Archive | September, 2009

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 24 September 2009 by admin

Brad Sham kicks off new year for Beth Torah’s Men’s Club

Thanks to Howard Fields, who shared the following with the TJP: “Over 70 people, including women and young school-aged children, came to Beth Torah on Sunday, Sept. 6, to hear Brad Sham, the voice of the Dallas Cowboys, who was the guest speaker at Congregation Beth Torah’s Men’s Club. His motivational talk was inspiring.

“It was only a few short months previously that he had come to Beth Torah to speak at the service celebrating the life of his father, Jack Sham. In response to a question on how much influence his father had on his life, he replied, ‘The words my brother and I spoke that evening about integrity and dignity were taught to us by him. In the most fundamental way, he set our compasses. He taught me the concept of never giving up. In 1975 when I lost my job in Denver, he told me to follow my dream and don’t quit.’

“Chick Sham, Brad’s mother, and some of her friends also came to hear him speak. She said, ‘It is very meaningful to me to have my son speak here today and for him to get to know my “Beth Torah family” better.’

“How did Brad become the ‘voice of the Cowboys’? He said, ‘It was a bit of good fortune, hard work and one thing just led to another. I was a multi-sports commentator for KRLD radio in the early part of my career. One hat I wore was as the Cowboys’ color commentator on road games. In 1984, Vern Lindquist, the Cowboys’ broadcaster, went to work for CBS and I was chosen to fill his position. I’m now in my 31st year broadcasting Cowboys games.’

“During his talk, he said that ‘it was meaningful for [him] to be back at Beth Torah for its connection to [his] father.’ He feels that his great passion for broadcasting is a gift from God. In addressing the young people in the audience, he told them to work hard and finish school. He said: ‘If you are interested in broadcasting take a job at a radio station. Most importantly, your goal should not be making a lot of money. If that is your only goal, you may not be happy. If you do something you love and chase your dream, the money will come. There are many things in life you cannot control — like the weather, your boss, your parents — but you CAN control your attitude. No one is in charge of you but YOU. The other thing you can control is how hard you are willing to work for something.’

“Brad emphasized, ‘If there is one thing I am grateful for, it is that in later life I found a spiritual path. When I come into a house of worship, I understand who I am. When I come to Beth Torah or any shul, I feel at home.’”

Chabad of Plano/Collin County plans fiery Sukkot celebration

Chabad of Plano/Collin County will celebrate Sukkot with a blaze of glory! Entertainers will provide a spectacular fire show during Chabad’s Family Sukkot Celebration from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 5, at the Lang Chabad Center’s sukkah at 3904 West Park Blvd. in Plano.

Of course, the traditions of Sukkot will be the centerpiece of the family celebration, which is open to the public. The children will decorate a drum to be used for an interactive story and dancing. A blessing on the Sukkot symbols of the lulav and etrog will take place, and live music and dinner will complete the evening.

But everybody’s eyes will be on the spectacular fire show, to take place outside the sukkah. It will amaze and astound every member of the family. People will talk about it for days afterward.

The fire show reflects a Sukkot tradition that took place at the simchat beit hashoevah (the festival of drawing well water) in old Jerusalem. The water was drawn and then poured on the altar. To celebrate this occasion, huge candlesticks were filled with oil by young Kohanim. The candlesticks were lit by wicks made of worn-out garments of the priests. Every courtyard in Jerusalem reflected that light. Men of piety and good deeds used to dance before the crowds with burning torches in their hands, singing songs and praises. The joy of the water drawing was so intense that our sages say “One who has not witnessed the celebration of the water drawing has never seen real joy.” This year, a form of that ritual will take place at Chabad’s festive celebration.

Cost, including dinner, is $5 per person. Children ages 3 and younger will be admitted free. For more information about this event, call 972-596-8270 or visit www.chabadplano.org. Chabad’s Family Sukkot Celebration is sponsored by Dr. Paul Rubin and Frisco Kids Dentistry.

Emanu-El’s Couples Club to party, enjoy dinner and music

Temple Emanu-El Couples Club is planning an exciting evening event on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m. Dinner and entertainment will be at the May Dragon Restaurant in Addison.

Sarah Yarrin, chairman of this event, says the highlight of the evening will be a musical performance by hit recording artist Richard Barry, a comedian, singer and impressionist who has performed on cruise ships and at other venues for many years. Barry sings the songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and others.

Cost for this fun evening is $14 per person for Couples Club members. For more information, call Sarah Yarrin at 214-361-0486. Reservations are required.

The Temple Emanu-El Couples Club is a social club open to all members of the Temple. One of the couple must be 55 years of age or older. If interested in joining, call Membership Chairmen Nelda and Stan Golden 214-987-3304, or Blanche and Sol Weinberger 972-934-9681.

The JCC and the Temple Emanu-El Couples Club are co-sponsoring Wednesday Dance Nights at the J. Contact the J for the dates of upcoming dances open to the entire community. It is not necessary to be a member of the J or the Couples Club to attend.

Levine Academy to hold series of campus previews

The Ann and Nate Levine Academy will hold a series of Campus Previews for parents interested in enrolling their children for the 2010–2011 school year. The previews will provide parents with the opportunity to meet the administration and teachers and learn about Levine’s state-of-the-art curriculum.

Kindergarten: Tuesday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 16, 10 a.m.

First Grade: Tuesday, Oct.20, 7 p.m.

Grades 5–8: Tuesday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m.

Campus Previews will be held at the Levine Academy, 18011 Hillcrest.

For further information or to RSVP, please call Director of Admissions Anna Popp at 972-248-3032, ext. 138, or e-mail her at apopp@levineacademy.org.

Book talk Oct. 8 with Levine Academy K-8 Principal Dr. Susie Wolbe

In preparation for Dr. Susie Wolbe’s discussion of “7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It” she urges parents of children from preschool age to grade eight to read it before the Oct. 8, 9 a.m. meeting at Levine Academy, 18011 Hillcrest Road. The book, by Susan Zimmerman and Chryse Hutchins, provides shortcut, easy-to-follow tips that will help parents aid their children to become excellent readers; suggestions are provided for preschool, emerging and advancing readers. This is a must-have for every parent. Please RSVP to Shirley Green-King at 972-248-3032, ext. 118. The entire community is welcome.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 24 September 2009 by admin

JFS Senior Program receives award for excellent service

Congratulations to Jewish Family Services Senior Program for receiving the Tarrant Area Food Bank’s Excellence in Client Services Award.

The award was presented at a luncheon on Friday, Sept. 18. In her presentation of the award, Lori Pope, director of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, said, “Jewish Family Services got our attention because of the services they provide to clients and for their excellent needs assessment. Jewish Family Services takes people from all over, including seniors who have moved here because of their children, and gives them a place to go … it’s more than a meal, it’s a place to socialize and meet friends.” Ms. Pope went on to say that “what also impressed us was the average age of the participants in the program … it is 78 years old.” You could hear the buzz in the room when she said this.

Hedy Collins, Senior Program director, accepted the award on behalf of the participants, the JFS staff and committee members. The program received a beautiful trophy as well as a $5,000 check. JFS is working with the executive board of the Jewish Federation (which is responsible for much of JFS’s funding) to determine the best way to utilize the money for the Senior Program.

Dr. Carole Rogers, director of Jewish Family Services, said, “This truly is an honor to be recognized by an agency that works with so many organizations in the community, to know our work, particularly what we do with seniors, is appreciated and respected.

“We are all so proud of Hedy. While she started with a program that had a strong foundation, she has added so much. She loves this Jewish community and all the people in her program … it shows in her kindness, caring and creativity. She is open and non-judgmental so everyone feels welcome. She does not hesitate to go the extra mile. And what is even more special is that her staff, Miau Ling Tjahadi and Joyce Dooley, as well as her many volunteers, are the same way.”

Three other organizations also received awards from the Tarrant Area Food Bank: Community Linkage (Excellence in Community Resource Development), Methodist Mission (Excellence in Collaboration) and New Haven Ministries (Excellence in Creating Hunger Free Zones). This is only the second year the Tarrant Area Food Bank has given out awards. Executive Director Bo Soderbergh said he felt it was important to recognize the work of all the organizations that utilize the Food Bank. He stated that thanks to the mutual collaboration, the Tarrant Area Food Bank gave out 17.5 million lbs. of food this past year, which represents a 25 percent increase from the previous year.

‘Deep in the Heart’ performance set for Oct. 25

“Kids Who Care” will perform “Deep in the Heart” featuring a vignette by Hollace Weiner and Riki Zide and community player, Ben Feld, on Sunday, Oct. 25. The free community performance will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. Mona Karten tells the TJP, “Grab some lunch and join us for a lively performance followed by dessert. You’ll be done by 2:30 p.m. if you want to catch the Cowboys game!”

Don’t forget to bring canned goods for the Tarrant Area Food Bank.

The event is 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.

‘Daytimers’ taken behind the scenes at the Cliburn

During the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Star-Telegram Senior Arts Editor Andrew Marton interviewed host families, contestants’ families, piano tuners, page turners and all the behind-the-scenes people that made up this exciting event. Last week he shared those stories with the “Daytimers” at Beth-El Synagogue. He was peppered with questions from the group. “How much did Nobuyuki Tsujii’s blindness affect the judges’ decision?” “Who did you pick as the winner?” “Did the ages of the contestants affect the choice of winners?”

He described in detail many of the relationships of the host families to “their” contestants, and about the fabulous dinners prepared by the Italian entrants. He described the behind-the-scenes people such as the piano movers in white gloves, the page turners and the Steinway piano tuner that was brought in from New York. Bill Margolis served as MC for the day. Marton was introduced by Edythe Cohen. Other volunteers for the day included Rosalie Schwartz and Fannette Sonkin at the door, and Al and Sylvia Wexler at the buffet table.

Next event for the “Daytimers” will be a trip to the Kimbell Art Museum to view the exhibit “Butchers, Dragons, Gods and Skeletons: Film Installations by Philip Haas, from Works in the Collection.” The Kimbell requires reservations for lunch and/or for the tour. There is no charge; guests will purchase their own lunches at the buffet.

For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or e-mail barbara@rubin.net.

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

See clearly, help support CAS

Alex and Sophia Nason are still offering the same deal to people they did a few weeks ago at Ahavath Sholom’s fundraiser. If people purchase glasses from them, they will donate part of the proceeds to the Congregation Ahavath Sholom. You just need to go to their Pearle Vision store, which is located at 309 South Oakland Ave. They even have a doctor who can set an appointment with so you have a proper prescription. If you have questions or want to make an appointment in advance, please call Alex or Sophia at the store. The number is 817-534-4700.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 24 September 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Are you familiar with Franciscan — the California company known for its pottery? Well, what better time to talk dinnerware than during the holidays, when we’re all setting the most festive tables we can?

Back in 1955, I was a bride-to-be selecting the time’s requisite china and everyday dishes. For the former, I picked a beautiful, flower-centered traditional pattern made by Syracuse, which has long since stopped manufacturing delicate settings for individual households, now producing only heavy-duty restaurant “china.”

But for the other, I chose Franciscan’s 1954 introduction, Starburst. Although I was a pretty staid person then, I somehow went mad for its modernity. The plates had a look that was totally new, and no wonder: A collector’s guide tells me that its “design goal was to have a shape that was neither round nor square … achieved through a clever combination of parabolic lines and optical illusions.”

But somehow I got tired of it, eventually handing off the entire service for eight to my next-door neighbor, then as smitten as I had once been. I also threw in a matching set of amber glass tumblers and goblets etched with the Starburst design. I don’t know where my mind was when I had them made. (I don’t know where it was when I gave everything away, either.)

My mother was in love with Franciscan’s Desert Rose pattern, mostly because her name was Rose. She talked for years about buying a set but never did, because it was an expensive purchase — the kind that people give to brides for wedding gifts. She bought something else instead, and never used it much. I wish I had taken the money I spent on that glassware and bought her a service for eight in Desert Rose, but obviously I wasn’t thinking that clearly at that stage of my life.

Ever since then, when I serially loved and detested what’s now called “mid-century modern” in equal measure, I’ve been buying back the things I gave away. And I’d enjoy having Starburst on my table again, rather than the many inferior sets of pottery that have come and gone in my house over these many years. (Sometimes I still wonder whether my old neighbor is yet alive somewhere.) But, but, but…

And then one day I went to a major museum’s show on a century of housewares, and — guess what? My old dishes had become an art exhibit! I went directly to a resale mall and located two pieces in that pattern, paying more for them than the entire service for eight had cost in 1955. But, of course, this was many years later. Starburst is now a collector’s item, “currently the most popular of the old patterns,” the guide’s author writes, “and the most expensive. A few years ago it could be found at thrift shops, but has been pretty much grabbed up at this point.”

Desert Rose, however, is another story. Franciscan made 468 different patterns — many of them short-lived and obscure — in its 50-year history, which ended when the company was sold and moved to England in 1984. Today, it is one of only two patterns still in production. I feel guilt every time I see a piece of the pottery my mother craved until the end of her life.

So why am I telling you all this now? Because one day, much more recently, I wandered into a consignment store and saw a service for eight in an obscure, long-gone Franciscan pattern, a design introduced in 1955, the same year I got my Starburst. Only vaguely modern in shape, it features a design of rather delicate leaves in a variety of browns and greens. It is called Autumn.

The stars, if not the Starbursts, were in conjunction for me then. I’ve always loved fall leaves, as much as my mother loved roses. And her 25th yahrzeit (she died when Franciscan did!) coincided with Rosh Hashanah this year. The whole set was a current-day steal at $50 — just about what a similar set was selling for 55 years ago! So now you know what our holiday meals are being served on this season. I envision my mother, looking down on me and laughing at the irony. I hope she’s laughing, anyway.

A postscript: The same shop also had a service for eight of real Syracuse china in a pattern quite different from the old one I still use, but similarly beautiful. I bought it as well, also for just $50. Maybe that will grace our table next Pesach!

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 24 September 2009 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I have fasted on Yom Kippur as long as I can remember and am nostalgic about the bagels and smoked fish break-fasts with my late parents and aunts and uncles. Truth be told, I’ve never been uplifted by the fast. I’ve never felt inspired by causing self-inflicted pain and starving myself. I fail to see what it accomplishes or how it makes me a better person. I still have my health, thank God, and plan to fast this year, but would appreciate some inspiration to make it more meaningful.

Beatrice W.

Dear Beatrice,

I’m glad you still have your health. May you continue to enjoy good health this year and many more to come!

If the fast was indeed to cause pain and starve ourselves, I wouldn’t be very inspired to do so either. Furthermore, if the point was to feel pain, why do Jews traditionally wish others to “have an easy fast”? It should rather be “have a miserable fast!” I think we need to reframe the entire concept of the fast on Yom Kippur, which will enable us to view it in a different light.

The source for fasting is in the Torah, which states “But on the 10th day of this [the seventh] month is the Day of Atonement … and you should afflict your souls…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 23:27). “Afflicting” is interpreted by our sages in the Talmud to mean we should fast, hence the mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur. This, however, needs explanation. The Torah does not say to afflict our bodies, rather our “nefashos” or souls, through the fasting. This seems strange, as a fast would seem to afflict the body, not the soul. How can we understand this?

The answer is that the affliction is not the fasting itself. The fasting, which enables us to rest for a while from our physical pursuits, merely provides the backdrop to enable us to focus on our souls, which is the real point of the day. When we focus on our souls and how far we may have strayed from the right path, then the soul is afflicted with that realization. Maimonides points out that the mitzvah on Yom Kippur is not “to fast” as with other fast days, rather to “refrain from eating.” When we are on a higher, more spiritual plane, we have the opportunity, indeed the mitzvah, of getting in sync with our souls and seeing how we can better ourselves.

The mitzvah to “rest” from food and drink also includes desisting from bathing, wearing leather shoes and marital relations. All this elevates us to a higher, spiritual world where we can view the world and ourselves from a different vantage point.

My mentor, the late Rabbi S. Wolbe, may his memory be blessed, once gave us a powerful illustration by which to understand the day of Yom Kippur and its laws. Maimonides, in discussing the final world of reward, says the following: “The World to Come has no eating nor drinking, rather the righteous sitting with their crowns upon their heads, and basking in the glow of the Shechinah [Divine Presence].” This is the feeling one has on Yom Kippur. This holy day is a bit of the next world transposed to this world. On Yom Kippur, by refraining from the mundane pursuits of this world, we are transformed into an angelic state whereby we don’t need to eat, much like the angels are above eating and derive their sustenance from the glow of the Shechinah. With the closeness we enjoy we can intensely feel any distance from the Shechinah we have caused, and fulfill the mitzvah of tshuvah, or return to G-d and our true selves.

May you and all the readers have an easy, meaningful fast and be sealed in the Book of Life for a sweet, happy new year.

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 24 September 2009 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Parents,

Yom Kippur is almost here and, hopefully, we have all apologized to those we may have hurt on purpose or unintentionally. As we enter the new year, let us remember to be the best we can be and help our children develop as well. Each year at the High Holy Days we read a prayer by Reb Zusya. The commentary (the small print at the bottom) shares the thoughts of Reb Zusya: “When I meet G-d, I will not be asked ‘Why were you not Moses?’ but rather ‘Were you the best Zusya you could be?’” I am reminded of this each time we question why our children are not more this or more that — we compare and worry. Years ago, the cry in education was “LABEL JARS NOT CHILDREN!” We strived not to label children and define them by that label. Today we say “Help children develop labels to identify themselves, but remember LABELS ARE NOT LIMITS!” Let us learn to use our words to help our children “see” who they are and who they can be. Use words to reframe how we see our children and how they see themselves. To help us with this goal of discovering who our children are and how we can help them achieve their potential, I am repeating this list from previous years. It is often a matter of looking at things from just a little different perspective — a change from “half empty” to “half full.” Look through this list and start using new words to describe your child (and yourself)!

Some say … you might say …

aggressive … assertive

boisterous … enthusiastic

bossy … a leader

brooding … serious

chatterbox … communicative

clingy … loving

controlling … determined

dreamy … imaginative

fearful … sensitive

forceful … determined

impatient … passionate

inflexible … traditional

insecure … cautious

loud … expressive

manipulative … charismatic

non-participatory … an observer

obsessive … deliberate

picky … selective

self-centered … proud

shy … reflective

spoiled … well-loved

stubborn … tenacious

troublesome … challenging

unfocused … curious

unpredictable … flexible

withdrawn … introspective

(Adapted from the works of Mary Sheedy Kurcinka; taken from Kindermusik International, Inc.)

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

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“Our Ronnie:” Remembering Ronald Gruen

“Our Ronnie:” Remembering Ronald Gruen

Posted on 17 September 2009 by admin

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By Dave Sorter
Ronald Gruen, who died on Sept. 7, 2009 at age 94, was more than simply a pillar of the Dallas Jewish community. He helped build the community, fostered its growth and had a profound effect on shuls that were not even gleams in the eye when he came to town.

Perhaps his greatest legacies in the community survive at Congregation Beth Torah in Richardson, Chabad of Dallas and Yavneh Academy in Dallas, all of which he nurtured from the beginning of their existence.

Beth Torah was his home synagogue, after having been recruited to the new Conservative shul in 1974 by founders who knew of his proficiency in leading services and of his singing voice.

“For Ron, God was always close, accessible and personally interested in His creation,” Beth Torah Rabbi Adam Raskin said in a eulogy spoken at the Sept. 10 funeral at Sparkman-Hillcrest Funeral Home Northwest Highway Chapel.

Mr. Gruen designed Beth Torah’s ark and its ner tamid. Raskin told how Mr. Gruen decided that the top of the ark should feature the verse “Karov Adonai le’chol korav” (God is near to all who call upon Him).

“He explained, in a lot of shuls the words Da lifnei Mi Atah Omeid are inscribed over the ark — ‘Know before Whom you stand,’” Raskin added. “Ron thought that was a cold, terrifying verse that just did not match his understanding of God. ‘God is near to all who call upon Him. That’s much more fitting for a place of prayer,’ he told me.

“And that’s how he built Beth Torah. When he was tapped from Shearith Israel to help build a new Conservative congregation in North Dallas, he set out to construct a community where God would always be near. A place where everyone had access; where participation was not limited to professionals or a select few, but where everyone could learn the melodies, lead the service, share words of Torah and join together in the excitement of synagogue life.”

Though remaining loyal to Beth Torah until the end, studying and celebrating with Raskin days before his death, Mr. Gruen was also a strong supporter of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

To that end, he was ready to assist when Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky came to town to open Chabad of Dallas, which in 30 years has spawned Chabad houses in Plano, Fort Worth and Arlington as well as a second congregation in Dallas.

His help merited the presentation of the Chabad Founders Award to Mr. Gruen and his wife of 67 years, Ethel, in 2003 on the 30th anniversary of Chabad in Texas.

His daughter Debbie Gruen said that his family background inspired his love of Judaism, but there was more to it.

“It’s a mystery,” his daughter said. “But it was with him strongly from his early adulthood and became stronger as he got older.”

Education also was dear to Mr. Gruen’s heart. He was a past president of Akiba Academy in Dallas and was one of the first to work toward building what would become Yavneh Academy of Dallas, the first local Jewish high school. Mr. and Mrs. Gruen established an endowment at Yavneh in 2001 in memory of their grandson Aaron, who died of cancer at age 14.

“Mr. Gruen was an amazing man,” said Deb Silverthorn, Yavneh’s director of communications. “He was an incredible supporter of Jewish learning and living; a zayde to us all.”

The Gruens continued their support of Jewish high schools by creating an endowment at Yeshiva University to help Jewish high schools throughout the United States, with a specific focus on supporting teacher salaries and special programs to help students.

Yeshiva recognized his gift by awarding him an honorary doctorate in the humanities, which he hung in his study right next to his degree from the City College of New York.

“His love of learning inspired his work in education,” Debbie Gruen said, “as well as his deep conviction that the secular and the religious were in their truest nature completely intersected, and he wanted as much as possible to enhance that reality during his life.”
Mr. Gruen was a lifetime student of Torah, Talmud, Jewish mysticism and Jewish history, and taught adult education courses. He also wrote articles on various Jewish subjects for Midstream and Sh’ma. Additionally, he was an artist, painting pictures of images from Judaism, nature, classical art themes and, as Raskin said, “images that only he understood.”

He had a great love of the Venus de Milo and of the Biblical character Betzalel, the chief artisan in the creation of the mishkan (tabernacle).

“I am quite sure that he saw himself as a direct descendant of this great biblical artist,” Raskin said.

The great love of his life, though, was his wife, the former Ethel Agatstein. They met in 1934, when he was 19 and she was 14, and

Agatstein said to herself, “This is the guy I’d like to marry.”

They did marry in 1942 in a ceremony at which the chazzan was the renowned tenor Richard Tucker, who was then a cantor and three years away from his Metropolitan Opera debut.

“Sixty-seven years was a long time, but it also seems like a dream,” Mrs. Gruen told Raskin.

They raised four children who have followed in his tradition. Son Dan, for example, continues his father’s tradition of singing at Beth Torah during the High Holy Days.

“It’s overused, but he was inspirational, joyful, iconoclastic,” daughter Debbie said. “He encouraged us to think independently and be respectful of authority. He definitely opened a permanent channel in experiencing being Jewish as something joyful, meaningful, liberating and a way of being more engaged in the world, not less.”

Ronald Gruen was born in 1915 in Czernovitz, Austria, and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1934. He graduated from City College of New York and acquired the craft of tool and die maker, eventually attaining to positions of tool-room foreman and plant superintendent.

Mr. and Mrs. Gruen and their children moved to Dallas in 1952, and Ronald Gruen established the Gruen Tool and Die Company, which soon changed to Gruen Manufacturing Company when the business specialized in precision fabrication for electronics. The family also ventured into construction and leasing of office warehouse type buildings under the names of Dart Development Company and Remington Development Company.

Mr. Gruen did graduate work in history at Columbia University and SMU.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Gruen is survived by sons and daughters-in-law Ted and Helen Gruen, and Dan Gruen and Grace Bascope; daughter and son-in-law Naomi and Brit Schlinke; daughter Deborah Gruen; grandchildren Sara Gruen, John Gruen, Michelle Gruen and Alyssa Gruen; and many loving nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

Services took place on Sept. 10 at Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home Northwest Highway Chapel with Rabbi Adam Raskin officiating.

Internment followed in Hillcrest Memorial Park, Beth Torah Garden on the north side of Hillcrest Memorial Park.

Memorial contributions may be made to Yavneh Academy of Dallas. The family would like to express their deep gratitude for the loving care given Mr. Gruen by members of Faith Presbyterian Hospice, Home Helpers and Ms. Rickie Stephens.

“Our Ronnie”

Remembering Ronald Gruen

by Rabbi Adam Raskin
Photo: Please give credit to: David Duchan

Hesped for Ronald Gruen z”l, Yitzchak ben Menachem Mendel v’Feige
September 10, 2009; 21 Elul 5769
Rabbi Adam J. Raskin

When Shabbat departs, just before we recite havdalah, it is traditional to end the evening prayers with the words of Psalm 91.  The Psalm says:  Since he is devoted to Me I will deliver him.  I will protect him because he cares for Me.  When he calls to Me I will answer, I will be with him in time of trouble.  I will rescue him and honor him.  Orech yamim asbi’eihu– I will satisfy him with a long life, and lead him to enjoy my salvation fully.  It was Saturday night, just after those words were recited, words that could have been written for Ronald Gruen, that Nomi called me to come over to Ronnie and Ethel’s home.  These words in which God promises to answer, and accompany, and rescue and honor those who love Him…  Those words which promise long life and eternity still hung in the air when I reached Ronnie’s bed side.  And there, a most miraculous thing happened.  Ronnie was awake and alert.  Around the bed were Ethel and Debbie and Nomi and Dan and Grace and Jonathan.  For a solid hour, if not more, we all sang together.  Ronnie was so delighted…we sang songs from the siddur, Israeli folk songs, camp songs, high holiday melodies…Debbie and Nomi harmonized so beautifully, and Ronnie, eyes wide open, looked around at his precious family and smiled broadly at the music that has been a part of his life forever!  Music he taught to his children, and other people’s children.  Music he sang both in shul and at home.  Music that helped to escort his precious soul from this world to the next.  When he finally left this world on Monday night, he was again surrounded by loving family, holding Ethel’s hand as he has been doing for 67 years of marriage, and as Nomi described, “meditating in the glow of our connection.”  That connection is something so beautiful that it is almost indescribable.  Ever since Ron’s surgery three weeks ago, his children kept a constant vigil around him.  When he wanted to speak and his voice became raspy and belabored, everyone was hushed, the hospital room door was shut, so that he could be understood.  When he had something to say, one of the daughters was there with a pad and pen to record it.  When he wanted his spirits lifted, the soothing power of music was always there.  In these past several weeks I learned from you, Ronnie’s kids, the meaning of the fifth commandment:  Kabed et avicha v’et imecha…Honor your father and your mother.  I witnessed an outpouring of respect, compassion, and loving-kindness that goes to the very core of what I believe the Torah meant when it taught these words.  To all of Ron and Ethel’s children and grandchildren:  I want you to know that you gave him such an invaluable gift.  Your presence and support were unwavering…he never felt alone in these past several weeks, and I know that as memorable and significant as those final conversations and song sessions and quiet moments of just holding hands and caressing cheeks were to each of you; no one could ask for more precious blessings that these in their final journey on this earth.  In these past few weeks, you know, I heard Ron ask one question several times; He didn’t ask about his prognosis or his treatment; he kept asking “How’s Mom?”  How’s Mom he wanted to know…Is Mom okay?  Is Mom being taken care of?

Ever since he met her on a hot summer day in the Bronx over 75 years ago, he’s been inquiring about his Ethel.  What a gorgeous, elegant pair they were.  Ethel was remembering the other day when they first met.  He was 19, and she was only 14.  She was sitting in her mother Yura’s living room when this tall, strappingly handsome young man came through the door with wavy black hair, and immediately struck up a conversation with her.  Only he didn’t talk to her like she was a child.  With a British clip to his speech and a deep voice, he spoke to her like a young woman.  Ethel said she thought to herself, this is the guy I’d like to marry.”  They would meet now and again at family events-they were after all distantly related.  The family used to sit and sing Yiddish songs, and Ronnie and Ethel would dance together across the living room floor.  This was no quick engagement though…they dated and saw each other at family affairs for 8 years until one afternoon they were swimming at the Hotel St. George, which was at the time the largest hotel in New York City.  Ronnie, in his inimical way announced, “I think we’ll get married.”  “Oh,” replied Ethel, “okay.”  Not exactly a proposal, but it would do.  “When would you like to get married?” he asked.  “Well, said Ethel, how about June?”  It was already March.  Ronnie thought he’d have some more time to plan, perhaps firm up his career as a tool and die maker…but June it was.  June 21, 1942.  The chazzan at the wedding was none other than the famous opera singer Richard Tucker, who Ethel’s father called Ruby.  His Jewish name was Reuben.  Under the chuppah Ruby Tucker led Ron in the ring ceremony.  Although instead of saying I consecrate you to be my wife, Ron said I concentrate.  Ruby made him go back and say it the right way.  The truth is, they were both the right way. Ronnie certainly consecrated himself to you and only you Ethel…but he also concentrated on you so intently, so adoringly…until he took his last breath.  You were his world, Ethel, and every time you two had an anniversary aliyah, the whole congregation was inspired by your legendary love and devotion to one another.  Ethel said to me the other day:  “67 years was a long time, but it also seems like a dream.”  Looking back at that dream are countless wonderful memories of life in New York, then their adventurous move to Texas to start a new business and really a whole new life.  Wonderful memories of children and grandchildren, of leadership in synagogue life and the Jewish community, of building a successful business and cultivating incredible, God-given talents. A few days ago, I stood in Ron’s study.  It was very quiet…only the hum of the lawnmower outside could be heard.  I felt like Moshe Rabbeinu, when God said to him at the Burning Bush, “Ha’makom asher atah omeid alav, admat kosesh hu.”  The place on which you stand is holy ground.  This study was Ronnie’s sanctuary.  This was his place of creativity, of learning, of dreaming.  In one corner was the art easel that he built for himself.  A work still in progress sits on the ledge.  Acrylic paints and brushes stand ready to be put to use by his creative hands.  On every wall is another painting or piece of art that he created:  Brilliantly colorful canvases incorporating Jewish themes, themes from nature, themes from classical art, and images that only he understood.  He had a special love for the Venus de Milo…in one portrait Ronnie depicts the beautiful ancient Greek sculpture of the human form, with the words of Genesis 1:26…na’ase adam:  Let us make man.  This weaving of the secular and sacred was one of Ron’s artistic hallmarks.  On his easel, the verse from Exodus is affixed on a bronze plate:  Betzalel, ve’amalei oto ruach Elohim:  Betzalel was filled with the spirit of God.  I know that Ron had a special affinity for the Biblical character Betzalel, who was of course the chief artisan responsible for channeling both divine inspiration and artistic talent to create the Mishkan, the holy Tabernacle that housed the tablets of the covenant.  At a lecture Ron gave at Beth Torah about a year ago he declared:  “If we are descendants of Moses then we are also descendents of Betzalel.”  I am quite sure that he saw himself as a direct descendant of this great biblical artist.  His prize creations were the ark at Congregation Beth Torah, and the Ner Tamid, the eternal light that hangs above it.  He once told me that he selected the verse from Psalm 145: Karov Adonai Le’chol Korav to go across the top of the ark.  That verse means, God is near to all Who call upon Him.  He explained, in a lot of shuls the words Da lifnei Mi Atah Omeid are inscribed over the Ark.  Know before Whom you stand.  Ron thought that was a cold, terrifying verse that just did not match his understanding of God.  For Ron, God was always close, accessible, and personally interested in His creation.  God is near to all Who call upon Him.  That’s much more fitting for a place of prayer, he told me.  And that’s how he built Beth Torah.  When he was tapped from Shearith Israel to help build a new Conservative congregation in North Dallas, he set out to construct a community where God would always be near.  A place where everyone had access; where participation was not limited to professionals or a select few, but where everyone could learn the melodies, lead the service, share words of Torah, and join together in the excitement of synagogue life.  When his leadership was sought for the building plan of the synagogue, he argued that an ornate structure might make membership inaccessible and overly expensive to new, younger families.  So he advised Beth Torah to build a more modest home, again where people could easily find a way in and readily become a part of the community.  And so it was that he taught countless children and adults the melodies he brought with him from Czernowitz, melodies he heard his father Mendel sing, and melodies he himself perfected.  He called up children to sign with him on the bimah, and insisted that everyone participate together!  That legacy is forever enshrined in the culture of Beth Torah and it is a tribute to Ron that our incredible congregation thrives because of the seeds he sewed in its earliest days.  As we anticipate the High Holidays we will all invariably here your voice through the singing of your son Dan, who inherited his beautiful voice and learned his nusach from you.  We will remember you every time we gaze at the Aron ha’Kodesh, every time we bask in the light of the ner tamid.  We will remember you whenever someone leads services for the first time, whenever a child is made to feel welcome and comfortable in the shul and on the bimah.

Back to the study.  I scanned the walls and the bookcases…The Talmud, several chumashim, Encyclopedia Judaica, the classics of Jewish history by Salo Baron and Heinrich Graetz, the commentaries of Rashi, Rambam, the Midrash, the Zohar, the philosophical and literary works of the Rambam, Yehuda Ha’Levi, Moses Mendelssohn, and of course, his favorite Jewish thinker Abraham Joshua Heschel.  One afternoon in the hospital he instructed me, index finger pointing in my direction, to continue to promote and publicize the thought of Abraham Joshua Heschel, and in the same breath he appointed Nomi and Debbie to be my research assistants.  He once told me that he wanted to name the sanctuary at Beth Torah for Heschel, because of his love for him.  But wait, there’s more:  Drawing tablets, watercolor books, art references, Mozart.  On the far wall, his diploma from the City College of New York, and his honorary Doctorate conferred here in Dallas by the President of Yeshiva University himself.  On the wall by the door, plaques and recognitions from floor to ceiling acknowledging his profound generosity and leadership to Akiba Academy where he served as President of the Board, Yavneh Academy, American Jewish Congress, and Beth Torah.  What an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge, interests, and causes.  There’s more:  Pictures of his parents and grandparents; as well as his children and grandchildren.  An incredible tapestry created in Poland by his mother in 1890 hangs over his desk; it reads, Arbeitschaft Zufreiedenheit…Work Creates Contentment.  What contentment he got from his artistic work, his work in the tool and die business, his work for the Jewish community, his work to strengthen and bolster Jewish education,  and the invaluable work he did for his beloved shul, Beth Torah.

It will be difficult for many of us to imagine Beth Torah without Ronnie.  I know exactly where he would sit, beside Ethel toward the back of the sanctuary each and every Shabbes.   Ron and Ethel always referred to the committed core of Shabbat regulars at Beth Torah as:  Just us chickens.  Yesterday Paul Koch emailed me from Singapore, where he and Raye are living for three years.  He said:  “Our head chicken has been taken from the coop and ‘just us chickens’ singing together… just won’t be the same.”  My father-in-law remarked that Ethel and Ron like to sit in the back row, just so they could keep their eyes on all their chickens!  Indeed he will be missed by people of all ages.  My own son Ezra, like many of the kids at shul each week (I see some of them here today), loved running up to him at the luncheon to give him high-fives and hugs.  He had a very special rapport with children…they revered him, and at the same time were drawn to his uncanny warmth.  So many of the chevrei at shul will miss drinking a lechayim with him, and I personally will miss his weekly reviews of my sermons.  I could never mention Heschel enough.  Sometimes he would say, “You really gave to ‘em rabbi,” or “you spoke with courage today.”  Sometimes he wouldn’t say anything…that’s when I knew I was in trouble!  When I first came to Beth Torah, I received typed letters from Ron almost every week.  He would reflect on something I said, or something he read in the Jewish media.  In one letter dated December 21, 2005 he began:  Dear Rabbi Raskin, Please forgive this intrusion into your busy days.  I do it with apologies yielding to the need to share with my rabbi some concerns triggered by words spoken at a recent convention of the United Synagogue…  Ronnie, your letters, always so prosaically written, were never intrusions!  They were blessings!  They were treasures!  How I will miss your wisdom and interest and affection!  My reverence and love for you and Ethel is indescribable.  But you are now singing with the angels, and I imagine, sitting across from Heschel and next to Betzalel, learning in the yeshiva shel ma’alah…the great, house of study above.

Ronnie would want me to share something written by Abraham Joshua Heschel…and I conclude with words Heschel wrote toward the end of his own life.  In an essay entitled Death as Homecoming, Heschel wrote about the Jewish understanding of mortality and the afterlife.  He said:  “If life is a pilgrimage, death is an arrival.  A celebration.  The last word should be neither craving nor bitterness, but peace and gratitude.  Unless we cultivate sensitivity to the glory [of life] while here, unless we learn how to experience a foretaste of heaven while on earth, what can be in store for us in life to come?  The seed of life eternal is wasted when placed on stone, into souls that die while the body is still alive.  The greatest problem is not how to continue but how to exalt our existence.  The cry for a life beyond the grave is presumptuous, if there is no cry for eternal life prior to our descending to the grave.  Eternity is not perpetual future but perpetual presence.  He has planted in us the seed of eternal life.  The world to come is not only a hereafter, but a here-now.”

Ronnie, you have taught us all so much about how to live with such meaning, such purpose, such profound values; every one of us who knew you was transformed by having known you.  The seed of eternal life was planted in the fertile soil of your neshama, of your holy soul, and we now say goodbye to you, as you move from this world to the world of eternity.  I love you, my friend, my teacher, and I will never forget you.

Congregation Beth Torah
720 West Lookout Drive
Richardson, Texas  75080

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 17 September 2009 by admin

Col. John Antal to be September JWV speaker
Colonel John Antal, a West Point graduate who trained with the Israel Defense Forces, will speak to members of the Harvey Bloom Jewish War Veterans and its Ladies Auxiliary on Sunday, Sept. 27, 9:30 a.m. at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center. Col. Antal worked with Israeli soldiers to make a film in 2008. He has commanded tank and combined combat units at the platoon, company and regimental levels. He also has served as special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon.

In the event that business will take him out of the country in September, Dr. Jerrold Grodin will be re-invited to speak.

Col. Antal was recommended by Dick Lethe.

The usual $4 lox and bagel brunch will be served. The public is invited.

Sponsors of the screenings are Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, 3 Stars Cinema, Studio Movie Grill and Prescott Pailet Benefits LP.

Russell Hoppenstein raises over $9,000 for diabetes cure

Akiba alumnus Russell Hoppenstein ‘84 recently participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Bike Ride in Killington, Vt.

Russell and Stacey’s son Lance, a preschooler at Akiba, was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which made this cause near and dear to his parents’ hearts. At age 3, Lance must endure three insulin shots, countless finger pricks and special carbohydrate-counted meals daily.

Alongside over 350 riders from across the country, Russell not only completed the 100-mile course but, most importantly, raised over $9,000 to help find a cure for diabetes. If you would like to be part of Team Lance-a-lot and donate to the quest for a cure, please visit http://ride.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=rideCentral.personalpage&riderID=9027.

Windsor senior spelling bee announces prize winners
Windsor Senior Living was buzzing with excitement on Aug. 20 when 14 motivated seniors participated in Windsor’s first annual spelling bee, in conjunction with the Dallas Area Agency on Aging. Residents of the newly opened independent (soon to add assisted) living home and area seniors ­competed for great prizes, which included a big-screen TV for the first-prize winner, and for the honor of representing Windsor in the area competition. Residents, friends and relatives cheered on the spellers as they spelled such words as “caudal,” “vertiginous” and “endotracheal.” After a spirited competition, the winning spellers were the TJP’s own Phyllis LaVietes in first place, Shelly Hodak in second and George Smith in third. After the bee, there were great refreshments and a musical revue. Phyllis is scheduled to represent Windsor at the regional competition on Sept. 17.

Adat Chaverim Sisterhood aids Genesis Women’s Shelter
Members of Adat Chaverim’s Sisterhood presented the Genesis Women’s Shelter on Sept. 2 with a fashionable fall clothing ensemble including jacket, blouse, slacks and matching jewelry. The clothing was purchased during their “Girl Friends Shopping Party” at Christopher & Banks in Collin Creek Mall this summer. The donation represents the Sisterhood’s focus on community action and tzedakah within the Metroplex. The Genesis Women’s Shelter is a safe haven for victims of domestic violence. Their counselors see an average of 1,000 women and children each year, and the shelter houses 650 women and children annually.

‘The Third Jihad’: two screenings
Studio Movie Grill will have two screenings of “The Third Jihad” on Sept. 22, at 6:30 and 9:40 p.m. The theater is located at 11170 N. Central Expwy.

The movie, narrated by devout Muslim American Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, opens with the following statement: “This is not a film about Islam. It is about the threat of radical Islam. Only a small percentage of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are radical. This film is about them.” In 72 minutes, the documentary reveals that radical Islamists, driven by a religiously motivated rejection of Western values, cultures and religion, are engaging in a multifaceted strategy to overcome the Western world. In contrast to the use of “violent jihad” and terror to instill fear in “nonbelievers,” “The Third Jihad” introduces the concept of “cultural jihad” as a means to infiltrate and undermine our society from within. There will be no solicitation at this event. Supna Zaidi will speak. For more information, contact Kathi Wenrich at 214-615-5225 or kwenrich@jfgd.org.

Admittance fee is $10 ($5 for students).

Spend Yom Kippur with The Intown Chabad
The Intown Chabad, located in the heart of the trendy Uptown neighborhood of Dallas, is known to the young Jewish crowd of Dallas as a place of warmth, welcome and fun. Through many successful community outreach projects, The Intown Chabad has become known for its Tuesday night get-togethers, fun mitzvah projects, relaxing Shabbats and — this year for the first time ever — Yom Kippur services and breaking of the fast.

Due to high demand and an overwhelming amount of RSVPs, Zvi Drizin, resident rabbi and social powerhouse of The Intown Chabad, began looking for a large enough space to hold Yom Kippur services. He had to look no further than the stunning Mansion at Turtle Creek, one of Dallas’ oldest and most beautiful hotels. Not only will services be held in a striking room overlooking the picturesque Turtle Creek, but due to the generosity of those at the Mansion donating the facility, there will not be a charge to anyone wishing to attend Yom Kippur services and/or to break the fast — something relatively unheard of today. Rabbi Yossi Swerdlov of Children of Chernobyl will be joining in the holiday observance and is sure to inspire through his renowned energy and song.

Traditionally, The Intown Chabad is frequented by young people in their 20s. but Drizin and regulars alike extend a warm invitation to the entire Jewish population. Whether officially non-affiliated or simply tired of the “jumbo-tron” style High Holy Days so frequently seen today, any and all are invited to join The Intown Chabad this Yom Kippur for a spiritual, relaxing and meaningful experience.

For more information, details on times and dates or to contact Rabbi Zvi Drizin, please visit www.theintownchabad.com or call 214-810-6770.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 17 September 2009 by admin

Widowed Persons Service can help
I am indebted to Corrine Jacobson for telling me about Ellie Carey, chairman/facilitator of the Outreach Program for Widowed Persons Service of Tarrant County. While I hope that my readers will not need to avail themselves of her valuable service for long years, she is a woman worth knowing. Corrine writes:

“As we begin the New Year, we are told how important it is that as Jews, we live tikkun olam, perfecting the world. This description of how to live fits 80-year-old Ellie Carey and her lifestyle to a ‘T.’

“When you attend a class of people training to be grief facilitators for one of her future classes, she is hugged by everyone. And why, we ask? They have all just finished her course on how to live as a widowed person. Because of Ellie, they felt so confident, they were able to tackle the job of training others in the outstanding programs offered by Widowed Persons Service.

“In 1979, a Widowed Persons Service was organized in Fort Worth and surrounding communities. The lifeline of the program is the trained volunteer outreach service that provides direct support to the newly widowed through grief support groups and one-on-one contact. Other volunteers participate in the program as board members, in fundraising, office management and many other activities.

“Ellie is a resident of Arlington, and we are so fortunate that after living her childhood in University City in the St. Louis area and her married life in other states, circumstances brought her to our area 40 years ago. She is quietly perfecting the world.

“Ellie has put in over 1,000 hours as a volunteer for WPS. During this time, she has helped write the five-week Sunday afternoon course to help those in mourning. She is one of the most important volunteers Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Widowed Persons Services.

“Her volunteer work is varied, but one of her favorite extras is to represent the Jewish faith at Outreach programs sponsored by the Arlington Daughters of Abraham.

“Luckily, she has children in the Metroplex to fulfill her busy life. Her son, Evan Carey, and his family reside in Plano. Daughters Lori Carey and Cindy Somolovik and their families live in Arlington.

“Ellie is at WPS on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Their locations are 2906 SE Loop 820, Suite A, 817-551-2922 or, in Dallas, 9027 Midway Road, 214-358-4155.

“WPS not only helps the newly widowed to recover from the trauma of a spouse’s death, but also helps them rebuild their lives.

“Margaret Davis, the manager of the facility has been volunteering at WPS for 25 years.”

Tills Library wins accreditation
Did you know that Barbara and Stanley Spiegel of San Antonio memorialized her late parents, Goldie and Joe Tills, with the establishment of the Goldie and Joe Tills Library at their synagogue, Congregation Agudas Achim? The library was named the Joe Tills Library and later, after Goldie’s death, renamed to honor them both. The library, of close to 8,000 books, was recently awarded a certificate of accreditation at the recent 44th annual Association of Jewish Libraries meeting held in Chicago. Lynn Waghalter, librarian for the Tills Library, accepted the award. Barbara and Stanley will come in for their just share of recognition when they are honored at a Library Shabbat at Agudas Achim on Nov. 14.

Community leaders return from training Shabbaton
Mona Karten, Fort Worth United Synagogue Youth Advisor (FWUSY), and officers of the CAS Chapter — President Madison Moses, Social Action/Tikkun Olam Vice-President Stephanie Mintz and Communications Vice-President Carl Karten — are just back from the Leadership Training Institute and Shabbaton program at Greene Family Camp. Although it turned out to be a very wet weekend, nothing could dampen the ruach that the 36 leaders shared with anyone within earshot. They were treated to a special speaker, Adam Harris of AIPAC, and spent the weekend learning about Israel advocacy and leadership skills. They were also excited to hear that the Southwest USY Kallah and Kamp Kadima will be held at Camp Carter, right outside Fort Worth, on the weekend of Oct 22–25. FWUSY will be joined by USYers from all over Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. So, if you think you’re hearing sweet music that weekend, you probably are — it will be the USYers singing Shabbat songs after lunch!

Noted author-broadcaster, Karen Armstrong, to begin TCU’s new lecture series
Karen Armstrong, whose insightful observations of spirituality throughout the world have garnered wide acclaim, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6 in the University Union ballroom at TCU, 2901 Stadium Drive. Her topic is “Religion in an Age of Terror: Perils and Possibilities.”

She is the first guest for the Daryl D. Schmidt Lectureship on Religion in Public Life, recently established by the TCU Religion Department in memory of a longtime colleague. Ms. Armstrong and the late Dr. Schmidt often spoke at the same scholarly conferences and were united in their desire to promote and raise religious literacy.

A full-time writer and broadcaster since 1982, Ms. Armstrong is the bestselling author of 15 books, including “Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet” (1991), “A History of God” (1993), “Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths” (1996), “The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions” (2006) and “The Bible: A Biography” (2007). Her work has been translated into 45 languages.

Her newest book, “The Case for God,” to be released in late September, is a nuanced exploration of the part religion plays in human life, past and present.

She has three times addressed members of the United States Congress on religious issues.

Among her American television appearances are the PBS programs “Bill Moyers’ Journal” and “Frontline and Genesis: A Living Conversation.”

She received one of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards (Freedom of Worship) in 2008, for her contribution to better understanding among religions in an era of confrontation and violence.

She is currently at work on a worldwide inter-religious Charter for Compassion that recognizes the Golden Rule as fundamental in all world religions.

Tickets for the lecture are $10 and are available through the Web at www.rel.tcu.edu. For more information, phone 817-257-7440.

The Schmidt Lectureship commemorates the life and work of longtime TCU Religion Department faculty member and chair, Dr. Daryl D. Schmidt, a New Testament scholar who believed that scholars should and can make a difference in society.

A Christian pacifist, Dr. Schmidt was passionately committed to principles of non-violence and social justice. As a public intellectual, he understood the power of religious values and language in the public sphere. And as a Biblical scholar, he was especially adept at communicating to a wide audience — in an intellectually rigorous fashion — the interplay between religious scholarship and the crucial issues of our time. Dr. Schmidt died in 2006.

The Lectureship’s goal — to deepen listeners’ ability to think for themselves about complex and vital matters — is part of the ongoing mission of the Religion Department in the AddRan College of Liberal Arts at Texas Christian University.

The Religion Department fosters an inquiring and critical approach to the study of religion and various religious traditions. More broadly, the department supports the multicultural, ethical and global aspects of the TCU mission by utilizing perspectives from the United States and beyond to study the diversity manifest in the world’s religions.

Beth-El offers adult Hebrew classes
Beth-El Congregation is offering three Hebrew courses for adults on Sunday mornings. All members of the Jewish community are welcome to attend. The classes are made available with support from the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

9:30–10:30 a.m. (in Board Room): Hebrew Reading Crash course, level 2 intermediate, for students who have some knowledge of Hebrew reading but would like to strengthen their knowledge will be taught by Bell Marco.

10:30–11:30 a.m. (in Board Room): Hebrew Ulpan, level 3, with Batya Brand is an intensive ìHebrew in Hebrewî language program for adults that rapidly teaches basic Hebrew skills, including speaking, reading, writing and comprehension, for students that can read and write Hebrew.

10:30–11:30 a.m. (in Library): Hebrew Reading Crash Course, level 1, with Charna Blumberg. The course is designed to teach those with no basic knowledge of the Hebrew language, how to read Hebrew in order to be able to read from the siddur and hopefully be inspired to become more involved in Jewish life.

There is a one-time fee of $50.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 17 September 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Tomorrow evening we’ll be sitting down to a special dinner, welcoming the New Year. Most of us will have a round holiday challah on the table, and apples and honey for a bit of sweetness. Many of us will continue the sweetness with honey cake for dessert.

But CLAL suggests that we serve and enjoy something different to end our meal: a birthday cake. Why? Whose birthday is it?

I love CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. Several times during the year, it sends out handy little brochures with ideas for better understanding and celebrating our major holidays. The folders are colorful, sturdy and small enough for easy saving. I squirrel mine away and bring them out to review at appropriate times. That’s why I’m mentioning birthday cake here; it was CLAL’s special recommendation for Rosh Hashanah five years ago.

So again the question: Why? And the answer: Because Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world. “While the rabbis of the Talmud debated about when to begin the new year,” CLAL tells us, “some argued that we should mark time from Passover, the birthday of the Jewish people. But they finally decided that our calendar should begin with the first of Tishrei, our tradition’s date for HaYom Harat Olam, the world’s birthday.”

Will you make carrots a part of your Rosh Hashanah dinner menu? You should, if you do the right thing with them — which is to cut them across in rounds. Then they’ll look like bright golden coins, a symbol of plenty in the coming year. I cook mine with honey for sweetness, and a few drops of hot sauce for some added taam: 5770 should have a bit of spice in it, too.

Martin Lindauer, who writes for the online Jewish Magazine, says his Rosh Hashanah last year was “spicier” than he liked: He was in the hospital, having bypass surgery. “God weighs our deeds and judges who will live and who will die,” he says. “I wondered when my life would pass in review. As the medical and spiritual converged, I vowed to appreciate every day — if there were any more in my future.

“I awoke in the recovery room. I was alive! But death was no longer an indefinite ‘later’ — I was mortal, the future was uncertain, and life could no longer be taken for granted. The New Year was an appropriate time for soul-searching, an opportunity to explore a new beginning. I shifted mental gears … I would be different. How could I not revise my life after my heart had been stopped, blood redirected, consciousness suspended? Momentous events like these, I felt, must have serious and lasting consequences. I promised to give thanks for the simple things in life. I swore to take long walks in the park, and pledged to spend more time with my grandchildren….”

For Lindauer, this was a very personal as well as communal New Year. In a way, it was his own new birthday as well as the birthday of the world.

This year, my husband was the one who had open heart surgery just a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah. He starts this new year with cardiac rehab classes. The “zipper” scar on his chest will be a “forever” reminder of modern medicine’s miracles, and of the fact that his name was written into last year’s Book of Life, because he’s lived to be judged yet again, for 5770. He, like Lindauer, has a new appreciation of all the little things most of us take for granted. And I’m sharing his attitude, with its realistic but not depressive acknowledgment of our finite humanity.

When I was a child, my mother took me to the theater to see “Knickerbocker Holiday,” and in my head, Walter Houston is still singing his throaty “September Song” loud and clear, after all these years. The days are indeed growing shorter as we move toward December, in two senses: While each of them gives us less daylight hours, we must also acknowledge that we’re all drawing from personal banks of days whose balances are dropping lower and lower as each of those days passes. Heart surgery may be a wake-up call, but Rosh Hashanah is everyone’s annual opportunity to wake up. Our birthdays are finitely numbered, but the world celebrates every year, infinitely. We need a new understanding and appreciation of our participation.

So there may be a birthday cake dessert on our table this year. Maybe a honey cake with 5770 candles.

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 17 September 2009 by admin

Dear Rabbi,

Our kids came home from religious school this past Sunday with the traditional apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah. This is obviously a nice thing for the kids to have a sweet feeling for the day, but we were wondering if there’s anything deeper here for us adults to take away. Our observant relatives in Israel eat all kinds of things on Rosh Hashanah; is there a reason for that, and where can we learn more about it?

Patty and Marc S.

Dear Patty and Marc,

You can find complete details of the traditional “Rosh Hashanah seder,” as some call it, in the ArtScroll machzor for Rosh Hashanah. (Locally, check with Lone Star Judaica, who should carry it.) There you’ll see the list of fruits and vegetables traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah eve, with the appropriate prayers we recite upon each one, all expressing different requests for the Jewish people in the upcoming new year.

Each of the foods eaten is used because there is a play on words, or hint within its name, which coincides with one of our important needs. Apples and honey are obvious, that with all their sweetness we ask G-d for a sweet new year. A deeper meaning is that the Jewish people, in various places in the Torah, are compared to apples. There are profound mystical reasons why this is so. A simpler explanation given is that the apple grows differently than most fruits. Most fruit trees’ leaves appear before the fruit, providing it with protective covering. The apple, however, appears before its leaves, without that protection. The Jews are praised for being like the apple, that we live Jewish lives even though it often leaves us seemingly unguarded from our neighbors. We rely on our faith in the Al-mighty for our protection. The bee can sting and also produce sweet honey. We pray to be unharmed and receive only the sweetness, not the sting.

The date, or tamar, is eaten as its name is similar to the word tam, which means “to cease.” With it we pray to have our enemies desist and allow us to live in peace. We do the same with all the other fruits and vegetables, connecting their names with our prayers.

These foods are called simanim or signs. We are creating positive, sweet signs for what is ahead over the coming year. This is based upon a concept taught by the Midrash in the Book of Beresheet/Genesis, and expounded upon by Nachamides, or Ramban, a classical commentator (13th-century Spain): “maasei avot siman ­lebanim,” or whatever transpired in the lives of the forefathers is a sign of what will play out in the history of their progeny. We can understand this by considering a young sapling. How it takes root, how it grows in its first fledgling stages and how straight it is in its beginnings will have a tremendous impact on how it will look hundreds of years later as a towering tree.

The halachic work “Chayei Adam” utilizes this concept to explain the simanim of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is the “root” of the rest of the year. How one acts to others, prays and conducts themselves on this day has a tremendous impact on the rest of the year. It’s easy to eat sweet things on Rosh Hashanah, but far more difficult and much more impactful to BE as sweet as we can on Rosh Hashanah to others, especially to our spouses and children!

May you and all the readers be blessed with a sweet, joyous, meaningful, healthy and happy new year. May we have peace and prosperity in Israel and with our people throughout the world.

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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