I don’t play a sport, and sadly I am far from being a teenager. But, if I did and if I was, I would certainly want to participate in the JCC Maccabi Games®! Last night (Sunday, August 6) at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY, hundreds of Jewish athletes, coaches, and fans from around the world gathered for the opening ceremonies of the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games® and Artsfest, an Olympic style sporting competition held for Jewish athletes that are between the age of 13 and 16.
This year, there are 21 delegations from around the world competing in sporting events ranging from basketball and hockey to swimming and golf. The athletes will be competing in venues around Albany, starting last night and ending on August 11.
Around 2,600 Jewish teens participate in the JCC Maccabi Games every summer, including our local athletes from the Northern Virginia Delegation, including 16 athletes, 3 coaches, and 1 delegation head (Allison Merims). Our delegation is specifically comprised of:
The JCC Maccabi ArtsFest® is also happening concurrently. Specialties include musical theater, acting/improv, vocal music, rock band, star reporters (Journalism/TV), visual arts, jazz ensemble/world music, and dance.
This year’s NoVA Delegation is the largest that NoVA has sent in many years, and we wish them lots of luck in their respective sports. We will continue to provide updates about the NoVA Delegation on our Facebook page! Please also check out the Maccabi games page on our website to learn more and see how you or your teenager can get involved in future games!
*denotes age of players on team
I love my husband, kids, pets, good friends, and my job at the J! Next week, I can express all this love during Tu B’Av, the ancient day of love, which starts Sunday night (8/6) and goes through Monday (8/7).
Did you know that, in ancient times, Tu B’Av started as a singles mixer, of sorts? According to the Talmud, Jewish women would go dancing in the vineyards and unmarried men would go to the fields to pick out a wife. The women would wear white dresses that they had borrowed, so that no one would be embarrassed if she didn’t own the proper garments.
Today, the day is celebrated in Israel, much like Valentine’s Day in the United States, with flowers, romantic dinner dates and evening soirées. It is considered to be a good date for a wedding. Lovers taking an evening stroll outside can enjoy nature’s mood lighting, since the holiday often falls on an evening with a full moon.
If you are in the U.S., whether Tu B’Av is a time for a romantic date, to hang out with friends, or catch up on cat videos, the holiday is a good excuse to connect with the world around you. Here are seven clever ways to celebrate the holiday.
However you spend Tu B’Av, we wish you lots of love and good times with the ones you love!
Photo: Joc Pederson, Credit: JTA
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a die-hard baseball fan. Thirteen years ago, when I heard the news that we were getting a baseball team, I nearly flipped out from happiness and excitement. Since then, I haven’t missed a Washington Nationals game (I’ve mostly watched them on tv, but have also seen some great games at Nats Park!)
I remember wondering if Ryan Zimmerman and Max Scherzer were members of the tribe. Turns out that they are not, but 11 other players and a manager are. Below is the list of some of the Jewish major leaguers. Click on the player’s name below for details about him and his stats:
Speaking of baseball, did you know that the J has a baseball team that is going to the JCC Maccabi Games® as part of the Northern Virginia delegation? At the Maccabi Games, for five days, teen athletes/artists participate in tournaments, community service projects, and exciting social events with Jewish athletes and artists from around the world! Learn more here.
Want to experience major league baseball with members of the Jewish community? Come out to the ballgame on Sunday, August 27, 2017 for Federation’s third annual Jewish Community Day at Nationals Park. Join more than 1,500 community members at Grand Slam Sunday and watch the Nationals take on the Mets! Get your tickets here for the J's ticket block here: https://doinggood.wufoo.com/forms/qbdpy2e0obkhmu/ Hope to see you at the game!
When I asked my daughter what kind of a birthday party she wants this year, she was very particular. She said she wants a party where she can learn to cook, and can invite her whole soccer team, the Brownie troop, and some of her other best friends. My first thought is that there is no way I can fit all these children in my kitchen, followed by the fact that I can't cook, so I shouldn't be teaching other people how to do so, followed by the dread of having to clean my house before and after the party.
Then, I opened Centertainment and wa-la! The J offers themed birthday parties (including cooking) for a reasonable price for up to 25 kids. All we have to do is show up, order a few pizzas, and bring a cake. Seems like a no brainer to me!
Are you considering the J for your child's upcoming party? Here are some of the themes available:
-Arts and Crafts Party
Ages 5 and up
Partygoers will enjoy creating their own masterpieces at this artsy-party! Art projects are a great way for children to express themselves and discover their creativity.
Ages 5 and up
Partygoers-turned-pastry chefs will enjoy baking their own tasty treats! They’ll also get to decorate their own aprons or toques (chefs’ hats) as keepsakes to use in future culinary experiences!
Ages 5 and up
Relay races, Freeze Tag, What Time Is It Mr. Fox?, Red Light, Green Light, and more—Parachute activities, all sorts of sports; your favorite games galore!
-Gym Jam Party
Ages 3-4 years old
Doesn’t everybody love a good ‘Jam?! Party includes free play and activities such as mini basketball, soccer, scooters, tunnels, and a moon bounce! The last 15 minutes of the party includes a fun parachute activity for both parents and children.
Kids will enjoy an hour in the pool with our staff as we play games and splash around in our heated pool at any time of the year!
Give your budding ballerina a birthday to remember! Our enthusiastic, energetic dance instructors will lead a 45-minute ballet session, including a ballet class, demonstrate dances from the theme ballet, and invite party participants to dance roles of various characters using costumes and props! We will also lead a craft such as decorating pointe shoes, wands, tiaras, or another craft relating to the theme of choice! Choose from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or the Nutcracker for a special ballet-themed day! Boys are invited too — just let us know so we can plan accordingly!
-Hip Hop Party
Does your dancer dream of starring in their own music video? Let them get a taste of the spotlight on their special day as our professional dance instructors lead a fun Hip Hop dance party! This will include a warm-up, dance games, and the creation of a dance routine to your birthday girl or boy’s favorite song!
You can make your child’s birthday celebration one to remember at the J, while making it a stress-free event with minimal work for yourself! J parties are available on Sundays from either 11a–1p or 1p–3p. The first hour is reserved for party activities while the second hour is reserved for food/cake etc.
All parties and fees accommodate up to 15 children (with an additional fee for more children- up to 25). Fee includes:
• Party room for two hours
• Party staff (staffed accordingly)
• Paper products and generic room decorations available
Interested in learning more? Email Allison.Merims@jccnv.org or call 703.537.3097.
As the school year came to a close, I was especially happy about one thing: not having to pack lunch for my kids for a while! It was always a challenge trying to figure out what to pack-- particularly what they would eat as opposed to what would end up in the trash, or what would come home with one bite missing and the rest intact.
When I signed my kids up for camp, I remembered that the lunch dilemma was far from over. I am still tasked with coming up with a variety of enticing and delicious well-balanced lunches for my kids. Here's a list of some protein-rich favorites (and how much protein is contained in each) to ensure your kids get a well-balanced and nutritious meal that fills them with energy and keeps them smiling all day long:
(1) Greek yogurt (1 cup = 17 grams) Greek yogurt, also called strained yogurt, is a very thick type of yogurt. It tastes delicious, has a creamy texture, and is rich in many nutrients. Non-fat greek yogurt has protein at 48% of calories. One 170 gram (6 ounce) container has 17 grams of protein, with only 100 calories. Try to choose one without added sugar. Full-fat Greek yogurt is also very high in protein, but contains more calories.
(2) Hard-boiled eggs (1 Egg = 6 grams) Eggs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, eye-protecting antioxidants and brain nutrients that most people don’t get enough of. Whole eggs are high in protein, but egg whites are almost pure protein.
(3) Broccoli (1 cup = 5 grams) Broccoli is an incredibly healthy vegetable, loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and potassium. Broccoli also contains various bioactive nutrients believed to help protect against cancer. Calorie for calorie, it is high in protein compared to most vegetables.
(4) Avocado (1 med. avocado = 3 grams) Fresh avocados can be a creamy and delicious addition to a sandwich or they can be enjoyed as a lunchtime snack. They can be a great substitute for foods that are high in saturated fats, and are also the main ingredient in guacamole (yum!)
(5) Tuna fish (1 cup = 39 grams) Tuna is low in both fat and calories, so what's left is mostly just protein. Like other fish, tuna is also very high in various nutrients and contains a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
According to the USDA MyPlate program and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, protein should be incorporated into a healthy diet. Hope your child is enjoying camp and the healthy protein-packed lunches you are packing!
Did you know?. . . If your child is not going to camp at this time, you can still sign him or her up for camp at the J! Our 2017 J Camp registration is now open!
Camp runs from July 3-August 18, from 9am-4pm. We offer swim lessons - field trips - special guests - and more!
Today we live busy lives; however, most of our jobs don't require much physical activity. The only running we sometimes do is to the next appointment or meeting. And if you are anything like me, when you're finally home and can take a breath, you play games, watch TV, or read. Over time, this physical inactivity can take a toll on us both physically and emotionally.
So, what can you do as a fill-in if you can’t make it to the J to work out? Check us out on YouTube. These are some of the videos you will find on our channel to help you target certain areas of your body:
If you feel like you don’t have time for exercise, it’s important to make time! Regular physical activity can reduce your chance of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer. As you age, being more active can make it easier to get around, and even decrease the chance of falling. It's also a big factor in maintaining a healthy body weight. Being active can make us feel better, and help us manage depression and anxiety.
What are your reasons to become more active? How will regular exercise benefit you? Come to the J and use our gym, take our classes, and hire one of our personal trainers. You will be glad you did. I hope to see you at the J soon! Until then, I hope these and other exercises will be helpful when you can’t make it to the gym!
When you think of a development professional, what comes to mind? The first thing some would say is raising money to support an organization. Other would think of the compelling opportunities that person creates for donors, while others recognize how the development person makes the experience of giving satisfying and rewarding. When you think of Michelle Pearlstein, the J’s Development Associate, all of these things come to mind.
Local to our area, Michelle has been with the J for seven years. What makes her unique is that she had no big dreams of raising money. She just wanted to help people in our community have access to the programs they enjoy, and knows that raising money and awareness are both essential to do so.
Michelle moved to Northern Virginia when she was 6 year old. She started that same summer at the J’s Camp Achva. For middle school and high school, she attended Lake Braddock and later went on to study history and religion at Miami University in Southwest Ohio.
After college, Michelle spent a year in Israel on a gap year program, and worked for the American Jewish Committee organizing programs for interfaith families in Jewish life. It was her dream job (in her dream location), but he realized it was not sustainable when she had kids.
She returned to Northern Virginia, and worked part time teaching high school students and as the Israeli specialist at Olam Tikvah Hebrew School. She then assumed the role as a part-time staff member at the J in Community Engagement, supporting the Growing Jewish Families and PJ Library programs. After a year, she moved to the development position she is in today. Michelle has a husband named Dave, and two children, Jacob (16) and Sarah (14), who both went through Camp Achva!
As someone who has always worked at non-profits, Michelle believes she does her best work when she works for an organization that she cares about. She says that the people who come to the J make it fulfilling for her; as do the people she works with. At the J, we are all truly one big family. In fact, more than 40 staff members at the J have already contributed more than $105,700 to support facility improvements and programmatic development through the Our J. Our Community. Our Future. Capital Campaign.
Michelle, along with all the staff at the J, know that more comfortable and inspiring space will enhance programs in our building, and new programming will help even more people feel connected to the Jewish community! Check out some of the amazing updates so far, here.
We hope you will come enjoy everything the J has to offer, and consider donating! Every gift makes a difference as we work towards our goal!
At a Friday night Shabbat dinner, the blessing over the challah is typically done. Sometimes, I look at the bread and wonder, “(w)hy can’t we be doing this prayer over pumpernickel, cinnamon raisin bread, a New York bagel, or even a loaf of Wonder bread?” Why does it have to be challah? I also wonder if there will be any left for French toast the next morning!
Is it the delicious aroma and scrumptious sweet taste of the freshly baked special Jewish bread that makes it the first choice at our Friday night dinners? Not exactly! Challah is eaten rather than any other bread, because Challah is both sweeter and richer, being made with egg as well as wheat. A sweeter, tastier “rich man’s food” is a more fitting a symbol of the Manna which G-d provided.
Challah is also a braided bread, and the braids have meaning. We braid each one with three strands, together; the two Challah’s it's customary to eat have six strands total. This signifies the six days of the week preceding the Shabbat. When we braid the Challah, we signify bringing those six days together creating unity and harmony in our lives by celebrating Shabbat.
The braiding of the challah may also symbolize:
According to My Jewish Learning, “(c)hallah, however you bake it, continues to play a central, delicious role in the rhythm of Jewish life. Through migration, diaspora, and agriculture, it became something just as diverse as the people who bake it every Friday.”
Here are some recipes for different types of challah that you and your family can make:
Hope you are able to spend many Shabbat meals with your loved ones enjoying challah, however you like to make it!
Apps can be fun, educational, and can even save you money (i.e. Cartwheel!) They keep kids busy for hours on long trips, and can even teach them new things.
Every now and then, an app comes along that actually offers users the opportunity for spiritual reflection. The following apps, designed for people who are interested in Judaism, can make learning about Jewish holidays and other Jewish stuff fun for families:
Hope you and your families enjoy these fun apps. Hope the see you soon at the J!
I didn’t know it was Jewish American Heritage Month this month. Did you? They don’t publicize it a lot, but it’s true. . . we have our very own month! And there are lots of reasons to celebrate!
By Congressional resolution and Presidential proclamation, MAY is Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM). JAHM is a national month of recognition of the more than 360-year history of Jewish contributions to American culture. JAHM acknowledges the achievements of American Jews in fields ranging from sports and arts and entertainment to medicine, business, science, government, and military service. This year, the theme is American Jews in Medical Research.
The groundbreaking medical research conducted by these dedicated individuals, among countless others, continues to improve and save lives. The JAHM Website features stories of Jewish Americans that were selected for their contributions to and impact on the American public. Learn more here.
Hope you enjoy the rest of JAHM and that you are your family have a Happy Shavuot (a holiday that begins tonight and goes through tomorrow that commemorates the giving of the Torah)
Next week we celebrate the Jewish holiday of Shavuot and it involves one of my favorite things — eating cheesecake!
Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The two day long holiday, which begins on May 30 this year, marks the end of the seven week Counting of the Omer– the time period between Passover and the day God delivering the Torah to Moses and the Israelites on Mt. Sinai.
So, what's with the cheesecake? Actually, there could be a number of reasons for the association of dairy with Shavuot. One reason is that some believe 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, as explained in Tribe Magazine, 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.
In Israel, Shavuot is celebrated with fun water fights, lots of dairy dishes and desserts, and farmers from different parts of the country taking turns bringing their fruit and vegetable samples to Jerusalem – to the president.
However you celebrate, we hope you and your family have a happy Shavuot (with lots of cheesecake, if you desire it!)
Israel is 69 years young, and you would be amazed what the small, but mighty, country has accomplished during this time. In honor of Israel’s Independence Day, let’s look at some of the amazing technology that was invented there! These were excerpted from the Times of Israel, where there are 64 other reasons to celebrate Israel this year:
Do you love Israel as much as I do? If so, I hope to see you at Israel Fest this Sunday at the J! Highlights are as follows: Climb Masada on the Rock Wall • Hands-on activities & exhibits • Food for purchase • PJ Library Activities • Go Gaga for the Gaga Pit • Moonbounces • Green Screen • Israeli Dancing with Markid Mike • DrummingWorkshops • Giant Size Games in Gan Sacer Park • Sidewalk Chalk Art & Murals • Israel-style shuk (market) • Face painting • Kotel • Balloon twisting • cotton candy • Meet Canaan Dogs • and MORE! Find out more here!
If you come to our gym and ask some of the people why they work out, you would hear reasons including, “I want to lose weight,” “I have an (event) coming up and want to fit into my (dress or suit),” or “I can’t be seen in a swimsuit like this!” What many people don’t realize is that exercise has emotional benefits, as well.
Whether you are running, doing yoga, or lifting weights, moving your body on a regular basis can help you feel great in more ways than one. Some of the emotional health benefits of exercise include:
Exercising should be fun and tailored to who you are! Take a weight training class with your friends. Listen to your favorite music and run on the treadmill at the J. Swim a few laps at our pool with your kids. Choose something that gets your heart pumping and that you enjoy doing to make it easier to be consistent.
Mother's Day Gift Idea from the J's Health & Fitness Dept.
Moms are the heart, soul, and cornerstone of a family. Show yours how much she means to you by giving her the gift of health!
Special Mother’s Day Personal Training Gift Certificates are available from May 8 to May 14th. A 10% discount is being offered on new client starter packages. Treat Mom (or yourself) to a special personalized workout. Email Elin.Kanchev@jccnv.org to purchase your gift certificate! Learn more about our wellness offerings, including classes, workout facility, and trainers here. Hope to see you at the J!
You need to be a special person to be a membership director. Not only does someone in this role bring in new members; he or she has to keep current ones coming back and make sure customer service and customer satisfaction are of the highest quality. The membership director is also tasked with generating excitement and interest in the J and in the community.
At the J, we have a special, talented person who is pretty new in this role at our center. Her name is Shae Agee, and she previously served in a similar position at the YWCA in Washington, DC and at the Trinity Center for Women in DC.
Shae was born in Georgia, but as an Army brat, she lived mostly in the DC area and in NJ, near the shore. She has been an athlete her entire life; playing soccer, softball, tennis and basketball, and has been in the health and fitness industry for 20 years and loves it! She is also a singer and sings for a professional group in DC, and is married with a 3-year-old son, who is the light of her life!
Shae feels like the J is special, mostly because of the members and her co-workers. She sees the J as a “place for unity in a time of turmoil in our country.” In Shae’s experience wellness is something that is very personal for each member. It can be losing weight, delving into cultural arts, gardening, swimming… She says, “Once you find what works, stick with it!”
So, if you see Shae around at the J, be sure to say “hello.” Also, please join us and tell your friends that we are having a “Spring Fling: It’s a J Thing” May Open House on May 7 from noon- 4pm. There will be membership specials, activities, etc. Hope you can join us. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2oMkDkq
Please email me at if you know of a staff member or J member who you think should be featured. Thank you for reading!
Israel was established 69 years ago, in 1948. Since I can't be there to commemorate this glorious day in history, I will explain how they do it in Israel (and have an Israeli dessert to celebrate!)
In recognition of the establishment of Israel, two holidays were added to the Israeli calendar: Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). In Israel, these holidays are observed as national holidays- one as a somber day of remembrance and the other as a day of celebration.
The Israeli Knesset established Yom Hazikaron as a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the War of Independence and in other subsequent battles. In observance, national memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top leadership and military personnel and many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time. Yom Hazikaron in Israel will begin this year on the evening of Sunday, April 30 and ends on the evening of Monday, May 1.
Yom Haatzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day, marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. In Israel, many people hold parties or sing and dance in the streets to celebrate and fireworks are set off. It is also common to display the Israeli flag prominently on homes and cars. Many religious people may read the Torah, pray, or blow the shofar (an instrument made from a ram's horn). Yom Ha'atzmaut 2017 will begin on the evening of Monday, May 1 and ends on the evening of Tuesday, May 2.
Why These Holidays are Linked
The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence -the very existence of the state - to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.
Celebrate Israel's Independence Day at the J
Scott Brown, Executive Director, Jeff Dannick, Anton Marks, Gloria Graham, Ella Tessler, and more. Also, coming up later on May 21 is the Israel Fest: Israel @69. Hope to see you at these events!
Passover starts tonight, which means tonight we have our first seder. The Passover seder (a word that means order or arrangement in Hebrew) is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. During the seder and throughout the holiday of Passover, we commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people by G-d from slavery in Egypt and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses.
At the head of the table at the seder is the beautiful seder plate. Before the Seder we arrange the seder plate by placing three whole matzot (unleavened bread) in a cover or special compartment under the plate. Then we arrange six items on top, each one reminding us of the Passover Story:
Zeroah: A Roasted Bone
This reminds us of the Pesach offering we used to bring in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Beitzah: A hard-boiled Egg
This reminds us of the festival offering which was brought to the Holy Temple on Pesach.
Maror: Horseradish Root
These bitter herbs symbolize the harsh suffering and bitter times we endured when we were slaves in Egypt.
Charoset: A mixture of chopped apple, walnuts and red wine. Ground up together, Charoset resembles bricks and mortar, reminding us how hard we were forced to work when we were slaves in Egypt.
Karpas: This can be a small slice of onion, boiled potato or sprigs of parsley. We dip the Karpas into salt water at the beginning of the Seder, representing the salty tears we cried when we were slaves.
Chazeret: Romaine Lettuce
This is the second portion of bitter herbs which we eat during the Seder. This is eaten in a Matzah sandwich together with Maror.
Some people are including the following new additions to their seder plates:
Many families and congregations have begun adding an orange to the Seder plate as a way of acknowledging the role of people who feel marginalized within the Jewish community.
With this new custom, we recognize that women have always been – and continue to be – integral to the continued survival of the Jewish community.
In 1991, Israel launched Operation Solomon, a covert plan to bring Ethiopian Jews to the Holy Land. When these famished, Jews arrived in Israel, many were so hungry and ill that they were unable to digest substantial food. Israeli doctors fed these new immigrants simple boiled potatoes and rice until their systems could take more food. To commemorate this at your seder, eat small red potatoes alongside the karpas (parsley).
Fair Trade Chocolate or Cocoa Beans
These can be included on the seder plate to remind us that although we escaped from slavery in Egypt, forced labor is still very much an issue today.
No matter what you have on your seder plate, for those who celebrate, we hope you have a Happy Passover!
When many people think of Passover, long boring seders with kids asking “can we eat yet?” come to mind. I have found in my experience that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to make the Passover seder both fun and meaningful, so that everyone is engaged and the tradition is passed along from generation to generation.
These are some ways to enliven your Passover seder:
Happy Passover! Hope your family has a fun and meaningful seder.
Passover is one of my favorite holidays. And, it's not because I love matzo. I actually get sick of matzo by the third day, but I realized you can actually be pretty creative with an oversized piece of unleavened bread.
First, for those who may not know, the eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan (April 10–18, 2017). It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is observed by avoiding leavened bread, and highlighted by Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus.
Back to matzo. . . Here are some things you can do to make it extra yummy:
- Matzo with lox and cream cheese: Who needs bagels, anyway? Just toast matzoh with butter, onion, and garlic powder, then deck it out with your favorite appetizing fixings. Mine are lox and cream cheese with tomatoes and onions!
- Apple-matzo kugel: Who doesn’t love a good kugel? Recipe here.
- Matzoh-crusted chicken cutlets: Good way to switch up your breading routine at any time of year. Recipe here.
- Spinach matzo pie: Like spanakopita, but without the phyllo dough. Recipe here.
- Matzo s'mores: S’mores were never really about the graham crackers, anyway. Recipe here.
- Passover lemon cheesecake: The crust is made with matzoh meal and almonds. Recipe here.
- Matzo latkes: Latkes aren't just for Chanukah! Recipe here.
- Matzo brei: There are many ways to fry a brei, but this is a pretty simple one. Recipe here.
Hope you and your family enjoy Passover, whether you are eating your matzo with cream cheese or making a 9-layer no-bake matzo layer cake!
The 17th Annual Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival is beginning this week (Thursday, March 24th). Did you know that our 2017 Festival includes 6 films directed by women, and two films based on the true stories of strong women? So, today I’ll take a look at Jewish women, and our history in film!
Many of us don’t realize this, but a large number of Jewish women have contributed to the development of the film industry. However, as you can imagine, they have had to fight for their place. From the early years of the silent era through today, the struggle of Jewish women to be recognized for their talents has been a difficult, yet successful one.
Jewish Women Behind the Scenes
In the early days of film, Jewish women made their presence profoundly felt in the area of screenwriting, and continued to do so for the rest of the century. Ethnicity was less a problem for those out of the glare of the limelight, but jobs such as directing and producing were closed to most women. Many women, however, became screenwriters, and Jewish women obtained such work from the beginning. Some of the most influential films with Jewish themes were either written by Jewish women for the screen or adapted from novels and stories they wrote. Examples of famous early screenwriters were Anzia Yezierska and Fannie Hurst, whose novels and stories contributed to silent and later sound films.
Jewish Women in Films
In the first three decades of the 20th century, Jewish women also acted in roles that fell into a couple different categories. Most memorable were the Jewish mothers, matronly women who cooked for their families and provided unqualified love to their children. The younger women played the sweet ingenues of the ghetto. The third stereotype Jewish women were allowed to play was the vamp (or sex symbol). In fact, Theda Bara (a Jewish actress in the ‘20s and ‘30s) is often cited as the first sex symbol of the movies.
With the advent of sound (corresponding with the 1930s and the Great Depression), the roles Jewish women played in mainstream Hollywood films rarely reflected their ethnic or religious heritage. By 1939 Jewish representation in film had all but disappeared, for a great many reasons. As the major Jewish film moguls became more assimilated themselves, they reflected the American philosophy of the time: It was un-American to focus on an individual’s ethnicity, as opposed to his or her “Americanness.”
This trend continued through the end of the 1950s, with a few notable exceptions. Jewish actors with successful Hollywood careers during this period included Sylvia Sidney, Lauren Bacall, Judy Holliday, Shelley Winters, and Lee Grant. Stage stars who also made successful forays into film included Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, and Stella Adler.
Jewish Actresses Today
You probably know a few Hollywood actresses of today who are Jewish. For instance, Natalie Portman was born in Israel, to Jewish parents. Her birth name is Neta Lee Herschlag. Gwyneth Paltrow converted to Judaism after her "conscious uncoupling" from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. Mila Kunis comes from a Russian-Jewish family, who eventually left Russia due to antisemitism. And there are many more. . .
The new opportunities created by these Jewish pioneers have affected all women in the film industry, as well as all women who watch their films. These pioneers used their newfound influence to bring more of women’s lives and experiences to the screen. And, many have used their creative talents to bring Jewish stories to the screen.
We hope you will join us at the 2017 Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival. Experience the full lineup of films and buy tickets at jccnv.org/nvjff.
Need a motivation boost or are you new to our gym? Why not get acclimated and shape up with the help of a personal trainer?
Today, we will get to know Matt Alvin, our fitness director, who has been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years and has been working in the JCCNV Sports, Fitness and Aquatics department since 1996. Matt is an experienced certified personal trainer through AFPA, certified kickboxing/boxing coach, and holds a 3rd degree black belt from the American Karate/Kickboxing Institute. He specializes in fitness boxing training, kickboxing, strength and conditioning and injury rehabilitation.
What Matt most enjoys about working at the JCCNV are the people, particularly the friendly members and being able to share his love of fitness. His advice to members is to drink more water and keep moving! His training philosophy is “fitness is forever.”
In his spare time, Matt enjoys riding his Harley with his motorcycle crew, competing in mixed martial arts, and playing with his Boston Terrier.
Thinking about working with a personal trainer like Matt?
Personal trainers provide you with the accountability to keep up your fitness endeavors and transform your approach to training and exercise. Our trainers also teach you exercise safety, and form and technique based on your experience level, age, and abilities.
These are some considerations for choosing a trainer:
Hope this is helpful. For more details, please read our previous blog post, “Do You Need a Personal Trainer?” For more information about personal training and to learn more about our trainers at the J, click here.
Purim is this weekend (beginning at sundown Saturday night and ending at sundown on Sunday!) That means fun, costumes, celebration, and mishloach manot (purim gift baskets)! Traditionally, mishloach manot contain two food items (from different food groups) and are sent to at least two friends. Over the years, mishloach manot have developed into sometimes more elaborate food packages that are sent to many friends and family in your community.
Mishloach Manot can be extra special and memorable. Here are a few ideas. Note that hamentaschen can and should be included in each one of these:
Hope these ideas are helpful for your mishloach manot baskets. Hope everyone who celebrates has a Happy Purim!
Like many Jews, Purim is my favorite Jewish holiday of the year (this year it’s on March 11-12!) I enjoy dressing my children in costumes, the mishloach manot baskets, the groggers my kids make, and most of all, the hamentaschen!
"Hamantaschen" is a Yiddish word meaning "Haman’s pockets." Haman is the villain in the Purim story, which appears in the Biblical Book of Esther. Jews eat hamantaschen on Purim as part of the celebration of the holiday, which commemorates how Jews escaped Haman's plot to have all the Jews in the kingdom massacred. One explanation for the triangular shape of these pastries is that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. Another explanation is that the three corners represent Queen Esther's strength and the founders of Judaism: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and others believe they represent Haman’s ears.
Popular fillings for hamantaschen are poppy seeds, prunes, and other fruit fillings. Below are eight other (more outside of the box) types of hamentaschen that I would like to try!
Whether you prefer traditional hamentaschen or some of these meshugena varieties, we at the J hope you enjoy, and wish you a Happy Purim!
This year marks a double simcha (celebration) for American Jewish women. It is the 45th anniversary of the ordination of the first woman rabbi and the 95th anniversary of the first girl to become a bat mitzvah during a worship service.
Ninety-five years ago, Judith Kaplan pioneered the bat mitzvah at her father Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s synagogue in 1922, two years after women got the right to vote. In a mere nine and a half decades, the bat mitzvah has become commonly celebrated across the Jewish spectrum, from secular to orthodox. During the last quarter century, the bat mitzvah has come to look identical to the bar mitzvah in all but traditional congregations, and even ultra-Orthodox Jews recognize a girl’s coming-of-age. With the emergence of the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, the practice of bat mitzvah was all but normalized. With these expanding opportunities, women broadened their Jewish knowledge and skills, culminating for some who didn’t have the opportunity earlier, in adult bat mitzvah.
Fifty years later, Sally Priesand was ordained as the first woman rabbi. Sally Priesand’s ordination in 1972 spawned a revolutionary change in Jewish life. Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of her rabbinate in 1992, Priesand again voiced her long-standing critique that the institutions of Reform Judaism have still not fulfilled Reform’s historic commitment to equality of the sexes. On her twenty-fifth anniversary, she received an honorary doctorate from the HUC-JIR, and her congregants contributed toward the establishment of the Rabbi Sally J. Priesand Visiting Professorship in Jewish Women’s Studies at the College-Institute. The position in her name has helped enable the Reform movement to fulfill Preisand’s mandate of religious egalitarianism. As the first female rabbi, Priesand has always stood in the forefront of those who have struggled to carve a place for women and their perspectives in contemporary Judaism.
Jewish women, including Kaplan and Priesand, have empowered countless girls and women to seek leadership in their communities. Since these two simchas have changed the landscape for Jewish women, it has become the collective responsibility of girls, along with supportive parents and rabbis, to speak up and out.
Want to learn about women’s empowerment, self-confidence, and social entrepreneurship? On March 25, you are invited to a Women’s Conference — a transformative day of presentations, networking, empowerment, and more — for women of all ages and stages in the Washington, DC area! Learn from our presenters, five engaging women entrepreneurs who will share their knowledge and wisdom on their success and experiences. Their insight will enlighten your mind, empower you to dream of the possibilities, and motivate you to make them happen! The conference is perfect for women who are ready to catapult their life and career forward! Learn more here.
I never thought about it until now, but, when I go to the gym, I typically wear Washington Nationals shirts, because I am a big fan and have lots of them, or shirts from my favorite bands from the 80’s including The Smiths or The Cure. What shirt do you wear most when you work out?
Last week, we learned about Dan Kubiske, a member at the J who sports a dinosaur shirt, and chats with other members about their cool and interesting t-shirts to learn more about them! Today, we will learn about four more members that Dan had the opportunity to talk to:
BJ wears a t-shirt that she bought in 1981 when she went to Zimbabwe with her husband, who at the time was her boyfriend. She wore it for a while and then put it in the closet because it didn’t fit anymore. Twenty-four years later, she took it out of the closet because she started working out at the J and lost 50lbs. Now the shirt fits again, and it is now her go-to shirt for working out at the J.
She works out at the J because she likes the warm and friendly environment and her family was among the founding members. So, according to BJ, she “was a member before it existed.” She always watched her husband and friends use the gym, and now she certainly makes use of it as well. According to BJ, “The J is so convenient and the fitness center had all the equipment I needed to get in shape. Now I keep coming to maintain my fitness goals and can’t wait until the J’s new fitness center is constructed to continue my journey!”
Marty bought his favorite workout shirt at the Smithsonian. He collects t-shirts from local historical sites, including Mt. Vernon and Monticello. Like me, he can also be seen sporting a Nats t-shirt and a Nats cap. Go Nats! Marty loves coming to the J because he enjoys the pool!
Tex’s t-shirt is from his grandson, who lives in New York City. It is the elementary school he goes to, and it is special because he gave it to Tex as a gift.
Tex enjoys the convenience of the J. He trains four times a week, with our trainers: twice with Jane Hansen, and twice with Matt Alvin. He works out the remainder of the days using the machines and treadmill.
Betty’s shirt was given to her by a cancer survivor. She comes to the J because 18 years ago, she went into cardiac arrest. Once she started training, she enjoyed it very much, because according to Betty, “the people were wonderful.” Betty is a Baptist, and calls herself a “Jewish Baptist,” because of how much she loves the J!
Hope you enjoyed this series about t-shirts at the J. Please send me a picture of your t-shirt and your story, and I may include it in future articles! As always, thanks for reading and for working out at the J.
Dan Kubiske, a member at the J, is super-friendly and social, and makes it a point to talk to others who are working out in our gym, especially those with cool and interesting t-shirts! He realized that everyone has a story, and a good way to start a conversation and get to know someone is by asking about his or her shirt and what it means! In this series, we will explore some of the t-shirts that Dan has spotted, and discuss the meaning, as described by the J member who was wearing it!
First, we will start with Dan himself. This is his t-shirt:
Dan is a member at the J, who first joined for the pool and to expose his sons to educational programs about Jewish culture. He now uses the gym regularly with his wife, and our trainers, and is excited about the progress they are making.
His t-shirt is from one of his favorite NPR stations, WEMU, which is in his hometown of Ypsilanti, Michigan. WEMU broadcasts blues and jazz, as well as the regular NPR news. He has been listening to this station for about 13 years on three different continents.
Another person Dan talked to was none other than my father-in-law, Stuart Eder. Stuart is famous as the man on the treadmill on the J’s “Big Shlep” poster (you can see it around the J right about now). You can regularly see him (and my husband) in Cleveland Cavaliers (and Indians) t-shirts, because they are from Cleveland and still love the teams, despite living in this area for nearly 40 years! They were beyond thrilled when the Cavs won it all this past year. My father-in-law is kind and friendly, and is a regular at the J, and I can honestly say he is in better shape than most people in our family!
Grace Bae has only been a member at the J for a few days, and she is already taking full advantage of all the gym has to offer. She explained to Dan how Urban Promise is a program in Wilmington, DE, designed to equip children and young adults with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, personal growth, and leadership.. Her sister worked there, and she "borrowed" the t-shirt from her!
In future articles, I will share more of Dan’s photos and the stories behind them. If you are wearing a cool t-shirt in the J’s gym, and a friendly man comes up to you and asks about it, it’s probably Dan and you may see yourself in a future article! Hope to see you (in your favorite t-shirt) at the J!
Tu B’Shevat in Hebrew means the 15th day of the month of Shevat. It will begin this year on the evening of Friday, February 10th and will be observed during the day of February 11th. To most, this holiday marks the beginning of a New Year for the trees, when trees start another fruit-bearing cycle. To me and to many others, Tu B'Shevat has a deeper meaning. It is a celebration of a new beginning, responsibility, reflection, and overcoming personal setbacks.
So, how is Tu B'Shevat celebrated? During the 24 hour period in which the holiday is observed, the people of Israel celebrate Tu B’Shevat by eating fruit as instructed by the Torah. This includes eating from the trees that produce nuts, figs, olives, pomegranates, and dates. Here are some ways that you can personally celebrate the Tu B’Shevat holiday:
• Plant Trees: During Tu B’Shevat, people plant trees to replenish what was used. Trees produce the oxygen we breathe, and they give us life. Every seed we plant counts, and is a gift to the next generation!
• Protect the Environment: Tu B’Shevat is the opportunity to preserve, protect, and clean our environment. Set up a time to volunteer to clean up a local park, river, or lake. By preserving the environment, we allow future generations to experience it's divine beauty.
• Take time to reflect: Connecting with your emotions and thoughts is a way to grow spiritually. Take a walk in the park, the woods, or take the time to observe the world around you. Although, it is simple, taking this time will help you reflect and feel restored inside.
• Eat fruit: Enjoy the fruit of your labor by eating fruit, of course. Enjoy the fruits of the trees, and be mindful when you eat figs or the pomegranates. Think of the earth and how we are provided with an abundance of wonderful things to eat.
• Cook: Enlist the family to do some baking with the fruit that you bought for the holiday! Make apple turnovers, fruit smoothies, or fruit and cheese plates. You can make chicken dishes with the dates or make a chopped salad with apples and pears dressed with olive oil. Invite people over and offer them wine with their fruit assortment. For something special, send people home with seeds for their gardens for the spring so they can enjoy fresh herbs.
We hope you have a meaningful Tu B'Shevat. At the J, we have two fun events going on to celebrate the holiday! On Saturday, February 11th, we will be having a Tu B'Shevat seder: An Evening to Delight the Senses (for adults 21+), hosted by our shlicha, Na'ama Gold. Come celebrate the evening by awakening your senses & taste buds with music, kosher wine, traditional seder snacks, and dessert. To register, visit: tubshevatadults.bpt.me. On Sunday, February 12th, we will have a family friendly (all ages welcome) traditional Tu B’Shevat Seder at Gesher. Explore how celebrations differ in Israel and in America, and learn about food sustainability through hands-on activities. We will also care for those in need through a hunger awareness service project. To register, visit: tubshevatfamilies.bpt.me. Hope to see you at one or both events!
My grandparents died when I was twelve years old. I realize now that I was lucky to have known them at all. I was an inquisitive child, who asked lots of questions, and whenever I asked them about the Holocaust, my bubbe and zeide (grandma and grandpa in Yiddish) would cry. They never told me much, because it was hard to talk about. However, my mother told me that their entire families were killed, including aunts and uncles and great-grandparents that I never had the chance to meet. Six million of our Jewish sisters and brothers and five million others perished in the Holocaust. This is why I make it a point to observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on January 27 each year, as an international memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is the genocide that resulted in the annihilation of six million European Jews, as well as millions of others by the Nazi regime. The day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on November 1, 2005.
January 27 is the date, in 1945, when the largest Nazi death camp (Auschwitz-Birkenau), was liberated by Soviet troops. The Resolution establishing January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide. It rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an event and condemns all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment, or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief.
Another day to commemorate the Holocaust is Yom HaShoah (יום השואה), which is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for those who perished in the Holocaust. It was inaugurated on 1953, anchored by a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and the President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. This year, it begins at sundown on April 23, 2017, and many of us light a candle in observance.
On their website, the United States Holocaust Museum, discusses ways to remember the Holocaust, including films, using your social networks, and engaging others. Haaretz also has a helpful article, “How Young Is Too Young to Teach My Child About the Holocaust?,” which offers ideas about teaching children about the Holocaust. We hope this is helpful, and invite you to share your suggestions in the comments.
We’re into the first month of 2017, and I just realized we haven’t done any staff spotlights in a while. So, for our first spotlight of the year, we will look at someone who has been at the J for a whopping 21 years—our Director of Early Childhood Services, Amy Vermillion.
Being a director of early childhood services is a challenging, yet rewarding job. Amy directs and leads her staff, oversees daily activities, and prepares plans and budgets. She is responsible for all aspects of the early childhood program at the J, and at the same time, she gets to see children grow from infant to toddler to kindergarten-ready.
Amy’s tenure at the J began as a teacher for the first 14 years of her career, and for the past 7 years, she has been the Director of Early Childhood Services. When she’s not working at the J, she enjoys traveling, the beach, and gardening.
When Amy hears the phrase, "There's Something Special About the J," it reminds her that the J is like a big family, and a place where everyone feels welcome. Advice she would give members is to take advantage of all of the wonderful and varied offerings and programs at the J. She wants everyone to know that the staff really cares about the mission of the J, the programs they specialize in, and about each and every member.
Amy enjoys working in a place that is multi-generational and appreciates the warm and diverse members and guests who come to the J every day. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with a really great team in a career she truly loves. She is currently hiring experienced full-time teachers to join her team of caring and dedicated professionals. Are you a teacher who is looking for a job that is rewarding and that will inspire the next generation? Come work in the J’s early childhood center. Learn about this and other job openings on our career opportunities page! If you are a parent looking for a wonderful preschool for your child(ren), learn more here!
My son had his first bar mitzvah lesson last week. I sat with him and his tutor, and learned things I never knew before. Despite going through Hebrew school and learning how to read Hebrew pretty proficiently, I was learning again from the tutor about Hebrew, Torah trope, and how you can look at each parshah (torah portion) and find elements that relate to your own life. I truly enjoyed expanding my horizons (as did my son!)
One of the best things I realize about life is that we never have to stop learning. There are always new skills to learn and techniques for us to adopt. In fact, for us to live life to the fullest, we must continually look for ways to improve.
Learning is tough, however, and can be frustrating. This is especially true when we talk about taking on new sports like Crossfit, or pushing our brain to the limits. Although the task seems hard, nothing is greater than reaching your accomplishment. For highly challenging goals like beating our personal running time or learning a new skill at work, it is such an amazing feeling when you achieve your goal. When we play sports or work out, beating our personal records gives a high like none other.
Several studies have shown that the more ambitious goals that we set, the happier we are. And when we decide our own goals, our happiness is not reliant on others. We pick how many hours we practice, and we take ownership over what we achieve. Personal development is a way to guarantee us serenity from within.
Want to keep learning? The J’s Adult Learning Institute (ALI) is our adult lifelong learning center. Its mission is to provide intellectually stimulating, enjoyable, and engaging opportunities to expand your mind and your knowledge with other adults of all backgrounds and ages. Registration for the Winter 2017 semester is now open. Please take a moment to review the courses on our website and sign up for one (or more!) of these fabulous opportunities to continue your lifelong learning with us!
Every year, on both the secular and Jewish new years, I make the same resolutions: to lose 20 lbs, exercise 4x a week, and eat less take out and more healthy home-cooked meals. I consider myself to be a trooper, that is, until the day after when I am snacking on Chinese takeout and postponing exercise until the next day. This is why I make the same resolutions every year on both holidays! Initially, they sound like good resolutions, but maybe they are just impractical? According to Aish.com, here are some examples of how some of the most common secular resolutions might be unrealistic for many of us:
Studies have shown that exercise helps us live longer, lowers blood pressure, is good for arthritis, makes us look better, and perks up our mood. There is no excuse not to get in shape, especially with the J right up the street, and this goes for everyone (including me!) This is why we have our “New Year, New You! Join. Commit. Come Get Fit.” January Specials!
Why not enjoy all the fitness opportunities the J has to offer, including a 25-meter, heated, indoor pool, fitness center, personal training, group exercise classes, full-court gymnasium, and more? To schedule a tour and for more information, call 703.537.3042. This excludes anyone who was a member in 2016, as well as these membership categories: Teen, Au-pair/Nanny, Kehilla, Silver Sneakers upgrade, and J Friend.
Hope to see you working out at the J soon!