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.
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/.
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!
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
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!
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!
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!
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
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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:
Ever walk by a preschool classroom at the J to see smiling children playing with natural elements in a bright, engaging classroom. The happy faces, cheerful colors, and nurturing environment will likely have you intrigued by the education method. Allow me to enlighten you about the Reggio Emilia child-driven approach to early childhood education.
What is Reggio Emilia?
Reggio Emilia is an approach to early childhood learning named after the town where it originated in Italy. Founder Louis Malaguzzi believed children were in need of a more holistic kind of education after World War II. He began the Reggio Emilia style based on the principle that every child is unique and will express their unique interests in many different ways.
Reggio Emilia believes that children have special knowledge and are powerful in their own way. This belief expresses itself in a co-learning environment, where teachers learn with the children and work in a lateral relationship as opposed to a hierarchical one. That partnership is also intended to encompass the parents and community of each child.
Reggio Emilia also revolves around the children’s senses, relying on sight, sound, touch and even taste and smell to assist with learning. As a result, Reggio Emilia classrooms tend to look different than your average preschool with large common spaces, natural elements and lots of light.
Another element that sets the Reggio Emilia philosophy apart is that children can demonstrate their ideas in many different ways other than just numbers and letters, including dance, paint, wire, clay, pencil, nature materials. In addition, the Reggio philosophy recognizes the importance of community in a child’s life, which means teachers try to involve parents and family in the work of education.
Reggio Emilia at the J
Reggio Emilia could very well be the perfect learning approach to encourage your little one’s development. Want to learn more? The preschool at the J follows a Reggio Emilia-based philosophy and involves the children as an active part of their own learning and the direction it takes. Our nurturing educators use a developmental approach to understanding children's abilities and enabling them to gain confidence and independence. Learn more here: https://www.jccnv.org/early-childhood-services/early-childhood-learning-center-fairfax-va/
What do you do when you’re entertaining a baby or a toddler, and it's way too hot to go outside? Find fun indoor activities in the AC, of course!
I am rusty at this toddler activities stuff, but I do know as a mom of two that there are lots of games and activities you can do with your child to have fun together and get them developing important skills early on. Skills they can learn at this early age include speaking and listening and developing eye-hand coordination. Here are some ideas:
1. Sing together
Children enjoy exploring and experimenting with language and it helps them to learn new words and their meanings and also to listen to the sounds that make those words. So sing, rhyme, shout, whisper, rap and dance to the beat!
2. Painting and drawing
Give your child lots of opportunities to draw and paint. This is not only fun, but also can help to develop eye-hand coordination and control. Let them experiment with lots of different materials – paint brushes with a range of widths, pencils, crayons, chalks and finger paint. You could try playing music when they paint and draw as this can help to create a relaxing environment.
3. Hands-on games
Use non-toxic modeling clay to get creative and develop fine motor skills. Threading beads, macaroni or cotton reels on wool or string can help with eye-hand coordination and control. Joining the dots and drawing paths through simple mazes are not only fun but are a great way to develop eye-hand coordination and pen control. Enjoy jigsaws together and chat about finding the right pieces!
4. Reading books of all kinds together
Have fun reading books of all kinds to your child: picture, words and pictures, pop up, information and poetry. Why not choose a book from the local library or PJ Library® to share together?
5. Talk about numbers around you
It’s never too early to explore numbers with your child. Numbers are all around us, from calendars to the remote control, the telephone to car registration plates. Talking about numbers around you early and often will help your child to recognize numerals and show them that numbers are part of everyday life.
6. Take your child(ren) to a kid-friendly show
To The Clouds is a perfect interactive play for children ages 0-3 and their families. It's on Sunday, July 15, at both 10am and 11:30am. Through movement, puppetry, and found object animation, To the Clouds is driven by a soundtrack of classical music and creates a captivating world of transformation. This performance is presented by Arts on the Horizon. Tickets are $6/ $5 members. Learn more and buy tickets here: https://totheclouds.bpt.me/
Hope you enjoy your summer with your little ones! As you've likely heard from everyone — they grow up way too quickly! Enjoy! :)
Millennials love Instagram, while Gen X'ers like me still love Facebook. I thought I'd take a look to see what all the fuss was about, and now, I am hooked on Instagram, as well! I can see why even before the photo-sharing application was bought by Facebook, it was already making waves among the masses, and now I'm one of them!
You may not realize, but fellow Jews have some fascinating Instagram accounts that are certainly worth checking out. A wide array of funny, cultural, delicious, religious and Israeli Instagram accounts have been established to illustrate what it means to be a Jew. While some use memes to relate Judaism to the modern world, others take a more traditional approach by documenting stories of the Jewish people, and sharing delicious recipes (I don't cook, but as you can tell on Facebook, I love a good recipe!)
Here’s our list of the ten best Jewish Instagram accounts out there. Note: We’ve refrained from mentioning political or news-related accounts.
1. I'll start with the most important IG account to follow, ours! (@jccnv):
If you aren’t following us already, we hope you will now! We fill your Instagram feed with only the best of the best of what's happening at the J, contests, pics, and more. You'll love it... trust me!
2. What Jew Wanna Eat
Amy Kritzer’s account, What Jew Wanna Eat, documents photos of your favourite Jewish nosh. Corned beef, shakshuka, bagels, lox and cream cheese, challah, donuts, gefilte fish, rugelach, hummus, falafel and matzo ball soup. Kritzer displays a smorgasbord of mouth-watering Jewish food to her 38,000+ followers. It’s also all kosher, which allows for some delicious recipe ideas.
3. Humans Of Judaism
A spin-off from Humans of New York, Humans of Judaism showcases Jews from across the globe with an emphasis on what Judaism and Israel means to them. With 117,000 followers, Humans of Judaism features many Jews’ captivating stories.
4. Crazy Jewish Mom
Make no mistakes, Crazy Jewish Mom is one of the funniest and most original accounts out there. The profile has over 785,000 followers who tune into the daily text conversations between Kate Friedman Siegel and her crazy Jewish mother. Kate’s mother prefers to go unnamed, though we do know that she refers to her daughter as “spawn.” Whether or not all the texts are real, the account emphasizes the quintessential Jewish stereotype (overbearing mothers), which is something we can all relate to, Jewish or not.
Do you love Israel? If so, this Instagram account is for you! Get updates on the latest events taking place in Israel, see pictures the most beautiful Israeli scenery, wet your appetite with delicious looking foodie photos, and imagine the sounds of the ocean while enjoying pictures of Israeli beaches.
Who doesn’t love Challah? We surely do! If you agree, this Instagram account with 11,700 followers will have you wishing for Friday night.
Like the name implies, this one is for all the meme lovers out there! MitzvahMemes has all the memes you love. And are all about Judaism!
8. Seinfeld 2000
Still don’t want to come to terms with the fact that Seinfeld, an institution in Jewish comedy, is over? Neither do I. Seinfeld 2000 boasts 262,000 followers, and publishes an extensive variety of Seinfeld-related content. Seinfeld 2000 presents classic Seinfeld comedy, but updated for a 2018 audience.
Hope you enjoy these Instagram pages. Please comment if you have others to share! And, if you don't follow us already, please be sure to follow the J on Instagram at @jccnv. See you on Instagram and Facebook!
Since the day I realized the many spiritual and health benefits of yoga, I’ve wanted to practice it daily. But the reality of fitting it into my busy schedule is something I have been wrestling with ever since. It still does not come easy, but knowing the positive outcomes to body and mind, I’m hoping to find a way to squeeze it in each week.
For most people, trying to fit a new habit, such as yoga, into your daily routine for longer than a few weeks can be difficult. These are a few motivational tips that I use for myself that I hope you will find helpful:
1. See it as a necessary part of your day:
One of the main barriers to yoga or any kind of exercise is, "I don't have enough time in the day." Yes, life is busy for many of us—especially if you're juggling caring for children or loved ones with work and projects. But, taking care of your body and mind is important, especially if you are caring for others — whether that's through daily yoga and meditation or some other practice to get your body moving.
2. Try to do yoga (or any type of exercise) at the same time every day:
After many years of trying to be flexible and fitting in yoga around the rest of my day, I have learned that this approach does not work well for me. It’s too easy to keep putting it off until "there is a better time” and then I end up not doing anything at all. When I do yoga at the same time every day I find it much easier to keep the daily habit.
So, what time is the best time to practice? For me, it is first thing in the morning. I am most likely to practice then and keep up with it then. After that, I can enjoy the benefits all day. Everybody is different though, and if after work or evenings are better for you, that’s fine too. Find your time slot and try as much as you can to stick with it.
When you do not have a schedule in place, your daily habits take over and again, it can be very difficult to bring something new into your daily routine. So, plan a time for yoga or meditation. Or better, find a class that you like and include it as part of your schedule.
3. Attend a class:
We now have several yoga classes at the J, which are designed to help you develop a regular habit of yoga by giving you a different variety to keep things fresh and interesting. Here are some options:
Sunset Yoga with DC Fray
Tuesdays, July 10-August 14, 7pm
Register here: https://dcfray.com/sport/yoga
Get zen as the sun sets! Bring your mats, and DC Fray will bring the FUN (& glow sticks.) Whether you've been doing Yoga for years or it's your first time, all levels are welcome. Register here
Classes begin June 24
Registration is now open! Class sizes are limited to 5 per class.
This is a great class for those who have experienced neurological or autoimmune imbalances; are affected by chronic pain related to fibromyalgia, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, depression, or cancer or other chronic conditions; or want a gentler yoga to revive and heal you. Three classes are available. Contact Rebecca.Friedlander@jccnv.org for details.
PIER (Post Injury Exercise & Rehab) Program has begun.
The PIER program addresses post rehabilitation needs related to injuries and chronic issues. It will also be offered as the next step after physical therapy and occupational therapy. The PIER program is an aquatic program that can incorporate exercises on land. Types of conditions that will be addressed: Back and Joint pain, Fibromyalgia, Heart Disease, Major and Minor Stroke, Achilles Tendon Tears, Arthritis, Auto-immune Diseases, Diabetes, Sports Injuries, Cancer And others as needed. Contact Petya.Ivanova@jccnv.org for details.
We also offer What' SUP Yoga (Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga) on Wednesday nights and Saturdays! Learn more here: https://www.jccnv.org/group-fitness/class-schedule-descriptions-and-rates/
Hope to see you soon at a yoga class!
In Jewish teaching, Hillel (an important religious elder in Jewish history) challenges us to view our treatment of ourselves and others through the lens of our community’s values. He teaches that if any community exists only for itself, we aren’t being true to the lessons in Judaism that teach us to be inclusive, to “welcome the stranger,” and to incorporate those who are different from us. Inclusion is certainly a Jewish value to work toward.
Helen Murray (director) and Marc Acito (playwright) will present The Secrets of the Universe (and other songs), a play that focuses on the Jewish value of inclusion, and other Jewish values such as empathy and respect. The play will be performed from July 6-29, 2018 at the John Swayze Theatre in Fairfax, Virginia. This play is a co-production of the Hub Theatre and the J.
A description of the play is as follows:
In 1937, a physics professor at Princeton University received a call. The internationally renowned classical singer Marian Anderson was giving a concert at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton. But because she was African-American, Anderson was denied a hotel room. Instead she accepted an invitation to stay at the professor's home. That professor was Albert Einstein. The Secrets of the Universe is based on the true relationship of these titanic figures, a union of hearts, minds and souls in a quest to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.
The Secrets of the Universe (and other songs) is the 6th play Helen Murray has directed for the Hub Theatre since she co-founded it with Maggie Ulmer and Marey Oakes in 2008. The show marks Murray's artistic farewell to the DC area, as she completes her move to Colorado. A talented cast of DC area performers will bring this world premiere to life. The show is sponsored by David Bruce Smith Productions, a company that specializes in creating, designing, and composing limited-edition books on a variety of subjects: authors, historic figures, artists, and leaders. Learn more and buy tickets for the play here: https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=75022.
Sometimes my kids get restless sitting around the house. I often wonder what the best way is to channel their seemingly boundless energy. I have come to realize that while traditional team sports are a good way to get some kids physically active, they are not a good fit for everyone. Dance classes are a great alternative to team sports, and at the J, we offer lessons for children as young as two or three and up to adult.
In my research, I have come to realize that participating in dance classes can be beneficial for kids of all ages. Let me explain how:
Dance Promotes Creativity
Participating in dance lessons promotes creativity and helps a child develop an appreciation for the arts. Dance is a form of self-expression. Children who explore the world of dance at an early age will find a constructive outlet for their creativity and a positive way to express themselves. Honing their creativity at a young age will help them later in life.
Dance Improves Classroom Performance
Studies show that children who participate in dance lessons tend to perform better in the classroom. Dance requires discipline and focus, which translates to an improved academic performance. In addition, dance lessons help reinforce educational basics, like counting. Children also learn to differentiate right from left and fast from slow.
Dance Improves Self-Esteem
During dance lessons, a child gains a better understanding of his/her body and how it moves. Children with a background in dance are typically more comfortable about their body and have improved levels of self-confidence. It takes great courage and confidence to dance on stage in front of an audience, and dance helps encourage both of these wonderful qualities. Dance also helps foster a positive attitude. The instructors at the J help create an encouraging environment that helps turn each dance lesson into a positive, constructive experience.
Dance Encourages Socialization
Dance lessons are a great place for kids to make new friends. With each class, children learn to improve their communication and social skills by interacting with other dancers in their class. They also learn how to work together as a team. In time, students learn how to cooperate and trust in one another. It's not uncommon for children to forge lifelong friendships from dance. If your child is fearful of performing in public or shy, taking classes at the J can help alleviate these fears and help your child feel more confident.
Dance Encourages an Active Lifestyle
In today's technology-driven world, it is becoming increasingly important for children to adopt a physically active lifestyle early on. Dance is the perfect way to keep kids physically active in a fun way. By bringing your child to the J, they will improve their flexibility, range of motion, stamina and their strength. The movements in dance also help improve balance, coordination and posture. Dance focuses heavily on proper body alignment and learning how to move the body to create fluid motion. It's no wonder dance has been used to help train athletes in some of today's most competitive sports like football and basketball.
Dance Helps Improve Behavioral Issues
Dancing is a skill that requires intense focus, discipline and coordination. Many parents find that dance lessons help improve behavioral issues, such as hyperactivity. Classes designed for young children are not quite as demanding, but as your child progresses in dance, their lessons will require more focus, dedication and discipline. The art of dancing tends to have a calming effect on children and also helps them release pent-up energy.
Dance is Fun!
This is perhaps the greatest benefit. Dancing is so much fun for kids. It allows them to stay active in a fun and exciting way. All the while, your child develops important social and emotional skills without even realizing it. As your child progresses, they can explore different areas of dance and make new friends in the process.
Dance Classes and an Upcoming Performance at the J
j.dance is a dance program at the J that provides classes in ballet, modern, tap, jazz, hip hop, and acro for preschool, children, teens, and adults. To learn more about these classes, visit https://bit.ly/2JeyTzN. To learn more about j.dance summer camps, visit https://bit.ly/2IU99cM. If you’d like to see if your preschooler is interested in taking lessons, bring him/her to the j.dance Preschool Performance of “It Could Always Be Worse,” an adaptation of the book written by Margot Zemach. The show is Sunday, June 3rd at 10:30am. For more information, contact Brenda.Forsely@jccnv.org.
I love cheese- whether it's cream cheese, in a cheesecake, or by itself. Therefore, one of my favorite Jewish holidays is Shavuot -- a holiday where cheese is plentiful and encouraged! This year, Shavuot begins at sundown on Saturday, May 19 and ends at sundown on Monday, May 21.
Why is dairy encouraged on Shavuot?
One reason we eat dairy on Shavuot is the belief that because the Israelites had not yet received the kosher laws, they had prepared foods on the first Shavuot that did not follow kashrut. When they received the Torah, they read the new laws of kashrut and realized their meat dishes were not kosher, in accordance with God’s will– so they opted to eat dairy dishes only. Another reason is that the Hebrew word chalav (milk) has a numerical value of 40, which corresponds with the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah. Still others say that Shavuot occurs during the fertile spring period, when animal mothers produce lots of fresh milk, and the abundance of milk is why we consume dairy.
It’s such a luxury to have an excuse to try different cheeses in every dish of the Shavuot meal. Here are some recipes you can try this year!
Shavuot at the J
To celebrate at the J, staff will be participating in a Shavuot Dairy Bake-Off! Awards will be given out to winners in multiple categories including: Creativity, Presentation, Taste, and Overall. We will share pics of the winning dishes on social media. In observance, the J will be closed at 5pm on Saturday, May 19, and all day on Sunday, May 20 and Monday, May 21 in observance of the Shavuot holiday.
However you celebrate, we wish you a happy Shavuot holiday!
A few years ago, I met Jennifer Kanarek, the NV Rides/J Rides manager here at the J. I instantly connected with her because of our shared desire to help seniors. This week, I’ll share what I’ve learned about Jennifer, her program, and an exciting upcoming event.
Jennifer grew up in Florida, and was fortunate to have all of her grandparents nearby. Throughout her life, she observed the challenges her parents faced in caring for her aging grandparents. Jennifer believes that this experience helped shaped her interest in helping older adults.
So far, Jennifer's career is testament to her desire to help the aging population. She has worked in non-profit management for 18 years, primarily in the Jewish community. After graduating from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she later pursued an MSW in Management and Community Practice from the University of Tennessee. There, she completed her field work at the Knox County Area Agency on Aging. Prior to joining NV Rides, she served as the volunteer coordinator for the Senior Companion program, and as an intern for a transitional housing program for homeless seniors. She started at the J as a Community Engagement Coordinator and is now the manager of NV Rides, a program that supports a network of volunteer driver programs administered by community-based organizations.
The NV Rides program is a partnership between the J, Jewish Council for the Aging (JCA), and Fairfax County. Through the program, Jennifer and Gina Cocomello helped the J develop J Rides, a volunteer driver service that helps non-driving seniors stay engaged in their community. Both programs can always use the help of volunteer drivers. According to Jennifer, "if you are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity, please consider becoming a J Rides volunteers. We are in need of drivers throughout Northern Virginia, and you can set your own schedule." You can contact Jennifer at 703-537-3071 to learn more, or visit www.nvrides.org and https://www.jccnv.org/adult-services/j-rides/.
NV Rides is offering an opportunity for seniors and volunteers to learn more about their program and services. On May 17, join NV Rides in Clifton as it hosts “NV Rides: Safe Driving As You Age,” a morning of workshops offering tips and best practices to help you stay on the road safely and for as long as possible. Seniors, volunteers, and caregivers can attend this free safe-driving workshop to learn how to improve your health and well-being on and off the road, and explore safe and reliable transportation alternatives for you and your loved ones. The event will include speakers, an exhibitor fair and a light lunch. Click here to learn more. RSVP to Gina Cocomello, GinaC@NVRides.org or call 703.537.3070
Lag B’Omer is considered a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, but in my opinion, even a minor holiday is still a holiday and therefore worth celebrating! The interesting part about this holiday is that it occurs in the middle of a time of reflection and non-celebration, which is more the reason to make the most of it!
Lag B’Omer represents the 33rd day of the counting of the omer, the fifty days between Passover and Shavuot. While Passover celebrates our freedom from slavery, Shavuot celebrates our receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The word lag represents 33 and an omer is a measurement. Between these two holidays, while counting the days, Jews traditionally brought an omer of grain to the Temple.
The counting of the omer presents a special opportunity to reflect back on where we’ve come from as well as to look forward to where we are going. It is a time for self-awareness, self-growth, and community development. Traditionally, many Jews refrain from open celebration during the counting of the omer. However, Lag B’Omer is a day during this season upon which marriages, haircuts, and other celebrations are allowed to take place!
The most famous Lag B'Omer celebration is held at the village of Meron, near the northern city of Safed in Israel. People come from all over the country to make their way up the mountain where Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the mystical Jewish text The Zohar, is said to be buried. Crowds of 500,000 gather at his tomb for this very happy celebration, roasting marshmallows and potatoes, dancing around the fires that lift their spirits, and filling the air with song.
At the J, we are looking forward to celebrating Lag B'omer with the community. On May 3, we invite you to join the Northern Virginia Jewish Community, in partnership with Chabad Lubavitch of Northern Virginia and Gesher Jewish Day School, for the 3rd Annual day of family fun celebrating Lag Baomer and our community! This year's celebration features entertainment including a drum circle; zipline; moonbounce; inflatables; activities; facepainting; petting zoo; bonfire; and more! Food will be available for purchase. Learn more and buy tickets here: https://novacelebrateslagbomer.brownpapertickets.com.
Good Deeds Day is coming up on April 29, and it's truly a blast. Yes, my son has service hours he needs to complete for middle school. But do they need to be a drag? Not at all!
My family volunteers together at Good Deeds Day (GDD) every year. (You should see my collection of GDD t-shirts that I wear to the gym!) In the picture above (taken last year), we were making non-slip slipper socks for children in need. We also put together soups, made blankets for pets at the shelter, and wrote thank you notes for Israeli soldiers. My entire family left Gesher that day feeling like we made a difference, and we had fun doing it!
Does your family volunteer together? If not, why not give it a try! If you're looking for an activity your whole family will enjoy, volunteering can be a dynamic, rewarding way to bring your family together. Whether you’re organizing a food drive, cleaning up a street or a park, or volunteering at Good Deeds Day, volunteering amplifies your impact in the community—and gives you some quality time together. Service can get everyone thinking positively and prioritizing what’s important. Plus, you’ll make some great family memories!
Good Deeds Day is an annual, international celebration of Doing Good! Join more than two million volunteers around the world, and 8,500 in our community for this day of service. Roll up your sleeves and make an impact through a variety of hands-on volunteer projects. Good Deeds Day in our area is produced in partnership with the J, Federation’s Jconnect, Federation partner agencies, congregations and other organizations.
My friend's daughter has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She's in a tough spot now that she's a teenager. Academically, she is a straight-A student with a bright future ahead, but socially she has some deficiencies and has had trouble making friends in middle school. Luckily for children like her, there's a program here at the J that can help, and this year it is celebrating its 10th anniversary!
Going Places! is an award-winning social club for teens, young adults, and adults who are diagnosed with Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD- NOS). The club provides social opportunities in a supportive environment with guidance from professional staff to help participants improve their social skills and overall comfort in social situations.
Going Places! age groups include teens (ages 14-18), young adults (ages 18-26), and adults (ages 26+). Activities are monthly and may include mini golf, bowling, swim parties, dances, community service projects, museum trips, movies, holiday parties and more! Events are open to people of all backgrounds, and are led by the J's Resource Specialist Melissa Hochberg, M. Ed., who I had the opportunity to speak with about the program this afternoon.
Melissa is extremely passionate about her dual role at the J, as the head of the Going Places! program and as the ECLC resource person. Her role in Going Places! began at the second event in 2008, shortly after she started working at the J. She recalls a young lady who attended the events every other month that year, who explained her desire for the events to be more frequent, because, for the first time in her life, she was making friends. She is still a member today and enjoys the more frequent monthly events! In another instance, at the most recent ice skating outing, an adult went onto the ice for the first time in his life. When he first stepped on the ice, he fell on his stomach. This didn't stop him. He got back out there and kept skating. Although he held onto the wall the whole time, he felt so accomplished as he made his way around the rink multiple times. This gave him a newfound confidence and a drive to try new things and not give up. Other members have found lifelong friends and a few even found love in the group!
We are thankful to Melissa and her staff for all that they do for special needs community members and for making Going Places! such a rousing success over the past decade. If you, a friend, or a loved one could benefit from Going Places! and would like to learn more or attend a program, please call 703-537-3040 or email email@example.com.