Category Archives: Chronicle

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Walking Tour of Jewish Washington, DC Recap

On a beautiful sunny day, CEH members and friends enjoyed a walking tour of Jewish Washington, DC. The tour focused on the historic Seventh Street, NW, neighborhood during the years 1850 to 1950. We saw four former synagogue buildings, including two that were the home of Adas Israel and one that was the home of Washington Hebrew Congregation.

We started our tour at the new location of the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum, which just moved for the third (and hopefully last) time. The synagogue, which opened its doors in 1876 as the first home of Adas Israel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites, and the Historic American Buildings Survey. In 2021, it will open as the Capital Jewish Museum.

The historic 1876 Adas Israel synagogue may be the oldest synagogue structure in Washington, but Adas Israel is not the oldest congregation. Formed in 1852, Washington Hebrew Congregation was the city’s first Jewish congregation. In 1869, 38 members of the 17-year-old Washington Hebrew Congregation resigned in order to return to more traditional, orthodox Jewish rituals. That group formed Adas Israel congregation.

Our second tour stop was the Chinese Community Church at 500 I St., N.W. Founded in 1852 by U.S. Capitol architect Thomas Ustick Walter as a Presbyterian church, the building served as a Jewish temple and Baptist church before being purchased by the Chinese Community Church in 2006. The stained glass windows still have partial depictions of the Star of David.

Our third tour stop was 6th & I Synagogue, also a former home of Adas Israel. The 6th & I Synagogue was dedicated on January 8, 1908, near what was then the main commercial district in town and the center of the Jewish community in Washington. After going through several transformations (including one as an A.M.E. Church), the synagogue was purchased by a Jewish philanthropist, and rededicated as a space for Jewish and cultural life in 2004.

The tour’s final stop was the former home of Washington Hebrew Congregation at 816 8th St., N.W. (now the home of Greater New Hope Baptist Church). WHC worshipped at this location for 56 years before moving. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman laid the cornerstone of the congregation’s current home on Macomb Street NW, which was dedicated on May 6, 1955, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Our thanks to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington for an engaging and informative afternoon.

2019 Purim Carnival & Partial Megillah Reading and Spiel Recap

Every year our congregation looks forward to a joyous tradition – our annual Purim Celebration. According to the Megillah (scroll of Esther), we observe Purim as a time of “feasting and gladness.” For example, we dress in costumes, feast on hamentashen (cookies shaped like Haman’s hat), perform spiels (silly plays) and enjoy a carnival with games and prizes.

We held our annual Purim carnival on Sunday, March 17. For many years, our CEH carnival has been organized by Jill and Lyn Shenk. Not only is Jill a master organizer, but Lyn has built many of the games! Some of the games included: Sail to Shushan (boat races), Shekel Drop, Gefilte Fish Toss, and Haman’s Hole in One (golf). There was also a moon bounce on our front lawn.

Children and their parents enjoyed playing games, eating hamentashen and other delicious food, collecting tickets and redeeming them for prizes. There was an atmosphere of merriment and celebration. This is an event that brings together many different members of our CEH community as well as their friends and family.

On Wednesday, March 20 our congregation, including our Wednesday Religious School students, participated in a partial Megillah reading and spiel. The spiel was a retelling of the Purim story as a parody of the musical Hamilton. Students in Kitot Gimmel – Zayin (3rd – 7th Grades) presented the spiel to the congregation with accompaniment by Elisa & Hannah Rosman. The spiel itself was written by Mike Stein. Everyone had a great time laughing at the spiel and shaking their graggers (noise makers) to drown out Haman’s name during the Megillah reading.

We’re looking forward to Purim 5781 (2020)!

Thank you to Jill and Lyn Shenk and a large group of volunteers including congregants, RS teachers, and RS students. Partial Megillah Reading & Spiel: Alan Savada (reader), Mike Stein and Elisa & Hannah Rosman (spiel), and congregants and teachers (readers & oneg set up and clean up).

Jewish Comedy: Why Are We So Funny? Recap

On Saturday, March 2, a large group of comedy-lovers, approximately 75 people, including congregants, neighbors, guests from a nearby senior residence, and friends from the Arlington Moishe House, went on a virtual two-hour journey across the map of Jewish comedy in the US, including discussions of Groucho Marx, Gertrude Berg, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, and more. Our hosts, Adam and Ron, provided historical context, showed film clips, and engaged the audience in an interactive quiz (complete with Groucho Marx glasses as prizes).

From vaudeville to the Catskills to radio shows to movies to television shows, we discussed what makes Jewish comedy unique and different. Audience members shared their memories (including a story about how the Marx brothers used to climb back into their apartment late at night) and were transported back to shows and places in their memories. Many of the comedy moments including a healthy dose of Yiddish which added to the general meshugas (craziness)!

We also had a rich discussion about what comedy offers society and whether or not there are limits to humor. Can Jews make jokes about Jews? Can non-Jews make the same jokes? And how have jokes evolved over time?

I’ll end this review with the joke that started this fabulous evening:

“A shul had a problem with squirrels in the attic. The exterminator couldn’t get them out. The rabbi said, I know how to take care of this. I’ll make them bar mitzvahs and they’ll never return to the building!” Oy vey!

Todah Raba to Adam Cohen and Ron Rosenberg who prepared and presented the evening’s content, to Jerry Jacobs who sponsored the refreshments and to Rabbi Bass who helped with shopping.

Teen trip to Philadelphia Recap

This year’s teen field trip was to historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We kept busy with a tour of the Museum of American Jewish History where we learned about different waves of Jewish immigration to the United States, starting in the 17th Century up to the present day. Some highlights were an original pair of Levi Strauss jeans and a letter from George Washington to the Jewish community with the famous quote, “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”
We also toured the Eastern State Penitentiary where we saw the restored synagogue that Jewish inmates used to pray and hold religious events such as seders.

In between “educational” stops we sampled delicious Philadephia food at Reading Terminal Market, the Bourse, Su Xing kosher Chinese restaurant, and Federal Donuts. We also had some time for shopping and touring the historic area that houses the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Finally, we “escaped” from Alcatraz in under one hour at an escape room adventure.

Next year we go back to New York to learn more about Judaism and to eat more delicious food!

Thank you to Dan & Hannah Rosman who chaperoned.

All-Shul Learning: Shabbat Recap

On Sunday, February 3, 2019, all ages learned together at our All-Shul Learning: Shabbat event. We started the day with a minyan service and then discussed the 39 Melachot, or categories of work that are prohibited on Shabbat. Rabbi Bass explained that these categories relate to the building of the Mishkan, the portable, temporary version of the Holy Temple that the Jews carried throughout their forty years in the desert. For example, we cannot sew on Shabbat because our ancestors sewed curtains for the Mishkan.

Next, we broke into groups and travelled through four stations. At one station, Will Rivlin and Abby Cohen led the group in a spirited Shabbat song session. At another station, Lital Burr and Jeannie Sklar helped the group make wooden plaques to display the words of the Hamotzi prayer. At our third station, Maddy Naide and Jeana Kimelheim showed the group how to create fabric hallah covers to use on Shabbat. At our fourth station, Rabbi Bass, Leah Edgar and Jennifer Bachus taught the group how to braid and decorate party hallah.

At the hallah station, Rabbi Bass explained the mitzvah of “taking hallah.” This phrase refers to separating a portion of the dough before braiding. In the days of the Temple, this portion of dough was set aside as a tithe for the priests, or kohanim. In modern times, we separate a small piece of dough — about the size of an olive — and either burn it or dispose of it respectfully, rendering inedible the portion that God commanded be set aside.

As the day drew to a close, we held a Kahoot (online) quiz in the sanctuary to test participants’ knowledge of the Saturday morning service. Questions such as “What is a Gabbai” (someone who assists with the Torah reading and the service) and “What is the Hagbaha” (lifting the Torah after the reading) did not stump the crowd. We know our Shabbat stuff!

We hope that congregants will join us on March 10, 2019, for our next All-Shul Learning event, which will cover the aspects of kashrut.

Thank you to everyone who helped prepare for the event and run the stations: Rabbi Bass, Lital Burr, Will Rivlin, Jeannie Sklar, Jennifer Bachus, Leah Edgar, Jeana Kimelheim, Abby Cohen & Maddy Naide.

Roller Skate Havdalah Recap

On Saturday, January 26 approximately 15 people from Etz Hayim including parents and students gathered at Arlington’s Thomas Jefferson Community Center to participate in a Havdalah ceremony and enjoy an evening of roller skating. Havdalah (Hebrew: הַבְדָּלָה ‬, “separation”) is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Sabbath and ushers in the new week. The ritual involves lighting a special havdalah candle with several wicks, blessing a cup of wine and smelling sweet spices. Moreh Will led us in a musical version of the Havdalah ceremony and the students helped us with the ritual objects.

Havdalah is a short and sweet ceremony that is easy to incorporate into your family’s traditions. You can learn the music from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gebsb-po8jY

When you follow Havdalah with roller skating, it makes for a fantastic Saturday evening.

Thank you to Alexis Joyce & Laura Naide for planning the event and to Moreh Will for leading Havdalah

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.

Donut Wars Recap

On Wednesday, December 5, we celebrated Hanukkah with a donut decorating challenge called “Donut Wars”. We had a total of 45 people!

Students were randomly divided into teams of 4. Each team participated in 3 rounds of donut decorating, ala the cooking show “Chopped”. Each round had a theme (“Lights”, “Maccabees” and “Miracles”) and a mystery ingredient. In addition to the donuts and the mystery ingredient, students could use items from a central pantry. The pantry held treats such as chocolate chips, frosting, candy sprinkles, and colorful cereals.

Students had 8 minutes for each round to decorate their donuts. The donuts were judged by an esteemed panel of CEH Religious School teachers. Teams were judged on presentation, taste, and creative use of the mystery ingredients. Prizes went to the 3 top teams, plus a special prize to the team that kept their workplace the cleanest.

Our students worked together beautifully and created surprising interpretations of our Hanukkah themes. During the second round (“Maccabees”), several teams decorated their donuts with a hammer motif. In all three rounds, there was an abundance of creativity, enthusiasm, and sugar. Food Network watch out – we have some stars on the rise!

Thank you to RS Teachers: Adam Wassell, Robyn Norrbom, Lital Burr, Amanda Sky, Emma Rosman, Hannah Rosman, Jeana Kimelheim, Rabbi Bass, and Edgar Rendon.

–Laura Naide                                                                                                                Director of Religious Education

 

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: https://volunteer.leadercenter.org/MLK

Questions, email Paula Levin-Alcorn: plevinal@gmail.com

–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.