Archive | November, 2009

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 19 November 2009 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

I know that Orthodoxy believes that the Torah was given at one time and its laws are static and unchanging with the times. Orthodox tradition, however, contradicts this very belief. I recently heard a lecture from a leading (non-Orthodox) rabbi who quoted a passage from the Talmud about Moses at Sinai, whom tradition regards as having heard the word of God directly. He was transported many centuries ahead into the academy of the sage Akiva. During the lesson, one of the students asked Akiva how he knew that his interpretation was the proper one; he answered that it was given to Moses at Sinai. Moses, however, could not understand his reasoning and could not remember ever having received this law from God. Nonetheless it is regarded as having been given to Moses. We see clearly that Moses gave the basics and Akiva changed it in accordance with the need of the times he lived in, but it’s still considered Moses’ law as he gave the foundation from which to start. How can you reconcile this teaching with contemporary Orthodox belief?

Marvin W.

Dear Marvin,

With all due respect to your rabbi, he quoted the passage incorrectly and out of context.

The passage you are referring to is Tractate Menachos 29b, which says the following: “When Moses went up above [at Sinai] he found the Holy Blessed One sitting and attaching ‘crowns’ to the letters [of the Torah]. He asked him: ‘Master of the Universe, why do You have to do this?’ He said to him: ‘At the end of many generations will be a man named Akiva ben Yosef who will derive hills upon hills of laws from each crown.’ Moses said to Him, ‘Master of the Universe, show him to me.’ He said to him, ‘Turn around [and I will show you the future]. Moses went and sat at the end of the eighth row [of R’ Akiva’s disciples], but he could not understand the discussion, and was crestfallen…. His disciples asked R’ Akiva, ‘How do you know this?’ He said to them, ‘It is a law given to Moses on Sinai.’ When Moses heard this, he felt comforted.”

It is clear from this passage and its commentators that this took place before Moses actually received the body of the Torah and its laws, as G-d was still putting the finishing touches on the Torah. Moses could not have possibly forgotten the law discussed by R’ Akiva since he had not yet been taught the laws!

Knowing he would be the conduit of transfer of the Torah from G-d to the Jewish people, he was crestfallen when he could not fathom the intricate debate, although he was not yet versed in the subject at hand. How was he qualified to deliver the Torah if he could not fathom it? When he heard, however, from R’ Akiva that the very debate he did not yet comprehend was transmitted by none other than himself, he was reassured that once he would be taught the body of the Torah by G-d, he would be endowed with the intellectual capacity to grasp its most profound and elusive concepts and would be able to accurately transmit its message.

The message of this passage is that the profundity of Torah and the ability to grasp it is a G-d-given gift. Torah is from the infinite “mind of G-d,” and our finite minds are unable to grasp infinite concepts unless they are endowed to us as a gift from the Al-mighty when He sees that we try our best. This could not be farther from the misinterpretation unfortunately presented to you.

I would also take issue with your basic premise, that traditional Judaism is static and unchanging with the times. The concepts of Torah are timeless, and are the fiber of a living, breathing document which pumps life into the most modern of times. The vast body of responsa literature extrapolates the timeless precepts of Torah to deal with the thorniest of contemporary issues. The many thousands of volumes of responsa and commentary show that Torah knowledge and application grows with the times, bearing witness to the vibrancy and relevancy of Torah to our lives until today and beyond.

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 19 November 2009 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,

The holiday of Thanksgiving is upon us and the messages of this day are many. The importance of being thankful and the value of expressing those thanks are crucial lessons for our children to learn. Here are a few thoughts to make your Thanksgiving both Jewish and American. The easiest — don’t forget to say the Shehechiyanu!

Make Kiddush and HaMotzi on Thanksgiving. My favorite Jewish educator, Joel Lurie Grishaver, says in his book “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People”: “It is important to treat Thanksgiving as a Jewish ritual meal and thereby blend Jewish and American values into a single expression…. Thanksgiving is nothing more than a Pilgrim version of a creative Sukkot celebration — add the popcorn and cranberries, take out the lulav and etrog, and you get the picture. The moment I figured out that Thanksgiving wasn’t just an American holiday…. I was no longer involved in a thousand discussions about Jewish American or American Jew…. From then on, I’ve made Kiddush before eating turkey. Kiddush adds another dynamic — it shows not only a melding of food, but of spirit.”

Now that you’ve heard the “adult thinking part,” add the story of Molly’s pilgrim to your traditions. The book “Molly’s Pilgrim” was written in 1983 by Barbara Cohen. It tells the story of Molly who has moved from Russia, and the children make fun of her for her differences. The school assignment is given to make a doll Pilgrim for a display. Molly tells her mother that Pilgrims came to this country to worship G-d as they pleased. Molly’s mother makes Molly’s Pilgrim dressed as a Russian woman. Not surprisingly, the children make fun until their teacher explains: “Listen to me, all of you. Molly’s mother is a Pilgrim…. She came here, just like the Pilgrims long ago, so she could worship G-d in her own way, in peace and freedom….” (There is also a video available!) Thanksgiving has many lessons to share!

Continue being thankful after Thanksgiving. Our rabbis tell us to say 100 blessings every day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of 100 things that we are thankful for? A camp song written by the director of the UAHC Goldman Union Camp, Rabbi Ron Kotz, called “The Na Na Song” includes the words: “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shenatan lanu hizdamnut l’takein et haolam — Blessed are You, Eternal G-d, Ruler of the universe, for giving us the opportunity to mend the world.” Add this to your daily blessings; do your part to make the world better — start this Thanksgiving.

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

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 11 November 2009 by admin

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Remembering the Holtzbergs

Our friends at Chabad remind us that Wednesday, Nov. 18 marks the first yahrzeit of Rivkah and Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, of blessed memory — Chabad emissaries to Mumbai, India who were murdered, along with four others, by terrorists in their Chabad House.

Chabad Centers of the Metroplex will host “Loaves of Love” events in memory of these incredible people, where women of the community are invited to come and learn how to make challah in a variety of shapes and braids. Every woman will make two challot, one to keep and one to give to another person. The purpose of the evening is to inspire and to act on the message of giving and reaching out to others, as so lovingly demonstrated by the Holtzbergs.

The Jewish world was riveted, and then mourned, as the horrific story unfolded. As the anniversary of this tragedy approaches, we must not forget these selfless individuals whose devotion to their fellow Jews was legendary and who sacrificed their very lives for this noble cause.

Events will be held at Chabad of Dallas, Nov. 22, 11 a.m. (for info or to RSVP, please contact bailav@aol.com); Chabad of Fort Worth/Arlington, Nov. 22, 6 p.m. (info@arlingtonchabad.org); and Chabad of Plano, Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m.(rblock@chabadplano.org).

Jewish Family Service adds breast cancer support program

Jewish Family Service has added another important program to its list of services for women in our community. On the third Monday of every month at 7 p.m., a breast cancer support group will meet at the JFS building, 5402 Arapaho Road. Kosher pizza from Café Fino will be served. This month’s topic is, “Breaking Through Your Life’s Challenges to the Other Side.” At the last meeting, Shera Dubitsky from Sharsheret spoke on “Illness/Healing and Humor.”

Toy, food drive to benefit JFS

The Schweig family at Sunnyland Patio Furniture in North Dallas is organizing a toy and food drive for the holiday season benefiting Jewish Family Services, among other agencies. Starting now, drop off a non-perishable food item or a new, unwrapped toy at their store at Spring Valley and Coit, and receive coupons for Sunnyland, the String Bean Restaurant, Cici’s Pizza and the Planned Living Assistance Network resale shop. All food donations will be split with Jewish Family Services and one other outreach agency. For questions, please e-mail Brad Schweig at brad@sunnylandfurniture.com or call 972-239-3716.

SH*OP for a mitzvah

Mindee Zack is the store owner of SH*OP (Shopping Off Price), located in The Shops at Willow Bend, on the upper level between Saks and Dillards. SH*OP, a friendly retail store whose motto is “protect your wallet and strengthen the community,” offers a great selection of designer clothing up to 75 percent off retail prices. One of Mindee’s passions is the mitzvah of giving back to the community. “One mitzvah leads to another” is true, if one is willing to lend a hand. Life has been a challenge for many people due to unpredictable economic times. Everyone needs to believe in something to keep us going and to give us hope for a promising future.

As we are approaching the holiday season, there are many families who are in need of help and hope in so many ways. Now is the time to step up and give! As a way of giving back to the community, SH*OP is joining hands with the very worthwhile nonprofit organization Heroes for Children, which offers emotional and financial support to families with children who are battling cancer. One way to keep hope alive will occur on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 5 to 9 p.m. SH*OP is hosting a special in-store evening of entertainment, food and a friendly atmosphere, to help support Heroes for Children. All are welcome to join in this mitzvah. Each guest is asked to graciously donate $5 in honor of Heroes for Children’s five-year anniversary. Any contribution will be greatly appreciated.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 11 November 2009 by admin

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Dr. Stanley Kurtz, grandson Dixon Bourne to celebrate b’nai mitzvah at Beth-El

Dr. Stan and Marcia Kurtz look forward to this coming weekend, when Stan and his grandson Dixon will celebrate their b’nai mitzvah on Nov. 14 at Beth-El Congregation. Dixon is the son of Tammy and Dr. Jeff Bourne of Templeton, Calif., and the brother of Sunny. An eighth-grade student, he is also the grandson of the late Barbara Kurtz and Richard and Loretta Bourne.

Dixon’s passions are baseball, soccer and reading. As part of his bar mitzvah gift, he attended this year’s World Series. Because he is such an avid baseball fan and player, Dixon wanted to incorporate his love of the sport into his mitzvah project. He decided to raise money for underprivileged children to attend Los Angeles Dodgers games. He raised several thousand dollars, and the Dodgers were so impressed with the program they decided to promote it as well. Dixon had an opportunity to sit in the Dodgers’ bullpen. The Dodgers have started an endowment that will continue the program for upcoming seasons.

“He is a very generous boy,” said proud grandfather Stan, “He thinks about good things.”

Dixon’s sister Sunny was named on the bimah at the old Temple Beth-El some 15 years ago, and Rabbi Mecklenburger officiated at her bat mitzvah two years ago in California.

Joining Rabbi Mecklenburger on the bimah will be Cantor Janice Mehring, who will sing with the choir and participate in the services. Cantor Mehring helped prepare Dixon for his bar mitzvah and she is studying for the rabbinate.

A large contingent of family and friends will attend, including Stan’s daughters, Abigail and Henri Migala and daughter Sofia, 8, of San Diego, Calif.; and Patricia Dorfman and Richard Drake of Queens, N.Y. Among the others expected are Marcia’s daughter, Nan Sonderer, and her daughter, Morghan of Sonita, Ariz., and family members and friends from Los Angeles, Tuscon, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, San Diego, Dallas, and Austin. Mazel tov to the Kurtz-Bourne families!

JFS Senior Luncheon, Nov. 24

Harry Kahn and members of the Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith International are busy preparing for the annual Jewish Family Service Senior Luncheon on Tuesday. Nov. 24. The luncheon starts at 11:30 a.m. Popular musicians Ariana and Armen Cherkosov are busy practicing special holiday music, making this event really something to look forward to. Reservations can still be made by calling Elsa at the JFS office at 817-569-0898. There is no cost to attend this event and you will have a wonderful festive meal with good friends, good music and a general good time.

Seniors in the community should consider attending the daily senior program at Beth-El Congregation. The group meets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Great Hall. It’s good fun and good food.

JFS is also preparing for the Chanukah season. All the JFS senior citizens are excited about getting some items that are greatly needed. JFS hopes that the community will be as supportive this year as they have been in the past.

‘Daytimers’ to honor World War II vets

The “Daytimers” will honor World War II veterans, Wednesday, Nov. 18 at noon at Beth-El. Author Bryan Rigg will discuss one of his books, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: Question of Jewish Identity and Morality.” He will also have copies available of his book “Rescued from the Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

Contrary to conventional views, Rigg reveals that a startlingly large number of German military men were classified by the Nazis as Jews or “partial-Jews” (Mischlinge), in the wake of racial laws first enacted in the mid-1930s. Rigg demonstrates that the actual number was much higher than previously thought — perhaps as many as 150,000 men, including decorated veterans and high-ranking officers, even generals and admirals.

World War II veterans who already have reservations include Tom Bessant, Ken Bobkoff, Bob Clemmer, Joe Coggan, Arthur Hofstein, Frances Kleiman, Irv Raffel and Dr. Irvin Robinson.

Other “early reservers” include Ellen Adrien, Adele Aransberg, Kenneth and Sandra Baum, Claudia Boksiner, Fanny Brooks, Bootsie Coggan, Edythe Cohen, Lee and Abe Cohen, Hortense Deifik, Bernice Friedman, Corinne Jacobson, Sheryl Levy, Rosanne and Bill Margolis, Rhona Raffel, Jacque Robinson, Barbara Rosenthal, Roz Rosenthal, Barbara Rubin, Sherwin Rubin, Tina Schreier, Judy and Burton Schwartz, Rosalie Schwartz, Nancy Sheinberg, Hy Siegel, Fannette Sonkin, Sonia Stenzler and Al and Sylvia Wexler.

Lunch will be catered by Pak-a-Pocket. Guests have a choice of turkey pastrami, chicken shwarma or baba ghanoush (eggplant). All are on pita bread, plus pickle, chips, cookies, coffee or tea. Cost is $9 each, or guests may attend for the program only for $4. All World War II veterans will be guests of the “Daytimers.”

For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109.

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

Hadassah’s Community-Wide Women’s Celebration: a home run!

To call the Fort Worth Chapter of Hadassah’s Community-Wide Women’s Celebration, featuring guest speaker Dr. Maria Sirois, a huge success would be an understatement. Since we’re in World Series mode, let’s use this analogy: Dr. Sirois hit a “home run” with the crowd cheering for more.

More than 150 women of all ages from Tarrant County attended the Nov. 2 event at Congregation Beth-El, which gave everyone the opportunity not only to hear this first-class speaker, but also to reconnect with old friends.

The women listened intently, constantly nodding their heads in agreement with what Dr. Sirois had to say as she brought warmth, honesty and humor to her stories. Her explanations about how and why women make a difference are reminders that we are not alone in our lives and in our community, that we are worthy and that we can find our way through challenges together. Those in attendance did not want the program to end and Dr. Sirois generously obliged by speaking longer, followed by a Q&A session.

Don’t worry if you missed this inspirational event. By popular demand, Hadassah is bringing Dr. Sirois back for another program in the spring. It will be a thought-provoking event not to be missed, so keep a lookout for future publicity in the coming months.

Kudos to Debby Rice and Rhoda Bernstein’s hard-working committee — Ava Beleck, Loretta Causey, Jane Cohen, Linda Hochster, Etty Horowitz, Eileen House, Shoshana Howard, Rebecca Isgur, Karen Kaplan, Mona Karten, Marcia Kurtz, Linda Lavi, Susan Luskey, Melissa Morgan, Dolores Schneider, Louise Vermillion and Laurie Werner — for their event’s huge success, and to the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Endowment Fund for helping make this event a possibility.

A date to remember: the Schweitzers’ 50th

Len and Rose-Marie Schweitzer had the enormous pleasure of having their whole family with them to celebrate their 50th anniversary in Yosemite National Park. Len and Rose-Marie spent four wonderful days in the company of their sons, Jordan and Juli, Jeff and Margie and Loren and Anne. They were lucky to have marvelous weather, spectacular fall colors and activities that all enjoyed together or separately.

They took a tour to see all the beauty the area offered (Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, meadows and rivers and the famous Sequoia Grove). There is so much more to see that they vowed to return!

The climax was the 28th annual Ahwahnee Vintners dinner, which they all attended. There were 185 people in the gorgeous Ahwahnee dining room, and wines from the Napa Valley accompanied each of the five courses of the meal prepared by Chef Percy Whatley and staff. The dining room was aglow with candles, soft music and, best of all, their entire family together.

The 50th is a special occasion and what better way to celebrate than family being together!

News and notes

Congratulations to Garry Holland and Autumn De Maris on their forthcoming wedding on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 4 p.m. at CAS. Rabbi Alberto (Baruch) Zeilicovich will conduct the ceremony.

Congratulations to Julie Lazarus, who was awarded a commission to create a work of art for the City of Fort Worth as part of their Public Art program.

Mazel Tov to Lauren Gilbert and Houdi Epstein on their recent engagement. Lauren is the daughter of Cynthia and Burton Gilbert and the granddaughter of Sarah Betty and the late Ben Gilbert of Fort Worth and Sonny and Peggy Lerner of Dallas. Houdi is the son of Ricki and Moshe Epstein of Arlington. A spring wedding is planned.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 11 November 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Do you know any people who have adopted children?

I’ve mentioned adoptees here a few times in the past. Once was when I wrote about Lew Manilow, adopted son of Nate Manilow, a guiding spirit behind Park Forest, Ill., the town profiled by William H. Whyte in his 1956 book, “The Organization Man” — recognized by many as one of the most influential publications of 20th-century America. Lew went on to be a town founder himself; University Park, where Illinois’ Governors State University stands just south of Park Forest, was his baby. And of course I’ve told you about my Zayde, who “adopted” a nameless, unclaimed infant who died alone during the great influenza epidemic early in the 20th century, and buried her with his own dead daughter.

But I also have a living adopted cousin, not nearly so prominent as Mr. Manilow. His parents, my Uncle Jack and Aunt Luba, were never prominent, either. But they wanted children and couldn’t have any, so they adopted newborn Gene early in 1951. I had just started college, and started smoking (another story!), at the time of his brit, which was held in the now-defunct little shul that was then my whole family’s “spiritual home,” as some of my non-Jewish friends call their churches. (I know about the smoking because I remember sneaking out during the reception, so my dad — a smoker himself, but one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” people — wouldn’t see me.)

As an only child, Gene was somewhat wild. He was also more than somewhat accident-prone. His face is still misshapen as a result of his running across a street one icy winter evening, slipping, falling and being hit by a car. This happened when he was about 9 years old. A girl would probably have been crushed, years later if not then, by the lasting results of that ineffective plastic surgery, but on a man, it’s different. Gene looks sort of … intriguing, I’d say. Also handsome!

Talk about “accident-prone”: Gene became a bar mitzvah at that little old shul, but was coached by a man at a far larger and more impressive synagogue not too far away. He’d walk to his Hebrew lessons after school, up the building’s massive stairs and through its stately front doors. On the Thursday preceding his big Shabbat, Gene had a final review with his tutor, whose last words to him were: “In the spirit of theater, break a leg! But don’t break an arm before the bar mitzvah!” Gene said goodbye and thank you, walked out those stately doors and promptly fell down the massive stairs, breaking an arm.

My Aunt Luba said much of her sewing during Gene’s growing-up years consisted of taking out the seams of one arm or another in his shirts and sweaters and jackets so they’d fit over casts, and sewing them up again afterward. She did the same to his new white shirt and the jacket of his blue bar mitzvah suit.

I’m telling you all this because in just three days it will be National Adoption Day, an annual tribute to adoptive families since 2000. The day is dedicated to finalizing the adoptions of children in foster care, to honoring their official new parents and to celebrating with all of them. Most importantly, it’s a day for spreading the word about the huge need for more of these loving, not-by-birth mothers and fathers. A half-million kids are in foster care in this country every year; at any one time, about 150,000 are eligible for adoption.

So on Nov. 15 each year, there are now mass adoption ceremonies at U.S. courthouses, followed by “new family” parties where many, many children rejoice with parents and siblings that they can finally, officially call their own.

My Uncle Jack and Aunt Luba are long gone now, but their adoption has so far given us two additional family generations. Cousin Gene and his wife have three children; both their daughters’ weddings are scheduled for next year, and their married son already has two children of his own. Cousin-by-marriage Jeannie and I regularly exchange letters, e-mails and occasional gifts. The latest: I sent her a colorful enamel pin from Jerusalem; she sent me a necklace charm fashioned from a seashell found on an Israeli beach.

The late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s restaurants and himself an adoptee, began this special adoption effort. I thank him, and support his efforts. Maybe you’ll join in? Find out more at nationaladoptionday.org.

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 11 November 2009 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Rabbi,

I’ve often wondered why the Jewish calendar is lunar, unlike the secular calendar which is solar. Is it that we have some connection to the moon rather than the sun?

Curious

Dear Curious,

The first mitzvah given to the Jews as a nation, while still in Egypt, was to sanctify the months based upon the new moon (Shemot/Exodus 12:2). This mitzvah forms the foundation of the Jewish holidays, the celebration of which depends upon our counting of the months and days from the sighting of the new moon. However, we no longer wait for the sighting of the new moon by witnesses. Instead, the final High Court calculated the Jewish months for the next several thousand years. These early sages calculated the lunar calendar with remarkable precision, leading to startling accuracy until today, thousands of years later.

It is not insignificant that this, of all mitzvot, should be the very first given to the Jews, well before the Ten Commandments. This reveals much about our relationship to the mitzvot, the lunar cycle and insights regarding the Jewish people.

The Hebrew for “month,” as seen from the above-mentioned verse, is chodesh. This comes from the root chadash, which means “new.” We are always to perform the mitzvot with a feeling of freshness and newness, not to execute them by rote. This entails injecting the feelings you have that day, coupled with using your full faculties and thoughts and heart, when performing a mitzvah. No two times you carry out a mitzvah should be the same. This is reflected by the moon, which waxes and wanes, sometimes more present and at times more elusive, but never the same. Its very essence in the way it presents to us teaches us to always be renewed. This serves as an introduction to all future mitzvot, following the lead of the first mitzvah, which is fresh, new and invigorating by its very nature. We see this in the words of the Torah, in the Sh’ma, which says “these words should be today upon your heart.” The classical commentator Rashi explains this to mean that every day the words of Torah should be as fresh and new as the day they were given at Mt. Sinai.

The Jews, as a people, are connected to the mitzvot on a very deep level. For this reason, the Jewish nation is constantly being renewed. Unlike the sun, which remains static and unchanging, the moon waxes and wanes. At one point during the month it seems to disappear completely, only to suddenly appear anew and on its way to fullness and complete splendor. So often in our history have we gone through times that seemed as though the end had arrived. We have seen the destruction of our Temples, subsequent exiles, annihilation of our country. We’ve endured Haman’s final solution, pogroms, inquisitions and the unspeakable Holocaust. Each time, sociologists and historians pronounced us dead or too weak to go on. Shortly after we were hidden like the moon (alas, to the chagrin of many), we were back!

In no small part it is the very mitzvot that we perform with a newness that has kept our nation fresh and new, giving us the strength and Divine connection to continue to survive. That’s the one most important thing we can all do in the face of the latest threats to our existence from Iran coupled with the threat of assimilation — renew our commitment to mitzvot and Torah study, which will ensure our survival!

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 11 November 2009 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

This week at the J Early Childhood Center we explored what’s Jewish about teddy bears. Teddy bears give comfort to children and to adults. Teddy bears are good listeners. When children play with teddy bears, they are embodying Jewish values. We began simply by talking about teddy bears — and it is always better to talk while you are holding a special bear. Before you read further, run and get a teddy to hug. Here are some of the Jewish values we talked about:

Ahavah — love:
There are many kinds of love. Ahavah is a Jewish value that teaches love and respect for other people and all of G-d’s creations.

Dibuk chaverim — cleaving to friends: This value goes beyond having friends to developing relationships with trust and devotion.

Gemilut chasadim — acts of loving kindness: These deeds go beyond simple kindnesses to spelling out the real-life moments in which we need to take care of each other.

Tza’ar ba’alei chayim — kindness to animals: According to Jewish law, we must always treat animals kindly because they are G-d’s creatures.

B’tzelem Elohim — created in the image of G-d: This does not mean that we look like G-d or that G-d has a body or face. People are created with the ability to reason and know good from bad. When we talk about each person being created in the image of G-d, we must remember to pay attention to what is holy about each person and to model our behavior after that of G-d.

History of the teddy bear

Teddy Roosevelt was the president of the United States about 100 years ago. One day (in 1902) he went on a bear hunt but couldn’t find any bears to hunt. Finally, a friend brought him a baby bear but Teddy Roosevelt would not hurt the bear cub. A Jewish couple in New York, Morris and Rose Michtom, heard about Teddy and the bear. Rose sewed a stuffed bear and called it Teddy’s Bear. After that, everyone wanted a Teddy Bear. All the money from selling Morris and Rose’s teddy bears, they gave to tzedakah to help others.

Teddy bears may not be created in the image of G-d, but each one is unique and very special. If we practice each of the Jewish values with our teddy bears, it is good training to help us treat all people (and animals) with the same respect and love.

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

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Wasserman, Shepard are featured authors as the JCC Book Fair continues

Wasserman, Shepard are featured authors as the JCC Book Fair continues

Posted on 11 November 2009 by admin

By Deb Silverthorn

“Do not forget the things you saw with your own eyes, so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” So says Deuteronomy and so says Dallas chef, cooking instructor, columnist and cookbook author, Tina Wasserman. “These are the tastes of our families and our traditions.”TINAWASSERMAN

Wasserman, a New York native and longtime Dallas resident, and her recently released “Entrée to Judaism — A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora,” will be featured at the J Bookfair 2009 on Wednesday, Nov. 18, beginning at 7 p.m.

“Tina’s book is beautiful and inspiring, it’s more than ‘just’ a cookbook,” said the JCC’s Rachelle Weiss Crane, director of the Melton and Gesher Graduate Programs. “Learning meal preparation with Tina isn’t just a cooking class. It’s a history lesson that shares where the food came from and how the Jews adapted the recipes.”

“This book is a dream come true for Tina and it’s my great joy to be a part of this event,” said chair, Lizzy Rosenberg Greif. “Tina’s passion and love for food makes it enjoyable. Tina’s been a mentor and a friend and she’s contributed so much to my life.”

“In Tina’s recipes, each ingredient tells a story,” Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Debra Robbins wrote in the “Entrée to Judaism” foreword. “Each recipe expresses an ethical value, explores a historical event, evokes a memory.”

Rabbi Robbins further wrote, “This book is a little bit like the Talmud. It is a compilation of rules and stories, with real-life examples and illustrations, a guide not only for preparing certain recipes, but for living Jewish life. In this book there are recipes for Jews by birth, embracing the history of our people, Jews by choice, compiling scrapbooks of memories. These are recipes that will nourish and nurture, not only our bodies, but hearts and minds and souls.”

More than 275 recipes and 60 photographs, culled from Wasserman’s 12-plus-hour days of researching everything from Josephus and the Talmud to the first Jewish cookbook written in the 1800s, entice the reader. They include Eggplant Bharta, an Indian recipe adapted from one by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; Pumpkin with Spiced Coconut Custard, an idea brought after a Chabad rabbi in Bangkok explained the use of pumpkin for Jewish holidays, representing all-encompassing prosperity; and Ottoman Watermelon and Olive Salad, flavors that the author first tasted on the island of Santorini.

“Tina’s recipes are goof-proof. I don’t ever hesitate, even with company coming, to make one of her dishes for the first time,” Weiss Crane said. “I can make any of her Hungarian recipes and my dad will enjoy a meal that smells, tastes and looks just like my grandmother would have prepared.”

“Tina’s Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken Salad is a staple at our Shabbat table and her Mushroom Barley Soup is a comfort food that I make every couple of weeks,” Rosenberg Greif said. “When I think of how I cook, how I learned to cut an onion even, I think of her ‘tidbits.’”

“Tina’s Tidbits,” well-known to those who have taken her “Cooking and More” classes at her own 500 square-foot kitchen as well as at Central Market, Sur Le Table, the JCC, the Hilton Anatole Verandah Club and other facilities, are key. The “tidbits” range from advice on how to clarify butter, to how much frozen spinach equals a pound of large leaf spinach, to notes about red curry — which is parve in most cases, but she warns that some do contain 5 percent shrimp paste. She always uses the former.

Recipes for Chanukah include Chanukah Radish Salad Canapes (radishes, the Torah states, were a mainstay of the Jewish slaves’ diet in Egypt); Frituras de Malanga (Taro Root Fritters, a recipe Wasserman learned at Havana’s Patronato Synagogue while on a mission to Cuba); and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (Wasserman’s tribute to Judith, who saved the Jews from annihilation by feeding salty cheese and wine to General Holofernes, then beheading him and scaring off his troops).

In 2002, Wasserman wrote to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, suggesting that Reform Judaism, the world’s largest circulated magazine, was in need of a column regarding Jewish food, recipes and history. At the time, Wasserman was hired to write one article. That one begat two, then more, and she has served as Reform Judaism’s food columnist ever since. “Entrée to Judaism — A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora,” is the URJ’s first cookbook to be published.

Wasserman, who herself chaired a 2008 Bookfair event, is a member of Temple Emanu-El and of Dallas’ National Council of Jewish Women, a board member of URJ’s Camp Newman and a lifetime member of Hadassah; she’s just retired as the longest-serving member, 19 years, on the board of the Vogel Alcove. She is married to Dr. Richard Wasserman and is the mother of Jonathan, a photographer in New York, and Leslie, a senior at American University.

Growing up in Long Island, the daughter of the late Lucille and Leon Rice and the sister of Sherry, Wasserman’s first memory in the kitchen is sitting on the kitchen floor, rolling pin in hand, with a 5-lb. bag of flour, and “I was making a pie.”

“My mother lived through the depression and she treated food with reverence,” she said. “Our salads were always served on their own plate, had a radish rose, four slices of bell pepper and four slices of tomato. It was from Mrs. Wood, our neighbor, that at the age of 9 I learned to bake. She took me under her wing and today I can remember my first flourless French chocolate roll.”

“It was when I was 13 years old and in Mrs. Levine’s class that I decided I wanted to teach cooking,” she said. “She was all the things that a home-ec teacher wasn’t. Young, Jewish and ‘cool.’”

Wasserman mentioned that “‘Jewish’ cooking, to so many, means an overcooked meal with lots of potatoes and onions.” For more than 40 years she has taught Jews and non-Jews about kosher cooking: never with pork or shellfish, no dishes with milk and meat ingredients together. “No one cared and no one thought they were missing out on anything. Our home kitchen is a kosher kitchen, something I always wanted to share with my kids. I wanted them to grow up in an environment that was Jewish, and a kosher kitchen is part and parcel of our tradition.”

In addition to “Entrée to Judaism,” Wasserman hosts a Web site, cookingandmore.com, which features recipes, information and the sale of the author’s note cards in sets relating to holidays and general cooking, each with a recipe and photo.

“Every recipe has a story and there’s always something for every cook to learn. The laws of kashrut and the laws of Shabbat define Jewish food. For generations, around the world, we’ve adapted recipes to make them our own,” said Wasserman, who will sign copies of her book at the Nov. 18 event. “The Jewish world really is connected, regardless of the thousands of miles that might separate us.”

For more information on the J’s Book Fair, call 214-739-7128 or e-mail rweisscrane@jccdallas.org.

‘The Girl from Foreign’s’ Sadia Shepard to highlight third annual community read

By Rachel Gross

Sadia Shepard learned of her Jewish roots at age 13. Since then, she has written a book and traveled to Jewish communities across the country to share her story.

Shepard discovered her Muslim grandmother was actually Jewish. Before her grandmother died, Shepard made a promise that she would go to India to learn about her Jewish faith. Shepard’s book, “The Girl from Foreign,” weaves stories of her cross-cultural childhood with tales from her two-year journey to India to uncover the Bene Israel, a tiny Indian Jewish community from which her maternal grandmother originated.Sadia Shepard.Skywalker.253b

Shepard will be the guest at this year’s community read on Dec. 14 sponsored by the Tycher Library of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in the Zale Auditorium of the Aaron Family JCC.

She said she plans to discuss the legacy of the Jewish people in India and her personal story to connect with her grandmother’s community.

“One thing I hope people take away is the great gift that older people in our lives have for us — the power of storytelling,” she said. “By hearing their stories, there is so much to learn about our own families and different ways of seeing the world.”

Shepard grew up outside of Boston with a multicultural family; her father was Protestant and her mother was Muslim. After she found out her grandmother’s name was Rachel Jacobs, it sparked an interest in learning about Judaism.

She said growing up with many different religions made her become more educated, and she hopes to share her wisdom.

“I was fortunate to grow up in a home with three different parents. It became a catalyst in my life to learn more about Judaism,” she said. “Coming from a home with multiple religions can often be confusing, but it’s also a great opportunity for dialogue and learning. When you are a kid, you’re not always interested in family and tradition, but I was lucky that my interest in different faiths and traditions was encouraged.”

Shepard also made a documentary in 2008 called “In Search of the Bene Israel,” a film that follows a group of more than 3,000 Jews in Bombay. Shepard plans to share this at the Dallas event.

She added that she is excited about her visit to Dallas and is grateful for the opportunity not only to educate people about her life, but to learn their stories as well.

“Texas is a melting pot of so many different countries and has many different influences,” she said. “There is a large Indian community, immigrant groups from all over the world and a thriving Jewish community. It’s exciting to have the chance to visit a place where all of these different elements are coming together. One of the best things about publishing this book is developing the new awareness of the diversity of Jewish communities in the United States.”

The community read began in 2007 and has received accolades since. Joan Gremont, director of the Tycher Library, said about 200 people attended last year and the hope is for that number to double.

People are asked to read the book on their own, and then attend to meet the author and join in discussion. The audience will also have a chance to ask Shepard questions.

Gremont said being able to hear the writer in person makes the book much more personal.

“There is nothing like hearing the author because it makes the book come alive,” Gremont said. “This is a book that has universal appeal. It’s Muslim, it’s Jewish and the main question is: What religion is Sadia Shepard? The book doesn’t tell you and I’m sure that will be the first question she is asked. When you read a book you really love, you want to talk about it; that always makes magic. This makes it real because you see the person behind the words.”

For more information, call Gremont at 214-239-7133. Books are available for purchase at the Tycher Library and other book retailers.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 05 November 2009 by admin

Dr. Jerry Grodin to speak at Beth Torah Men’s Club breakfast

Congregation Beth Torah Men’s Club members are in for a treat when Dr. Jerry Grodin, noted Dallas cardiologist, speaks at their monthly lox-and-bagel breakfast on Sunday, Nov. 15. Dr. Grodin put his career on hold after the Sept. 11 attacks and enlisted in the United States Army.

Dr. Grodin served in military hospitals in Iraq and Germany and will soon complete eight years of service as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He has the significant honor of being invited to serve as Grand Marshal at the Veterans’ Day Parade on Nov. 11 in downtown Dallas.

On the weekend following Veterans Day, he will speak about faith, patriotism and battlefield medicine. The public is invited for breakfast and to hear Dr. Grodin’s fascinating and inspiring story.

The cost is $10. Beth Torah is located at 720 W. Lookout Drive in Richardson. For more information, call the synagogue at 972-234-1542.

Dallas BBYO teens chosen for international service

Several Dallas BBYO teens have been chosen to serve on the international teen level of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.

The BBYO International Chair Network was created to give more teens across the country an active voice in International BBYO and capitalize upon the strengths and talents of the collective membership to answer needs across the organization. Inspired by a growing membership constituency and significantly greater interest in contributing at the international level, the AZA/BBG International Chair Network will continue to embrace teens who want to make a broader impact beyond their home communities.

Teens chosen include: Merrit Corrigan, Jennie Zesmer BBG, Program Excellence; Jill Frey, Jennie Zesmer BBG, Pitching BBYO, and Taylor Ellis, Morton Lewis AZA, BBYO Terminology Guide. Erica Arbetter, Fannie Sablosky BBG, was also chosen to serve on BBYO’s International PR Team, an initiative through the Marketing and Communications Department to give real-world marketing, journalism, communications, advertising and public relations experience to teens while they market BBYO in local communities.

Zach Goodman of Rubin Kaplan AZA was chosen Chapter Leadership Training Conference Leader and Alec Reifer of Eamonn Lacey AZA was chosen to serve as Chapter Leadership Training Conference Coordinator.

For further information about BBYO, please call the regional office at 214-363-4654.

Yavneh Academy names Youth Ambassador Team

Yavneh Academy has announced its 2009–2010 Youth Ambassador Team. Included are Dalit Agronin ‘12, Carly Bierman ‘12, Millie Blumka ‘12, Leigh Bonner ‘11, Elizabeth Chatham ‘10, Reid Cohen ‘12, Nicole Danilewitz ‘10, Samantha Danilewitz ‘12, Abbie Denemark ‘11, Daley Epstein ‘10, Jori Epstein ‘12, Jake Greif ‘12, Elan Kogutt ‘11, Joseph Lerer ‘10, Benji Liener ‘12, Ethan Prescott ‘10, Jordan Prescott ‘12, Mina Pulitzer ‘12, Hannah Schepps ‘12, Gabby Steinbrecher ‘12, Kevin Sulski ‘12 and Shimi Wolk ‘11. This year’s program is directed by Yavneh parents, Dia Epstein and Jackie Danilewitz.

“Yavneh’s Ambassadors tour prospective students and their families around campus, answer questions and share the history of our program and provide a students’-eye view of what a day in the life of a Yavneh student might be,” said Don O’Quinn, head of school. “We’re very proud of the students chosen this year to represent our Yavneh community. The feedback is strong and positive and, as many of our students, these are the leaders of our future.”

NCJW fall study sessions continue into December

Rabbi Ana Bonnheim and Rabbi Nancy Kasten will continue NCJW’s examination of the profound impact on women’s identity and experience of being citizens of the Jewish homeland. Please join them for a light lunch and compelling study. The remaining lunch-and-learns are on Thursday, Nov. 19 focusing on “Arab/Jewish Relations” and on Thursday, Dec. 3 on “Religious Identity and Personal Status.”

Registration begins 11:45 a.m. for each session; study commences at noon. Cost is $15 per session. The course is held in the Senior Assembly Room of the JCC, 7900 Northaven Road.

Please RSVP online at www.ncjwdallas.org or by phone at 214-368-4405.

Gil Elan to address Herzl Hadassah meeting

Gil Elan, executive director of the Southwest Jewish Congress, will address “Update Israel” for Herzl Hadassah members and guests on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m., in the Senior Assembly Room at the Aaron Family JCC.

Bring a sack lunch, hear Hadassah news, visit with friends and learn of the present Israel situation. Coffee and desert will be served. All are welcome.

Flower Mound Coffee House

Congregation Kol Ami will hold their popular Flower Mound Coffee House: Mugs and Music gatherings on Saturday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. at the synagogue center, 1887 Timber Creek Road, Flower Mound.

Performers Lynne Adler and Lindy Hearne, singers and songwriters extraordinaire, will present a spirited blend of original folk and jazz blues.

Guitar virtuoso Rhett Butler’s playing style has captured local and national attention. He puts heart and soul into his art.

Gourmet coffee, tea and homemade desserts will be available. The Coffee House is wheelchair accessible. Cost is $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Visa and MasterCard are accepted. To purchase tickets or for more information, contact Congregation Kol Ami from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday–Friday, 972-539-1938 or e-mail office@kolami-tx.org.

Flower Mound Coffee House: Mugs and Music is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, a community service of Congregation Kol Ami. Proceeds are donated to local charities including the Children’s Advocacy Center of Lewisville.

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Around the Town with Rene

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 05 November 2009 by admin

[nggallery id=36]

From Laurie James: tri-faith dialogue

We feel fortunate when Laurie James has time from her busy nursing studies to write for the TJP. This week, Laurie shares a Beth-El teen experience with our readers.

“On Oct. 25, youth from Beth-El Congregation’s confirmation class hosted their peers from University Christian Church and the Fort Worth Islamic Association in what’s become an annual tri-faith dialogue (or ‘tri-alog’) on commonalities between the three monotheistic faiths. Beth-El Religious School Director Ilana Knust commented that the program changes every few years to catch youth in different ages and stages at the participating congregations.

“Red Goldstein, who teaches the confirmation class, said he valued the programming. ‘I think that whenever there is an opportunity for people of all three faiths to see that the roots of the three religions are similar, then that is a basis for further understanding.’

“‘Mutual respect is always stronger when it is based, first of all, on mutual understanding,’ said Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger. ‘It is easy to deal in stereotypes when you only know textbook or media portraits of the others. When people really meet and talk with one another they find that the stereotypes are false, and that we share a common humanity.’

“The groups started out with an icebreaker, where students had to find people from outside their congregations with certain characteristics. It was easy for them to find vegetarians, or people who could describe Communion and keeping kosher. Many kids found students from the other congregations who liked the same drinks or had the same favorite color. However, in a room two-thirds full of mostly dark-eyed Jewish and Muslim kids, it was harder to find someone with blue eyes!

“The group of over 100 teens and adults then moved into Beth-El’s Sanctuary, where Rabbi Mecklenburger spoke about symbols one would find uniquely in a synagogue. Muslims understood that the congregation faced the Torah and east, to Jerusalem, the holy place shared by all three faiths. The rabbi shared brief information about Judaism’s different streams, and the ner tamid and the Ten Commandments affixed above the ark.

“‘But the stained glass,’ he said, ‘we got from the Christians.’

“During the next hour, the youth snacked, and learned about simple things, like when Shabbat occurs (ours is on Saturday), the tradition of keeping kosher, and why the menorah has seven branches while a chanukiah has nine branches. A Muslim young woman said she learned that the Wailing Wall was a place of great holiness for Jews, as it’s the last remnant of the Temple.

“‘I learned that Jews are awesome,’ said a member of UCC.

“Jackie Boztek, a longtime community educator, led a breakout group and commented, ‘I learned that we have a great group of young people in our community.’

“‘I accept my faith and I take it for granted,’ said Knust. ‘But sometimes people outside my faith don’t know that about me. So it’s nice to share that with other people.’

“‘It’s important to recognize the differences of history,’ said Goldstein. ‘But we should also focus on the things that we have that are similar such as tzedakah (Muslim zakat, Christian tithing). The better we understand each other’s difference and each other’s sameness, the closer we come to peace and understanding.’

“Patricia Smith, a member of UCC, agreed. ‘We have more commonality than difference,’ she said. ‘It’s about simple things, and how we do things in our communities the same way.’

“Rabbi Mecklenburger stressed the importance of all three faiths learning to respect one another. ‘If we can get together peacefully in Fort Worth, Texas,’ he said, ‘ it is reasonable to think that the same can one day happen in the Middle East or anywhere else.’

“The tri-faith dialogue will continue at Fort Worth’s University Christian Church on Nov. 8 and at the Mosque on Nov. 15.”

Thanks to Laurie for her excellent reportage of the tri-faith dialogue.

‘Daytimers’ to honor WW II vets

The coming event for the “Daytimers” will honor World War II veterans, on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at noon at Beth-El when author Bryan Rigg discusses one of his books, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: Question of Jewish Identity and Morality.”

Rigg has turned up an unexplored and confounding chapter in the history of the Holocaust. With the skill of a master detective he uncovered the largely unknown story of German Jews serving in the Nazi military. Raised as a Protestant in the Texas Bible Belt, Bryan Mark Rigg was surprised to learn of his own Jewish ancestry while researching his family tree in Germany. This revelation, as well as a chance encounter with a Jewish veteran of the Wehrmacht at a Berlin screening of “Europa Europa,” roused him to embark on a decade of research while a student, first at Yale University and later at Cambridge University. “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military” is the result of his efforts.

Lunch will be catered by Pak-a-Pocket. Guests have a choice of turkey pastrami, chicken shwarma or baba ghanoush (eggplant). All are on pita bread, plus pickle, chips, cookies, coffee or tea. Cost is $9 each, or guests may attend the program only for $4. All World War II veterans will be guests of the “Daytimers.”

For reservations, call Barbara ­Rubin, 817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, 817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109.

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

TCU social work professor to present research on Holocaust survivors’ memories

A TCU social work professor will present research on Holocaust survivors Thursday, Nov. 12 as part of the SMU Human Rights Education Program “Holocaust Legacies: Shoah as Turning Point” 2009 fall series and a “Holocaust Survivors: Stories of Resilience” symposia series funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The presentation and panel discussion, “Forgiveness, Resiliency, and Survivorship Among Holocaust Survivors,” will take place at the SMU Perkins School of Theology – Prothro Great Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event is free and open to attend; CEUs (continuing education units) are available. TCU is co-sponsoring the event along with SMU, Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and the University of Dallas.

Dr. Harriet Cohen, associate professor of social work at TCU, will present her research findings about Holocaust survivors, along with Dr. Roberta Greene, co-principal investigator of the study, professor of social work and endowed chair at the University of Texas at Austin. Panel participants include historians, mental health professionals and local Holocaust survivors who participated in the study. Dr. Joretta Marshall, professor of pastoral theology and care at Brite Divinity School, brings her expertise to the panel.

“We found that even people who endured the atrocities of the Holocaust developed the capacity to rebuild their lives. They remembered the losses they experienced, but they also remembered that they survived, which allowed them adapt to a new country, language and culture, rebuild their lives, create families and live into older adulthood. Hopefully this research helps the current generation prepare and respond to the survivors of traumatic events like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shooting,” Dr. Cohen said.

“We have to choose to go on and to remember the past but also to have hope for the future,” she continued.

The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, focused on a better understanding of resiliency and survivorship after trauma, whereas earlier Holocaust studies focused on problems and victimhood. The John Templeton Foundation is a philanthropic organization that funds scientific research in its mission to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life’s biggest questions.

For more information on the event and to RSVP, please e-mail mary.lieberman@tcu.edu or for more information about the research, contact Dr. Cohen, h.cohen@tcu.edu or 817-257-5230.

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