Archive | June, 2009

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 25 June 2009 by admin

Dear Rabbi,
We always were told that Jews don’t believe in an afterlife, but were recently taught that we believe there’s a place called the “world to come.” Does that mean there is an afterlife? Where is the world to come?
Taryn & Jamie

Dear Taryn and Jamie,
The belief in an afterlife is one of the core “13 principles of faith,” the 13 most basic Jewish beliefs. This is the foundation for the Jewish belief in eternal reward and retribution. It is predicated upon the eternity of the soul, which is a spark of G-dliness. The soul is matched up with a physical body with a particular mission to accomplish in this world, as part of Jewish and world history. By fulfilling that mission the soul reaches its own private tikkun.

The first place the soul enters after leaving this world is called “Gan Eden” or the Garden of Eden. This place, which is the “world of souls,” is also temporary, and is mainly a holding place of bliss and happiness until the final “olam haba,” or “next world.”

The next stage, the “next world” or “world to come,” refers to that period of time, subsequent to the Messianic period, when the souls of those who were righteous in this world will be reunited with their bodies, which will come back to life in a greatly elevated spiritual state. Unlike this world, where our souls are mostly covered up by our physical bodies, in the world to come the bodies will be almost transparent, with the intense illumination of our souls shining out. These new, spiritual bodies, which grow out of our decayed physical bodies, remain eternally connected to our souls, and share in the soul’s reward. The reason for this is as follows:

Our souls cannot fulfill their purposes and their tikkun without the partnership of our bodies. A soul cannot light Shabbat candles, give tzedakah or blow a shofar. A soul in a body can. Consequently, the ultimate reward can only be to the partnership of the body and soul, which would be in this world, albeit in a greatly heightened spiritual state. A comparison to this would be a plain gray caterpillar which spins a cocoon, its “grave,” and “dies” there, only to emerge from its “death” as a beautiful multicolored butterfly which can soar into the sky. Our dense, physical bodies will come out of their state of decay into immense, spiritual bodies that will soar above anything we can now imagine.

The bliss and ecstasy the body/soul will enjoy in the world to come is a direct outgrowth of the actions the person performed in this physical world. More deeply, the reward is actually the mitzvot themselves that the person fulfilled. Every mitzvah is filled with spiritual light (we just don’t have the spiritual eyes to see that light in our present state). The Kabbalists teach that when one performs the mitzvah he is enveloped by that spiritual light; it becomes deeply connected to the doer. When finished, that light brought out by the mitzvah is transferred to that person’s “bank account” in the spiritual world, and becomes another spiritual brick in that person’s own personal world to come. This is a world which that person is building himself through his own actions. Olam haba is not one generic place one either gets a ticket to get in or not; rather, it’s everyone’s own individual connection to G-d. That connection to G-d, that illumination; which is the greatest possible enjoyment, is that person’s olam haba. It is there that one experiences the overwhelming joy of fulfillment in the realization of his potential, the deepest pleasure of closeness to G-d, the source of all that is good.

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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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 25 June 2009 by admin

Dear Families,
Each summer we focus on values that we can DO! At the J camps, all the children and the families get involved. There is a little learning, a little thinking and then a lot of doing! Get involved with us this summer. The value for this week is hachnasat orchim, hospitality.

Learning
Hachnasat orchim is about extending hospitality to guests and it is an important standard for Jewish behavior. One of the favorite stories about this mitzvah is about Abraham taking care of the three visitors who came to his tent. He said he would give a little food and then made a major meal — and so set the standard for doing even more. The ancient rabbis were also very concerned about hospitality. It was an important mitzvah to welcome anyone who traveled or who was new or alone. The rabbis came up with specific guidelines for host and guest. Here are a few:

Rules for the host
Always be happy when you are sitting at your table and those who are hungry are enjoying your hospitality. — Derech Eretz Zuta 9

Do not embarrass your guests by staring at them. — Mishneh Torah

It is the obligation of the host to serve at the table. This shows his/her willingness to personally satisfy the guests. — Talmud, Kiddushin 32b

Rules for the guest
A good guest says, “How much trouble my host goes through for me.” — Talmud, Berachot 58a

A good guest complies with every request that the host makes of him. — Derech Eretz Rabbah 6

Guests should not overstay their welcome. — Talmud, Pesachim 49a

Good guests leave food on their plates to show that they have been served more than enough. — Talmud, Eruvin 53b

Thinking
Make up rules that you can use during playdates.

Have you ever invited a new family in your neighborhood or at camp for dinner?

How can you be welcoming to a new friend at school or at camp?

Do something ‘Jewish unplugged’
Go to a synagogue service Friday night or Saturday morning. Take the whole family. Try a different synagogue; take another family. Have Shabbat dinner or lunch with friends.

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

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 25 June 2009 by admin

What a weekend! I’d returned to the farthest south suburbs of Chicago (which border northwestern Indiana on their east and flow almost seamlessly into Illinois’ downstate farm country) for a three-day celebration of my old congregation’s 65th birthday.

The decision not to wait a decade for the more traditional Diamond Jubilee at 75 was a judicious one: There are still a few who were among the synagogue’s founders back in 1944 — and who will probably not be with us 10 years from now. These “pioneers” were all survivors who recreated in their new homeland the minhag of their old temple. To this day, a choir of member volunteers takes to the bimah every Yom Kippur afternoon to sing an elaborate eight-part a cappella version of the High Holy Day Kedusha — in German!

There isn’t a lot of Jewish life here in Chicagoland’s southernmost outpost; such vitality thrives much further north. But the spiritual leader of this little congregation numbering just under 200 families is the new president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Her formal installation was part of the weekend’s Shabbat morning service, and she used the “ceremonial yad” presented to her then as she read the day’s Torah portion.

The Haftorah was chanted by the rabbi emeritus; he turned the pre- and post-blessings over to the girl and boy who were the congregation’s most recent b’nai mitzvah. How fitting that this text included the great line: “And the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.” The same spirit of intergenerational recognition and involvement permeated the entire weekend whose theme was “Tapestry,” a tracing of the many threads that have gone into weaving the symbolic synagogue fabric of today.

Called for aliyahs were groups: all who ever served as presidents of temple, men’s club, sisterhood; all who ever taught a class of children or adults; all who ever sang in the choir; all who ever … well, you get the picture. Sometimes there were more folks standing on the bimah than sitting in the sanctuary’s newly upholstered chairs.

At the Friday night service, instead of a sermon, kids from the religious school came forward one by one to pose questions about congregational history, with ad-lib answers flowing spontaneously from their elders. Memories … stories … even a few friendly “arguments” about what was fact and what fiction … all enlivened the occasion, took the oldsters back for a revisit of the past, brought the youngsters up to speed and sparked conversations that extended the oneg Shabbat — which featured the home-baking of 15 congregants — to well past its usual wind-up time.

What happened at Saturday’s Kiddush luncheon was even more fun, if that could be possible. The sisterhood had asked its members to participate in a most unusual cook-off, and so a long table was filled with very large pans of varied, tasty treats for this congregational “Kugel-Off,” which supplemented the more usual salad buffet offerings. And a recipe booklet was provided for everyone to take home, too.

How could things get better? Ah, that’s the beauty of a small institution with big intentions. The Sunday evening dinner was held in a local country club. There were no speeches except for very brief thank-yous and acknowledgments from the rabbi and the president, the chair of the weekend. And instead of any formal program, there was precious time for everyone to wander about, greeting old friends and making new ones. There was also great background music and some dancing, because this little temple is spiritual home to six doctors who make Jewish music together as “The Klezmedics.”

But all activity hushed when Matt Lipman picked up his viola. The 17-year-old congregant and his parents live near Governors State, one of the newer schools in the Illinois university system; he attends Crete-Monee, a public high school little known outside its own geographic area. But Matt may well be the one who makes it famous. He’s already won a number of prestigious competitions — one of which awarded him the $10,000 to purchase the fine instrument he now plays; he’s performed on stage at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and was leaving the next morning for summer study with Itzhak Perlman.

Appearing in a bright red long-sleeved shirt and khakis instead of the more usual performer’s tux, he cheerfully announced, “I’ll play eight pieces. Maybe nine, if you clap a lot.” Then followed some Heifetz … some Fritz Kreisler … a Hungarian Rhapsody … and enough clapping for two encores.
What a wonderful way to end a truly wonderful weekend!

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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New directions for David Agronin

New directions for David Agronin

Posted on 25 June 2009 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn

“Eight years ago we were a loving and caring ‘mom and pop shop’ and David has turned us into a sophisticated and disciplined foundation,” Gary Weinstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, said of David Agronin, outgoing executive director of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation. “He streamlined and automated our system and spearheaded the growth of our assets from $50 million to almost $160 million. David has been more than an example in his professional manner but also in how he lives his life in a most ethical and value-based way. His model of how to live a Jewish life is respected by all.”

Agronin will soon take his expertise in planned giving and endowments, organizational management and fundraising into the Jewish and Greater Dallas communities. “For every thing there is a season,” Agronin said. “I hope to continue to assist the Foundation in its good works and know it will continue to grow and succeed.”

“By serving as bond guarantor to the Capital Campaign, the Foundation secured almost $19 million in tax-free bonds to fund construction and renovation projects for Jewish organizations in the Dallas area,” Weinstein said. “We owe a great debt, no pun intended, to David and the Foundation for all that has been brought to the community.”

The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF) was established in 1973 as the trust and endowment arm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the organized Jewish Community. DJCF is now an independent foundation, but closely partnered with the Federation and some 40 local Jewish organizations and congregations. Through the Foundation, donors perpetuate their philanthropy, provide continuity of giving from one generation to the next, memorialize loved ones and ensure the continued flow of income to organizations they support. This is an effort that secures millions of dollars annually for distribution locally and nationally.

Peggy Tobolowsky, past vice chairman and chairman of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, said of David, “We brought David to this position, as the trustees wanted the Foundation to grow as a change agent to help us reach into the community and increase our visibility. He has stewarded the implementation of the Foundation’s role and we see the benefits of his efforts throughout the community.”
The Foundation is the backbone of the Community Endowment Partners and the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation Scholarships, which recently awarded more than $78,600 to 39 students. Most recently introduced was the Create a Jewish Legacy (CJL) Bequest and Endowment Initiative. “CJL will have a tremendous beneficial impact across the Jewish community going forward,” said Agronin, who has long served the National Committee on Planned Giving and been on the board of the organization’s North Texas chapter. “I have devoted a great deal of effort toward this endeavor during the ‘quiet phase’ over the last several years.”

“On behalf of all of my [national] colleagues I know I can say that we believe David to be enormously committed and one who has had a long and distinguished career, achieving his goals and those of his board,” said Joseph Imberman, associate vice president of planned giving and endowments at United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization over the Jewish Federations of North America. “He is a fund of information, remembering details with an encyclopedic mind. David is able to make that knowledge work for his community as a remarkable proponent of building endowments. I know he will now take on other challenges, in his most competent and hard-working manner, and we know he will succeed.”

Ruthy Rosenberg, vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Foundation, added, “Not only did David increase our assets, but his visibility and commitment to be a part of everything in the community was 24/7. He attends every event and works late into the night, always, everywhere, and with a real enthusiasm and concern.”

“My goal when I came here was to give the Foundation a strong, solid community presence and financial footing and we’ve accomplished that,” Agronin said. “We’ve more than tripled our assets and brought our donor base from 365 component named funds to 855. Our Bequest and Endowment Honor Roll — those who’ve made a public commitment to include the Jewish community, through the Foundation, in their estate plans — has risen from 64 in early 2001 to 536 in 2009.

“We had a record year in 2006 with $39,752,000 in asset inflows and in 2007 with $19,600,000 in distributions and grants. These are all incredible numbers considering the ongoing turmoil in the last 20 months,” Agronin continued. “We’ve done this with our high-performing and very professional staff team which has, with every effort, carried out the mandate and mission of the Foundation for now and for long into its future.”

“David can be credited with moving the Foundation into the next century beautifully,” said Howard Schultz, past chairman of the board of trustees of the Foundation. “He came here aware of the importance of the Foundation’s possibilities and the significant transfer of wealth that was possible. He’s brought the Foundation to its current level, competitive with any program of its kind.”

“By increasing our donors and assets and exposure to the community, David has excelled in bringing the Foundation to a new level,” echoed Sandy Kaufman, past chairman of the board of trustees of the Foundation. “He’s had an extraordinary manner in which he’s worked with the lay leaders at organizations throughout Dallas and he’s excelled at imparting the significance of Jewish institutions to put their reserves in the hands of the Foundation.”

The mission of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation is to “improve our Jewish community and the world through the development and stewardship of philanthropic resources of our donors and community partners.” Indeed, in eight years of leadership, David Agronin has made that mission his legacy.

More about David Agronin
Born and raised in New York, David Agronin received a B.A. from Queens College, the City University of New York, and attended graduate school at Pace University Lubin Graduate School of Business. As he was active in Jewish life on campus, a first job at the United Jewish Appeal, Inc, as a campaign representative, seemed right. Agronin’s 18 years with the UJA, during which he also served as director of the Midwestern Region and national allocations director, set a course for a lifetime of living tzedakah, teaching others to do so and bringing Jewish communities together.

David’s parents, Ada and the late Howard Agronin, who made aliyah with his sister Shirley in 1976, raised their children with the soul of Zionists confirmed. “My parents grew up in the shadow of the Depression and they believed that the Jews of the world needed a homeland,” Agronin said. “The ideal, for them, was to be a part of that homeland, to be in the present, to be there. For me, I was contributing through my role at the UJA, the work I was doing in the Jewish community, and, for 34 years, I know what I’ve done has been a good way for me to be connected and supportive.” One who will always remain connected to Israel, Agronin has visited that “home” 58 times.

Agronin and his wife, Carol, whom he first met in the lobby of The President Hotel in Jerusalem — she on a high-school graduation trip and he a participant in the “Jewish Agency for Israel Institute for Leadership Development” — are the parents of Erez, Asriel and Dalit. “Erez just graduated from Northeastern University, Asriel from Yavneh Academy, and Dalit has finished her freshman year at Yavneh,” the proud father said. “Our kids are caring, involved, and they are interested in sharing in the world around them. This is a great time for each of them and for us as their parents.” Carol, who is the chief financial officer and associate executive director for the Aaron Family JCC, has also served on the board of Akiba Academy, from which both Asriel and Dalit graduated. The Agronins are members of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 25 June 2009 by admin

Senior Dance at the JCC
The JCC, in partnership with The Temple Emanu-El Couples Club, will host a Senior Dance Night on Monday, July 13 from 6 p.m. in the Zale Auditorium at the Aaron Family JCC. This event is open to the public. Cost is $5 per person and includes a free ballroom dance lesson, live music and light refreshments. Come celebrate summer and meet new friends at the JCC! For more information, please contact Anna or Heather at 214-239-7119 or visit the JCC Web site at www.jccdallas.org.

Raechel Banks goes to Washington
Dallas native Raechel Banks, daughter of Maloree and Bob Banks, is the kind of college student for whom spending a summer mowing lawns or working at a summer camp just isn’t enough. For Banks, a rising sophomore at Brandeis University, meaningful Jewish experiences coupled with a deep commitment to social action translates into a summer in the nation’s capital.

Banks is spending six weeks of her summer (from June 14 through July 26) participating in the Machon Kaplan program sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the public policy arm of the Reform Jewish movement. Machon Kaplan is a competitive summer study-internship program that exposes a selected group of college students to social justice issues from both the academic and practical viewpoints.
Through Machon Kaplan, Raechel is working as an intern at Global Action for Children, a nonpartisan coalition dedicated to advocating for orphans and vulnerable children in the developing world. She will take what she learns this summer back to Brandeis University to engage other students on her campus in hands-on social justice work.

Throughout the course of the program, Banks and her fellow Machon Kaplan participants live and breathe social justice, combining their interest in Judaism with their passion for improving the world. Participants intern at public policy organizations, where they experience firsthand how policy is made and contribute their own energy and commitment to social change. In addition to their internships, students take specially designed academic courses that teach the application of Jewish values to current social justice issues.
Raechel is also blogging throughout the course of Machon Kaplan at the RACblog.

Kevin Pailet cited by Dallas Business Journal
Mazel tov to Kevin Pailet, who was named one of the Dallas Business Journal’s “40 Under 40.” Kevin, 37, is a founding partner of Prescott Pailet Benefits LP. He and his firm manage benefits for more than 500 employers and handle personal insurance needs for more than 2,000 individuals The company has seen 55 percent revenue growth in the last three years. Away from his office, Kevin currently serves as vice chairman of the American Israel Political Action Committee regional chapter, vice chairman of AIPAC New Leadership Network (national) and as a member of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
In a recent interview, Kevin was asked: “What was your first job [as a teen or in college, etc.]?” He answered, “By the age of 10, I was working as a runner, transferring customer purchases from the sales departments to the cashier’s office, at my grandparents’ store, Sterling Jewelry. My first job outside of the family business was as Mickey Mouse during the grand opening of the Dallas Galleria in 1982.”

TDSD, Mesorah first GBL season is a hit!
Torah Day School of Dallas and Mesorah High School for Girls’ first season of basketball was a hit. The Girls’ Basketball League (GBL), complete with professional coaching from a veteran basketball player, Mrs. Becky Udman, and lots of spirit from its members, provided a chance for the girls to learn about and play basketball in a Jewish environment. Mrs. Udman, the GBL coach, played on a girls’ basketball team all throughout high school and continued on in Stern College (Yeshiva University). Before she became shomer Shabbat, Mrs. Udman sought to further her basketball playing in university. She did not forgo her interest in basketball upon becoming shomer Shabbat in the 1980s; to the contrary, she was always searching for opportunities to play her favorite sport in a competitive manner. She wanted her daughters, GBL team members who are currently in the seventh and eighth grades, to be able to experience what their four older brothers had. As Mrs. Udman said, “TDSD and Mesorah are relatively new schools. TDSD is in its sixth year; Mesorah, in its ninth. As the schools get more and more established we begin looking into different extracurricular activities so as to meet the ever-growing needs of the girls in our schools.” Thus began the formation of GBL.

GBL prefaced its opening season with a six-week evaluation, during which the girls learned the rules of the game and worked to perfect their strategies. After the workshop, four teams were formed and the season kicked off. The games, which were attended by women and girls of the Dallas community, were full of drama, as all 30 girls gave it their all. As Natalie Elfenbein, a sophomore at Mesorah and a GBL player who ended the season at 50 points, put it, “It was a great opportunity for us to exercise and have fun at the same time. Everyone is looking forward to next season!”

Latosha Wridgewood, a certified referee who played on a Plano basketball league, served as the referee and gave the girls pointers. Seeing her move adeptly about the court while dressed in uniform added to the excitement. The many helpful tips learned from Ms. Wridgewood and Mrs. Udman served the GBL players well in their later games.

GBL’s games were played in TDSD’s gym two times a week. The playoffs, which took place the last two weeks of the season, brought about an air of tension, as each team was bent on winning. These games were the culmination of the season’s hard work and effort. The championship game took place in the JCC on a Saturday night, with a turnout of over 60 women and girls. Due to its overwhelming success, together with the support of the JCC, the Girls’ Basketball League’s spring season continues through the end of this month.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 18 June 2009 by admin

From the desk of Jackie and Larry Shafron

The Shafron’s sent the following to the TJP this week:

“As we began planning our son’s bar mitzvah, and started making inquiries about hall rentals, table centerpieces, and tefillin, our thoughts were drawn towards Jews in Israel who must be completely overwhelmed by the enormity of such expenses.

“What about our brothers and sisters in Israel who simply cannot afford to buy tefillin for their sons, let alone pay for a suit or a simple party! Unfortunately, many bar mitzvahs in Israel go un-celebrated due to sheer lack of funds. There are children in Israel who live in such extreme poverty that any meager funds that the family has goes towards buying food and formula. This is a tremendous tragedy. And it happens more often than we think!

“The good news is that we can do something about it!

“Yad Eliezer is the single largest charity organization that exists to assist our fellow Jews in Israel to combat poverty and hunger. They understand, however, that to truly combat poverty one must get to the root cause.

Yad Eliezer is unique since it incorporates vocational training as well as social and psychological services into their program. Independence and self-sufficiency are their ultimate goals. Please look them up at www.yadeliezer.com to find out more about this amazing organization.

“The Yad Eliezer Bar Mitzvah Twinning Program is an opportunity for our boys in the United States to help their brothers in Israel purchase tefillin and celebrate their bar mitzvah. What a beautiful experience … our sons can perform a huge mitzvah by giving another Jewish boy the opportunity to pray with his own tefillin. Every utterance of prayer made with this ‘gifted’ tefillin is a merit to you and your family for a lifetime.

“How does this work? Many bar mitzvah boys embark on a mitzvah project. Your son could adopt a boy whose bar mitzvah will be held at the same time as his. Your son could run a bowl-a-thon, a walk-a-thon, or even a read-a-thon (teachers would love that one), or he can come up with any other creative idea to raise the dollars necessary to purchase a set of tefillin for his ‘adopted’ brother in Israel. Your son’s bar mitzvah day will take on increased significance and meaning knowing that a poor boy in Israel is having a bar mitzvah because of his help!

A set of tefillin is a gift that will truly last a lifetime.”

For more information, please contact Jackie Shafron at shafron@sbcglobal.net,
The first Annual Community Yad Eliezer Garage Sale will be held this Sunday, June 21, 9 a.m. to 2 pm.., at 6630 Shell Flower Lane, Dallas.

Beth and Gerry Hoch to be honored at Congregation Beth Torah on June 20
Beth and Gerry Hoch, who have been co-youth directors at Congregation Beth Torah for nine years, will be honored at a Shabbat luncheon on Saturday, June 20. The Youth Fund is also being renamed the “Beth and Gerry Hoch Youth Fund.”

During their tenure, the Hoch’s worked with Kadima (6-8th grade) and Rashi USY (9-12th grade). Under their guidance, Rashi USY has won many awards including: USY International Chapter of the Year and Southwest Regional Chapter of the Year four times.

Beth and Gerry are active Beth Torah members. They attend services regularly and are passionate about Conservative Judaism. Beth Hoch said she had a positive experience with USY when she was growing up and wants other teenagers to feel the same.

“USY is not just a youth group for Jewish kids, but functions within the ideals in the Conservative movement; we are really teaching teens how to live a Conservative Jewish life. We have loved having the opportunity to work with Jewish teens who are future leaders. To connect them Jewishly and give them a positive Jewish experience is wonderful for us,” she said.

Gerry Hoch added, “I truly believe that USY is the future of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). USY helps shape future Jewish leaders of tomorrow. I would have to say that my favorite thing about being the USY director at Beth Torah was meeting new people and making new friendships all over the Southwest.”

Beth and Gerry have worked hard to give USY at Beth Torah a positive image and hope the chapter continues to blossom. Although they are leaving their posts as co-youth directors, the Hoch’s, and young children Noah and Ari, still plan on being active with the Beth Torah community.

Rabbi Adam Raskin said “Inestimable- that’s my one word description of their contributions to the culture of Beth Torah. They have transformed, built, invigorated and inspired it. They are great ‘dug maot’ (role modes), because they live a traditional conservative life style and the way they live is infectious. They have spread that love to nine years worth of kids.”

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 18 June 2009 by admin

Cong. Ahavath Sholom elects new officers and board
Last Sunday, Congregation Ahavath Sholom convened its annual meeting in the Zale Auditorium of the synagogue. The first part of the meeting was chaired by Parliamentarian Al Faigin, D.O., in the absence of President Harry S. Kahn. Following the recognition of past presidents by Dr. Faigin, himself a past president, and recognition of the shul’s outstanding staff by Executive Director Garry Kahalnik, Rabbi Alberto “Baruch” Zeilicovich presented a d’var Torah and his report to the congregation. Treasurer Ebby Lavi gave a financial summary for the first six months of the fiscal year. Carol-Ann Schwartz presented the report of this years nominating committee. The slate was nominated and elected by acclamation. New officers of congregation Ahavath Sholom, elected for a one year term are: President, Stuart Isgur; 1st Vice-President, Marvin Beleck; 2nd Vice President, Dr. Murray Cohen; 3rd Vice-President, Rich Hollander; Treasurer, Ebby Lavi; Secretary, Dr. Nancy Faigin and Parliamentarian, Harry S. Kahn.

Directors elected to a three year term include: Andres Zapata, Jodi Berger, Elsie Blum, and Harry Labovitz
Nominations were taken from the floor to fill director’s vacancies created by the elections of Drs. Faigin and Cohen. Elected to complete Dr. Faigin’s last year is Nancy Sheinberg. Mrs. Sheinberg joins Steve Herman, Alex Nason and Yoseph Yaacobi who also have one more year as directors. Elected to complete Dr. Cohen’s last two years is Robert Dubinsky. He joins Walter Listig, Debby Rice, and Carol-Ann Schwartz who will also complete their last two terms as directors.

Rabbi Zeilicovich returned to install the new board. Newly elected president, Stuart Isgur recognized retiring board members, the work of several committee chairs and made brief closing remarks highlighting his hopes for a bright future for the congregation. Following adjournment, many of the attendees met at a local restaurant for dinner and conversation.

Mazal Tov to all of the newly elected officers and board members. May they go from strength to strength!

Beth El to welcome Thompson and Feghali
For a second year, beautiful music will be made at Temple Beth-El Congregation during Friday night services on June 26, when violinist Curt Thompson and Cliburn gold medalist Jose Feghali give us a sneak preview of this year’s Mimir Chamber Music Festival.

Now in its 12th year, the festival is held at TCU’s Pepsico Music Hall, July 9-17. Thompson is founder and executive director of the Mimir Chamber Music Festival, and serves as associate professor of Violin and director of Chamber Music studies at TCU. Feghali is Artist-in Residence at TCU and also serves as vice president and executive producer for the Anacapa Music Label.

‘Kids Who Care’ brings show to Daytimers
It was a packed house at Beth-El for “Daytimers” when founding Director Deborah Jung brought 50 members of the current “Kids Who Care” Resident Company who presented selections from their original musicals “Deep in the Heart” and “Let my Heart Sing.” Kids from across the Metroplex, ages 6-18, are part of this audition musical theatre company and perform 30 to 40 times each year across the Metroplex and across the country. The program was introduced by Sylvia Wexler, whose granddaughter Kim Garoon was a star of the company for several years.

Several members of the group brought their children and grandchildren for this exciting presentation.

Rosalie and Carl Cagan brought their daughter Shelly and their granddaughters, Laura Kai and Arianna. Frances Marks brought her grandson Jamon. Adelene Myers came with her daughter Jan Lambert, and great-granddaughter Raegan Huffman, and Shelly and Steven Sternblitz brought their twin granddaughters Hannah and Jessy.

Mona Kartan’s father, Barry Green, who has just moved to Franklin Park, arrived with several others including Milton Mintz’ guests, Barbara Dowdy, Pat Lacey, and Harold Rogers.

Kathryn Albright, General Manager of “Kids Who Care” talked about the nine Israeli teens who will be with the company this summer. She asked about home-housing for the leader of the group and for some of the teens.

Next event for the “Daytimers” will be annual movie party and ice cream social, featuring the Mel Brooks original “The Producers” starring Zero Motel and Gene Wilder. Cost is only $5 for the film, free popcorn and ice cream. 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 Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76109.

The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Congregation Beth-El with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 18 June 2009 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
During a recent trip to Israel I spent time with my yeshiva-educated cousins. I have a lot of respect for their devotion and dedication to their beliefs. On the other hand, as a Reform Jew, I was really bothered by the feeling I got from our discussions that only they, with their understanding of Torah, have the real truth. I firmly believe in the pursuit of truth, and feel that I am engaged in that pursuit. It seems haughty and self-serving for someone or a group to claim that they and they alone know the truth. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.
Stacey B.

Dear Stacey,

Since I was not present for your discussions with your cousins, I can’t speak for them and am not sure I would necessarily agree with everything they might have stated, despite our common yeshiva education.
I would, however, pose a few questions to you about your own pursuit of truth: What do you feel truth is?

Do you believe that there is an absolute truth?

Is not truth, by definition, something which is absolute?

Do you feel it is possible for there to be a number of truths, all simultaneously contradicting each other? If so, what exactly is the truth that you’re seeking?

Another issue: If you are seeking the truth, at what point will you know that you have found it? Do you believe that there is such a point? Or, by definition, it’s all about the pursuit of truth, but it can never really be found. Because if you will find it, then you will know the truth, and you, then, will be just like your cousins that feel they know the truth; and that is distasteful in your eyes. Is the pursuit of truth for the sake of finding it, or is the whole point the pursuit itself?

Furthermore, if truth is so elusive that it can never be found, what’s the point in pursuing it in the first place?

It is quite true that traditional Torah Judaism strongly believes that there is an absolute Truth which exists in the world. That Truth is the key which unlocks the riddle of our existence and purpose in this world. We also believe that that Truth is in the Torah, as it is called the “Torah of Truth” (Toras Emes). This is because G-d is the G-d of Truth (Hashem El-okim Emes), and the Torah is said to be His thoughts and the revelation of His purpose in the creation of the universe. It is quite relaxing and exhilarating to have clarity of purpose, not to have to keep on searching for purpose and meaning from anew.

At the same time, however, Torah Judaism is in constant pursuit of the Truth. This may seem contradictory; on one hand we claim to have the Truth, how could we simultaneously be seeking Truth?

The answer is, the Torah is so vast and profound, one needs to be totally immersed in it to understand the Truths therein. One could, theoretically, be devoutly observant and even quite knowledgeable, but still completely miss the point of what the Truth of Torah is revealing. This, says King Solomon, the wisest of men, that if one will search for the Truth within Torah like a hidden treasure, then they will understand the true message and connection to G-d through Torah.

A “hidden treasure” suggests that you know for sure that the treasure is there, just hidden, so you’ll do everything within your power to find it. To say we have found the ultimate meaning of Torah may be haughty, but we know where to look, and every step of the way brings us closer and in clearer focus of the

Truth, fulfilling the purpose that we’re here for, and solving the great riddle of life.

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

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 18 June 2009 by admin

Dear Families,

This summer at J camps our theme is “PLAY UNPLUGGED!” Take the challenge of going “unplugged” in different ways this summer. The most meaningful way is through being Jewish-unplugged — do mitzvot! Each week, learn a little and find ways that you can do for others.

The word “mitzvah” means commandment although the word is often used to mean any good deed. In Judaism, we believe that there are 613 commandments. Some mitzvot help us relate to one another (mitzvot bayn adam lechavayro) and some which guide us in our relationship with G-d (mitzvot bayn adam laMakom).

We are going to focus this summer on those mitzvot that help us relate to one another. One more thought before your family begins Summer Mitzvah Magic: The rabbis used the phrase “simcha shel mitzvah,” which means the joy you feel every time you do a mitzvah.

We have nine weeks of camp and nine mitzvot opportunities that you will read about each week in the TJP. Learn each week and try different ways to give. Find something that your family can do together and then make it a habit. Here are the values we will be focusing on this summer.

Mitzvah Magic Values
Week 1: Hachnasat Orchim — Hospitality
Week 2: Bal Tashchit — Don’t Destroy
Week 3: Kibud Av Va’eym — Honoring Parents
Week 4: Tzedakah — The Righteous Way to Give
Week 5: Nedarim — Keeping Commitments
Week 6: V’ahavta L’reyacha — Loving One’s Neighbor
Week 7: Tzaar Baalei Chayim — Being Kind to Animals
Week 8: Hiddur P’nai Zaken — Esteeming the Elderly
Week 9: Talmud Torah — The Study of Torah

Each week do something good for someone and you will do something good for yourself! Join the J Mitzvah Challenge — let us know what your family did and we will celebrate a summer of mitzvot! Much of the information for these nine weeks of mitzvot comes from the book “Doing Mitzvot — Mitzvah Projects for Bar/Bat Mitzvah” by Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs and Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky.

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

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 18 June 2009 by admin

I’ve just returned from my home town and my family’s “home” cemetery, where we gathered for the unveiling of yet another stone. Here my Aunt Rickie has joined all but one of her sisters and all but one of her brothers, the two who remain from their youthful family of 13 children (and where spaces nearby already await them).

In preparing our homegrown graveside service, we consulted the writings of Barbara and Bruce Kadden, well-known teachers of mitzvot. They advise some recitation from Psalms and a short eulogy “encapsulating the most salient characteristics of the deceased” before removing the cloth that covers the marker. After that, it’s “El Maleh Rachamim” and “Mourner’s Kaddish” (if there’s a minyan present, which we definitely had; Rickie was beloved by many).

I chose to read a paragraph sent by a California cousin whose health made coming east to be with us impossible, but near whom Rickie lived for many years before returning to the old home town. She made that move voluntarily almost six years ago, just in time for a massive party to celebrate her 85th birthday, after a couple of minor accidents convinced her that she could no longer drive safely on the Los Angeles freeways — and everyone knows there’s not much use living in L.A. if you can’t drive…

Rickie settled in easily, happy to be back near her last remaining siblings and close to other family, but she sorely missed her many old friends left behind on the west coast. Letters and phone calls kept them in touch, but she found the overwhelming physical distance depressing. She was never able to cultivate comparable new friendships, and most of the people she’d known when she left for California more than 50 years before were already long gone.

So Cousin Celia’s message was just perfect in its honesty: “I’m sorry Rickie was melancholy at the end of her life. The transition from one place to another is so difficult, especially as we get older; you do miss your old friends, and sometimes it’s hard to break into a new set. But I’ll always remember her as perky, cheerful, and open in conversation. She was a lovely lady. I enjoyed being with her when she lived nearby in L.A., and will remember her as you stand at her grave.”

Oh yes: she added, “And I’ll never forget her driving.” This “sentiment” was echoed by Ohio cousins who were at the unveiling. Rickie loved her adopted city and loved showing it off to relatives who came to visit her; these two still cringe when they remember being her captive passengers, closing their eyes, shaking, and — after their first outing — fighting over which one could sit in relative safety in the back seat. So we shared a few fond chuckles, too, especially at the family lunch we also shared after we left Rickie’s gravesite.

But before we exited the cemetery, we walked through it together, stopping by many other markers, emptying our pockets that had started out so heavy with stones. And we talked about what we’d learned from our advance reading of the Kaddens:

“The Jewish teaching that all are equal in death often serves as a guide to choosing an appropriate headstone,” they say, and for our family, this has been true — simple markers incised with appropriate information and little embellishment. And from the Kaddens, we also found out much about why it’s become customary to show that someone has visited a grave by leaving a small stone on top of the large one:

“This tradition may reflect the Biblical practice of marking a grave with a pile of stones. Or it may be the end result of another old practice: Writing notes to the deceased, and pushing them into crevices in the headstone, just as notes are pushed into Jerusalem’s Western Wall. When no crevice could be found, the note was put on top, and weighted down with a stone. In time, the paper disintegrated and blew away, leaving only the stone. So some people began to think that the leaving of a stone was itself the custom, and thus it did become the custom…”

Rickie died just shy of 90, and we’d walked this same place many times with her in the past. This time, we remembered, and rejoiced, that now she’s together — both below and above — with so many she most loved. And that she, and we still here, all survived her driving to reach this place of peace!

harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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