Category Archives: Events

A Bissel Torah – 03/31/2020

During the Great Revolt that ended with the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70CE, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkay wanted to promote peace, both among Jews and between Jews and Romans. He realized that his fellow Jews were not interested in peace, and were fighting bitterly among themselves. He devised a plan to leave Jerusalem, and negotiated with the Roman general Vespasian to continue rabbinic culture and existence in the city of Yavneh.

Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkay realized there was an issue to be solved, and he found a way to maintain Judaism for the future, responding to the catastrophe of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70CE, and to the predicament of having to do things differently, with a different kind of worship, independent of the sacrificial cult and Temple-centered observances. Judaism had to change, and Jews had to respond to the challenges with reverence for the tradition and openness to the possibilities offered by their experience.

As we prepare for Pessah this year, we too have to respond to these challenging times, with openness to the possibilities and with reverence for our tradition. Our observances will have to be different. Our mechirat hametz, the selling of our hametz, will be done by email/zoom. The biyur hametz, the elimination of hametz, the ceremony for getting rid of hametz in our homes, can continue in our individual homes, yet the burning of the hametz (that I used to do by collecting everything people brought to the Synagogue and burning it in my home) will have to be done in every individual’s place. The Siyum Bekhorot, the finishing of a unit of study so firstborns don’t have to fast on the day before Pessah, will be done virtually. We will not be able to be present at seders in people’s homes.  Here is the schedule of what we are offering at Etz Hayim to help you celebrate the holiday:

1. Mechirat Hametz: Given that we are not supposed to leave our homes, please send me the form through email. Even if you already sent the form through the mail, just send me an email so I can do the selling of the hametz. I will accept your emails until Monday evening, April 6, 2020.

2. Biyur Hametz: This year, in an effort to help people spiritually navigate this challenging time, I will be offering a healing service on Tuesday, April 7, at 8:00pm. We will rid ourselves of our spiritual hametz together, with chants and readings, willing for healing for our whole world during this pandemic.

Time: Apr 7, 2020 08:00 PM
Here is the zoom link:
Meeting ID: 631 250 409
Password: 002197

3. Siyum Bekhorot: We will have a minyan at 8:00am, followed by the Siyum Bekhorot.

Time: Apr 8, 2020 08:00 AM
Here is the zoom link:
Meeting ID: 292 093 109
Password: 026291

4. Seder: If you are hosting a virtual seder and would be able to accommodate other people, please let me know ( If you want to attend a virtual seder, please do the same!

Hag kasher v’sameah,
Bivrachot shalom uvryiut,

Rabbi Lia Bass

B’nai Mitzvah Profile: Clara Golner

What is your full name?
Clara Golner

Where were you born?
Arlington, Virginia

What is the date of your Bar Mitzvah?
March 14th, 2020

How long have you been in our Religious School? What is your favorite subject?
I’ve been in the religious school since kindergarten, but I went to preschool at Etz Hayim, too.

What Haftarah will you be chanting?
Ki tissa, triennial year one.

Has anyone else in your family become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah here?
Yes, my cousin Ben Bass.

What school do you attend? What is your favorite subject?
I go to Swanson Middle School. My favorite subject is probably English, or maybe science.

What are your hobbies or extra-curricular activities?
I do tae kwon do three times a week, but I also play piano at home and clarinet in school.

What accomplishments are you proud of?
I guess I’m proud of anything I’ve done to make someone happy.

Please write a thoughtful statement about what becoming a Bar Mitzvah means to you.
I think it means that it’s true that I get more independence, but I feel closer to my family now and I feel like my Jewish identity has become stronger.

The Jews of American Jazz Recap

On Saturday, March 7, 2020, we learned and were entertained by Seth Kibel’s presentation, “The Jews of American Jazz.” The session was an examination of the personalities, lives and careers of Jewish-American musicians — including George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and others — whose pioneering contributions shaped the uniquely American genre of jazz music.  We had approximately 40 people, including congregants, neighbors, and friends who found the event on Facebook.

Seth illustrated and accompanied his presentation with video clips and live performances on several instruments. He shared how Jewish and African-American musicians worked together to create new musical forms including jazz, be-bop, and rhythm and blues. We also learned about sound and recording technology and the revolutionary nature of jazz music. It was a new sound for a new era!

We were honored to host a group of Japanese students at this event. One of the students leads a klezmer band in Japan and played an impromptu duet with Seth. The students, our congregants, and neighbors and guests had a wonderful evening of music and learning. We look forward to hosting Seth again next year!

Seth Kibel is the leader, clarinetist, and composer for The Alexandria Kleztet, a genre-bending klezmer band he founded in the Baltimore/Washington area. The band’s four albums, Peace, Love and Coffee (2009), Close Enough for Klezmer (2005), Delusions of Klezmer (2002) and Y2Klezmer (1999) are all available nationwide. All four recordings received the Washington Area Music Association’s (WAMA) award for Best World Music Recording following their release. Additionally, Seth was named “Best World Music Instrumentalist” by WAMA every year from 2003 through 2010. In 2005, 2007, and 2008, he was also named “Best Jazz Instrumentalist.”

Thank you to the Jean Koshar and Samuel Rothstein Memorial Fund.

Arlington MLK Day of Service – Recap

CEH was again a Sponsor of this event that drew 1300 people. CEH had a group of about 30 dedicated volunteers there.

CEH members participated in various volunteer opportunities supporting local nonprofit organizations, including OAR (promoting restorative justice) and Aspire After School Learning (literacy programming for grades 3-5).

Thank you to the CEH Board of Directors for committing to be a Sponsor for the second year. Thanks also to everyone who came to volunteer on a cold January morning!


Jewish Artists in the Smithsonian Recap

On December 15, 2019, CEH’s Adult Education program sponsored a trip to the Smithsonian American Art Museum led by Deborah Kaplan, CEH member and SAAM docent. CEH members and their families enjoyed a 90-minute tour of paintings and sculptures created by Jews who immigrated to the U.S. between 1880 and 1920. The tour then moved forward in time and explored the influential work of Jewish American artists in the second half of the twentieth century. The tour finished in the elegant but often bypassed Luce Gallery on SAAM’s third floor.

Deborah provided a wealth of information about the artwork and artists that the group encountered. In the earlier time period (1880 – 1920), there was a tight knit community of Jewish artists in the US. Many knew each other and worked together in government-sponsored programs such as the Public Works of Art Project. The group learned about Jewish artists such as Frank C. Kirk who painted in the style of Social Realism, which depicts the life of poor people and the working class in positive ways. The group also saw and discussed art by Moses Sawyer, Adolph Gottlieb, Ilya Bolotowsky, Louise Nevelson and Helen Frankenthaler. We learned about different schools of art and techniques including Abstract Impressionism, Avant-Garde, and Color Field Painting. Several participant remained after the tour to explore the Luce Gallery which features a unique visible art storage program.

Congregation Etz Hayim offers a diverse schedule of Adult Education programs including Torah study, tefilla how-tos, Jewish values, and social justice. The 2019-2020 schedule is available on our website under the Education tab. CEH is grateful for the Jean Koshar and Samuel Rothstein Memorial Fund which supports our Adult Education program.

B’nai Mitzvah Profile: Jacob Coleman

What is your full name?
Jacob Lybcher Coleman

Where were you born?
Sibley Hospital. Washington DC

What is the date of your Bar Mitzvah?
December 14, 2019

How long have you been in our Religious School? What is your favorite subject?
Since kindergarten

What Haftarah will you be chanting?

Has anyone else in your family become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah here?

What school do you attend? What is your favorite subject?
Gunston Middle School

What are your hobbies or extra-curricular activities?
Design and Engineering Club, baseball, flag football, watching football and playing video games

What accomplishments are you proud of?
Getting a good grade in school

Please write a thoughtful statement about what becoming a Bar Mitzvah means to you.
Growing up and becoming an adult in the Jewish Community

Library Shabbat Recap

On Friday, November 15, 2019, our congregation celebrated the re-dedication of the library. This event was well-timed to coincide with Jewish Book Month which takes place annually in November. To recognize these occasions, there was a special presentation during Shabbat services and our oneg was held upstairs in the library.

During services, Laura Naide and Marcia Zimmet spoke about the effort to refurbish the library and the importance of books to the Jewish people. Over the past three years, many volunteers transformed the CEH library. We removed over 2000 books and either donated, recycled, or buried them depending on their condition and contents. We logged the remaining 1000 or so books into an online database, adding bar codes and Dewey decimal classifications. Edgar Rendon did a beautiful job painting the room and we purchased a new rug and bookshelves. The Rosman family donated a couch and loveseat. The Cohen family donated a large screen tv so our students could watch movies. Marcia Zimmet donated many beautiful items of Jewish art. And our rabbi, Lia Bass, made a beautiful quilt to add warmth and color to the room.

Marcia Zimmet reminded congregants that Jews are known as the “People of the Book.” She shared many Jewish references to the holiness of books. For example, in 998 CE Rabbi Hai Gaon commented that “three possessions should you prize. a field, a friend and a book.” Rabbi Shamuel ha Nigid, a Talmudic scholar in the early 11th century wrote “the wise of heart will abandon ease and pleasure for in his library he will find treasures.” And Rabbi Yehuda ha Levi, a poet of the 12th century wrote of the importance of books by commenting: “my pen is my harp and lyre, my library is my garden and orchard.”

We hope that all congregants will make the trip upstairs to spend time in our library. Our online database can be accessed at Please use this resource to find books on whatever Jewish topics are of interest to you! If there are books you think should be in our collection, send your suggestions to Laura Naide at

Thank you to Laura Naide, Marcia Zimmet, Marcy Burka, Edgar Rendon!

Don’t forget to join us for Adult Education: What Five Books Should You Read to be An Educated Jew? On Sunday, February 2 at 10:15am.

2019 Artist Expo & Bake Sale Recap

The CEH building came to life on Sun, Nov 10, with artists, shoppers, face painting and a bake sale piled high with goodies.

A huge thank-you goes to the many, many volunteers who made this event possible. Whether they baked, helped with set-up or advertising, made vendor lunches, welcomed and directed customers, staffed the bake sale, ran errands for the vendors on Sunday, took photos for our website or worked on clean-up crew, these people brought the event to life, in alphabetical order.

Chris Kagy
CJ Burka
Courtney Schwartz
Danielle Tannenbaum-Pasch
Debbie Ainspan
Edgar Rendon
Elisa Rosman
Eva Kleederman
Harris Lechtman
Jacob Coleman
Jane Baldinger
Jeanne Briskin
Jill Clark
Jonathan Golner
Jordan Fried
Laura Hill
Laura Naide
Leslie Sorkowitz
Linda Sparke
Marcy Burka
Marina Grayson
Mike Stein
Mimi Youkeles
Nancy Bondy
Patricia Citro
Rabbi Lia Bass
Rachel Waldstein Kagy
Roberta Wasserman
Scott Burka

Come join us for the next Adult Education session: What the Hell? Jewish Belief in the Afterlife on Sunday, November 24 at 10:15am.

“Justice for All? Ethics from Our Bible,” presented by the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies Recap

On Tuesday, November 5, the Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies presented a lecture entitled “Justice for All? Ethics From Our Bible,” at Congregation Etz Hayim. The speaker was Professor Jeremiah Unterman who is a Resident Scholar at the Herzl Institute – Machon Herzl. Approximately 35 people attended.

Professor Unterman discussed how the ethics of the Jewish Bible represent a significant moral advance over other Ancient Near East cultures. He spoke about how the Bible’s unique conception of ethical monotheism and innovative understanding of covenantal law form the foundation of many Western civilization ideals. He compared secular legal codes (e.g., the Code of Hammurabi) with the ethical underpinnings of Jewish jurisprudence. He summarized his presentation by connecting the biblical texts to the persistent themes of our times: immigration policy, care for the less privileged, and attaining hope for the future despite destruction and exile. A recording of Professor Unterman’s presentation will be available at

The Haberman Institute for Jewish Studies provides adults with high quality in-depth encounters with Jewish thought, history, and culture. Congregation Etz Hayim is proud to partner with the Institute to bring this learning to our community and hopes to continue the partnership in coming years.

If you enjoyed this event, please attend an upcoming CEH Adult Education class. The next class is Sunday, November 24 from 10:15 AM – 11:45 AM. Rabbi Bass will teach a class entitled: “What the Hell? Jewish Belief in the Afterlife.”

CEH Social Action Event – Refugee and Immigrant Crisis: The Jewish Response

On Sunday, November 3, Congregation Etz Hayim’s Social Action Committee hosted a panel of representatives from local chapters of four non-profit organizations working to mitigate the practical and legal hardships that refugees, asylees and other immigrants face in our community. The representatives provided an historical perspective on U.S. immigration policy, an alert about recent executive action allowing states to ban refugees, and an explanation of the particular issues presented by unaccompanied youth and alien (“honorary”) veterans of the U.S. armed services. Importantly, they outlined the mission and activities of their individual organizations, including the many ways that volunteers can serve as force multipliers in rendering assistance to immigrants (e.g., accompanying subjects to ICE check-ins, providing information on legal rights, political advocacy, material support). After the formal remarks, there was a lively Q&A, which elicited additional substantive information from the expert presenters.

Participant organizations included:

Congregation Action Network/Faith in Action, whose member congregations in the DC/MD/VA region provide support and practical assistance to neighbors, friends, and family who fear being detained, deported or profiled. (Mary Lareau, Northern Virginia Cluster Leader,

CASA In Action, the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest electoral organization fighting for immigrant rights. (Miguel Carpizo-Ituarte, Virginia Lead Organizer,

Just Neighbors, which provides immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia (Erin McKenney, Executive Director,

Lutheran Social Services, which resettles displaced refugees and provides them wellness and health education and other practical services. (Dana Lea, Director of Community Outreach,

In addition to hosting the formal panel, CEH opened the event to representatives from other immigration advocacy groups to bring their organizations’ materials and speak individually with audience members after the formal portion of the program. Staff from The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Sanctuary DMV set up information tables and fielded questions from attendees, many of whom added themselves to mailing and volunteer lists. This CEH event provided a forum for engaged and compassionate congregants of the Northern Virginia Jewish Community and other faith groups to learn about and take action on behalf of immigrants in crisis, honoring the religious and ethical dictate to “welcome the stranger.”