5 Jan

Moon Ballad. That is the South African filly who swept Dubai’s World Cup a year ago March. For the life of me I could not recall her name while talking to South Africans volunteering at Greater Washington’s Super Sunday.

Moon Ballad was the long shot when it came to favorites in Dubai. I was the only snapper at her early morning workout. Dawn breaking. 4:30am. The thrill of recognizing something wonderful when you see it, never leaves you, just as my walking into Greater Washington’s Community Center for Super Sunday will remain with me forever. 

Matt, a Federation employee responded to my request for a lift from Dupont Circle.  Despite living in Washington a tad over a year, I ask, in true innocence, “Where am I?” explaining my year’s unexpected bump. 

We arrived 7:30 am, joining red shirted Federation employees and black shirted board members for breakfast and a memorial for two of their own. The annual fundraiser benefits Jews in need, Israel, Virginia, Maryland, the District.

Barbra Sherbill, the Federation’s media director introduced herself.  She caught me, by cellphone, earlier in the week up Mass’ Avenue photographing Khalil Ghibran’s memorial. Finally, back at work on my God project, ten months since the call came, “Mom, Chezi was murdered this morning.” When Barbra phoned, I was standing in front of the words, “I love you my brother…” moments after I photographed, “God is in my heart…” 

The volunteer request I responded to was forwarded from the Republican Jewish Coalition’s national office. I responded immediately to make calls. Along with letting them know I am a photojournalist, new to DC.

And that became my day. I never got around to calls. I pictorially archived a day in the life of global warming, hearts. Common borders between DC’rs, Virginians, Marylander’s, Jews, Christians, Americans, South Africans and Israelis from a town called Beit Shemesh, blurred in a show of community President Bush calls traditional values. Children were learning, what they live, Charity. Judaism calls it chesed.

Shari Hillman director of the DC Republican Jewish Coalition describes the day as ‘hashgachag pratit,’ “Hashem’s personal supervision over every moment of our lives, comes to the fore.” Shari’s greatest thrill, though meeting the Israel delegation before the menorah-lighting ceremony, was calling a friend of a friend, Herman Taube, an endowment sponsor for the Fund. Taube, a Holocaust survivor, was well known at George Washington when Shari was a student there. “It was a great z’chus, an honor, for me to get a bracha, blessing, from such a mensch, wise man.”

The delegation from Israel and South Africa was observing American Jewish leadership up close and personal. One member of the Israeli contingency hailed from Beit Shemesh, Israel. He carried with him from Israel a torch to light the Hannukah menorah children, a few rooms over, bejewelled in blues and white stones. “Your Chezi’s sister?” astonished at how he travelled thousands of miles stepping into his past. He and my brother lived in the same community before Chezi moved to Beitar Ilit where he lived when he was murdered by terrorists,January.

To think, this all started with volunteerism, one email and love of community.

Barbra thanked me at day’s end for my contribution. I thanked her, explaining I had not stepped inside a JCC since I was 15. Community ties eluded me as I grew and moved away from my roots. “To walk away and then, for the first time in years, to return an adult, witnessing values a JCC provides. Children live what they learn. Speaking for myself, remembering lessons of a lifetime, by Divine Intervention. Where to turn when a heart needs consoling.”

 When I was a child, attending Toronto’s Jewish Community Center, JCC, a few stoplights down from where we lived off Bathurst Street, I learned when lost in the woods, look for moss on a tree. You will then know North. I affirmed, Super Sunday, when lost in life, turn to a JCC, find yourself again, as I did, albeit in Rockville, Maryland. There you will know community.

Moon Ballad may be the name of a filly. I think of it more as the theme of Don Bluth’s “An American Tail.” Sung by a little mouse emigrated from Russia to America, seeking a new life free from persecution in a land supposedly without cats, I hummed as I waited for the Metro back to DC. A wonderful day brought me back to my childhood. 
I finished editing the last of my day’s photos to send out. I looked towards the moon above my window, just like the little mouse in Bluth’s animated classic, wondering how years slipped us by. Madness ended my brother’s life…. “Somewhere out there if love can see us through Then we'll be together…. Out where dreams come true...”

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