounds of the ocean while enjoying pictures of Israeli beaches.

6. Challahhub
Who doesn’t love Challah? We surely do! If you agree, this Instagram account with 11,700 followers will have you wishing for Friday night.

7. MitzvahMemes
Like the name implies, this one is for all the meme lovers out there! MitzvahMemes has all the memes you love. And are all about Judaism!

8. Seinfeld 2000
Still don’t want to come to terms with the fact that Seinfeld, an institution in Jewish comedy, is over? Neither do I. Seinfeld 2000 boasts 262,000 followers, and publishes an extensive variety of Seinfeld-related content. Seinfeld 2000 presents classic Seinfeld comedy, but updated for a 2018 audience.

Hope you enjoy these Instagram pages. Please comment if you have others to share! And, if you don't follow us already, please be sure to follow the J on Instagram at @jccnv. See you on Instagram and Facebook!

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Fitting Yoga into Your Schedule

Renee Eder on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Since the day I realized the many spiritual and health benefits of yoga, I’ve wanted to practice it daily. But the reality of fitting it into my busy schedule is something I have been wrestling with ever since. It still does not come easy, but knowing the positive outcomes to body and mind, I’m hoping to find a way to squeeze it in each week.

For most people, trying to fit a new habit, such as yoga, into your daily routine for longer than a few weeks can be difficult. These are a few motivational tips that I use for myself that I hope you will find helpful:

1. See it as a necessary part of your day:
One of the main barriers to yoga or any kind of exercise is, "I don't have enough time in the day." Yes, life is busy for many of us—especially if you're juggling caring for children or loved ones with work and projects. But, taking care of your body and mind is important, especially if you are caring for others — whether that's through daily yoga and meditation or some other practice to get your body moving.

2. Try to do yoga (or any type of exercise) at the same time every day:
After many years of trying to be flexible and fitting in yoga around the rest of my day, I have learned that this approach does not work well for me. It’s too easy to keep putting it off until "there is a better time” and then I end up not doing anything at all. When I do yoga at the same time every day I find it much easier to keep the daily habit.

So, what time is the best time to practice? For me, it is first thing in the morning. I am most likely to practice then and keep up with it then. After that, I can enjoy the benefits all day. Everybody is different though, and if after work or evenings are better for you, that’s fine too. Find your time slot and try as much as you can to stick with it.

When you do not have a schedule in place, your daily habits take over and again, it can be very difficult to bring something new into your daily routine. So, plan a time for yoga or meditation. Or better, find a class that you like and include it as part of your schedule.

3. Attend a class:
We now have several yoga classes at the J, which are designed to help you develop a regular habit of yoga by giving you a different variety to keep things fresh and interesting. Here are some options:

Sunset Yoga with DC Fray
Tuesdays, July 10-August 14, 7pm
Register here: https://dcfray.com/sport/yoga
Get zen as the sun sets! Bring your mats, and DC Fray will bring the FUN (& glow sticks.) Whether you've been doing Yoga for years or it's your first time, all levels are welcome. Register here

Therapeutic Yoga
Classes begin June 24
Registration is now open! Class sizes are limited to 5 per class.
This is a great class for those who have experienced neurological or autoimmune imbalances; are affected by chronic pain related to fibromyalgia, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, depression, or cancer or other chronic conditions; or want a gentler yoga to revive and heal you. Three classes are available. Contact Rebecca.Friedlander@jccnv.org for details.

PIER (Post Injury Exercise & Rehab) Program has begun.
The PIER program addresses post rehabilitation needs related to injuries and chronic issues. It will also be offered as the next step after physical therapy and occupational therapy. The PIER program is an aquatic program that can incorporate exercises on land. Types of conditions that will be addressed: Back and Joint pain, Fibromyalgia, Heart Disease, Major and Minor Stroke, Achilles Tendon Tears, Arthritis, Auto-immune Diseases, Diabetes, Sports Injuries, Cancer And others as needed. Contact Petya.Ivanova@jccnv.org for details.

We also offer What' SUP Yoga (Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga) on Wednesday nights and Saturdays! Learn more here: https://www.jccnv.org/group-fitness/class-schedule-descriptions-and-rates/

Hope to see you soon at a yoga class!

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JCCNV Co-Produces Play that Explores Jewish Value of Inclusion

Renee Eder on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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In Jewish teaching, Hillel (an important religious elder in Jewish history) challenges us to view our treatment of ourselves and others through the lens of our community’s values. He teaches that if any community exists only for itself, we aren’t being true to the lessons in Judaism that teach us to be inclusive, to “welcome the stranger,” and to incorporate those who are different from us. Inclusion is certainly a Jewish value to work toward.

Helen Murray (director) and Marc Acito (playwright) will present The Secrets of the Universe (and other songs), a play that focuses on the Jewish value of inclusion, and other Jewish values such as empathy and respect. The play will be performed from July 6-29, 2018 at the John Swayze Theatre in Fairfax, Virginia. This play is a co-production of the Hub Theatre and the J.

A description of the play is as follows:

In 1937, a physics professor at Princeton University received a call. The internationally renowned classical singer Marian Anderson was giving a concert at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton. But because she was African-American, Anderson was denied a hotel room. Instead she accepted an invitation to stay at the professor's home. That professor was Albert Einstein. The Secrets of the Universe is based on the true relationship of these titanic figures, a union of hearts, minds and souls in a quest to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

The Secrets of the Universe (and other songs) is the 6th play Helen Murray has directed for the Hub Theatre since she co-founded it with Maggie Ulmer and Marey Oakes in 2008. The show marks Murray's artistic farewell to the DC area, as she completes her move to Colorado. A talented cast of DC area performers will bring this world premiere to life. The show is sponsored by David Bruce Smith Productions, a company that specializes in creating, designing, and composing limited-edition books on a variety of subjects: authors, historic figures, artists, and leaders. Learn more and buy tickets for the play here: https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=75022.

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Channeling Your Kids Boundless Energy with Dance

Renee Eder on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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Sometimes my kids get restless sitting around the house. I often wonder what the best way is to channel their seemingly boundless energy. I have come to realize that while traditional team sports are a good way to get some kids physically active, they are not a good fit for everyone. Dance classes are a great alternative to team sports, and at the J, we offer lessons for children as young as two or three and up to adult.

In my research, I have come to realize that participating in dance classes can be beneficial for kids of all ages. Let me explain how:

Dance Promotes Creativity

Participating in dance lessons promotes creativity and helps a child develop an appreciation for the arts. Dance is a form of self-expression. Children who explore the world of dance at an early age will find a constructive outlet for their creativity and a positive way to express themselves. Honing their creativity at a young age will help them later in life.

Dance Improves Classroom Performance

Studies show that children who participate in dance lessons tend to perform better in the classroom. Dance requires discipline and focus, which translates to an improved academic performance. In addition, dance lessons help reinforce educational basics, like counting. Children also learn to differentiate right from left and fast from slow.

Dance Improves Self-Esteem

During dance lessons, a child gains a better understanding of his/her body and how it moves. Children with a background in dance are typically more comfortable about their body and have improved levels of self-confidence. It takes great courage and confidence to dance on stage in front of an audience, and dance helps encourage both of these wonderful qualities. Dance also helps foster a positive attitude. The instructors at the J help create an encouraging environment that helps turn each dance lesson into a positive, constructive experience.

Dance Encourages Socialization

Dance lessons are a great place for kids to make new friends. With each class, children learn to improve their communication and social skills by interacting with other dancers in their class. They also learn how to work together as a team. In time, students learn how to cooperate and trust in one another. It's not uncommon for children to forge lifelong friendships from dance. If your child is fearful of performing in public or shy, taking classes at the J can help alleviate these fears and help your child feel more confident.

Dance Encourages an Active Lifestyle

In today's technology-driven world, it is becoming increasingly important for children to adopt a physically active lifestyle early on. Dance is the perfect way to keep kids physically active in a fun way. By bringing your child to the J, they will improve their flexibility, range of motion, stamina and their strength. The movements in dance also help improve balance, coordination and posture. Dance focuses heavily on proper body alignment and learning how to move the body to create fluid motion. It's no wonder dance has been used to help train athletes in some of today's most competitive sports like football and basketball.

Dance Helps Improve Behavioral Issues

Dancing is a skill that requires intense focus, discipline and coordination. Many parents find that dance lessons help improve behavioral issues, such as hyperactivity. Classes designed for young children are not quite as demanding, but as your child progresses in dance, their lessons will require more focus, dedication and discipline. The art of dancing tends to have a calming effect on children and also helps them release pent-up energy.

Dance is Fun!

This is perhaps the greatest benefit. Dancing is so much fun for kids. It allows them to stay active in a fun and exciting way. All the while, your child develops important social and emotional skills without even realizing it. As your child progresses, they can explore different areas of dance and make new friends in the process.

Dance Classes and an Upcoming Performance at the J

j.dance is a dance program at the J that provides classes in ballet, modern, tap, jazz, hip hop, and acro for preschool, children, teens, and adults. To learn more about these classes, visit https://bit.ly/2JeyTzN. To learn more about j.dance summer camps, visit https://bit.ly/2IU99cM. If you’d like to see if your preschooler is interested in taking lessons, bring him/her to the j.dance Preschool Performance of “It Could Always Be Worse,” an adaptation of the book written by Margot Zemach. The show is Sunday, June 3rd at 10:30am. For more information, contact Brenda.Forsely@jccnv.org.

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8 Reasons to Come to the J Membership Meeting

Renee Eder on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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2018 marks the 40th year the JCCNV has held its annual membership meeting. That's almost as old as me! Have you attended an annual membership meeting in the past? The Annual Meeting is a great opportunity for our closest stakeholders to come together to appreciate the wide variety of time, treasure, and talent that it takes to run our thriving organization. We have a lot to highlight this year.
 
The meeting on Wednesday, May 30 at 7:30pm is certainly one to attend and here’s why:
  1. The entire community is invited. Come meet other J members, staff, volunteers, and leaders.
  2. Be in the know: If you are a member of the J, you’ll want to hear first-hand from our outgoing and incoming Presidents, as well as our Executive Director what is happening in the building and beyond it's walls.
  3. We will welcome incoming President David Yaffe: David Yaffe is a lawyer, an adjunct professor at GW Law School, and he and his wife, Deborah, have been members of the J since its inception. He was past co-president of his synagogue, Agudas Achim, and previously served as the chair of Hillels of Greater Washington. He was a board member of the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning and has been active at the J for the past few years as a board member and chair of the JCC’s leadership development committee. He's also a husband, father of two, and proud grandfather. Join us in welcoming him.
  4. Our Keynote Speaker will be fascinating: Gil Preuss, Federation's new CEO, will speak to the future of our community as informed by the recent Brandeis University study that reported the plurality of Jews living in the Greater Washington area has shifted to Northern Virginia - surpassing Suburban Maryland and Washington, DC. What will this mean for our community? What should be the J's role in a changing landscape? We'll begin the conversation at the annual meeting but will be answering these questions for years to come.
  5. Staff and community members will be recognized for their leadership: The J will be awarding the Manny Gale Award for Volunteerism to Helen Getter; the Suzy Goldhammer Award for Service with Children and Youth to Dina Backer; the Eleanor Sue Finkelstein Award for Special Needs to Naina Chernoff; and the President's Recognition Award to Ed Faggen and Bob Shapiro.
  6. If you haven't seen our new renovations, this would be a great time to check them out!
  7. Refreshments will be served.
  8. Following the annual meeting, the new Capital Campaign Donor Wall will be revealed and toasted.
 
It’s a night that's not to be missed. We hope to see you there. If you have any questions about the event, please email Heidi.Palchik@jccnv.org.
 
Prior to the annual meeting, volunteers from the past year are invited to attend the Annual Appreciation Reception which begins at 6:30pm. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Carla.Rosenfeld@jccnv.org.
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Shavuot Menu: The Cheesier the Better

Renee Eder on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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I love cheese- whether it's cream cheese, in a cheesecake, or by itself. Therefore, one of my favorite Jewish holidays is Shavuot -- a holiday where cheese is plentiful and encouraged! This year, Shavuot begins at sundown on Saturday, May 19 and ends at sundown on Monday, May 21.

Why is dairy encouraged on Shavuot?

One reason we eat dairy on Shavuot is the belief that because the Israelites had not yet received the kosher laws, they had prepared foods on the first Shavuot that did not follow kashrut. When they received the Torah, they read the new laws of kashrut and realized their meat dishes were not kosher, in accordance with God’s will– so they opted to eat dairy dishes only. Another reason is that the Hebrew word chalav (milk) has a numerical value of 40, which corresponds with the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah. Still others say that Shavuot occurs during the fertile spring period, when animal mothers produce lots of fresh milk, and the abundance of milk is why we consume dairy.

It’s such a luxury to have an excuse to try different cheeses in every dish of the Shavuot meal. Here are some recipes you can try this year!

Shavuot at the J

To celebrate at the J, staff will be participating in a Shavuot Dairy Bake-Off! Awards will be given out to winners in multiple categories including: Creativity, Presentation, Taste, and Overall. We will share pics of the winning dishes on social media. In observance, the J will be closed at 5pm on Saturday, May 19, and all day on Sunday, May 20 and Monday, May 21 in observance of the Shavuot holiday.

However you celebrate, we wish you a happy Shavuot holiday!

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