Events, News, and Shmooz
Rabbi Hannah's Letter
Dear Friends,

It’s time to start planning for Passover again -- somehow, the first night of seder is two weeks from tomorrow! I’ve got to admit that my head hasn’t been as in it as I’d like (for those of you who don’t know -- this will be my last Shmoozy letter for a while, and my parental leave will begin at some point in the next few weeks). Our kitchen is still full of chametz, leavened products, and I’m not sure when it’s going to get cleaned. I’ve got no idea what we’ll be eating for seder. Etc, etc. Julius sort of knows half of the first of the four questions, thanks to The Passover Parrot, which I highly recommend. And the Havurah Seder on the second night, led by myself and Michael Allen, should be sweet! But that’s about all I can say for myself, Passover-logistics-wise, at the moment.

What has been getting me into the Passover vibe, more intellectually than practically, is Daf Yomi, the daily Talmud study cycle, which happens to be in Masechet Pesachim, the section that deals with Passover, at the moment. There’s a lot of emphasis on the two pulls of the seder -- the pull to remember what it was like to be enslaved, and the pull to sink into the feeling of liberation. Is matzah the “freedom bread” that we joyfully eat on our newly empowered way? Or is it the “bread of affliction,” as the haggadah states? The Talmud is clear that it’s both.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik taught that, when we’re faced with affliction, injustice, and trouble, it’s normal to ask the question, “lamah?” “why?” It makes us wonder how we got to a place, whether it’s deserved or not, and why life can be so unfair. But, he teaches, we need to work to change that question of “lamah,” or “why,” into the question of “lamah,” or “for what?” We need, he taught, to ask God the question, “What do you need me to do that I have not yet done?” It depends on the situation. Maybe we need to simply make peace with what’s happening. Maybe we need to ignite ourselves to action and make a change. Matzah is a symbol of those times when the answer is the latter -- make that bread and get out, fast. Manna, maybe, is a symbol of the former. Take what comes and be nourished by it.

As my family changes dramatically in the next few weeks, I’ll be trying to focus on that question, “lamah?” “for what?” What do I need to do that I have not yet done? And when must I simply try to find peace with what is? 

As these months take us into new territory in our community, my blessing for all of us is that we keep our eyes on that question, and stay open to the answers to which it leads us. I’m so grateful to be a part of this community of questioners, action-takers, and peace-bringers. As we move into our season of freedom, I can honestly say that, given all the choices in the world, there’s no place I’d rather be. Until next time!

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach,

Rabbi Hannah

Hill Havurah greatly appreciates the following donors who made
generous contributions last month.
Eleana Gordon & Avi Jorisch | General Hill Havurah Fund
Marlene Singer | General Hill Havurah Fund
In dedication to the Rabbinic Intern position
Marcia & David Hoexter | Youth Education & Programming Fund
In memory of Louis Hoexter, David's father
All of the below events are virtual, except as noted. To learn more about these events (including how to register), you can find them on our website calendar HERE.

Saturday, March 13th
Meditation & Torah Study
at 8:45 am
Tot Shabbat
at 10:00 am

Friday, March 19th
Family Singalong: Bringing in Shabbat
at 6:00 pm
Communal Kabbalat Shabbat Service
at 6:30 pm

Saturday, March 20th
Maccabi Epstein's Bar Mitzvah
at 1:30 pm

Sunday, March 21st
March Matzah Making (for families with young children)
at 11:30am

Wednesday, March 24th
at 7:30 pm

Sunday, March 28th
Hill Havurah Virtual Community Seder
at 5:45 pm

Saturday, April 3rd
Tot Shabbat
at 9:00 am
Shabbat Morning Service & Torah Discussion
at 10:00 am

Saturday, April 7th
Screening & Panel Discussion of the Film Rosenwald
at 7:30 pm

For information about upcoming events not run by Hill Havurah that might be of interest to our community, you can click HERE.
News and Shmooz
Eric Mendelsohn: Synagogue Architect with a Vision --
A Discussion with Photographer Michael Palmer
Wednesday, April 14th, 7:30 - 8:30 pm
Between the years 1946 and 1953, the American, German-Jewish architect Eric Mendelsohn built four synagogues in the Midwest. Mendelsohn’s synagogues were the crowning conclusion of his career through tumultuous times. In his book, Eric Mendelsohn’s Synagogues in America, photographer Michael Palmer records in detail these four Mendelsohn synagogues, located in Saint Paul, Saint Louis, Cleveland, and Grand Rapids.
Palmer will discuss his book and photographic work with us. He will employ his photographs as the foundation for a discussion about Mendelsohn, his Jewish identity, and his architectural mission. He will also explain how the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 affected Mendelsohn’s plans and how Mendelsohn sought to create radically new architectural solutions for American houses of worship that uniquely met the functional, social, and spiritual demands of their respective, diverse Jewish communities.
If you'd like to join us, please register here.
Hill Havurah Virtual Community Seder
Sunday, March 28th, 5:45 - 7:15 pm
Hill Havurah’s Community Seder will once again be virtual this year (via Zoom), using our own Hill Havurah Haggadah for a meaningful intergenerational experience. Havurah members who register for the seder by March 18th can request hard copies of the Haggadah (and will be able to pick them up in front of Reformation from 4:30-5:30 pm on March 25th or 10:30-11:30 am on March 26th).

For more information, including how to register, click here.
Updating Your Account Information
If you have five minutes, we'd very much appreciate you signing into your account and inputting any missing information you'd like us to have, or updating any information that's out-of-date (e.g., home or email addresses; phone numbers; additions to your family; birth, anniversary, or yahrzeit dates).

You can get started on that by clicking on "MY ACCOUNT" under the "MEMBERSHIP" drop down menu (found between "PROGRAMS" and "DONATE" on the upper navigation bar) -- and then clicking on whichever section you'd like to edit (e.g., "MY PROFILE," "MY FAMILY").

If you have any questions, you can email Alan at Thanks!
Yavneh Newsletter
To see the latest edition of the Yavneh on the Hill Parents' Update, you can click here. If you would like to be kept abreast of our religious school's news, please email Danny at to be added to the Parents' Update mailing list.
Hill Havurahdcast Podcast
If you haven't already, check out the Hill Havurahdcast podcast, on which Rabbi Hannah interviews Hill Havurah members. You can read about it in a June Washington Jewish Week article ("Hill Havurah produces podcast for the pandemic"), and you can subscribe to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and TuneIn.

We encourage you to listen to the latest episode (#38) -- In this episode, Rabbi Hannah speaks with Havurah member Annie Karni, the current White House correspondent for the New York Times, about what it's like to cover the Biden White House after four years of the Trump Administration. Also, do Jews believe in Heaven? And Rabbi Hannah shares her final thoughts on Stranger Things and Purim. Our closing music is Zum Gali Gali from the beautiful Elana Jagoda.
Lifecycle Events
Happy birthday,
Alexander Fishman!
Happy 11th birthday,
Lily Gregorian!
Happy birthday, Laine Kaplowitz!
Happy 8th birthday, Ian Hawley!
Happy birthday, Eleanor Holt!
Happy 10tth birthday,
Henry Nathanson!
Happy birthday, Jane Lang!
Happy 13th birthday,
Siobhan Greenfield!
Happy 8th birthday, Miles Walsh!
Happy birthday, David Sigman!
Upcoming Yahrzeits
The following yahrzeits are coming up this week:

  • Sol Sherman, z"l, father of Mark Sherman

  • Louis D. Hoexter, z"l, father of David Hoexter

  • Gail Ruth Steinberg Mayerson, z"l, mother of Marc Mayerson

If you've not entered yahrzeit information about your deceased loved ones in your account, you can at any time. If you have any trouble doing so, you can email Alan Shusterman for assistance.
Hill Havurah is an independent, Jewish community based on Capitol Hill and serving people from across the Washington metropolitan area. We have a mission to meet and anticipate 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

Rabbi Julie Gordon, Rabbi Educator

Laura Vitiello, Gan Shalom Director

Alan Shusterman, Executive Director

Danny Tomares, Operations and Program Assistant