Archive | September, 2009


Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 17 September 2009 by admin

Dear Families,

As we approach the High Holy Days, we are supposed to be thinking about how we can grow and change in the new year. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we apologize to others for our sins and mistakes. It is important that we look to change ourselves even though we would like to change others (which is so much easier — or so we think). Here is a story about a mitzvah called ­tokhekhah (rebuke).

Rabbi Yoshi Ber, the Rabbi of Brisk, once criticized a butcher for doing wrong. He pleaded with the man to change his ways, but the man refused. On the day before Yom Kippur, Rabbi Ber went to the butcher and apologized to him, asking forgiveness. The butcher was surprised and said, “Why does the rabbi ask my forgiveness? I should be asking forgiveness of you because I did not listen to what you told me.” The rabbi answered, “That is why I have to ask your forgiveness, because when my original words didn’t make a difference, all I was doing was making myself feel proud about pointing out your faults. It was vanity.” The butcher was so ashamed that he started to weep. He said he would do everything possible to change.

This mitzvah of tokhekhah comes from Leviticus 19:17 — “You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must certainly rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of them.” This is quite a challenge — when do I correct and when shouldn’t I? The Baal Shem Tov said, “Make sure that what he is doing is really wrong for him to be doing and not just something you don’t like about your own behavior. You have to correct another person because you love him. The criticism has to be for his own good and not to get even or hurt him.” That makes it a little easier to understand but it is not an easy thing to do.

As we look to change ourselves this new year, let us also think about how we treat others and how we can be helpful. It is a definite challenge! Have a good new year!

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

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Rosh Hashanah 5770

Rosh Hashanah 5770

Posted on 17 September 2009 by admin

A culinary journey

In Israel, a buffet of international cuisines

By Linda Morel

NEW YORK (JTA) — What does a typical Israeli family eat on Rosh Hashanah?

It’s hard to say with certainty.

Like any question you ask two Jews, you’re likely to get three opinions. In a sense, it’s an unfair question because no two families in

Israel, or in any country, celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the same way.

However, Janna Gur, author of “The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey” (Schocken Books, New York, 2007), offers insight into Rosh Hashanah entertaining.

Gur, who was born and raised in the former Soviet Union, immigrated to Israel in 1974 and has been joyously consuming its cornucopia of local food ever since. Her cookbook is a coffee-table-sized collection of recipes as stunning as the Mediterranean Sea.
She says that in most Israeli homes, one will find a combination of Sephardi and Ashkenazi dishes at Rosh Hashanah. This is characteristic of the explosion in Israeli cuisine in recent decades.

Gur describes Israeli cooking as the product of diverse cultures. During the 20th century, Jews from all over the Diaspora settled in a homeland that was new to them. While they brought their recipes from far-flung places, they also looked to their Arab neighbors for inspiration with ingredients, such as chickpeas, that many of them had never seen.

At first the Jews from abroad clung to their culinary heritage, in part to preserve their identity and to savor the foods they adored.

Sometimes through exposure to Jews from distant lands and sometimes through exploring ethnic restaurants, they liked what they tasted and adopted new recipes.

Delicacies from every continent have become the stockpot of Israeli food. Time has seen a blurring of Ashkenazi and Sephardi cuisine.

“But there are certain items that are almost mandatory on the Rosh Hashanah table,” Gur says.

In most Jewish homes around the world one will find a round challah, sliced apples and a pot of honey.

Other foods, however, are surprising either for their appearance or absence at New Year’s celebrations.

“Fish is one of the most important items on the Rosh Hashanah menu,” Gur says.

While gefilte fish is served in Ashkenazi homes, Moroccan Jews savor a spicy fish cooked casserole style with hot peppers and garlic.
Traditionally made with grouper, the hot fish dish, reddened by paprika, is much easier to prepare than gefilte fish. Gur says you can go a little lighter on the chili peppers, but the dish is meant to have a kick.

“By the way, many families serve both the spicy fish and the milder gefilte fish,” says Gur, explaining how Israeli food has become a melting pot of international cuisines, a menu of exotic flavor combinations.

Israel’s climate plays a part in Rosh Hashanah fare. Summer is still going strong by the Jewish New Year, so many families wait for cooler weather to serve piping hot chicken soup. The same is true for potato and noodle kugels.

Brisket is often bypassed, too, with Gur noting that many families opt for chicken or lamb casseroles. Usually the main dish contains some sweet elements, such as dried or fresh fruit, honey, pomegranates or molasses.

Lamb and Quince Casserole is typical at Israeli Rosh Hashanah dinners. Quince is a tart fruit adored by Bulgarian Jewish cooks. Gur, too.

“I personally love quince in cooking,” she says of a fruit similar in appearance to the yellow apple and available mostly in the fall.
Those who avoid red meat can substitute chicken for lamb.

Israelis insist on a salad with almost every meal, Gur says, and this is true as well at Rosh Hashanah. But the typical Israeli salad of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers is not common at New Year’s celebrations. Many Israelis prefer a green salad sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. With their abundant seeds, pomegranates symbolize the 613 commandments of the Torah.
Gur raves about the Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad from her cookbook.

“I first made this salad last Rosh Hashanah, and it was a big hit,” she says. “I received the recipe from Erez Komarovsky, a dear friend and very talented chef. I would never imagine combining these two ingredients in one salad, but they work extremely well together.”

Carrot dishes, symbolizing prosperity in the coming year, are wildly popular in Israel. They appear in the form of an Ashkenazi tsimmes or a spicy Moroccan carrot salad. In most Israeli homes, you’ll see at least two vegetables on the holiday table, whether they be fresh, baked, sautéed or pickled.

As in America, on Rosh Hashanah you can expect apple cakes and desserts oozing honey. Often the pastries are homemade.

“You know, cake baking is extremely popular in Israel in both Sephardic and Ashkenazi households,” Gur says. “But even Sephardic cooks rarely confine themselves to Middle Eastern pastries.”

Her recipe for apple cake is perfumed with cinnamon and exudes the crunch of walnuts. It’s a kosher baker’s dream because the cake is meant to be made with oil rather than butter.

The following recipes are from “The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey,” by Gur.

HOT FISH (Parve)

By Guy Peretz, Gazpacho, Holiday Inn, Ashkelon
Yield: 8 servings

  • 4 hot red peppers, cut into strips
  • 2 sweet red peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 c. fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
  • 1 c. fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely
  • 8 portion-sized (about 6-oz. chunks) of grouper or other saltwater fish
  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled

Seasoning Mix:

  • 8 Tbsp. paprika
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 c. olive oil

1. Line a wide saucepan with the peppers, parsley and cilantro.
2. Mix together the ingredients of the Seasoning Mix. Dip the fish chunks into the Seasoning Mix and arrange in the saucepan above the peppers. Stir together the remaining Seasoning Mix with the garlic and 3 to 4 c. of water. Pour over the fish.
3. Cook for 10–15 minutes (depending on the size of the fish chunks) over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

By Yehiel Filosof, Balkan
Restaurant, Jaffa
Yield: 6–8 servings

  • 4 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 (2-lb. 4-oz.) lamb, cut into cubes
  • Kettle of boiling water
  • 3 large quinces, peeled, cored and cut into 6 wedges each
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 level tsp. sweet paprika
  • 4 to 5 tsp. sugar
  • Rice, prepared according to package directions

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and brown the meat on all sides. Pour in boiling water, covering meat. Cover pan and cook for an hour or more, until the meat is tender and almost ready to eat.
2. Add the quince. Season with salt, pepper and paprika and cook for another 10 minutes.
3. In the meantime, dissolve the sugar in 2 to 3 Tbsp. water in a frying pan. Cook to a light-colored caramel. Carefully, add some of the lamb cooking liquid to the caramel and stir well. Pour the caramel into the saucepan and cook for another 10 minutes, until the lamb is completely tender and the quince wedges are soft but retain their shape. Serve with steamed rice.

Yield: 8 servings

  • 5 large baking apples, peeled and cored
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. brandy
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil, plus more for oiling pan
  • 3/4 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped

For Dusting:

  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Equipment: 1 (10-inch diameter) springform pan
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Generously oil springform pan.
2. Cut 3 apples into 1/2-inch dice. On a separate plate, slice the remaining 2 apples into 8 wedges each. Sprinkle diced and sliced apples with lemon juice and set aside.
3. Sift the flour with cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
4. Place eggs, sugar, brandy, and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat them until pale and thick, about 8 minutes.
5. Lower the speed and gradually add the oil and then the flour mixture.
6. Fold in the diced apples and walnuts. Pour the batter into prepared springform pan. Arrange the apple wedges in the center of the batter in a flower pattern. Combine dusting ingredients and sprinkle on top.
7. Bake for 60–70 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry with a few crumbs adhering.
8. Cool for 10 minutes, release sides of pan from cake and cool completely on a rack.

By Erez Komarovsky
Yield: 6 servings

  • 3 to 4 medium beetroots
  • 2 Tbsp. pomegranate concentrate (can be ordered online at
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 dried chili peppers, crushed
  • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 c. pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

1. Boil the beetroots in water until tender. Cool, peel and cut into very small dice.
2. Mix with the pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, peppers and sea salt. Set aside for 15 minutes.
3. Mix the salad with the cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Pour the olive oil on top and serve.

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Saying Goodbye to 5769


Saying Goodbye to 5769

Posted on 10 September 2009 by admin

By JTA Staff

NEW YORK (JTA) — With Rosh Hashanah approaching, JTA has compiled a list of the biggest stories of the past Hebrew calendar year:


An acid and feces attack at the Budapest Jewish Theater just before Rosh Hashanah revives concerns about increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary.

Tzipi Livni, who won Kadima Party elections in September following Ehud Olmert’s resignation, fails to assemble a coalition government and become prime minister. President Shimon Peres announces that Israel will hold new general elections.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld is named the new executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, becoming the first female rabbi to serve in the chief executive position of an American rabbinical association.


Barack Obama is elected the first black president of the United States with 78 percent of the Jewish vote, in line with previous Democratic nominees.

Months after being the target of the largest immigration raid in American history, the embattled kosher meat producer Agriprocessors files for bankruptcy, leaving kosher consumers in the lurch and ushering in uncertain times for the Jewish community of Postville, Iowa. Subsequently the company is sold to a Canadian firm.

Three new Jewish members are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but the Democratic tide is not strong enough to send Congress its first rabbi, Jewish Latina or Chinese Jew.

Rahm Emanuel is tapped to become White House chief of staff and will emerge as a key point person in the administration’s outreach to the Jewish community regarding Israel-related issues.
Secular businessman Nir Barkat is elected mayor of Jerusalem.

Terrorists target the Chabad house in Mumbai, India, killing its directors, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, and four others.


Israeli security forces forcibly evict Jewish settlers from a disputed house in Hebron, setting off a rampage of violence by some Jewish extremists against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The collapse of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme leads to the immediate collapse of two Jewish organizations and sends shock waves through the Jewish philanthropic world.

The Bush administration makes a last-gasp push for Palestinian statehood — or the nearest it can get to it — with the apparent quiet encouragement of President-elect Obama.

The deadliest road accident in Israeli history kills 24 Russian tour agents and casts a dark shadow over efforts to promote tourism to the southern Israeli city of Eilat.

Israel launches Operation Cast Lead to curtail Hamas rocket fire from the Gaza Strip onto southern Israel.


Ari Folman’s animated Lebanon War film “Waltz with Bashir” wins the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film, but later fails to become the first Israeli movie to take home an Oscar.

Enduring an onslaught of massive anti-Semitic and anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe, Jewish communities throughout the continent hold counter-rallies to support Israel as it wages war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Operation Cast Lead ends after about 3-1/2 weeks and leaves some 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. Hamas rockets during the war reach as far as the Israeli cities of Yavneh, Beersheva and Kiryat Gat.

Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to revoke an excommunication order for a Holocaust-denying bishop sparks an uproar and prompts another round of anguish over the state of Catholic-Jewish relations.


The vandalism of a synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela, further unsettles the Jewish community, already on edge over the harsh anti-Israel rhetoric of President Hugo Chavez.

Wading into what has emerged as a major partisan fight, Jewish organizations in Washington line up with Democrats in offering strong support for the $819 billion economic stimulus bill.

In the Israeli elections, Tzipi Livni’s Kadima emerges as the largest single party, but the right-wing parliamentary bloc, led by Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, captures the majority of the Knesset seats.

Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu vaults over Labor to become Israel’s third-largest political party, with 15 seats in the Knesset. A month later, Yisrael Beiteinu becomes Likud’s first coalition partner, and the controversial Lieberman — who during the election campaign proposed mandating loyalty oaths to the Jewish state in a bid to curb Israeli Arab political power — is named foreign minister.


Eleventh-hour negotiations to free Gilad Shalit collapse.

Three of the largest Jewish federations in the country — New York, Atlanta and Cleveland — announce substantial cutbacks in staff, adding to concerns about the health of the primary American Jewish charitable network.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s careful articulations in his inaugural address leave uncertain where he stands on the most contentious issue in Israel, and between Israel and governments overseas.

The United States decides to seek to join the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing its policy of shunning the group and prompting concern among some Jewish organizations.


Tel Aviv kicks off its centennial celebrations.

Jews across the denominational spectrum in Israel and the United States organize to say the Birkat HaChamah, a blessing over the sun that is recited every 28 years when, the Talmud says, the sun reaches the same spot in the firmament as when it was created.

The Obama administration organizes the first-ever seder at the White House.

The discovery of a Hezbollah terrorist network in Egypt highlights the divide between the pro-Western moderates in the Middle East and the Iranian-led radicals, as well as the regional interests Egypt and Israel share.

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), a Jewish lawmaker in a fight for her political life following allegations that she agreed to intervene on behalf of two former AIPAC staffers charged with relaying classified leaks, sends a letter to the U.S. attorney general asking for the release of any tapes of classified conversations.

Jewish and Israeli activists descend en masse on the “Durban II” U.N. racism conference in Geneva. European delegates walk out of the main hall to protest an inflammatory anti-Israel speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Arlen Specter switches to the Democratic Party, leaving the Senate without a Jewish Republican for the first time in decades.


The government moves to drop charges against two former AIPAC staffers charged with passing classified information to Israel.

During speeches at the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. John Kerry pledge to confront Iran and protect Israel, but call on the Jewish state to freeze settlements. In the ensuing weeks, U.S.-Israel tensions mount as President Obama and other administration officials also press for a settlement freeze.

Pope Benedict XVI visits Israel and the West Bank. In Bethlehem he calls for a Palestinian homeland, leaves an interfaith conference in Jerusalem early after a Palestinian cleric accuses Israel of killing women and children, and destroying mosques, and prompts disappointment among some Israelis for remarks on the Holocaust seen as insufficient.

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold their first meeting at the White House.

Obama talks of putting a timetable on U.S. diplomatic outreach to Iran over nuclear weapons, while also emphasizing that Israel needs to take “difficult steps” such as freezing settlements. Netanyahu stresses his interest in achieving peace, but stops short of endorsing a two-state solution.

Jacob Zuma of the African National Congress is elected South Africa’s new president, though 80 percent of Jews vote for the opposition party.

The first Jewish historical doll in the American Girl series — a 9-year-old girl named Rebecca Rubin living on the Lower East Side in 1914 — goes on sale.


In a speech in Cairo billed as an address to Muslims worldwide, President Obama describes Israel and the United States as sharing an unbreakable bond, then criticizes Holocaust denial in the Arab world and the use of the Palestinian issue to distract Arab populations from other problems. Obama draws criticism from some corners of the Jewish community for reiterating his call for a settlement freeze and failing to talk tough on Iran. Some critics claim that the president appears to embrace the Palestinian understanding of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Alysa Stanton becomes the first African-American female rabbi after being ordained by the Reform movement’s

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Far-right parties in Europe score significant gains in continent-wide elections for European Parliament.

A security guard is killed when a gunman known for his anti-Semitic beliefs opens fire at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

In a speech at Bar-Ilan University, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses conditional support for the eventual creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state. The Obama administration hails the speech as “positive movement,” while the Palestinian Authority condemns it.

With unrest mounting in Iran over official claims of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, U.S. Jewish organizational leaders call for more American support for the protesters and more international action to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Camps across the country report outbreaks of the swine flu virus, forcing some to postpone their openings and others to implement sweeping measures to screen new arrivals for signs of the illness.

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and Prisoner of Zion, is formally elected chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Haredi, or fervently Orthodox, demonstrators in Jerusalem turn violent protesting the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat and the arrest of a haredi woman on charges of child neglect.

As the health care reform debate heats up, Jewish organizations back the Obama administration on several key points, including the creation of a government-run public insurance option and pushing for measures that would help the rapidly aging Jewish community.

At the close of a Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague, 46 countries sign the Terezin Declaration, a nonbinding set of guiding principles aimed at faster, more open and transparent restitution of art and private and communal property taken by force or under duress during the Holocaust.

With its decision in favor of comedian Al Franken, the Minnesota Supreme Court gives the U.S. Senate a 13th Jewish member.


The United Jewish Communities decides to change its name to the Jewish Federations of North America and hires Jerry Silverman, a key player in raising tens of millions of dollars for Jewish summer camps and a former business executive who helped popularize the Dockers brand, as its next president and CEO.
Some 8,000 athletes from around the world participate in the 18th Maccabiah Games, including U.S. Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak, who chooses the so-called Jewish Olympics in Israel over the World Championships. Lezak wins four gold medals, but Israel easily wins the medals competition.

Nearly 40 Jewish and evangelical Christian leaders meet in Washington for a groundbreaking dialogue session.
The leader of the gang responsible for kidnapping, torturing and murdering French Jew Ilan Halimi in 2006 is sentenced to life in prison. Many French Jews are upset that the trial is held behind closed doors, as the crime’s anti-Semitic nature was in dispute.

President Obama has his first White House meeting with Jewish leaders, sitting down with representatives of 14 organizations. Jewish leaders offer no direct criticism of his calls for a settlement freeze, but say he appears to be putting more pressure on Israel than on the Palestinians and Arab states. The president says he will work to change that perception.

Five rabbis are among 44 people arrested as part of a public corruption and international money-laundering investigation in New Jersey that uses a prominent rabbi’s son as an informant. Also charged are the mayors of several New Jersey cities and other state politicians, as well as a Brooklyn man who is accused of acquiring and trading kidneys for transplants.


A masked gunman attacks a gay community center in Tel Aviv, killing two people and injuring a dozen. The tragedy sparks demonstrations throughout Israel in solidarity with the victims and the gay community.

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Kickoff your High Holy Day Season!

Kickoff your High Holy Day Season!

Posted on 03 September 2009 by admin

Set out on ‘The Path to Forgiveness’ at Temple Emanu-El

By Deb Silverthorn
“The Path to Forgiveness,” led by Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg, starts the weekend of Sept. 11 at Temple Emanu-El and is open for the community to travel.

Rabbi Peltz Weinberg is director of outreach and community development at New York’s Institute for Jewish Spirituality. The Delores and Walter Neustadt Lecture Series, chaired by Pam Rollins, is host to Rabbi Peltz Weinberg. It was started in 1999 to continue Temple Emanu-El’s history as a congregation of learners. The Neustadts support the series to benefit educational and literary scholarship, longstanding interests of the couple.

On Friday night, beginning at 6:15 p.m., Rabbi Peltz Weinberg will uncover beauty and poetry through “Awareness and Forgiveness” with music, teaching and meditation as a way to develop a personal understanding of God. Saturday, there will be a 9 a.m. “Chever Torah” program; evening programming will begin with a 7:30 p.m. dessert and wine reception followed by Havdallah and an 8:30 p.m. Selichot learning and prayer service: “Loving What Is Imperfect, Beginning with Ourselves.” Sunday morning, the community is invited to a meditation class at 9:30 followed by an hour of yoga.

“I’m thrilled to be coming for my first visit to Dallas and to spend the weekend with the community at Temple Emanu-El. I feel fortunate to be connected to many of the congregation’s clergy,” Rabbi Peltz Weinberg said. “My work includes supporting clergy by working with their own spiritual lives. For many years, I have taught meditation … [I am mindful] to expand my work to bring as much compassion as possible in a life of challenges.”

The Institute for Jewish Spirituality is committed to helping Jews deepen their spiritual lives and make the connection between the inner work of spiritual growth and the outer work of creating more justice and compassion in the world. The key to IJS’ philosophy is that “spirituality involves nurturing the human capacity to develop one’s personal understanding of God; to seek out truth and purpose; to discover meaning in personal and communal prayer; to develop relationships with one’s deepest and most authentic self and with others; to find strength and hope and maintain balance in the face of challenges; and to experience deeper joy at times of simcha.”

“Temple Emanu-El’s study theme this year, beginning with the month of Elul, is ‘Thinking about G-d: Exploring, Belief and Faith,’” said Nancy Rivin, director of Temple Emanu-El’s libraries and adult Jewish learning. “We are exploring Jewish spirituality in all its forms to give our congregants tools to forge relationships with G-d. We’re excited to welcome Rabbi Peltz Weinberg as we celebrate Selichot and as we begin the internal work of reviewing our lives in preparation for the High Holy Day period.”

“Selichot is a very auspicious time and I’m honored to explore what the holiday and forgiveness mean,” Rabbi Peltz Weinberg said. “This season brings the possibility of beginning again, and forgiveness is one of the most spiritual tools we are given. It’s about taking responsibility for our lives and relationships and how that can translate to kindness.”

All events are free but reservations are required for Sunday’s meditation and yoga events. Contact Nancy Rivin at or 214-706-0000, ext. 155.

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 03 September 2009 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
In last week’s column you quoted a letter from an Orthodox Jewish organization to Barack Obama stating that his health care proposal could lead to infringement of religious rights as they might require cessation of medical care for a dying patient and the like. Obviously, the rationale for such a proposal would be for the greater medical benefit of many more people who could actually have their lives lengthened and improved by the care they would receive but are currently not getting due to the high cost of end-of-life care currently given and paid for, partially, by taxpayers. Studies have shown that the lion’s share of the average patient’s lifetime health care cost is spent in the very last years of their life, at a time that they usually no longer contribute to society and often no longer enjoy any quality of life. Is there no concept of triage in Jewish law?
Bernard L., M.D.

Dear Dr. Bernard,
The concept of triage in halachah, or Jewish law, has been developed by the Talmud, codified in the “Code of Jewish Law” and expounded upon greatly by contemporary authorities. Triage has been employed, based upon halachah, in the many unfortunate situations of wars and bombings in Israel.

The concept of triage in halachah deals chiefly with a physician who is faced by two or more patients who are all deathly ill, and has only the ability to treat one of them. The question can arise in any emergency room which has insufficient critical care apparatus to deal with all those in need to sustain their lives. How does one choose who gets the care?

Myriad possible situations, as you well know, could arise. According to halachah, if one patient could certainly be saved by the available care and the other is doubtful, or at best will have his life prolonged for a short time while the first could live normally, one is required to save the first patient even though that spells imminent death for the latter. This applies only if the two patients are brought before the doctor simultaneously, and the question is which one to accept. If, however, the doctor has already attached the terminal patient to an apparatus and afterward the younger patient arrives with a greater chance of survival, halachah would prohibit removing one patient for the sake of saving another. This would be true even if the patient engaged in the care is an old, deaf and blind person who is of no use to society and is a burden on his family and the other, a young father of children who runs the local charity helping thousands of poor.

Triage, explained my late mentor Rav S. Z. Aurbach, of blessed memory, is applicable only to saving life, not to actively ending one life to save another, no matter who is involved.

This is based upon the halachah’s understanding of the inherent preciousness of every moment of life. Even the oldest, most sick person’s life is priceless and each moment, a new gift from G-d. To actively end such a life, as little “quality of life” is left in him, would still be murder.

Furthermore, if the elderly, terminal patient is already in the ER, and a call comes from the ambulance that a young patient is on his way with a great chance of survival, the doctor could potentially wait for the younger one. This is because an actual patient is on his way, and technically under his care. He could not, however, delay the care to the terminal patient so as not to tie up the machinery in case a better candidate might come along, even if that likelihood is very high. This would not be triage in halachah.

To discontinue care or not offer it out of financial consideration of the greater good of society is comparable to the second case — where there’s no actual patient but the system is waiting for the better candidate to arrive.

The solution to this crisis certainly needs to be worked out, and is certainly quite complicated. I am not an expert on the details of President Obama’s proposal. It is very important that all Americans have recourse to health insurance, and halachah would certainly applaud the president’s passionate desire to ensure just that. We just have to ensure that our morals and religious rights are not sacrificed along the way.

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

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 03 September 2009 by admin

Dear Families,
It is the month of Elul and we are getting close to the High Holy Days. I love the month of Elul because it is during this month that the shofar is blown daily. It is a fascinating custom and it reminds me of how practical Judaism is. If you are going to be ready to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, you need to start practicing. What a great idea! Those of us listening to the shofar are reminded to start “practicing” the changes we need to make in our lives for the new year. The sound of the shofar is a wake-up call; we know that we are commanded to hear it, but that isn’t enough. If we don’t make changes in our lives, then hearing the shofar has not done the job.

Judaism has so many wonderful and practical rituals. It is a perfect religion for young children because it is so hands-on.

Every rite has a deeper meaning but the observance itself is a reminder of what we need to do. We also have so many ritual objects — this, again, is perfect for children. Today you can buy pretend Shabbat candlesticks and even a stuffed Torah. These items are great for young children but it is also good for them to experience the real thing. Every year I recommend buying a real shofar for your child. It is very hard to break and, even more important, it is very hard to blow. If your child can learn to blow the shofar, that’s even better. Having the experience of owning and playing (or trying to play) one, brings a deeper connection to the High Holy Days experience. And make this Chelm story part of your High Holy Days preparations:

A long time ago in the village of Chelm, fire was a big problem and many homes burned to the ground. One Chelmite went to a neighboring village to learn how to solve the problem. When he arrived, a fire started in a home. One man came out and starting beating a big drum. Everyone ran out and poured water on the home, saving it from burning to the ground. Immediately, the Chelmite got a drum and took it back to Chelm.

Soon a fire started and the Chelmite ran out and started beating his drum. Everyone ran out and listened to the drumming. Unfortunately, they did not pour water on the home and it burned to the ground.

It is the same with the shofar sound. If all we do is listen and not change, it hasn’t done the job it was meant for. The shofar must wake us up and then we must act.

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 03 September 2009 by admin

Now we’re in Elul, listening to the warm-up sounds of the shofar, preparing ourselves for the coming days of intense prayer and penitence.

We associate the shofar with Rosh Hashanah (and of course with Yom Kippur — after that final blast: Hooray! We can eat!). But we should also be thinking, when we hear it, about Pesach — leaving Egypt — and Shavuot — standing at Sinai to receive the Torah.

Because Torah is what it’s all about. Our gift, in perpetuity, from a loving God. But also a demanding God. Following his laws isn’t always easy; it’s especially difficult when the reasons for them seem vague on human terms.

Think about kashrut. We’re not supposed to eat predators or scavengers. Because God’s “reasons” for these demands seem pretty clear after-the-fact, many Jews have “justified” them in that light, which may make understanding and following the laws easier: Predators aren’t humane when they kill, as we must be when we slaughter animals for food. And who knows what filth scavengers have ingested? Of course we can’t eat them!

But some of us do, because we know they’re not filthy any more. The Food and Drug Administration now protects us! God was doing the job until he handed it over to the FDA, so shrimp and friends are okay today. And we don’t have to worry about pork or wild game, either, any more! God was so good to keep us from the scourge of that nasty trichinosis parasite, but now, we humans have learned how to do that for ourselves.

For years, centuries even, some Jews have felt the need to “justify” God’s laws this way. He was so smart!
He told us to do these things so that we would survive, while our enemies died from all the bad things they ate.
The truth is, we don’t know God’s motivations at all. He gave us rules to follow without any time limit; he didn’t indicate they’d be nullified because of future dietary discoveries.

I’m thinking of this because of a similar situation with another law, an especially sensitive one: circumcision.
Did you read what the New York Times reported recently? Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are thinking about making that old Jewish practice mandatory for all boys born in our country — as a deterrent to the future spread of HIV/AIDS! Recent studies “showed that in African countries hard hit by AIDS, men who were circumcised reduced their infection risk to half,” they said.

Ah! Here’s good ammunition for Jews of the “holier-than-thou” and “I told you so!” categories. The built-in identify factor that goes with circumcision has caused many Jewish men much grief over the years — when they’ve had to strip nude in military showers, for example, to be recognized and taunted, or at the hands of Crusaders and Nazis identifying their “kill.” Even today — perhaps especially today — many Jews who’ve continued to follow that God-mandated practice feel compelled to defend it to an army of folks (unfortunately including some other Jews) who condemn it as inhumanly cruel to defenseless infants. It’s a matter of cleanliness, they say. Even Queen Elizabeth recognized that: She had her princely sons circumcised — and by a mohel, no less!

But now, these justifiers are vindicated: God knew better all the time! We can see how he’s really been taking care of us! This new, big picture is showing everyone that the circumcised ones are the survivors!

We’d better step back a minute and take another look. God is our father. Throughout the coming holidays, from Selichot to that final shofar blast on Yom Kippur, we’ll be praying to him that way. But has there ever been a father who, beset by kids badgering him, endlessly asking why they have to do certain things certain ways, hasn’t resorted to that old cliché response: “Because I say so, that’s why!”?

And God is also our king. That’s the way our High Holy Days prayers put it: our Father, our King. And certainly there’s never been a king who hasn’t issued an edict without reason and without explanation, but solely with the demand that it be followed.

The Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur lesson comes from Sinai. We don’t keep kosher, or not, because of the FDA. We don’t circumcise, or not, because of the CDC. We do these things because they’re part of our God-given identity. Let’s try to think of God’s laws that way this year, with every shofar blast. Tishrei awaits! Shanah Tovah coming!


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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 03 September 2009 by admin

Catching up with the Schuster brothers
Where do the years go? It seems like yesterday that we were reporting the antics of the Schuster boys and, later, their academic achievements. Their proud parents, Dr. Dennis and Barbara Schuster, can attest to the speedy days of their growing up. Their maturity is evidenced by their accomplishments.

The eldest, Scott, 34, recently completed a stint with the Navy at Submarine Radio School.

Matt, 31, is a new graduate from Columbia University in New York with an executive MBA. He currently is associated with the National Football League in Manhattan.

Eric, 28, attends Georgetown University where he is in his second year studying for his MBA.
His twin, Terry, was selected as one of three of UT Law’s first Justice Corps Fellows, a distinct honor. Eden Harrington, director of the William Wayne Justice Center at UT, said, “It’s extremely difficult to get a public-interest job right out of law school. Few nonprofits have the funds to hire someone, and yet there is a tremendous need for practitioners in this area.”

Terry has joined the staff of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, where he will be working for juvenile justice. This is in keeping with his experience at the Law School, where over the past three years he has played a key role in juvenile-justice reform efforts in three large states — Texas, California and Ohio. In Texas, he said, “One problem we were having was putting kids in isolation. There were kids who had not been outside of their cells in a few hundred days. So I created a memo saying, ‘This is not constitutional, and here’s why.’ This got to the head of the agency, and very quickly the policy changed. I was in a great position to do some legal research and write a quick memo and really see something change because so many people were just waiting to do the right thing as soon as they knew what the right thing was.”

Terry credits many lawyers from the UT Law community with preparing him for this opportunity, as well as the entire Law School faculty.

Hey gals, take note, the Schuster brothers are single, handsome and eligible!

News and notes
I nodded to Rabbi Sidney and Vivian Zimelman at an afternoon performance of “Mama Mia” at the Music Hall. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to chat, as it was almost curtain time and I was being rushed to my seat. It was far from the best production and, I thought, not up to the Music Hall’s high standards.

Happy birthday greetings to Blanche Karsner, who celebrated an early special birthday with her family last weekend. Coming in for the family get-together was the Karsners’ son and family, Andy and Maria and their three beautiful daughters Caroline, Jaynie and Julia of Alexandria, Va. Blanche said she and David had to change all their plans. Their 55th wedding anniversary was on Sept. 1 and her birthday will be on Sept. 11. However, Blanche is slated for hip replacement surgery on Sept. 8. Good times are still to come. We wish Blanche a speedy and easy recovery! My added speedy recovery wishes to much-loved Bessie Bodzy, an indispensable member of Ahavath Sholom’s catering team.

Folks are still “kvelling” over the great job Eli Watemberg did at his bar mitzvah just two weeks ago at Congregation Ahavath Sholom. Unable to attend but justifiably proud of their grandson were maternal grandparents, Dr. Al and Ethel Schmitt of Houston and paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jaime Watemberg of Colombia. The excitement continues at the Watemberg household as dad, Dr. Isaac Watemberg, weds Adriana Geffen in a 6 p.m. ceremony at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving this Sunday with Rabbi Alberto “Baruch” Zeilicovich and Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker co-officiating. Out-of-town guests will include Isaac’s brothers and their wives, Leo and Marcella Watemberg and Carlos and Pamela Watemberg of Colombia. Ariana’s family coming in for the happy simcha includes her brother Efrain Geffen of Alaska, grandmother Carmen Moreno of Colombia and sister Dr. Marcella Olaya of Plano. The newlyweds will honeymoon in Israel.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 03 September 2009 by admin

The Million Dollar Advocates Forum recently announced that attorney Les Weisbrod has been certified as a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Weisbrod is presently a Life Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum is limited to attorneys who have won million- and multi-million-dollar verdicts, awards and settlements. The organization was founded in 1993 and there are approximately 3,000 members located throughout the country. Fewer than 1 percent of U.S. lawyers are members.

Forum membership acknowledges excellence in advocacy, and provides members with a national network of experienced colleagues for professional referral and information exchange in major cases. Members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum must have acted as principal counsel in at least one case in which their client has received a verdict, award or settlement in the amount of $1 million or more. Weisbrod is a member of both the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

A graduate of Southern Methodist University School of Law, specializing in medical malpractice law, Les is the son of Bea Weisbrod and the late Harry Weisbrod.

Marla Cohen captures top national journalism prize
For the second time in three years, former Dallasite Marla Cohen, Rockland (N.Y.) Jewish Reporter editor, has captured a top national prize for quality Jewish writing. The Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish journalism are distributed annually by the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA). Marla won the first-place Louis Rapaport Award for excellence in commentary for newspapers with a circulation under 15,000.

She was honored for three columns: “Memories of My Father,” a lyrical meditation on her father’s death; “The Price of Return,” a dissection of the complicated issues surrounding the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit; and “Rain at the Proper Season,” an essay that elegantly ties together hurricanes and the High Holy Days. Marla previously won the first-place Rockower Award in 2006 for her columns.

Marla is the daughter of Miriam and the late Sidney Cohen of Dallas. She lives in New City, N.Y., with her husband and two children.

Akiba alumna, Rachel Siegel, wins national award
Akiba Academy is thrilled that alumna Rachel Siegel ‘09 has been named one of 10 national winners of the 2009 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, honoring outstanding young leaders who have made a significant, positive difference to people and our planet.

Rachel’s inspiration was the story of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish humanitarian who, while working in Budapest during World War II, housed and issued protective passports to tens of thousands of Jews, saving them from certain death during the Holocaust. Months later, Rachel witnessed the reunion of a Holocaust survivor and her savior, who had not seen each other in over 60 years. These events motivated her to research and write profiles in courage of 36 non-Jewish heroes whose stories she shared in her book “Stories of Moral Courage in the Face of Evil.” Rachel has traveled around the country speaking about the magnitude of those heroes’ actions, and through book sales, has donated over $13,000 to the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. The JFR, a nonprofit organization committed to hakarat hatov — the searching out and recognition of goodness — provides financial assistance to aged and needy non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Akiba teacher Lili Feingold, who led the nomination effort, was elated to hear that Rachel was selected as one of this year’s winners. “Having had Rachel as a student for three years, I was most impressed with her compassion and in-depth understanding of the human condition. Her humility, juxtaposed to her greatness at such a young age, made her a perfect candidate for the Gloria Barron Prize. Being recognized for outstanding service is a wonderful thing when it can inspire others to achieve their greatness and make an impact on society. Look what resulted from one bat mitzvah project!”
Rachel’s family was delighted with the recent announcement. “We are gratified that Rachel’s efforts have been recognized for a project that is so special to her,” said her mother, Lisa Siegel. “It is so important to Rachel that these heroes, whose stories she chronicled, continue to serve as an inspiration to young people, and we are immensely proud that the stories will continue to be told through her work.”

Gloria Barron Prize winners receive $2,500 to be applied to their higher education or to their service project.

Rachel received the distinguished honor of valedictorian of her high school class in 2009, and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Organizational opening meetings on tap
It’s the start of the season for opening meetings.

The National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Dallas Section, will kick off the club season with guest speaker Kathy Miller, president, Texas Freedom Network, on Thursday, Sept. 10. The two-hour meeting from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. will be held at Congregation Shearith Israel, Topletz Auditorium.

Herzl Hadassah’s opening meeting of the new year will feature Rabbi Howard Wolk speaking on “Looking Back to 9-11 and Looking Forward to 5770.” The meeting will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 10 a.m. in the Senior Assembly Room at the Aaron Family JCC. Lunch, prepared by the Herzl board, will be served. All members and guests are invited to attend. Hadassah projects and plans for the coming year will be discussed.

Sign language High Holy Days services at Emanu-El
Temple Emanu-El will have sign language interpretation available during the High Holy Days on Rosh Hashanah evening, Friday, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. and on Yom Kippur Day, Monday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m., both in the Olan Sanctuary.
Admission cards are required. Temple Emanu-El is pleased to make them available (at no cost) to members of the deaf community.

Please contact Diana Hall at 214-706-0017 or to make arrangements as soon as possible so those interested can be accommodated.

Check out the Florence Melton and Gesher courses at the J
Exercise your brain by staying fit with the best Jewish education available at the J.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or are a lifelong learner, you’ll discover a class of independent creative thinkers studying aspects of Judaism from a pluralistic point of view. Classes are taught by some of Dallas’ most talented rabbis and educators. For further information about this amazing learning opportunity, contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at or by calling 214-239-7128.

Florence Melton Adult Mini School and Gesher Graduate classes begin the week of Sept. 13. The Melton schedule is as follows:
Second year: Sunday afternoons, 1–3:15 p.m. (Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound)
First year: Monday evenings, 7–9:15 p.m. (JCC)
Second year: Monday evenings, 7–9:15 p.m. (Congregation Shearith Israel)
First year: Tuesday mornings 9:30–11:45 a.m. (Congregation Beth Torah)
First year: Wednesday mornings, 9:30–11:45 a.m. (JCC)
Second year: Wednesday mornings, 9:30–11:45 a.m. (JCC)

Gesher Graduate classes begin Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 9:30 a.m. at Adat Chaverim and Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 9:30 a.m. at the J. Additional classes are offered on other days at a variety of times. For complete information on class offerings, go to and click on Jewish Life and Learning to view the Jewish education brochure.

BBYO toasts Dallas alumni with wine tasting, dessert reception
BBYO is celebrating all the decades of its alumni in Dallas!
Friends and alumni of BBYO (21 years and older) are invited to a wine tasting and dessert reception on Saturday evening, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. at Premier Wines of Plano, 1701 Summit Ave. #12. The evening will conclude in time to attend Selichot services at your local synagogue. The cost is $20 per person (at the door, charge by phone, or by check). Please RSVP to Sherrie Stalarow at 214-363-4654 or

This kickoff event is for the newly established Dallas BBYO Friends and Alumni Network (FAN). The Dallas FAN is part of an international network of FANs that are being formed in communities throughout North America. FAN provides BBYO alumni with ways to reconnect to each other and to BBYO, while supporting the organization that does so much for our teens and the community. For more information about FAN, contact Sherrie Stalarow, senior executive regional director, or check out

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