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Make Memories and Gain Life Skills By Swimming Competitively

Renee Eder on Tuesday, February 19, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 
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My best friend's kids always look forward to summer swim team. Having participated on summer swim teams since they were five, spring, winter, and fall have become tough times of year for them to stay in shape and remain competitive when summer meets begin. That was until they decided to join the swim team at the J, where they can swim competitively year round. For the next couple of months, they will work hard at their swim strokes, while interacting with friends (socially and competitively), making new friends, staying healthy and active, and all the while, having lots of FUN. Some of their best memories have been made thanks to their time on swim teams.

As some of you may know, swimming is an essential life-saving skill that’s also great for our physical and mental health. As described above, a year-round swim team is great for children for many reasons. Here are some of the many benefits:

- Reduce Your Child’s Screen Time: Too many children today are glued to their smartphones and tablets. When your child joins a swim team, he or she will be far too busy at the pool working on his swim skills, improving his or her fitness, and hanging out with his friends in real life (and not on a messaging app!) to stare at a screen.

- Meet New People in the Community: Being part of a swim team means being part of a welcoming tight-knit community. Both children and their parents will meet new people and expand their social networks.

Build Lasting Friendships: Being part of a swim team gives children (and parents) the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. As your child cheers on his or her teammates and is cheered on by them, those friendships will continue to deepen and become more meaningful as your child grows.

Engage in Friendly Competition with Other Area Swim Teams: Partaking in friendly competition is important for growing children. Children learn that it’s okay to lose and that they can bounce back from a perceived failure through dedication, hard work, and by having the right mindset. Competition also encourages children to make goals and create plans on how to achieve them. This is undoubtedly a positive life lesson every child should learn that will surely help them in other areas of their life!

Increase Your Child’s Self-Esteem and Confidence: High self-esteem and confidence in children and teens are linked to them making safer and better-informed decisions. Having a supportive group of people to lift your child when he or she feels down and to raise him or her higher when he or she succeeds is crucial, especially during his or her formative pre-teen and teen years. You’ll witness your child blossom into a confident young individual not only at the pool but at home, in school and in his other activities.

- Learn New Important Skills: As a member of a swim team, your child learns proper mechanics, proper breathing technique and competes in competitive length pools – and has no idea they’re learning how to save their own life!

- Promote Teamwork: Although swimming itself is usually an individual sport, swim team creates a team environment for your child to belong. Your kids receive early life lessons on how to win (and lose) as a team, how to give it their best and how to exhibit good sportsmanship.

- Stay Fit: Swimming is an excellent workout since it works your whole body and is easy on the joints. Unlike some sports, swimming is a fitness routine your child can do well into adulthood.

Learn more about the JCCNV Waves Swim Team

The Waves Swim Team is a USA Swimming Club founded on the desire to lead its swimmers in reaching the highest level in their swimming. Swim team helps children acquire the training and experience necessary for competitive swimming while nurturing a love for the sport of swimming and developing the values and skills for success in life. Learn more here.(https://www.jccnv.org/aquatics-center/youth-swimming/)

 

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How Tu B'Av Differs from Valentine's Day

Renee Eder on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 
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Who doesn’t want to meet that special someone? As a Jewish mother who has been married for 15+ years, I can’t help to introduce others and help them find love. If you are a matchmaker, are looking for a match, or if you found one and want to celebrate your love, don’t despair if Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday. We too have a holiday that is all about love, and it’s called Tu B’Av!

Before there was JDate, JSwipe, and the Matzah Ball, there was Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av, Judaism’s own day to find love and celebrate love. As with many Jewish traditions, its roots are ancient, but it is perfectly adaptable to modern times. Some may compare it to Valentine's Day. In some ways it's similar, while in a lot of ways, it's very different!

Many moons ago, Tu B’Av was a matchmaking day for unmarried women (this was centuries before gender equality) during the Second Temple period, which lasted from 530 BCE until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. While Tu B’Av went under the radar for a few centuries or so, the modern state of Israel has done its best to rejuvenate the holiday in recent decades. Here are some of its customs:

Similar to Valentine’s Day, Tu B’Av is celebrated in Israel with flowers, cards, romantic dinners, parties and festivals of singing and dancing.
Dancing in the vineyards: In ancient days brides-to-be danced in the vineyards of Shilo in Samaria; in modern times some have returned to celebrate the day in Shilo, dancing in modern vineyards.
Women and men are keeping the tradition of wearing white at Tu B’Av celebrations. The holiday is also considered to be a good date for a wedding. The day is celebrated by religious as well as secular Israelis.
• Drink wine: Jewish men and women drink wine on the Jewish day of love to mark the grape harvest.

Jewish communities outside of Israel have begun to bring the holiday into the modern era, as well. So, come August 15, 2019 (the 15th of Av) spread the word and help Jewish mothers like myself play matchmaker, or make your own match if you are looking for one! If you celebrate Valentine’s Day, we hope that you feel the love and give lots of love this year!

 

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It's Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM): How You Can Be An Ally to People with Disabilities

Renee Eder on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 
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Did you watch the Super Bowl this past Sunday? Similar to many of you out there, unless the Redskins are playing, I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, and for an excuse to make appetizers such as chips and guac and spinach and artichoke dip.

One commercial in particular stood out to me this year. It was for a Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller, and it featured a group of children with disabilities to hype the product geared toward them.The customizable controller enables gamers with disabilities to play with whatever abilities they have through their hands, feet, mouth, head or otherwise, enabling them to fully experience the games. I thought to myself when watching the commercial how wonderful it is that something like this exists! It also brought to mind JDAIM, and what it is all about.

February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of people with disabilities in Jewish communities and striving toward fostering inclusive Jewish communities for people with disabilities.

JDAIM brings to light our obligation to actively include people with disabilities in our community and to advocate for their full inclusion in all facets of society. This month, as we highlight disability inclusion and work toward disability inclusion all year long, here are five easy ways to be an ally to people with disabilities:

1. Listen to people with disabilities.

Listen and learn from people with disabilities and modeling your disability inclusion and advocacy efforts based on their priorities, concerns, and feedback.

2. Educate yourself.

Educating yourself about disabilities is a good way to better understand the many societal and political barriers people with disabilities face.

3. Be conscious of the language you use.

When speaking about people with disabilities, avoid ableist language, which includes words such as “retarded” and “crippled” and derogatory language using disability metaphors (i.e. seeing something wrong and comparing it to a physical or mental disability). Use "person-first" language when you can. For instance, instead of saying "an autistic person," say "a person with autism." As allies, our first responsibility is to respect someone else’s self-label– but as a general rule, person-first language is the most respectful way to reference to people with disabilities.​

4. Work for inclusion in our community.


All communities should be inclusive of people with disabilities, but most were not built with them in mind. While it is important to remove physical barriers to people with disabilities, it is just as important – if not more so – to change attitudes toward people with disabilities.

5. Advocate for disability rights.

We cannot create communities that are fully inclusive of people with disabilities if our laws and societal structures limit the ability of people with disabilities to live independently with economic security. Want to help make a change? You can do so by advocating for disability rights.

Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month is a great time to raise up the issue of disability inclusion in the Jewish community, however, it is essential that we work to be strong allies every month of the year. At the J, our award-winning Special Needs Department (https://www.jccnv.org/specialneeds/special-needs/) is committed to helping the community through activities designed to develop physical and social skills for individuals with special needs. In addition, our Reelabilities Film Festival, which takes place from March 3-17, 2019, is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. Learn more here: ReelAbilities.org/NorthernVA.

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How a Chinese Parlor Game Became a Favorite Pastime for Jewish Women

Renee Eder on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 
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My mom plays Mah Jongg when she is in New York and when she is in Florida. I told her if she came to stay with us, she could come play at the J. All I know is that she truly enjoys it, and even plays certain apps and online games to brush up on her skills.

So, what is Mah Jongg? I hope to find out and share my knowledge with you (and play sometime soon!) My research tells me that four women sit around a table, each with a card of various numbers and colors, arranged like a secret code. Tiles are exchanged: right, across, left, then left, across, right. Tossing tiles into the middle of the table, the players call out mysterious names–“Four Crak! Three Bam! Eight Dot!”– until the winner shouts “Mah-Jongg!” Sounds pretty foreign to me. However, to my mom and some of my friends, this is just a typical evening with the girls, evenings that have been happening in America for nearly 100 years!

Mah Jongg originated in China, and dates back only about 150 years. Around 1846, a servant of the Chinese emperor combined the rules of popular card games of the time, and replaced cards with tiles to create Mah-Jongg. The name itself means "sparrows," an allusion to the pictures of birds often engraved on the tiles.

So, how did Mah Jongg make its way to America? Several historians have different theories about that. One theory was that throughout World War II the game continued to be played among Jewish women’s circles as it increased in popularity and became more prevalent in their lives. Another was that Jews who fled Nazi Europe and made it to Shanghai got involved in local culture and adopted the game. Once those refugees immigrated to America in the mid-20th century, they helped keep Mah-Jongg alive.

A completely different theory comes from Ruth Unger, current president of NMJL. She believes that the game was perpetuated in part because it is a philanthropic money-making endeavor for Jewish organizations, notably synagogue sisterhoods and Hadassah chapters. These groups sell Mah-Jongg rule cards and receive donations from the League.

As newer generations take up the game, they learn that many true friendships can develop from it. Want to play Mah Jongg? Come to the J on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (ongoing), from 10am–noon. Drop-in for a friendly game and conversation in the lobby of the J. Bring your friends! We also offer Mah Jongg Lessons and Evening Games.

Contact the Adult Services Department if you are interested. Hope to see you at Mah Jongg!

 

 

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Incorporating Tu B'Shevat Traditions Into Your Snacks

Renee Eder on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 
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Every time I'm in CVS, I look at my mile-long receipt and think to myself, "I should plant a tree in Israel to make up for all this paper being used!" Well, with it being Tu B'Shevat next week, now is an ideal time to plant that tree! It's also a good time to observe some of the other traditions of the holiday, including the consumption of dried fruits and wine!

Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish holiday known as the “New Year of the Trees,” begins at sunset on January 20, 2019 and concludes in the evening of January 21. The tradition began in the 16th century when the Jewish people instituted a Tu B'Shevat seder in which fruits and trees indigenous to Israel were given symbolic meaning. Their belief was that by blessing and by eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order, human beings and their world would inch closer to spiritual perfection.

Today, Israelis commemorate this ecological awareness day by planting trees while snacking on dried fruits and almonds. If you aren't allergic to nuts, this would be a good time to incorporate Tu B'Shevat friendly snacks into your diet to replace potato chips and other unhealthy snacks. A homemade trail mix makes a healthy and convenient pre-workout or post-workout snack. The combinations of nuts and dried fruits are endless, given the vast array available at all grocery stores.

A 1/3-cup serving of dried fruit and nuts contains two to three grams of fiber, helping to keep you feeling full and satisfied. Dried fruit and nuts are a good source of protein: up to three grams of protein is contained in a 1/3-cup serving. Research also shows that individuals who regularly enjoy dried fruit have significantly higher intakes of vitamins A, C, E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and potassium. For more details on traditional Tu B'Shevat foods (including some yummy recipes), visit https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tu-bishvat-foods/.

This Tu B'Shevat, celebrate nature’s bounty by tossing back some on-the-go trail mix and harnessing the power of spiritual perfection! Then, when you get home, feel free to indulge in the wine (in moderation, of course!) Hope you have an enjoyable Tu B'Shevat!

 

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Staff Spotlight: Jordyn Barry

Renee Eder on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 
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I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jordyn Barry, our new Jewish Innovation and Teen Engagement Director. This is a new position at our J, so I jumped on the chance to get to know Jordyn a little better and am excited to share a bit about her with you. Jordyn has a really exciting background with lots of life experiences and travel (I am living vicariously here. . . she traveled to Israel 11 times!) Having a son who is a teenager and a daughter who is a preteen, I’m so excited about the programming that Jordyn is bringing to the J!

Jordyn moved to Northern Virginia from New Jersey in late August and started working at the J right away. She was born and raised in New Jersey, and attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania (cue: catchy Billy Joel song) for her undergraduate studies in history and religion. Jordyn is not a stranger to our area, as she interned at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. She also studied abroad in Spain, Turkey, and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, and has been fortunate to travel to Israel, Turkey, Italy, Germany, England, Ireland, Czech Republic, Crete, and Spain!

Prior to moving to Virginia, Jordyn worked at the JCC of Central New Jersey as the Director of Teen Outreach and Engagement. In her similar role at the JCC of Northern Virginia, Jordyn acts as the Delegation Head for the Northern Virginia Delegation to the JCC Maccabi Games®, which will be held in Detroit this summer. She is also excited to be starting a year-round teen program at the J in the months to come! In addition to enriching the Jewish programming at the J and creating new opportunities for teens, Jordyn plans to spread the word about JCC Maccabi Games® and grow our delegation to be the largest it has been in 10 years!

Jordyn mentioned to me that she has had many mentors throughout her life, specifically holocaust survivors who are no longer with us. They taught her the importance of Jewish education, specifically for the younger generations. She is so proud to be in a position that enables her to enlighten, teach, and experience Jewish life here in Northern Virginia.

Join me in welcoming Jordyn to the J and be sure to say hello if you see her around!

 

 

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Who Knew?. . . There are Four Jewish New Year's Celebrations Each Year!

Renee Eder on Tuesday, January 1, 2019 at 12:00:00 am 
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Last night, the world celebrated the beginning of the secular New Year of 2019. If you enjoyed celebrating, you can actually do so four more times this year. To my surprise, the Jewish people actually observe four New Year’s celebrations each year!

Here are the four Jewish New Year's celebrations:

- The 15th of Shevat is known as Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for trees. This year, it falls on January 20-21. Tu B’Shevat is the day used to determine the age of the trees…it’s their birthday, no matter when they were “born”! Unlike the first of Nisan and the first of Elul, Tu B’Shevat is still widely observed as a minor Jewish holiday. At the J, our Growing Jewish Families program has lots of Tu B'Shevat events this month. Visit them on Facebook or check out our online calendar for details.

- The 1st of the month of Nisan is considered to be like a new year, as it is the first month on the Jewish calendar (according to the Torah). Nisan coincides with March–April on the secular calendar. The Torah calls it chodesh ha-aviv—the month of spring, as it marks the beginning of the spring months. It is in this month that we celebrate the eight-day holiday of Passover, from the 15th through the 22nd of Nisan, commemorating the Jewish people’s miraculous redemption from slavery in Egypt, and the birth of the Jewish nation.

- The 1st of Elul: In early rabbinic writings, various customs arose sometime during the first millennium that designated Elul as the time to prepare for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). According to the Mishnah, this was the new year for animal tithes. It was used to determine the start date for the animal tithe to the priestly class in ancient Israel, similar to how we use April 15th in the U.S. as tax day. Generally, this new year's day is no longer observed.

- 1st of Tishrei: Rosh Hashanah falls during the month of Tishrei, and literally meaning the "head [of] the year." We typically refer to it as the Jewish New Year. Unlike festivities with fireworks, drinking, and feasting, Rosh Hashanah, the most widely observed Jewish New Year, is marked with heartfelt prayer.

And, then, as Americans, we typically celebrate the secular new year. Counting last night and today, you can reasonably say there are five New Years! So, if you don't keep your resolutions for one, there is always another one coming up! Regardless, we wish you a happy secular New Year from the J and a year filled with lots of love, luck, health, and friendship! See you at the J!

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What's a Jew to do on Christmas?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 12:00:00 am 
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My 10-year-old daughter came to me conflicted the other day. She told me that she loves the pretty lights and catchy tunes associated with Christmas, but was concerned that there isn't much to do for us on that day, because we are Jewish. I agreed with her that most stores, restaurants, and offices are closed on Christmas. But this doesn’t mean Jews (or people of other religious faiths who don’t observe Christmas) are left at home with nothing to do!

Quite the contrary, in fact. There are a number of traditions that Jews and others can choose from on Christmas -- and like many aspects of Jewish culture, most of them involve eating good food. Here are some examples of what non-Christians typically do on Christmas:

Chinese Food: Eating Chinese food is the ultimate Jewish tradition on Christmas day. Many Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas, so they are an easy option for anyone looking for a bite to eat on the otherwise restaurant-unfriendly holiday. Eating Chinese food on Christmas is a fairly well known practice and has made its way into popular culture. Can't wait to dig into some chicken and broccoli this year!

Movies: The other main component of Christmas for Jewish people is a trip to the movie theater. Like Chinese restaurants, movie theaters are open on Christmas when little else is, and seeing a film is a great way to spend time with family without having to talk to them. In recent years, Hollywood has made Christmas Day a huge premiere date for important movies, which has given Jews -- and plenty of others -- a wealth of options to choose from.

Spend Time With Family: Even if Jews don’t celebrate the holiday, most people have Christmas Day off from work, so it can be a great time to catch up with family members and spend a relaxing day together. Some Jews also enjoy hanging out with their Christian friends on Christmas -- after all, there’s plenty to the holiday that doesn’t involve specific religious traditions.

Go To The Matzoball: Are you single and looking to mingle? Many cities hold a Jewish singles event on Christmas Eve, which has been dubbed the Matzoball. It’s a chance for Jews to meet potential matches outside online dating and in real life on a night when there is little else going on. The Matzoball website has a list of cities hosting events this year and more details about what you can expect.

Go To Work: Some Jews will take holiday shifts and work on Christmas so their Christian co-workers can make sure to get the day off to celebrate with their families. In industries where offices have to be staffed throughout the holiday season, Jews often like to work around Christmas so they can take time off during other parts of the year when Jewish holidays fall.

Volunteer: Many charity organizations need volunteers on Christmas, and Jews (as well as other non-Christians) are frequently among those who sign up to help. From soup kitchens to homeless shelters to food and warm clothing drives, many synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions organize volunteer teams to work on Christmas since their congregations won’t be observing the holiday.

Catch Up on Your Reading: I love reading books on Kindle. Christmas day would be a great day for me to curl up with a good book from my favorite author, while snuggling with my pups!

Experience Some Local History: TripSavvy.com recently published an article that talks about historical sites in our area that are open on Christmas day. What a great day to tour Mt. Vernon, or take a short trip out to Williamsburg. https://www.tripsavvy.com/christmas-in-nva-1038588.

Cook Something Yummy: Christmas is a great day to experiment with new recipes for dinner and dessert! Cook something yummy? Let us know what it is!

Shop Online: Gotta shop? Amazon and other online stores and auction sites are always open, and there are likely to be some good sales going on!

Whatever you do on Christmas day, hope you have an enjoyable day! For those who celebrate, Merry Christmas!

 

 

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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 BAv (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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