Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life


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From our Spiritual Leader:


January 2021

Tu Beshvat, which falls this year on January 17th, happens in the winter in America. This holiday represents a time of potential growth for the spring, and acknowledges the beginning of the sap running up and down the almond trees in Israel. It is, in its essence, an aspirational holiday that reminds us of the beauty of creation and the bounty that comes from it.

In All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum speaks about the special kind of wonder that comes from watching growth as a young child:

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody Really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

While I love that teaching, let me share with you a Jewish version of that same response to wonder by Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe:

Growth is a natural, organic process. Seeds placed into the soil sprout on their own. So will trees and flowers….If we want something particular to sprout, we must be careful to plant precisely what we want, and afterward the seeds will sprout from themselves in a natural process.

Rabbi Wolbe moves beyond the wonder to talk about the relationship that humans play in the planting and growth process. While Fulghum is right that the roots go down and the plant goes up, Rabbi Wolbe acknowledges that someone has to partner with the creation process that allows for that growth. And, as those of us who are gardeners well know, if you plant too early or too late, ordon’t plant the right thing in the right season, then you will likely not end up with the harvest that you want. If we do not till and tend those seeds before, during, and after their sprouting, weeds may take over and the seeds will not grow.

The same is true for our own spiritual work. We have an inherent miracle of connection to the Divine. We notice it in our sacred questioning, in our connection to other people and animals, and in our recognition that we are part of something larger than us; a cycle of nature in relationship with its Creator. That spiritual work also, just like the seed in the ground, needs to be tended and tilled in order to sprout. We do that sacred work when we come together, engage in the work of the community, and care for one another because we see the Divine within them.

As we approach this delicate time in the lifecycle of the plants that sustain us, may we be blessed with an appreciation for the wonder of small miracles that we witness in their growth. May we have the appropriate insight to till and tend the plants and our world to produce the desired growth. And, as we start 2022 we hope that this year will be one of physical and spiritual growth – where we can plant the seeds of our spiritual seeking and till and tend them through the joy of our Coalition community.

Kol Tuv (Be Well),


Rabbi James


RABBI JAMES Radio Interview, December 17 2021

New England Public Media’s radio show “And Another Thing” recently aired a segment titled “The Diversity of Winter Holidays… other than Christmas.” The program discusses how the festive winter season means different things to those in different religions and cultures. Rabbi James is one of the speakers interviewed, and offers some thoughtful and practical insights to us all at this holiday time.

Here’s the link:



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 Omicron phase of Covid.  



Jan. 2022 UPDATE, from Carolyn Setlow Project Chair

The Washington Refugee Resettlement Project is now eagerly awaiting a call from IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services), our co-sponsor in New Haven, to tell us that our refugee family is on their way.  We could hear from them as soon as this coming week, or it might take another month or so. In the meanwhile, our Housing Team has rented and nearly furnished through donations a lovely duplex apartment in downtown New Milford, right off the Green.  Some of you have already generously contributed your new or slightly used furnishings, and others have sent in generous donations.  Thank you for all your efforts and support!




“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!