Jeff’s Jewy January

One of the things that drew me to TC Jewfolk years ago was the fact that through the internet and social media, there was no judgment about me or my Judaism. It was and is an online community for all of the Jews here – regardless of how we participated, where we participated, and with whom we participated. One of the cornerstones of my initial involvement was generating ideas for the types of Jewish events I would want to attend. There were already tons of events for college students and young professionals and seniors. But not that many for young parents or those of us in our 30’s and 40’s. Plus, while I’m as Jewish as a kreplach floating in a bowl of chicken soup, most Jewish-themed events don’t get my kishkes fired up.

But wait – it’s 2019 and apparently I, Jeff Mandell, am going to eclipse my participation at Jewish events exponentially. So this month has been officially renamed, “Jeff’s Jewy January.”

I signed up for four, yes, four Jewish-themed events this month – two have already occurred., but I only got the idea to write this while in the first one. These ARE the type of events that do get my kishkes fired up, the things that I enjoy – Jewish or not. These are the types of events that aren’t intimidating or judgmental. But they are community-building and a great way to meet like-minded people. And they’re the types of events that are not only of interest to Jews. I’ve said for a long time that the events people like me want to attend are the ones that non-Jews would attend as well.

With all of that said, I present Jeff’s Incredibly Jewy January.

First, I attended an event put on by JCA and my dear friend Carin Mrotz. Carin has been getting a lot of attention for her work recently, but you probably remember her best as the other Jew in “Two Jews on Parenting.” Social justice is great and all, but how else would you find out what baby stroller to get? Just so many choices.

This event tried to tackle the connection between the recent uptick in White Nationalism and centuries-old Anti-Semitism. This wasn’t a fun event – rather, it was thought-provoking, a bit scary, and even a little uncomfortable. But it was important – and amazingly, I saw very few familiar faces in the large crowd. Featured speaker Erik Ward warned the crowd that conversations about Anti-Semitism aren’t enough anymore – but that we need to act. He talked about the need for organized efforts to fight back. So while I am admittedly a bit scared about the prospects of the White Nationalist takeover, I was also energized to join those in the room – many of whom I believe would be totally comfortable punching a Nazi with me should the need arise.

From the Sabes JCC, I made my way to the brand new JFCS building for a family challah bake! There is nothing more Jewish than immersing yourself in carb production after hearing just how much of our country hates our existence on Earth. This part of Jeff’s Incredibly Jewy January exposed my kids to the traditions around challah and challah making. We also saw some old friends and made some new ones (not including the 6 challahs we took home – each one bound to be my new best friend of course).

The third installment of my Incredibly Jewy January took place last Sunday at St. Paul JCC – where I will finally get to see Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel. Come on – who didn’t get a little verklempt at the sight of the team removing their baseball caps to reveal matching yarmulkes as they stood along the baseline listening to Hatikvah?

Who else immediately bought some Team Israel merch?

Throw in a couple of players from that team at the event and this became a no-brainer for me. Josh Zeid and Ryan Lavarnway were never stars in the Majors, but they’re our stars and hence, we will treat them as such.

And finally, my Tu B’Shevat finale on Monday, Jan. 21. One of my favorite events of the year is Beth El’s Tu B’Shevat Seder where four chefs will create eight dishes based on the seven species. Did you get that? An 8-course dinner all based on the 7 species of foods – oh yeah – also accompanied by 8 kosher wines and Rabbi Olitzky’s witty banter. If there are any tickets left, don’t even think about it – just go. And don’t forget to say hi if you’re there. I’ll be at the semi-rowdy table trying to get enough light for my Instagram posts.

I didn’t write this to announce these events – TC Jewfolk does a great job of keeping us all in the loop on what’s going in town. I did this because after living here for 10 years, I am really starting to see a change for the better – more ways for Jews like me to participate and more ways for the community to come together as a whole. By the end of the month, I will have attended four distinct events at four locations with four different groups of Jews. So keep up the great work my fellow Twin Cities Jewish organizations – I’m looking forward to seeing you throughout the year – maybe in Menschy March?