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Virginia Spatz

Virginia Avniel Spatz lives and writes in DC, with a focus on Torah and justice, and works with We Act Radio and Charnice Milton Community Bookstore (CMCB) in Historic Anacostia. Her book, Rereading Exodus Along the Anacostia, supports the literacy programs of CMCB while highlighting the need for new perspectives on race, Jews, and power. She is also active in Tzedek Chicago, Hill Havurah (DC), SVARA, and a variety of other communities. Her journalism has appeared on We Act Radio and Capital Community News, and her fiction and nonfiction appears in variety of publications.


בלוס פון חלה | How the Grateful Dead, Jewish Text, and Worship Explain One Another and Raise Interesting Questions, by Virginia Spatz

Contributed on: 15 Dec 2013 by Virginia Spatz |

I believe that even those who actively dislike the Grateful Dead, or always happily ignored them, will find ideas worth considering in this comparison. “I guess they can’t revoke your soul for trying.” – Robert Hunter Some years ago, my husband and I dragged our kids (then 11 and 13) to see the Dead. The kids asked why the folks in the parking lot were staying outside, even though the concert was scheduled to start: “How do they know when to go inside? Or, is the band waiting for them?” My husband, a non-Jew, noted that he was often similarly mystified by worship services: “How do they know when to it’s time for….?” Not long after that I was part of a small havurah gathering waiting for a minyan, and we got to talking about when we might expect various regulars. This started me thinking about when, how and why Jews show up to services. I realized my husband’s sentiment about worship services – like my kids befuddlement about Dead concerts – is shared by many Jews, even regular service-goers…. Over the years, I’ve been thinking about ways that Jewish text and worship and the Grateful Dead parallel one another. The result is this chart. . . .

Occupy the Lulav: the ritual for shaking the four species on the festival of Sukkot, by Virginia Avniel Spatz

Contributed on: 11 Oct 2011 by Virginia Spatz |

Aware of the willow [aravah], we awaken our “mouths,” our ability to communicate by voice, hand or type; we acknowledge the precious gift of communications from others, the 99% and the 1%, about their circumstances, their needs, offerings and hopes. Aware of the palm branch [lulav], we awaken our “spines,” our central strength; we acknowledge fellow citizens who take a stand, whether we agree with their stand or not, toward a vision of common good. Aware of the myrtle [hadas], we awaken our “eyes,” our ability to receive through whichever channels are available to us; we acknowledge our responsibility to remain open to others’ thoughts and experiences while also exercising discernment. Aware of the citron [etrog], we awaken our “hearts,” our source of connection; we acknowledge our inter-dependence and the importance of standing, expressing ourselves and learning from others. . . .

Kavvanah on Standing Before God-Who-Sees-Me, by Virginia Spatz (1999)

Contributed on: 26 Jul 2010 by Virginia Spatz |

A prayer-teaching for grounding one’s intention at the onset of the Amidah. . . .

A Prayer for Justice, Blessing, and Praise on Shabbat Shoftim, by Virginia Spatz (2015)

Contributed on: 21 Aug 2015 by Virginia Spatz |

“Does joy come in the morning, where weeping has not tarried for the night? Can we dance together, if we have not yet joined in lament?” This prayer is a kavanah for the morning blessings, using language and images from the prayer “Mah Tovu” [how lovely are your tents] commonly recited in the early morning blessings. Offered with special intention for the healing of Congress Heights, Capitol View, and other neighborhoods in Washington, DC, rocked by persistent violence. . . .

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