Some Americans think of Christmas as a secular or cultural holiday, although most recognize the religious significance of the holiday. Since it is one of the most religious days of the year for Christians, most Jewish people don't celebrate Christmas. However, we do admire the beautiful trees and decorations and the idea of spending time with family and exchanging gifts.
So if you are Jewish and don't celebrate Christmas, then what is there to do on December 25? Here are some ideas for Jewish families:
And, of course, we saved the best idea for last. You can take your family to J Fest for a day of spectacular fun, food, and entertainment! Attendees can experience the magic of Jay Mattioli, who electrified the nation and awed the judges, during his appearance on NBC’s #1 hit show “AMERICA’S GOT TALENT,” where he was selected as a Quarter Finalist! In addition, children can come dressed up as their favorite character and join us for a “Frozen” Sing Along. There will also be kosher food available for purchase, a moon bounce, arts and crafts, face painting, a community service and more. And, of course, everyone is welcome!
Following J Fest, enjoy a free screening of The Frisco Kid Join us for the screening of this hilarious 1979 comedy/western starring Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford. Plot: A Polish rabbi wanders through the Old West on his way to lead a synagogue in San Francisco. On the way he is nearly burnt at the stake by Indians and almost killed by outlaws! Please see this flier and visit our website for more details.
Planning for eight crazy nights of chocolate gelt, noodle kugel, and fried latkes (potato pancakes) with sour cream? Can't stop at just one latke? The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many it also becomes a time for over-indulging and weight gain. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can result in an extra pound or two every year. Over a lifetime, it really adds up. How can we enjoy the holidays, while staying healthy?
Give the gift of health and wellness this holiday season! If you’ve been looking to get back into shape, want to add some new challenges to your current workout routine, are recovering from an injury, or still thinking of what to get for your family and friends, a gift membership to the J or Personal Training gift certificates make a fantastic holiday gift! To learn more about purchasing a membership to the J for yourself or for a friend, click here. To purchase a Personal Training Gift Certificate, please contact Allison.Colman@jccnv.org or call 703.537.3052.
We wish you a happy and healthy holiday!
Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights that lasts eight fun-filled nights, is next week! Besides the presents and chocolate gelt, what are some ways to get children excited about the holiday?
For young children especially, crafts, cooking, and decorating are always fun ways to engage them. Sometimes, however, with the hustle and bustle of daily life, there isn't a lot of time. Below are some quick and easy ideas to do with your children to emphasize how much fun Chanukah can be!
Chanukah Collage Cards: Why not make your own chanukah cards this year? Cut strips from magazine pages into shapes of skinny rectangles and flames. Glue the shapes into a menorah design on the face of the card and voila! You have cool DIY invitations or thank-you notes!
Acorn Dreidels: Pull off a small chunk of the clay and shape it to an elongated ball. Stuff the clay into the acorn shell, and mold it to a point at the top. Stick a lollipop stick into the center of the clay. That's it! Now it's time to give it a spin.
Grilled Cheese Latkes: On Hanukkah, we eat foods fried in oil to symbolize the oil that lasted eight days when the Maccabees rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after their victory over the Greeks. Grilled cheese latkes are a great way to combine traditional latkes with an American favorite, grilled cheese. Check out this easy recipe that is fun to make with/for children on My Jewish Learning.
For some other ways to celebrate Chanukah with children, you've come to the right place. The following are JCCNV and community Chanukah happenings this month. We hope to see you there!
Hands on Chanukah. Sunday, December 14, 2014, noon-3pm. Get ready for Chanukah with a day of music, arts and crafts, face painting, story time and more! Everyone is welcome.
Light Up The Night: Community Menorah Lighting at Mosaic. Sunday, December 21, 4:30pm-6:30pm. It’s Chanukah and we’re bringing the celebration to you! Join the community as we celebrate the holiday together by lighting candles, singing songs, enjoying entertainment, eating sufganiyot(donuts)and gelt (chocolates) and spinning the dreidel (top)!
For more details visit the Events Calendar on our Website.
Black Friday meant shopping for some, and swimming with an Olympian for others! Last Friday afternoon, three-time Olympian, Klete Keller, visited our pool. Athletes of all ages had the opportunity to learn from and swim with Klete, who is an incredibly talented swimmer (you can imagine) and a nice and humble person, as well!
Athletes who attended received personal attention as Klete worked with them in and out of the water on strokes and technique. Out of the water, the young athletes were able to ask Klete questions about his swimming career and life outside the pool. He provided valuable, personal experiences of balancing swimming with school, persevering through disappointment, maintaining perspective in sport and much more. Klete then posed for pictures, signed autographs and even brought one of his five gold medals. It was fascinating to see what an Olympic gold medal looks like in person.
According to OlympicTalk.com, 32 year old Keller was part of some of the most memorable Olympic swimming races of all time and won five medals in six career events spanning three Olympics. He retired after the 2008 Beijing Games. Read more about Klete Keller here.
Interested in learning more about swimming at the J? The JCC Junior Galim, Mini Waves, and Waves Swim Teams were founded to help swimmers achieve the highest level in their sport, while developing values and skills for success in life. Learn more here.
Check out more photos on our Facebook page.
"Giving thanks" has always been an important part of Judaism, from reciting blessings after meals to the pilgrimage festival of Sukkot. Given the importance the Jewish religion places on thanks, do Jewish people celebrate the American harvest holiday, Thanksgiving?
The answer is revealed when you look at the chronological history of the holiday:
At the JCC of Northern Virginia, we wish our entire community a Happy Thanksgiving! We also would like to take this time to express our gratitude to all of our members, supporters, and staff.
P.S. A few days after celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends, when the tryptophan wears off, we hope to see you in the fitness room or at a class working off the big feast!
What if you could take a journey back to the fall of 1969? Can you imagine that the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia as you know it today was just a dream — a vision of 14 dedicated Northern Virginians?
So, how did your Northern Virginia center for Judaism, education, wellness, and good spirit come to be? Below is a brief chronology:
It all began in the fall of 1969 when 14 Northern Virginians met to discuss the idea of a Jewish Community Center in Northern Virginia.
Originally served by outreach programs based in Rockville, by the late 1970’s, interest increased for a location closer to home.
In 1980 until 1990, the white house you see when you enter the parking lot served as an interim facility for the JCC, Jewish Social Service Agency, the Council for the Aging, and Senior Adult Services until funds could be raised for a permanent structure.
In December 1990, the Henry S. Reich building celebrated its grand opening, and the JCCNV quickly became a vibrant hub of activity which continues to this day.
Emphasizing health and wellness, the JCC now offers group exercise classes, certified personal trainers, classes that explore weight management, swim lessons, swim teams, sports leagues, early childhood learning, dance and much much more. Read more about JCCNV history here.
To “chronicle our past, celebrate our present, and create our future,” we will hold our annual fundraising celebration at the Stacy Sherwood Center Sunday evening, December 7. The event is not to be missed, featuring entertainment by Daniel Cainer, international musical storyteller extraordinaire and delicious fare. Learn more and reserve your ticket today.
Do you want to have a fulfilling life? Of course, everyone does! Often times, people spend years of their life trying to figure out who they are and seek clear direction of what their journey will be.
At our j.talks, “Being the Other” event on Sunday evening, three authors will share their unique stories about finding their own personal journeys:
S. Bear Bergman was one of the five original founders of the first Gay/Straight Alliance, a frequent lecturer at high schools and colleges on the subject of making schools safe for GLBT students, and a founding commission member of what is now called the Massachusetts Safe Schools Project. His religious and cultural lives have shaped one another and he discusses what it is like to be both Jewish and queer.
Julie Greenberg studied at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and was honored with a Doctor of Divinity honorary degree. Not only was she a gay activist and rabbi, she became a single mother in 1987, bringing five children into her family by birth and by adoption. She discusses parenting her children (two of who attend Ivy League colleges) and how she was one of the first rabbis in the world to do same-sex weddings, to welcome interfaith couples and families, and to work closely with clergy from other faiths in co-officiations.
Leah Vincent was born into an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. At sixteen, she was caught exchanging letters with a male friend, a violation of religious law that forbids contact between members of the opposite sex. She found a place for herself when her family moved her to New York City, and was unprepared to navigate the freedoms of secular life. She discusses how she grappled with her own self-actualization and sexuality in a world that was completely different from the one in which she grew up.
It’s never easy to find life purpose. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things to do. We invite you to hear how these three remarkable authors found their purpose in life and how it has played a big role in their unexpected journeys. Please join us on Sunday evening at 7pm for an eye-opening, engaging evening at the J. Learn more here.
Did you know that there are 1,500 Jewish men and women in the U.S. Army (the largest branch of the U.S. military), out of a total of about 500,000 active Army personnel? Despite this small percentage, Jewish people have a rich history in the US military that dates back to the Revolutionary War. For centuries, Jewish men and women and other courageous heroes in the armed forces have made notable contributions to the peace and freedom of our country.
Project Welcome Home, a JCC Association initiative, addresses the needs of our returning military and their families. As participants in this program, JCCs across the US are committed to supporting returning veterans through membership incentives, partnerships, and service opportunities in the Jewish community. The JCC of Northern Virginia is proud to be part of such an important program.
To show our appreciation, on November 7, we would like to honor and thank veterans and their families, and all those who have served in the military (both Jewish and non-Jewish). All are welcome to share the joy of Shabbat and to honor individuals in the military and military families in our community. Together, we will light the candles, sing the blessings and feast on a delicious Shabbat dinner. Following dinner everyone is invited to participate in a fun and interactive program. Come be a part of the Shabbat experience! Find out more here and view the event flier for more details.
To learn more about Project Welcome Home, please click here. To experience Jewish military history, you can see Jewish veterans’ memorabilia, artifacts, records and many exhibits, from colonial times to the present at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, DC.
When you envision a pool, does children playing or families having fun come to mind? Swimming at the J is that, and so much more. In fact, swimming is an excellent form of physical fitness and a great complement to an existing exercise routine. These are five reasons why:
1. It is good for your body: Swimming provides unparalleled cardiovascular conditioning, and is good for your heart. It builds long, lean muscles that complement the shorter denser muscles that develop from weight training. It helps boost metabolism to keep calories burning longer. Lastly, and important for many of us, people who consistently swim strenuously enough to elevate their heart rate do burn calories and lose weight.
2. It gives your body a break: Swimming gives your body a break from higher-impact activities like basketball, running, and weightlifting. Also, after running, cycling, or weights, an easy swim helps flush out toxins preventing muscle tightness and soreness the following day. In addition, by creating a balanced workout routine, athletes avoid injury by allowing their body time to heal.
3. It strengthens your core: Swimming develops core body strength because it utilizes all the body's muscles simultaneously. Although 70 percent of a swimmer's effort comes from the upper body, kickboard and fin workouts can provide an excellent leg workout.
4. It increases your endurance: Those who swim regularly are able to swim longer than they can what they could sustain doing other activities. With the right technique, a swimmer will be able to train for longer periods of time than if he/she were running and, as a result, more calories are burned.
5. It offers social benefits: Swimming can be social. Fitness classes in the pool and team programs offer peer motivation and swim classes for children and adults can provide you with a chance to interact with others, while bettering your technique and increasing performance results.
Whatever your reason, swimming at the J should be part of your fitness routine. The JCCNV Aquatics Center features a six-lane indoor 25-meter swimming pool with a graduated depth from 3.5’ to 8’. Programs include adult swimming, adapted swimming, instruction for children and adults, water aerobics and Aqua Zumba, and more. Learn more here.
Do you have a daughter? Of course, as a parent, you want her to be secure in herself, make positive choices, and think critically about the world around her. How can we help our daughters feel confident and grow up to lead full, valuable lives?
Below are some ideas to help you raise strong, confident young women:
Encourage your daughter to pursue a passion: Finding an activity she loves will boost her self-esteem .
Let her have a voice in making decisions: Whenever possible, let her make constructive choices about her life.
Encourage her to solve issues on her own rather than fixing things for her: In a trying personal situation, let her decide what she wants to do (within reason). Even if you disagree with her choice, you give your daughter a sense of control over her life and show her that she is responsible for her decisions.
Encourage her to take physical risks: Urge your daughter to go beyond her comfort zone. For example, encourage a girl who’s scared to ride her bike downhill to find just a small hill to conquer first.
Get girls working together: Encourage your daughter to participate in team-building activities or join organizations that rely on teamwork.
To help build confidence, independence, and physical and mental strength, the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia is proud to bring back the JCCNV G.I.R.L.S. (Giving back, Independence, Ruach (spirit), Leadership, Strength) Wellness Program. The G.I.R.L.S. Wellness Program was developed to inspire and educate young girls in our community, combining physical activity, team building, tikkun olam (repairing the world). The purpose of the program is to encourage life-long healthy habits, positive thinking, and character building through group discussions, hands-on activities and projects, and group exercise classes.
Over the course of the 10-week program, the girls are inspired, educated, and motivated by community leaders, physicians, athletes, cancer survivors, nutritionists and group exercise instructors. Participants create journals, take on leadership roles, and work together to carry out a social action piece for our community. This program is offered at no cost for all participants and is limited to 15 registrants. Learn more here.
On Rosh Hashanah, we don't typically make resolutions like we do for the secular new year. If we did, however, they would closely mirror those that we typically make every year on January 1. Of course, one of the top resolutions would be to exercise and get in better shape.
So, why wait until January? Why not start now? If you want to fit into those pants that are a smidge too tight or are looking for a change from your treadmill routine, then we have the answer right hear at the J.
Our 40 group fitness classes offer members a variety of training techniques, environments, and challenging workouts. No need to be shy if you don't know the steps! At our fitness classes, you don’t have to be a professional dancer or a kick boxing expert; it’s all about getting your heart rate up and having a good time.
Don't risk the buttons popping on your pants. Join us for group fitness, and experience the following benefits:
So, whether you have a lot of experience with workouts and fitness, or if you are just getting started, all members are welcomed and encouraged to take group fitness classes at the J. Be sure to view our schedule of classes on our website, and hopefully, you will find some that appeal to you. We look forward to seeing you here!
What if you went all out this Sukkot (a time of harvesting)? You constructed and decorated your sukkah (a 3-sided temporary structure) with the kids, filled your calendar with friends and family to enjoy a meal in it, and purchased a lulav (palm, myrtle and willow bundled together) and etrog (a citron). When the holiday ends, everything goes back into storage, but what about the fragrant etrog you spent $30 on?
An etrog is a citrus fruit that is ritually important during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Many people purchase one, and simply toss the exotic fruit in the garbage when the holiday ends. This seems wasteful, especially when there are many uses for fragrant fruit after the holiday!
Before you toss your etrog, below are some examples of possible uses:
Scented Oil: You can make etrog-scented oil simply by infusing oil with the zest. Grate the peel of a cleaned etrog and put it in a small glass bottle so it fills half the bottle, then add almond oil, light olive oil, or another oil to the top. Set the bottle in a sunny place for a few days, shaking it a few times every day, then store at room temperature. Add a few drops of this scented oil to a bath, or fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of the etrog oil for a pleasant air freshener.
Spice Box: Another way to employ the etrog’s lovely fragrance is to pierce the skin of the fruit and fill the holes with dried cloves, covering the etrog completely. As the etrog dries, it releases a wonderful scent and the whole fruit may be used as a “spice box” for the Havdalah ceremony to mark the end of the Sabbath.
Grow an Etrog Tree: Remove the seeds from your etrog, wash them, and plant them in a well-drained potting mix. Keep the plants warm and moist, and repot when necessary. If you are patient and care for your citrus plant well, in about four or five years you may have your own home-grown etrog to use on Sukkot—and after the holiday ends.
Pregnancy and Childbirth: A variety of old world practices connect the etrog to pregnancy and childbirth. According to the Talmud (Jewish scriptures), a childless woman who wanted to bear a son was advised to bite the pitom (tip) of the fruit. A pregnant woman who ate the etrog after Sukkot would give birth to a “good” child. And a woman in labor could ease the pain of childbirth, it was said, by placing the etrog’s pitom under her pillow. Wish I knew that ten years ago-- I surely would have saved our etrog!
Food and Drink Around the World: After Sukkot, John Kirkpatrick, an etrog-farmer in California, sells great quantities of the remaining fruit to St. George Spirits for its citron-infused vodka. The citron peel has also been used to flavor other beverages, such as lemonade or sangria. In Sicily, people cut the pith into thin slices and sprinkle them with salt or sugar for a snack, or combine them in a salad with fennel, oil, salt, and pepper.
What if you don't have an etrog or a sukkah at home? No worries. Come celebrate with us! We have some great events for families on Sukkot at the JCCNV!
On October 7 in Ashburn, families can enjoy a PJ Library® story time, build their own mini-sukkah and shake the lulav (special branches) and etrog. Learn more.
On October 12, families can enjoy yoga in the sukkah at our Stretch in the Sukkah event at Gesher.
On October 21, we have our Fall Jewish Holiday Jamboree featuring dinner in the sukkah, a petting zoo, and more. Check out this flier for more details on this exciting family event.
We hope to see you at these fun events!
The month of Tishrei (September – October 2014) is a busy month filled with learning and celebration at the JCCNV Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC). There are a total of 12 days of Yom Tov (or Jewish holidays) this month, which include the High Holy days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), and Sukkot, which occurs four days later.
In preparation for the holidays, children of all ages at the ECLC sing songs, eat apples and honey, and learn about the shofar. In keeping with the ECLC's Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy, classes explore apples in various ways, such as using them to practice colors, counting, and words (i.e., “sweet” and “tart”), create art, and explore new recipes in the kitchen. For the older children, there is more of a focus on what we can do better in the coming year, including learning from our mistakes, and going on tashlich walks (which means “to cast” pieces of bread into a body of flowing water to rid ourselves of sins).
Want to try some fun crafts at home with your children this Rosh Hashanah? Here are five activities that the entire family can enjoy for the first of the High Holidays. Want to learn more about the JCCNV ECLC? Find out more here.
Eight years ago, bringing an Israeli representative to our community to deepen the connections between Northern Virginians and Israel was a dream. That dream became a reality at the JCC of Northern Virginia, thanks to the vision and support of several community leaders and the efforts of board and staff. In fact, in the past eight years, we have been fortunate to host five creative and passionate shlichim, who connected Israel to our community by spearheading programs, leading meaningful discussions, and engaging with local synagogues.
This year, we are thrilled to welcome Dana Kalishov, who will continue the important work of our shlichim by working at the J, with area synagogues, Jewish agencies/organizations, and at other locations throughout Northern Virginia.
Dana was born in Tel Aviv and grew up in Herzliya, Israel. She served in the Israel Defense Forces for more than 3 years as a military education officer and left as a First Lieutenant in the Israeli Navy. This past summer, she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology and Management at Ben-Gurion University. Having gained a broad education in leadership, history, Zionism, and Israeli culture, Dana is excited to share her passion for Israel with our community. Please join us in welcoming Dana to Northern Virginia! Learn more about Dana and our Shlichim program.
The 5th Annual Northern Virginia Cycle Fest took to the streets this past Sunday, September 14, 2014. Set in beautiful fall weather, more than 100 riders enjoyed the scenery through the hills of Northern Virginia. Four ride options, departing at 7:30am, ranged from 11 to 62 miles.
This community ride was hosted by the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCCNV), in partnership with our sponsors. Proceeds benefited the Wounded Warriors Project, a group that assists injured service members, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), an advocacy group for bikers.
We are grateful to all of the riders that helped make this annual charity event a success. We hope to see these riders and some new faces at the next Cycle Fest in May 2015. Learn more and view pictures/videos from the event.