All posts by Etz Hayim Office

Fostering Your Child’s Independence at School

Our school year has begun, and you and your child should be settling into a routine. Preschool is a wonderful opportunity to support your child’s independence in a safe and welcoming environment.

Even the youngest child can take ownership of her school experience. At two years of age, children are curious about everything around them. Your child is excited to use their new-found gross motor skills, which you have most likely witnessed as they tried climbing a bookcase. Encourage your child to walk up and down the stairs upon arrival. You may feel they are taking too long or they are slowing down others, but that’s okay. Giving them the time needed on the stairs can really help build confidence and provides an opportunity to show off their new skills to the world. Your child is also more interested in dressing and undressing themselves. While they will still need help putting a coat on and starting the zipper, they should be able to zip and unzip a jacket with assistance for you.

At three, your child is able to carry their own backpack, as well as hang it and their jacket on a hook at school. This routine not only helps them settle into the day, but it is another opportunity for them to demonstrate to you or your child’s caregiver what they are capable of doing for themselves. Better yet, it will encourage them to want to do the same at home. If you don’t have a low place for your child to hang their own coat or backpack, simply attach a 3M hook to the wall at their level.

A four-year-old is ready to dress for school. At two, they still needed a great deal of assistance, but now they can do it on their own. For many parents, this is a tough one. We often ask ourselves, “Do I let my child out of the house wearing striped pants with a polka-dot shirt on backwards?” and the answer should always be yes! Praise them for dressing independently. You may want to mention the backwards shirt, but if they want to wear it backwards, that’s okay. Some children enjoy the way clothes and shoes feel when worn backwards.

Giving your children ownership of these small tasks can go a long way towards fostering independence. As parents, we are all well aware that the days are long, but the years are short. It’s our job to help our children grow into confident, independent citizens of the world, and it all starts right here at Etz Hayim Preschool.

Upcoming Preschool Dates to Remember:

September 30th and October 1st: School Closed for Rosh Hashanah
October 8th: Pilim Day Out (Long Branch Nature Center) – School Closes at 12:30 for Kol Nidre
October 9th: School Closed for Yom Kippur
October 14th and 15th: School Closed for Sukkot
October 21st: School Closed for Shemini Atzeret
October 22nd: School Closed for Simchat Torah

September 30th and October 1st: Rosh Hashanah Tot Services at 10am. Please RSVP in the office.
October 9th: Yom Kippur Tot Service at 10am. Please RSVP in the office.
October 16th and 17th: Class Sukkot Celebrations
October 20th: Sukkah Hop with Pozez JCC Northern Virginia 2pm-3pm. Please RSVP in the office.
October 29th and 30th: School Picture Day

5780 High Holiday message from Rabbi Lia Bass

Shalom Friends,

We are starting the Hebrew month of Elul. The letters of the name of this month are an anagram for Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li, which means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” This quote from the Song of Songs is a metaphor for a loving romantic relationship; each one is central in the other person’s life, each gives a piece of themselves to the other, and each person holds within themselves a part of their beloved’s unique self. As we approach a new Jewish year, 5780, we can take this metaphor to a different direction.

As the New Year, and with it, the Days of Awe draw near, we begin the process of accounting for our actions in the year that passed.

  • Did we act mindfully in this world, giving everything we can to make this world a better place?
  • Did we achieve our goals?
  • Did we live our lives to the fullest, enjoying every moment and learning from our experiences?

As we think about these questions, we will recognize that probably most of our answers cannot be an unmitigated YES. As human beings we will fall short, we will sometimes miss the mark and we will make mistakes. We are not always able to be the person we aspire to be. Elul, if seen through the lenses of the things we haven’t accomplished, can become a month of trembling as we review our lives.

We can choose, however, to see this time as a time of reflection and rejoicing about the things we have accomplished. According to our tradition, the month of Elul is also a month of spiritual union between the people of Israel and the Divine. The Divine is our beloved and we belong to the Divine. We have a part of ourselves that belongs to the Divine and a part of the Divine that belongs to us. We are made in the Divine’s image, in Tzelem Elohim, and that connection has to be celebrated at this time of the year. Just as each partner in a loving relationship is able to see each other’s actions with tenderness and friendship, God gives us the opportunity to rejoice in our accomplishments, with tenderness, without harsh criticism.

With that insight in mind, reviewing the year doesn’t have to be a moment of dread. In the month of Elul, we review the past year and scrutinize our actions with the awareness that God welcomes our Teshuvah (repentance, turning back to God) with the love and fondness of a partner. In this month of Elul we are not supposed to be perfect; we are supposed to recognize our mistakes and ask forgiveness for them, while balancing this recognition with the enjoyment of the things we did right. We can truly look into ourselves and be confident that God is standing by our side, encouraging us to be better people. We eliminate the feelings of guilt over our shortcomings and we celebrate the accomplishments of a life well lived. We can trust in the love found in our relationship with the Divine.

I wish for all of us, at Congregation Etz Hayim, a truly balanced month of Elul. I hope that we can start the process of Teshuvah and trust that the Divine is cheering us on, helping us to have a balanced view of our past year. As we go through this process of spiritual growth may we be blessed with recognition of the tenderness, friendship, love and fondness, so we can truly celebrate our accomplishments, recognize our shortcomings in order to better ourselves and have a meaningful, balanced, and blessed new year.

Shana Tova U’metukah / A Good and Sweet Year / שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה
Rabbi Lia Bass

Tefillin with Rabbi Bass By Caleb Malovany, age 10

My name is Caleb Malovany, and I’m in 4th grade. I go to religious school here at Etz Hayim, and over the years, I’ve learned a lot – including how to ask more questions! When I saw people at Sunday morning minyan wearing those black boxes with black straps, I was curious. I knew they were called “tefillin,” but I didn’t know what they were for. So I asked Rabbi Bass if I could come meet with her so she could teach me. She agreed, so I went to her office with my grandma on a summer morning. I brought my great-grandfather’s tefillin with me, to show her. My great-grandfather’s tefillin were too fragile to use, and Rabbi Bass was also concerned that they weren’t kosher because she couldn’t see the letter “shin” on them. So she brought out her set and let me try it on. She taught me what’s in the black boxes and that I can’t officially wear them until I’m 13 (bar mitzvah). My grandma was very proud to be with me during this meeting with the Rabbi. I would like to thank Rabbi Bass for teaching me all this stuff!

President’s Message

I confess it’s been some time since I’ve written an article for the Chronicle but with us now in the month of Elul and the High Holidays fast approaching, it feels like an opportune time to be reflective and grateful.

This is my 25th year making CEH my spiritual home and as I reflect back on that time frame, I can scarcely imagine what Marcy’s and my lives would be without the CEH component. Our spiritual awakening, our children’s education, the life cycle events, the friendships, the social component. We have gained so much from the CEH community and have tried to give back as well. 

As I look back at 1994 when we first joined and forward to 2020, I see so much opportunity for our close-knit shul. And yet, there are so many forces pulling people away. Work lives seem to be more hectic than ever, school and sport commitments are more demanding, and even how people view their spiritual lives and their relationship with a synagogue seems to be changing.

Starting this past summer, the Board began undertaking an exercise to not only continue to try and deliver what people want but to also start a discussion of who we want to be in the future. 

It will be an interesting and I think, fruitful exercise.We will reach out to you for feedback, and we will keep you apprised as we travel down this road.

As you prepare for observance of the Yamim Noraim, I encourage you to reflect on your relationship with CEH, your Judaism, and our shared Jewish culture and find the time to reflect while knowing that we are all part of the CEH and Jewish communities.

Scott Burka, President

Israel Fest at the Northern VA JCC Recap

On June 2nd, hundreds of Northern VA folks came by the CEH booth at this year’s Israel Fest, held at the Northern VA JCC.

This year’s Israel Fest focused on Israeli InNOVAtions – highlighting technology, arts, food, consumer products, and song and dance from Israel. In addition to sharing general CEH info, the CEH booth displayed a large poster and shared an interactive activity about encryption: in the early 1970s, Israeli Adi Shamir, along with two co-creators, Ron Rivest and Leonard Adleman devised a novel encryption algorithm: RSA (or Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) encryption. This encryption is used every day for transmitting personal information across the internet.

Thanks to Ben Simon and Courtney Schwartz for pulling together an informative presentation and an interactive encryption demo for the Israel Fest.

Arlington MLK Day of Service Recap

On Monday, January 21 somewhere between 25 CEH members and friends braved the bitter cold and wind to warmly join friends and neighbors this morning for the Arlington MLK Day of Service. CEH was publicly thanked for being a sponsor of the event. Members had the chance to meet and chat with County Board members Katie Cristol and Matt Ferranti before heading off to participate in many different service projects, helping Arlington non-profits such as AFAC, Doorways and Aspire. A great time was had by all!!! 

PLEASE bring your donations to our AFAC collection box in the lobby. AFAC needs even more donations to keep up with the increased demand of the furloughed federal workers. Canned proteins, low sodium soups and low sugar cereals are especially needed. Stay tuned for other fun and exciting events being planned by the CEH Social Action Committee! And let’s make CEH participation in next year’s MLK Day of Service even bigger!

Thank you to the CEH Board of Directors for having CEH be a sponsor of the event. And many thanks to the CEH members and friends who joined us for a wonderful day of service.

Volunteer Arlington MLK Day of Service

Congregation Etz Hayim is a SPONSOR for this family-friendly event to benefit over 20 local non-profit organizations. Join your CEH friends as well as other community members to make this holiday a “day on rather than a day off” and work together to move closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community”.

Anyone can join us! There will be volunteer opportunities for people of all ages.

Location: Washington Lee High School

When: Monday, January 21, 8:30am – 12:00pm

Afterward, CEH friends will meet for lunch at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery at Lee-Harrison Shopping Center – around 1:00pm.

Please, CLICK HERE and register as soon as possible to get the volunteer job of your choice – especially if you are trying to sign up as a group of friends. This is a popular community event that fills quickly. For more information:

Questions, email Paula Levin-Alcorn:

–Paula Levin-Alcorn

Giving Back

As a member for over 25 years, I am always touched by the closeness of the congregants here and the spirit of Tikun Olam that so many of us share.

Several years ago, the congregation lost one of those special people that made CEH unique and special and while Alan Youkeles is no longer with us swaying to V’shamru on Friday nights, his commitment to Tikun Olam has been carried on by many others including John Howard and Dan Rosman. Below is an article written about John and Alan. Thank you, John and Dan, for having such big hearts and carrying on Alan’s legacy.

–Scott Burka                                                                                                                         President

WOW-That’s Cool! Featuring John Howard
Sometimes we serve our community in memory of a friend whose generous spirit burned so brightly we want it to live on after they are no longer with us. That is the case for John Howard, the Federal Lead in EM’s Correspondence Control Center. John volunteers at        So Others Might Eat (SOME), a nonprofit organization fighting poverty in Washington, D.C. Every 3rd Thursday, John along with other volunteers from his synagogue, cook and serve breakfast (French toast, sausage patties, and chunky applesauce) to 400 people in SOME’s dining room at 71 O Street, NW, then clean up the kitchen, and come into work. They do that partially because it is good to give back to those in need, but also in memory of their friend Alan.

Alan was an amazing guy. He spent his years after college with the Peace Corps working in sub-Saharan Africa bringing irrigation to villages with no water. After that, he moved from California, joined the Environmental Protection Agency, and began volunteering at SOME in the late 1980s with a group of friends he met when he first arrived in the DC area. Fast forward some 30 years later, Alan was the only original group member left, but through his generous spirit, he brought many new people into the circle of friends giving back each month at SOME. His warm heart just drew people in! He was most happy when he was making the world a better place.

Alan firmly believed in service and that feeding the homeless through SOME’s dining room was an excellent way to make a difference in the community. He believed in this so deeply that, following his death, his friends donated a freezer to SOME in his memory. John and the other volunteers continue to be inspired when they see the memorial plaque to Alan on the freezer being used to help others in need.

According to SOME’s website, in 2016 with the help of caring supporters, they provided 388,213 meals (breakfast and lunch), 14,546 free sets of clothing, and 10,941 showers to homeless men and women from its facilities. Volunteers, such as the group that John belongs to and Alan began, prepare and serve the meals to hungry men, women, and children in SOME’s Main Dining Room and in the Dining Room for Women and Children every day of the year at its O Street facility.

Thank you John, for continuing to follow Alan’s philosophy of paying it forward! That is a small thing with a BIG impact-the highest form of wisdom is kindness.



Making Our Voices Heard: Jewish Community Relations Council

I represented CEH at the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Northern Virginia Commission Fall meeting in late October. As stated on its website, “The JCRC works within our four pillars (government relations, Israel advocacy, inter-group relations, and social justice) to advocate for Jewish institutions and values, educate the community about key issues of concern, and reach out with our neighbors to build a better world for us all.” Discussion centered on prioritizing the many competing issues for which JCRC will advocate during the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session, including expanding hate crimes protections, protecting immigrant communities, preventing gun violence, and support for Israel.

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn provided the insider’s view of the goings on in the legislative body. She noted a current court case on redistricting that will lead to a new legislative map of Virginia, and that could affect party leadership in the House of Delegates, which would likely lead to progress on some of JCRC’s issues after many years of disappointment.

Want to get involved? Mingle with federal, state, and local Virginia elected officials at the “Lox and Legislators”breakfast, to be held at Temple Rodef Shalom on Wednesday, December 12, 7:30 – 9:30 (individual tickets $36, can be purchased at Also, consider participating in Jewish Advocacy Day in Richmond on Wednesday, February 6. Buses will leave the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center at 6:30 a.m. The long but exciting day includes lobbying our elected representatives and hearing from the Governor and others high level officials over lunch. For more information on JCRC and its activities, please see:

–Rachel Waldstein
Social Action Committee Chairperson