Archive | December, 2009


Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 17 December 2009 by admin

Dear Readers,

With Chanukah about to end, and so many expressing their sadness and frustration over the current financial situation and the dangers facing Israel and Jews everywhere, I have decided to re-send you my last year’s comments with the prayer this should kindle a new light of hope in our hearts:

Dear Rabbi Fried,

Chanukah has always been a very special time for me, since I was a young boy. It has, ever since I can remember, been a time of joy, as well as a time of pride to be a Jew. But, to tell you the truth, I’m having a very hard time getting psyched up into a joyous mood this year, with the value of my assets slashed almost in half. In addition, my Jewish pride took a hit with the recent discovery of a $50 billion Jewish swindle. And I’m petrified with the threats being made to wipe Israel off the map, with nobody taking that meshugginah seriously (which I can’t understand why not, only 60 years after the Holocaust). That’s my little story why I’m having a tough time with Chanukah; any comments would be welcome.

Jack R.

Dear Jack,

I would venture to say that what you are feeling is being felt by many others like you. It certainly is a challenge for many Jewish breadwinners who have recently lost their sources of livelihood, or their hard-earned assets, to be joyous. The other points you mentioned don’t help matters any.

Truth be told, what you’re feeling is what Chanukah is all about. The overall situation and feeling that had enveloped the Jewish people at the time of the Syrian-Greek exile prior to the Chanukah miracle was that of Darkness. All that mattered to the Jews — their freedom of religion, the Temple and all it stood for, their observance and Torah study, their schools — were all closed and taken away from them. The ritual of brit milah, the precious entry of a Jewish baby into klal Yisrael, was outlawed, together with many other precious mitzvot. A Jewish future was bleak, if not impossible. All that represented Light to the Jews was snuffed out, and all that remained was Darkness.

The Torah itself hints, from the very outset, at this period. The opening verses of the Torah speak of the “darkness upon the face of the earth.” The Midrash explains that verse of darkness to be hinting at the future Greek exile of the Jews, in which they would “darken the Jewish people with their decrees.”

This forced shutdown of our religion was quite successful, causing a landslide of Jewish assimilation into the Greek culture and people. For the first time in Jewish history we had an overwhelming number of Jews who referred to themselves as Greeks first and Jews second. G-d, Himself, seemed to have disappeared from the scene, and have left matters in the hands of the Greeks.

It was precisely at this time of darkness that the Maccabees came onto the scene. What separated them from the masses was hope, and their burning faith in the ability of G-d to change things overnight, if He would choose to do so. They looked at the pervading darkness as an opportunity to rekindle a light, the likes of which had never been seen before. Darkness can be seen as the absence of light, or as the backdrop upon which light can be seen that much more brightly.

That is precisely why the miracle of Chanukah was that of Light. The name Maccabee, in Hebrew, is an acronym for the verse “who is like You, G-d,” which refers to G-d revealing Himself in times when He seems to have disappeared, showing that He was always present, albeit behind the scenes. He is waiting for the challenge and the test to elevate His beloved people to new heights.

This is the lesson of Jewish history, and the way Jews have reacted throughout the millennia. We look at tough times as opportunities for growth. If G-d has frozen the credit card, let Him know we get the message by increasing or enhancing our service of Him, with increased Torah study and faith. If events have transpired which minimize our Jewish pride, let’s do things that will increase Jewish pride in the world. If nobody’s listening to a madman who wants to wipe us out, let’s let G-d know that WE hear him, and will do what we can to strengthen the Jewish people everywhere. Chanukah means consecration — let us seize the opportunity to re-consecrate ourselves as Jews and a people, to ensure a bright Jewish future!

A joyous Chanukah to all our readers and your families, and to all of klal Yisrael!

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 Family

Posted on 17 December 2009 by admin

Dear Families,

Each holiday CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, sends out a piece that gets to the heart of the holiday, usually from a different perspective than we might be thinking about. This Chanukah, the piece started like this: “What do Judah Maccabee, Igor Olshansky, and You all have in common? In a word — HEROISM!” The story of Judah Maccabee is familiar to us all — we remember that he is a hero because he lived his values, not because he was a great warrior. Today our society often substitutes celebrity for heroism. Igor Olshansky, the 6-foot-6-inch, 315-lb. Dallas Cowboys defensive end with Stars of David tattooed on his shoulders, is a new hero. He came from the Ukraine in 1989 and is proud of his Jewishness, which makes him a hero living his values.

We can all be heroes if we live by our values and share them with others. “Living values out loud” is important because others will learn from our example to stand up and be counted. Today many people are talking about bullies. Often the hardest part is being the bystander: Should I stand up when my friend is being bullied? What if the bully comes after me? What can I do? Being a hero doesn’t mean to put oneself in danger’s way but there are many things we can do. The Torah says: Do not stand idly by! That means we must do something. Think about it and talk about it:

* What values do you hold that could be lived more fully and inspire those around you?

* When have you done something heroic? (It doesn’t have to be big.)

* Who are the heroes in your life that inspire you?

As we come to the end of the Chanukah season, make a commitment to being a hero, to standing up for your values, to making a difference in the lives of those around you — and by doing so, you will make a difference in your own life.

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 10 December 2009 by admin

Congratulations to Levine Academy students

Twenty-five fifth- and seventh-grade students at the Ann and Nate Levine Academy have qualified for the 2009 Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP). To qualify, students must have scored at the 95th percentile or higher on the verbal or math sections on the standardized achievement test taken last year.

Duke TIP, the largest program of its kind in the nation, identifies gifted children and provides resources to nurture the development of these exceptionally bright youngsters. Qualifying fifth-grade students may participate in Duke TIP’s Talent Search program and are given the opportunity to take the EXPLORE test which was developed by ACT for eighth-graders to evaluate their academic development. In addition, the fifth-grade students receive a variety of academic resource materials, academic courses they can do at home, and the opportunity to participate in the Talent Search Writing Contest. Qualifying seventh-grade students may participate in the Seventh Grade Talent Search program and are invited to take either the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Assessment college entrance exam with high school juniors and seniors. Students performing at a certain level on the SAT or ACT receive national recognition for their outstanding achievements and are invited to participate in a variety of summer academic college-based programs throughout their high school years.

“We are so proud that we consistently have a strong percentage of our fifth- and seventh-grade students qualify for TIP,” said K-8 Principal Dr. Susie Wolbe. “We attribute this not only to their natural abilities, but also to the strong curricular base the school provides. We never teach to the test. We simply stress the skills required for a student to be successful. This is why our students excel again and again.”

Congratulations to the following students qualifying for the Seventh Grade TIP: Raphe ­Burstein, Joseph Cheniae, Ben Crane, Braden Fineberg, Jacob Herstein, Brittany Horowitz, Austin Jacoby, Melissa Kurtzman, Mikayla Lewison, Andrew Murphy, Grant Prengler, Ryan Rawitscher, Serina Romick, Zac Romick, Ryan Subel and Jacob Weiner.

And to those who qualified for the Fifth Grade TIP: Zev Burstein, Marlee Fleisher, Jonathan Nurko, Josh Rudner, Zach Rudner, Adam Subel, Mira Fradkin, Claire Spigel, Sophie Bernstein.

Topsy Turvy Bus at Aaron JCC

Youngsters and adults will be interested in visiting the Topsy Turvy Bus at the Aaron Family JCC, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2–4 p.m., at the Sports and Fitness entrance.

Take advantage of the incredible opportunity to be part of a cross-country bus tour that brings innovative Jewish programming to our community! In the process, learn all about climate change and ways that you can help solve environmental issues. The bus arrives in Dallas during Chanukah and helps children and adults learn the value of tikkun olam or repairing the world.

Contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at for more information about this exciting learning opportunity.

Pollman Lecture Series to present Bryan Rigg’s story on ‘Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers’

The Dallas Jewish Historical Society will present another session in the Harold A. Pollman Lecture Series, with guest speaker Dr. Bryan Mark Rigg, on Sunday, Dec. 20, 11 a.m. at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center’s Zale Auditorium.

Bryan Rigg’s talk, titled “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: Questions of Identity and Morality during the Third Reich,” is based on hundreds of interviews he conducted with German Jewish Mischlinge (partial Jews) for his first book, which stemmed from his work on his doctoral dissertation. His research uncovered that as many as 150,000 Jews and partial Jews served, often with distinction, in the German military during World War II. His interviews revealed the nature and extent of the dilemma faced by the Mischlinge who served: divided loyalties and states of constant tension.

Rigg earned his Ph.D. from Cambridge University and received his B.A. from Yale. Although raised as a Protestant, he discovered his own Jewish roots while conducting his research and converted to Judaism. He served as a volunteer in the Israeli Army and as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. From 2000 to 2006, he taught history at Southern Methodist University and American Military University. He runs his own wealth management firm and currently resides in Dallas. His latest book is a History Book Club and Military Book Club selection. A limited number of his books will be available for purchase after his talk.

Rigg’s book, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military,” won the prestigious Colby Award from the William E. Colby Military Writers Symposium.

His “Rescued From The Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe” uncovers the true story of the rescue and of the secret collaboration between American officials and German military intelligence that made it possible.

Rigg is currently working on a new book, “Stories of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers.”

This program is part of a continuing series graciously sponsored by Harold Pollman for the purpose of bringing to Dallas national experts on topics of interest to the Dallas Jewish community. Admission is free and the program is open to the public. To RSVP or for more information, call 214-239-7120 or e-mail the Society at

The Dallas Jewish Historical Society serves as a repository for artifacts, personal papers and records of individuals, organizations and businesses, documenting the contributions and growth of the entire Dallas Jewish community.

Connecting Our Faiths program this Sunday

The three distinguished speakers at this Sunday’s discussion of “Jesus in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” include Jewish scholar Dr. Howard Cohen, Mormon Bishop Bruce White and Imam Muhammad Shakoor. They will each give their perspective from the Torah, Bible and Qur’an. Questions and answers will follow.

The free program will be held at 5 p.m. at the Church of Latter Day Saints, 10701 E. Lake Highlands Drive, Dallas.

“Jesus in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” is the third of four ongoing educational programs that have studied Abraham and Moses and will also examine how Judaism, Christianity and Islam view Mohammed. A reception will be held to continue dialogue when the program concludes. Future programs will take place in numerous houses of worship of all faiths from Muslim mosques in the north to African American churches in southern Dallas.

Special Needs Initiative and Yachad to host ‘A Community of Families’ Dec. 13

The Special Needs Initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and Yachad are hosting a Chanukah celebration with music therapist Marcie Friedman of Southwestern Music Therapy on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. Marcie will make a presentation to the adults on the benefits of music and how to incorporate it into all aspects of children’s lives. Then, she will join the children to help them make a Chanukah craft project, and will perform for the children. Yachad provides individuals with special needs opportunities for personal growth and social experiences. The goal of the Special Needs Initiative is to enhance the lives of those with special needs and help them overcome obstacles.

A Community of Families is a networking group for caregivers of children with special needs. All programs are appropriate for children and adults of all ages.

The Chanukah event is free, but reservations are required. For more information, contact Paige Rothstein at 214-239-7192 or To learn more about Yachad, visit or contact Yachad coordinator Rabbi Jay Weinstein at

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 10 December 2009 by admin

Seniors enjoy luncheon event

JFS Senior Director Hedy Collins tells the TJP what a wonderful time everyone had at the Isadore Garsek Lodge of B’nai B’rith International’s annual senior luncheon for Jewish Family Services last week. Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger honored the group by leading the HaMotzi so the event started in the right key. CAS Rabbi Baruch Zeilicovich attended with Cantor Javier Smolarz and Executive Director Garry Kahalnik. Much-loved musicians Armen and Arianna Cherkasov entertained on the violin and piano with classic tunes while a slide show of the past year’s events played in the background. Harry Kahn and his cooking crew, including Diana Krompass, Elaine Stanton and Jaclyn Daiches as well as Marvin Beleck, Earl Givant, Rich Hollander and Jackie and Irv Robinson, all did a spectacular job. Ellie Cooper and her sister-in-law, Coco Bloom of Boston, also helped serve this year’s dinner as did Mary Frances Antweil, Ann Cobert, Sarah Silverberg, Sonia and Jerry Hecht, Rhoda and Leroy Solomon, Judy and Chandler Horn, the Temple and JFS staff as well as many others this brain cannot think of (senior moment!). Thanks to all for your hard work and dedication to this annual event. Thanks, Hedy, for this report!


Corrine Jacobson and her group of dedicated women were thrilled with Sunday’s celebration of Chanukah at Thistle Hill. While attendance from our community was a bit sparse, more than 250 people participated in the four-hour event held at Art Brender’s office. “Everything was perfect,” Corrine said, “but for the amount of work that everyone does, it needs to be a two-day event.” The sleigh ride from Thistle Hill to Art Brender’s office, inaugurated by Judy Cohen, was again an outstanding success. Ann Bogart worked long hours sharing her talent and expertise, and Jan Lambert’s decorations were fantastic. Hats off to the team that fulfilled their expectations!

‘Daytimers’ Chanukah party Dec. 16

The “Daytimers” Chanukah party will feature Darren Woods, of the Fort Worth Opera Festival, Wednesday, Dec. 16, at noon at Beth-El Congregation. The party will be a benefit for the Tarrant County Food Bank, and guests are asked to bring canned and packaged goods to help make a brighter holiday for many needy families. Food bank trucks will pick up during the luncheon. Each table will light Chanukah candles on menorahs lent from several Fort Worth homes.

The luncheon will be catered by Boopa’s Bagel Deli, and guests have a choice of turkey and hummus on a sesame bagel, chicken salad on honey wheat bagel, or lox and cream cheese on pumpernickel bagel. In addition, all guests will be treated to the traditional Israeli Chanukah treat, jelly-filled sufganiot. Cost is $9 for lunch or $4 for program only.

Woods, general director of the Fort Worth Opera, will talk about next year’s opera season, including a world premiere at the 2010 Fort Worth Opera Festival. Now in its fourth year, this festival has moved to the forefront as “one of the country’s premier opera festivals” by the Dallas Morning News and the Star-Telegram. Darren may also share some inside stories about the fascinating world of opera.

Prior to his appointment in Fort Worth, Woods was the general director of the Shreveport Opera in Louisiana. While in Shreveport, he founded Shreveport Opera Express, or SOX, a touring arts in education program that involved school children working with professional artists in the schools.

Woods performed as a professional operatic tenor for 20 years prior to beginning his management positions in such venues as the New York City Opera, Carnegie Hall, the Washington Opera, L’Opera Madrid, Opera Trieste, Seattle Opera, the Dallas Opera, Baltimore Opera, the Santa Fe Opera and many others.

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.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 10 December 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Where will you put your menorah when you light that first Chanukah candle tomorrow night? This matters, and to shed some light on the subject, it helps to know something more about the mezuzah.

If you never made that connection before — well, read on!

I thank Dallas Rabbi Shawn Zell for calling my attention to the true story of Helen Bloch, whose mother, Lynn, has lived for 30 years in Shoreline Towers, a Chicago lakeshore condominium. With some interior hallway improvements in the offing, its condo association demanded that all residents remove eveårything from their entrances, including mezuzot. Ms. Bloch decided to sue, citing as her reason: “There’s a lot of meaning in that box.”

In the course of legal preliminaries that led up to a Shoreline Towers policy change, everybody learned a lot about the contents of that little “box,” and its meanings.

The word “mezuzah” itself means “doorpost,” which is where the item is to be placed: on the side of the door’s frame (on your right as you enter the house, or the rooms within it), in the lower part of the doorway’s top third — “The better to kiss you, my dear,” which is done with a light touch of the fingers every time one passes through).

The rabbis who long ago ruled on such matters debated whether the meaning-filled little “box” should be hung horizontally or vertically, finally compromising on an inward slant, toward the place you are entering. (If your doorpost is too narrow to accommodate a slanted mezuzah, you may hang it straight up-and-down.)

These days, that simple little “box,” like so many other Jewish symbols, has evolved into an art form. But whatever the material it’s made of, or the way its outer surface is decorated, the contents are always the same: a klaf — a parchment scroll containing God’s command, as written in Deuteronomy, to observe all the commandments, one of which is to place this reminder on our doorposts.

Do you think Helen Bloch knew all this before she decided on legal action to preserve and protect the sanctity of her mother’s little hallway “box”? Most of us don’t. We know there’s a Hebrew letter that’s part of the mezuzah’s design — or peeking out at us from the parchment within. But we don’t all know that this letter, shin, is first in the word “Sh’ma” and the commanding phrase that opens the Deuteronomy passage included: “Sh’ma, Yisrael.” Hear, Israel! Listen to what we’re supposed to do! Or, as Rabbi Zell likes to say: “Witness.” Because “The mezuzah bears witness to the fact that this is a Jewish home.”

There are other rules, of course. We’re instructed as to what that scroll must be made of (specially prepared parchment), what is written on it (two Biblical passages, in Hebrew), who does the writing (a certified scribe) with what (a quill dipped in specially prepared black ink), and how to roll it for insertion.

And there are other things to know about the mezuzah, among them what it is not: It’s neither some kind of amulet, hung with the hopes of bringing good luck to the house, nor is it a symbolic reminder that God saved us from the 10th plague in Egypt when we put lamb’s blood on the doorposts of our houses. It is what it is: a little “box” to hold instructions for carrying out the eternal mitzvot with which we’ve been charged. And because of that, displaying the mezuzah as we’re instructed is a mitzvah itself.

So now: What about that connection to Chanukah? Well, since it’s also a mitzvah to light the holiday candles so that we spread the light of freedom to our immediate worlds, those wise rabbis of old who told us how to hang our mezuzot also suggested that we place our menorahs opposite them, on the other side of our doorways. That way, anyone who enters the home will be walking between two mitzvot, truly enveloped by God’s commandments. In these days of electric menorahs designed for safe outdoor use, this shouldn’t be too difficult to do.

Ultimately, Helen Bloch didn’t need to sue after all, since Shoreline Towers revised its rules so that Jewish residents like her mother wouldn’t have to disturb their little “boxes” filled with so much meaning. If you’d like to learn more about mezuzot and the rules governing them, go to Then have a happy, mitzvot-blessed Chanukah!


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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 10 December 2009 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,

How do we know that all religions aren’t equally valid expressions of worshipping God? Perhaps all faiths are simultaneously true and legitimate for those who choose one or the other, without any one being better than the other? I would like to think that that’s what Judaism holds, and for that reason we don’t proselytize others, because they’re all OK in the eyes of Judaism. Would you agree?

Jaden P.

Dear Jaden,

It’s impossible for all religions to be simultaneously true, as most religions are mutually exclusive of all others. A fundamental belief of many branches of Christianity is that Judaism and Islam are heretical. In their eyes, the only way that a Jew or Muslim has a hope for the Next World is if they accept the Christian messiah. At the same time, one of the core convictions of Islam is that Jews and Christians are infidels, and the goal of Islam is to either conquer or convert all the infidels to their faith. How could they both be correct?

(This reminds me of the rabbi presiding over a dispute. One litigant presents his arguments and the rabbi says, “You know, you’re right.” The second man presents his side of the story and the rabbi says, “You know, you’re right.” The rebbetzin overhears and bursts into the room, asking, “How can they have two opposite arguments and both be right?” The rabbi answers, “You know, you’re right!”)

Most people, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto or Hindu, believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. These are basic tenets of their faiths, negating the possibility of all being simultaneously correct.

Traditional Judaism shares one thing in common with all the above religions: it also believes that all these religions are false. Religion, by definition, is based upon divine revelation. Knowledge of G-d not based upon communication between G-d and mankind is a philosophy, not a religion. You can believe in G-d even if He never communicated with you, but you cannot have a relationship without having a communication. All religions claim a relationship based upon a communication by G-d.

G-d could not have communicated contradictory, mutually exclusive truths to different nations (unless one feels G-d is not truthful, then He contradicts all these religions!).

One basic difference between Judaism and the above religions is our belief that non-Jews can achieve a place in the World to Come even as Gentiles. As long as they keep the basic laws of humanity, known as the Seven Noahide Laws (laws commanded by G-d to Noah for all of mankind when leaving the ark), they have earned a place in heaven. This is one of the reasons why we do not actively engage in seeking out converts, not because we consider all the religions as simultaneously true.

It’s important to note that this tenet may exclude the adherents of certain faiths. One of the basic Noahide laws is the prohibition of idol worship; such worship constitutes the foundation of many religions and certain sects of Christianity. On the other hand, Islam, for example, does not transgress that principle. This alone does not render Islam as truth in the eyes of Judaism, however; the seven laws also include the prohibition of murder!

Why and how we know, historically and philosophically, that G-d indeed spoke to the Jews and that Torah is indeed Truth, would need a separate column, perhaps sometime in the near future.

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 10 December 2009 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,

The season is definitely upon us and it may be better or worse that Chanukah is late! There have been programs at JCCs and synagogues for years called “The December Dilemma.” The goal of this program is to help us as parents learn how to handle our children’s questions and desires (while remembering our own). Here are a variety of thoughts and ideas — all taken from others wiser than I am!

1. Visit Christmas. Enjoy visiting your non-Jewish friends and celebrating holidays with them; be sure to include them in your holiday events. Explain to your kids, “When we play at Bobby’s house, we enjoy his toys but when we leave, we do not take the toys home. Those are Bobby’s toys. When we help decorate Bobby’s Christmas tree, we have a good time, but we don’t bring it home. We do not celebrate Christmas. Let’s invite Bobby and his family for Shabbat (or Passover or Chanukah).”

2. Don’t compete. Create meaning. We don’t need to set up Chanukah as competition or compensation for Christmas. Create traditions for all your holidays. There’s more to Christmas and Chanukah than just gifts. Judaism celebrates weekly. Make a big deal out of Shabbat!

3. Talk with friends. Discussion is more important than solutions! There are no right or wrong answers on how to deal with Santa Claus, lights, songs, etc.

4. From “40 Ways to Save the Jewish People”: Educator and author Joel Lurie Grishaver tells about a college daughter’s talk to her mother, “Mom, I actually figured out that Chanukah was one of the major reasons I never got involved with drugs or excessive drinking or promiscuous sex. From having to celebrate Chanukah when everyone else was doing Christmas, I learned that I could be different — and that was okay!”

5. There is a children’s Chanukah book issued by Kar-Ben Publishing: “Hanukkah Moon” by Deborah Da Costa. It is a story that comes from Sephardic custom. Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday that spans two Jewish months — Kislev and Tevet. Therefore, we enjoy not only Chanukah but also Rosh Chodesh. One tradition of Rosh Chodesh comes from the time when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai and he found the Israelites worshipping the golden calf. According to the Midrash, the women refused to give their gold to help build the idol and so their reward was a special holiday once a month — Rosh Chodesh, the new moon. The tradition on Chanukah for women is that no work is to be done while the candles burn; therefore, Chanukah Rosh Chodesh is a very special night!

As you celebrate this year, each night can be a time to learn about a different country and the way that Chanukah is celebrated by those who live there. Are there different foods, different customs, different songs?

What is the same? What connects us to Jews throughout the world? Remember the story of the Maccabees and how Jew fought against Jew to keep traditions and beliefs alive. Today it continues to be a challenge to keep the essence of our Jewishness alive. We are the link in the tradition! Let us teach our children how to appreciate their differences — first, by teaching and modeling Jewish life and all the beauty of it, and second, by learning about others and then going home to what we know 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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Gift books for Chanukah

Gift books for Chanukah

Posted on 10 December 2009 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Chanukah is coming — and if you are inclined to enter into the seasonal spirit of gift-giving, there’s no better choice for the People of the Book than books! So here’s a light, humorous trio to help make your holiday, and your friends’ and family’s, a happier one:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Harvey Sheldon, that irrepressible compiler of large Judaic tomes, strikes again! He’s followed up his “Encyclopedia of the History of Jewish Comedy” with an equally massive paperback, “Encyclopedia of the History of Jewish Music,” tagged with a variation of his old favorite subtitle: “Wouldn’t It Sound Great If the Whole World Were Jewish!”

“My intention here is not to deal with the vast panorama of the history of Jewish music,” he says in an introduction that is the briefest part of this 800-plus-page volume, “but rather to highlight only a few of its salient aspects….” And then he goes on to define Zemirot and Nigun and Piyyut, to explain how Klezmer works, to catalog everything from religious motifs to Israeli folk songs (plus a few essential dances like the Hora and Kazatske). His coverage of Jewish musicians and bands runs the gamut from Jascha Heifetz to Herb Alpert; ditto in scope are sections on American and Israeli singers, composers, lyricists and record producers. And he refers readers to his own tuneful Web site,, because, he says, “Music is wonderful to listen to, but nothing’s more boring than hearing it being talked about!”

You will not, however, be bored by any of this book, which Sheldon dedicates to Frank Sinatra in thanks for his support of Israel and his devotion to the Jewish people; you can read that whole fascinating story here as well.

“Encyclopedia of the History of Jewish Music” by Harvey Sheldon, published by the Emmis Foundation, retails at $39.99.

* * * * * * * * * * *

And here’s another authorial return: Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe’s “Yiddish for Dog and Cat Lovers (Yidish far libhobers fun hint un kets)” is a funny follow-up to her earlier book of Yiddish trivia, and you don’t have to be fluent in that language to get many laughs from it, since all translations are provided. It’s richly illustrated with both photos (a cat nestled happily in an open briefcase, captioned “Handelshaft iz kain brudershaft — Don’t mix business with pleasure”) and cartoons (a Dalmatian pointing — by nose — at a framed portrait of five other dogs of various breeds: “Tsi ken ikh eikh forshtelen di gantse mishpokhe? — May I introduce the whole family?”).

This book also contains some curiosities: “di farbetung — the invitation” to a “Bark-Mitsve,” for example, and stories like this from Zero Mostel: “Once, when somebody in our house stepped on our cat’s paw, my mother turned to the cat and said sternly, ‘Ikh hob dir gezogt nisht tzu geyn borves — I told you not to go around barefoot!’” So, genug iz genug! Enough is enough, already! Start reading (maybe to your pet?) and laughing!

“Yiddish for Dog and Cat Lovers” by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe sells for $13 through Malka Publications. Check the author’s Web site (vebzaytil):

* * * * * * * * * *

Kasper Hauser’s “Weddings of the Times” covers the unions of all faiths and none, so there’s something here for everyone. This little volume is stuffed full of parodies on the New York Times’ iconic nuptial announcements, so coveted (not all who call are chosen for inclusion) and complete (career vetting of the bridal couples’ parents — even grandparents — is a component as essential as information on the bride and groom themselves).

And it’s truly up-to-date, one entry even managing to “detail” an entire courtship in a series of text messages.

Try this take on Judaism, from a section featuring takeoffs on how “many couples are incorporating rich cultural traditions from around the world — and throughout history — into their own weddings”: “Barefoot Chazuk (Contemporary Jewish) — In this variation on the ‘breaking of the glass,’ the shoe is removed before stomping. The Jewish groom, who is a doctor, impresses the bride’s family by suturing his own foot.”

Full disclosure: Kasper Hauser is the name of a comedy group rather than an individual author, and along with poking fun at the Times’ traditionally stuffy wedding writeups, its book provides some additional features including “fully illustrated guides to wedding-night sex, honeymoon hot spots, and formalwear malfunctions.” In other words: Caution is indicated; this is very much a read for adults only!

Kasper Hauser’s “Weddings of the Times, A Parody” is published in paperback at $12.95 by Thomas Dunne Books.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Happy reading! Happy Chanukah!

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 03 December 2009 by admin

Legacy at Preston Hollow names McDonald as executive director

Jerry McDonald has been named executive director of The Legacy at Preston Hollow. The announcement was made by Michael Ellentuck, president of The Legacy Senior Communities, Inc., the parent organization of The Legacy at Preston Hollow.

McDonald brings more than a decade of industry experience to his position as executive director of The Legacy at Preston Hollow. His previous industry experience includes serving as executive director of Sunrise Assisted Living–Hillcrest, administrator of The Lennwood and assistant administrator of Golden Acres, formerly known as Dallas Home for Jewish Aged.

“I am proud and excited to be a part of this wonderful community,” McDonald said. “I look forward each day to the opportunity to provide quality and compassionate care to our residents.”

McDonald earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and a master’s degree in major long-term administration, both from the University of North Texas. In addition to his professional responsibilities, he is an advisory chair for AIDS Arms, Inc.

Veranda Preston Hollow announced its official name change to The Legacy at Preston Hollow on Oct. 15. The Legacy at Preston Hollow is also known as the Dallas Home for the Jewish Aged. It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, faith-based senior living residence that offers a unique continuum of care enabling residents to stay in place with assisted living, short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing and long-term care.

Built in 2001, the community features 41 assisted living apartments, 113 skilled nursing beds and a state-of-the-art Medicare unit. The Legacy at Preston Hollow is a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. The community is family service-oriented and open to people of all faiths. For questions regarding admissions, please call 214-363-5100 or visit

The Legacy Senior Communities, Inc., parent company of The Legacy at Preston Hollow, is also the parent organization of The Legacy at Willow Bend in Plano, the only Jewish-sponsored life care retirement community in Texas. For information about The Legacy at Willow Bend, please visit

Student concerts at the J

The Fall 2009 Magic Music Student Concerts will be held in the Zale Auditorium at the J on Sunday, Dec. 13.

The upcoming concerts are sponsored by Mariloff Diamonds (

Jewish students and music teachers from across the Metroplex and from the Magic Music program at the J will be in attendance. Multiple concerts will be held beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m.

Actress/model/music teacher Dilhya Ross will be the master of ceremonies. Among many other appearances, she has been on the “Today Show,” in Glamour magazine and in the October 2009 issue of Ebony magazine, and will be in the upcoming 2010 feature film “Playing Doctor.”

The entire community is welcome to attend one or all of the student concerts at no charge.

Tom Grieve to be guest speaker at Temple Shalom breakfast

Tom Grieve, Rangers television broadcaster, former player and general manager, will be the guest speaker when Temple Shalom’s Brotherhood Softball League celebrates its 35th anniversary. The community is invited to a breakfast gathering at Temple Shalom on Sunday, Dec. 13 from 8:45 to 11:15 a.m. Reservations are not required but admission is $8/person and $15/family. For information, call Bob Weinfeld at 972-824-6214.

‘Music Man Highlights’ at the J

The J Youtheatre invites the community to come to the J and meet Professor Harold Hill, Librarian Marian Paroo and the rest of the River City gang in a flag-waving, feel-good, fun musical, “Music Man Highlights.” Linda Leonard is director/choreographer and Jesse Fry is music director.

Performances will take place in the Zale Auditorium at the J, Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 and 7 p.m. Ticket prices are: adults, $10 in advance / $15 at the door; youth, $8 in advance / $12 at the door.

For tickets and information call 214-739-2737 or purchase online at The J is located at 7900 Northaven Road, Dallas.

Temple Emanu-El receives award at URJ General Assembly in Toronto

Temple Emanu-El was recently awarded one of the Reform Jewish movement’s most prestigious congregational awards at the Union of Reform Judaism’s (URJ) 70th Biennial General Assembly in Toronto. Some 3,500 Reform Jews from hundreds of congregations gathered at the Toronto Convention Center, Nov. 4–8. The URJ Biennial is the largest gathering of Jews in North America.

The Belin Outreach Awards and the Belin Honorable Mention Awards are given every two years to honor Reform congregations for their innovative, effective and replicable outreach and membership programs. They were established by the late David Belin, the founding chairman of the Joint Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach and Membership of the Union for Reform Judaism. This year marks the eighth time the awards have been given out.

Temple Emanu-El, founded in 1875, is the oldest Jewish congregation in North Texas. First organized in 1872, the congregation came into being just two weeks before the arrival in Dallas of the first train, which played a pivotal role in establishing Dallas as a commercial center. Rabbi David Stern serves as Temple Emanu-El’s senior rabbi.

The URJ’s Biennial Convention is a five-day conference featuring dozens of presentations, discussions and learning sessions. It draws congregational leaders, delegates and participants together to discuss Reform Judaism’s institutional needs and challenges as well as the social, political and economic realities of the United States and the world with leaders of the Reform movement and political and social leaders from North America and around the globe. This simultaneous reach inward and outward reflects the Reform Judaism’s philosophical underpinnings — adherence to the essence and traditions of Judaism while fully engaging with the rest of the world.

Among the dignitaries who spoke to the gathering were former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; renowned author and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren; Israeli Ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv; Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core; best-selling author Anita Diamant, Dr. Ruth Westheimer; Dr. Avishai Braverman, Israeli minister of minority affairs; and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who spoke to convention delegates via video.

The Union for Reform Judaism is the synagogue arm of Reform Judaism and the largest Jewish movement in North America, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 congregations across the United States and Canada.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 03 December 2009 by admin

Federation receives award for outstanding campaign

Congratulations to our Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, who received the Sapir Award for Campaign Excellence presented by UJC/the Jewish Federations of North America at the 2009 General Assembly in Washington, D.C.

The Sapir Award is UJC/Federation’s highest honor for Federations, recognizing communities that have demonstrated significant achievement in their annual campaigns. The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County was one of 15 Federations to receive the award for its fundraising efforts in the 2008 campaign. The Federation’s Annual Campaign raised $1,009,000 in 2008, a record amount — an especially remarkable achievement given the economic downturn. Annual campaign funds are used to address pressing needs here in Tarrant County, in Israel and across the globe. Some of the charitable agencies that received annual campaign funds include: Jewish Family Services, Jewish Education Agency, Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jewish Children’s Regional Service, Hillel and Birthright Israel. The Jewish Federation system annually raises nearly $3 billion for campaigns, endowments and foundations that address Jewish needs. The award-winning communities for 2009 are: Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland; Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit; United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh; Minneapolis Jewish Federation; Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester; Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte; Jacksonville Jewish Federation; Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco counties; Jewish community Federation of Richmond; Augusta Jewish Federation; Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County; Jewish Federation of Tulsa; Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley; and Jewish Federation of Columbus, Ga. The Sapir Award is named for Israel’s third minister of finance, Pinchas Sapir, a Zionist pioneer who helped build the Jewish state.

Eddie Feld was chair of the successful ‘08 campaign.

JFS celebrates Dr. Carole Rogers’ 10 years of service

Jewish Family Services of Fort Worth and Tarrant County continues to have a wonderful year. At the November committee meeting, the organization celebrated Dr. Carole Rogers’ 10th anniversary as the director of Jewish Family Services. A full house was there to honor and thank Dr. Rogers for her years of service. Current committee members in attendance were Howard Bernstein, Mike Blanc, Cynthia Gilbert, Sonia Hecht, Marica Kurtz, Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger, Carol Minker, John Mowry, Alex Nason, Phil Sawyer, Judy Schwartz and Chairperson Susan Luskey. Evelyn Siegel, who left the committee after her six-year tenure ended, was also at the meeting. Susan also invited past chairpersons, Mary Frances Antweil, David Nudleman and Beverly Ross. Along with Susan, the past chairs organized a delectable lunch — David and Susan brought bagels and cream cheese, Beverly fixed an incredible lox tray with all the sides and Mary Frances brought her famous crumb cake and orange juice. The conference table looked fabulous thanks to a beautiful flower arrangement from Elisa Nudleman.

After Susan said words of appreciation, she presented Carole with a beautiful Nambe bowl. Carole thanked the committee and told stories about some funny incidents that have happened through the years. She reviewed the past 10 years with the committee, sharing JFS’s accomplishments including: moving from a trailer to a permanent building, developing a strategic plan for the senior program, hiring a new senior program director, purchasing a van for the senior program and improving both the quality and quantity of services provided. Carole said she was particularly proud of the increased diversity and strength of the JFS committee as well as the development of stronger relationships with staff and members of Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington and Beth Israel in Colleyville. She also mentioned JFS’s work with Katrina evacuees and the initiation of a Handicapable group as other ways JFS has worked to meet the needs of community members.

Carole thanked the Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for their continued support of JFS, acknowledging that JFS would not be able to do what it does without the Federation’s support. In fact, the festivities continued after the JFS meeting when Mort House, Federation director, organized a staff luncheon to honor Carole. In addition to Mort and Carole, Barry Schneider (president of the Federation), Mona Karten (program director), Laurie Reese (controller) and Veronica Cabral (bookkeeping assistant) were present. Barry thanked Carole for her years of service and presented her with a plaque, which is now proudly displayed in her office.

The highlight of the day, however, was the presence of Linda Sands, who also served as a chairperson for Jewish Family Services. Linda and her husband, Edward, currently live in Atlanta. Susan Luskey had called Linda to tell her about the 10th anniversary, hoping Linda would send a card or call. Instead, Linda and her husband hopped on a plane that morning and came to Fort Worth! Carole said it was truly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her. It is also why she loves Fort Worth so much. It may not be the biggest Jewish community but it sure is the most caring.

It’s always a special occasion when Carole can be with her family, and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was the perfect time for one of their annual get-togethers. Here from their New Jersey homes were her mom, Anita Dellal; twin sister and family, Leslie and James Gurland and their 7-year-old son, Ari; and brother, Kenneth Rogers.

Don’t miss this inaugural event: CAS Film Series starts Sunday

Congregation Ahavath Sholom is excited to announce its 2009–2010 Community Film Series starting Sunday, Dec. 6. There is no charge for the films, and complimentary popcorn and lemonade will be served. The United Synagogue Youth members will be selling drinks and candy bars as well. Come early and nosh with your friends at 2:30. The movie will be shown at 3:30.

The first film, “The Lemon Tree,” described as “a film for all audiences,” won the award for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival. A movie directed and supported by both Israelis and Palestinians, “The Lemon Tree” is a shining, courageous and honest step forward for both peoples. It uses the media to support peaceful change rather than selling newspaper space and television time through the blood and tears of those who live among the lemons.

The Ahavath Sholom preview committee has given “The Lemon Tree” a resounding “Five Star of David Award.” Because the film is very thought-provoking and timely in its description of Israel and its neighbors, there will be a facilitated discussion following the film, with Batya Brand leading.

Babysitting requests should be made to Garry Kahalnik, Congregation Ahavath Sholom executive director, at 817-731-4721. The movie is rated parental guidance (PG-13) for viewing.

The Ahavath Sholom Film Series is funded by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

Chanukah at Thistle Hill

Corrine Jacobson reminds me that the second observance of Chanukah at Thistle Hill will be celebrated this Sunday, Dec. 6, from 2 to 6 p.m., at the historic old home on Pennsylvania Avenue. You and your family will enjoy music, refreshments, decorations and a wonderful traditional holiday celebration.

Community Chanukah Celebration

Mark your calendar for the Community Chanukah Celebration on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

At 5:30 p.m., the menorah lighting will be held at the Federation building and Congregation Ahavath Sholom. At Beth-El, at 6 p.m., play Maccabee Bingo with great prizes. The 6:30 p.m. dinner will be followed by crafts for the children.

Admission is $5 for adults, $2.50 for children 3–12, free for children under 3.

RSVP to the Federation office at 817-569-0892 by Dec. 7.

The event is brought to the community by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County with financial support from the Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation.

‘Daytimers’ honor World War II vets

A dozen World War II veterans were honored at the November luncheon for “Daytimers” at Beth-El Congregation. Author Bryan Rigg held the group spellbound as he discussed how he came to write one of his books, “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: Question of Jewish Identity and Morality.”

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” was the result of his efforts.

Veterans who were honored in a presentation by Edythe Cohen were Tom Bessant, Ken Bobkoff, Bob Clemmer, Joe Coggan, Arthur Hofstein, Frances Kleiman, Herman Morris, Irv Raffel, Dr. Irwin Robinson, Seyman Rubinson, Arnold Schectman and Mort Werner. Rigg was introduced by Kenneth Baum.

He also brought copies of his books “Rescued from the Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe” and “Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: Untold Tales of Men of Jewish Descent Who Fought for the Third Reich,” all of which sold briskly after his talk.

Next event for “Daytimers” will be the Chanukah party on Wednesday, Dec. 16, featuring Darren Woods of the Fort Worth Opera Festival. The party will be a benefit for the Tarrant County Food Bank, and guests are asked to bring canned and packaged goods to help make a holiday for many needy families. Luncheon will be catered by Boopa’s Bagel Deli.

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

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

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