I have joined many gyms in my life, only to realize that I was paying a membership fee and not using the facilities. It’s especially hard to get motivated in the summer, when it’s hot outside and all you want to do is stay in the air conditioning. And then there is the kids being home, work to do, etc.
As you can see, I can come up with lots of excuses! If, like me, you’ve been having trouble getting into a workout routine, take a look at these ideas for getting off the couch and breaking a sweat this summer:
1. Dress for a workout: Put on a t-shirt and yoga pants, sweats, or shorts. If you’re in full workout gear, you’re far more likely to head out for a workout at the gym or outdoors.
2. Get a friend involved too: Need accountability to get going? It can be helpful to have a workout partner to get you in the groove. Schedule your next workout with a friend. Feeling that someone else is counting on you to show up will make it less likely you’ll skip the gym.
3. Have a goal in mind: When it comes to working out, it’s best to start with an achievable, specific goal in mind. Imagine a finish line—losing weight (i.e., specifically 5 pounds, etc.), increasing endurance (i.e., run for 1 mile, etc.), adding muscle, or a mixture of each—and focus your energy on working toward it.
4. Get it done early: By getting up early in the morning and heading to the gym before you start your day, you’ve successfully avoided the eight to 10 hours you’d be able to talk yourself out of going. Another reason to go early is that exercising can be energizing. Between the gym and a Venti dark coffee, you’ll be ready to go for the day!
5. Vary your routine: Even if you’re a creature of habit, repeating the same exercises over and over can become monotonous. To avoid boredom, try switching things up to keep both your body and mind invested in the activity.
6. Imagine your success: If you’re dragging your feet or considering skipping a workout, try sitting down for a few minutes to visualize how you’ll feel if you go to the gym and how it could bring you one step closer to your goal.
7. Consider a trainer: A professional trainer can design a program based on your goals, show you how to use equipment, and provide tips on nutrition. Having a trainer present while you establish a routine could help compel you to stick with it.
8. Keep a log of your workouts: By recording distances, weights, and other objective milestones in your fitness journey, you’ll be able to see progress on paper, which can help get you motivated to go.
9. Take time for recovery: Build in some recovery time, whether that means doing nothing or just temporarily turning your activity level down. That way, you’ll avoid being too tired to tackle your next workout!
Staying motivated to go to the gym can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow the tips above and hopefully you will be motivated to visit the J’s fitness center, gymnasium, and/or pool!
Not currently a member, or would like a friend to join so you can partner on your workouts? Now’s a great time to sign up with an exciting J-Fit Health Club pre-opening special!
$29 Activation Fee
$0 Enrollment Fee ($99 savings!)
No monthly dues until August!
Check out our new Membership Categories and Pricing As of June 1, 2019, the J offers a variety of new membership categories and payment options to best suit your needs. Click here to learn more!
I am late when it comes to spring cleaning this year, but sentimental as always when it comes to my stuff. This past weekend, I packed up a few boxes to go into storage. From one of the boxes, a small photo album fell out. I sat atop a step and flipped through it. One of the pictures was of my now 10-year old daughter pretending it is Shabbat and lighting the candles and cutting the challah in preschool. Another was when she and I crafted a decoupage vase together, and still another is her playing on the playground with her friends — friends she still has today! I remember back and am still so glad I sent my daughter to Jewish preschool.
Instilling Jewish values in my daughter was important, even from an early age. I am not the most observant person, I will admit. My daughter experienced things she might not have experienced at home, such as how to celebrate Shabbat, Hebrew letters, and what Jewish holidays, besides Chanukah, are all about. I was overjoyed to hear that during kindergarten, she would explain Jewish holidays to her classmates, since she and one other student were the only Jewish kids in her class. She also learned how to explore art and building materials and learned her alphabet and how to sound out words and write her name. She excelled in kindergarten and still excels today, much of which I believe is due to her foundation in Jewish preschool.
I realize now that early childhood is a critical time for children to develop their identity. Excellent early childhood education programs stimulate curiosity, as well as intellectual, emotional, and social growth. And Jewish early childhood programs offer a Jewish curriculum that is educational, yet joyous and fun. The joy of a Jewish early childhood program sticks with each child long after their earliest years. Jewish preschool certainly helps balance educational settings that have become more about testing than expressing. And, parents experience this joy as well, as they meet other parents and form their own communities of families – places where we belong, with people we are connected to and have been connected to for many years.
What makes preschool at the J extra special?
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. Our educators are so familiar with Reggio Emilia, they even went there to study it themselves! Learn more here: https://www.jccnv.org/early-childhood-services/early-childhood-learning-center-fairfax-va/
Take Advantage of All the Benefits of the J’s Early Childhood Learning Center
We'd love for your child to take advantage of all of the benefits of full-day preschool at the J. Going on now, our Pozez JCC Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) has a Summer Registration Special for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschool students. Register your child for the fall 2020 ECLC during the month of June to receive the 2nd and last month's tuition free*! Additionally, register between now and August 1st to lock-in paying only $29 activation fee, $0 enrollment fee and your monthly membership cost waived until August 14th. Contact ECLC@theJ.org today to ensure your child's space in the classroom.
*New families only. Offer expires 6/30/19.
Although I truly enjoy drawing, painting, and even sculpting, I am not what anyone would call a good artist. For me, the closest thing to art is my writing, as it allows me to be creative and hopefully paint a mental picture for my readers with words. Whatever your preferred form of art is, there are so many benefits to creating art, no matter what form you prefer or your level of talent!
Here are some of the benefits I have encountered in my research:
Coming this Summer to the Bodzin Art Gallery... ENGAGE
Participate in defining yourself and creating the J's inaugural interactive exhibit in the Bodzin Art Gallery this summer: ENGAGE. As J members and guests of every age and artistic inclination participate, the exhibition will evolve, reflecting and accentuating our connectivity to ourselves and the community.
Beginning June 20, leave your mark in our new summer interactive art initiative that will bring the gallery to life in this innovative “please touch” exhibit. Learn more here.
Fabric Donations Wanted
The interactive exhibit will require lots of fabric... if you have scraps available, please drop them off at the J to enhance our exhibit as people pick and choose the fabrics that "speak to them" and add them to the exhibit.
I love Israeli culture, food, people, and the Hebrew language! I have yet to go to Israel, but until I do, it will remain atop my bucket list! Why do I love Israel so much, and why do so many people share this sentiment? Let's look at 18 really cool things you may not have known about our Jewish homeland! (Source: Godtv.com)
All I can say is wow! Keeping all these amazing things in mind, we should take the time to celebrate the mighty country of Israel! And, on June 2, from noon-4pm, you CAN celebrate Israel@71 with the J and your community at Israel Fest!
Off-site Parking Only. Free shuttle service from NoVa Community College at 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale (park in B lots and/or the garage, shuttle pick up by LOT B 17) . Link to map: https://www.nvcc.edu/annandale/_files/AN_Map18x24-17-6.pdf Drop-off at the J available. Check theJ.org for updates and additional details.
This program is in partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and in collaboration with area synagogues and Jewish agencies. Hope to see you there!
This year, for the first time ever, I have been keeping up with the counting of the Omer. It started on the second night of Passover, and we are nearing the 33rd day of 50 total until Shavuot. I’ve always wondered… if there are 50 days, why is the 33rd one of significance?
The 33rd day of the counting of the Omer is called Lag B'Omer, a holiday that offers a fun reprieve from a period of national mourning for the Jewish people. When many of us think of this holiday, we envision bonfires and barbeques. Maybe it's just me, but these things bring to mind s'mores and charred hot dogs! YUM!
So, what is this holiday really about and why bonfires? It all started 2,000 years ago during the time of a famous teacher, Rabbi Akiva. For some reason, he had many students die during the period in which we now count the Omer. It was a very sad time, and now, many of us commemorate it by not getting haircuts, holding weddings, or even listening to music during the entire 50-day period. There was one day, however, during the 50 days where the plague on the rabbi's students stopped, and thank goodness, students stopped dying. This is the day in which we celebrate Lag B'Omer.
Still, how did the bonfire custom come to be? One of Rabbi Akiva’s surviving students, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, later became the father of Kaballah. He authored what is known as the Zohar, which means "Glow" in Hebrew. Some say that the Zohar contains many of the Torah's deepest truths. Rabbi Bar Yochai died on Lag B'Omer, and since then, the bonfires and barbecues represent the light of Torah revealed by him in the Zohar.
On Lag B’Omer, hundreds of thousands of people travel to Bar Yochai’s grave in Meron, Israel, and party hosting barbeques, bonfires, weddings, first haircuts for boys, and outdoor fun. This is our way of giving thanks for the light of Torah we received on Lag B’Omer thousands of years ago! So, celebrate this special day, enjoy a s’more, and take a moment to think of Rabbi Bar Yochai and how this fun holiday came to be!
Want to be a part of the Lag B’Omer celebrations locally? Join the Northern Virginia Jewish community for a fun-filled, family-friendly celebration featuring a bonfire (of course!), a 3-sided wall climb, a caricature artist, inflatables, and much more! This fun event is brought to you by the J, Chabad of Northern Virginia, and Gesher Jewish Day School! Register here: https://novacelebrateslagbomer2019.brownpapertickets.com. Hope to see you there!
Do you love the J as much as I do? Why not share the love with others? Maybe your son or daughter attends our Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) or your school-aged child attend our Before-and-After-School Enrichment (BASE) program and loves it? Or, perhaps you participate in our fitness classes, work out at our gym, or swim in our pool, and want to tell us about a great experience you had? What if you attended one of our events for young children or a cultural arts production that you thought was spectacular?
You can send us some love in less than five minutes. Let me show you how! The following describes the easy steps to leave a review on Google, Facebook, and Yelp:
For Google, simply click here and then click “Write a Review” in the top right corner. If you have an account and are not already logged in, please log in. If you don’t have an account, it will allow you to click “Create Account,” which only takes a few minutes. After creating the account, it will ask you to create a profile, but you can simply click cancel at that point if you don’t wish to create a detailed profile. This will bring you back to the review page.
After writing your review, simply copy all the content by hitting CTRL+A to highlight all the text, then CTRL+C so you then paste the same review on two other sites below by clicking CRTL+V.
To leave a recommendation on Facebook, please click here and it will take you directly to the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia’s Facebook page and ask you whether you recommend the J. Click Yes to recommend the Page or No to not recommend it. Write a Recommendation. Click next to Post to select your audience. Then, click Post.
If you have an existing Yelp account, then to leave a review on Yelp.com, please click here and it will take you directly to the review page (you’ll need to log in first). Again select the number of stars, hit CRTL+V under “Your Review” to paste your prior review.
Not Sure What to Write? Here are Some Tips to Help You Get Started:
We thank you in advance for your review!
Before I share all the amazing benefits of Jewish day camps, did you know that it is the 50th Anniversary of our very own Camp Achva? In 1969, this great day camp was founded and has been the premier day camp based on Jewish values in Northern Virginia ever since! Happy 50th Anniversary Camp Achva and thank you to all the campers and staff who made it possible to celebrate this historic milestone! Watch for exciting news about a Camp Shabbat reunion on July 19th coming soon!
Why Jewish Summer Camps are a Great Experience for Kids
Jewish camps, such as the camps at our J, offer joyful experiences, important life skills, new friends, and connections to Israel and Jewish culture that we could never have provided to our children at home. Jewish summer camp is where our children share Jewish cultural experiences and a sense of community and identity.
Considering Jewish Camp for Your Children?
Maybe you are considering sending your children to a Jewish summer camp but aren't quite convinced of the benefits? Here’s what you need to know about why Jewish day camp can be a good fit for any family:
So, where does Jewish learning come in? The Jewish Community Center Association did a study on Jewish Day Camps, titled "The Jewish Learning Presence In JCC Day Camps: The Current Reality & Realizing the Potential." We were among the camps in the study. To view the findings, visit http://d.jcca.org/download/day_camp_study_2011.pdf
Ready to experience for yourself why families in Northern Virginia have loved Camp Achva for 50 years?
Register your children today! Camp registration is open and can easily be completed online. For a summer of fun for your children, check out our camp brochure and register. Learn more at https://www.jccnv.org/camps/j-camps/.
Adults and children with special needs have a special place in my heart. And, from what I know, special needs and inclusion certainly has a special place at the J. Since I’ve been here, I have noticed that the award-winning Special Needs Department at the J is stellar. From inclusion programs to social groups to summer camps to adapted sports, they present countless opportunities for the special needs community.
In today’s spotlight, we are focusing on our Inclusion and Special Needs Services Director, Jessica Tischler who has been working at the J since September 2011. Originally from Virginia Beach, she has lived in both Florida and Philadelphia following college. She attended grad school for Therapeutic Recreation in Philly before moving to Northern Virginia for her job. Personally, Jessica is overjoyed that her sister in DC will soon be a mom, making her an aunt for the first time!
In her position, Jessica is responsible for supervising the Special Needs Department and developing new programming, enhancing existing programming, inclusive initiatives, troubleshooting, community partnerships, among many other things! For Jessica, no day is the same. What she enjoys most in her position are her team and coworkers, as well as the participants of her team's programs and their families. She thrives on developing relationships and helping to provide programmatic opportunities for growth and quality of life for children and adults with special needs.
To Jessica, J membership involves belonging to a community of warm, welcoming individuals and having the opportunity to participate in all that the J has to offer from social opportunities to health and wellness to education. She learns something new every day both personally and professionally by working here and always looks forward to developing new skills and to having a greater knowledge base of all things related to the field of special needs and inclusion. Jessica aspires to continue to develop more programming and new opportunities for individuals of all abilities! If you see Jessica around at the J or at a program, be sure to say hello!
Join the New Inclusion and Special Needs Services Facebook Group!
If you are interested in connecting with others in the community, and with staff at the J, about special needs related and upcoming events and activities, we have just the group for you! The J just created a Facebook group for individuals with special needs, professionals, parents, and caregivers to come together, be a forum for questions and support, share information, and connect in a safe environment. Want to join? Click facebook.com/groups/JCCNVInclusionSpecialNeedsGroup and request membership. We look forward to connecting with you!
To learn more about the Inclusion and Special Needs Department at the J, click here.
Two successful seders down. None to go. . . until next year. Still the question lingers among my children: what is the Afikomen all about and why do we hide it?
For those of you who may not know, I'll start with a little intro about what the Afikomen is. During both Passover Seders (ceremonial meals and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover), it’s customary to put three matzahs on the table (often wrapped lovingly in a handcrafted bag that your child made in preschool or Hebrew school!) Early in the Seder, you take the middle matzah, break it into two parts — and the larger portion becomes the Afikomen. This piece of matzah is traditionally eaten as a “dessert,” after the entire meal is complete! Matzo for dessert doesn't sound so exciting, but there is no reason not to serve cake or another yummy dessert first!
According to the Talmud, we end the Seder with a piece of the Afikomen matzah so its the flavor that stays in your mouth after the meal. According to Kveller.com, it's supposed to represent "the Pascal lamb, which in ancient times, every family used to sacrifice in honor of Passover."
Many families have the custom of hiding the Afikomen for the children to find and a prize is often given to whoever finds this important piece of matzah. It can get competitive, and it's also a lot of fun!
Didn't have a chance to find an Afikomen at your seder? Well, you're in luck! We invite you to our Afikomen search at the J! This week, between April 22-25, look for the Afikomen around the J and get entered to win a Passover swag bag including $50 J-Cash, a Seder plate, matzah, and more! Check out our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages to find the rules and receive clues that lead you to the Afikomen starting Monday. Be sure to find the Afikomen quickly because it will be hidden in a different location every day!
You will get multiple opportunities to earn entries to a random prize drawing:
You can submit online or in the main lobby. Online: Please send all entries to email@example.com. Submission ends April 24 at 12pm. Winner announced April 24 at 12:30pm.
Good luck and Happy Passover!
Passover is right around the corner. In thinking of Passover this year, I am reminded that we have not one, but two seders coming up next week. This brings to mind how a friend of mine, Marnie Fienberg, started a non-profit, 2 for Seder, which she created in loving memory of her mother-in-law, Joyce Fienberg, who was murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue last year. Her non-profit helps combat anti-semitism by encouraging Jewish people who celebrate Passover to share it with two neighbors or friends who have never been to a Seder.
What if you were invited to a Seder and were unaware of some of the traditions? These are my top things that I would share with someone who has never been to a seder:
What is a seder?: A seder is a feast that marks the beginning of Passover. It consists of Jewish rituals and often involves multiple generations of a family.
What is included in a seder? A traditional seder includes discussing the story of Passover, drinking four cups of wine, eating the symbolic foods placed on the seder plate, and reclining to celebrate our freedom.
What is on the Seder plate? A typical Passover Seder plate includes:
- Parsley, which symbolizes the new spring;
- Haroset (sweet fruit mixture made with wine, honey or nuts) to represent the mortar that the Israelite slaves used to construct buildings for the Pharaoh;
-Bitter herb, often horseradish, to represent the bitterness the slaves experienced;
- Another bitter herb, often romaine lettuce;
-Roasted lamb shank bone to symbolize the the sacrificed lamb in the Temple of Jerusalem; and
-A hard-boiled egg, to symbolize the roundness that represents the cycle of life.
Three pieces of matzah and a container of salt water or vinegar would also be on any Seder table.
- Why do we eat Matzah? - Matzah is eaten to remind people of how quickly their ancestors fled Egypt, leaving no time to let bread rise.
- What is the afikomen? Many families have the custom of hiding a piece of matzah (the middle matzah in a stack of three), and children often search for it to win a prize. It is typically saved to be eaten after the meal.
Hope this is helpful for explaining some important traditions of Passover to friends and seder guests. Hope you and your family have a happy and healthy holiday.
I was talking to a friend today about getting older. For me so far, my metabolism is shot and I shrunk a whole inch (I was always 5'4, wasn't I?) Despite these gripes, I'm not upset about getting older. After all, as I said to my friend, you're only as old as you feel! It is entirely possible to age positively!
Here are some tips that will hopefully help you do so:
1. Practice a positive mindset towards getting older. To do this, choose to focus on all the good things that are coming to you as you get older.
2. Take the time to cultivate the activities that bring you joy, while dropping think you don't value. Life is too short!Understand the importance of things like gratitude, forgiveness, and altruism.
3. Choose positivity when you speak to others. Words are not just a way to communicate; they are so much more than that.
4. Spend time with friends and family. Strong relationships can reduce depression, protect your brain from early signs of dementia and even slow down the aging process.
5. Spend quality time with your children and grandchildren.
6. Learn new things and engage in learning to keep your brain active.
7. Try something that has always sparked your interest, such as quilting, cooking, or playing an instrument.
8. Volunteer or help someone by using your skills, knowledge, and experience. Be productive in some capacity, whatever it means for you.
9. Plan for your legacy. What mark do you want to leave in this world? It is never too late to make an impact on those who are around you.
What are some suggestions that have worked for you when it comes to positive aging? Hope the ideas above were helpful for you to at least get you thinking about how aging can be a positive aspect of your life!
Experience Positive Aging this week at the Positive Aging and Wellness Fair on Thursday, April 8, from 8:45am–4pm, join us at the Fairfax County Government Center where the J will once again co-host the Northern Virginia Positive Aging and Wellness Fair. We are planning an exciting day of events which will include keynote speaker, Pat Collins, of NBC4 Washington, along with professionally-led workshops, exhibitors, and optional lunch. This fair is open to the community and is FREE for participants. To register and for more details, visit positiveagingfair.com.
I sorted clothes for three years at ECHO, cut bagels at my temple, and brought my comfort dog to a dementia care unit with my children. What do all these things have in common? Most would say that they are volunteer opportunities, and that it is a nice thing to do to volunteer your time to help others. What people don't realize is that volunteering is good for your health — including both your body and mind!
The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that "The essence of life is to serve others and do good.” If recent research is any indication, serving others might also contribute to good mental and physical health. Here's how (from Harvard Health):
When it comes to lowering blood pressure, the journal, Psychology and Aging, explored how adults who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. How can this be? Performing volunteer work could increase physical activity among people who aren’t otherwise very active. It may also reduce stress, and we know that stress is very strongly linked to health outcomes. Lastly, people who volunteer may be more likely to do other things, such as eat a healthy diet or exercise, that lower blood pressure.
Does every volunteer opportunity provide these benefits? Not necessarily. One key for deriving health benefits from volunteering is to do it for the right reasons. Another study in the journal Health Psychology found that participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others—not to make themselves feel better.
Interested in volunteering? Then, we have an amazing opportunity for you! On Sunday, April 7, 2019, join us at the J for the annual Sara & Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day, along with hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the globe for a day of giving back. The JCC of Northern Virginia, in partnership with the J’s Growing Jewish Families program, PJ Library®, Facets, Washington Jewish Week, FIDF and Gesher Jewish Day School will be leading a variety of hands-on projects, including fleece blankets and pet toys for animal shelters, snack packs for after-school programs, activity kits for children and much more! Be sure to join us at 1pm for music, snacks, and letters for IDF soldiers. Sign up here.
These are the Peter Max and Norman Rockwell paintings that will be up for auction on March 17, 2019 at 1pm at the J!
Ever walk through the Bodzin Gallery at the J on your way to the gym or the pool and see art that catches your eye? It happens to me all the time! I even did a double take recently when I saw a gorgeous, bright Peter Max painting with a starting bid that is 75% less than what it's worth, and a recognizable Norman Rockwell print, as well!
Speaking of Peter Max, did you know that he is from a Jewish refugee family who fled Berlin in 1938 to avoid Nazi persecution? Max and his parents travelled across China, spending some time in Tibet, before being forced to flee to Israel as Mao Tse-Tung’s army advanced on Shanghai.
Many still likely recognize Max’s work primarily from the campaign to save Lady Liberty. Max would paint the Statue every Fourth of July, but has slowed down to the severity of his dementia. Max’s pals have included The Beatles and presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Max was even commissioned to create the inaugural posters for Bill Clinton’s 1992 term.
Norman Rockwell was not Jewish, but he was the recipient of the Interfaith Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his Post cover painting of the Golden Rule in 1961. Throughout his career, Rockwell was famous for his magazine covers and paintings. For instance, after President Franklin Roosevelt made a speech to Congress in 1941 describing the "four essential human freedoms," Rockwell created paintings of the four freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. The pictures became greatly popular, and were published in the Post and many other publications. The federal government also took the original paintings on a national tour to sell war bonds, and were instrumental in selling $132,992,539 worth of bonds! (Source of info for Max and Rockwell: notablebiographies.com)
The Norman and Jane Rosenthal collection, currently on display in the Bodzin Art Gallery, was built over a lifetime, and reflects a love of travel, Judaism and Israel, nature, and being seaside. This extraordinary collection includes emerging and known artists (i.e., Peter Max, Norman Rockwell, Howard Behrens, Victor Vasarely, and Shari Hatchett Bohlmann), as well as original photographs taken by Norman. Art is available for purchase in the gallery, and at a not-to-miss art auction to be held on Sunday, March 17 at 1:30 pm at the J, led by Israeli auctioneer, Col. Hagai Golan. All proceeds of the sale will support cultural arts programs at the J.
According to Jane Rosenthal, "Art has defined spaces in our home and hearts. It is a collection of memories, a celebration of life events and support of the arts. The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (the J) has played a central role in our lives and we want to give back to the community that has nurtured us. That is the legacy we want to pass on to our children and the next generation."
Learn more about the auction here: https://bit.ly/2VQSdpC Hope to see you there!
This month, we commemorate International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all over the world. Gloria Steinem once referred to the day as a “call to action to accelerate the cause of gender equality.”
As you may know, the story of women in positions of power is hardly a new one. For instance, in the bible, one of the most important examples is of course the one that occurred in the 400s BC starring Queen Esther from the story of Purim. In doing my research, I am so glad that both my mother and daughter are named after Queen Esther!
Esther is such an important woman in Jewish history that she even has her own book – The Book of Esther – where the story of her courage and her intelligence is shared each year in synagogues all over the world during the reading of the Megillah on its own special scroll.
In brief, here’s the story of our heroine Esther and the holiday of Purim: Esther was adopted by her cousin Mordecai after her parents died. Persia’s King Ahasuerus held a beauty pageant in order to find himself a new queen. Lo and behold, beautiful Esther won the pageant and became queen. Mordecai uncovered a plot to destroy King Ahasuerus, and told Esther about it, and saved the king.
At the same time, a mean bigot named Haman (cue: grogger noise), who was the king’s highest official, devised a plan to kill all the Jews in Persia whom he hated, especially Mordecai who refused to bow down to him. When Mordecai heard of Haman’s evil plan, he shared it with Esther who urged her Jewish community to fast and pray for deliverance. And even though it was risky, she knew she had to reveal her Jewish identity to the king (who initially didn’t know she was Jewish) in order to save her people. When she told her husband about Haman’s plot to kill all the Jews which would have included herself, he was enraged. He ordered Haman to be hung on the very same gallows that Haman had prepared to hang Mordecai. The king then elected Mordecai to Haman’s high position and the Jews all over the land were granted protection. (source of story: Chabad.org)
We are all thankful to Esther and all the strong women who came after her! So, eat a hamentaschen and shake your grogger this year when you hear Haman’s name, in honor of the Purim story!
Throughout the month of February, we celebrated Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), a month dedicated to raising awareness of people with disabilities in Jewish communities and striving toward fostering inclusive Jewish communities for people with disabilities. Many people don't realize this, but March is also a month designated to advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities in our community and for their full inclusion in all facets of society.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March to be “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.” Since then, March has been a time to celebrate progress and recognize challenges facing those with special needs. One of the biggest victories has been the increased involvement of individuals with disabilities in mainstream life.
As a young child, I had no opportunity to interact with individuals of any age who had special needs. Then, as a teen, I spent a few summers as a counselor for children with disabilities. We were close to each other in age, and the line between counselors and campers was blurred. We were really just a bunch of kids hanging out. We became friends, and it changed my life immensely. Today, students of all abilities routinely share classrooms. Actors with disabilities are featured in award-winning TV shows, movies, and commercials. Dolls with disabilities teach children about accepting differences.
Everyone deserves an opportunity to reach his or her personal potential. Each of us is unique, with our own mix of abilities and disabilities. During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and every day, let’s pause to consider the ways—large and small—that we can work each day to eliminate the barriers that continue to impede individuals with special needs as they work to build lives that are independent and fulfilling.
Starting this weekend (March 3-17, 2019) is the Reelabilities Film Festival, an event dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. Each year, this dynamic festival, powered by the J, presents both domestic and international award-winning films paired with interactive programming that gives us a new perspective and highlights the vibrant personalities, realities, and extraordinary abilities of people who are differently abled. Through film, art and discussion, ReelAbilities Film Festival: Northern Virginia brings together the community to explore, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience. Learn more at https://www.jccnv.org/reel-abilities/reelabilities/.
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/)
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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. :)
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!
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!
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
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.
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.