Sukkot at WHC – We put out the call and you sprang to action!

Too big to fit into one week, our “Time of Action” Sukkot spanned nine days, included 20 programs, and featured artist-in-residence Dan Nichols. We are happy to share some of the week’s highlights and photos with you.

Film Premiere and Concert on Sunday September 27

Three food trucks and more than 300 people gathered at Temple as we celebrated the first night of Sukkot. With “Food Truck Bucks” to spend, the crowd had so many sweet and savory choices in front of them! The premier of Road to Eden, shared Dan Nichols’ experience as he toured small Jewish communities in the Deep South with his band during Sukkot. The film generated a lot of buzz from viewers as it opened eyes, touched hearts, and began our exploration of the week’s social justice themes: hunger and homelessness, immigration, and civil rights and race relations. Immediately following the film, attendees streamed into Kaufmann Sanctuary, which through the magic of incredible lighting and sound, had turned an incredible concert venue for a Jewish folk rock concert by Dan and his band, Eighteen. 

Religious School on Sunday, September 27 and October 4

Through story and song, Dan Nichols helped our students appreciate that the open design of the sukkah is a reminder for all of us that the more we open our hearts, eyes and minds, the more we can connect with others and try to make this world a better place. Religious School students in every grade at both locations spent time with Dan during Sukkot. Our younger students enjoyed a special t’filah (worship) experience and song session in the sukkah with Dan (though at JBSC we had to improvise, thanks to the rain!). Dan carried that same message of openness and connection to our 4th-7th students who decorated the sukkot with reminders of issues in our world that need repair. Their hanging fruit included quotations from the Prophets and statistics about hunger in our region. Decorations that showed everyone being made in the image of God, served as a reminder that race relations is an ongoing issue in our nation. Maps reminded us that our country is made up of immigrants from all over the world, and that our forebears wandered through the desert and from country to country in search of freedom and safety. These themes of homelessness and vulnerability also helped us launch the Religious School’s annual fundraiser for Carrie Simon House. 

ECC Family Orchard Trip on Monday, September 28

Sukkot at Homestead Farms was an overwhelming success! Over 150 children and adults enjoyed the warm, fall morning that began with Rabbi Skloot and Cantor Bortnick shaking the lulav and etrog. Families visited the farm animals, went on a hayride, and picked bushels of sweet apples. Tikkun olam was also part of the day, and everyone donated some of their apples to Bread for the City so other families could enjoy the sweet (and healthy!) taste of fall.

A Dialogue and Teach-in on Race Relations on Monday, September 28

NAACP President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks came back to WHC, this time in a candid and personal conversation with Rabbi Lustig about race relations. Dan Nichols opened the program with an acoustical, folk version of Prince’s song, Baltimore, written and performed after the summertime riots in response to Freddie Gray’s death. Brooks shared personal stories about his family and hopes for his sons, provided insight into the NAACP’s next steps, and discussed individual and collective opportunities and responsibilities as we move forward.

Lunch & Learn on Immigration on Tuesday September 29

The Honorable Joan Churchill, who served for nearly 25 years as an immigration judge in Washington and Arlington, joined Rabbi Lustig for in a high-level discussion about global and U.S. immigration issues and reform – a very timely and politically-charged issue.

Hebrew School on Tuesday, September 29 & Wednesday September 30

Parents joined their Hebrew School students this evening where we began with a Sukkot song session, to inspire us for the work that followed.  At each building, children and parents painted (nearly 100!) bowls for InterFaith Works. InterFaith Works will give these bowls to attendees of their annual Empty Bowls event, which serves as a reminder that there are those in our region who cannot fill their bowls with food.  Knowing that the bowls were going to an important cause, students gave extra attention to ensure their work would resonate and make a difference. Many are hoping to return for the InterFaith Works program to see where their bowls wind up!

2239’s Social Action Project on Tuesday September 29

2239ers braved wet weather for a special conversation about food justice with one of WHC’s newest charitable partners, DC Greens. While enjoying a delicious dinner from DGS Delicatessen, we learned about DC Greens’ initiatives, including the K Street farm, Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, Farmers’ Market Brigade, and ways to get involved as a volunteer.

Lunch & Learn on Gun Violence on Wednesday September 30

WHC Artist-in-Residence Dan Nichols put the concepts of tikkun olam to music at a Lunch & Learn hosted by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism that drew an audience of more than 50 young leaders, community members, and rabbis for a meaningful dialogue about gun violence and the role music can play in facilitating change. Singing an acoustic version of Prince’s Baltimore, the lyrics made us stop and think: “Does anybody hear us pray for Michael Brown or Freddie Gray? Peace is more than the absence of war.” Dan challenged us to consider why these lyrics made us uncomfortable and facilitated a dialogue on the recent racial violence in our country. Alternating between singing and discussion, it was a thought-provoking way to engage with one of our week’s themes.

Lunch & Learn on Human Trafficking with Sisterhood on Thursday, October 1

Rabbi Shankman and Sisterhood President Sandy Nesbit welcomed WHC member Ambassador Susan Esserman to this Lunch & Learn on human trafficking. A partner at Steptoe and Johnson LLP, Sue leads the firms’ pro bono program for victims of human trafficking and shared stories of the first sex trafficking victim she represented. The filled room was silent as we learned that there are women, children – and men – who are forced into lives of sexual and physical abuse and modern day slavery right here in the D.C. area. Sue is currently working with the University of Maryland School of Social Work, the Maryland Task Force on Human Trafficking, and several non-profit and law enforcement agencies to establish a center in College Park that will provide comprehensive services to victims of trafficking or those who are at-risk.

WHC Hunger Project on Thursday, October 1

The week’s keystone tikkun olam project was so fulfilling – and successful! Registration for this project filled within days of its announcement, capping at 65 volunteers. On the Thursday evening of Sukkot, the social hall at JBSC was filled with activity when those volunteers– representing every WHC generation – assembled 8,300 meal packages that filled 37 cartons in just two hours. And every single volunteer was filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that those meals would immediately impact the lives of nearly 50,000 people in our community.

Lunch & Learn on Hunger on Friday, October 2

Friday’s lunch & learn was a tag-team effort by husband and wife duo, Rabbis Skloot and Glazer. Rabbi Skloot began by leading the 15 attendees in a meaningful text study from the Zohar, which discusses the idea of inviting guests (ushpezin) into the sukkah. Rabbi Glazer then stepped in to talk about the ushpezin of today – individuals making up the new faces of hunger in the United States and what Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger is doing to take action.

Simchat Torah, Consecration, Pollin Music Program with Dan Nichols on Friday, October 2

At an evening filled with joy, celebration, and the warmth and beauty of Dan Nichols’ music, we had the honor to consecrate 126 new Religious School students. From a family-style dinner, to the look of pride on the faces of our students (and their parents!) as our clergy blessed them on the bimah, to a festive oneg filled with dancing, students and families experienced some of the warmth and joy that is part of our WHC community.  During the service, the Consecrants (new students) sang the Shema and “This is Our Promise,” committing themselves to their Jewish educational journey. Fittingly, two of the people who guide our students throughout their journeys, Miles Roger, Temple Educator, and Stephanie Tankel, Director of Religious Education, chanted the last verses of Deuteronomy and the first verses of Genesis.

Couples Club’s “Cocktails in the Sukkah” on Saturday, October 3

With Hurricane Joaquin looming, Couples Club’s “Cocktails in the Sukkah” became “Cocktails by the Fireside” with etrog-based drinks and finger foods in WHC’s Freed Youth Wing. The rainy evening didn’t deter members (some with babies in hand!) who took part in this spiritually uplifting night. Reflecting on the meaning of Sukkot and the significance of the sukkah, the group discussed the challenge of homelessness in modern America as Dan Nichols shared stories from his Road to Eden and led everyone in story and song. With dimmed lights, Rabbi Shankman and Dan led a beautiful, musical Havdalah service, helping everyone transition from Shabbat to the new week.

Festival and Yizkor Service  on Monday, October 5

It is incredible that our liturgy asks us to switch – in a matter of minutes – from complete joy and celebration during Hallel (the Psalms we recite for praise and thanksgiving) and the Torah service to contemplation and remembrance with Yizkor.  We went from singing, shaking lulavs and etrogs, and chanting Deuteronomy and Genesis, to thinking of our loved ones who have passed on. It reminds us that even in our most joyous moments, there is room to remember and even be a bit sad; and that at our saddest moments, we can still have joy.

Thank you for spending this incredible week with us! To relive some of the inspirational moments – or in case you missed it – please enjoy our photo gallery.