Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life



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From our Spiritual Leader:

September 2021


Dear Friend,

This year has been a particularly challenging one to prepare for the High Holy Days. I imagine many of you share this feeling. At one and the same time I am looking ahead to a time when we can gather together in person, while at the same time looking back to earlier this summer when that seemed so possible. The pandemic has altered most every aspect of our lives over the past 18 months. And, while the Hebrew month of Elul is really a time designated for spiritual seeking – for the spiritual inventory process, I have struggled, at times, to bring my heart and soul to that space this year.

In those moments when I feel a bit stuck at home and things are challenging, I have been holding onto our tradition’s understanding of home as a “mikdash me’at – a mini sanctuary.” Our challenge this year is to once again create a virtual high holiday space that replicates and celebrates the sanctuary of us together, with all the beauty and inspiration that comes from being in community. Even though it will not be the same, it will still be joyful to wish each other a Shanah Tovah and to celebrate the High Holy Days together. In fact, there are some ways in which our virtual space makes that even sweeter – with community members who might not be able to be physically present able to gather with our Coalition! As we prepare for this second virtual holiday season, I want to remind you (and remind me) of some of the things that we did last year that helped us build that sanctuary at home:

  • –  Have a really wonderful holiday meal! Light the candles, say kiddush and motzi, and enjoy some apples and honey before services.
  • –  Get dressed up (even if only from the waist up)! I found that putting on my suit and my tallit brought me to a place of physical readiness for services. This year, I am wearing a kippa that was made for my daughter’s bat mitzvah – to celebrate some of the special moments of this past year as we bring in the new one.
  • –  I invite you to create a sacred space in your home where you can participate in services. Maybe that means lighting a candle, or turning off your TV in the background. However you choose to do it, ensuring you are not distracted will help make sure you are spiritually and emotionally present, even if we are not physically together.
  • –  Use your prayer book. While during the year many of us have relied on the PDF of the siddur, we have arranged for people to have access to our Coalition Mahzorim (holiday prayer books). Last year, I found that to be incredibly meaningful.
  • –  Make space to do the spiritual work of this moment. Each year, we are invited to conduct a Heshbon Hanefesh – a spiritual accounting. Take this opportunity and reflect on the year. Look at the abundance of your life, as well as the growing edges, and begin to plan for next year. Although we don’t always know what is in store for us, we also know that our planning now will help us find real change in the year to come.

Rabban Gamliel, who was living and writing around the period of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, called us to this phrase of a Mikdash Me’at – first offered by the prophet Ezekiel several hundred years earlier. But in Rabban Gamiel’s world, where the Temple no longer existed, Judaism needed to adapt in order to survive. In the past 18 months, many of us have spent more time at home than ever before. This presented us with a unique opportunity and also real challenge. We have been working, studying, exercising, and living all in one space. As a community, we have been praying in that space as well.

Although our society is once again looking at a changing spiritual landscape, I believe that our experiences of the past year and from past generations can guide us toward meaning, community, and holiness. As we come together for Rosh Hashanah this year, I look forward to sharing this journey with you, to helping each of us find our Mikdash Me’at, and to walking the path of the Holy Days as a community.

Jen, Talyah, Kol, and I wish each of you a sweet, joyful, and healthy New Year. Kol Tuv,

Kol Tuv (Be Well),



Rabbi James


WCOC Blood Drive:

Maureen Sladen ran a successful blood drive at St. John’s Church in Washington on 9/11. Forty-one people signed up to support the important effort. Kudos and big thanks to Maureen and her team of Coalition and other community volunteers!



Helping families in need has always been a focus of the Coalition. During this desperate time for many, we are hoping to direct our attention to our neighbors who struggle with food insecurity and several other critical needs as we enter the Delta phase of Covid.  Our Board urges all members to make a donation to our Tzedakah fund at this time, so that we can add to that which we contribute to our local charities.

You can donate online (go to “For Members,” scroll down to “Donate Now” and type in “For Tzedkah”) or mail a check to the Coalition office.  Thank you.


COVID Vaccine and other UPDATES:


CDC VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) link:

Connecticut link:

For vaccine appointment telephone assistance, call:  (877) 918 – 2224

You can check your town site regularly for Covid/Delta updates, details on vaccination availability and general health activities and news. They are collaborating with State and Federal public health departments, hospitals, clinics, a range of community sites and providers and have a good amount of information.




“Transcendent Kingdom,” by Yaa Gyasi
A beautifully written novel about “a Ghanaian family in the contemporary South, both a profound story about race in American and an extraordinary portrait of a young woman reckoning, spiritually and intellectually, with a large and unwieldy loss. Gifty, a sixth-year doctoral candidate in neuroscience at Stanford Medical School is studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. An exceptional story about faith, science , religion and love.” Not to be missed!

“Yiddish Civilisation,” by Paul Kriwaczek, “The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation”

Review: “Vital… remarkable… Artfully reveals the Zarathustrian hinges of Iranian culture… Written with the prescient elegance of a curious traveler and in the hope that ideas that once changed the world may do so again.”

A Pigeon and a Boy,” by Meir Shalev

Review: “A powerful novel of two love stories, separated by half a century but connected by one enchanting act of devotion — of how deeply we love, of what home is, and why we, like pigeons trained to fly in one direction only, must eventually return to it…”

My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner,” also by Meir Shalev

Review: “A charming tale of family ties, over-the-top housekeeping, and the sport of storytelling in the small village of Nahalal…”



Go to“Learn” tab, scroll down to “Jewish Resources” and click  “MY JEWISH LEARNING” (or go directly to

Here you’ll find an aggregator that is regularly updated with a huge breadth of content and all sorts of goodies and surprises!

For example, the“Daily Guide to Zoom Events, Livestream and Other Online Resources.” Among the wide range of subjects, programs and activities you’ll see here are: “The Only Jewish Miss America” (Museum of Jewish Heritage), “Mindfulness Melodies” (Jewish Life in Maine), “Art as a Spiritual Practice,” A Midwives, Musicians, Soldiers and Rabbis: Whose Stories will Become History?,” “Bioethics During a Pandemic,” etc., etc.

And other treats too! Recipes for the holidays and everyday: “Potato Chip Schnitzel, Shwarma Chicken Kabobs, Roasted Butternut Squash with Orange Tahini, Briskett Tacos, Ethiopian Red Lentil Soup,” etc., etc…

Come visit and linger, you’ll be glad you did!


Visit LINKS OF INTEREST (on this site under “For Members” tab) to read an excerpt of an essay on Baron de Hirsch, his vision and involvement with Jewish farming in Connecticut.



Do not miss “The Queen’s Gambit.”  A fictional story, this 7-part Netflix mini-series follows the life of orphan chess player, Beth Harmon, from the age of eight to twenty two. The story begins in the mid-1950’s and continues into the 1960’s. The casting, acting, screenplay, music, photography, etc., etc. are all flawless. Riveting and powerful, it is a work of art. And within the context of the game of chess, it cleverly brings issues of our society, different cultures, politics and…life into “play.” See it!



A<em>corn (BBC), Apple + (“Central Park”); Disney (“Hamilton”), HBO, Amazon  (“The Plot Against America”);  Channels 95, 96 (C-SPAN) for live coverage of important political and academic meetings.



The Great Courses,  learn a language, instrument or subject; create something new or master a skill… and more. — be forewarned, (mildly) addictive!