Archive | December, 2008

Around the Town with Rene

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 30 December 2008 by admin

FWFTY teens do mitzvot
on the fifth night of Chanukah
Beth-El’s FWFTY teens shopped for and made dinner for 10 teens at The Bridge Emergency Youth Shelter at the All Church Home in Fort Worth on Dec. 25. The Bridge is the only shelter in Tarrant County exclusively serving youth ages 10–17. In addition to making the meal, FWFTY served the shelter teens and staff. Pictured at right are (l-r): Natalie Kahan, Stephanie Mintz, Emily Englander, Matt Beldon, Shelby Roberts, Ben Cristol, Emily Shelby, Bessie Bronstein, Zach Beldon, Rick James, Dylan Shelby, Laurie James, Jacob Bustillos and Erika Shelby. Not pictured are Stella Bronstein (hiding behind the wall) and Scott Sloter (who took the photo).
Andrew Wayne is the Cook Children’s Hospital super-hero
For long years, it’s been my good fortune to enjoy glancing through sister publications from around the country as well as looking through local brochures and other publications. I did a double-take when I saw the following in the recent issue of the Cook Children’s Hospital magazine. It relates to Andy Wayne, son of Horty Deifik. With the permission of Cook’s, we’re happy to share it with our readers.
“Yes, there is a Santa Claus
“You have probably heard of Bruce Wayne, the alter ego of Batman, but have you heard of Cook Children’s version of a super-hero, Andrew Wayne? Our Wayne works for RE/MAX and is a certified real estate coach, ethics and legal instructor who lives in Colleyville and has lived in Northeast Tarrant County for over 40 years. He started playing Santa on a whim. He has taken his portrayal of the jolly fellow to a new level. What started as a favor to a friend is now a unique fundraising effort for Cook Children’s.
“Wayne was first asked to ‘play’ Santa for a small group of kids 12 years ago. His friend had a helicopter and flew him to an airplane hangar for the party. When they opened the hangar door 700 smiling faces looked up and started shouting “Santa, Santa” and he was hooked. After five or six years and many people asking him how they could repay him for his time, he came up with the idea to support his favorite cause — Cook Children’s.
“Now when he receives a request to put on the suit, Wayne asks that the individual or family make a donation to Cook Children’s. Last year Wayne raised $61,000 as Santa. That’s some present. In total Wayne is responsible for thousands more dollars given to support the hospital.
“Donning the gear over the years has brought a lot of joy to Wayne’s life. ‘I have a passion for doing this,’ Wayne said. And it’s not just for children’s parties. Every year Wayne also visits a senior center holiday party. Last year a lady came to sit on Santa’s lap and told him she hadn’t visited with Santa in 50 years. Wayne didn’t miss a beat, ‘Well, I’ve missed you.’ They both got teary-eyed.
“When asked what Santa wanted for Christmas this year Wayne replied, ‘He wants to make sure all children have the ability to access premier health care. Santa doesn’t want any child to suffer. We can’t take away all of the pain but we can make certain to bring a little joy and hope to sick kids and their parents.’
“Andrew Wayne certainly exemplifies the true giving spirit. Paraphrasing from the famous lines penned by Francis Church: ‘Yes, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.’ And at Cook Children’s, we agree.
“For information about Santa visits, you don’t even have to call the North Pole; Santa’s local number is 817-366-6523.”
Accolades to Andy Wayne for the many mitzvot he performs and cherishes. We share the pride of his proud mom, Horty Deifik.
JCRS, aided by Federation, helps kids, gets thanks
Another good deed performed by our community was for the Jewish Children’s Regional Service, which received an allocation of $10,000 from the Jewish Federation’s 2008 campaign. Among other things provided by JCRS, 393 JCRS camp aid recipients attended 42 different Jewish overnight camps; 29 children and youth from Tarrant County received some sort of financial aid from JCRS last year. JCRS was one of 45 recipient agencies of the Annual Campaign of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. The following letter is one of many communications received by the JCRS from a grateful recipient.
“To our Friends at JCRS,
“First and foremost, let me say thank you for all the help all of you have extended to my children. You are planting seeds, watering seedlings and young trees, nurturing our Jewish youth with the love for our people, our heritage and Israel. Both of my children came home last summer from camp full of excitement, joy and touching stories of Jewish friends, Jewish events and Jewish fun. In addition they were both soooo surprised and happy with the Chanukah presents you sent this year. This is all thanks to you; you are making these incredible blessings happen in each child’s life.
“My children’s father committed suicide a few years ago, and their wounds run deep. Our financial hardships are steep; I am continuously struggling and am not in good health. My children are innocent souls in dire need of your help. I beg you to continue with your support and mitzvot. With your help, my children are learning to have trust in HaShem, to know who they are and to have the strength to go on.
“I thank you with all my heart and tears for your hard work, your continuous support and incredible dedication to our Jewish children.
“G-d bless you,
“/s/ a Mom (mother of two children under the age of 12)”
Steven M. Berk returns to speak on Iran, Jan. 21
Because of his overwhelming welcome and success at his last appearance in Fort Worth, the Larry Kornbleet Memorial Scholar-in-Residence will bring international scholar, Steven M. Berk, back to Fort Worth on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Ahavath Sholom.
Berk will speak on “From Persia to Iran, From Cyprus to Ahmadinejad: Iran, The Jews and the World.”
It can be said that the Persians saved the Jewish people for history. Even in the modern period, Iran had a beneficial relationship with the state of Israel. Today, however, the Islamic Republic constitutes an existential threat to the very existence of Israel.
The program is free to all. Babysitting is available for children 4 and under by reservation only. For babysitting reservations or more information, please call the Federation office at 817-569-0892. The event is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with financial support from the Kornbleet Scholar-in-Residence Endowment Fund.
A dessert reception will follow.

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Shalom from the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 30 December 2008 by admin

Dear Families,
Things are tough economically and kids are wondering. We often think that if we don’t talk about something, our children won’t worry about it. However, kids know and feel — and when we don’t talk, they worry more because they don’t know what to worry about. Each family must decide how much to share about the family’s finances and it does depend on the child’s age and maturity. Kids want to know what is bothering their parents but they also want to know that they are going to be cared for and that everything will be safe.
Our rabbis had lots to say about money and times of need. The most famous (and best) comes from Rabbi Ben Zoma: “Who is rich? He who is happy with what he has.” (Pirke Avot 4:1) Hillel used to say that the more possessions one had, the greater one’s anxiety (from Pirke Avot 2:8). If you have too much, you are more worried about losing it. All of this is about gratitude for all that we have.
There is a prayer that is usually recited on Shabbat and was written during Talmudic times — it talks about our concerns for the community:
“May G-d who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless this entire congregation … and those who give funds for heat and light and wine for Kiddush and Havdallah, bread to the wayfarer and charity to the poor and all who devotedly involve themselves with the needs of this community and the land of Israel. May the Holy One, Blessed One, reward them … and may G-d bless them by prospering all their worthy endeavors, as well as those of the entire people Israel, and let us say, Amen.”
We pray for G-d to watch over us but we must work to help ourselves and others. In this time of challenge for many of our families, we must take care of our own families but not forget our obligation to others. We hope that those who are in need have the strength to ask for help from our community. Their time will come to repay.
Let us talk with our children and teach them the true meaning of being rich as well as the importance of giving to others. There is the story of Rabbi Akiba who was a poor shepherd at the time. He married in the winter, and they were so poor that they had to sleep on straw. One day the prophet Elijah came to visit them disguised as a poor man asking for straw for his wife to lie on. Akiba said to his wife, “We think we are poor; there is a person who does not even have straw.” Remember Rabbi Ben Zoma!
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 30 December 2008 by admin

ear Rabbi Fried,
My wife and I, who are no spring chickens, were blessed with a baby girl three years ago, and are planning to attempt to have one more child. As we already have a girl, we would like to also have a boy. We know there are ways that modern medicine can assure, within a certain margin of error, the sex of the child. We just don’t know if morally, or within the parameters of Jewish laws of family purity, the methods used by doctors to do so are right and proper. We’d appreciate your guidance.
Marc and Sarah

Dear Marc and Sarah,
There are several methods of sexual pre-selection employed by physicians. One of the most reliable is to determine the sex of an unborn fetus by chromosome analysis of cultured amniotic fluid cells. If the fetus is not of the desired sex, it can be aborted. Judaism, however, unequivocally rejects the option of terminating a pregnancy simply because the fetus is not of the desired sex.
Another method of sex pre-selection involves procurement of semen from the prospective father, the separation of androsperm (for males) from gymnosperm (for females), and the artificial insemination of androsperm, if a male offspring is desired, into the prospective mother. This procedure results in a lower pregnancy rate than the insemination of the unseparated and less-manipulated semen, but yields about 70 percent male progeny. My mentor, the late Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, did not allow this method of pre-selection. It was on the grounds of the prohibition of the active destruction of semen. Since the gymnosperm will be separated and destroyed, this would be prohibited. Only in the situation where the couple will be undergoing IVF in any case, and a pre-selection will anyway be necessary, might there be an allowance to perform such a pre-selection, upon consultation with an expert rabbinical authority in this area.
A third, less reliable, method of pre-selection has to do with the timing of relations. The proportion of male births is highest if they occur several days prior to ovulation. Since, however, you are observant of the laws of family purity (and I applaud you for that!), this method would be ruled out. In Jewish law, husband and wife are prohibited to have marital relations during the menstrual period and seven “clean” days thereafter, effectively eliminating this possibility from consideration.
A fourth method would be to manipulate the acidity and alkalinity of the cervical and vaginal secretions, as the male-producing sperm succumb to an acidic environment, and thrive in an environment of greater alkalinity. This would hold no prohibition in Jewish law, and would hold no negative moral implications. You would have to consult with your doctor as to the practicality of this method.
For more discussion on these methods, as well as methods mentioned in the Talmud, see Fred Rosner, M.D. in “Biomedical Ethics and Jewish Law,” Ktav Press, Ch. 14.
Since the minimum fulfillment of the mitzvah to “be fruitful and multiply” is explained by the Talmud to mean a son and daughter, there is not a moral issue with your pursuit of a son, which would complete this mitzvah for you. You are not, however, obligated to pursue such heroic methods to do so. The main thing is to pray for what you desire and for whatever you are blessed with to be healthy, and to accept joyously what the Almighty chooses to grant you.
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 yfried@sbcglobal.net.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 30 December 2008 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Have you made some resolutions for this new year? Everybody does — and soon finds out that those like “lose weight” are created to be broken rather than kept.
But given the state of the U.S. economy today, and in the wake of the Bernard Madoff scandal (Oy vey! That latest shanda for the Jews!), all of us, regardless of income and/or savings level, should resolve to be financially smarter in 2009 than ever before. An easy way to get started is to read “Living Rich by Spending Smart,” a practical book by respected personal finance expert Greg Karp. If you don’t have time for the whole volume, here are some excerpts from it:
“Self-deception and lack of control are the chief reasons for many poor spending decisions,” he says. “Whiny explanations about wasteful purchases are nothing but poor excuses for bad spending behavior.” Here are six clichés that he maintains many freewheeling spenders treat as mantras:
1. “I could die tomorrow, so I’ll live for today.” An immature attitude to justify buying it now, paying for it whenever. A primary excuse for spending and not saving.
2. “I work hard, so I deserve it.” Like “a 4-year-old throwing a tantrum in a toy store, yelling ‘Gimme! Gimme!’” You also deserve a retirement where what you eat isn’t dog food, Karp says.
3. “I don’t have a head for numbers.” So what? Nothing but an excuse for not paying attention to what’s in the checking account, according to Karp. Today, lots of help is available.
4. “I’m too busy to compare prices or manage money.” Turn off the TV one evening a week — that’s all the time you need. Or, hire a reputable financial planner/adviser: “more costly than doing it yourself, but better than doing nothing.”
5. “It’s an investment.” Not most of the things you buy, because they “plummet in value the moment you leave the store — or the car lot,” says Karp. “They are EXPENSES. Calling them investments is self-delusion.”
6. “I don’t earn enough to save money.” According to Karp, “Saving is not about what you earn, it’s what you KEEP. If your paycheck truly covers only bare necessities, it’s time to work more hours, or earn more for the hours you work.”
“How to Get More of What You Really Want” is the subtitle of Karp’s book, with chapters such as “Smart People, Dumb Spending” and “Get Financially FIT” (those capital letters standing for Food, Insurance and Telecommunications). He also has one called “What a Waste!” in which he recommends we all stop buying bottled water, and think more than twice about purchasing extended warranties — most of them, he feels, represent wasted money.
This last reminds me of a witty old quote attributed to Clint Eastwood: “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster!” The whole state of the financial world today makes me look back and shake my head in some amazement: Last week, I was putting gelt (paper, of course!) into two envelopes as I awaited the arrival of a pair of visiting grandsons from out of town, and an equal amount into a Christmas folder for my faithful mailman, who is retiring after many years — and since for almost 25 years, without any request from me, he’s been hand-delivering to my door any packages that don’t fit into our mailroom box instead of leaving claim slips that cost me time in trips to the post office, I’ll sorely miss him. And it dawned on me, as I counted out the bills, that the total amount of these three “little” gifts was more by one-fourth than my salary for a full week’s work at the first full-time job I ever had. Of course, that was way back when, in the mid-’50s.
If you want to learn more about Karp and/or read his book, he’s easily located on the Web; there’s also lots of information available through Amazon, Borders, etc. If you’d like some more punchy bits of advice to take into the new year along with Eastwood’s, try these:
From Senator Dianne Feinstein: “Winning may not be everything, but losing has little to recommend it.” (Except for that weight resolution, of course.) And from the always right-on Will Rogers: “The worst thing that can happen to you can be the best thing for you, if you don’t let it get the best of you.” Can this possibly play out positively in regard to the many — individuals, charities, foundations, other organizations — who have lost fortunes to that all-time ganif, Bernard Madoff?
E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 30 December 2008 by admin

One mitzvah leads to another
Shearith Israel member Robert Yudkin shared the following with the TJP:
“Every little bit helps. Shearith Israel’s mitzvah day happens once a year. Some years I look more forward to it than others. However, regardless of the anticipation, I always come away from whatever we do with the positive feelings one gets from helping others.
“Following the mitzvah day in 2007, I brought the idea of a sandwich drive to my office. The Dallas office of the North Highland Company is a relatively new and growing office that had never before participated in such an effort. With encouragement from Jim Schwalbe, our vice-president in charge of the office, I contacted Mona Allen at Shearith Israel to help identify an agency that needed the help that we wanted to provide. Mona pointed us in the direction of the Family Gateway in downtown Dallas and one Friday in January was picked when North Highland would provide lunch.
“That Friday morning the office staff got together and made over 350 sandwiches of various types in an hour. The agency was thrilled to receive the sandwiches, sides and desserts. The event was good for the agency and was good for the office. It sparked camaraderie and let us get to know each other in different ways from our usual interactions.
“This past mitzvah day reminded me that it had been too long since our last sandwich drive. With Family Gateway undergoing renovations, I again reached out to Mona Allen for an agency in need. Her suggestion of the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas was well received for multiple reasons. We have at least one person in the office with firsthand experience of being on the receiving end from a Ronald McDonald House. In addition, I’m a member of the Addison Rotary Club that selected the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas as this year’s beneficiary of our annual golf tournament. Consequently, when North Highland delivered lunch to the Ronald McDonald House last month, I was able to put on my Rotary hat and give them a special dessert — a check for $100,000, representing one installment of the money raised from the tournament.
“Every little bit helps — and it does not necessarily take much time or much money. Mitzvah day inspires me to help and reminds me that there are so many places to help and so many ways to give help. North Highland will provide lunch again next month. What can you — or your company — do? That is up to you.”

Dr. Duilio Dobrin conducts
premiere of his newest
composition in Zagreb
Dallas composer, conductor and pianist, Duilio A. Dobrin, the newest artist-faculty addition at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, conducted the premiere of his own “Concerto for Bandoneon and Orchestra,” subtitled “Of All Things Lost,” with the Zagreb Philharmonic on Dec. 7. This large-scale, four-movement work will be published shortly by Pagani Music in Milan, Italy. The concert also featured eight short Argentine works, rewritten by Dobrin in a tango nuevo style. A second performance was followed by the Varashdin Chamber Orchestra in Croatia. The soloist for these performances was world-renowned bandoneón artist, Peter Soave.
Upcoming conducting engagements for Dobrin include a performance in New York of Cirque d’Orchestre, a program featuring one of the most innovative blends of live art forms: a collaboration between Cirque du Soleil and a traditional, live symphony orchestra.
Argentine-born Duilio Dobrin is no stranger to critical acclaim. His 500th performance at the helm of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra was described by James Roos of the Miami Herald as “…beautifully drawn out, with a wonderful sense of flow and an understanding of precisely how the musical line should unfold….” He further stated, regarding Cesar Franck’s “Symphony in D,” that Dobrin had “…caught the almost religious aura of its mystical dusk, understood precisely how the horns and winds simulate the reed stops of an organ, gave the English horn solo, exquisitely played, its unhurried space, and stirred up the finale to an incandescent glow.”
During Dobrin’s eight-year tenure as resident conductor of the Florida Philharmonic, he shared the stage with artists ranging from Pinchas Zukerman to Celia Cruz. He had previously served as music director of the Chamber Orchestra of Connecticut. Comprising musicians from the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera, the COC presented six subscription concerts, including presentations at Merkin Hall in New York City. Maestro Dobrin received frequent praise from Robert Sherman of the New York Times. As guest conductor, Dobrin led professional orchestras in such diverse musical centers as New York, Munich, Tokyo, Lugano, Montreal and Buenos Aires. His recent accomplishments include his intense direction of the esteemed Shearith Israel choir, with both Hebrew and English liturgical works.
In international competition, maestro Dobrin was a top prizewinner in the 1991 Masterplayers Conducting Competition in Lugano, Switzerland. He was also a winner in the Exxon/Affiliate Artists Arts Endowment Conductor’s Program and was the only American to have reached the finals of the Tokyo International Competition in 1988. As a pianist, he won the National Endowment for the Arts competition in his native Argentina. In 2000, Dobrin was given a special commendation from Pope John Paul II for his contributions to liturgical music and was dedicated a chapter in Enrique Cordoba’s book “Cien Voces de America” as one of Latin America’s top 100 personalities living in the U.S.
Dobrin had the privilege of studying under Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood, Sergiu Celibidache in Munich and Otto Werner-Mueller at Yale, where he received a Certificate of Post-Doctoral Studies. He holds Doctor of Arts and Master of Music degrees from Ball State University, where he received the Outstanding Alumnus Award. Dobrin graduated first in his class from the National Conservatory of Music in Argentina, earning a Gold Medal baccalaureate.
Duilio Dobrin’s catalog of compositions includes a special arrangement of the theme song for “CBS This Morning,” which was televised nationally, as well as vocal works and orchestral arrangements of Queen, Glenn Frey and others. Dobrin presently has a contract with Warner Chappell in London for his Nashville Symphony commissioned “Jerusalem Fantasy.” Other commissions have included an arrangement of “Porgy and Bess” for the English Chamber Orchestra, an orchestral “Homage to the Late Astor Piazzola,” over 70 orchestral arrangements of Latin American music and a large number of choral works in Hebrew and in English. Maestro Dobrin also serves as music director and organist at First Presbyterian Church in Rockwall.
UTD’s Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies awards first graduate certificate
The UT Dallas Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies in the School of Arts & Humanities awarded its first graduate certificate in Holocaust studies this past year. Melvin Macklin received the specialized certificate in conjunction with his doctoral degree in humanities studies and literature.
Macklin, currently an assistant professor of English in the School of Arts and Humanities at Ferrum College, a four-year liberal arts institution located in Ferrum, Va., uses his knowledge of the Holocaust to help his students explore some of the darkest themes in world. “In my English classes, for example, students often write on the theme of man’s inhumanity to man and the terror one human being can inflict on another,” Macklin said. “The Holocaust, I believe, is the greatest example of horror ever perpetrated by mankind; as such, students are able to focus on precise situations and events from this historical tragic era to better grasp such fundamental perplexing questions.”
The certificate in Holocaust studies is offered to master’s and doctoral students in the School of Arts and Humanities (A&H). Graduates of this 15-credit hour certificate will have a critical understanding of the Holocaust as well as modern Jewish culture, the history of anti-Semitism, and the major contemporary philosophical, aesthetic and analytical responses to this major event.
“Under the guidance of [Program Director] Dr. Ozsvath, the insights I gained about that horrendous event literally changed my world-view on life and the nature of human existence,” Macklin said. “Because Holocaust studies opened my ‘blind eyes,’ I now have more patience and tend to be less judgmental. I look at one’s underlying motivations for his actions before responding or making any kind of pronouncement.”

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Is Gaza conflict a crisis or an opportunity for Obama?

Posted on 30 December 2008 by admin

By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Does the mini-war under way between Israel and Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip present President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming administration with a crisis or an opportunity?
Israel’s aerial bombardment, the most intensive in the Gaza Strip in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has killed at least 320 people, most of them militants belonging to the terrorist group Hamas, although tens of children were reported dead in surprise attacks on the crowded strip.
The assault, which started Saturday, came after days of intensified rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israel’s southern towns and farms. The Palestinian rocket fire, launched even before a Hamas-Israel cease-fire formally lapsed Dec. 19, has killed at least four Israelis and is emptying the south of its residents. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, warned of “all-out war,” possibly including a land invasion.
Buried beneath the fretting over whether the renewed conflict would kill talks between Israel and the relatively moderate leadership of the Palestinian Authority were hints that it could in fact bolster the negotiations, if only by marginalizing Hamas. That, in turn, could help Obama clear the ground for a breakthrough, a prospect Obama’s team seemed to recognize by limiting its reactions to expressions of support for Israel.
“He’s going to work closely with the Israelis,” David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday when asked about the outbreak. “They’re a great ally of ours, the most important ally in the region. And that is a fundamental principle from which he’ll work.”
Washington pundits and officials in European capitals are casting the flare-up as a crisis that could scuttle Obama’s stated intention of developing talks — first launched a year ago by the Bush administration — into a final status agreement.
Jackson Diehl, the deputy editor of the Washington Post’s editorial page, said the war was the final failure for Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister who is to leave office by March to face corruption charges. “His failure represents another missed opportunity for Middle East peace — and probably means that the incoming Obama administration, like the incoming Bush administration of 2001, will inherit both a new round of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed and a new Israeli government indisposed to compromise,” Diehl wrote in Monday’s Post.
Meanwhile, Israel is casting the war, first of all, as one of necessity: The bombardment of Israel’s south, in the days before Israel launched its aerial counterattacks, at times reached 70 rockets a day. The effect has been to devastate the region’s economy and to create levels of anxiety that Israelis regard as intolerable; the retaliatory strikes earned the support of the vast majority of Israelis in weekend polling.
Sallai Meridor, the Israeli envoy to Washington, cautioned that the action was not undertaken with the peace process in mind. “The direct reason for these activities is to remove a threat over the head of 500,000 Israelis — not a theoretical threat, a real one,” Meridor told JTA. “Three were killed only today. No country would sacrifice its citizens to terror.”
Meridor added, however, that an Israeli success could have salutary effects on the peace process. “Indirectly, the chances for peace are dependent on the weakening of the enemies of peace. If Hamas strengthens, the chances of peace weaken; if Hamas weakens, it contributes to the chances of peace.”
In remarks Sunday to his Cabinet, Olmert said the aim was to “restore normal life and quiet to residents of the south who — for many years — have suffered from unceasing rocket and mortar fire and terrorism designed to disrupt their lives and prevent them from enjoying a normal, relaxed and quiet life, as the citizen of any country is entitled to.”
Another factor might be political calculation. Little love is lost between Olmert and his government partners: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has assumed control of his Kadima Party, and Barak, who heads the Labor Party. Yet Olmert, Livni and Barak are united in hopes of keeping Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition Likud Party who has vowed to bring talks with the Palestinians to a halt, from coming to power; the first post-assault polls show their chances of doing that substantially improving.
The effect Israel’s current leadership sought was not simply to remind the public that doves are capable of defending Israel, but that the onslaught would help reinforce the current round of talks. The aim, director of the Shin Bet security service Yuval Diskin suggested at the weekly Cabinet meeting, is to isolate Hamas. “The mood among a not unsubstantial part of the Palestinian population understands that the operation is against Hamas, which has inflicted great suffering on the residents of Gaza,” Diskin said in remarks relayed by Oved Yehezkel, the Cabinet secretary.
That approach was echoed by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, in remarks Monday on P.A. television.
“I say in all honesty, we made contact with leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip,” Abbas said in a translation made available by Palestinian Media Watch. “We spoke with them in all honesty and directly, and after that we spoke with them indirectly, through more than one Arab and non-Arab side … We spoke with them on the telephone and we said to them: We ask of you, don’t stop the cease-fire, the cease-fire must continue and not stop, in order to avoid what has happened, and if only we had avoided it.”
Ziad Asali, an Abbas ally who founded the American Task Force on Palestine, said it was notable that Abbas and other Arab leaders were muted in their calls on Israel to draw back.
“There is a certain withholding of outright support” for Hamas “that usually would accrue to any party in active conflict with Israel,” he said.
Arab frustration with Hamas stemmed from its refusal until now to defer to Abbas as the lead negotiator in peace talks and its insistence on armed conflict as the only way to confront Israel, Asali said.
“There is no military solution to this conflict,” he said. “At the end of the day there has to be a negotiating process, and the people who are clearly authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians are the P.A. folks.”
He warned, however, that there was a limited window to exploit Hamas’ marginalization, and joined a number of dovish pro-Israel groups — including J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and the Israel Policy Forum — in calling for an immediate cease-fire.
“We don’t know how the parties on the ground will react,” Asali said. “We see ever increasing human suffering in Gaza that would add to the pressure to bring about some kind of cease-fire.”
Should the bloodshed intensify, the sufferings of ordinary Palestinians, joined with public outrage on the “Arab street” with Israel’s actions and the chaotic nature of the conflict, could turn an opportunity into a crisis — and an Obama administration faced with a crisis on Jan. 21 might not be equipped to respond.
“The issue is how urgently they would prioritize this conflict,” Asali said.
Hamas’ responsibility for re-launching hostilities, coupled with a desire to corner the terrorist group into deferring to Abbas’ negotiations with Israel, was likely behind the near unanimous backing in Washington for Israel’s actions.
Most significant was the Obama transition team’s steadfast commitment to Israel’s right to respond, albeit expressed with the requisite deference to George W. Bush as the sitting president.
“The president-elect recognizes the special relationship between the United States and Israel,” Axelrod, Obama’s adviser, said on CBS. “It’s an important bond, an important relationship. He’s going to honor it. And he wants to be a constructive force in helping to bring about the peace and security that both the Israelis and the Palestinians want and deserve. And obviously, this situation has become even more complicated in the last couple of days and weeks as Hamas began its shelling and Israel responded.”
Pressed, Axelrod suggested Obama’s strategy would be shaped by his own visit over the summer to Israel’s frontlines.
“He said then that when the bombs are raining down on your citizens, there is an urge to respond and act and try and put an end to that,” Axelrod said. “You know, that’s what he said then, and I think that’s what he believes.”
The Bush administration and congressional leaders of both parties also issued statements squarely blaming Hamas, followed up with pleas to Israel to curb civilian casualties.
“Peace between Israelis and Palestinians cannot result from daily barrages of rocket and mortar fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza,” U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a statement. “Hamas and its supporters must understand that Gaza cannot and will not be allowed to be a sanctuary for attacks on Israel.”
The White House sounded a similar note: “Hamas’ continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop. Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people. The United States urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it targets Hamas in Gaza.”

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Israel seeks to change the rules of the game

Posted on 30 December 2008 by admin

By Leslie Susser
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s retaliation against persistent Hamas mortar and rocket attacks on civilians in southern Israel was far more ferocious than anyone, including Hamas, expected.
The first three days of intensive Israel Air Force bombing in Gaza reduced hundreds of Hamas government buildings, military compounds, laboratories, metal workshops and supply tunnels to rubble and left more than 350 Palestinians, most of them militants, dead. But, as the airstrikes continued and Israeli tanks massed on the Israel-Gaza border, it was not clear how much longer the operation would last or how its goals would be achieved.
The security situation in southern Israel deteriorated quickly after Dec. 19, when Hamas declared that a six-month truce with Israel would not be renewed, and it stepped up its Kassam rocket and Iranian-supplied 120-mm mortar attacks on Sderot and other nearby Israeli towns.
Public pressure on the Israeli government to retaliate intensified, and it was clear the countdown to war had begun. On Dec. 24, after some 70 Kassams and mortars slammed into southern Israel in a single day, the government approved a detailed war plan, leaving the timing and precise scope of each phase to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the IDF.
The initial airstrike on Saturday caught Hamas completely by surprise.
In the first wave, which lasted three minutes and 40 seconds, 64 Israeli jets reduced nearly all of Hamas’ military compounds, command-and-control centers and symbols of government to rubble. In the first two attacks, more than 200 people were killed, most of them Hamas militiamen.
The military problem facing Barak and the country’s military planners is twofold: how to stop the Kassam rockets and how to restore Israeli deterrence in the region after eight years of relative inactivity in the face of rocket attacks.
The devastating opening salvo Israel chose was based on what many military analysts see as Israel’s most effective operation in the 2006 Lebanon War: the bombing of the Hezbollah command-and-control center in Beirut’s Dahya district in the first few days of the fighting. Reducing the Dahya to rubble had a profound shock effect on Hezbollah and other leaders across the Middle East, and is seen as one of the main reasons for the current quiet on the Israel-Lebanon border. Now Israeli military planners hope what they call the “Dahya effect” will take effect in Gaza too and eventually deter Hamas from rocketing Israeli civilians.
In a news conference on the first night of the fighting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spelled out the war’s aim: to create a new security reality in the south in which Israeli civilians can live without fear of rocket or terror attacks. According to Israeli government spokesmen, this will be achieved by drastically changing “the rules of the game.” Through the devastating air force attack and an anticipated follow-up ground incursion, Israel’s leaders hope to:
• send a clear message to Hamas that the price tag for any future rocket attacks on Israel will be intolerably high;
• severely weaken Hamas’s current military capacity;
• limit any future Hamas military build-up; and
• achieve a new cease-fire regime under which Hamas would have to commit to no more rocket fire, no terrorist attacks, no explosive charges near the border and no more weapons smuggling.
The understandings would be reached through a third party, probably Egyptian mediation, and kept in place through Israel’s waving of a big deterrent stick. In other words, the aim of the large-scale Israeli operation is to achieve peace and quiet in southern Israel by establishing a new and very different deterrent model.
Many Israelis, however, are skeptical about the efficacy of the proposed deterrent policy. Some argue that the only way the rockets can be stopped would be to reoccupy Gaza. The Likud’s Yuval Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, urges creating an Israeli buffer between Gaza and Egypt to prevent future arms smuggling. Otherwise, Steinitz warns, Hamas will bring rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv, anti-aircraft batteries that could threaten IAF flights in the Negev, and equipment to monitor all Israeli military movements there. “Maybe we would get peace for a year or two, but the price would be a devastating blow to Israel’s national security,” Steinitz told JTA.
Others reject the idea of any reoccupation of Gaza as counterproductive and hope the government will be able to parlay its success on the battlefield into a long-term political agreement with Hamas.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has spoken of a more ambitious aim: toppling the Hamas government. Olmert and Barak, however, consider this unrealistic, and it is not part of the stated war aims. Nor is the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped and taken to Gaza 900 days ago. Clearly the current operation could put Shalit’s life at risk, but it also could create conditions for a prisoner exchange to secure his release. Indeed, some Israeli leaders, including Livni, say Shalit’s release should be an Israeli condition for any future cease-fire.
The devastating Israeli attacks sparked fierce protests and demonstrations across the Arab and Muslim world, in European capitals and among Israeli Arabs.
But, while Israel was widely criticized in the international media, governments across the world did little to stop the fighting. And despite their public posture criticizing Israel’s “barbarity,” some moderate Arab leaders were not sorry to see Hamas taking a beating — much as, two years ago, they were not sorry to see Hezbollah take a beating in the early days of the 2006 Lebanon War.
The Israel-Hamas clash reflected in microcosm the regional struggle between the pro-Western moderates led by Egypt and the radicals led by Iran. Both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, while strongly condemning the Israeli operation, highlighted the fact that they had urged Hamas leaders to renew the cease-fire and warned them what would happen if they didn’t.
In the first three days of fighting, Hamas fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing at least four civilians. Still, the mood in the country remains strongly supportive of the war, especially in the south, where people see in it the best hope of a more peaceful tomorrow. With elections just over a month away, political support for the war has been wall-to-wall in the Knesset, with the exception of the Israeli Arab parties, who are vehemently opposed. There also has been a degree of reservation on the left wing at the extent of the devastation in Gaza, with calls on the government to start working immediately on an exit strategy to the end the fighting.
Indeed, after three days of fighting, Olmert, Barak and Livni, the three leaders running the war, were moving in two contrary directions, preparing both a ground invasion and an early exit strategy that would translate the IDF’s overwhelming military success into a stable political solution on the ground.

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Attack in Gaza signals escalation of conflict

Attack in Gaza signals escalation of conflict

Posted on 30 December 2008 by admin

By JTA Staff

(JTA) — Israel’s launching of a major operation in Gaza marked a new stage in its conflict with Hamas, the terrorist group in control of the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Operation Cast Lead was launched Saturday after several days of intense Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli towns following the expiration of an informal six-month truce between Israel and Hamas. Israeli war planes struck key Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas’ main security compound, military posts, a major prison in Gaza City, Hamas’ Interior Ministry, the Islamic University and smugglers’ tunnels linking Gaza and Egypt. As the attacks stretched into Monday, more than 300 people were reported killed, most of them Hamas forces, according to Palestinian sources.

Hamas responded by firing rocket salvos into southern Israel, with some rockets reaching as far north as Ashdod, nearly 20 miles from the Gaza border. By Monday, two Israelis were killed in rocket attacks: Beber Vaknin was killed in an apartment in the town of Netivot; an Israeli Bedouin worker named Hami al-Mahdi was killed while working at a construction site in Ashkelon, a coastal city of some 120,000 residents.
The escalation was a long time in coming.

Hamas’ resumption of rocket fire on southern Israel following expiration of the truce prompted calls in Israel for a major retaliatory strike. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the IDF had used the relative quiet of the last six months to prepare for such an eventuality, but he vowed not to be rushed into a decision or submit to political pressures in launching an operation. Barak is Labor’s candidate for prime minister in Israeli general elections scheduled for Feb. 10.

Israel’s Security Cabinet met last week and approved the operation, which began in broad daylight Saturday. The government also approved a major call-up of reserve forces and mobilized tanks and troops for a possible ground operation in the strip. In the meantime, Israel’s three leading political parties, Kadima, Likud and Labor, canceled campaign events.

The bombing campaign, which resulted in the largest single-day Palestinian death toll in decades in its first day, elicited condemnation from around the Arab world. Masses of demonstrators poured into the streets from Cairo to Dubai to London to Israel’s own Arab cities to protest the IDF airstrikes. The United Nations, Russia and the European Union condemned Israel’s use of force and called on Hamas to halt its rocket fire on Israel, while the Bush administration placed the onus on Hamas for provoking Israel’s response.
“The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza. The cease-fire should be restored immediately,” the U.S. State Department said.

In its first day, the operation struck more than 100 targets in Gaza, including rocket launchers, factories, and storage and training facilities. On Sunday, Palestinians fleeing the fighting breached Gaza’s border with Egypt as Israel bombed some 40 arms-smuggling tunnels along the border. Egyptian forces reportedly used live ammunition to prevent Palestinians from fleeing across the border. On Monday, Israel bombed additional targets in Gaza, and a senior Islamic Jihad commander was reported among the dead.

Civilians were among the casualties in the airstrikes, including several children. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency reported Sunday that at least 51 civilians had been killed, but the number could not be independently verified. On Sunday, Israel allowed humanitarian aid to reach Gaza from Israel even as the Israeli bombardment continued. The International Committee of the Red Cross on Sunday said that Gaza hospitals were overwhelmed by more than 950 people injured in the Israeli operation.

IDF officials said the operation could take several days, and a spokesman for the prime minister said it would last as long as necessary to achieve the goal of restoring quiet to the residents of southern Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the Israeli public flanked by Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

“The lives of our citizens are not forfeit,” Olmert said in a televised address Saturday night, calling on the Israeli public to unite around the IDF operation. “In recent days, it became clear that Hamas is bent on conflict. Whoever heard Hamas’ statements understood that they decided to increase attacks on the residents of Israel by firing rockets and mortars indiscriminately. In such a situation we had no alternative but to respond. We do not rejoice in battle but neither will we be deterred from it.”

As he spoke, residents in southern Israel were advised to remain in or near bomb shelters. The rockets launched from Gaza in the last few days have reached farther into Israel than ever before. In addition to the crude Kassam rockets, which have a range of some 10 miles, militants have fired longer-range Grad and Katyusha rockets, which are capable of hitting as far as the outskirts of Beersheva, Ashdod and Kiryat Gat.
On Monday, Barak described Israel’s assault on Gaza as “all-out war.”

“I would like to remind the world that Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip more than three years ago. We gave a chance for a new reality, and all we’ve seen is Hamas firing rockets and missiles on our citizens and carrying out attacks against Israel,” he said. “The goals of this operation are to stop Hamas from attacking our citizens and soldiers.”

In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Hamas to renew its cease-fire with Israel. “We spoke to them and told them ‘Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,’” Abbas said during a news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don’t want it to be destroyed.”

Abbas condemned Israel’s airstrikes, but he also called the continuing rocket attacks on Israel “acts of foolishness.”

A top P.A. negotiator, Ahmed Quriea, said negotiations with Israel would be suspended for the duration of the operation. P.A. officials in Ramallah said that Abbas’ Fatah Party was prepared to assume control of Gaza if Israel’s actions toppled the Hamas regime there. On Sunday, Fatah forces broke up pro-Hamas rallies in the West Bank.

Israel’s airstrikes also set off protests by Israeli Arabs. A demonstration against the IDF operation was held in the Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm and other villages in the Galilee. Some of the protests turned violent, with demonstrators hurling stones at Israeli police and police responding with tear gas.
In the West Bank, some Palestinians launched revenge attacks against Jews. A Palestinian in the Jewish town of Modiin Illit went on a stabbing rampage before being shot by a paramedic, an 8-month-old baby was injured when the car she was riding in near South Mt. Hebron was stoned, and in eastern Jerusalem an IDF border policeman was run over by a car driven by a Palestinian.
Israel’s Science, Culture and Sports Minister, Arab Israeli Ghaleb Majadele, boycotted Sunday’s Cabinet meeting to protest the IDF operation in Gaza.

The name of the operation, Cast Lead, is a Chanukah reference: The dreidel originally was manufactured by pouring molten lead into a mold. It has a double meaning, because that is how bullets are manufactured.

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JFGD, DJCF unscathed by Madoff scandal

Posted on 23 December 2008 by admin

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) and the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF) have no investments with any Madoff companies. The Dallas Jewish community’s central institutions were unaffected by the scandal because “the Foundation does not invest in hedge funds,” emphasized David Agronin, DJCF executive director and chief executive officer.

Federation CEO and President Gary Weinstein wrote in his weekly e-newsletter last week:

“I know everyone has been glued to the news reports regarding the Madoff Ponzi scam and the loss of some reported $50 billion. One of the tragedies here is that many of those in the organized Jewish community have lost millions. I want to assure all of you that none of the Federation’s investments are with any of the Madoff companies. We monitor and earnestly review our investment vehicles and can promise that we will continue to do our due diligence to the utmost degree.
 
Our own Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF) invests primarily through Barclays Global Investors. BGI has a track record of more than 30 years and is the world’s leading asset manager (June 2007). BGI’s investment strategies span a wide spectrum of risk/return exposures, ranging from broad-capitalization index funds to narrowly targeted active funds. They cover every major securities market in the world, with over 2,800 funds benchmarked across more than 250 indexes.  DJCF offers seven different asset allocation models, based solely or substantially upon BGI investment choices, none of which contains any investments in hedge funds or in any of the failed investments that have just made headlines in recent days. To read the United Jewish Communities briefing on the Madoff case, click here. To contact the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation directly, please click here.”

“Our hearts go out to all those investors whose trust was shattered and lives uprooted. Some of our national Jewish communal institutions were particularly hit hard and this will impact the thousands of Jews and non-Jews that depended on their programs and services. Additionally, as far as we can determine non of our own Dallas institutions were impacted,” Weinstein added.

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Around the Town with Rene

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 23 December 2008 by admin

TCU gets a permanent Hillel Conference Room
Hillel members at TCU now have a permanent conference room and meeting place on the second floor of the beautiful new Brown Lupton University Union building, thanks to the vision of Fort Worth attorney Morty Herman, who saw the need to create a stronger and more permanent Jewish presence on TCU’s campus, get Jewish students more involved and encourage more Jewish students to attend the university.
Morty, along with his wife, Dr. Barbara Brown Herman (TCU’s associate vice chancellor of student affairs), agreed to match any funds raised for a Hillel Conference Room. Within one week, the funds were raised due to the generosity of Shirley Anton; Arnold, Harriette and Iric Gachman; Howard and Joan Katz; Stan and Marcia Kurtz; I. Jack Miller, Jr.; Billy and Rosanne Rosenthal; and Roz Rosenthal.

Additional contributions have been made by Jerry and Ruth Berkowitz, Irwin and Lea Ann Blum, Jeff and Linda Hochster, Sharon Wisch-Ray and Rene Wisch.

TCU Hillel held its first meeting in the new Hillel Conference Room at the start of the fall semester, with the newly created Community Advisory Council comprising members of Fort Worth’s Jewish community.

A cocktail party is planned to officially unveil the Hillel Conference Room in the coming months. Anyone interested in participating as a sponsor, please contact Jerry Appel at: 817-727-8003 or e-mail jerrya8@aol.com.

For more information on how you can become involved with TCU Hillel and sponsorship opportunities, contact TCU Hillel Advisor Dr. Arnie Barkman at 817-257-7553; TCU Hillel, TCU Box 29850, Fort Worth, TX 76129.

Jewish Family Services Chanukah party a success
The Jewish Family Services Chanukah party was a huge success. The children from the Lil Goldman Jewish Community Preschool braved the frigid weather to walk over to Beth-El Congregation to sing and perform for the seniors. It was wonderful, they were adorable and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The seniors presented the children and their Morah Rachel Yaacobi with a beautiful framed puzzle of Noah’s Ark. The seniors had worked hard on the puzzle. Federation Director Mort House was also presented with a large framed Judaica puzzle to thank him for all his support. The JFS board helped with the Chanukah celebration and assisted him in playing “Chanukah Harry.” The seniors all received beautifully wrapped and beribboned gifts chosen for them (vacuum cleaners, teakettles, toaster ovens, printer ribbons, etc.) due to the generosity of the Fort Worth community’s fundraising efforts specifically for this purpose. The participants also received Kroger gift cards to offset rising food and medication costs. The party culminated with homemade latkes, applesauce, a healthy dairy lunch and heated games of dreidel. It was a great way to start the festivities. Happy Chanukah to all from the Jewish Family Services Senior Program!
‘Daytimers’ party features gifts to Food Bank

Generous guests at “Daytimers” filled four large cartons for the Tarrant County Food Bank at a Chanukah party Wednesday, Dec. 17. And the guests who forgot their canned and packaged items raised another $159 in cash for the Food Bank. The candlelighting and blessings were lead by Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger as each table’s shammes lit the candles for their own table.

The afternoon featured a musical program of Jewish and Chanukah music presented by Armen and Ariana Cherkasov. Many in the group clapped and sang along with tunes from “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Milk and Honey” and many Yiddish and Hebrew favorites. And the group thoroughly enjoyed the Israeli buffet catered by Riki Epstein. First-timers to “Daytimers,” who were introduced by emcee Edythe Cohen, included Jerry and Edrie Goldstein from Weatherford, Leon Brachman and Donald Cohen. Fran Mendelsohn brought her father, Charlie Gropper, who recently moved to this area.

January’s “Daytimers” program will feature Fiske Hanley, who is the historian for the 504th Bomb Group and lives in Fort Worth. He has written “History of the 504th Bomb Group” and “Accused American War Criminal.” He was a flight engineer on a B-29 flying mission over Japan’s Shimonoseki Straits in 1945. His plane was shot down, and he was only one of two survivors of his B-29. He considers his story of survival as a “special prisoner” while awaiting trial and execution as a modern miracle.
Lunch will be catered by Jason’s Deli. New luncheon cost is $9. Guests may attend the program only for $4. 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” now accepts 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.

Colleyville high schoolers travel to D.C., meet with members of Congress
Earlier this month, a group of Reform Jewish high school students from Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville joined more than 300 teenagers from across the country to participate in a unique occasion in Washington, D.C., where they had the opportunity to voice their opinions to their members of Congress.
The teens learned to look at social justice and public policy issues through Jewish eyes by participating in the Bernard and Audre Rapoport L’Taken Social Justice Seminar, an intensive four-day seminar sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). The RAC is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.
This unique opportunity enabled student to hear from experts both inside and outside the Jewish community as they thoroughly examined contemporary issues such as poverty, health care, the environment and Israel against a backdrop of Jewish texts and values in a variety of interactive formats.

The group also toured the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and participated in a unique candlelit Havdallah service on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial.

RAC Program Director Rabbi Michael Namath said of the L’Taken seminar, “This program allows students to discover the connection between Judaism and social justice. At the end of the four days, the participants understood the Jewish mandate to be a part of social and political change.”

The students spent the final day of the program on Capitol Hill participating in the advocacy process firsthand by meeting with members of Congress and their staff. This hands-on advocacy presented the students an extraordinary opportunity to put their four days of learning into action.

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