Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monday, March 22nd
Serena Tobias, a friend and congregant of TAE, had never been to Washington DC so she decided to join me for the week to explore the city while I was doing my presentations. Today, we had the opportunity to explore the National Archives Museum where we saw the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. One of my favorite action movies was “The National Treasure” in which Nicholas Cage attempts to search for the original Declaration of Independence while the bad guys try to steal it from the Archives Building. So here I was walking through this building and seeing the many thick walls and vaults knowing how well secured this place was and how it would be almost impossible to walk out with such an historical document!

Then we went to the National Gallery of Art where we saw plenty of art especially from 14th-16th century. I had never seen so many oil paintings in one day! Of course I saw some of my favorites including Johannes Vermeer and Renoir. We also went to the Sculpture Garden where the sizes of the sculptures were gigantic. My favorite sculpture was the typewriter eraser- it has a round red eraser on the bottom and a brush on top of it. I fondly remember looking through my dad’s office desk and seeing those green typewriter erasers. However this particular one was enormous!

Tuesday, March 23rd
Our second day of exploring DC- Rachel is on Spring Break so she flew in to join us for the week to be with us. We went to the American History Museum and we finally saw Kermit the Frog! He says hello to all of you. Of course we saw Judy Garland’s famous shiny red shoes that she wore in the movie, Wizard of the Oz. My most recent favorite movie is Julie and Julia about the famous chef, Julia Child- her kitchen is now on display at this museum and it was almost surreal being there. The kitchen looked so ordinary with many knives on the wall as Julia always believed that a good knife was a necessity to prepare and cook a delicious meal. The second museum for the day was a visit to the National Portrait Gallery where they have all the presidents on display with the exception of Obama as these portraits only go up towards the end of their terms. I was completely enthralled by these portraits and learned so much about some of the presidents whom I had never even heard of! After visiting the fourth museum in two days, my feet could barely move but it was a worthwhile workout!

Wednesday, March 24th
WRN Workshop
“The Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN), a constituent group of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), was created in 1975 by a group of female rabbinic students to provide the support and advocacy needed in the early years of women in the Reform rabbinate…since then, the organization has grown to include the more than 400 women who have been ordained since 1972 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The WRN has consistently worked to promote the personal and professional growth of female rabbis and rabbinic students within the Reform Movement…women rabbis have had a profound impact on the world Jewish community. ‘We have contributed to the growth of feminist biblical commentary and midrash, and have paved the path for ritual innovation and creativity. As rabbis in congregations, in Hillel’s, as chaplains in geriatric and hospital settings, as educators, teachers, healers, professors and poets, we are all making a significant contribution to our community.”

Today, I met with some of my colleagues from the WRN to offer a presentation about Jews with Disabilities. These women work within the greater DC area and meet several times a year to check in with each other, to schmooze and study together. They invited me to share my story and my experience regarding inclusion within the synagogue. The biggest barrier that we face is attitudes as it’s very easy to build a ramp and provide an interpreter. But it is not easy to remove people’s judgments against others and as a result, it makes it more challenging for those to feel welcome within the Jewish community. The discussion was lively and without a doubt these rabbis are greatly committed to make others feel welcome within their own synagogues knowing that they will not be able to solve all problems, but at least work on it to the best of their abilities.

Later in the afternoon, I went to Washington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform congregation with 3,000 members. I was invited to speak with the children during religious school t'filah. Before we did t'filah, the children did a mitzvah project called:

"The Project Elijah Foundation was established in 2004 to provide resources for children in Buenos Aires, Argentina suffering because of the collapse of the Argentine economy. In PEF's efforts to provide food, shelter, and education for these children, PEF learned about the depth of hunger not only in Argentina, but around the world even here in America, in our own “back yard”. This became PEF's focus.That awareness and understanding led us to the development of “Elijah’s Kosher Manna”, a highly nutritious kosher food package intended for hunger relief for those in need here and abroad. This program, which began as a strictly Jewish hunger relief program, has shifted its focus to sharing its resources with all those in need."

That day, the children packaged over 1400 meals to be sent to the local shelters in the DC area. The children were deeply involved and aware that they made a difference for one family's meal.

During T'filah, I discussed the fact that it took their hands to make a difference and how hands are an important part of the sacred partnership that we have with God. I shared with them my personal story and explained that hands are also a beautiful way of communication and offered to teach the Shema in sign language. The children responded beautifully and all smiled after we did the Shema with no words and in complete silence.

Thursday March 25th
Presentation at the RAC
“The History of the Religious Action Center
“Since moving into its home at 2027 Massachusetts Avenue, the Center has become a voice of conscience in our nation’s capital. From its historic building on Washington’s Embassy Row, the RAC has educated and mobilized the American Jewish community on legislative and social concerns as an advocate in Congress on issues ranging from Israel and Soviet Jewry to economic justice; from civil rights to international peace and religious liberty. Since it was established in 1961, the RAC has been an integral part of some of the most important political and social developments in recent history.”

I went to the Religious Action Center along with Serena, Rachel and Kyle Fradkin who is studying in the DC area for one quarter through the University of California. Kyle and his family are long-time members at TAE. Kyle’s grandfather, Arthur Fradkin, attends our Saturday morning services every Shabbat. Kyle and Rachel both attend UC Davis and have been close friends since their AETY days.

The first person that came to greet us was Rabbi David Saperstein- his bio is quite impressive…this is what it says:
“Designated in Newsweek’s 2009 list as the most influential rabbi in the country and described in a Washington Post profile as "the quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill," Rabbi David Saperstein represents the national Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the Administration as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.”
I have heard him speak over the years and he is one of the most dynamic and outgoing speakers that I have ever heard of. It was a pleasure to see him in person! Rabbi Lynne Landsberg gave us a tour and we met several of the Eisendrath Legislative Assistants (LA) “who are involved and play a pivotal role in every aspect of the Center's work — Legislative Advocacy, Conferences, Communications and supporting the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism.”

These young people gathered around the table and I spoke to them about the challenges that many Jews with disabilities tend to face. The challenge remains but these young people were filled with much energy and optimistic that they are determined that civil rights will continue to be on the top of their agenda.

As you may know that Rabbi Ted Riter was also one of these LAs before he entered rabbinical school awhile back. To work in the halls of the Religious Action Center is truly impressive because it is the beating heart of the Reform Movement to make sure that all voices are heard on Capital Hill.

It was a humble experience to speak to these people at the Religious Action Center who are fully committed and dedicated to change the world one day at a time for all humanity.

Friday, March 26th
Visit to Gallaudet University Hillel for Shabbat Dinner and Visit with the Jewish deaf students.

“Gallaudet University, the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress, and its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.”


  1. Great post and love the pics! Keep them coming!

    Hannah Gerber, BIG FAN of your adventures!

  2. You are having such incredible experiences, I am so happy for you! How nice that you were joined by friends and family!

    I want you to know that when I set my orange upon my seder plate, I thought of you, because women DEFINITELY belong on the bima!!!

    Diane Darling