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What could Prohibition have to do with anti-Semitism? It’s easy to forget, now that the nationwide booze ban is popularly remembered mainly as a failed experiment that enabled lively speakeasies and empowered fearsome gangsters. But at the time, the issue was a classic cultural wedge, combining two unpleasant aspects of politics that remain with us today: baiting urban cosmopolitans and non-WASP immigrants. Who do you think represented the intersection point of those groups? According to historian Marni Davis, author of Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition, the battle over Prohibition reflected a larger conflict over what it meant to be American, especially for those whose religion didn’t feature the anti-alcohol strictures of prohibition’s evangelical supporters. Of course, it also had more tangible implications: According to family legend, the only nice word my grandfather—an FDR-hating, Republican, Jewish small businessman whose shop manufactured lighting fixtures—ever said about the 32nd president was after he OKed prohibition’s repeal, creating a whole new market for indoor lights. Davis discusses her book at 7:30 p.m. at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. $10. (Michael Schaffer)
Apparently the indie-electro band Spirit Animal is leaving D.C.; they’ve got a farewell show tonight with opener Shark Week. 8 p.m. at Black Cat Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $8.
As part of its “ReDiscovery” series, Shakespeare Theatre Company reads Ben Jonson‘s Jacobian play Sejanus, about a Roman commander tapped by his emperor to rule. The play is rarely performed; its 1603 production for King James’ court featured one in an acting role one of Jonson’s contemporaries: William Shakespeare. 7:30 p.m. at the Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. NW. Free.
Louis Jacobson reviews “Beyond the Story: National Geographic Unpublished”—-which includes stunning images by NatGeo photographers that never made it into print. He sympathizes with one photographer in particular:
Imagine you’re National Geographic Society photographer Joel Sartore. You set up your gear inside a cave in Uganda, photographing a roost of 100,000 Egyptian fruit bats. You catch a dollop of fresh guano directly in your left eye. It’s hot and it burns. You check with the health authorities, and they tell you the cave you were shooting in is known to harbor Marburg virus, an Ebola-like disease that causes massive bleeding and is 90 percent fatal if treated in Africa. You undergo a strict, 21-day quarantine and, miraculously, survive.
And after all that, the magazine never runs your photograph of the bats.
The exhibition is on view 10 a.m to 6 p.m. daily to July 29 at the National Geographic Museum’s M Street gallery, 1145 17th Street, NW. Free.