Archive | November, 2008


Around the Town with Rene — Nov. 13, 2008

Posted on 13 November 2008 by admin

Special free program, Nov. 19, on art and life of Albert Alcalay
Because seating is limited and the evening is free, your response is needed ASAP. On Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m., at the Modern Art Museum, KERA’s and The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County invite the community to a special screening and discussion of “Albert Alcalay, Self-Portraits.”

A Harvard University professor, expressionist painter and Holocaust survivor, Albert Alcalay had a personality as vibrant as his paintings. This documentary intertwines personal interviews with paintings and prints that reflect Alcalay’s love of life and the hardships he endured. The film was created by three former Harvard students, Rob Eustis, Allen Moore and KERA’s Rob Tranchin, who reunited to tell the story of their inspirational teacher. To respond, you can e-mail or call 214-740-9220.

Over 300 attend benefit ­auction for Beth Shalom
Through the years I’ve been to many benefit auctions, but the one last Saturday night at Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington was above the norm and far exceeded our expectations. A happy throng of more than 300 filled the auditorium adequately. There was a great four-piece band for those who wanted to dance and there were some dancers as well. The gaming tables were kept busy and you could often hear squeals and shouts from excited winners. Chef Philippe Lecoq presented an amazing and delectable array of fabulous hors d’Oeuvres such as baby lamp chops, poached salmon, chicken wings, yummy meatballs, pasta marinara, roasted asparagus, fresh fruit, mini turkey and roast beef sandwiches that my daughter Judy said were the “best ever,” fresh fruit and still there was more. The tables were laden with food all evening long.

The array of items to be auctioned was amazing — good stuff, good quality and good prices. Many, like myself, took advantage of the opportunity to do a bit of Chanukah shopping. The evening gave me an opportunity to see and greet people that I don’t see too often: Eileen and Mort House, Marian Feld, Klila Caplan, Graciela and Rabbi Baruch Zeilicovich, Linda Hoffman, Rick Klotz and Sylvia and Carl Morgan, and there were others that I enjoyed chatting with.

Beth Shalom members have all the intricacies of running a gala down pat. Any group planning a similar event could do well to pattern their project after Beth Shalom and ask for a few suggestions.

RSVP for B’nai B’rith luncheon
Seniors still have time to respond to Jewish Family Services for the annual B’nai B’rith Thanksgiving luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Beth-El Congregation. You will be the guest of the Isadore Garsek B’nai B’rith Lodge, who for long years have sponsored the holiday event. Like every year, with the expertise of Harry Kahn, Earl Givant, Les Kaitcer, Marvin Beleck and others, they are scurrying around, shopping, cooking and setting tables. Transportation will be provided by Jewish Family Services at 10:45 a.m. for the seniors who live in the B’nai B’rith Apartments. Be sure to RSVP to Jewish Family Services, 817-569-0898 no later than Nov. 14.

Press notes
I was most interested to read the item on Josh Finkelstein, son of Wendy and Leon Finkelstein of Dallas, who recently achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. How quickly the years pass! Now a freshman at Texas Tech, Josh is the nephew of Rhoda and Leroy Solomon. I remember well his late grandparents, Ruby and MannieSolomon, and his great-grandparents, Selma and Julius Solomon and their family business, Juvenile Shoe Store in downtown Fort Worth.

On the travel scene: Barbara Weinberg and Joe Conley are just back from a Caribbean cruise on one of Holland America’s newest luxury liners.

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Jews looked past worries to embrace Obama

Jews looked past worries to embrace Obama

Posted on 12 November 2008 by admin

WASHINGTON (JTA) — For some Jewish voters, the strangeness of Barack Obama was like a recurring dream: unsettling and then settling in, and then, suddenly, revelatory.

Ari Wallach described breaking through to elderly Jews in Florida who had resisted voting for the son of the man from Kenya, the tall black man with the middle name “Hussein.”

“It wasn’t only his policy on Israel and Iran, on health care,” said Wallach, whose led the “Great Shlep,” an effort to prod young adults to get their Jewish grandparents in Florida to vote for Obama. “His biography feels so Jewish, it feels like an Ellis Island archetype. People felt more comfortable when I talked about where he came from, it resonated so deeply — surprisingly among older Jews.”

For months, polls showed Obama languishing at about 60 percent of the Jewish vote, a critical chunk short of the 75 percent or so Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) garnered in 2004. But exit polls from the Nov. 4 election showed Obama matching those results, garnering about 78 percent of the Jewish vote against 22 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his Republican rival.

Wallach credited the campaign’s late-campaign blitz of Jewish communities, joined by groups like his own, for converting the candidate from stranger to standard-bearer for a Jewish ethos.

“It resonated much more than I thought it was going through in these parts of the Jewish community,” he said.

It was an uphill battle, starting with rumors that Obama was a hidden Muslim, that he wasn’t a genuine, born American. The subterranean campaign soon burst through semi-legitimate and then legitimate forums; Obama was not a Muslim, these conservatives and Republicans said, but he might have been raised a Muslim and later had radical associations.

The Republican Jewish Coalition ran ads coupling critiques on Obama’s dovish policies with guilt-by-association jabs at his former pastor who embraced Third World liberation theology, at associates at the University of Chicago and during his early political career who had radical pasts, at advisers who had once delivered sharp critiques of Israel and the pro-Israel community. The negative campaign glossed over Obama’s deep ties in the Chicago Jewish community and how he has picked a pre-eminently pro-Israel foreign policy team.

Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director, said the ads raised legitimate questions about Obama’s judgment, and had an effect: Obama was outpolling Kerry among Jews by only about 2 percent, he said, whereas he was doing much better than Kerry had among other constituencies, including Catholics, blacks and Hispanics.

“This is a huge political tsunami that has hit Republicans across the board,” Brooks said, referring to the economic crisis that helped precipitate Obama’s blowout win.
“It’s a testament to McCain that we’ve done as strongly as we have to hold onto our support,” he said, noting that Obama’s Jewish results lagged slightly behind showings for Al Gore in 2000, and for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

Brooks said he stood by his group’s ad campaign. “There’s no reason for regrets,” he said. “We had an important and meaningful debate in the community.”

Democrats said the overwhelming Jewish rejection of the campaign made them proud.
“I’m ecstatic by the outcome and the confidence the Jewish community showed Obama in the teeth of some of the nastiest campaigning I’ve ever seen,” said Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “People got a chance in the last three months to see Barack Obama and the idea that they should be afraid or frightened didn’t wash.”

Key to the effort were waves of Jewish surrogates—chief among them U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.)—who blanketed Jewish communities in swing states in the campaign’s final weeks. Wexler had been on board with the Obama campaign from the outset. A number of other surrogates who had been loyal to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) added weight to the campaign once she conceded the primaries race over the summer.

“I’ve never seen a presidential campaign so well-organized in the Jewish community,” Forman said, referring to the Obama outreach effort.
“I really think it’s the triumph of hope over fear, of possibility over pessimism,” said Rabbi Dayle Friedman, a Philadelphia-area rabbi who served as a co-chair of the national Rabbis for Obama.

“My mother-in-law is a Holocaust survivor in her 80s and she said to me this morning, ‘He’s a good man, I believe in what he said.’”

Friedman, whose rabbinic focus is serving Jewish senior citizens, spent much of her time reaching out to seniors, who were courted heavily, particularly in swing states, by both campaigns.
“Somehow, the integrity and the urgency of the possibility of this candidate spoke to people way more powerfully than all the nasty scare tactics that were thrown at him,” she said.
Echoing the view of many of Obama’s most ardent supporters, Friedman called the process of the campaign “just as transformative, if not more, than the results, the millions of volunteers that included so many Jews, old and young, who were so passionately engaged.”

It remains to be seen whether the concerns Brooks and the RJC pushed forward will eventuate. In his acceptance speech, Obama once again coupled diplomatic outreach with a tough take-all-comers posture.
“A new dawn of American leadership is at hand,” he said. “To those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you; to those who seek peace and security, we support you.”
J-Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby that led a campaign to get Jewish newspapers to reject the RJC ads, said it was vindicated.

“Tonight, American Jews resoundingly rejected the two-year, multimillion dollar campaign of baseless smears and fear waged against him by the right wing of our community,” J-Street’s director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said in a statement. “Surrogates and right-wing political operatives in our community stopped at nothing in their efforts to sway Jewish voters against Obama. With exit polls showing Barack Obama’s share of the Jewish vote equal to 2004 levels, it is absolutely clear that their efforts failed.”
Some Democrats said McCain, once popular among Jews because of his willingness to reach across the aisle, hurt himself in the community by choosing the deeply conservative and relatively inexperienced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

An American Jewish Committee poll commissioned in September found that 54 percent of American Jews disapproved of the Palin pick, compared to just 15 percent who disapproved of Obama’s decision to tap Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).

But Obama’s appeal to Jews might have been most deeply rooted in shared values, said Mik Moore, Wallach’s partner in

“Folks just wanted to be with us, with the more progressive candidate; it’s where their heart is,” he said.

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Dallas Doings — Nov. 13, 2008

Posted on 12 November 2008 by admin



Sen. Shapiro honored with 2008 Jack Lowe, Sr. Award for Community Leadership

Accolades to Sen. Florence Shapiro, who recently received the 2008 Jack Lowe, Sr. Award for Community Leadership, given by the Dallas Bar Association and Dallas Bar Foundation.
The award honors outstanding stewards who have a dedicated commitment to community leadership in education. The recipients of this award have shown untiring participation and contribution toward public education in Texas, and have been able to inspire others who serve the schoolchildren of Texas.

“There is no one in Austin more committed to the safety and success of our children than Senator Shapiro,” said Frank E. Stevenson II, president of the Dallas Bar Association. “She has an unmatched perspective on our state’s educational challenges — as a teacher, a parent and an insightful and committed public servant on the local, regional and statewide levels. All Texans have benefited from her service as chair of the Senate Education Committee.

“The Jack Lowe, Sr. Award for Community Leadership is a profound honor to anyone who receives it. But in equal measure, Senator Shapiro’s receipt of that recognition today also honors the award, as well as the legacy of the extraordinary man whose name it bears. There is no more fitting recipient than Senator Florence Shapiro.”

The award was presented as part of the Community Symposium for Justice in Education at the Dallas Bar Association’s Belo Mansion. Shapiro accepted the award before an audience of more than 150 teachers, judges, attorneys, businesspeople, local elected officials and Dallas Independent School District officials.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award, named after a man who lived a life defined by his relentless, humble and happy service to the schoolchildren of Dallas,” Shapiro said. “Today is a very special day for me.”

Previous recipients of the award include Tom Luce, former assistant secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education, as well as Jay McDonald Williams, emeritus chair for Trammel Crowe; State Senator Royce West; Mike Boone, founding partner of Haynes & Boone Law Firm; and Sam Tasby, named plaintiff in the Dallas desegregation lawsuit.

Rah, rah, rah for J cheerleaders!
The Dallas Heat All-Stars of the JCC placed first in the Level 1, Youth Division at America’s Best Cheerleading Championship at the Dallas Convention Center on Sunday, Oct. 26. The team performed a 2-1/2-minute routine along with several other cheer companies across Texas and the Metroplex. The Dallas Heat Cheerleader program, coached by Myra Gingold and Patti Durham, has been a wonderful addition to the JCC.

“We have been thrilled with the community’s response and expect much success from this exciting new program,” said a spokesperson for the team.

Akiba Academy launches new character education program
A student-led effort at Akiba Academy has generated widespread communal participation.
They are worn proudly in shopping malls, restaurants, synagogues and fitness centers. You can spot them on kids, Gen-Xers and even on seniors. Thanks to “Band2Band,” a character education program taking hold at Akiba Academy, red wristbands might pop up anywhere in the Metroplex.

But don’t mistake these wristbands for a fashion statement. They serve a far more important cause.
In an effort to formalize character training in its students, Akiba Academy launched Band2Band, a first-of-its-kind character education program, this past fall. Student leaders, called “character captains,” canvass their school and community for members in the Character Club, who receive a specially-designed red wristband when they pledge to commit a daily act of kindness. Character captains maintain a membership caseload and check in every few days to monitor the progress of each member.

According to Rabbi Joe Hirsch, the program’s creator, “Band2Band provides a unique approach to character education that is both student-centered and curriculum-embedded.” Hirsch’s fourth-grade students serve as “character captains” for the program and recruit, monitor and publicize the acts of kindness generated by wristband-wearing members of the Character Club. “Band2Band promotes core values such as responsibility, selflessness and community,” Hirsch says, “and gives expression to our school’s commitment to rounding out a superb academic education with social-emotional learning as well.”
More than 250 members belong to the Character Club to date, with membership growing daily. While a majority of its members are local, the Character Club now has a small but growing presence in five other states and Israel. It’s caught the eye of a DISD school interested in duplicating Band2Band for its student body.

The novelty of a student-led approach to character education impressed the directors of the First Choice Power Fund, who chose Hirsch’s proposal as one of only 23 in the state to receive a Classroom Innovation Grant. “We’re delighted with Rabbi Hirsch’s plan to bring character education to the forefront of his school and community,” remarked Monica Hussey, a First Choice Power spokeswoman.
Hirsch plans to take his program on the road and develop similar programs at other schools in the near future.

Character education, which focuses on the development of universal standards of ethics and responsibility in students, is becoming increasingly popular in private and public schools across the country. For more information about Band2Band and the field of character education, visit

Power up the trucks
Children of all ages will enjoy Congregation Shearith Israel’s Annual Truck Time from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. rain or shine this Sunday, benefiting CSI’s Preschool. In addition to all of your favorite barge trucks, tractors, earth movers, fire trucks and police vehicles, the Dallas Mavericks Street Team and the Dallas Stars Fan Van will be appearing this year. All of the trucks are interactive and children will be able to climb and explore them to their hearts’ content. Admission is $5 for ages 2 and up.
Calling all college students
It’s that time again. Time to see your friends and catch up on all the latest news. College Ties will have its Thanksgiving get-together in Dallas on Wednesday, Nov. 26. Students can mingle and shmooze at Starbucks at Preston & Frankford from 9 to 11 p.m. Catch up on all the latest campus news, find out who is where and how they are doing. In state, out of state, overseas: All Jewish college students ages 18–23 are welcome!
College Ties is a local initiative to bring Jewish college students together during summer, fall and winter breaks. There is no set agenda, just gather and talk with your fellow students. Sign in by the region of the country where you attend school. Incoming freshmen to recent graduates are welcome.

For more info, or to be added to the e-mail list (or to the parents of college students e-mail list), contact Susie Avnery at or 469-233-0222.

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Kristallnacht: One woman’s story 70 years later

Kristallnacht: One woman’s story 70 years later

Posted on 06 November 2008 by admin

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By Rachel Gross
For Renate Kahn, Nov. 9-10, 1938 are days indelibly etched in her memory. Next Sunday and Monday mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in Germany.

On this night, almost 100 Jews were murdered and thousands were sent to concentration camps. Businesses and synagogues were destroyed and people’s lives changed forever.

Twelve years old at the time, Kahn is one of the few survivors living in Dallas who was there and experienced the destructive event.

Living then in Kassel, Germany, her father owned a store and they lived in the apartment above. On the day it happened, Kahn recalled going to the store after school to find it empty — her father and grandfather had been arrested. She then went up to the apartment where she found her grandmother, alone. They did not know what had happened and what was to come later that night was an even bigger surprise.

“There was nothing we could do,” the 82-year-old said. “We could hear noises coming from below on the street … we could actually hear the glass breaking. We were scared to death. We were shaking in our boots.”
Kahn’s family were non-practicing Jews in Germany. She was one of only two Jewish kids in her class at school; the owners of the building they lived in were not Jewish. Earlier that day, Kahn had been asked not to come back to school and she was slowly losing all her non-Jewish friends.

The events that happened that night foreshadowed what was to come for Jewish people living in Germany. Kahn’s memories will live with her forever. As a child, it was difficult for her to understand the true implications of what was happening.
“This is something I’ll never forget,” she said. “We were afraid they were going to set the entire building on fire but they couldn’t do that because the renters were not Jewish. We were lucky in that sense.”

And they got lucky in more ways than one. Even though the store was in shambles and their livelihood was destroyed, there was hope. A month after Kristallnacht, her father and grandfather were released from jail.
For years before, Kahn’s parents had been planning to go to America; they were just waiting to get their visas. In April 1939, five months after Kristallnacht, they left — she, her parents and brother — and went to America, where they knew their lives would be better and Jews wouldn’t be discriminated against. After arriving in New York, they made their home in Dallas and decided to start practicing Judaism.

“This happened so long ago and coming to Dallas was a total change for me,” Kahn said. “Luckily, we got to America before all of the really bad stuff happened. I’m an American, not a German.”
Today, Kahn and her husband, Carl, are still involved with the Jewish community; they have been members of Temple Emanu-El for 50 years. They are also involved musically. Renate and Carl play music about three times a week (both play the violin, and he plays viola and piano) and even take music classes at a junior college. Kahn is just a woman who happened to witness a heart-wrenching disaster.

She said what she remembers the most about the whole thing is the incarceration of her father and grandfather. She said it is important for everyone, Jewish or not, to be aware of what happened that night.
“The discrimination and the imprisonment of my father and grandfather for no reason, just because they were Jewish, was really an insult,” she said. “I think about this [Kristallnacht] all the time. It has impacted my entire life ever since. I’ll never forget and the world should never forget.”

First-hand accounts shared by Kahn and other survivors and witnessess have ensured that the memory of Kristallnacht will never fade.
Elliott Dlin, executive director of the Dallas Holocaust Museum–Center for Education and Tolerance, said Kristallnacht had a huge impact on society, in both Europe and America. He said it is important to look at the destructive influences that exist anywhere around the world.

“This was an outburst, an orgy of destruction against innocent people and symbols of their existence like synagogues, businesses and homes,” he said. “This anniversary symbolizes that Jewish structures were attacked and marks a particular warning about what can go wrong in a society.”

These images stick in our minds forever, whether we experienced it or not. It has had a lasting impact on the Jewish people, just like that of the Holocaust.

Dlin said it is a comfort to the Kristallnacht survivors that people do remember it. He said it is something we always need to be aware of.

“The horrors that they endured have not been forgotten. They are with us and their traumatic experiences can be life lessons for us in the future,” he said. “The hope that things can change in the future offers a small measure of comfort despite the pain. They never forget and I think they know we are not willing to forget either.”

The Meaning of Kristallnacht

By Mitchell Bard
Imagine that you are 9 years old, sleeping soundly in your warm bed. Before going to sleep, you went through the normal bedtime ritual of brushing your teeth and washing your hands and face. Your mother came in to read a story. When you wake up, you’ll eat breakfast and then go to school as you do every day.
You’re suddenly awakened by loud banging coming from the front door. You’re not fully awake yet, but then you hear the door crashing to the ground and people running in. As you bolt upright, your mother rushes in and grabs you by the hand. She leads you downstairs to the living room, where you see your father shouting at a group of men who are all dressed in brown shirts and carrying axes and knives and broom handles.

One of the men hits your father with the end of a knife across the forehead so that he begins to bleed. “Daddy!” you shout, and rush to his side.

The other men begin to smash the tables and chairs and rip the upholstery of the couch. The hoodlums break the windows facing the street and begin to pull the family’s books from the shelves and throw them out the window. You can hear the sound of dishes breaking in the kitchen as another intruder pulls everything from the cabinets and throws it on the ground.

The man who hit your father says, “You’re under arrest. Come with me!”

“Why are you taking him? He hasn’t done anything wrong,” you cry as you cling to his leg.

Now the man comes toward you and grabs you by the arm and roughly throws you to the ground. Before you can move, you see your father being pulled out the door and pushed down the stairs so he trips and rolls to the bottom. The other men follow, pausing only to throw a glass lamp onto the floor so that it shatters.
Your mother rushes out the door and down the steps, shouting after the men dragging away your father, “Where are you taking him?”

You reach her side in time to hear the response, “Check with the Gestapo.”
Your mother begins to cry and she bends down to hug you. Over her shoulder you can see smoke rising from the synagogue burning down the street. The store windows of the Jewish businesses nearby are all broken and people are walking out of the stores with clothes, jewelry and groceries. People are shouting and laughing amid the sound of glass shattering.

It is a night that you will never forget. Later, people will call it Kristallnacht.
Seventy years ago, Jews all over Germany and Austria had experiences like the one I’ve just described. On Nov. 9, 1938, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, orchestrated pogroms in cities large and small across the Third Reich. By the end, at least 96 Jews were dead, 1,300 synagogues and 7,500 businesses were destroyed, and countless Jewish cemeteries and schools were vandalized. The broken glass strewn in the streets from the havoc perpetrated by Nazi storm troopers gave the night its name, “Night of Broken Glass.”

While the Holocaust is typically dated from the time World War II began or the Nazi decision to instigate the “Final Solution,” I would argue it began on this night when, in addition to the murder and mayhem, 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.

Many Jews became homeless and penniless overnight. The Nazis even fined the Jews for the cost of cleaning up the mess and then proceeded to impose additional draconian measures on the population aimed at further isolating them, such as forbidding them from sitting on park benches, using public transportation or frequenting restaurants and theaters.

Kristallnacht was the beginning of the end for German Jewry and telegraphed the fate of all Jews who would come under Nazi control. On the 40th anniversary of Kristallnacht, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt acknowledged the significance of that night: “In those places where the houses of God stood in flames, where a signal from those in power set off a train of destruction and robbery, of humiliation, abduction and incarceration — there was an end to peace, to justice, to humanity. The night of 9 November 1938 marked one of the stages along the path leading down to hell….”

Never again.

Mitchell Bard is author of “48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction/Dawn of the Holocaust — An Oral History” and director of the Jewish Virtual Library.

<p><br> <p>Photo: USHMM, Courtesy of Stadtarchiv Aachen View of the old synagogue in Aachen, Germany, after its destruction on Kristallnacht. ­Photo taken Nov. 10, 1938.</p> <p><br></p>

<p>Photo: USHMM, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park Germans pass by the broken shop window of a Jewish-owned business that was destroyed during Kristallnacht in Berlin, Germany. The “Night of Broken Glass” was a planned series of acts of violence against Jews throughout Germany, Nov. 10, 1938.</p>

<p>Photo: Rachel Gross Renate Kahn is shown in her Dallas home. The armoire behind her is the only valuable item her family was able to bring with them when they left Germany shortly after Kristallnacht.</p>

Photo: Rachel Gross Renate Kahn is shown in her Dallas home. The armoire behind her is the only valuable item her family was able to bring with them when they left Germany shortly after Kristallnacht.

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Shalom from the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 06 November 2008 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,
I have never been very good at sports; however, I do enjoy watching and I am very interested in teaching sportsmanship. Questions that I have wondered about: Where does “fouling” fit into Jewish values? Is it OK to sack the quarterback? Is it a Jewish value to be competitive? The important thing is that we have the conversation about these issues. Here are a few different texts from our sages to help you begin the conversation. Keep talking!

One who embarrasses his friend in public is considered as though he has murdered him. — Talmud

When judging your friend, always give him the benefit of the doubt. — Talmud

On the day of your friend’s success, participate in his joy. — ­Midrash

Your reward is commensurate to your effort. — Pirke Avot

Exercise removes the harm caused by most bad habits, and nothing is as beneficial as body movements and ­exercise. — Maimonides

Another important conversation to have is about today’s sports heroes. Is someone in sports a good role model? What makes a good role model? Here is a list of possible things to look for in a hero or role model. Use these as you talk about your sports “heroes” — do they measure up? A hero is…

Someone you admire.

Someone with qualities you would like to have.

Someone who is hard-working and has accomplished something great.

Someone who is really good at something and has a special skill or talent.

Someone who is nice, caring and loving.

Someone who does special things or is a special person.

While we are on the subject of sports, do you know that a father is required to teach his child to swim? It says so in the Talmud!

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 06 November 2008 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,
We’re getting married soon, and are debating whether to have a kosher home or not. It’s a huge commitment, and we’re not so sure if we’re up to it at this point. On the other hand, there are definitely health and spiritual benefits to it; we’re just not sure if they outweigh the difficulties of the commitment involved. Maybe you can help us with our decision.
Gabe L. & Megan W.

Dear Gabe and Megan,

Mazel tov on your upcoming wedding!
Keeping a kosher home certainly is a large commitment, as is your getting married to each other. The two commitments actually complement each other in a very profound way:

The commitment you are soon to make to each other is called kiddushin, the Hebrew term for betrothal or matrimony. The word “kiddushin” has two seemingly unrelated meanings: sanctity and separateness. Sanctity is the holiness of the Jewish marriage between a man and a woman. When the ring is passed from the groom to his bride, he recites, “Behold, you are sanctified to me with this ring in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel.” At that point, the Shechinah, or Divine Presence, rests between the bride and groom, and remains there throughout their lifetime together.

Kiddushin also means separate. At the point of the marriage, the couple separate themselves and their unique love for each other from the rest of the world, and become a separate, new unit of one. This entails a lifelong commitment to each other, one which enables and invites the Shechinah to be the “glue” which holds them together.

Both of these concepts of kedusha — holiness and separateness — are infused into a home in which the laws of kosher are observed. Firstly, the Torah refers to foods which are kosher as tahor, and those which are unkosher as tameh. The word “tahor,” usually translated as “pure,” actually means “transparent.” The

Kabbalists explain that this is referring to a spiritual transparency, one which allows the Shechinah to flow into it, and into the one who consumes this kind of food. A home in which the food is kosher is a home that the Shechinah is able to flow into and fill with light and joy. The word “tameh,” normally translated as “unclean,” really means “sealed.” This means that the food has “sealed up” the heart of the one who consumes it, from the flow of the Shechinah, and from the spiritual light which should illuminate the heart.

Just as a married couple has a separation of love from others, also the kosher home becomes separate to the

Al-mighty, and creates a special bond of love to Him through that separateness. It’s not a home like the rest of the homes on the block, but one that is built upon a commitment of love to the Creator. Every snack and meal becomes a service to G-d, and brings Him great pleasure.

The commitment a couple work on together to keep a kosher home helps them cement the commitment they have to each other. In addition, every time one abstains from consuming or bringing home some “forbidden fruit,” they exercise and strengthen their “spiritual muscles” which help them stay away from “forbidden fruit” in other areas of life as well.

Lastly, it’s hard to put into words the positive impact that a kosher home has upon children, in so many ways.

I applaud your consideration of starting your new home on the right foot, and wish you the best of luck in doing so. I invite you to join “Kosher Month,” beginning this week, which will go far in informing you of the ins-and-outs of kosher observance, and will enable you to meet dozens of other couples who are contemplating exactly what you are for their homes. For more info, please call DATA at 214-987-3282 or contact Rabbi Robkin at Mazel tov again and best of luck and success!

Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 06 November 2008 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

In just two days, we’ll solemnly recall something we wish had never happened.
Sunday will mark the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. Holocaust Museum Houston, which will remember with an interfaith evening co-sponsored by local Lutheran churches, has provided this capsule history of the horror:

“On Nov. 9–10, 1938, the Nazis staged vicious, state-sanctioned riots against the Jewish community of Germany. The name refers to the untold numbers of broken windows in the 267 synagogues, the community centers, schools, hospitals, cemeteries and the 7500 Jewish homes and Jewish-owned stores, plundered, vandalized, looted and destroyed as police and fire brigades stood aside.

“At least 91 Jews were killed in what became a turning point in history, marking the birth of a policy that would culminate in the systematic, state-sponsored murder of Jews.”
Seventy years ago. But the truth is, Kristallnacht didn’t fully enter into general consciousness for 40 years after that. It was only in 1978 that a TV mini-series called “Holocaust” woke up America — Americans of all faiths, including a lot of Jews.

Before that time, many survivors had not spoken publicly about what they had seen, suffered, experienced, endured — some not even to their own families. But the Golden Globe–winning “Holocaust” opened the floodgates, and the once-closed mouths.

I was working at that time for a major chain of general circulation newspapers in the south suburbs of Chicago. After the series ended, a survivor in the congregation I belonged to (one of the few U.S. survivor-founded congregations, by the way, and one of even fewer to have recreated the minhag of a specific German synagogue) told me she had agreed to stand on our bimah and give her eyewitness account of Kristallnacht. I asked her if she’d let me write about her in advance, for publication, and she agreed to that, also.

The morning that my story — her story! — appeared, the first call I received was from one of her daughters.

“Thank you,” the girl said, “for telling us about our mother for the first time.”
I was privileged to write about some other survivors after that. One was a woman whose parents had been able to get her out of Germany, to family members in the U.S., as a young teenager. When some German cities began offering free return trips to Jews who had been driven out — “welcome home” visits of a sort — she decided to go back to see her native Munich. Her American-born husband tried to talk her out of it; he feared she would be traumatized, especially because she came from the place where Israel’s Olympic athletes had been massacred in 1972. But she went, and I told her tale when she returned. The main point she wanted to make was how frightened she was, even then, every time she saw a uniformed German policeman.

Then there was the man who had been a vocalist in Germany but became a long-distance truck driver in the United States; those solitary hours on the road, he said, gave him needed time to think, and try to come to terms with his life. There was another musician, a woman pianist, who returned to Germany every year to concertize in a different city; “I want to show all the people I can the talent they got rid of,” she told me.

“What they threw away.” And there was the close-mouthed woman with the numbers on her arm who would never talk about them or tell her whole tale, but always kept a big, frightening dog to guard her little suburban home.

“Holocaust,” the mini-series, did its job. Millions of Americans, including Jews, met the fictional Family Weiss and saw what happened to their once-happy, integrated German life: The daughter went mad after being raped by a Nazi, then was destroyed as an “undesirable”; one son married a non-Jew (played by Meryl Streep) but was deported and lost nevertheless; the parents, a once-respected physician and his wife, were first separated, then reunited — in Auschwitz, before their deaths. At the end, only the second son survived to speak of the horrors. And to inspire so many real survivors to begin speaking out as well.
The Lutheran church is a German institution; early Reform Jews emulated its vernacular prayers and soaring hymns, then died at the hands of those once-enlightened neighbors when Nazism became their country’s new “religion.” It seems fitting, somehow, that Houston will bring Jews and Lutherans together on Sunday to remember Kristallnacht.


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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 06 November 2008 by admin

Beth Shalom Gala this Saturday
If you’ve missed being in Las Vegas for a fun-filled jaunt, don’t despair, you can enjoy a fabulous evening, close to home, when Cong. Beth Shalom hosts one of their famed highly successful Casino Night Galas at synagogue this Saturday evening. Beth Shalom, by the way, is located at 1211 Thannisch Drive in Arlington.

We can personally attest to the fact that it  was a great evening from our attendance at a past event.

Arlington’s popular Chef Philippe Lecoq will provide fabulous hors d’oeuvres and the evening will feature exciting Vegas games, silent and live auctions and  a raffle drawing for a 42-inch Toshiba HDTV. Child care will be provided by

ARFTY, the temple’s youth group for which donations will be accepted. Proceeds from the evening will benefit both Beth Shalom and the nationally recognized Camp Impact, a project of the congregation. Festivities begin at 7 p.m.

‘Daytimers’ to hear former city manager
Special guest at the Nov. 12 “Daytimers” will be former City Manager Doug Harman. Luncheon at the Wednesday noon event will be held at Beth-El Congregation as usual.

Doug Harman served as Fort Worth city manager during the late 1980s when Fort Worth’s downtown went from being a shuttered Main Street to the amazing upheaval of Sundance Square. He is chairman of the Lakes Trail Region for the Texas Historical Commission, which includes most of North Texas.

His program will highlight important and lesser-known Fort Worth history. While he was president and CEO of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, he was a key developer of the Fort Worth Heritage Trail, which was designed to feature many of the key elements that make Fort Worth more interesting as a tourist destination. Harman plans to bring displays featuring scenes from Fort Worth’s colorful past, and Rosanne Margolis and Hollace Weiner have also done two displays featuring families and businesses such as the Luskeys, Rosens, Washer Brothers, Carshons, and Greenwald’s Opera House.

Harman is a much-sought-after speaker at numerous professional meetings and conferences on a wide range of topics, including Fort Worth and Texas history, tourism, heritage and preservation, cowboy history and gear, antiques and aviation. Among his many awards, he received the “Tall in Texas Award” from the Texas Travel Industry Association for contributions to Texas tourism.

Lunch will be catered by Freebirds. Guests have a choice of steak burrito, chicken burrito, or bean and cheese burrito. For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Jewish Federation, 4049 Kingsridge Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109. There has been a change in their credit card processing. “Daytimers” can now accept Discover cards in addition to MasterCard, Visa or American Express. Each card must include the mailing ZIP code and the three- or four-number security code from the card. The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Congregation Beth-El with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

Henry Luskey named to The Winner’s Circle™ listing of ‘Top Wealth Advisors in N.T.’
Morgan Stanley’s Global Wealth Management Group (GWMG) recently announced that Henry L. Luskey, a senior vice president, financial advisor in the Firm’s Fort Worth office, has been named to The Winner’s Circle™ listing of “Top Wealth Advisors in North Texas.”

This listing was published by the Dallas Business Journal and recognizes a select group of financial advisors who are screened on a number of criteria. Among factors the survey takes into consideration are the overall size and success of practices, the quality of service provided to clients, adherence to high standards of industry regulatory compliance, and leadership in “best practices” of wealth management.

“I am extremely proud that Henry is representing Morgan Stanley on this list,” said Victor Medina, Fort Worth complex manager. “This listing recognizes an elite group of top financial advisors who are passionate about their mission to provide exceptional wealth management services to clients.”

One of the largest businesses of its kind in the world with over $700 billion in client assets, GWMG provides a range of wealth management products and services to individuals, businesses and institutions. These include brokerage and investment advisory services, financial and wealth planning, credit and lending, cash management, annuities and insurance, retirement and trust.

Morgan Stanley is a leading global financial services firm providing a wide range of investment banking, securities, investment management and wealth management services. The firm’s employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals from more than 600 offices in 33 countries. For further information about Morgan Stanley, please visit

Congratulations to Elise Granek
Elise Granek, daughter of Gail Aronoff Granek and Harold Granek, was just awarded a $25,000 grant from the Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for research in the Comoros archipelago. The Comoros Islands are located midway between Madagascar and the coast of Mozambique.

Elise’s research aims to examine the relationship between the marine and land environment with the social and economic realities of the communities living on the islands. Specifically, she will be examining the relationship that communities have with the resources they need. According to an article in the Daily Vanguard, Elise said the Comoros “is a beautiful country” but, since the growing human population is placing a strain on local resources, she feels “there is a real need for developing new strategies to better manage the resources so they prevent a collapse of their fisheries and their coral reefs.”

Currently, the population of the Comoros is estimated at just over 798,000 in an area of just 863 square miles, making the island nation one of the most densely populated nations in Africa.

Granek said the island of Anjouan, the second largest out of the four Comoros islands, has already seen the impact of strained natural resources, with the collapse of some if the island’s reefs. She said she expects that by educating and engaging local island communities in conservation efforts, the communities will be more empowered — and thus more willing — to participate actively in conservation and management of island reefs.

“That is the key thing, because many projects the tendency is to look only from the natural-science ecological perspective, and figure out what should be the ideal circumstances.”

The newly won funds from Sea World and Busch Gardens are supplemental to a grant of $20,000 that Granek was awarded last January from the National Geographic Society for the same Comoros Islands project.

This is not the first time Granek has been involved with the Comoros Islands. In 1994 she went there as a member of the Peace Corps. She returned in 1999 and 2000 to help with the establishment of a marine park, the Comoros’ first national park.

Elise graduated from Trinity Valley High School in Fort Worth. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, her master’s at Yale and her Ph.D. at Portland State, where she is currently an environmental sciences professor. She has ­traveled and done research around the world including a number of years serving in the Peace Corps in Africa. Elise and her husband, Mark, currently reside in Portland but come back to visit their family in Fort Worth as often as possible.

Susan and Guy LaMere play Texas music on Utah radio
Linda Hochster and Jane ­Cohen recently returned from a wonderful visit with former ourtowners Susan and Guy LaMere, who moved to Park City, Utah, last year. Guy is at the University of Utah and Susan is a volunteer DJ at community public radio station KPCW-FM. Her program airs every other Sunday, 8–11p.m. CST, and includes an hour of ­Texas music. You can tune in at Just as they were in Fort Worth, the LaMeres are actively involved in their adopted community and are leaving with a group for a medical and dental mission to Guatemala on Nov. 16.

JFS seniors get the gift of sleep
The Jewish Family Service Senior Program received an incredibly wonderful gift from Mark Gerrick and Royal Sleep. Mark donated beds to the seniors who needed them and they are just so happy. What a wonderful gift he gave — something needed but so difficult to afford. The mattresses they replaced were worn and did not offer a good night’s rest. Royal Sleep has given sweet dreams to many seniors in Fort Worth and this generosity is greatly appreciated.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 06 November 2008 by admin

JCC ‘be.’ event to feature the Four Tops plus a fabulous online auction

On Thursday, Nov. 20, the Four Tops and Michael Jackson cover band, “Who’s Bad?” will perform in concert at the House of Blues, 2200 North Lamar St. This year’s event includes an online auction component that will offer such one-of-a-kind items as a chance to fly in a fighter jet, a chance to dine and shmooze with politicians and famous sports personalities, fabulous trips, jewelry, dinners, sporting events, memorabilia and so much more. Beginning Thursday, Nov. 13, check out and start bidding.

Auction Chairs Angela Horowitz, Ellen Ungerman and Thomy Sue Toledo have really done an amazing job collecting this year’s auction items.

Please don’t miss the chance to be part of this great event benefiting our Aaron Family JCC. Funds raised at the event will be used for programming and operations as well as to begin building capital reserves that are essential for the long-term welfare of the J.

For more information, please contact Christina MacMicken at 214-239-7136. Additional details about the event are on the J’s Web site at

Learn Yiddish and laugh with Rabbi Zell

Beginning Thursday, Nov. 6, Rabbi Shawn Zell of Congregation Tiferet Israel will teach a six-week series titled “Don’t be Skittish about Yiddish.”

This class will be a colorful depiction of Eastern European Jewry and the Yiddish language. Rabbi Zell is just the person to add humor and flavor to such subject matter. While Rabbi Zell quotes Torah, Talmud or a Chassidic scholar, he may be just as likely to offer a quote from Dr. Richard Kimball, “The Fugitive” or a line from “The Godfather.” Humor is the operative word here.

Please consider yourselves cordially invited to enjoy an evening out each week to have some laughs, while meeting new friends. The classes will start at 7:30 p.m. each Thursday evening and will last for six weeks, excluding Thanksgiving evening.

Congregation Tiferet Israel is located at 10909 Hillcrest Road at Royal Lane in Dallas.

Alan Press joins ‘THE TEAM’  at Ebby Halliday
Barry Hoffer and Alan Levy are pleased to announce that Alan Press has joined “THE TEAM” at Ebby Halliday Realtors, a leader in the residential real estate market, in the Preston Keller office.

The Hoffer-Levy Team has more than 66 years of combined experience and over $750 million in real estate sales, and has been voted Best Realtors in Dallas by D magazine for the past six consecutive years. Like Ebby Halliday, Hoffer and Levy have achieved this with an extraordinary commitment to service.

“We are thrilled that Alan has joined our team of top real estate professionals. His background and extensive professional training give him a head start that makes him a natural for our group,” Alan Levy said.
Alan owned Masterpiece Painting for more than 25 years, working with homeowners, contractors and interior designers throughout the Metroplex. This provided him with the knowledge and experience that will uniquely benefit him in helping clients with their real estate needs.

“I am confident that my customer service experience and skills will allow me to guide your real estate transaction to a successful conclusion. I am excited to be joining the Hoffer-Levy Team with its proven track record of success,” he said.

A native of New York, Alan has lived in Dallas for more than 30 years. Married to Susan Skibell-Press, he is involved in a wide variety of organizations within the community. A founding member of Congregation Ohr HaTorah, he also serves on the board of the Dallas Area Torah Association and is active in AIPAC and the Preston Citadel Homeowners Club.

Celebrating Sukkot at the Veranda Preston Hollow
The day after Yom Kippur, a beautiful sukkah was erected on the lovely patio of the Veranda Preston Hollow, Dallas Home for Jewish Aged. Residents and staff enjoyed decorating it with fancy gourds and miniature pumpkins. On Tuesday, Oct. 14, residents were invited by nearby Temple Shalom to attend first-day Sukkot services. Second-grade boys from Akiba Academy visited and sang songs on Friday morning, bringing smiles to everyone’s faces. Later that day, Rabbi Asher Goldschmidt and Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky from Chabad of Dallas brought the lulav and etrog to the Veranda and shared the holiday’s significance, special blessings and songs. Residents enjoyed the opportunity to recite the blessings individually with the rabbis. Next, residents from CHAI, Community Homes for Adults, Inc., entertained Veranda residents with their terrific musical performance. Shabbat services with special Sukkot prayers were led by Shearith Israel bar mitzvah student Michael Perkins and Director of Assisted Living Carolyn Cooper. The holiday observance continued with Veranda Preston Hollow, Dallas Home for Jewish Aged residents visiting Akiba Academy on Monday and enjoying the opportunity to meet with Rabbi Silver and eighth-grade students, eating refreshments in their large sukkah and touring their campus.

Veranda Preston Hollow, Dallas Home for Jewish Aged, offers a unique continuum of care that enables residents to stay in place with assisted living, short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing and long-term care. It is located at 11409 North Central Expwy., Dallas (around the corner from the JCC). .

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