Archive | May, 2009


Dallas Doings

Posted on 28 May 2009 by admin

Sign language interpretation at Emanu-El, June 6 and July 4
Once a month, worship services at Temple Emanu-El include sign language interpretation for members of the deaf community. On the first Saturday of each month, at the 10:30 a.m. service in the Lefkowitz Chapel, a trained interpreter will join the congregation to help those who are hearing-impaired participate more fully in the Shabbat celebration. Please let your friends and family members who could use this service know about the schedule and encourage them to attend! For more information or details, contact Nita White at 214-706-0000. Temple Emanu-El is located at 8500 Hillcrest in Dallas. Sign language interpretation is made possible by a grant from the Rosenthal Fund.

BBYO J-Serve a success
On April 26, 10,000 Jewish teens around the world participated in J-Serve, an annual day of volunteerism and engagement for Jewish youth. Hundreds of Jewish communities in the United States, Canada and Israel registered to take part, and Dallas was no exception.

Sponsored by BBYO, and organized by Dallas Council President Edie Margolis, the event was a complete success. Margolis reached out to the community and gained over 80 participants who joined in volunteer opportunities. The teens had their choice of interacting with visitors and aiding in tours at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, participating in a food drive and sorting cans for Jewish Family Services, making activity books and games for the patients of Children’s Medical Center, playing bingo with the residents of Golden Acres, improving the playground of Vogel Alcove, painting and enhancing the barn at E-Quest or visiting the residents of the Veranda nursing home.

Liberty High School junior, Ari Butbul said, “I really enjoyed assisting a cause that I hold so highly. Helping out at the Jewish Family Service was not only fun, but incredibly rewarding as well.” This seemed to be the overall consensus of the day. Regardless of where they spent their time, the teens were genuinely excited to get involved with the community and have an opportunity to do some hands-on work. Natalie Itzhakov, a junior at Plano West Senior High School, greatly benefited from taking part in such an amazing day: “Just learning about an organization or writing a check is one thing, but actually getting proactive and giving time is another. I truly feel I made a difference, which is empowering enough on its own. I really want to make volunteering part of my regular routine now.”

By getting excited about volunteering, BBYO teens are embodying the real meaning behind J-Serve: instilling the value of tikkun olam at a time when it really matters, both in teens’ lives and the world, said Erica Arbetter, regional orechet (new chair).

Laurie Miller on radio show

Laurie Miller was on the “Coping with Caregiving” radio show on Saturday, May 16, discussing the benefits of in-home non-medical care.

The seven-year-old program, which features four guests, is broadcast live from 5 to 6 p.m. Central time.

Laurie’s interview was part of the 5 p.m. segment.

If you missed the live broadcast, you can listen on-demand to the online archive. The program host, Jacqueline Marcell, is an eldercare advocate, international speaker and author of the best-selling book “Elder Rage.”

Congratulations to Zach Albert
The coveted Joseph Reeves Hyde Award in Religious Studies was presented to Zachary F. Albert at the recent awards convocation at Rhodes College. Zachary is the son of Nancy and David Albert of Allen and grandson of Sylvia and Arthur Heller of Munster, Ind.. and Rachel Albert of Indianapolis, Ind.

The Joseph Reeves Hyde Award in Religious Studies allows an outstanding Rhodes student to pursue a summer research project related to the discipline of religious studies. Currently Albert is researching at the U.S. Holocaust Museum; he will be at the USC Shoah Archives later in the month. The rest of his summer will be spent doing a fellowship in “Facing History and Ourselves.” His research deals with how Judaism was preserved during the time of the Holocaust, and prayer as a form of resistance.

David Holiner awarded UT-Austin tennis scholarship
Congratulations to David Holiner, 18, on his signing for a tennis scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin. David has been ranked the No. 1 United States Tennis Association Player in Texas and No. 6 nationally in his class by At 6’4” and 185 lbs., he has the physical attributes to be quite a force on the tennis court.

Texas head men’s tennis coach, Michael Center, said, “David has proved himself at the national level and has all the makings to become a great player at Texas. He has a very aggressive style with a big game and a big serve. We’re very lucky to have David join us next season, and I expect him to be an impact player for us.”

David, the son of Dr. Joel and Wendy Holiner and grandson of Harlan and Ethel Holiner, has been chosen to represent the United States in the men’s open category of this summer’s International Maccabi games in Israel. He was the only player chosen that is currently not a professional or collegiate star.

David’s tennis career has taken him all over the world including competition in Europe, South America and Asia. He chose UT-Austin because of the excellent academics, the perennial top tennis teams and the opportunity for his family to watch his matches in Austin.

His sister, Camille, 16, is a sophomore at Greenhill School and is a member of her school’s state champion tennis team as well as a starter on the varsity volleyball team. David hopes to become a touring tennis professional after college and plans to major in business for an eventual career in commercial real estate.

Take 5 wraps up Showcase 2009 Temple Arts Series
On May 31, 3 p.m., in Tobian Auditorium, the rich vocal harmonies, stylish arrangements and captivating stage presence of Take Five, the talented and dynamic singing group from Austin, will have everyone tapping their toes and singing along, as they take the audience on a musical journey with the songs that have touched lives from young to old.

The program will include Broadway bravos from “Guys & Dolls” to “Phantom of the Opera”; swing-era classics from Cole Porter to the Gershwins; popular standards from the Beatles to James Taylor.

Ticket prices are $18 regular admission, $15 for seniors, $10 for students. To purchase tickets, go to or call 214-696-3273.

Irv Munn receives consecutive honors

Irving Munn, a Certified Financial Planner™, has been selected as one of America’s Top Financial Planners by Consumers Research Council of America, an independent research company based in Washington, D.C. This is the third consecutive year that Irv has received this honor. This award is based on experience, training, professional associations, and financial certifications.

Irv is the president of Munn & Morris Financial Advisors, Inc. and a registered representative of Raymond James Financial Services. He provides financial guidance, develops solutions and coordinates the financial affairs for a select group of families and small businesses. He is also the president of Irving Munn, P.C., a public accounting firm that works primarily with closely held businesses.

Munn & Morris Financial Advisors was recently selected for the 2008 Dallas Award in the Financial Planners category by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA). The USLBA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their community and business category.

These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community. Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2008 USLBA Award Program focused on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USLBA and data provided by third parties.

Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. is a national investment firm providing financial services to individuals, corporations and municipalities through more than 3,200 financial advisors in 2,000 offices throughout the United States.

Munn & Morris Financial Advisors and Irving Munn, P.C., located at 14180 Dallas Pkwy., Suite 530, Dallas 75254, are independent of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Securities are offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. For further information, contact Irv Munn at 972-692-0909 or

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 28 May 2009 by admin

Federation annual meeting, June 4
Gil Elan, director of the Southwest Region of the American Jewish Congress, will be on hand to speak when the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County holds its annual meeting on Thursday, June 4, 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Ahavath Sholom.

At the same meeting, the 2009–2010 board nominees will be presented. Heading the slate are Barry Schneider, president; Marilyn Englander and Patty Garsek, vice-presidents; Len Schweitzer, vice president/secretary; and Larry Brunell, treasurer.

The board of directors includes Kenneth Baum, Larry Brunell and Alan Luskey, second term; and newcomers to the board, Stephen Kaye, Melissa Morgan, Rich Morris and Jon Suder. Continuing board members are Karen Anisman, Robert Chicotsky, Tricia Haber, Linda Hoffman, Rick Klotz, Roz Micklin, Shayne Moses, David Nudleman and Jeff Rothschild.

The Nominating Committee included Chair Arnie Gachman, Marcia Kurtz, Dr. Harvey Micklin, Shirley Morris and Lon Werner.

All members of the community are invited to attend.

‘Daytimers’ visit Fossil Rim Ranch

“Daytimers” loaded into two 15 passenger vans driven by Mike Blanc and Barbara Rubin for a tour through Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas. The rental of the vans was provided by an anonymous donor to Jewish Family Service. Among those also enjoying the outing were Betty Baccus, Ellie Cooper, Roberta Corder, Phyllis Gordon, Jackie Loeb, Roz Micklin, Milton Mintz, Lillian Norman, Sarah Ravech, Irv Robinson, Esther Rosen, Barbara Rosenthal, Sherwin Rubin, Rosalie Schwartz, Fannette Sonkin, Steve and Rochelle Sternblitz, Bene Turner, Sharon Wenokur, and Sylvia and Al Wexler.

Next event for the “Daytimers” will be a presentation by the audition musical theater company, “Kids Who Care.” The group performs 30 to 40 times each year around the Metroplex and across the country. Lunch will be catered by Boopa’s Bagel Deli.

For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109.
The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Congregation Beth-El with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

Celebrating Israel!
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, an enthusiastic crowd gathered to celebrate Israel at Ahavath Sholom. Everyone seemed to enjoy the Israeli food buffet prepared by Shoshana Howard, Rachel Niv, Sima Meir, Ruthy Erez, Rachel Yaacobi and Graciela Zeilicovich. Once they’d had their fill of falafel and hummus, they worked it off with some Israeli dancing led by Linda Kahalnik. And then before anyone dropped, the program moved on to three stations: Eli Avraham, visiting professor at UNT, did a talk on Israel and the media; Diana Krompass led an arts and crafts activity; and Ilana Knust took the younger set outside for an archaeological dig. While mostly adults stayed to listen to Professor Avraham, both adults and children made beautiful hamsas for their homes with Diana Krompass. And the youngest kids had a blast playing in the sand looking for pottery shards (or just getting sand all over themselves!). While the group never made it back for more Israeli dancing, everyone was smiling as they left.

This thoroughly enjoyable program was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with financial support from the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation and Hartman, Leito and Bolt, LLP.

Tarrant Singles to meet for dinner and a movie
Don Silverstein tells the TJP that Linda Leary will host dinner and a movie at her Southwest Fort Worth home, 6905 Winchester Place, 7 p.m., Saturday, June 6. Interested singles are invited to join Linda and the Tarrant County Jewish Singles for pizza and soft drinks, followed by the movie “Time of Favor,” a winner of six Israeli Academy Awards. It should be an enjoyable evening, so stop by and check it out. Hope to see you there.

Press notes
Congratulations to Ethan Ginsburg, son of Cara and Mark Jones, an Arlington Heights High School graduate who will spend next year in Israel with the Young Judaea Year Course before he attends college. And to David Grabstald, son of Judy and Paul Weinstein, recipient of a Master’s in Instructional Technologies from San Francisco State University.

Former Fort Worth community leader Sandra Freed continues her good works in Austin, where she and Buddy now reside. Among her many community endeavors, Sandra serves on the Jewish Community Association of Austin as a member of their board of trustees.

Wendy Fisher, a longtime resident of Efraat, Israel, is visiting with her dad, Leon Brachman and sister, Debby Rice. Glimpsed at the Golden Circle Reception for Cliburn supporters were music lovers Don and Judy Cohen, Mary Frances Antweil and Gail Granek and Daytimers Director Barbra Rubin who finds time in her busy schedule to serve as an usher at the Cliburn. Mike Blanc and Eleanor and Charlie Levine are enjoying and sharing the visit of their children, Californians Steve and Phyllis Blanc.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 28 May 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Spring is only a state of mind in a year like this, with its erratic May weather teasing us. But soon enough, summer will come to stay, bringing hot sun, high temps and humidity, and dry dusty days. Then the Queen Anne’s lace will blow again, white across weedy fields, throwing off its heady musk. And when I see it, and smell it, I’ll remember…

I first got to know Queen Anne’s lace when I was a little girl at summer camp for the first time. My dad had come home one day in spring and asked me if I’d like to go there for two weeks in July. He was a doctor who volunteered to do the medical checkups our Jewish community center required for its campers; that was the first year I was old enough to be one of them.

I was not quite 9 years old then (I’d actually mark my birthday while I was at camp), and except for an occasional sleepover at a relative’s house, I had never been away from home for even one night by myself.

What did I know? So I said yes.

Among so many things I didn’t know about was homesickness. After the fuss and excitement of settling in at camp, a process that lasted something less than two days, a few of the little girls in my group started crying and wailing that they wanted to go home. Now homesickness is a highly contagious disease, and never even having heard of it before, I certainly hadn’t taken any preventative medicine. Sure enough, I caught the bug. I wanted to go home, too.

But I was different from my weeping bunkmates. As the firstborn in my family, ever the dependable “big sister,” I had always been schooled for strength. To cry, to give up and give in and go home, would have been weak. So I turned to comforting the others. It worked: I stayed at camp, and they stayed there with me. Even my counselor, who just a few years later would become a nationally-known leader in the field of Jewish social group work, never guessed that I was homesick … because to hide my inner turmoil, I took to doing some foolish and dangerous things, like climbing too-tall trees and hopping on one foot along precarious logs and ledges. When I fell from those perches — which was often — I had legitimate reason to let loose the burning flood that was always stinging right behind my eyelids.

At one edge of camp, just outside its limits where kids weren’t supposed to go alone, there was a weedy field full of Queen Anne’s lace. I would sneak off there at rest hour or during free time, and lie face-down among the musky blossoms. Their potent perfume stung my nostrils and caught in my throat, giving me yet another excuse to cry. That was my private summer place, bittersweet and necessary.

Two weeks passed. Like two years they seemed, but they passed. And at last I went home. Miracle of miracles: Everything was still there, just the same as when I’d left! I hadn’t lost a thing during those 14 days except my fear of being away.

For many summers after that I went back, first as a camper, later as a counselor. I loved that place where I learned to sing the songs and dance the dances of our brave pioneers in Palestine, and to know the joy of being one in a sea of white-clad Jews welcoming Shabbat together, our voices harmonizing on “Come O Sabbath Day” as we lit the weekly candles. And I loved that eternal lonely field, where I could always go to shed a few tears of rage or frustration or joy, all by myself among the Queen Anne’s lace.

I never returned after my 17th summer, such a long time ago. In the decades since, life has given me many new tears to shed, and many substitute fields in which to let them fall. But Queen Anne’s lace always takes me back to that first summer away from home, when I learned so very much.

Since then, as spring fades away each year and another summer approaches, I think back to camp, and in my heart I wish for all my nearest and dearest a private place full of Queen Anne’s lace, and a loving home always waiting, just as they left it — no matter where they’ve been or how long away — for their safe return.


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 28 May 2009 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Readers,
I feel fortunate to share with you my feelings during an emotion-packed visit to Israel. Israel is so much on our minds and in our hearts these days, with mounting pressure from the U.S. and abroad to make wide concessions and give up significant portions of our beloved homeland.
The purpose of this trip is to celebrate the wedding of my son Benny with his bride Ranit Gottsman. Peripherally, much has transpired before getting to the wedding.

We visited the Wall at night, as tens of thousands streamed to the Old City and Wall Plaza to joyously celebrate Yom Yerushalayim. It was the 42nd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, retaken from the Arabs in the Six-Day War of 1967. It took on special meaning in the midst of powerful attempts to re-divide our Holy City, making it the capital of an Arab state, G-d forbid.

That evening my family joined a festive “vort” engagement celebration of our longtime friend and student, Benji Cheirif, and his fiancée Leah Snyder. It was so exhilarating to join in dancing in an entire large circle made up of yeshiva students from Dallas!

As we prepare for the “oif-ruf” (calling up to the Torah) of our son, we all proclaim: There’s no place like Israel!

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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Shalom from the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 28 May 2009 by admin

Dear Families,
The cycle of the Jewish year always keeps us going — round and round! It is so wonderful to have special markers for so many days of the year, yet so often there are holidays that we do not know enough about. At the J, we always hear, “It must be some holiday if the J is closed.” Yes, SOME holiday is coming up and it is an important one. Shavuot is one of the “three biggies” — the shalosh reggalim. This holiday is one of the pilgrimage holidays (reggel = foot) when Jews used to go to the Temple to give sacrifices. We celebrate and remember our agricultural roots with these three holidays. However, today we celebrate Shavuot for the most important reason — it celebrates the moment at Mt. Sinai when we were given the Torah. Any time we can celebrate Torah is a wonderful opportunity for our children to be taught the importance of learning!

Unfortunately, Shavuot does not have much ritual to go along with it. It is a synagogue holiday with special prayers added and there is the tradition (with a few reasons, of course) of eating dairy food — blintzes have become a favorite for many. But there is one other ritual that is great for older kids especially: tikkun leyl Shavuot. It is an “all-nighter” at the synagogue to show our devotion to Torah and our appreciation for having received it. We stay awake all night, in small groups, studying Jewish texts and ideas. In the morning, when we pray, we begin in darkness and the sun rises as we say the words of “G-d who creates light.” It is a very magical moment to share with your children and with the community. The magic and mystery of Shavuot will belong to our children who experience a long night reading the stories of the Israelites standing at Mt. Sinai — it really feels like you are there! (Especially in Texas when we can get a little thunder and lightning!)

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

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‘Extreme Makeover: Temple Shalom Education Edition’

‘Extreme Makeover: Temple Shalom Education Edition’

Posted on 28 May 2009 by admin

Synagogue extends focus on lifelong learning through new curriculum, personnel

By Dave Sorter
Temple Shalom’s education department is undergoing nothing short of an extreme makeover.
From programming to personnel, Senior Rabbi Andrew Paley, temple staff, congregants and volunteers have spent the past 2-1/2 years engineering a process to streamline offerings and provide a continuum of educational offerings spanning brit to death.

“This is the bringing together of initiatives in what we consider lifelong learning,” Paley said. “We knew we offered programs for preschool and religious school, and adults, seniors and families. But they had a disconnect. We wanted to bring them all together in a meaningful sense. We now have a direction of what Jewish learning looks like at Temple Shalom.”

Among the highlights of the changes:

*A director of lifelong learning was hired in the person of Deborah Massarano. She begins at Temple Shalom on June 1 after serving 6-1/2 years as educator for the URJ’s Midwest and Southwest councils.

*The religious school this year adopted the Union for Reform Judaism’s Chai curriculum, which offers a cohesive structure from grade to grade and builds upon what was learned in previous years.

*The Hebrew school, at the same time, began using the URJ’s Mitkadem program, in which students advance at their own pace rather than grade-by-grade. “This allows them freedom and greater access to material when they’re ready,” Paley said.

*A new high school program for students in grades eight to 12 will begin this fall, bringing 11th- and 12th-graders into the school for the first time. “Next Dor: The Next Generation of Jewish Learners” will allow students to take classes in a variety of Jewish subjects and continue their formal Jewish education until they go to college. To lead the program, the synagogue last year promoted Barrett Harr, who had been youth director, to director of high school and youth programs.

*The synagogue’s foundation in 2007 established the Synaplex program, an occasional Shabbat weekend with multiple services and programs designed to attract the entire family. The next weekend is scheduled for the fall.

*Associate Rabbi Jeremy Schneider — just promoted from assistant rabbi — is leading a Jewish-Muslim dialogue with the Islamic Center of Carrollton under a curriculum jointly developed by the URJ and the Islamic Society of North America.

“I think it’s very important for educational programs to reflect the mission of the congregation, and to use that mission for all programs of the congregation and all of its members, whether it’s a 2-year-old in a ‘Mommy and Me’ or ‘Daddy and Me’ program or an 83-year-old having a bar mitzvah,” Massarano said.
Massarano’s position is a milestone in Paley’s goal of bringing all of the synagogue’s education programming under one roof. And Massarano has an intimate knowledge of the curriculum, having served as educator for the URJ’s Southwest and Midwest councils for the past six-plus years.

“I’ve been intimately involved with the training of teachers and installing of curriculum,” Massarano said.
Said Paley: “What we realized is that the educational component is such a meaningful and important component of who we are. In order to do that, we created the director of lifelong learning position to bring together all the stakeholders to create a coherent vision.

“The second goal is to be able to bring to the congregation the most exciting, most cutting-edge, most meaningful educational experiences. The way we were operating was satisfactory overall, but the students and the parents wanted more.”

One of Massarano’s initial priorities is to bring to life a lifelong learning council that will determine the educational direction for Temple Shalom over the next few years.

“They will be asked to create a five-year plan with goals for years one, three and five to solidify our educational vision,” she said. “I want to publicize it and put it at the forefront of work that we do.”
Youth education is the cornerstone of the initiative, and the collection of rabbis, board members and congregants spent a lot of time in discussion, focus groups and study before determining how to proceed.
They determined that the URJ Chai program was the answer for the traditional kindergarten to bar/bat mitzvah program.

“It really spirals from one grade to the next, so there is a coherent progression of learning going on,” Paley said. “Each year, it assumes knowledge from the previous year. It is rich in every aspect. It comes with lesson plans. We selected lead teachers to help other teachers, so we regrouped on the faculty level.”
Because the URJ developed the curriculum, Paley said, it can become a nationwide model that will have many Reform Jews “speaking the same language.”

Massarano said the Chai curriculum is one based on concepts in the broader fields of Torah, avodah (finding connections with God, community and self) and gemilut chasadim (undertaking acts to make the world a better, holier place).

“By that I mean the curriculum takes seven big ideas, one for each grade level. It delves into the concept very deeply across 27 lessons [per year],” she said. “Many curricula are a mile wide and an inch deep; this curriculum is a mile deep.”

The Mitkadem Hebrew program is a five-year curriculum in which students complete 23 levels at their own pace. Students finish four to six levels each year, depending on Hebrew school hours and their own effort.
Teachers, according to the URJ Web site, act as facilitators, keep track of progress and provide help when needed.

“The content of the program should seem familiar to other Hebrew programs; the approach is new,” according to URJ literature. In fact, Paley calls it “radically different.”

Perhaps the most sweeping alterations are the changes and additions to the high school program that will take effect this fall. High school juniors and seniors will be involved for the first time, joining sophomores in the new program. It will even feature graduation ceremonies.

Paley said this will be a credit-based system that will “offer a holistic high school experience, with meaningful classes and enriching Jewish opportunities.”

Harr, who will continue to supervise Temple Shalom’s youth groups, said the new program will feature electives in several subjects so students can take classes that meet their interests.

“We have a huge shift going on in programs,” she said. “We’re going from the traditional model to a much more mature model, much like a college environment. We’re offering a plethora of classes, such as the Ten Commandments, Jewish cooking, the Jewish view of death and dying. It’s an amazing wealth of classes.”

The change to a more individualized approach is keeping with the times, Harr said.

“This generation of students is so used to personalizing everything,” she said. “To ignore the fact that they’re used to customization is not realistic.”

A primary goal of the new high school curriculum is to turn the tables on the longtime problem of people dropping out of religious education — and often the Jewish community as a whole — after their bar/bat mitzvah or confirmation.

“The age bracket we are losing the most is teens. The retention rate across country after bar mitzvah is very low,” Massarano said. “I think it is a crucial component to engage our youth as adolescents and teenagers not only to rituals, but also to the community, so they will feel compelled to remain a part of community.”

Harr said she hopes that sense of community will be enhanced by the focus on electives: Students will be in class with people of similar interests, making it easier to create and maintain friendships based on Jewish connections.

And, because the enrollment in each course will span high school grade levels, students will be able to interact with older and younger teens, “more like the real world,” Harr said.

Meanwhile, the adults are not being left out of the reimagining of Temple Shalom’s educational offerings. Massarano said one adult-education goal is to create a series of “ongoing opportunities, in addition to one-time hits.”

One of her first tasks at Temple Shalom will be to bring together an adult education working group to determine what types of programs might be offered and which formats they are to be offered. And she has lots of ideas.

She mentions Synaplex “Shabbaton” opportunities, bringing in a scholar-in-residence and having Maggie Anton, author of “Rashi’s Daughter,” come in to speak.

One adult-education priority will be to continue and enhance the Jewish-Muslim dialogue, of which Temple Shalom is at the forefront in Texas and nationwide.

The congregation has been working with the Islamic Center of Carrollton for 18 months and, Paley said, “we are the only synagogue in Texas with an ongoing dialogue.” In fact, he added Shalom is one of just 11 synagogues to attempt such an outreach “and one of six that actually got it to work.”

A group of seven people from both the synagogue and the mosque meets every six weeks for discussion, and leaders of each entity have spoken at the other.

“We have invited them to speak, we offer classes at Synaplex,” Paley said.

The president of the mosque spoke at Temple Shalom during January’s National Day of Twinning, when about 50 congregations nationwide of various denominations paired with mosques for education and service opportunities.

“It was a very powerful thing; a very meaningful night,” Paley said.

Creating meaningful experiences is among the top reasons that Temple Shalom is reinventing its educational wheel. The hiring of Massarano and the beginning of the new high school program put the process near completion.

Or, as Massarano said: “I think Temple Shalom is sitting on the precipice, ready to fly.”

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 21 May 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

This coming weekend, my youngest granddaughter, Mollie, will graduate from college. Her oldest sister is already a teacher. Her other sister, the twin who’s one minute older, graduated earlier, and is now earning money for advanced study. Mollie took longer because of her two majors. She’s currently contemplating which area of biology calls to her most loudly.

And now, she’s graduating herself. That crying infant, that shy kindergartner, that no-longer-shy teenager, that long-time veterinarian’s assistant, that talented actress who has sung and danced on many stages, will soon walk across another kind of stage to mark another milestone on her life’s unrolling highway. They come and go so quickly, these major events, like the actual mile markers we whiz past on highways of concrete, barely noticing because our minds are on so many other things.

I don’t know what the speaker at Mollie’s college graduation will say. But here is what Bill Gates is rumored to have told a high school graduating class a while back: “Ten Rules from a Computer Geek,” probably less idealistic, certainly more practical, than anything my granddaughter is likely to hear at her gentle women’s college:

1. Life is not fair. Get used to it!

2. The world after school will not care about your self-esteem. It expects you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

3. You will NOT make a six-figure income right out of school. You will not be a vice-president until you earn the position — and the money that comes with it.

4. If you thought your teachers were tough, just wait until you get a boss!

5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had another word for such a job: “opportunity.”

6. If you mess up now, it’s not your parents’ fault. Learn from your own mistakes instead of whining about them.

7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they seem to you now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk abut how cool you thought you were. So before you start saving the world’s rain forests from the mistakes of that older generation, take a few minutes to straighten up your own closet.

8. Maybe your school has done away with winners and losers, abolished failing grades and given you unlimited time to come up with the right test answers. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life!

9. Television isn’t real life, either. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to work.

10. Finally: Life isn’t divided into semesters, you don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you “find yourself,” which you’re supposed to do on your own time.

Well, kids can still be productively creative, as this incident from a recent graduation in Maryland attests.

They know how to organize, and to make a point — the one here being that even when it’s no longer “politically correct” to invite God in advance to such a milestone event, there’s always a way to open the door for His admission during it. Case in point, as related by a proud, earlier graduate of the same school:
“They walked in tandem, 92 of them, filing into the already crowded auditorium. With their rich maroon gowns and their traditional caps, they looked almost as grown-up as they felt. Dads swallowed hard behind their broad smiles; Moms unashamedly brushed away tears.

“This class would not pray during commencement. Not by choice, but because of a recent ruling prohibiting such activity. The principal and several student speakers were careful to stay well within bounds as they gave out challenges and inspirational advice that avoided all mention of, or desire for, divine guidance. No one asked God to bless these graduates. All the speeches were ‘nice,’ as such speeches always are. But they were routine. Only the final one, not really a speech at all, was truly memorable.

“It happened at the very end of the ceremony, when the class president walked to the microphone. He stood completely still for a moment and then, suddenly, every one of his fellow graduates sneezed, in unison. The student on stage looked out at them and said ‘God bless you!’ Appreciative applause exploded.”

God may be out of fashion at today’s graduations, but I do hope something tickles Mollie’s nose and the noses of all her classmates, in unison, as they gather together one last time this coming weekend.


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 21 May 2009 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I appreciate your last two answers to me about Israel, and promise I won’t bug you about this again. I was just fascinated by what you said, that there is a stone on the Temple Mount at the place of the altar that was the beginning of God’s creation of the universe, and wanted to know if you could expand on that thought. All that I know is helping me defend Israel on my campus. Thanks,
Leigh A.

Dear Leigh,
Promise not accepted; you’re not bugging me at all, please keep asking! Especially now that significant parts of Israel and, Heaven forfend, perhaps even parts of Jerusalem are on the chopping block, we need to cement our spiritual connection to these places.

The stone I was referring to is a profound Jewish concept, and is referred to in Hebrew as the “even she’seeah,” or “foundation stone.” One of the leading Kabbalists was R’ Moshe ben Nachman, known as Ramban (Nachmanides, 13th-century Spain and Israel). In the preface to his classical commentary to the Torah, he writes at great length about this stone. This stone, at the Temple Mount, is said to hold within it all the world’s powers. For example, says Ramban, different fruits and vegetables thrive in specific parts of the world. Fruits which are indigenous to central Africa won’t necessarily grow well in Japan, and vice-versa.

An artery extends from this stone to Africa, Australia and every part of the world, giving each its power to sustain its particular flora and fauna. King Solomon, to whom the Torah refers as the wisest of all men, with his vast wisdom perceived and recognized those arteries. He was then able to plant the trees and plants which were particular to different parts of the world in Jerusalem, right above their specific artery of power, and these plants thrived right in the middle of Jerusalem as if they were grown in their natural habitat.
It was at the very same spot, as we mentioned previously, that the dust was taken by G-d to create the first man. Rashi gives one explanation: that since the dust of this place is the center of all the dust of the earth, wherever in the world men will die, they will be able to be “returned” to that dust. The converse of that is the custom at Jewish funerals to add a little dirt from Jerusalem into the casket, making the burial as if the deceased is returning back to his ultimate source.

This “even she’seeah” reflects a deeper understanding of Jerusalem and its pinnacle, the Temple Mount. The Midrash and Kabbalah explain that both man and the Temple were created as a microcosm of the entire universe. Every part of the Temple coincides with an organ or limb of man, and represents that concept in the universe. The central focus and holiest place of the Temple was the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber which housed the Ark and the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments. Only the Kohen Gadol, high priest, entered that place once a year, on Yom Kippur. That place corresponds to the human heart. From there, the Jewish hearts were connected to the Al-mighty.

The heart is the organ which pumps the blood to the most distant extremities of the body, bringing oxygen and nourishment to its capillaries and cells, bringing the gift of life. The Holy of Holies was the Jewish heart beating in Jerusalem, giving power to that stone to extend its arteries to the entire world, bringing spiritual energy to the far-flung places of the world, the source of bounty and goodness.

May we merit the ingathering of all our exiles to that place, with peace and joy, once and for all!

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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Shalom from the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 21 May 2009 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,
Life is filled with cycles and the many markers that designate a particular time or happening. Judaism has so many wonderful ways to celebrate and remember the important moments in time. We have our daily cycle of prayers and blessings, Shabbat each week, the holidays throughout the year and the lifecycle events. Although each individual and each family may have differences in traditions and celebrations, Judaism reminds us that we also celebrate and remember as a community.

Joel Lurie Grishaver, a wonderful Jewish educator, tells us to think of the Shehechiyanu blessing as a “Kodak Moment.” At the time we want to freeze the experience in a picture that we can take with us, we say this blessing that thanks G-d for bringing us to this special moment in time. Some people think the Shehechiyanu blessing should be said only at very specific and special times, but what is more special than when your child takes a first step or when your college graduate gets a job or so many other moments that we are thankful for? Repeat this blessing often, because it reminds us how fortunate we are to experience life.

This is the time of year when school ends, graduations occur at all levels, children move on to new experiences. Often these moments feel like “endings,” yet they are also “beginnings.” As parents, we experience the joy and sadness in letting go. Once again, let us make this a Jewish moment. A wonderful book that helps us build rituals for our daily lives is “The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: CLAL’s Guide to Everyday & Holiday Rituals & Blessings” published by Jewish Lights. At those moments when we must let go, this blessing might help: “Baruch she-­petarani mei’onsho shel zeh. Blessed are You who prepares me to release my child at the right times.” Letting go takes courage but it is a great gift — thank G-d for both the courage and the gift!

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

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Encountering God in the desert

Posted on 21 May 2009 by admin

Parashat Bamidbar
By Rav Hanan Schlesinger

The desert. A place of emptiness, of desolation. That is the name of the book of the Torah that we begin reading this Shabbat. In English we call it the Book of Numbers, but in Hebrew it is the Book of Bamidbar — “in the desert.”

The Torah was given in a deserted wilderness. Just about all of God’s formative commands to the emerging Israelite nation were promulgated in the desert; many of them appear in this fourth book of the Torah whose name connotes barren nothingness.

What’s the significance of meeting God in the desert? Near the beginning of the Book of Deuteronomy we find a pointed contrast between life in the desert and life in the land of Israel. While the Israelites trekked through the desert, everything was handed to them on a silver platter and all their needs were taken care of without any effort on their part: Miraculously, their clothes never wore out and their shoes never needed replacing. The manna fell from heaven; water burst forth for them from a rock. The people were no more than passive recipients. Subsequently, however, when they enter the land of Israel they will have to toil and work to satisfy their needs.

To encounter God in the desert may be indicative of the passivity that is necessary to sense the presence, and to hear the message, of the Ultimate Other, He who cannot be fathomed. As the Talmud says, to grasp Torah one must make himself ownerless like the desert. One must nullify himself, abandon himself as it were, and simply allow whatever happens to happen — just let the Divine light flow in.

One must put aside critical thinking … but not forever. The desert experience was but a blip on the radar screen of Jewish history. After the desert comes the entrance into the land of Israel. There passivity gives way to activity: Fields must be plowed and sowed, tended and harvested. And from the raw produce bread must be baked, food must be prepared. Sheep must be pastured and wool sheared, combed, spun, until clothing can be fashioned.

The message of God that was handed us in the desert must later be critically processed; it must be run through the minds that God bestowed upon us. It must be digested, understood, weighed and finally applied to our present circumstances.

What this all means is that there are two modes of living. The critical discerning mode is second nature to most of us. All new information and unfamiliar experiences are run through the spell-check of our intellects, and that which does not conform to the rules is rejected. But perhaps we need, as well, a “desert” mode of dealing with life. If everything is to be immediately filtered through our critical faculties, we will never truly encounter anything but the expected and the normal. We will always stay within our own skin and will have forfeited too many growth opportunities.

Critical thinking is crucial … but not at all times and not as an initial knee-jerk reaction. Be open to the new and the unknown, the impossible and the foreign. Allow otherness to break through the shell. Suspend disbelief and try something else out for size. Afterward you can see how it fits, and put it aside if it doesn’t. But let’s not deny ourselves those oh-so-important revelations — Divine and otherwise — that may perhaps be experienced only in the desert. The Book of Numbers — and the Book of Life — is full of them.

Rav Hanan Schlesinger is director of community education and community rabbinic scholar of the Community Kollel of Dallas, located on the Schultz-Rosenberg Campus. He can be reached at 214-789-7241.

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