Events, News, and Shmooz

Rabbi Hannah's Letter

Dear Friends,

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to learn from Joey Weisenberg of Hadar’s Rising Song Institute along with two other members of the Havurah Ensemble (come to Kabbalat Shabbat services if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say the Havurah Ensemble!). It was a really interesting evening, sitting in small, tight concentric circles in the dark, that basically went back and forth between singing a new-to-us song or niggun on repeat and then asking Joey, this amazing Jewish songleader and songwriter, questions about how he gets his music and his tefilah (prayer) to this powerful, intense place. And then another song or niggun, and then more questions, etc.

One question especially jumped out to me -- at first, because of its context, which was honestly politically controversial (definitely not something that I’d expected in that environment). Someone recounted his experience at the Jews for Ceasefire protest at the White House this past November. He described the singing they were doing as incredibly powerful, and said he noticed that they got so into the singing that they almost allowed a police officer to get past their human barricade… and he realized that maybe they weren’t singing for the right reasons, but rather for entertainment, or for fun. Had it become a distraction? He asked Joey for his perspective on the issue.

It may be difficult to put the political context of this question aside; but, if you’ll go along with me, it was the content of the question that I found fascinating. If we’re doing something that we deem important -- like risking arrest at a protest, or doing some act of community service, or emotionally supporting a loved one, anything -- what does it mean to bring comforting ritual (like prayer, or song, or even phrases like “It’s going to be okay”) into the mix? The person who asked the question seemed really uncomfortable with it. In such a serious situation, you maybe should be uncomfortable. Singing “Oseh Shalom” might give a false sense of security, or even enjoyment, but a protest is not about feeling safe or enjoying oneself -- it’s about getting a job done.

Joey was really thoughtful. He made it clear that he wasn’t getting into the context of the protest; but he spoke about how he used to use the word “entertainment” as a bad thing, and then he started to think about what it really means, or what it’s supposed to mean. It means “holding mutually” or “holding intertwined.” It’s about connection, about engaging another person. In that sense, it doesn’t sound like an inherent distraction; it sounds potentially deeply meaningful, depending on the content.

As with most things, it feels like there’s got to be a balance here. You have to stand up for what you believe in… and you should be able to receive some comfort while you do it. I’ve been teaching a class lately in which we’ve discussed the text from the Talmud, which says that “When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say to themself: ‘I will go to my home and I will eat and drink, and peace upon you, my soul.’” 

We’re not supposed to bury our heads in the sand; we’re supposed to look out for one another, even if it means engaging with some really painful stuff and making some sacrifices. That said, our liturgy is full of prayers for peace, for a sense of security, and for our prayers to be answered. Not just for us, but also for us. We deserve the same peace that we yearn for for others. And there’s a time and a place for nearly everything.

As hard as things can be, and as much as we can and should work to make things better, the time and place for peace has come. Shabbat shalom, friends.

Rabbi Hannah


To learn more about these events (including how to register, which we require for almost all events), please visit our website calendar HERE.

All events are in person and indoors, unless otherwise noted. 

Saturday, March 2nd

Tot Shabbat

at 9:00 am

Shabbat Morning Service & Henry Lickteig's Bar Mitzvah

at 10:00 am

All Hands on Deck: Community Conversation

at 12:00 pm

Hill Havurah Trivia Night!

at 6:30 pm

at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE)

Saturday, March 9th

Tot Shabbat

at 10:00 am

at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE)

SAGES Havdalah & Potluck

at 6:00 pm

[location provided after registration]

Sunday, March 10th

All Hands on Deck: Community Conversation

at 7:30 pm

[location TBD]

Tuesday, March 12th

Jewish Kids Club

at 5:00 pm

8th-9th Grade Kulam

at 5:30 pm

at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE)

Wednesday, March 13th

All Hands on Deck: Community Conversation

at 8:00 pm

[location TBD]

Friday, March 15th

Kabbalat Shabbat Service & Potluck Dinner

at 6:30 pm

All Hands on Deck: Community Conversation

at 8:00 pm

at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE)

Saturday, March 16th

Raia Moniz-Lenter's Bat Mitzvah

at 10:00 am

Pre-Purim Pajama Havdalah (for families with young children)

at 4:30 pm

at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE)

Sunday, March 17th

Spiritual Practices for Adults

at 9:30 am

All Hands on Deck: Community Conversation

at 11:00 am

at Digital Pioneers Academy (709 12th St., SE)

Wednesday, March 20th

10th-12th Grade Kulam

at 5:30 pm

at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE)

Saturday, March 23rd

Hill Havurah Purim Party!

at 5:00 pm

at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE)

Tuesday, March 26th

All Hands on Deck: Community Conversation

at 8:00 pm

[location TBD]

For information about upcoming events not run by Hill Havurah that might be of interest to our community, click HERE.

News and Shmooz

Hill Havurah Purim Party!

Saturday, March 23rd, at 5:00 pm

Join us on Saturday, March 23rd, from 5:00-7:30 pm at Reformation (212 E. Capitol St., NE) for a Purim Party that's fun for all ages! We'll hear the megillah, see a special Barbie Purim spiel, do a variety of Purim activities, and celebrate together. There will be pizza, snacks, and hamantaschen for all -- and alcoholic beverages for those of legal age who wish to imbibe in the spirit of the holiday.

The party will start at 5:00 upstairs in the Sanctuary with the megillah reading, followed by the Barbie Spiel at 5:30. At 6:00, or whenever the spiel ends, we'll move downstairs to the Parish Hall for the rest of the festivities. After the official party ends at 7:30, adults are invited to join Rabbi Hannah at an unofficial "after-party" at Hawk n Dove.

Also as part of our Purim observance, we'll be raising money to support Everyone Home DC -- and it's going to involve cakes and pies! Bakers, plan to bring cakes and pies to the party for a cake/pie raffle. Eaters, plan to bring cash or checks to participate in the tzedakah giving and in cake/pie receiving! The raffle draw will occur at about 6:45.

If you'd like to attend the big party, please register here asap (and no later than March 20th). We need to know how many people to be prepared for.

2020 purim

Help with the Empty Shabbat Table Initiative

A group of volunteers has been setting up an Empty Shabbat Table on the National Mall every Friday since mid-October to maintain attention to the hostages being held in Gaza. We are always seeking volunteers to help both in person and/or financially to keep this initiative going. Here are some ways you can help:

1. Sign up here to volunteer in person.

2. Join us on WhatsApp.

3. Make a donation: Go Fund Me site Empty Shabbat Table - DC, organized by Yosh Halberstam.

And on Sunday at 12:30 pm, join Empty Shabbat Table volunteers and many other groups from across the DC area as we come together to mark 150 days hostages have been held in Gaza, joining the international call to bring them home NOW. This event is run by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum in conjunction with Run 4 Their Lives - global (174 locations) run/walk events calling for the immediate release of the hostages held by Hamas.

As we march around the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial we will raise our voices: “Bring them home - Now! Alive! Bring them home!”

Migrant Solidarity Support Needs

We are continuing our migrant solidarity work, and continue to need all hands on deck. There are so many ways to contribute to the effort -- sign up to volunteer here or click here to make a donation.

2024 Hill Havurah Gala

Saturday, April 13th, at 7:00 pm

For information about this year's Gala, including how to become a sponsor or buy tickets, click here.

Lifecycle Events

Happy 15th birthday,

Lorelei Tarleton!

Happy 13th birthday,

Hank Lickteig!

Happy 3rd birthday,

Nathan Axler!

Happy 9th birthday, Alex Hiller!

Happy 6th birthday,

Julius Pfeferman!

Happy 6th birthday,

Mateo Woodward!

Happy 10th birthday,

Gus Lickteig!

Upcoming Yahrzeits

The following yahrzeits are coming up this week:

  • Jerald Mayerson, z"l, father of Marc Mayerson

  • Ethel Sherman, z"l, mother of Mark Sherman

If you've not entered yahrzeit information about your deceased loved ones in your account, you can at any time. If you need any help, you can email Alan Shusterman for assistance.

Mi Shebeirach L'Cholim -- Prayers for Healing

May the One who blessed our ancestors -- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah -- bless and heal:

Emma Schulman, Ron Levin, Udi (Mowgly) Becker, Devora Chaya bat Miriam v'Tzvi, & Asher David ben Nachum v'Malka.

May the Holy Blessed One overflow with compassion upon them, to restore them, to heal them, to strengthen them, to enliven them, along with all the ill among the people of Israel and all humankind, soon, speedily, without delay, and let us all say: Amen.

If you or a loved one are in need of healing, and you'd appreciate the community keeping you in mind, please reach out to Alan Shusterman so he can add you or your loved one to our Shmoozy Nuz Mi Shebeirach list. If it's time to take a name off the list for any reason, let Alan know that as well. Feel free to include their English and/or Hebrew name. 

Please make sure to get your loved one's consent before having their name added to the list -- or, if they prefer privacy, we can instead add, "Loved One of [Insert Your Name]." 


Hill Havurah is an independent Jewish community based on Capitol Hill serving people from across the Washington metropolitan area. Our mission is to anticipate and meet the spiritual, educational, religious, cultural, and life cycle needs of a growing and evolving Jewish community. Hill Havurah's many activities support our members' interests in advancing Jewish culture, identity, education, and a commitment to community service. A warm, inclusive, and informal spirit is part of what has made Hill Havurah so special for more than two decades.

Contact Information:

Address: 212 East Capitol Street, NE

Washington, DC 20003

Phone: 202-729-3515

Rabbi Hannah Spiro, Rabbi

Alan Shusterman, Executive Director

Melissa Werbow, Education Director

Tina Brimo, Gan Shalom Director

Rebecca Freund, B Mitzvah Coordinator

Jocelyn Donahue, Operations Coordinator

Brittany Schibuola, Community Associate